Six-Page Civil War Hardship Letter 1863
Sallie Brindley Thomas
Henry -- Son of Union
General Lorenzo Thomas
"Colored Man" Alfred An
Answer to Prayers!
Henry du Pont Wants Farm at $100/Acre
Must Sell Brindley Plantation
- We Are Unfit !
All Hope is Lost For
Dying Rev. Brinckle !
Sallie in Deep Despair - We Need Papa or Richard !
-- -- NO RESERVE -- --
Sallie Brindley Thomas (1828-1885) -- is Henry C. Thomas' second- or third-cousin
-- and they married on June 4, 1857. Henry and Sallie would have three children:
James, Kate Latrobe, and Richard. Sadly, Kate would die shortly
after her first birthday in the summer of 1863. The Civil War was raging,
and Henry had to spend each week in Washington D.C. instead of with his
wife and family in Wilmington.
Sallie's father was James
Joseph Brindley (1783-1858), the son of American canal builder James Brindley (1745-1820).
The Brindley family were affluent members of the Wilmington, Delaware
community, friends with George
Washington, Benjamin Latrobe, E. I. du Pont, and
other historical Americans. Sallie's mother was Hannah Baker Brindley,
and she had two sisters: Elizabeth and Rebecca, and one brother,
civil war hero Richard Brindley, who died leading his men into battle in June1862.
Sallie died in 1885, and was
buried in Washington D.C.
Henry Colesberry Thomas (1833-1909) was one of the children of Lorenzo Thomas (1804-1875) and
Elizabeth Brindley Colesberry Thomas (1806-1879). The Thomas, Colesberry,
and Brindley families were related through marriage, and lived in the Wilmington, Delaware area
in the late 1700s and much of the 1800s.
Henry's mother Elizabeth, was the niece of American canal
engineer James Brindley (1745-1820), the daughter of his sister Mary
who had also emigrated to the United States from England. Henry's father, Lorenzo,
was the son of Newcastle County registrar, and Revolutionary War soldier,
Evan Thomas, and would serve U.S.
President Abraham Lincoln as his Adjutant General during the Civil War. Fort Thomas,
a military post established in
Arizona Territory in 1876, was named for Thomas a year after his death.
Henry often refers to various family members
in his letters, including younger brothers
Lorenzo "Lo," Jr.
(1837-1912), and Evan "Ev," (1843-1873). Lo Jr.,
was Captain of the Maryland Heavy Artillery during the Civil War,
and apparently never remarried after the death of his newlywed bride
Ev will survive the Civil War, but tragically
lose his life a few years after war's end, when he is killed in California's
in 1873. Another brother -- Randolph -- will pass away in the first few months of the
Civil War, dying in September, 1861.
Henry began a career as a federal employee sometime around
1851 or early 1852, working in Washington D.C. as a clerk in the War Department,
a position he would hold for his
entire life -- and during the Civil
War -- before retiring and moving
to America's west coast, settling in Spokane, Washington where he eventually
After Henry's death, his body
was shipped back to Washington D.C. so that he could be buried next to his
beloved Sallie, and their infant daughter Kate.
Hannah Baker (1797-1872) was
the second child of Richard and Rebecca Webb Baker, and born
March 3, 1797 in Chester, Pennsylvania. Chester was a tiny burg on the Delaware
River, about halfway between Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia.
She entered the Westtown Boarding School, May 11,
1813 at the age of 16 years. Her student number was 1165.
nine brothers and sisters; she being the third child born
to Richard and Rebecca.
She left the school August 15, 1814 and married James Joseph Brindley in 1823, who was nearly 14 years her senior, and they would
be the parents of Elizabeth, Rebecca,
Sallie and Richard.
Sallie will grow up to marry Henry Colesberry Thomas, the son
of Abraham Lincoln'c Adj. General, Lorenzo Thomas. Her 14-year-older
husband James Joseph, will pass away in 1858, her son Richard
will die in 1862 in the Civil
War, and Hannah will pass in 1872
-- fourteen years after the death of her husband -- at the age of 75.
