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Title: William Hill, Abbeville, S. Carolina to David [Hill?], [Ballymena?].
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FileHill, William/19(2)
SenderHill, William
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationbusinessman
Sender ReligionProtestant
OriginAbbeville, South Carolina, USA
DestinationBallymena, Co. Antrim, N.Ireland
RecipientHill, David
Recipient Gendermale
SourceT 2305/38: Presented by South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA.
ArchiveThe Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.
Doc. No.9404158
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
LogDocument added by LT, 20:04:1994.
Word Count2226
TranscriptNear Abbeville C.H. 2 September 1865

My dear [Brother?]
I would fain write you a long letter but I do not
know where to begin. It is long since I heard from you. Great
events have happened here since I last wrote you. Times are
very different within the last few years. The late war has ruined
the South and I may say the whole country. The people here are
impoverished, not one in ten but is reduced to insolvency.
The negroes are all freed, and confusion reigns predominant.
The freedman [freed man?] and women will not work, and no means to
compel them; the consequence is that they steal and pilfer, as
they must live by some means. You cannot imagine such
a state of things as exist here. A war of extermination either
of the white or the black race is, in my opinion inevitable,
and the conflict will not be long postponed.
The whites are so reduced in their circumstances that
it is impossible for them to leave the country. Thousands are
rendered from affluence to entire poverty, and the situation
of the late slaves is deplorable, they will perish by hunger
and disease, and melt away as snow before the rising sun.
In times past there was a sympathy, a kindness felt
for that people, but now nothing but antipathy and alienation.
It is a cruel change to them for the worse. Hitherto
they had been happy and contented, and no class of
laborers [labourers?] in the world had as easy a time of it as them;
when sick or aged, they were kindly cared for and [excused?],
and not alone on the score of interest, but from a feeling
of sympathy and affection and this feeling was mutual;
but now is the reverse, and the nature of the negro is
so indolent and lazy that he is incapable of any
exertion to better his circumstances; he only thinks of the
present, never contemplates the future. It would sicken
you to see many of them - women and childern [periling?]
about the country in a state bordering on starvation.
Till yet they can obtain, from the fields and orchards
what will support life, and as to clothing they can, in a
measure do without, but the winter is at hand and they
will perish by cold and want. You can get many to agree
to work for you for their support, but you can repose no
confidence in their stability so soon as they get their stomach
filled they are off. The crop of provisions made the
present year will ward off famine for the next winter months
but afterwards I dread the prospect, for as I said above, no
confidence can be placed in the labor [labour?] of the negro without
compulsion, and want will not compel them to work; now
there is no alternative. While the white man had the power
of the lash, the negro knowing this, it answered the purpose,
even without its application.
I do not think I switched a slave of mine in the last
four years and I do not claim to be more humane and indulgent
than others, I owned fifteen, all of whom are gone to
shift for themselves, but one woman and her two children, and
I was pleased at their leaving; they had become so idle since
their being freed that in place of a benefit they were a
heavy expense to me for their board and clothing.
I have lost by the result of the late war not less than
thirty thousands dollars, taking into computation the negroes
confederate bonds, money, and depreciation of real estate.
Two of my daughters, Mary Jane, and Sallie are
widows, the husband of the former (N. Knox) was killed
in battle, the husband of the latter died with disease in
the army, his name was Andrew McIlwain. My other son-in-law,
Charles Cox was shot through the shoulder, but his
wound is now well and he is working at his trade, being
a carriage maker. Robert Emmet was in the army for
four years, a part of the time he was on light duty, as
enrolling officer, he having got himself severely hurt in
one of his knees. John my youngest, a lad of sixteen
was a while in the service towards the close of the war.
Robt E. [Robert Emmet?] is teaching school at present, and Mary Jane also
the latter teaches in the town of Abbeville, the former in the
country. Mary Jane has but one child a daughter, and Robert
has a daughter also. Sallie has no child.
I have removed from the Town to my plantation, it
was necessary to take this step as everything on the farm
was exposed, that is to say the crop and stock of all kinds,
and even with all my care I can not [cannot?] prevent property
being stolen; lately I had a very fine mule stolen, and
frequently some of my hogs are taken, a few nights ago I
had a quantity of bacon taken from my meat house, and
corn from my corn crib.
This country has become such a pandemonium that
I sometimes think, if I could from the wreck of my property
realize any thing [anything?] I would go back, even in my old age, to
the dear land wherein I first draw [drew?] my breath, my children
are all capable of taking care of themselves and will have to
depend on their own exertions for the future.
My office has been for sometime [some time?] closed by military
authority, the country is under martial law. We have a guard
of Yankee soldiers in Abbeville to keep us in subjection,
composed of fifty men, the present guard are white men a
great many of whom are Irish; their predecessors were negroes
whose domineering conduct so exasperated the people that it
was thought best by the authorities to remove them in order to
prevent a collision with the citizens. The soldiers here now
behave themselves with considerable decorum, and on the whole
are as acceptable as, in the nature of things we could hope for
every other town in the state, and in all the late confederate
states are similarly garrisoned, and they the soldiers mingle with the
negroes with as much affinity as if of the same blood.
