This letter — addressed to the wife of Confederate General William B. Taliaferro in October of 1863 — was found hidden away in a bit of architecture during the demolishment, some 20 years ago, of an old stagecoach inn on the Kanawha River in West Virginia. My grandfather, Vic Stallard, a history buff, recognized it for its interest and offered the finder a pretty good trade. He swapped an old outboard motor for this record of family life and friendship at the height of the Civil War, and of the reaction of Tidewater Virginia to Lincoln’s first Emancipation Proclamation, issued only a few weeks before.
What follows is a quick-and-dirty transcript and (for me) a few fun questions. Did Sallie Lyons Taliaferro ever receive this message from Mary C. Jackson Mann (wife of Rev. Charles Mann of Ware Church)? Why was it hidden on a mail route hundreds of miles away from sender and recipient? Now that we’ve re-discovered it in Gran’s dresser drawer and he has asked me to look into its preservation, to which of a couple of logical Special Collections libraries might we offer it? And is Mary Mann really calling the Yankees “pumpkin-heads” in her botantical meditation, below?