Letters can be revealing of a person's inner most feelings as well as reflective of the time period in which they are written. Enclosed here are letters that were written just prior and during the first years of the War Between the States by friends and members of the Richard Kelly Wootten I family.
I should start off by introducing the family. Richard Kelly Wootten I and his wife Jane Murphy Wootten immigrated to Noxubee County prior to 1834. They came from South Carolina, but just "where" in South Carolina is a mystery. Jane Murphy Wootten was about 22 and Richard Kelly Wootten I was thought to be in his early thirties.
They soon became part of the community, he bought land and served as a community official. Richard Kelly Wootten I was a farmer as well as a trader, trading with people all over the south. Family tradition is that in 1840 he went to Mobile on business, got sick and died. Although there is no known burial place for Richard Kelly Wootten I in the area, his estate was settled in Noxubee Co in 1840.
At the age of 28, Jane Murphy Wootten was a widow with five children
between the ages of 10 and 1 years of age:
1) Annie, b. 1830, South Carolina
2) Julia, b. 1832, South Carolina
3) Emma, b. 25 Jan 1833, South Carolina?
4) Richard Kelly Wootten II, b. 08 Dec 1838, MS
5) John Samuel Wootten, b. 1839, MS
These letters take up the life of the family about fifteen years later. Emma, the middle child was the recipient and the one who saved these letters for us today.
On 30 MAR 1848 Annie married a Mr. William B. Wade from Lowndes County. Billy, as Annie affectionally called him, had a sister, Mattie, who would write letters to Annie's younger sister, Emma. In her letters, one can discover the lifestyle that proceeded" the" War that was to come.
"I got ready to go north last week but was confined to my bed the day that the party left-am glad of it now- will not go until the last of April, am going to Mobile tomorrow with Agg and Lize, expect to have a delightful trip, wish you could be of the party, will be absent several weeks. We have had a rather pleasant season, a party every week or so.......I have enjoyed myself but little, almost everyone in town has got to dancing and Brother Dorman delivered many sermons on the subject--Mary Harris leaves soon for schoolin in Georgetown, and Martha Banks for Philadelphia, Miss Jane Odene has left--my principal reason for not going was that she was to bear us company- did not fancy her delectable society, understand that she has gone to get the accomplishments. "
Now we jet ahead in history to the first years of the War Between the States. The fervor that the confederates had for the war is expressed in the following letter from a friend of "Dick's".
Dick or Richard Kelly Wootten II, the 4th child of Richard Kelly Wootten I and Jane Murphy Wootten is now married. Miss Annie Talifero Wilkinson (b. 28 MAR 1843) of Washington, Wilkes, GA had come to Brooksville to attend a cousin's wedding, met the very handsome Mr. Wootten and quickly made a return trip to marry him on the 25 SEP 1860. On 02 July 1861, she gave birth to their first child, John "Johnny"Wilkinson Wootten.
Besides the enthusiasm that the Confederates had for the fight in the beginning, the letter also illustrates how men given commissions were expected to recruit their own regiments.
Dear old friend Dick,
It does me good to write to you--I came near stopping at Brooksville
as I came up the road a few days since, but from the fact that I knew I
would have a muddy time- I concluded to write to you - which I am sure in
hopes will answer the same purpose-although I would like to see you above
all of my great friends. Dick, I understand that you are a conscript gent
- so am I! We have always been the best of friends - and I should like the
best in the world that we could be together in the army. I have joined a
company of light artillery -- Now being raised by Thomas I. Sharp --
I have been in the service for twelve months and think I know which is the
best branch of the service -- artillery, I know to be the easiest and decidedly
the most pleasant, the men all ride as they do in Cavalry -- some on horses
others on the cassions. Thomas has gotten the guns, horses and uniforms
all complete -- and the only thing now lacking is a few more men. This company
is being formed for the Lt. Davis Legion --
Col Lt. Davis is a nephew of President Davis -- and is being
aided by the president. I would like the best in the world that you would
come and go with me in this Company -- I will warrant that you could not
choose a better branch of the service -- One that you would be better pleased
with -- I know for I have been in the service for twelve months and therefore
ought to be a good judge. It is not a county company -- men from
Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Monroe, and Lowndes will compose it --
the very best of men, nice fellows, good associates. Sharp is a good
officer -- none better. He has been one for twelve months and has proven
himself superior -- he ranked second to none in the fights except the Colonel.
