This letter was written by Ephraim “Alexander” McAulay (1826-1909), the son of Hugh L. McAulay (1797-1867) and Nancy Davidson Alexander (1804-1873) of Mecklenburg, North Carolina.
At the time the first letter was written in May 1864, Alexander was working at the Mecklenburg salt works at Mt. Pleasant — near Charleston, South Carolina. The second letter was written from Petersburg, Virginia, in December 1864 after Alexander had enlisted in Co. C, 37th North Carolina Infantry.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Mecklenburg Salt Works, South Carolina
May 17th 1864
I once more take my pen to let you know I am well and do hope this may find you all well. I received your letter and was glad to hear from you. I got a letter from [brother] Daniel stating you had a rising on your under lip which he said he did not like. I hope it will turn out nothing serious. I got a letter from Mary. She says they are getting along tolerable well and thinks she will have corn enough to do. I have wrote 2 letters to [brother] John and got no answer. Daniel said he thought he did not direct them right.
I have no news — only we are here yet but do not know how long I will get to stay here. You said you wanted to know who Mrs. Morrison is. She is the wife of Capt. Richard Morrison ¹ — the lady I stayed with on Santee for 8 days and treated me kindly without charge. I saw the captain. He was very thankful for that receipt. I want you to tell me in your next what part of a beef is the rennet.
The Yankees are shelling the city [Charleston, SC] some yet. The soldiers do not like it. The news is there will be a general fight round Richmond and some think the turning point will be decided soon. I hope how soon. We have general health here.
I wrote Lydia lately and to Esther Smith [as] you will perhaps hear. I heard R. Fullwood was very low, if living. We heard the government was keeping provisions and horses. I hope they will not call on you. They had better walk straight if Dick gets after them. I fear they will press some of old Ranter [?] Black Stock. Tell him to be on his guard.
Well, Sally [ ], what did you send me them cabbage seeds for or did you make a mistake and intended to send to someone else? I was on Santee when I got them. I gave them to Mrs. Ferribee — a lady I stayed with when on my first trip. Will, you must not be forgotten. I think Hugh and Hanna can beat you [ ] farming. [ ] all right now nothing Hattee will tell you balance.
E. A. M. to his Mother N. D. McAulay
¹ This was probably Richard Tillia Morrison, Jr. (1840-1906), the son of Richard T. Morrison (1816-1910) — a substantial rice planter on the Santee River and a South Carolina representative. Richard, Jr. was married to Selina Priscilla Toomer (1843-1915) in November 1862. He served as an officer in Rutledge’s 4th South Carolina Cavalry.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
December 27th 1864
I again take my pen to let you know I am well and all the rest and do hope these may find you all well. I received the letter you sent me and stated you wanted to know more about Mr. Russell. I think I told you all in my last. He was in Greensboro. He told he knew Alfred and his family. He knew Robert. He was a Lieutenant in the 18th Tennessee if I remember not. He said the Yanks had overrun that country. He had not heard from his home in 2 years. He did not know where John was. I believe [that] is all he could tell.
There is no news of importance — only all parties is preparing for war. I was on a permanent detail to work on the breastworks. Our line of works is near one hundred miles long. We hear bad news from Georgia and fear Charleston will go next. We have men here to hold this place. We hear Wilmington is safe yet.
I got a letter from Mary in M. Sample’s box. It told all was well. We have no mail for several days. The mail will be regular now. The weather is bad. It is raining and sleeting now.
I saw [brother] John once since he got back. He is well. I had not saw him since June, 63. He seemed to be very glad to see us. He wants in our company. I do not think he will get to us. I get along very well and if times get no worse, I can do. I do not have as hard a time as at salt making and one may as well be killed as worked to death as war is oppressive to everything. I do not expect to escape entirely.
The Yankees are still in sight. We can see them any time on horseback and on foot. They fear to fight us now but will try some weak point. We have some fine men here and some bad but all is subject to military law.
I have heard two sermons from a Baptist minister. We have no chaplain of our own.
I want you to write to me and tell all the news. We had the pleasure of regaling ourselves Christmas on some of your cookery. It made us feel under obligation to you for so fine a treat. We will have plenty for a short time. It is said we will get a New Year’s dinner from Gen. Lee. We hope o get some. I will let you know how we come out and if we fail, all will be right.
Simps[on] Holbrooks ¹ has made application for a furlough to marry Mary Blakely. We hope we have a good time of it. Tell E. Alexander and all his family I have not forgot them. They are at home and can write to me. All of the tribe can see this letter and can take a portion to themselves. Several letters may come but if I get one, Will answer them. I got my paper wet on the march. It is so bad. It was on the 8th of December. I have so many scenes and events since New Year 63 this day, 12 months ago I crossed the Santee on my way home from Charleston. I do hope this war will end soon and the survivors get home is the prayer of your affectionate son,
— E. A. McAulay to Mother
¹ Richard Simpson Holbrooks (b. 1840) — a farmer from Mecklenburg county, North Carolina — enlisted as a private on 16 September 1861 in Co. C, 37th North Carolina Infantry.