From the Phillip Phillips Papers, Library of Congress. Reprinted and annotated in A Southern Woman’s Story (1959), Bell I. Wiley, ed.

Richmond. 25 June, 1863.

Dear sister E,

Eugene[1] brought me your letter in person – which tho’ very pleasant was not half as agreeable as it ought to have been considering how long it took to get it up – you are not like Ed­ward Everett who having taken fourteen years to write his memorial of Washington produced at last a masterpiece. But I am not in any way detracting from the pleasure its receipt gave me.

Eugene has altered very little, except he has become a great talker, a talent I really believe lying dormant in all the family ready to bloom at any moment. His vessel lies about fourteen miles from Richmond, opposite Drewey’s Bluff and when he comes to the city, he is compelled to land just under Chimbor­azo Hill. I told him as I tell you that anything that lies in my power to make him comfortable, or to add to his pleasure, I will do willingly. He seems to be very happy and comfortable and I see no chance of any temptations being presented to him situated where he is. He brought a young friend the last time he came here, a “Texican” as one of my ward nurses called him, a very nice, gentle quiet young fellow who I think will just do for him. When you write to Eugene tell him whenever he wants to spend a day in town to come to me and if it will be allowed on ship, I can always give him a bed as I have two rooms, one at the Hospital and one in town.

We are still having most delightful weather sleeping with closed windows and under a blanket and tho’ I dreaded the summer very much I think I can easily bear three months of heat counting from the first of July. The walk to and from the Hospital is rather appalling in very warm weather as there is no shade, only a long but sandy stretch, but it will not be for very long as when the fall comes I shall again stay in my shan­ty.

I have nothing of interest to tell you, as I have been in bed for the last two weeks with rheumatizm and have seen very few people, the Richmonders are going rural at this season paying visits to the neighboring plantations and many of them have been caught by the raiders who are now only ten miles from the city. The public attention is fixed upon Gen. Lee who having got Hooker away from Fredericksburg and in the vi­cinity of Alexandria, just where he wants him to be – will have to whip him before he advances into Pennsylvania, as it will be impossible to leave such an army in his rear. Whatever Lee’s plans are he has managed to keep his own counsel as even the military men in the highest posts are unacquainted with them. However Mrs. Davis gives out and is aided and abetted in her announcement by all the ignorant ones that Lee has not moved from Culpeper. Mrs. Long, the wife of Col. Long of the Con­federate Army and daughter of Gen. Sumner, has just re­turned from New York.[2] She was to have brought me all I needed, but it has been a great disappointment Lincoln gave her a pass (as she went to him herself) allowing her to bring everything she had, but in stepping into the cars at Baltimore she was arrested by order of Gen. Fish who opened her trunks and only let her take out certain articles. For instance two, out of a dozen boxes, of black pins, one shawl out of five and three pairs of gloves out of a dozen. With quite a refinement of cruelty he only let her bring heavy winter clothing, knowing she was coming to a very warm climate. Mrs. McLean and herself came yesterday to tell me the cheerful news and to give me all she had – a couple of lemmons. Mrs. McLean[3] is still staying with Mrs. Davis. If you think it will ever be in your power to buy me anything in black I will send you a draft, things are cheaper anywhere than in Richmond. I paid sixty five dollars for a black barege! Anything in black will be of service either as a dress or petticoat and Confederate money is not worth keeping. Tell me if I shall send you some money and wait my chance? You need not feel any hesitation in let­ting me do so, for I have more than I need and I make it very quickly and very easily. I wish that I could take advantage of your offer to let Phebe help me in my sewing as I have to give out everything not having a moment’s spare time, but the ex­press bill would amount to quite as much as the work paid for here. I have laughed as you did at the report concerning the large fortune I ignored, but I heard it in another way, that I “had refused a large fortune” from such patriotic views – and – who knows I may perhaps one of these days have a chance of doing so if any one with a large fortune proposes.

I had quite a party here just before I was sick – some of the prettiest girls in Richmond – The Cary’s, Hettie and Con­stance, Mary Garnett, Misses Marve, Harrison, Robinson, Saunders, all beauties.[4] They were matronized by Mrs. Gen. Myers, who has turned up again into fashionable life with a five week old baby.[5] They all came at six o’clock, eat straw­berries and ice cream, walked all around the Bluff and at elev­en were driven home by their respective cavaliers. The next evening we all went down to Drewry’s Bluff in a government boat and visited the fortifications & the gunboats. I suppose that you are surprised at my seeing so much company, but if I did not make an effort to be agreeable and encourage people to come to me I should be very isolated and lonely. The Haxalls[6] and Mrs. Allen call for me to drive very often. Mrs. Allen was an old acquaintance, Pick Hoffman from Baltimore.

