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

Richmond. 13 September. 1863.

As I am confined to my room, my dear sister, I think that I had better fill up the leisure time by answering my letters, and yours comes first upon the list I have been quite sick with no actual disease but only what the English call “a low state.” I think that during the intense summer heats, being so much in the gangrenous and Typhus wards, that the infected air may have induced this state-with all the precautions of cleanliness and ventilation the air will become close when each bed is only allowed a certain number of feet Dr. McCaw sent me a furlough but I had no where to go, for if even I had the means to pay the enormous board charged I could not go alone. I am all right again, I believe, for the cool weather has set in. Our surgeon Dr. Habersham went off and so did my assistant, Miss Ball, so that double work fell on me. I suggested to the sur­geon in chief to make me surgeon in charge, on the ground that Toney Lumpkin’s mother had been a Colonel and his Aunt, a justice of the peace, but nothing came of it

I have not seen Eugene for some time, but heard that they were all studying very hard., I met him on Main Street looking very nicely in his undress uniform, which I believe he removed all Creation to get I would not give him too much money if I were you. He gets more than enough to support himself, fifty dollars a month, ten of which goes to his mess bill. All his clo­thing he gets at government price and I have his washing done for him. They charge three dollars a dozen here and as I am entitled to have mine done at one dollar at the Hospital, I ex­tend the permission to his. This leaves him fifty dollars a month clear, quite enough for a boy of his age. It is all that I get and I make it answer, though I pay full price for all wear­ing apparel. I have told him to come to me for all the sewing and mending he wants done, and you need not tell him any­thing on the subject, as if I object to do what he might ask, I should have no delicacy in telling him so.

I am more than surprised at the desponding tone of your letters – you ought to be with the Army and hear the soldiers talk – I would like anybody to tell them that they had been beaten at Gettysburg, or anywhere else, they will laugh in your face. They have been obliged, they allow, to fall back before superior forces at times, but never where there have been any equality of numbers. I have never had a doubt of the final end, even if, as you say “LaGrange should become a frontier town.” I live almost in the Army and find every man willing to fight to the end-they are Patient, enduring and brave and such material cannot fail. There has been a cabinet of war sit­ting at the President’s for the last week, resulting in Gen. Lee being sent with a large part of the Army to Tennessee. Meade, they say, has but one effective corps and Pickett’s division can keep that in check here. I went to town to pay a visit at the Aarwick’s and a gentleman stopping to hand me out of an awkward ambulance proved to be Gen. Lee. He looked much older and greatly worn.

I shall lose very kind and devoted friends by Davis appoint­ing Gilmer a Major General, and sending him to Charleston. I have spent every evening with them for five months, and shall have no place to go now. I live a mile and a half from the city proper. As a sett off Mrs. Lawton has come in as Lawton has been made Quarter Master General, but she lives where all my other friends live, at the extreme West End, it makes the prospect of the coming winter very gloomy for me, for though I have an ambulance is against orders for it to leave the Hospi­tal after eight o’clock which precludes all spending the evening out Gen. Gilmer writes very hopefully from Charleston, he says that the enemy will certainly take Sumter. Gregg. Moul­trie and Simpkins, as they have already taken Wagner; but the inner line of defenses is very strong, time is of the greatest im­portance, to strengthen the city, as the call of Beauregard for negroes to work had not been properly complied with. Beaure­gard seems to have got a little above himself and transmitted all his orders thro’ Jordan, a man who was, or rather had made himself, so obnoxious to the citizens that they paid no attention to his demands.[1] I hear from what the newspapers say is reliable authority, that at the time of the first attack Ripley[2] and Jordan were so engaged in blockade running that the safety of their expected cargoes were uppermost in their minds, instead of the safety of the city. Ripley has made a million they say and Jordan half as much. Gen. Gilmer counts a great deal upon the high equinoctial winds at this sea­son among the clumsy and unmanageable Monitors and also upon those three iron clad steamers now receiving their arma­ment in France. The splendid guns, firing six hundred and sev­enty five pounds, have been mounted in the battery in the city, and also a mortar throwing a shell weighing four hundred and twenty five pounds. Gen. Gilmer pronounced all the defenses at Savannah and in the harbor useless as they were constructed with mud, through which the new projectiles go without diffi­culty – they are cutting them down and building them of sand, he thinks in time.

I wish that Fanny would accept Kate Campbell’s invitation and come for a time to Richmond.[3] I would give her half my room with pleasure, whenever she would come to me, and it is quite as nice as at any hotel, it is away from the Hospital to which she need not come unless she wished to do so, and even then my office, parlor, kitchen and laundry are pretty far from the wards, with which she would not be brought into contact. I have a sweetheart for her, though I am not much of a match maker, he is a nephew of Gen. Lee one of the Shirley Carters of Brentford, the oldest Virginia family extant that is also his name and a sweet fellow he is, about twenty six. I have talked to him (for he comes to see me almost daily) about Fanny till he is half in love with her, and I think he could win any girl’s heart. Ask Lena if she will not give me Fanny’s Daguerreotype

I gave her last winter. I hope that she will not refuse me such a trifle, particularly as she was indebted to my generosity for it.

