Letter:FAWCETT, Willis to Virginia Fawcett - 1865-12-12

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From FAWCETT, Willis (1809 - 1878)
To FAWCETT, Virginia (1806 - 1882)
Date: 12 Dec 1865
Family(s) Fawcett
Collection William B. Fawcett collections
From Bill Fawcett's book: Yes
Needs annotation: Yes
Has significant genealogical information: Yes

Yorktown, DeWitt Co., Texas
December 12, 1865

Virginia Fawcett,
St. Charles, Mo.

My dear Sister - I avail myself of my the first opportunity by a United Stated Mail that has been within my rech since the commencement of the war. I understand that the mail contractors on the line from Fort Lavacoa to San Antonio are now placing the coaches and horses at their proper stations and that on to-morrow the first coach for the accommodation of citizens will take a mail from this little town on eastward towards the centre of Uncle Sam's domain.

What a storm has swept over out country since we had the privilege of a regular correspondence - and what desolation! How inconsistent with some of the plainest precepts recorded in the New Testament is war! I meant to say how inconsistent it appears to me to see those who profess practical christianity to advocate war and voluntarily draw the sword to rend the [--] of a particular section of the world, or perhaps to seek vengeance for what the warrio[r] may deem an offence! There has been fighting going on in almost every past age of which we have any history. Bit frpm theoldest to the latest battle is there one, the result of which proves which side in the contest was morally right? It appears to me the result only shows which side was the best at fighting or which had


the advantage in number, power or skill - such battles no more prove which is right, than that between two men meeting on a highway one a very large strong & active man the other diminutive & weak - they have a difference and they go to fighting - the little fellow gets badly used up; but does the result prove that the big fellow was right? So when be are all called on the vote on the question war? or no war? you may know where to look for my vote.

Keyes[1] was with us about two weeks since - we had not met for two years previously - I being engaged a good part of the time in trying to get out of the Confederacy; and he, during the same time, showing his loyalty to the same government, by volunteering as a soldier. We met as far as I felt or observed of him with the affection that existed between us before the war undiminished. His health has not been good since he returned last from the service, but he informed me that he was improving in strength and hoped to recover soon. I hope we will settle near enough to each other to visit often - he is as much pleased with this part of the state as I am - he is now moving his sheep in this direction. A few days since I received a letter from Era.[2] -- he & his family were well - he says they have quite a young little fellow in their family named Erasmus Keyes[3]. I have just finished a long letter to my Edward[4] and the others of my children - and I don't know that I can get up for you Eugene[5], Net[6], Lucretia[7], Samuel[8] and the children any thing in relation to myself in a more acceptable form than to give you so much of said letter so I think you & all of you may feel an interest in - and so I proceed to the extract:


Like many thousand of others in this country my wife [9] and I have suffered in almost every form that you can imagine - from apprehension for our personal safety; the danger to our government; deprivation of all the ordinary comforts of life; loss of property by sacrificing much of what we had in order to make the moves we thought advisable for our personal safety; exposure on the western frontier, where the population is but little in advance of the savage state; and much of the time without even a roof to protect us from the driving storm of scorching sun. The political prospects in this region, and the danger to the lives of Union men were so gloomy about two years since that I concluded to move my sheep to the extreme western frontier - after after remaining there many months in a situation in which I could get not information in relation to the progress of the war, and the Confederates on the frontier becoming more desperate, I went across the Rio Grande in January[10] and took my wife and sheep with me. While crossing we suffered from fear of being arrested by Confederate soldiers; and in order to get over at all we sought the most unfrequented point within our reach on the river. At the place we crossed at, about 30 miles above Laredo, there were two islands - we were three days busily engaged in getting the sheep over - had a large ox wagon with our supply of bread stuff, clothing, etc., which we crossed at another point twenty miles below a day or two before we commenced crossing the sheep. The only chance was to swim them. I think it was the severest trial that I ever had mentally for besides the apprehension of arrest