Hannah's two eldest daughters -- Elizabeth and Rebecca -- remained spinsters
for their entire lives, both dying early in the 20th century.
Item Description -- Please Read
This is an original
1863 six-page handwritten letter in fountain pen ink.
It is dated "March 10th, 1863,"
and is handwritten by 35-year-old Sallie Brindley Thomas, (1828-1885)
to her 30-year-old
husband Henry who lived and worked in Washington
D.C. in the War Department. Because of the threat of war in our nation's
Capitol, Sallie and her two infant children are living on the Brindley estate
in Wilmington, about 100 miles north of Washington D.C. She and Henry have
now lived apart -- seeing each other infrequently -- for nearly two years.
Sallie, her sisters Elizabeth
and Rebecca, and their mother Hannah have been struggling to run the
Brindley farm, but have given up all hope of keeping the family plantation.
The death of their father, James
Joseph five years earlier, and the unexpected
death of their only brother Richard, has left the Brindley farm in the hand of four women, untrained in the ways of farming and farm upkeep. The only hope they could even dream about is for Henry to move
back home with Sallie and manage the estate, but the Civil War requires
him to remain in Washington, D.C. away from his family.
Sallie starts the letter by detailing Elizabeth's dealing
with a Mr. Lloyd, who it appears either lives/works on the Brindley
farm, or has some sort of work agreement. He's telling the women they need new horses
as the old one won't permit him to do his work. Next, he sounds like he's
trying to get them to let him sell the farm for them. It sounds fishy,
as though he's trying to take advantage of them, and Sallie smells a rat.
And at a time when manpower is short and few neighbors
are offering any assistance, a "colored man" by the name of Alfred
shows up to cut wood to the sisters' delight. Christ Church rector Samuel Crawford Brinckle continues his
decline and his son has been called for one last visit. (See his bio
below). Sallie's depression since the death of her brother Richard
nine months previously has not yet lifted, and now her mother's depression appears to be hastening the end of her
days. In short, the loss of her father, her only
brother, and the separation she has with her husband is slowly, slowly wearing
the poor woman down as the Civil War continues, no end in sight.
In a desperate attempt to safeguard family finances, a decision is made
to sell their farm, and Henry du
Pont is offering $100 acre, which they
find is below market value.
There two sheets of writing paper, each approximately 8 by 10," and a third sheet which is approximately
5 x 8". Each sheet has ink script on both
sides. There is a slight stain on top right border of the first page. Also,
a light pencil notation from Sallie, written as she travels through town
by buggy, just before folding and mailing the letter. The pencil note
reads: "Called to see how Mr.
Brinckle is this morning. He is still living, but that is all. I write this
as I ride [illeg]. to see Mrs. Belin., for she is very bad [sp.?]. She had a hemorrage
this morning. They all seem so bad."
. All six pages
are filled with script and after
writing on the entire sixth page, Sallie continues writing a final line perpendicular over previous script before signing off.
This letter comes with the original mailing envelope, however,
the stamp has been removed from the envelope, so the envelope should be
considered damaged. (Please see graphic above). The letter inside, however, is in very fine condition!
The envelope is small, approximately 2 1/2 by
4 1/2" and has a section cut away. There is a black ink postmark
that says "Henry Clay Factory,
Mar 12". The address reads: "Henry C. Thomas Esq'r, Care of Brig. Gen..
L. Thomas, Adj't Gen. U.S.A., Washington, D.C."
A note along the left border in Henry's handwriting says "March 10th, 1863 - Sallie."
I won't transcribe the entire letter, but here are some
"Greenway [Wilmington, Delaware]
- March 10th, 1863
"I feel as if I have so much to tell
you My Dear Husband, that I have taken my slate (sp?) with a large
sheet before me & have stolen off early in the day to begin while I
think of what is uppermost in my mind. E[lizabeth] came into my
room very early this morning with her face quite bright & pleased, saying
Alfred has come to cut wood. Alfred is the colored man
we had such a trudging through the mud for on Saturday. After breakfast,
she took him to the woods & he knows so well what to do, that she is
quite delighted with him & he told her that Mr. Armstrong said he
might come whenever we wanted him for a few days at a time..."
