1848: Joseph E. Piollet to Maj. Victor Emile Piollet

Headstone of Joseph E. Piollet

Headstone of Joseph E. Piollet

This letter was written by Joseph E. Piollet (1819-1894), the son of Joseph-Marie Piollet (1773-1850) and Elizabeth Whitney (1786-1840). Joseph-Marie Piollet was born in France and served in the armies of the French Revolution, then Napoleon’s. At the battle of Marengo (Italy), June 1800, as a captain of a troop of horse, he won the favor of Napoleon by his bravery, and the emperor promoted him as Postmaster. He was seriously wounded in Austerlitz in December 1805. After retiring from the army, he entered the banking house of Talleyrand, minister of Napoleon, whereupon he became an agent for the sale of Talyrand’s lands in Northern Pennsylvania. He came to the United States in 1806 and settled at Wysox, Pennsylvania, in 1808. He married Elizabeth Whitney in 1810.

Joseph wrote the letter to his older brother, Maj. Victor Emile Piollet (1812-1890). In 1839, Victor was appointed by Governor Porter superintendent of the North Branch Canal, which position he filled three years. Subsequently, he was commissioned a colonel in the state militia. In 1845 he was elected to the lower house of the State Legislature and re-elected, 1846. While in the Legislature he was appointed by President Polk paymaster of U.S. volunteers in the Mexican war. He was at different times a candidate for congress and was also the Democratic candidate for state treasurer in 1875.

He was for some years engaged in railroad building and was superintendent of construction of the Pennsylvania & New York railroad between Lackawanna Junction and Waverly from 1866 to 1869. He was also largely interested in agricultural pursuits with his brother, Joseph. [Source: Heverly’s Pioneer and Patriot Families of Bradford County PA]

We learn from the letter that Victor is losing patience awaiting his confirmation by the Senate, probably for a military commission. It appears that Victor is receiving very little assistance from Pennsylvania Senator David Wilmot because of Victor’s political support for James Buchanan even though Wilmot was from the same county. Wilmot was considered a Democratic Party loyalist and supported President Polk’s decision to initiate war against Mexico. Wilmot lost the support of the mainstream democrats led by (then) Secretary of State James Buchanan, however, when he introduced the Proviso that would have banned the extension of slavery into the new territories acquired by the Mexican War. This caused him to be labeled a “Free-Soiler” even though he was not morally against the institution of slavery.

Victor’s brother has even appealed to General Simon Cameron (called “General” because of his stint as state adjutant general in 1826) for assistance in the long-sought commission.

1848 Letter

1848 Letter

Addressed to Major V. E. Prollet, Care Col. [Benjamin Franklin] Larned, Deputy Paymaster General, New Orleans, forwarded to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Wysox, [Pennsylvania]
February 3, 1848

My dear brother,

Some time has elapsed since I have heard from you. Your letters dated November 26th and December 14 are the last I received which reached me January 11th and answered January 15th. I went to Towanda yesterday thinking I would find a letter from you. As I am extremely anxious to keep appraised of our doings and situation from time to time, I concluded to write before receiving anything from you.

The winter is remarkably mild with us — so much so that I fear the wheat crop will suffer from constant freezing and thawing. So far we have had but two light falls of snow — some four or five inches each time. I very much regret that there is no sleighing for it prevents me doing as much at getting out lumber as I had hoped to do. I had made arrangements to draw 800 logs from the dry run lot but shall fail unless we have different weather. The few days that there was sleighing, we drew nearly 200. I shall have no difficulty in drawing 500 to our mill with the ox teams. We are now drawing what boards we have at our mill. I had hoped to be able to make a fine quantity of lumber by spring. I am anxious to do all I can that will compensate for the trouble and expense.

Upon investigation I found two receipts signed by J. M. Bishop in 1838 — one for $25, another for $100, which was in your check work with the bank. Bishop drew the retained percentage which makes with what you paid him $238. You drew some 600. I think you have not more than your share. I told Adams to collect the one hundred dollars note of Bishop when he chose. When Mr. Bishop first spoke to me to withdraw the 100 note, he told me he had received nothing. Found upon examination after you reached me that he wished to take advantage of your absence. I presume there will be no difficulty in the matter.

