1861: Rebecca Lanier Saffold to Amanda Hicks

This letter was written by Rebecca Lanier Saffold (1845-1937), the daughter of William Oliver Saffold (1813-1875) and Mary Louisa Harris (1824-1904) of Madison, Morgan county, Georgia. Rebecca married Robert Taylor Nesbitt (1840-1913) of Savanna, Georgia, on May 4, 1865. Robert served in the Civil War as a soldier in Cobb’s Legion.

Rebeca wrote the letter to her cousin, Amanda Hicks, of Rome, Floyd county, Georgia. Amanda was probably the brother of Andrew Wesley Hicks of Co. H, 8th Georgia Volunteers.

Envelope and image of how “Becca” might have looked

Addressed to Miss Amanda Hicks, Rome, Georgia
Postmarked Madison, [Morgan county] Georgia

Madison, [Georgia]
December 30, 1861

My dear Amanda,

Your letter was received several days ago but amidst the bustle attending the arrival of little “new sister,” letters & letter writing were quite out of the question. Since that long-expected lady’s advent, I have been playing nurse & “Mother,” so assiduously that I have scarcely had a moment at my command. Are you surprised to hear that we have an “addition” to the family? Said “addition” though very small is a personage of so little importance & woe be to the one who does not pay her due homage. Even Miss Berta—though very loath to confer it at first—has come to the conclusion that “little sister” is prettier & smarter than she. But this last I am inclined to dispute for though “little Sue” may bear off the features of beauty, she can never be as smart as Berta. Berta sleeps with me now, & “sister Becca” ranks next in her heart to “Mama” & “Papa.” I wish you were here to hear some of her smart sayings & doings. She is not a pretty child but there is something peculiar about her face which redeems it from homeliness—something which will attract attention even among strangers. I think this peculiar something lies in the expression, in the eyes, which are a beautiful violet color. but I know you are not half so much interested in reading about the little “prodigy,” (a fitting name for her) as you would be in seeing & hearing her talk.

In your letter you ask about my cousin Bubly. How for your particular satisfaction I will say that I heard from him about a month ago and that his bodily health was at that time very good. At his Mother’s request, I knit him a comforter about three months ago. I received a note of thanks from her but he (ingrateful scamp!!) never deigned to notice the humble service. Now Miss Hicks, don’t laugh at my chagrin, for it’s only feigned. I expect the poor fellow did send me a message but cousin Mat forgot to deliver it & even if he did not, why I can easily excuse such neglect in a soldier. Speaking of cousin Mat, I don’t believe I have told you in any of my letters that she has been going to school at the Methodist College this fall term. This seems rather strange as you know her Father & Mother are both great Baptists. But they did not like Mr. [George Y.] Browne, the President of [the Georgia Female College,—]the Baptist College, so they sent Cousin Mat to the other college. Mr. Browne, finding he could get more lucrative employment out in Alabama somewhere, has moved to that state so that the Baptist College having no teacher will be closed this year & I suppose Cousin Mat will continue to attend the Methodist. Towards the close of the term, she had a long & tedious attack of the typhoid fever & it was only about three or four weeks ago that she entirely recovered her strength. When I saw her she was a little thin but in other respects you would never have known she had been sick.

Do you recollect Mr. [N. C.] Guernsey? I think he was in Madison the first term you went to school here. He was editor of the “Georgia Weekly Visitor“—a more sober, upright, religious man, could scarcely be found. He was the last man I should have selected to commit a rash or wicked deed. What then was my horror when not long ago Mr. Guernsey was found dead on the floor of his room, his throat gashed in two deep wounds on each side & the razor which he had committed the awful deed lying on the floor beside him. He had evidently murdered himself. The whole town wondered. Madam Rumor, ever busy, circulated various stories concerning him but these are believed only by the credulous few. The only reason that can be assigned for his thus plunging himself into the awful abyss of eternity is “Temporary Insanity.” How horrible! I did not recover from the shock for days & even now I shudder when I think of him. But let me pass from this to a pleasanter thought.