"... [Mr. Lloyd] asked if
there was anything he could do for us in town. E. said nothing but sell
the farm. He said I can soon do that, I know of a purchaser, Mr. H. Dupont
said when the place was in the market, he would make a bid. Why could
ne not have told us that at first? Oh! We all feel so discontented with him, & so out of heart, we really do not know what to do..."
"...Mother [Hannah Baker Brindley] now seems completely out of heart, where she has been so
cheerful & hopeful all along. I know these trials will shorten all
our days, for our minds are now worried almost out of us. I feel myself
as if I had not a bit of energy, or care for anything at all, all my senses seem be numbed, & I am sure all the others have reason to feel it more than
I do, for I have my own family to live for. but they all feel life is to
be a drag to them. I see the change that is taking place in Mother, her
health & spirits are giving way under it, & her days will be shortened..."
Indeed, Hannah is now in her mid-60s,
in recent years having lost her husband and only son. But she will not give
up on life just yet, living another nine years before passing away in 1872.
"...We are none of us fit for this
kind of life, & it is destroying
us, not by inches, but very rapidly. Both Papa & Richard kept all their
trials & vexations so carefully from us, spared us all
they could that was unpleasant connected with this business, that we never
knew until they were taken from us. What
a loss we sustained in giving them up."
"We had a note from Anna Brinckle
this morning, saying her Father was much worse. E. & I went over
this evening to see how he was. They thought he had not quite so much fever,
but was very weak. The Dr. expressed a wish to have Sam sent for, so he
is to be down tomorrow, which seems to me but another way of saying he has no hope for him..."
Yes, Christ Church's first rector is
now hours from death. You can read more about the Rev. Brinckle in the bio
"... [Elizabeth and Rebecca]
thought it would be best to go in Town & see Mr. Canby &
know what he had heard from Mr.
Dupont, & what he thought of
Mr. Lloyds behavior... We took a pretty early start & stopped at Mr.
Brinckles. As we went in I saw Susan only, her father was still worse.
Sam had come & they have given him up..."
"We found Mr. Canby at home & he spoke of the demand at present
for real estate, which there may not be a year or even six months from now.
He said Mr. Dupont did not think our place worth $100 per acre, if he bought it at all, it would only be to invest
money, not because he wanted a farm. But he said we could very probably
get more than Mr. Dupont would give, he had no doubt it would sell better
in two tracts than one & he advises us to put in in the market at any
rate, wo we told him he might put it in the hand of an agent & let it
be done. So you see the old place will have to go. We cannot hold
on to it, it is too hard for us. You don't know what we have to suffer.
I should have been very glad if
Mother could have ended her days here,
where she has been so happy, but I know she is perfectly willing
to do whatever is best & if it does go, she will submit with Christian
And in her last few lines, she pens: "We do feel so perfectly forlorn &
helpless, & it does seem that our situation is very hard to bear, & of all the human race, there is not one to come
forth & help us. I know that
all these trials are meant to lead us from this world, & teach us to
think more of the world to come. It is God's will that we must suffer,
and we need submit..."
Poor, poor Sallie doesn't know it yet,
but her strongly-held Christian beliefs and sacrifices are about to be tested
once again, when in just a few months after penning this soulful letter,
she and Henry will lose their infant one-year-old daughter Kate Latrobe
to a sudden unknown disease.
Emotion and history simply
drip from this incredible letter.
We appear to see where certain men may be trying to take advantage of these
innocent women, struggling to keep their farm afloat during the years of
the Civil War. We read about the last days of Reverend Samuel C. Brinckle, and how his family is reacting. We further see where Sallie, her two sisters, and
their mother Hannah are assisted by a kindly "colored man" named
Alfred who offers to cut wood for the desperate women. The sisters continue
to struggle to maintain the farm in the absence of Sallie's husband
Henry, the only male relative they can rely on, and he's 100 miles south
and required to stay in Washington D.C. And Hannah Baker Brindley,
after years of being the stalworth family matriarch, is now beginning to
shown the strains of the burdens she has been carrying.
