Friday, October 29, 2010

"times are hard here and a fair prospect of being worse[.]"

Vicki Betts, a librarian at the University of Texas at Tyler, has worked extensively with the Confederate Citizens records that are available through Last week, she sent me her transcription of the letter below written by Henry Bass of Arkansas to his brother and gave me permission to post it on my blog. The letter documents how guerrilla activities destabilized southern society and hurt loyalty for the Confederate cause. Interestingly, Dr. Daniel E. Sutherland makes the same basic point in his important book, A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role Of Guerrillas In The American Civil War (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

Lake Enterprise Ark. March the 29th 1863

Dear Brother

I received your kind letter in February and was very glad to hear from you all again[.] I would have writen to you before now but the mal is stoped crossing the river[.] I have a chance of sending this across by hand my health has improved a great deal since I wrote to you though I am not well yet[.] I have no strength and the least exposure make me sick[.] times are hard here and a fair prospect of being worse[.] the Federals are on the Mason Hills within fiften miles of us and will be here as soon as the water gets out of Beof river bottom which will be about June[.] there has been a great many negroes Brought in here from the river and the fedrel troops say they are coming after them as soon as the waters fall and there is nothing to hinder them from coming[.] we have no troops in the country and I hope will not have for if we had we would [have] two evils instead of one and my experience is that the southron troops injures a country as bad as the federals[.] the only differece is the Southerons take all that people has to live on and then Burns the cotton when they here of yankees coming and is taken with a leaving but they leave the negroes and the yankees comalong and find nothing els and they locate on Mr niger and so it goe[.] I have been a close observer of passing events since this war Broke out and have become disgusted withe the whhole concen under the title of Confederate States from the venerable head down but it will soon be over with and then I am afraid our country will suffer from jahawkers than we have from honerable war for we have plenty of men that have no honer and they only want an opportunity to rob and plunder and will be strend [?] by the absence of law[.] I have heard plenty of men say in the army if the south faild that they would jahawk as long as they lived and men of that class dont care who they rob

I think if I remain at home I will be over to se you in the summer when I can come through the swamp if I do not I will come as soon as the war is over[.] we have had a very wet cold Spring there is nothing planted here yet[.] I have all my corn land ready to plant and will plant this week[.] we had a severe storm last night and is very cold to day

So far we have plenty to live on corn is worth a dollar Bacon 30 cts Sugar 35 cts flour $80 per bbl coffee none Salt is worth $2.50 one hundred miles from here at the Salt works it has sold there as high as ten doller per bushel write to me and it may get here some time

Yor Brother Henry Bass

1 comment:

  1. One of the most interesting points in the letter to me is Bass' comment about his fears of returning Confederate soldiers AFTER the war is over. I found a similar concern in the journal of James G. Fanning of Gonzales County, Texas. He wrote this immediately after he heard that Vicksburg had fallen: "If we should finally succeed, in addition to a debt, which if repudiated will stamp us with eternal disgrace—if recognized will paralyze the energies of our people during many years—then will be returned upon us a body of men, familiar with blood, their habits of industry, destroyed—their moral education lost, their sensibilities blunted, moral lepers are a curse to any community. This I regard as the most favorable termination possible. And I would not that my children should have such associates." (unpublished manuscript, Pearce Collection, Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas). Has anyone else come across similar concerns?

    Vicki Betts
    University of Texas at Tyler Library