1862: James Henry Reid to Amy Ann (Tolson) Reid

This letter was written by James Henry Reid, Sr. (1804-1869) to his wife Amy Ann (Tolson) Reid (1810-1887). Reid was the treasurer of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad Co. prior to the Civil War. He makes frequent references in this letter to their family estate at Brentsville in war-torn Prince William County. We learn from this letter that Reid had removed to Lynchburg and planned to have his furniture relocated as soon as the railroad lines were restored. Reid’s son, James Henry, r. (1845-1921)—a VMI cadet—later resigned from the Institute in January 1864 to join the Confederate Army. He served in 1864-1865 as a private in Co. A, 13th Battalion Virginia Light Artillery (Otey’s Battery) and was paroled at Appomattox.

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The Orange & Alexandria Railroad was strategically important during the Civil War. It was the only rail link between Washington D. C. and Richmond. Rev. William H. Kinkle (shown above) officiated at the funeral of Brig, Gen. Samuel Garland in Lynchburg at St. Paul’s Church.

TRANSCRIPTION

Lynchburg [Virginia]
September 19 [1862]
Friday, 5 P.M.

My dear Wife,

Finding it impracticable to make my intended visit of tomorrow, I write to mention the causes of disappointment which I am sure you and my dear friends Mr. & Mrs. Smith will appreciate and excuse the failure. When I returned on Wednesday, it was at 7 P. M.—of course without any opportunity for business. The next day was the appointed “Thanksgiving” with sermons in all the churches. In St. Paul’s at 10½ A. M. & 4½ P. M.—a more deeply devotional day I never witnessed anywhere.

In the morning, a report circulated that Brig. Gen. Samuel Garland of this city (son-in-law of Mr. [John G.] Meem) had fallen in a recent battle. The evening cars brought his remains and at 3½ P. M. a funeral sermon was preached by Mr. [William Henry] Kinkle at St. Paul’s to a house perfectly packed. The funeral procession very large. ²

These two days have been much occupied, and, with an accumulation of business as usual after such an absence and unfinished matters with our President now here, I do not think it possible for me to go out tomorrow morning. Besides this, I may leave soon to go to Bristol to bring away our furniture which is all safe. The cars now run to Culpepper from Gordonsville and some locomotive engines captured from the Federals at Bristol are now running from Bristol to Warrenton. Thus the Rappahannock bridge, which is under way, is the only impediment to getting our furniture directly through to this place.

I am now about to write to Mr. Vandegrift (at the suggestion of the President) to come the earliest day when I can get those goods brought out. To watch this, you will say is extremely important. Then my own private business here ought to have attention which I have not been able to give since my return and having made other transaction, it is doubly important.

I will write to Mr. Farrar this evening that you will be down to his place on Monday and if I can, I will come up and escort you home; but do not calculate on that certainly. Another trip to Richmond within a few weeks with the one to Bristol will probably take all my spare time. I must seize a moment to tell you Mr. [Robert] Deats is at home and our Brentsville place is uninjured—so Mr. Larkin tells me. He passed by way in Brentsville and at Moor Green. Mr. Porter ³ says he has lost all his servants that were worth anything. Mr. Larkin saw Mr. Lever & Jane at Mr. Latimer’s. Not a Yankee has been on Mr. Alexander’s place. The old man is well and at home.

Write to me how long you wish your visit at Mr. Farrar. Need not write till you get there and determine. It is a place so pleasant but I would not make it too short. Mr. Brown came home this morning.

Affectionately yours,—J. H. Reid


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Northern newspapers were quick to mock the Confederacy after their army was turned back at Antietam on the day following their Thanksgiving devotions.

¹ President Jefferson Davis set aside Thursday, September 18, 1862, as a day of Thanksgiving to celebrate the victory over Pope’s army at Second Bull Run.

² Brig. General Samuel Garland was killed in the fighting at South Mountain. “Garland’s remains were escorted home to Lynchburg by his cousin and aide-de-camp Lieutenant Maurice Garland. By order of the City Council, his body was to lie in state in the Lynchburg Courthouse for a period of 24 hours. On Friday, September 19, 1862, Garland’s funeral was conducted at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, with interment following at Lynchburg’s Presbyterian Cemetery. Garland was buried in the Meem family plot alongside his wife and young son. By resolution of the Lynchburg City Council, all business establishments were closed, all churches were ordered to toll their bells, and all soldiers then in the city were detailed to march in the procession. Almost the entire population of the city attended the ceremony for the much admired citizen who, in the words of The Lynchburg Virginian, ‘hated war, but excelled at it.’” [James K. Swisher and originally appeared in the May ’96 issue of America’s Civil War magazine.]

³ Possibly George Martin Porter (b. 1815) of Gainesville, Prince William county, Virginia.

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