at any hour, the weather was cold and I was in the water almost all of two days. Nor were our fears groundless, as a scouting party of 15 Confederates showed themselves in pursuit on the Texas bank the next morning after we got the sheep over. We remained in Mexico until we heard the war was ended, and recrossed in July last. Here we lost from disease several hundred sheep. There was no available water for us in the interior; downward there was no grass; and upward we increased the danger from Indians. During our stay in Mexico my wife was dangerously sick of bilious and lung fever - and was confined to her bed three weeks - in which time she endured a great deal of suffering without the alleviation of even the appearance of a white woman’s face - nor had she the help of any nurse or doctor other than what her poor husband could render - and most of that time I had the care of of flock of sheep, which, as the wolves were very bad, required me to be absent almost all the time during the day. In recrossing we had almost as much risk and trouble as we had in crossing at first. As there is a heavy export duty on every thing taken out of Mexico, which I thought could not justly apply in my case; and as I had no money to pay with - the only way left was to select another infrequent point and try to cross without being discovered by the Mexican authorities; who would, on discovery, confiscate all the property involved in the crossing. Fortunately I had formed an acquaintance with a remarkably kind and reliable Mexican who also was well acquainted with the geography of that region and with all the passes on the river within our reach. I also had


the assistance of some Texans who had deserted from the Confederate service. Such help was indispensable to success, as I would not confide my intentions to such Mexicans as I should otherwise have had to employ. After selecting the most available pass we found the river so full that we could not ford the wagon - and there being no boat of any kind to be had, we converted the frame or body of the big ox wagon into a boat - and in it we crossed the running gear of the wagon, our bread stuff, clothing, etc., and then, after making several futile attempts to get the sheep to swim, actually ferried them over in the wagon-frame-boat. It was a very tedious operation; and my Texan friends, finding that I was dependent upon them for the management of the boat, extracted $100 in specie - and that too after I had furnished them with bread and meat for several weeks with the distinct understanding that they would help me to cross. After getting all over we travelled on slowly and reached the San Antonio river in August and remained in that vicinity until the 1st October, when we came to this neighborhood. During the war I have lost, including lambs, not less than 2000 head of sheep - mostly for the want of salt; which article I cold not possibly procure, as the Confederate government had pressed all the wagons of the country into its service - and besides I had no money to buy with. Nearly everything that I possessed before the war had been lost, except the land I own in Travis County and a few hundred sheep. What sheep I have left of my own, and several hundred belonging to Messrs. Keith and Chase


which I have on the shares, are now doing remarkably well - all in good condition and healthful - and are on the best range I ever saw, affording an abundance of green grass, and being very extensive. If I can "keep my feet" until I can get another clip or two of wool, and a good crop or two of lambs my now fluctuating hopes will mature into a confident faith of attaining a comparative independence. Since the war commenced I have become acquainted with this part of the state and considering it far superior in winter grass especially, I have determined to settle somewhere hereabout; but as yet have no regular home for myself or my sheep. My wife suggests the idea that, as we have not had an opportunity to correspond for so long a time, we try to make up for lost time; and write as often as we find it convenient. Please let all hands of us write often. A page or two of Samuel’s[11] experience in the war times and a chapter from Eugene’s[12] observations would be only appreciated here. Let the men ply the artillery and the women the small arms - and have a general and protracted engagement!

My wife joins me in the assurance of our continued and abiding affection for you all - Samuel and Lucretia and their children, Eugene, Net and their soft shell tribe[13] - and "Aunt" Ginnie[14] herself. Your affectionate brother, Willis Fawcett.

  1. FAWCETT, Benjamin Keyes (1827 - 1870)
  2. FAWCETT, Erasmus Rigney (1812 - 1868)
  3. FAWCETT, Erasmus Keyes (1865 - 1941)
  4. FAWCETT, Edward Stabler (1846 - 1901)
  5. GAUSS, Eugene (1811 - 1896)
  6. FAWCETT, Henrietta (1817 - 1909)
  7. FAWCETT, Lucretia Catherine (1822 - 1913)
  8. MCCLUER, Samuel Campbell (1821 - 1888)
  9. WIGHT, Jerusha Burnet (1820 - )
  10. 1863/64? ~WBF
  11. Samuel McCluer
  12. Eugene Gauss
  13. The McCluer’s farm was named Nutshell
  14. Virginia Fawcett, recipient of the letter


From A History of the Fawcetts and Related Families in America by William Bloys Fawcett. Used by permission of Dr. Fawcett.

This book was first published in 1996 and some of the information is quite dated. If you find errors or want to add updates, contact me, and I will add notes to the page.

Copyright © 1996, 2007 by William Bloys Fawcett, Jr. All rights reserved. No copies may be made of this document through any electronic, photocopying or other means without permission of the author.

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