Mrs. Long gave me a great deal of news from the North She staid at the Latrobe’s and says the spirit is still indomitable among the Baltimore women. Their last fashion was to wear cents as brooches, which as soon as the Federals found meant “Copperheads” they were arrested. Photographs of Jackson were selling all over the city, till the gallery which issued them was shut up by military order and the last taken sold for three hundred dollars apiece. After his death everyone who wore black was arrested. There is nothing very new in the fashions – a shirt point in front and a little jacket tail behind with three buttons. Dresses very high with a standing bias piece of silk with a very narrow little frill in lace at the top in place of ribbon and collar. And to make up for so little white, an im­mense white muslin bow with rumeled [?] ends trimmed with deep lace. The hair instead of drooping is worn very high, with all sorts of things in the top. Mrs. Long declares sometimes a bird’s with the setting mother. She also described a novelty in the shape of a serpent winding around the head with the crest over the left ear – this is an India rubber tube and in entering the screw is turned and the lady throws out a brilliant jet of flame which lasts fifteen minutes. The idea taken from the Empress going to a fancy ball as a volcano. The most curious article I have seen lately is a small trumpet that hangs to the watch chain inside there is a glass about as large as the head of a big pin with nine little specks – in looking through the end you distinctly see the perfect portraits of our nine generals! The Baltimore ladies wear them. Five were brought here for sale and I sent for one I wished to give sister, but I was too sick to go myself and am very much afraid I won’t get it.

I hear very often from all my friends-they are scattered in every direction - Mrs. Maury at Shelbyville - Mrs. Caskill at Winchester, Mrs. Soule at Columbus and Mrs. Yandell at Cartersville.[7] Mrs. Anzi tells me that Brother is in Mobile and passed the evening with them. Col. Pickett[8] came out to invite me to go to the natural bridge with him, but I would not put myself under the pecuniary obligation. Dr. McCaw, the sur­geon in chief of Hospitals sent me word that I had overworked myself and required change, giving me a furlough for six weeks, but I declined taking advantage of it not having any place I cared to go to, nor anything nice to wear. Since then I received a warm invitation from my friend Mrs. McBlair who is living at Charlotte, N. C., and may go there next month. Tell Fan[9] with my love that I have none but Georgians in my Hospital though a gentleman from N. C. did come here with­out out a furlough for love of “mes beaus yeux.” What does she mean by saying that Fanny[10] would hardly trifle with Walsh, he was such an “unfortunate young man.” I wish that Fanny would come up during the fall and spend a couple of months with me. If she would come as my assistant I could send her a transportation ticket. All the girls here are in the different de­partments they make a frolic of it. Give my love and congrat­ulations to Lena.[11] I have a little shirt half embroidered that I could not finish that I shall have to keep for Fanny. What has Lena called her baby? Give my kindest love to Mrs. Amanda and remembrance to all.

Truly yours
    Phebe


 

[1] Eugene Phillips, son of Phillip Phillips, and nephew of Phoebe Pember. He was a Confederate Naval Cadet, on the Patrick Henry, a training vessel anchored on the James River below Richmond. See E. M. Couler, The Confederate States of America (Baton Rouge, 1950), 299.

[2] Mrs. Armistead L. Long, whose husband was on Lee’s staff, was the daughter of Federal General E. V. Sumner. When after the war Long lost his sight, President Grant appointed Mrs. Long Postmis­tress of Charlottesville, Va.

[3] Probably a misspelling of Mrs. McLane, General Sumner’s daughter, sister of Mrs. Armistead L. Long. See Mary B. Chesnut, A Diary from Dixie, 89.

[4] The “girls” referred to were favorites in the society of Confederate Richmond. They moved in the same circles as Mrs. Chesnut and some of them are mentioned repeatedly in A Diary from Dixie and in DeLeon’s Belles, Beaux and Brains of the 60’s.

[5] Wife of Quartermaster General A. C. Myers, a belle whose reference at a dinner party to Mrs. Jefferson Davis as “an old squaw,” according to Richmond gossip, contributed to Myers’ supersedure by Gen. A. R. Lawton.

[6] The Haxalls were described by DeLeon in Belles, Beaux and Brains of the 60’s, p. 126, as “one of the most noted families in recent Richmond and one that took on biblical proportions.”

[7] None of these women can be positively identified. Possibly Mrs. Maury was the wife of General Dabney H. Maury and Mrs. Yandell of David W. Yandell, Chief Surgeon, Army of Tennessee.

[8] Possibly Col. John T. Pickett, Confederate commissioner to Mexico and chief of staff to Gen. John C. Breckinridge.

[9] Daughter of Mrs. Philip Phillips.

[10] Fanny Cohen, daughter of Phoebe’s sister, Henrietta. Fanny Cohen in 1867 married Henry Taylor of Savannah.

[11] Lena is Caroline Phillips (Mrs. Fred) Myers, to whom a daughter, Eugenia, recently had been born.

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