We have no postal arrangements now. I sent this letter as
far as Charleston by John Harbeson, who has been living here
for over two years, he is about to visit that city to see what
prospect may be, as he contemplates a return in hopes he
may be able to make a support in Charleston. His oldest
[daughter?] Ellen, is employed by a gentleman as private teacher
in his family. Mary lives at home with him, she was employed
the last year as music teacher in the neighboring village of
Cokesbury, they are intelligent and well educated ladies.
I got a letter the other day from Sam Thomson, Jun [Junior?]
he is now in Charleston, just returned from a visit north
to see his father, he writes that he found him pretty well,
and that his brother Robert had got home from the army after
being a prisoner in the state of Alabama for nearly 12 months
his other brother (William) died by disease while in the
Yankee army.
I heard to my surprise the other day that my particular
friend Malcolm Erwin has made a stolen visit to [Ballymena?],
any body says that he had [never?] except [expect?] to get a wife,
and it is seriously hinted by the knowing ones that Maggie
McMentry will visit this part of the world between now and
winter under an assumed name. All I have to say is that
if she becomes Mrs Malcom, she will be mistress of a good
fellow and a deserving man who will make her a good and
kind husband. Maggie has waited long and patiently - she
is now not less than thirty three years of age, but just in her
prime. You must not consider this rambling letter as written
exclusively to yourself, as I mean it for [?] brothers John and
Hugh, and all the rest of you, I would like to write to all
of you individually, but I have got so long out of the way of
correspondence that writing sets hard on end. I hope however
to get letters from all of you, and even some of the young
ones might send a note to their old uncle, whom but few
of them ever saw. Stir up Wm [William?] McMentry, and even staid and
solid Wm [William?] Hay might bend his mind to write a short
epistle, remember me to sister Jenny and the family
and to Robert McMartry. While writing this your welcome
letter dated 2 August came to hand, it gave me great pleasure to
hear from you once more, but it was not satisfactory, for it contained
so little, however I will wait with patience for your promised "long
letter" I am truly glad to hear that Aunt Sallie Beggs is still
alive and as yet, able to come over to [Ballymena?] now and again
Give her my kind love. I am sorry to be told that your health is
declining, as for my part I enjoy as good health as I ever did,
although I am stiffened by length of years being as you say turned
of sixty. My head is not gray, but I can not [cannot?] say as much for my
beard and whiskers, however that is a small matter; and as much for my
spirits and feeling, I could enjoy life with as much zest as ever
were it not for the anomalous situation of the country. My wife is
more broken, physically, than I am, though her general health is not
to be complained of.
When you write, tell me of all my old friends and
acquaintances, and what has become of them. I am aware that but
very few exist about [Ballymena?], yet the reminiscence of my old friends
is dear to me. And were I to visit the old place once more, I would
feel like a veritable stranger on the spot of my birth and early youth
You say you would be glad to see me once more before we leave this
world. I need not tell you that the feeling would be mutual, but it
is not likely that we shall ever enjoy it. Time is fast fleeting and
the places that know us now will soon know us no more. Well let
us hope for a happy meeting in the world which awaits us.
This place (I write in town) is all bustle this morning, in consequence
of a "mock Tournament" to be acted today. All the gallants of the place
and neighborhood, are "Cap a pie", and mounted for the joust, dressed
fantastically, and _____ foolishly; the ladies in extacys [ecstacies?]
every one, no doubt, fancying that she will, peradventure, be crowned the
Queen of the occasion. Poor fools, they put off the evil and trying time
that await them in future, but sufficient unto the day is the evil
thereof. You mention the death of "Willie Hill." who is he?
I write on the 8th September, but I do not know when the
document will leave, as Mr Harbeson has not fixed his time for
going to Charleston 'tho [although?] he expects to start soon. We have no
mail facilities now in consequence of the rebellion as our enemies
the Yankees call our effort to free ourselves from the accursed
yoke. No people ever had more justifiable cause for asserting and
struggling for independence than we had; but we failed after a
heroic trial in consequence of weakness and the power of
the numbers and resources of our opponents. Had it not been for
the resources obtained in men from Ireland and Germany the matter
would be different this day. Men from those nations, mercenarys [mercenaries?],
came in thousands and tens of thousands, to crush a people struggling
for self government regardless of anything but their filthy pay.
They knew nothing of the nature of the contest, and seemed to care
nothing for the right. I do not know a single Irishman resident in
this part of the country, but was strong for the cause of the South.
Well, I believe I have said all that I can think of
just now, and much that will be of no interest to you, and
I must beg your indulgence for this long and somewhat irrevelant [irrelevant?]
letter, as I had no fixed plan of writing but just put down so it
were, in [?] whatever came uppermost in my mind, and so
you must make the most of it.
Give my kind love to Jane and say to her that I
wish her long and happy years, and let me congratulate your
son John on his marriage.
I remain your affectionate brother
William Hill.

P.S. Mr Harbeson starts for Charleston tomorrow the 16th and
takes this letter to try and have it [?]ed. My wife charges me
to remember her to you all, more especially Mary Murdock, and R McMentry,
Tell Mary Murdock that we have not heard from old Mrs
[Taggart?] in five years.
W. H. [William Hill?]