Ophelia Grinnell Marshall (1843-1928) and Henry William Booth (1834-1905); married 8 January 1862 in Madison, Ga.

Among the various rumors floating about town is one to the effect that Mr. Graves Harris will soon lead to the Hymonial altar Miss [Susan] Susie [Harriet] Sinquefield. Another is that Miss Mary William Burnette has consented to become the lawful & wedded wife of Mr. Key (Ella Key’s half-brother). As for the truth of these reports, I will not vouch but there is another, which I almost know to be true, viz: that Miss Ophelia Marshall is to be married on the 8th of January & to —- (well I might as well tell you) — Mr. Henry Booth. You remember Mr. Booth, don’t you? He clerked at Mr. [Robert A.] Prior’s store. He is as diffident & red-faced an Irishman as can be met with in the “auld country” itself. Well, are you surprised? Are you pleased? For myself, I must acknowledge that I was both surprised & did-pleased. Not that Ophelia’s marriage is such particular business of mine, but Ophelia & I are good friends & she is really a nice girl. Therefore it vexes me to see her throw herself away on such a piece of baggage. True, Mr. Booth is steady & money-making, but then (between you & I) he is destitute of that most needful commodity—sense. In my next letter I will write & give you an account of the wedding—that is, if I am invited. You of course must say nothing of this as I would not wound Ophelia’s feelings on any account.

Speaking of Ophelia makes me think of Charlie. ¹ Since I wrote last, he has returned home from Western Virginia. He has received a permanent discharge on account of ill health. I went to see him a few days after he came home. Poor fellow. He looked like he had suffered & suffered much. He was troubled with a dreadful cough contracted in the mountains which had become much worse from constant exposure. Everybody feared that he had come home to waste away in consumption. But since his arrival he has improved a great deal. The doctor says his lungs are not diseased & all think now that he will get well. I sincerely hope he will. About a week ago I sent him a waiter containing some dainties which I thought might tempt his appetite & when you come to see me, I will show you the nice note of thanks he wrote me.

You ask in your letter if I have sent my boxes to the soldiers yet? My answer is no. Mother’s sickness prevented me from sending them as soon as I expected. But she will soon be well & then I will send them as soon as I can get them ready. You also asked about Mr. [George] Pierce & Mr. [Pleasant] Wilson. I met Mr. Pierce not long ago. He looks much as usual. Mr. Wilson I have not seen in a good while. Christmas day I sent Mr. Pierce some Christmas dinner for which I received thanks.

How have you spent your Christmas? The bright weather reminds me much of last Christmas when we enjoyed ourselves. Do you recollect the serenades we had from the young gents & those we gave to the married people? The treats that were handed around & the champaign that was poured on your new dress? And do you recollect the Christmas tree & how we swapped jewelry boxes? And the Christmas party & how we came home disgusted with man-kind, & how we sat ’round the fire & ate the goodies we had brought home in our handkerchiefs while we discussed a certain young gentleman whom we had met at the “ball?” All these things I have thought over often & wished so much that I could see you again. I wonder when we will meet again.

There, I have got myself up to the crying pitch, but I feel so sad when I think how long it may be before I will see you. Please don’t regard this foolishness. When you receive this, it will be too late to wish you a “Merry Christmas,” but I may hope, dear Amanda, that you have spent a happy one. Please don’t wait long to write. As ever, your affectionate friend, — Rebecca S.

¹ Charles Oliver Marshall (1840-1880), son of Madison merchant Jackson Marshall (1816-1895) and Harriet Elizabeth Grinnell (1816-1901). Charles enlisted in Co. D, 1st Georgia Infantry in March 1861 and was mustered out on 15 April 1861. After regaining his health he reenlisted in Co. A, 12th Georgia Heavy Artillery Battalion in April 1862 and then was transferred in October 1862 into Co. A, 63rd Georgia Infantry.




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