Some are inclined
to have a county favor about joining companys -- but I think the trend for that has passed -- it is well to have a state favor in the service. The boys never think of counties, but go altogether by states. What is a county -- when two friends want to get together who have been the best of friends for almost life time. You know a good many of the boys and joining in this company, Thomas Johnson and several others from Noxubee--Charlie Barnwell, etc. if you concluded to go -- you can get a good many to come with you -- try your best anyway -- An artillery company has to have one hundred and fifty men -- and is therefore harder to raise -- Let me hear from you soon. I would like to see you and talk with you -- I could then explain things. Remember me to your lady, mother and family -- I would like to see them but haven't time to come down.
Most of these letters were written by Annie Wootten Wade, the oldest child of Jane Murphy and R. K. Wootten I. At this time, Annie Wootten Wade and her husband, William B. Wade live in Columbus, MS which is about 23 miles from Brooksville, the home base. They have one daughter, Mary Patterson Wade.
Emma married William H. H. Patterson in 1853-1854, but he died prior to 23 May 1857. From this marriage, Emma has a daughter, Jennie who was born 18 SEP 1854.
In 1861, Annie's husband, Billy, is a Captain with the Mississippi Volunteers, but he has been promised his own Cavalry regiment to be sponsored by the Confederacy. Some of Annie's letters express his frustrations in the time and political manipulations that must take place for him to get his command. Papers obtained from the National Archives and the letters show that he eventually is the Colonel in charge of his Regiment of the 8th Cavalry of the Confederate States of America. In this letter from Annie to Emma we learn of problems with daily life, common food of the south at that time, and Billy's efforts to recruit his regiment.
In vain have I looked for a letter from you, been expecting you up, too; but as you haven't come, arrived at the conclusion that you were afraid of the measles on the cars. You might then leave Jennie for company for grandma and come yourself.
I suppose you thought the bag of meal, meat and sausage was sufficient answer to my letter, for which tell MA I am very thankful for. We enjoy the sausage very much with nice lye hominy. The first sent has not given out although I sent Billy some. I got corn, 200 lbs of meat, potatoes and peas from Harrison's plantation, having collected a little money I bought a half barrel of molasses so with the meat I am now blessed with the nessaries of life.
I expect you all think that Billy is at home; he is still in Pensacola. Will stay there until the men are paid off. Then come home for a short while. He and Bragg, Inspector General, carried $250,000 to pay off the troops at Pensacola from Richmond.
He has an appointment from the Secretary of War, Colonel of Cavalry Regiment to raise a Regiment with the assurance from the Secretary that it will be armed and equipped by the government. He (Billy) is now busy making up the requisite number of companies. Says that Bragg is mad as thunder because the war department sustained him and he understands Bragg has threatened to resign command of that post.
I expect he has done so as I have since seen that General Jones has been appointed in command there and Bragg sent to Mobile. Don't know how true but saw it in the Mobile paper. If so, I don't think it says much for him that he should resign because the war department meted out justice to a Captain in his command.
I will hear from Billy Tuesday again, no mail comes in tomorrow. Then I hope that I will know definitely when he will come home.
Letter continues with comments of how she would like to see her mother, the condition of her Negroes, and greetings to all of the family members still living in Brooksville.
Mr. Vassar is here also. Stayed with me last night. He is here promoting Billy's interest watching the democrats, etc. forgot to tell you that he (Billy) is away again in Jackson. An applicant for the same appointment, Brigadier General, as Van Doren, has resigned and there is again the same vacancy as when he went to Jackson when you were here.
He (Brigadier General?) sent a dispatch to the effect that the enlisted companies hold themselves in readiness. They would be ordered in two days into service. I suppose will leave on the cars Saturday at 2 o'clock. Know not the destination as yet.
There is an armistice of ten days between the Northern and Southern confederacy and no hostile movement will be set on foot during the ten days. The supposition is that it is to repair some of the forts on the Mississippi in the Gulf to garrison the forts and relieve the volunteer forces as the enlisted soldiers are the regulars of the state.