As respects your confirmation, I have as yet heard nothing. I have been expecting to hear from [Senator David] Wilmot but he but he keeps perfect silence upon the subject. I do not think there is any danger of the result being satisfactory to us all in the end. I wrote Gen. Cameron a short and kind letter in which I asked him to be kind enough to appraise me in time to correct or remove any objections or charges that might be made against you. I have full confidence in Gen. Cameron befriending you. I dare say to you what I believe as respects Mr. [David] Wilmot. I do not think he takes any interest in your success. I believe if he could satisfy you that the administration would help to reject you, he would gladly see it done for the purpose of injuring Mr. [James] Buchanan, your friend. It seems to me as Mr. [David] Wilmot’s duty to you would require that he should be more considerate. If you were here, it would not  take you but two days to floor him and his Proviso in this county. As it is, the county will send delegates to 4th March Convention opposed to Mr. Buchanan. I received a letter from Farney a few days since in which he urged upon me to the necessity of the friend of Mr. Buchanan in Bradford acting promptly. I answered him carefully saying Mr. Buchanan had many friends in our county which is the truth, [and] so far as I was concerned, I was for Buck [Buchanan]. Not knowing what effect my taking an active part in the matter would have on your confirmation, I have deemed it prudent for me to express no feeling that can be construed in too hastily to anyone. If I were to act, they would think it was in accordance with your views or feelings. Mr. Buchanan will carry Pennsylvania by a large majority; out of some 90 delegates heard from, Buck has sixty-one. Mr. Wilmot is using himself up. All I have written upon the subject kept by me strictly to myself.

I think I shall be able to dispose of our corn to good advantage at home. The men in Towanda that we owe will take corn at a fair price. I have been looking over accounts & see forth with Morgan if everything he has allowed by you as he has charged. We will be owing him near a hundred dollars. He says he did not want me to make a final settlement until you returned unless I see fit. He says you [and] he always had a good understanding and if anything is wrong in his accounts, he is willing to make it right. I have never heard anything concerning the M.S. Clark prosecution in Dauphin County.

I have not heard from [sister] Jane very lately. Theresa is expected to return in a few days. Her visit cost 30. I suppose it was right. Darwin E. Martin wished me to say to you in my letter when I wrote that Coolbaugh wished me to throw him off and that if a course of the coming year if you could do anything for him he would be very much rejoiced. Probably if you are retained, you could look up some place for Darwin. Of this you know best. Francis is in business at Kingsbury. Andrew is staying with us. Alvin soon after you left went home. I think of getting Patrick Pine to burn two ____ of ____ for use in the spring. I have some posts split for fence. Shall continue to do as well as I can while you are gone. I have not taken any time to myself nor spent anything on myself. I feel deeply the necessity of our paying what we owe and shall hope some day to be free. I hope truly you will be able to return early in the spring. I suppose you hate to take steps to return until you hear of the action of the Senate. I will inform you on receipt of intelligence.

Father’s health is pretty good for the last few weeks. Everything is going on well, I believe. Your friends in this county enquire after you quite often. The Whigs of our Township held a Whig Caucus and nominated Samuel Coolbaugh for Road Commissioner the other day. Our boys took me up without my knowing anything of it and elected me by a handsome majority. Quite a compliment unasked for.

Dr. Scott’s family & connections are well. I do not think of anything to say further than to renew my pledge of affection to you my brother which I hope may never be lessened. May God keep and restore you to us all in safety is my constant prayer. — Joseph E. Prollet

One response to “1848: Joseph E. Piollet to Maj. Victor Emile Piollet

  • emilie

    I was going though old papers and found the document signed by Polk appointing Victor Piollet to Paymaster. In researching it I found your site. I am one of Victor’s great-great-grandchildren. What a surprise to find you have one of his letters. Unfortunately, my eyes can’t handle white text on dark background so can’t read much but am glad the site exists. Thank you.

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