The first letter in the wooden prison box kept by William C. Cherry came from his oldest brother, Charles Story Cherry. He styled himself C. S. Cherry. He wrote from Conecuh County, Alabama, in 1858.
Beyond this letter and Crab’s memoir published on this blog, I know little of C. S. Cherry. No birth date, no war record, nothing. There may be an obituary from 1878. But there are thousands of people with the name “C. S. Cherry” on Google.
A brief internet search did find a C. S. Cherry who testified in 1872 before the Joint Select Committee of the Federal Congress on Conditions of Affairs in the Southern States – the Reconstruction committee. A couple of statements in this testimony show that he was likely the author of this letter. More to come.
He wrote well. His disquisition on reading is wonderful. He addresses his two youngest brothers as follows:
Conecuh County Ala.
Cap & Judge. Dear Brothers
Tonight I undertake the fulfillment of a promise made you long since, but which I have been postponing until now, when it is nearly out of date. I am almost ashamed to begin, but if broken promises are introduced as evidence against me upon a final reckoning, I shall proceed as I now do with ourselves: throw myself upon the mercy of the county, and I trust I may never appeal to a less forgiving tribunal than I know you will be – And now having delivered myself of this apology by way of preamble, we will proceed more familiarly.
I received a letter last week from Papa from which I was very sorry to learn that another one of those attacks had visited him. My fears are much concerned about it, and if circumstances would have permitted it I should have started for home upon receiving his letter. I hope you and Sam will write fully about it immediately, and the state of his health, if it seems necessary I will come home upon the spot and just here boys I would drop a hint to you and that is; one of you always be at home on account of Papa’s health.
I am glad to hear that you are moving back again to our old place: which though poor is a good home for us, and that is a great blessing: indeed it is the greatest blessing upon earth: “Home.” There is a magic in the word, which only a poor wanderer among strangers can fully appreciate – if at evening I sit upon the porch and meditate unconsciously my face is turned in the direction of – “Home” – true as the magnet to the pole – I was sorry to hear of Aunt Susan’s death. She was [sic] excellent woman, with spirit lofty and independent like our own loved Mother, and as affectionate and forgiving. I suspect that Cousin Pely’s [?] death broke her spirit; for her only weakness, if it be one, was a blind devotion to her children – Do you both intend staying at home and working this year?
Monday, Feb. 8th
Dear Boys My candle suddenly went out last night leaving me to grope to bed in the dark and to finish my letter today at play time; It is not very pleasant to have one’s train of thought suddenly snapped off at the handle, but there’s no help for accidents you know.
Our weather has been very remarkable for the season; quite pleasant if there was not so much rain; heavy frosts and ice tho; for several mornings past.
I am sorry to hear that Uncle Eddy recovers slowly from his attack of sickness but time will no doubt effect a perfect cure. Boys do you read any these times? Time spent in reading I consider well spent. No matter what you read, if it is not really demoralizing in its nature. It requires a well stored mind to render a man a good social companion. The mind is at last the proper measure of every man. Learning claims admiration and homage though clothed in rags, and ignorance is despicable, tho it flatters in brocade or broadcloth. Read then every spare moment – read books, no matter upon what subject, history, travels, novels, poetry, farming, everything in short that you can lay hands upon. There are a great many old books and magazines about home, which are not only entertaining but very instructive, and don’t forget to consult Webster’s large dictionary for the meaning of every word which you do not understand perfectly.
I reckon the negroes are all very pleased to return to the old home again, since death seems to have met them upon leaving it. How are Granny and Aunt Hannah coming on, and all the rest. Tell them I am quite well and have not forgotten any of them, and I will see them I hope some time this year if I live – Well Boys my hour is nearly up and I must close this mind [sic]. I charge you to write me about Papa’s health as soon as you get this letter, as I am uneasy. Tell Cissy it will be my time to write to her next, but she need not look for my letter until she sees it. Give my love to all.
C. S. Cherry
James A. Cherry, Jr.)
Wm. C. Cherry )
West Point, )
The search for C. S. Cherry will continue.