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James Wilson Davidson Papers - MMS 1673
James Wilson Davidson enlisted August 22, 1861, in Company A, 49th regiment, O.V.I., which was mustered in at Camp Noble, at Tiffin, Ohio. He was elected 2nd Lieutenant of his company, and on July 9, 1862, was promoted to 1st Lieutenant for meritorious conduct. At the battle of Stone River, Tenn., December 31, 1862, he was severely wounded in the right leg, from which disability he was discharged on July 21, 1863.
Bureau of Refugees Freedman and Abandoned Lands,
Office of Superintendent St. Francis County,
Oct 11th 1866
My Dear Wife,
The boat has again made a landing at our little town, and with it came your ever welcome letters of Sept 25th 29th and Oct 3d all of which I have run over and hasten to answer before the boat leaves for down the river again. As I have written to you once before this week I have been having the chills somewhat this last week and do not feel any the best yet but I think I have them pretty thoroughly broken up and I will get along without having any more now. I was very glad to read in yours of the 25th that you had received so many of my letters. I was very glad to hear that Homer kept so well and was growing so fast and that he was such a good baby all good qualities and I think must take them from his father but I suppose his dear mama will not agree to that all together you say that he has learned to say papa so sweet, how I would like to hear the little darling it seems to me that I could almost eat him up. But when I read about poor Arthurs affliction it changed my feelings some, and I soon broke open the other two letters and glanced over them to see if he was getting better. I read in the one of the 29th where it was getting better but that it almost disfigured him was not very encouraging but then when I looked over the one of Oct 3d you speak of him being almost himself again that was quite encouraging and I do hope that he will keep clear of all sores forever for he always was so clear of anything of that kind when he was a baby. And you speak of Homer being such a sweet baby, I do not think he can be much sweeter than Arthur was. I hope that the time will not be long till I can have the privilege of judging for myself. I am somewhat surprised to hear of your having so much rain and such floods up in that country, for we have had such dry weather except a few days about a two weeks ago, and today it is as warm as a summers day and I am sweating freely while I sit here writing this letter and the planters are hauling their cotton in by the six mule loads to ship on the boat to market, and Mr Heussey and the collector are just as busy as they can be seeing the cotton weighed and marked and collecting the taxes, it is bringing a big revenue to the Govt. and just from the ones that ought to pay it, but I tell you it comes like drawing teeth for them to pay it, but they have to come down and they know it. Mr Huessey has weighed and assessed about one hundred bales of cotton which returned a revenue of fifteen hundred and thirty dollars, and that is not near as much as will go out the next time if the weather keeps clear. They expect to ship from this county five thousand bales which will bring in a revenue of seventy five thousand dollars, pretty good for one little county in Dixie but I wish they had put on the (5)five cents per pound and made the revenue one hundred and twenty five thousand dollars for this county, but I suppose you do not care anything about the taxes that have to be paid by the Johnies but it does us good here to see how they pull their pocket books around and how mad they look, but it is all no use it has to come. I received a letter from Sister Maggie to day it contains about the same that the one you received did. I do not think that her marrying improved her writing any, but perhaps it has improved her otherwise at least I hope so. She speaks of visiting Ohio in a year or two. I suppose she wants to wait until after she has been to Boston and back before she visits Ohio. I wish that you could have had some of their fruit to have canned. I think that perhaps I can go down there and get some from them but I do not think that I will. I will write this evening and to Maggie and Gramps. I will have an opportunity of sending it the overland route before the boat comes again. I think that my last letter I wrote you was a pretty ---- one for I had the chills some that same day that I wrote it and I was nervous and peevish. ----- could not give a man a civil answer ------ came to my office to see me, but did [not] care much for th[eir?] work[?] more than[?] ------------------------- that deserves a civil answer from --------------- I heard something the other night [that I never][?] heard before: that was a large pack of wolves howling and several panthers screaming. I am told that it is very common ---------- this time of year so you can judge about what kind of a country I am living in, why I would not go out a mile from this place after night for anything now, for I would be sure to be eat up with wolves or panthers, but the natives think nothing of it.
Give my kindest regards to all my friends and all my love for you and those darling little children and tell Arthur that papa is very sorry to hear that he told his mama a story and hopes that he will not do so any more.
