This letter was written by Margaret Emma (Bland) Harrison (1811-1867), the widow of George Washington Harrison (1801-1850) of Victoria, Victoria County, Texas. The Harrison’s came to Texas from Virginia in the 1840s along with two of Margaret’s sisters and their husbands, the Cocke brothers.
She wrote the letter to William Richard Bland (1818-1878), the son of Edward Bland (1767-1831) and Rebecca Jones (1791-1841). William was married (1843) first to Elizabeth Ann Irby (1825-1848). He was married (1850) second to Matilda Oliver Epes (1832-18xx); their son was Edward Bland (1851-1905).
Besides other Bland siblings, William mentions Dr. Thomas Robert Cocke (1816-1894) who resided in Victoria, Texas, and was married to Rebecca Bland (1820-1893).
Margaret mentions the “late reverses” of the Confederacy in the war which is probably a reference to their defeat at the Battle of Pea Ridge (or Elk Horn Tavern) in Arkansas causing the rebel army to withdraw from Missouri and northern Arkansas. This letter reveals that Margaret’s son, George Harrison, was among the young recruits rounded up in Texas to join the cavalry attached to Confederate General Earl Van Dorn’s army in the spring of 1862 following the debacle at Pea Ridge.
Addressed to Mr. William R. Bland, Wellville, Nottoway [County], Virginia
April 1, 1862
My dear brother William,
Yours of the 23 of January came to hand a short time since. I saw Doctor [Thomas Robert] Cocke about the payment of the hundred and fifty dollars as you authorized me to get from him. He paid it to me last week and I gave him a receipt for that amount. He said he was sorry he could not have paid it sooner but he could not make sale of her cotton since there was no sale for cotton until the cotton trade was opened with Mexico and that has not been done but a few weeks since. There was no communication with New Orleans. Galveston was entirely blockaded and there has been no other outlet for cotton or anything else. I never saw money so scarce. It is almost impossible to get it and if the Mexican trade does not bring some in the country, I do not see how the people are to pay their taxes as it appears it is not to be had. State Bonds and Confederate money is the only thing in circulation.
Our late reverses has raised the patriotism of our part of the state that it is drained of men and if our coast is attacked, I can’t see how we are to defend as there are only two companies left on the coast for its defense. A large company of men left here this morning. [My son] George was one of them. They are calvary for Van Dorn’s regiment bound for Arkansas. Fred Cocke is in [Robert R.] Garland’s [6th Texas] Infantry Regiment ¹ bound for the same place.
Everything looks gloomy and sad. We have one of the most trying drouth on. We have not had rain to lay the dust since November. There is no corn or cotton up and usually at this time corn is knee high. We all work out there and no vegetables up and I usually have my garden full of them to eat at this time of the year. I never saw such high winds but we all [hope] for the best. The Giver of all does all things things well and we must put our trust in him for he is alone able to sustain and deliver us out of the trouble and war.
We are all alone. E____, Virginia, and myself constitute the household. All the gentlemen are in the war in Virginia; others in Missouri or Arkansas. You spoke of sending me a draft. You need not, It would be a useless piece of paper for I would not get is cashed as we have no communication [with] New Orleans as long as the blockade is kept up. Everything is very high owing to our not being able to get our cotton off or get supplies in the store. For instance, there is not a pound of whole sugar to be had for any price. Flour 20 dollars a barrel, and everything in proportion. Goods of every kind are 5 [times] price. Calico 50 cents a yard, common cloth 50 per yard, and as to shoes, they are not to be had, and the worst of it, there is not tanning bark enough to be had to make leather. They are making shoes for the soldiers out of sail duck.
We have had a good deal of sickness. Ginny † is dead. She had a spasm and burnt her fat while it was on her. It produced lock jaw three weeks after she got burnt. She suffered a great deal. I feel broken up. She was a good servant. Tell her children she was willing to die. The last thing she said was the will of God is done. She was ready to go to him.
My best love to Matilda and the girls and say to Edward he must be a good and smart boy also. My love to sister Martha and ______ and their family and do write soon and let me hear from you all and how you are all getting along these war times and if you have any newspapers, do send them to me ofter you have read them for [it will] be refreshing to see a Virginia paper. All of your friends are well. Medora Taylor ² left here this morning. She is looking well. She has a fine boy. Mr. [John Morton] Cockran and Ella ³ has moved about 9 miles from town. He preaches every Sabbath morning for us. We miss him very much. He has taken a school in the neighborhood where he lived. He says his church would not support him. There was times the people were so ____ lust try and teach to assist in the support of his family. He is a good poor man and will do all he can.
All my love to you and your family. Your sister, — M. E. H.
Received of William R. Bland one hundred and twenty dollars eighty cents in full of the interest on the fund in his hand to which I am entitled under the will of my mother, Rebecca Bland, deceased, accruing between 1 July 1860 and 1 July 1861. — M. E. Harrison [Margaret Emma (Bland) Harrison]
¹ The 6th Texas Infantry was organized in November of 1861, and entered Confederate service at Camp McCullough near Victoria, Texas. Colonel Robert R. Garland was the 6th’s first commander. For approximately six months, the regiment served in the Department of Texas. In the spring of 1862, the Texans joined the Confederate Army of the West, serving in General Dabney H. Maury’s Brigade, and participated in the Corinth Campaign. In August of 1862, the regiment was transferred to the District of Arkansas in the Confederate Department of the Trans-Mississippi, and served in General Thomas Churchill’s command. The regiment participated in the defense of Arkansas Post, a Confederate stronghold on the Arkansas River. Arkansas Post fell to Federal forces on January 11,1863, and the regiment was surrendered with the rest of Churchill’s troops. The Texans were prisoners of war for several months, until paroled by Federal forces and exchanged for Northern prisoners in April of 1863.
² Medora (Cocke) Taylor (b. 1840) was married to Thomas Lewis Taylor (b. 1830) and resided in Victoria, Texas. The “fine boy” may have been Thomas Roy Taylor.
³ Rev. John Morton Cochran (1825-1913) and his wife Ella Cocke (1836-1921) were married in 1854 in Virginia. Ella was the daughter of Stephen Frederick Cocke (1809-1856) and Ann Augusta Bland.
† “Ginny” was probably a slave of the Bland family who was brought to Texas in the 1840s from the plantation of Margaret’s parents. She is referred to as a “servant” in this letter which by itself would not indicate she was owned by the family, but the revelation that she had children living with other Bland relatives in Virginia seems to rule out other possibilities. We learn from the letter that Ginny contracted lockjaw from a tetanus infection brought on after being accidentally burned.