HOUSTON – War is always sad.
And the letters that Thomas Newton Beaty wrote home to his wife in Chickasaw County in 1863 and 1984 tell of the lonely, dangerous life in the Confederate Army and the longing to be back on the farm with family.
“He was my great-great-grandfather and he was something like a nurse in the Confederate Army,” said Lamar Beaty. “These letter say a lot about what he was going through. They are very special to me.”
Beaty’s letters and other Civil War memorabilia will soon be part of a new exhibit at the Chickasaw County Historical Museum.
The letters were written from Jackson, Canton and Lauderdale Springs to Beaty’s family back on the farm in Chickasaw County.
“He worked at a military hospital and saw a lot of death and pain,” said Beaty. “I have to believe that is part of the reason the letters are so sad. I have to believe being around that stuff every day affected them more than they wanted to admit.”
One of the most poignant lines in the four letters is the battle-hardened Beaty begging his wife to pray for the end of the war.
“I trust your prayers are continually going up to God for peace. Oh but God would grant that the time is short when we will have peace and all be permitted to return home to our families.”
(All four letters in their entirety can be found and read on the Chickasaw Journal web-page at http://chickasawjournal.com)
Each letter is written in the prose of that day and with the graceful, flowing strokes of a hand and culture that cherished penmanship.
And with paper being scarce, one of T.N. Beaty’s letters was written on a steamboat shipping ticket carrying cotton to New Orleans.
The letters talk about General Joseph E. Johnstons plans to relieve the Siege of Vicksburg and of meeting troops from South Carolina who knew Beaty’s family. But mostly they talk about planting corn, tending sweet potatoes and harvesting wheat.
“You ate what you could grow and if the crops didn’t make, you didn’t eat,” said Beaty. “He basically had left the farm in the care of his wife and about six kids – two who were still very little.”
In one letter just before Christmas, T.N. Beaty pleads with his wife to write him more letters.
“I have to believe she had her hands full with the farm, the war and raising children,” said Beaty. “You can read how his heart was being squeezed by this separation from his wife and children.”
Beaty said he first found the letters when he was about 16 and he and his father were tearing down a shed.
“They were in a trunk and my daddy said to throw away the letters and keep the trunk,” said Beaty. “Well, I carried them home.”
And somehow they got slipped under a linoleum floor as padding.
Beaty found them about 20 years ago when he was remodeling the old home place.
“They are really rather simple letters, but they are so sad and if you read between the lines they really say a lot,” said Beaty. “They are priceless to me. I’m glad to share them with the museum.”
Larry Davis, President of the Chickasaw County Historical and Genealogical Society said they are still looking for items to put in their Civil War display.
“We’ve already gotten about 80 pictures of soldiers and we really should have a very nice exhibit,” said Davis. “We know there are other artifacts, letters, photos and diaries out there and we are urging people to bring them by the museum and let us look at them.
“We understand if someone doesn’t want to exhibit something, but we would like to know what it out there and help them catalog it and see how important or valuable it might be,” said Davis. “More than anything we want people to come by and see our museum and this exhibit when we get it up.”
The following four letters are in the possession of Lamar Beaty and will soon be part of a display on the Civil War at the Chickasaw County Heritage Museum.
The letters are presented by dates and location of Thomas Newton Beaty to his wife Margaret and his sister in Houston, Mississippi.
May 30, 1863, Jackson, Miss
Dear Margaret and Children,
A word to you. I hope you are all well and doing well.
I was glad to hear that your wheat was good and that your corn looked fine. I want all the bottom planted. It will make corn planted any time in June. I want you to make corn plenty to do you. I hope you have a good garden and potato patch. That is half a living. Raise all the chickens you can.
I hope I will get home this summer to help you eat chicken pie and beans and butter milk.
Well Sis how is little Sissie coming on? Is she pretty? You must take care of her. David and Samuel, how do you come on? Are you good boys? I want you to help your Ma to work and be good boys until I come home. Cary and Frank are you good children? You must be good children until Pa comes home.
Kiss all the children for me.
Pray for me.
Farewell for the present my dear friends.
May 30, 1863, Jackson, Miss
I write you a few lines to inform you that I am in good health and hope this letter finds you all enjoying the same blessings.
I will not write you much news about the Army for I don’t know much. We are camped here awaiting General Johnston’s movements. There is reinforcements coming in every day. It is said that Johnston has 30,000 men here now and is waiting for more. I think we will have a forward movement in a few days. The Yankees have surrounded Vicksburg but our forces still hold the place yet. It is said that the Yankees have lost 30,000 men since they have surrounded it.
There are a great many South Carolina troops here. I saw some yesterday from Anderson District. They were from the upper part of the District. I saw one man that lives in half mile of Brownlee. He said he was home four weeks ago and saw Brownlee and all was well. I think the big fight will come off here yet.
Well, Martha if you are not gone to South Carolina when this comes to hand I want you to write me and write your letter so I can show it to Co. Orr and perhaps he may let me go home a few days. You must state in it the nature of your case. That you have no one here to see to your business and that you are left without friends and the condition of James’ business and the other estate that James has on his hands of his fathers and urge it on me to come home to see to your business and urge it on Capt. Pullium and Col. Orr to let me go home and see to you.