After the end of the war, they
will finally be reunited and fulfill Sallie's dream of living together.
Sallie will pass in 1885, and Henry will live another two decades.
It appears that after Sallie's death, Henry becomes an alcoholic and homeless for a period, before moving to the west coast, settling in Washington State. More of Sallie's letters to Henry will be auctioned this year
Rev. Samuel Crawford Brinckle --
First Rector of Christ Church
Rev. Samuel Crawford Brinckle (1796-1863) began his preaching career apparently
in Pennsylvania, not too far from the Delaware State line. He moved to the
Wilmington, Delaware area in 1848 at the invitation of his brother.
The reverend, his wife Julia, and their eight children all made the journey
south, eventually becoming a prominent Wilmington
Rev. Brinckle was related to signer
Caesar Rodney, and soon became the first rector of Christ
Church, which was the one attended by the prominent
du Pont family.
Reverend Brinckle eventually purchased his brother's seventy-seven acre
farm, and when he died in 1863, left the entire estate to his widow Julia. This letter, as have several previous
ones I've sold on eBay, comments on his final days,
as he will pass away on March 12, 1863.
Autographs Of America
includes a written lifetime money back
guarantee of authenticity with your purchase! We've been buying/selling autographs for 30 years! Buy with confidence!
Check our "seller's rating"
above -- 100 percent satisfaction in 15 years of eBay selling! We must be doing something RIGHT!
Please email me with any specific questions!
There is NO RESERVE on this letter and envelope!
Take the "See Other Items"
link above to see MORE great autographs and collectibles we're listing on
eBay! We are dealers you can trust!
Payment must be made within 72
hours (three days) of auction close.
eBay Buyers are the
Thank you for your business!
Autographs Of America
is the autograph authority for Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide,
a popular collectibles book sold nationwide in all major bookstores. Our
magazine articles on autograph collecting have been published in The
Saturday Evening Post, Senior World Magazine, American Airlines Magazine,
The Denver Post and many other national publications and newspapers.
We are or have been members of the UACC (Universal
Autograph Collector's Club), IACC and The
Manuscript Society. Letters of personal reference are available
Live inside the United States?
--- Please add $2.50 for tracked, First
Class Mail. Any item selling for $100 or more will be sent FREE via Priority
I will also be glad to combine shipping if you win more than one auction. You will be charged a single fee of $2.50 on the first item. No postage charged for subsequent purchases.
If total purchases exceed $100, all items will be sent via Priority Mail
at no cost to you!
If not completely satisfied,
buyers must contact me by phone
or email within three (3) days of item delivery and give reason for return before sending. Otherwise, after this
three-day period has passed, the sale is considered final.
We make every effort
to protect your purchase! All
purchases are sent in a plastic sleeve, with cardboard inserted in a large
envelope, sealed with packing tape.
Notice our 100 percent
rating of happy eBay buyers! Thank
Autographs Of America has been buying and selling
autographs since 1981. All autographs we sell carry
a lifetime money back guarantee of authenticity. colonial america, delaware
memorabilia, memorabilia from delaware, delaware collectibles, collectibles
from delaware, historical delaware, autographs of famous delaware people,
du pont chemicals, american transportation, delaware memorabilia, delaware
collectible, famous potter, american potter, stampless covers, stampless
letters, old letter, old letters, collectible covers. civil war documents,
documents from civil war, civil war letters, letters from civil war, civil
war memorabilia, civil war collectibles, civil war photos, civil war pics,
civil war cdv, war between the states, cartes-de-visite, old civil war photos,
old civil war photographs, civil war heroes, the war between the states,
civil war correspondence, collectibles from civil war, romantic letters,
love letters, delaware antiques, old delaware letters, slavery, american
slavery, slave collectibles, slave letters, slave documents, delaware slaves,
delaware slavery, negro, negroes, negro slaves, black americana, black collectibles,