The following letter was written by Richard Baldwin from Clarksville, TN, on April 15, 1865. Baldwin, a native of Hancock County, TN, left Sneedville following the Civil War because of the dangers to former soldiers who fought during the war. It was addressed to his brother Alfred who was still living in Hancock County.
“Dear Brother: I have long intended to try to get a letter to you but facilities are so imperfect that I hardly think worthwhile to attempt writing. I quit the service on the 12th of February (1865) and came here.
I prefer it here to any other on several accounts. In the first place we have two railroads, one to Nashville sixty five miles away and the other to Bowling Green. We also have water communications which are very superior. In fact, there is very seldom a time that a steamboat is not in sight (on the Cumberland River).
Another reason is my wife has a sister whose husband is a great advantage to me. I have commenced business here with a capital of nearly four thousand dollars. I have a permit for goods and my brother-in-law will buy my stock in Cincinnati next week. He, Mr. Nixon, is a merchant.
I have rented me a little house to live in, with four rooms, and have just got into it. My little wife likes our start very well. I don’t know how long I will stay here. I prefer living in the country when times get so I can do so in safety.
The last time I heard from any of you was a letter I got from Lizzie last June. I would like for you to come and see me if you can. I would come there if I thought it was not dangerous but as I have escaped this long. I want to live on for I feel now that I have something more to live for than I ever had before.
I intend to come and see you all when times get better: but I never expect to live there anymore. I suppose you have heard all about my marriage long since. So there is no use of saying anything about that. If I knew you would get this letter I would send you my wife’s and my own photograph. I will send them if you will designate a medium.
I was in Washington three weeks ago. I stayed there two weeks and had an interview with President Lincoln. I like him better and better. I think he is as good a man as there is in the world but I think Andrew Vice-President) Johnson comes nearer combining all the essential qualities that would constitute the best and greatest man that lives.
We have an official report here this morning that Mr. Lincoln was assassinated last night in Ford’s Theatre in Washington and mortally wounded from a pistol shot. I hope it may be false.”
The remainder of the letter is lost, probably forever. His admiration of Andrew Johnson is certainly noteworthy as on the very day the letter was written Johnson succeeded Lincoln as the 17th president of the United States.
This was a time when the western United States was still sparsely populated in many areas and many of the sons and daughters of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia were moving westward. Natives of the area fought on both sides during the war and there was much hostility even after returning home. The courthouse files of many Civil War veterans were initialed GTT for gone to Tennessee.
In 1871, Alfred, the brother to whom the letter was written, built a flatboat, loaded his family, horses and possessions, and floated down the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers to Paducah, Kentucky. There they loaded onto a wagon and proceeded to Missouri where they settled.
Alfred’s route took his family near Clarksville, TN, where his brother, Richard, lived. I suspect he took advantage of the opportunity to stop in Clarksville and visit Richard for this last time and to meet his little wife. Richard died the following year.
Jadon Gibson is a freelance writer from Harrogate, TN. His writings are both historical and nostalgic in nature and can be read periodically at bereaonline.com. Don’t miss a single issue!
A voice for God – a voice for good
My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. My wife Chris and I went to visit my brother near DeKalb, Mississippi, in the spring of 1994. Larry was a U. S. Marine Corp pilot flying A-4 Skyhawks. He was also a flight instructor at the nearby Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi, prior to his retirement.
We traveled south on Interstate 75 through Chattanooga and into Georgia after leaving our home in Harrogate, Tennessee. We took Intestate I-20/I-59 across Alabama and into Mississippi before motoring the short distance north to DeKalb.
Everything was going fine on our trip as we got farther into Alabama. In the late afternoon the traffic was heavy and moving at about 65 miles per hour.
We were in the left lane when a tractor trailer truck, immediately to our right, began pulling into our lane. We were aghast. Evidently the driver didn’t see us, putting us into a tense situation. The road shoulder was narrow and there was a relatively steep hillside beyond it.
I blew my horn but the truck was moving so near to us I had to steer left onto the shoulder. I couldn’t hit my brakes as the traffic was tight and someone was behind. If we were hit it would likely propel us out of control and down the hill. That would have been a catastrophe.
The truck continued over and I had to go beyond the shoulder and onto the declining hill. We were in an emergency situation for sure. If I had hit my brakes hard on that hillside it probably would have sent us sliding down the hill. I braked lightly and over the next few seconds we were able to slow down enough to pull back onto the shoulder. We watched for a place to reenter our lane. It all happened in less than thirty seconds most likely. Afterwards we realized what a dangerous situation we were in.
My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. My mother told us about Jesus from a young age and I’ve kept Him in my heart. He has saved me and come to my aid several times.
I encourage parents to tell their youngsters about Jesus while they are young. By accepting Jesus they will associate with more trustworthy friends and you’ll have less worries with them as they grow older.