Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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Union or Secession
  • "'Old Abe' has sent his minions & hemmed us in completely."
  • "'Old Abe' has sent his minions & hemmed us in completely."
  • "'Old Abe' has sent his minions & hemmed us in completely."
On May 6, 1861, a cousin in Norfolk wrote to Callie Anthony describing the military situation at the naval yard at Portsmouth and the Union blockade of Norfolk harbor.
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My Dear Callie

"'Old Abe' has sent his minions & hemmed us in completely."

Unidentfied cousin to Callie Anthony, May 6, 1861, [last pages missing], Anthony Family Papers, 1785–1952, Acc. 35647, 35648, Library of Virginia.

Callie Anthony says: This letter is possibly from my cousin Clarence, but I lost the last page and I don't have his signature anymore. He enlisted with my brother Johnny in April 1861. Writing from Norfolk, he told me all about the Union blockade of the harbor there as well as the desertion of the navy yard by the United States. I was so glad to hear from him that the navy yard was not completely destroyed. I'll bet he's right about United States Army General Winfield Scott wanting to get it back! Initial news we heard just told of the fire and retreat. It is frustrating having to wait for news, and so often when it gets here it isn't quite correct.

I had to laugh about the soldiers feasting on seafood and fresh peas while they withstand the blockade. Still, I hope he is right that Abraham Lincoln will be forced to recognize the independence of the Confederacy soon. The story about the troops from Petersburg was funny too. It would have served William White right if he had been brought out to the crowd. White was at the convention in Richmond in April representing Norfolk County, and he voted against secession.

I agree with my cousin that maybe "a wall between us that would reach to heaven itself if possible" would be the best way to solve the problems between the North and the South.

Unidentfied cousin to Callie Anthony, May 6, 1861, [last pages missing], Anthony Family Papers, 1785–1952, Acc. 35647, 35648, Library of Virginia.

Norfolk Va S C.
April May 6th /61
My Callie Dear
Your letter of April 21st is lying before me & well may it say, you are sad. there's cause to make us all sad, not only at the aspect of affairs in general, but at the thought of our absent lov'd ones, exposed to aught we know multitudes of danger [a]ll for our sakes, the "Juniors" the company to which Jackie & Buckie belong [we]re at [smudged] Point a few miles below Norfolk, & [smudged and torn] the [smudged and torn] entrances [of] the harbor; there they are on guard night & day attending to the throwing up of batteries [&] mounting of cannon they have six mounted there. [torn] on Craney Island, ten I believe at the Hospit Hospital & ten at old fort Norfolk. you see we are being put in a tolerable state of defense. it is vastly surprising how one can become used to all the paraphernalia & pomp of war, it is nothing to see docely armed Troops of cavalry & boatmen passing thro. the streets. The number in & around Norfolk is estimated to be about seven thousand & those are constantly arriving. You wished me to tell you all the news. there's nothing new it's the same old story of wrong & oppression, but the latest in that line, is the blockade of our harbor. "Old Abe" has sent his minions & hemmed us in completely says he means to starve us out in thirty days. the Old fool does not perceive he has conferred the greatest blessing he could confer upon us in keeping the yankees away from [t]aking all or the best of our produce. that has hither[to] been sent to a northern market. just think of it english peas for three dollars a bushel when they've always been eight, instead of starving in [smudged and torn] living on our own & that in abundance plenty of fish & oysters & the most delicious soft crabs enough to make "Old Abe's" mouth water to think about them. let him continue the blockade he & his myrmidons are the only sufferers. the [torn] in convience we are put to is not seeing & hearing from our friends across water, which is not his intention, but to starve us. he'll see whether he'll do it! the scamp. You are mistaken in supposing the Navy yard is destroyed, on the contrary there is comparatively but little damage done to it. it was there intention to completely destroy it, but "One" who ever guideth a right turned the wind aside & suffered it not to burn even after it had been so carefully kindled. the powder actually went out after it had been set fire to. The fire was providential to us, in placing it on our hands so easily without any loss of life. The Southern Confederacy flag now waves in triumph over it Old Scott says he means to hawl it down & have the guard again in three days. but he's afraid to try it. It will never be in their hands again. I forgive them for wishing for it it is certainly a great prize to us & loss to them. but they deserted fired it first & then deserted it to it's fate, so it's much the best as it is. Fort Pickens is not taken yet, & it is thought when [it] is attempted, there'll be great loss of life the enemy having the advantage. tell your Mama to read the 2d chapter of Joel & bear it ever in mind tell her not to think of such a thing as her baby's being slain. I do not think one of our men will be killed if there's such a thing as a serious brush which I do not anticipate. I think after "Old Abe" has tried persecution long enough & seen it has no effect & France & England have fully recognized us he'll have to give in, however galling it may be to his feelings, & recognize our independence Oh! if I had my way I'd build such a wall between us that would reach to heaven itself if possible & shut them out from us forever, & "he" who searcheth all hearts knoweth I wish them no harm, to be shut out from all communication with them is all I desire but if they won't recognize us peacably, they must do it forcibly Didn't I shout when Va went out, you should have heard us why we've been for secession ever since South Carolina went out & it used to make me right vexed to see Va so blind, but she's all right now, & will many the Northerners howl when the thought rushes in to their minds "the garden spot of the world" has eluded their grasp The neighbors tell me there was a fine scene enacted in front of our store on friday last while we were all at the Hospital. One of the companies from Petersburg about 100 came along [torn] stopped calling loudly for Mr White Charley happened to [be] in his room reading, & hearing the noise he looked out the window & they besieged him telling him they wanted that flag, they must have that flag! the poor little fellow didn't know what to do he was afraid of them, & he is was afraid Sissey wouldn't like it if he gave it away, but he finally gave it to them & the shouts were deafening, they went on cheering & hallowing at the pitch of their voices it now waves over Crany Island.
[remainder of letter is missing]