Billy left for Jackson Monday night last. Will remain about two weeks unless he has to go with the company or gets the appointment that he is seeking. The convention meets on next Monday and he wishes to stay a few days and see their proceedings. if he gets the appointment, no telling when he will be at home.
She married Norman McLeod 07 DEC 1854. He is widowed and has children by his first wife. Julia and "Mr." McLeod have one daughter, Ella, (b. 1860-61) and though she doesn't say so, she is expecting a second. She lives south of Brooksville in the town that is now called Indianola, MS, but at that time it was called Indian Bayou.
It is just a chatty letter scolding her brother as well as the rest of the family still living in Brooksville for not writing. It basically shows that humans have reacted to situations the same for years. The Annie mentioned in this letter is Annie Wilkinson Wootten, the wife of Dick, and mother of Johnny . Annie Wade is her older sister. Ma refers to Jane Murphy Wootten and John is her youngest child.
My Dear Brother,
I have been wanting to write to you for a long time but you never wrote to me; indeed none of you do that. I have received but one letter since I was there nearly nine months ago and I have written every month. I have come to the conclusion that none of you care for me.
How is little Johnny? I hope well. I wish I could see him. Perhaps when this war closes you will bring him to see me. And Annie, what is she doing that she never writes to me? I will be glad to hear from you all.
Mr. McLeod received a letter from Annie Wade and she said that
John had joined a Cavalry company. Do write to me who is staying with Ma
and where John is at so that I may write to him, and did John want
to go? there has been such a drumming for soldiers since our disaster, perhaps
he enlisted under excitement and regretted it afterward. I know he could
willingly and leave Ma alone.
Little Ella is running all about, has a basket to put eggs in and her and her nurse goes out and brings them in every day. She can say "Ma" and rides in a dugout. We are having another overflow, the levees have been cut so we heard the water in the bayou in front of the house, is as large as a river. Looks like one.
Mr. McLeod and the children ride about in the dugout and little Ella has a cry whenever she has to get out.
What are doing for coffee? Using Confederate coffee tho I expect. I have been so saving with mine that I have some yet.
Dick, do write to me and tell Annie to write. Kiss Little Johnny for his aunty and tell him cousin Ella send him a hundred kisses. Give my love to Annie.
It is a painful task writing to you this letter, the bearer of sad tidings.Our poor sister, Julia, is dead. Betty Richards got a letter from Mary Lee stating that she died when the baby was two weeks old. It has fallen heavily upon me as I know it will upon you and our dear mother and brothers. So unexpected as a shaft of lightening. So unritely unprepared to hear such a thing after hearing that she was doing so well and or what a blow to her family, what a loss, irreparable loss to the children.
Mary writes that she took a spasm and died very suddenly. That Mr. McLeod is perfectly bowed down with grief. The water was over the whole face of the country and she was buried in the garden.
Julia has now been dead for about eight weeks, her husband, Norman McLeod writes to his mother-in-law. He owns a store and evidently both Emma and Jane have tried to get clothing from him. He does not speak of Julia, but shows how he is trying to cope with daily life as it is impacted with the War and the recent death of his wife.
Dear Mother Wootten,
Yours and Emmas of the 16th has come to hand. Lucky for you I met it at our store and bought your dresses which was all they had. Not a very good article at that. Your shoes they had none of the number you wanted nor was the gingham as dark perhaps as Emma would like but it was Hobson's choice, that or none.
I am having a great deal of sickness among my Negroes at this time owing likely to very hot weather we are having at this time. Ella was quite sick several days ago, the baby seems to be well but don't grow and fatten as it should.
The opening scene from "Gone with the Wind" is one of my favorites. If you remember it, Scarlett is at the picnic surrounded by all of the young men. They are telling her about the WAR and how it will only last for 30, 60 or 90 days.
Reading Mr. McLeod's letter, one finds that this truly was the thinking of the period.
After mentioning some personal feelings concerning the impact of the
war he states: I have not been a 30 or 60 or 90 day man,
but believed from the commencement that this war would last at least through the Lincoln Administration. Consequently, I have supplies to carry me on for a year or more. Persons are sending to me continuously for salt for the table, some as far off as sixteen miles.