Your true and affectionate Husband
February 24th 1867
My Dear Wife
Another Sabbath day has come and with it should have come a mail from the north bringing a good long letter from you but for some cause or other not known by us no boat has come and consequently no mail. This is not as pleasant a day as last Sabbath was and the consequence is that everyone does not feel as pleasant, yet I shall attempt to put in a good share of the day in my room writing to you, as that is the greatest pleasure I have away off in this healthenish country. Everyone is asking me what I get to write about I write to you so often. Well I hardly know myself, but I think if I was at home with you and the children I could find something to talk to you about every day even if it was a repetition of words as I suppose my letters are sometimes, but the situation is good, for my thoughts are with you and the children all the time. This last week has been a busy week with us in the office and I wrote you some hurried notes during the week on that account. My duty in the office here now is to examine all contracts read them over to the freedpersons signing them and to explain to them all the legal points so that they may sign them understandingly and not be cheated or defrauded by signing worthless contracts as a great many did last year and the consequence was they were cheated out of their years labor but this year we propose to prevent that by seeing all the hands and explaining to them as I stated. I read explained and approved during this last week one hundred and five contracts. So you can imagine how busy I was kept for some of these covered a full sheet of cap paper [foolscap] and very poorly written and then there would be twenty or thirty persons to sign it. I would have all those names to write and they would make their marks which I have to witness, all of which takes up time. In addition to this duty I have to make all settlements that have not been made for last years work, which is the worst part of the business, on account of the extreme ignorance of both the whites and blacks, for instance I had a case like this yesterday, a black man came in and complained that a planter out in the country who had his wife employed last year would not pay her. I sent for the planter to come in and bring his accounts against the woman in order that a settlement might be made, he came and I asked him to let me see his charges against the woman he said he had none on paper but had them all in his head. I asked him why he did not sett it down in black and white so that we might be able to read it to the parties and get their acknowledgement to the account, he said because he had no book larnin and did not see any use in keeping books for niggers for they could not tell anything about them. I told him that was just what the Bureau was for, to read and write for the negroes, well then says he I think they ought to get a Bureau for whites to[too] for there is not one half of them that knows anything about keeping books. I thought so to[too] and came very near telling him that congress was about passing a bill for that purpose, but to the settlement. I asked him how much he owed the woman, he said seventeen dollars. I asked the black man what he thought this man owed his wife he said one hundred and twenty dollars, quite a discrepency. The white man then began to give out his claims from his head. I took them down carefully added them together and then subtracted that from the amount he was to pay her for her years work and it left a balance due the woman of eighty seven dollars, but he could not see it and the darkie could not see it he stuck to $120 and the white man to $17 and I could not beat it into their heads any other way. They both acknowledged the accounts that were paid, but they differed in their addition over one hundred dollars, so much for Southern ignorance. I sent the case to a lawyer who tells me that he will make the planter pay the whole bill as accounts kept in the head is worth nothing in law. This is one case out of hundreds similar that come up in this country but generally we can settle them without sending them to a lawyer, for when they go to a lawyer it costs the freedman more than the difference between them and their employer so that any case settled before this is free of cost. I think I will make a good justice of the peace when I get through with the Bureau for it is nothing more or less than the duties of a justice of the peace. I was disturbed in my writing by several young men coming in with Mr Clark my room mate, but they are gone and I am alone again and resume my writing.
The military reconstruction bill that has just been passed in Congress is the topic of conversation here now and I have been listening to the discussion of its merits for the last two hours. And we northern men have come to the conclusion that it is a pretty good thing and hope that if the President does vetoe it, it will be passed over his head and put into force for we are satisfied from our own observation that nothing but military ------ --- will------ of------- country for union men cannot live here in peace unless under the protection of a military garrison. It makes the Rebs howl some and they ---- in hopes that if it is passed over the Presidents vetoe, the Supreme Court will pronounce it unconstitutional. Then they think they will be safe, but it will keep them in hot water until that is done if it is done at all. I am very much amused at one old Reb who comes into our office pretty often and discusses the affairs of the nation as friendly terms with Major Sweeney and since this bill has been talked of. He has not been here until yesterday evening he came in and ---- first thing he said was that is a rough [one?] they have given us to sort low now. Heretofore he and the Major had had considerable talk about the constitutional amendment and he was always opposed to it and said the legislature of this state did right to reject it, and the Major always told him that that was the easiest terms that would ever be offered them, but this old fellow could not see it, but he sees it now, and he came in yesterday and denied ever being opposed to the constitutional amendment and condemns the Legislature for not accepting it, and that he was afraid of something of this kind, and was perfectly thunderstruck to think that Congress would [place?] them under military su[bserviance?] again. We had to laugh right out [at?] the old fellows face just to see what a change had taken place [in?] his case within a few days, but I am told that the whole cry is why did the Legislature reject the constitutional amendment, but I hope that it is to[too] late and that Military Governors will be put over them and kept over them until they are thoroughly reconstructed which in my opinion will be several years. The l-----social gathering of Yankees here last evening and there is quite a number here and they all get together ---- more than I had any idea of, and seemed real good to get into a crowd where you could talk as you felt about matters and things generally without guarding every word you said if you and the children had been here I should have felt perfectly at home and would have enjoyed myself first rate, the male portion of us got into one room and the female portion in another, we discussed the present affairs of the country pretty thoroughly ----- suppose you will see by the tone of my letters I am getting to be quite a politician or at least take more interest in politics than I used to, the reason for it is that in living among Rebels for nearly one year and seeing and hearing their villianous schemes to destroy the government, it behooves the supporters of the government to hang together and work with all their might to undermine these schemes, and if it were possible exterminate the whole Rebel race. You will think perhaps that I use pretty strong language, but you people living up in Gods country know nothing about how union men have to live in this country and I say from the bottom of my heart, God forbid that any of my darling little family ever should. And I hope that before many more weeks I may be relieved from living in such a country among such a community as there is here now.
I will not tire you longer with this conversation but will write more when I hear from you again. I hope that ere this you have received the money sent from Little Rock and that you and the children have all the necessaries of life to make you comfortable, for that is all that I care to work for. Hoping to be with you soon I remain yours as ever
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