Perhaps I may get off. That is the only chance I know of to get off. Furlows have played out. If you cannot get me home in that way I do not expect to get home until the war ends. When you write you must do your best. Direct your letters to Jackson, Mississippi until further orders.
I hope you are doing well. I trust your prayers is continually going up to God for peace. Oh but God would grant that the time is shot when we will have peace and all be permitted to return home to our families. I hope your wheat is good and that you will get it saved. I hope you have a good crop and a good garden.
Farewell your affectionate brother.
December 13, 1863, Lauderdale Springs, Miss
My Dear Wife,
I seat myself this morning to write you a few lines once more. This leaves me in tolerable health only.
When I wrote to you last I told you I had a bad boil coming on my neck. It turned out to be a carbuncle. That is what the doctors call it. I was as large as a goose egg. It is running little now. It is painful now. I think in a few days I will be able to go to work. I suffered a great deal with it for five days and nights. I wish I could have been home with you. My heart was there.
Well Margaret what in the world is the reason I can’t hear from you. I have never heard one word since I left you. I know there is something the matter. If you or Martha cannot write to me some of my friends must do it. There is noting to hinder the mail between here and there so it can’t be the fault of the mail. I hope you will write to me someday if you are alive and able to do so.
Mr. William P. Baskin will probably go home this week. I will try to get him to find out what is the reason that you have not written. I will get him to go by and see you. If he does you may send me them other pair of pants if he goes.
I am so anxious to hear from you that I cannot rest. I know there must be something serious and you do not want me to hear of it.
I will try to get Mr. Baskin to go by and see you if he goes home. Capt. Pulliam wrote to me to come back to my company but they won’t let me off here. I intend to try to get home about Christmas. Capt. Staggs from Houston has charge of the buildings here. He says he is going home Christmas. I will try and go with him.
Margaret I am so anxious to know how you are getting alone. I want to know whether your potatoes is saving or not. I want to know how your pigs are doing. If they fattened well since I left home. They must be in good order this time. I want you to write to me whether your sow has had pigs yet or not. You must keep them barrows as long as they will gain anything in the pen. I want to know how much wheat you got saved. How many loads of corn you made. Whether your cribs was full or not. Make Felix haul firewood when the ground is dry and it will not be so hard on the horses.
I want to know whether you have got shoes for your family or not. I want to know how them sweet little children is getting on. Bless their sweet little hearts. Our little babe will be one year old on next Thursday. I want to see her so bad. Is she walking yet. Has little Frank got so that he can run about yet. I want to know all the particulars about them when you write to me.
Martha why don’t you write to me. If you only knew how bad I wanted to hear from you all you would write to me. I want to know whether you have give out going back to Carolina or not. You promised me that you would write to me regular. If you have I have not got your letters yet. I have sent to the office every day since I have been here but all in vain. But I still live in hopes that I will hear from home someday yet.
Direct your letters thus T.N. Beaty, Lauderdale Station, Miss. in care of Dr. Yardell and I will be sure to get them. I was at preaching today and heard a very good sermon preached.
Pray for me my dear wife that my life and health will be preserved and that the time will soon come when we will all be permitted to return to our homes.
Your affectionate husband.
January 29, 1864, Canton, Miss.
My Dear Companion,
I embrace the present opportunity of writing you a few lines to inform you that I am in tolerable good health at present. I had a spell of Phthisic since I left home but I am better at this time.
I hope and pray that this letter will reach you and our family enjoying the same blessings. I am very anxious to hear from you. This is the third letter I have written to you since I came to camp. I wrote one and sent it to Houston by Simn Mires. Isent one by Miller Mathews. I want you to send me a letter by Dick Griffin. He will be home about ten days. You can send it to David Peden by Sis and David.
You must be sure to write to me by Mathews and Griffin both and I want you to give me all the particulars how you are getting on. Whether you have killed your hogs or not and how your pigs are doing and whether your potatoes are saving or not and how your horses and cows are doing. Make Felix haul wood in this good weather so that it will not hurt your horses. I want him to haul wood enough to do you until the crop is made. Write to me whether you have got your wheat ground or not and tell me whether you wheat was killed or not.
You must write to me how Mary Eliza is. I want you to get some Irish potatoes to plant. I want you to plant a great many sweet potatoes. If your seed saves well you might make a light crop of corn and if you do your potatoes will help you out very much.
Margaret I have taken every opportunity to write to you. I know you want to hear from me as much as possible. I will write to you every chance I have and I want you to do the same. I want you to write to me every week. I sent you a fine comb in that letter I sent by Mathews and I will send you some postage stamps in this letter so that you will have no excuse for the want of postage. I will send you a paper of needles the first opportunity. You must write to me the size you want.
Margaret I have no news of interest to write you. We have to drill a great deal and a great deal of guard duty to do. The soldiers get nothing but their beef and meal. They don’t get any of that flour and bacon that you all have to give to the government.
Margaret you must send your letter to David Peden by the 12th of February. R.W. Griffin will start back on the 13th. As I have nothing of interest to write I will come to a close at present. I will write you again in a week if we do not have to march about that time. Give my respects to Brother Frank and Family. Kiss all the children for me.
Your affectionate husband until death farewell.