In it she describes the aftermath of the Battle of Shiloh which was fought April 6-7, 1862. Her description of the conditions as she walks through the make shift hospital are most disturbing.
I know that you have been speculating considerably as to my silence.
In the first place I spent a most miserable three days before I heard of
my husband safely at Shiloh. Went in as a volunteer aid and
then he came home for a few days then back to Corinth, from
there to Richmond at which place I trust he has arrived in
safety. Will be back home he thinks in a week or
ten days more. I intended to take advantage of his absence and pay you all the long desired visit but the fates are against me.
I am suffering with another of those tumors or biles that I had you recollect two years ago and renders it impossible for me to take the trip at this time, therefore am compelled to deny myself the pleasure. I feel so disappointed for I had my heart set upon soon seeing you all. I feel as if I had not seen Ma for years.
I have been waiting upon our helpless wounded braves a great deal and I think being on my feet and walking up and downstairs causes my malady. I hope I will soon recover. There is no remedy but lance it as soon as it is ready to open.
Our new hotel has been taken for a hospital and it is full of
sick and wounded. All the institute in which are about 250 or three hundred.
I never fully realized the horrors of war. It has all the while been the
pomp and circumstances of war at a distance. Now is brought home to us.
One sees here now poor brave defenders of our country lying helpless as
infants. Some with one arm off, some with both off, others with a leg off,
then again with one arm and one leg gone. One poor fellow had both arms
and both legs taken off. I heard he was here though I have not seen him and I doubt his being here.
Two of Morgan's men are here, one wounded the other came as nurse
to the wounded one. It is heart rending to go amongst them in the hospital.
One you will see will ask for a drink of water, another for a wet cloth
to apply to his wounds, another for you to bathe his face in cold water,
another will beg you to send a surgeon to dress his wounds. Some to be in
racking pain but as a general thing I never imagined such self sacrifice
for each other. Such patience and resignation, most uncomplaining
sufferers I ever could imagine where so many are crowded together.
I have been and am still cooking a great deal for them. Make soup by the ten and twenty gallons and bread by the sack at a time. The steward furnished the articles for me to cook.
A great many are out in private homes. Matt has a very interesting one, a half Indian, seventeen years old. We make a perfect pet of him. Nephew of Reso, Chief of the Cherokee nation.
My love and a kiss to all. Write soon. No nice leather to have your shoes made, have some soon.
P. S. Have you heard from John? I have written to him but got no reply.
The following letter is not dated or signed, but I would guess it is in the Spring after the Battles of Shiloh and Corinth. It shows some of the sacrifices that had to be endured by the civilians.
Please ask Ma to send me all kinds of garden seed she has to spare.
All scarce here, no squash, cucumbers, tomatoes or okra. I have my peas
planted, beets also and a few mustard seed I had, and cabbage were old.
Matt gave me the Tom Thumb peas seed for Ma. Ask Ma also to
have some lamp wicks spun for me and ask John to make me a clothes
line. I will be much
obliged if you are ready to come to bring the seed but don't wait for the line and lamp wick.
I got lard from Harrison's to last until I could get what Ma gave me. Will bring that up when I come so do not trouble about it. Excuse the paper, it is a scarce commodity.
I have not heard from Billy since I wrote you. It is rumored here that Breckenridge division has gone to Holly Springs, also considerable Cavalry force. I thought perhaps Billy was amongst the numbers. I am almost crazy to hear from him, it being so unusual for him not to write.
Billy left Saturday night about 12 o'clock after you left on Friday. I never in all my life so dreaded to see him leave. Could form no idea when if ever he could come home to see me again. I thought I had become accustomed to his being away and would not feel so lost to see him go but it was like tearing my heart asunder. I feel so despondent and shall never forget the scene of parting or my feelings at the time. I sat on the gallery listening to the last sounds of his horses hoofs and the clanking of his saber.
The hospital which Maria was hired in is broken up. Only three in town now. The female academy, fairgrounds. No news of importance to write.
Tell Ma that Billy got the barrel of molasses for her, also one for me which I am really proud of as I can not live without it. I also made arrangements for me to draw his and Tom's rations here every month which will be a sufficiency for my family, in fact more than enough
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