The feelings here against the Yankees exceeds anything I could imagine, particularly among the good Christians. I spent an evening among a particularly pious sett. One lady said she had a pile of Yankee bones lying around her pump so that the first glance on evening her eyes would rest upon them. Anoth­er begged me to get her a Yankee Skull to keep her toilet trinkets in. All had something of the kind to say – at last I lift­ed my voice and congratulated myself at being born of a na­tion, and religion that did not enjoin forgiveness on its ene­mies, that enjoyed the blessed privilege of praying for an eye for an eye, and a life for a life, and was not one of those for whom Christ died in vain, considering the Present state of feel­ing. I proposed that till the war was over they should all join the Jewish Church, let forgiveness and peace and good will alone and put their trust in the sword of the Lord and Gideon. It was a very agreeable evening, and all was taken in good part. I certainly had the best of the argument, and the gentle­men seconded me ably. Yesterday some of the gentlemen came out, among them Major Coxe, who asked me after either you or the girls, he is a very fine looking, rather dissipated looking man.

I paid a visit yesterday about which I would like to consult you, not about the visit but the results, as you are acquainted with one of the parties – the friend I called on spoke very kindly of the life of exertion and self-sacrifice she fancied I was leading, dilated very strongly upon the sinfulness and scandal making of any woman who would or could say any­thing reflecting upon me- and to make a long story short I found that Mrs. L-y was the mischief maker. She brought no charges it seems against me only that small and mean style of surmising which is worse than damning with faint praise. “She knew what brought me to Richmond, no one could tell her anything about me if I lived alone I had my reasons” – all this is very bad and very malicious, my life is irreproachable now as it morally always has been; there is nothing in the past or the Present to touch it; my time is past from morning till night by the bedside of the sick and dying, fulfilling to the ex­tent of my capability the duties of my position, never consider­ing my personal comfort, living what to most women would be a life of self abnegation and sacrifice, but which is neither to me. Every one I come in contact with has respected and made much of me and here comes this woman pretending to know something wrong in my former life and present motives. It is like a small but poisonous sting. Would you advise me to see her and speak to her of the mischief she does, or not to notice the matter? You know my life is a little peculiar. I am entirely independent and alone, perhaps younger and more attractive than the very old and very unattractive women who fill these positions and the world might put any construction upon the matter they pleased. She said that she had heard from my sis­ter that my work was entirely a matter of choice, but I imme­diately contradicted this (as the choice of such a life would naturally be considered an absurdity) and said I had no means and it was a necessity. Who would suppose or believe that days passed among fever wards and dying men, in a hospital away from the city, with no comforts and every privation, was vol­untary! I dared not aspire to that!

Eugene says you mentioned something about black and white gingham at 4.50 a yard, but that I do not intend to give. I am going on a shopping expedition next week. I had to give fifty dollars a pair for leather shoes and what is worse wear them, with the thermometer at 96. I think prices are better for the purchaser here than anywhere else. I had quite a present yesterday. I had made a black cravat for Eugene and it was lying upon my table when Major Mason of the Army came in and took it, saying he wanted one. I let him keep it and a few hours afterwards he sent me five new novels and twenty pounds of coffee, telling me he knew I was too honest and scrupulous to drink the Hospital coffee. The only luxuries now hat gentlemen can send me is tea and coffee and at the pres­ent rates his gifts cost him over one hundred dollars. Shall I send you some?

I am sure I have not the slightest idea of what you mean when you say “Emma is learning something.” Is anything wrong with her husband? As for Fanny’s[4] engagement I do not wonder she broke it off, but only that it was on, he was such a dirty wriggling little tobacco chewer, she would prize a little notoriety much, from a morbid vanity and will not ma­ture into any of the nobler attributes of womankind I think. Fanny Cohen makes no secret I believe of her partial engage­ment.

Do tell me if you ever heard of a young man named Napier Bartlett of the Washington Volunteers,[5] a very ugly but re­markably intelligent person, from New Orleans. The reason I wish to know is that I met him casually and did him some lit­tle favors in the way of my profession which he seems very grateful for. He writes me very often, very clever shrewd rath­er brilliant letters from camp which I have not answered; and sends me books, one or two which he has written – one, a very pretty little novellette called “Claribel, a tale of the war.” Please answer this as I am rather curious, fancying him rather a self made man.

If you are in earnest about being willing to preserve me some peaches if sugar was not so high, I should like a very small jar. I have over twenty pounds of sugar, being a part of my monthly rations, and I could either send it to you, or sell it for ten dollars a pound here and send you the money. I don’t want many. If convenient please remember me. Thank dear Fanny a thousand times for her offer concerning her shawl, but tell her the Quarter Master General has promised to let me have some woollen cloth at government prices, as soon as any comes in; which will answer. I received her letter, and will an­swer soon. I wish I could see Lena’s baby, is it really such a lit­tle beauty? I hope that she is pleased, she was always so anx­ious for it.

I must say goodbye as the Doctor has just come to lance a great abcess I have on my arm that has almost crazed me. You don’t know how courageous the constant sight of amputations make one – you look upon anything less as trifling. Do give my kindest remembrances to all your household and write me soon. My greatest pleasure is the letters I get.

Sincerely yours
      Phebe

My paper is miserable but I really cannot afford better, so will have to make up in agreeability for all defects.


 

[1] The reference is to Col. Thomas Jordan, Beauregard’s chief of staff.

[2] Gen. R. S. Ripley, who earlier had been in command at Charleston, was at this time subordinate to Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard and at odds with both Beauregard and Jordan. The report about blockade running apparently was one of the many wild rumors to which the Confederacy was subjected.

[3] The Fanny here mentioned was Fanny Phillips, Phoebe’s niece, who later married Charles Hill. Kate Campbell was the daughter of Assistant Secretary of War John A. Campbell.

[4] Fanny Phillips, Phoebe’s niece.

[5] Napier Bartlett after the war wrote an account of his war experiences, published in New Orleans in 1874 under the title A Soldier’s Story of the War, Including the Marches and Battles of the Washington Artillery and of Other Louisiana Troops.

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