Friday, February 1, 2008

Bates Letters - February 1, 1863

Note: In which Charles provides a local history lesson of Port Tobacco.

Port Tobacco Md
February 1st 1863
Dear Parents,

I am “at home” here again. My company has moved into quarters at this place, and the old court-house (built 1819 as a tablet in front says) where for aught I know the most eminent men of the country here stood, or sat, is now the abode of the undersigned and his company; the room I stop in was the Grand-Jurors room, and the desk I am writing this on was once used by the Hon. Thomas Stone, son of the Thomas Stone, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The house he lived in is about two miles from here and is now used and owned by John Stone, nephew of the Senior. The room which was occupied by George Washington when he (several words too faint to read) from the Stones’ mansion, and was owned by a relation of the Lees. The room is still in the same condition it was in when last used by Washington. In his journeys to Virginia Washington used to come here from the Capitol the first day, and spend the evening with Thomas Stone, and the night at Rose Hill.

Port Tobacco looks like a place which had seen its best days long before I saw my first. It is, to use an expression common among us, “played out.” The three hotels which occupy three sides of the public square, have “played out” by desperate opposition, and the town-pump in the centre of the square is now the only place of resort for its citizens; as for the pump, it has been converted into a hydrant, and now it furnishes a steady stream of clear water to the village.

The court-house where we live, it is a large, two story brick buildingand has been lately renovated, inside and out, and it looks with its newly painted walls as if it was trying to get away from the vulgar gaze of the three hotels, which occupy the other side of the square.

We did not get here until late last night, so I have not had time to get an acquaintance with the inhabitants, but I expect they are a queer, old-fashioned party, and I think if we are left here we can do some easy “Sogerin”

I wish you would write to me now and direct here. Give my love to all, I am going to meeting.
Good bye.
Charles E. Bates


April M. Beisaw said...

Thanks for this post about Port Tobacco. I've put a link to it over at our blog.

April M. Beisaw, PhD
Director of Research, The Port Tobacco Archaeological Project

Don said...


Happy to be of service. There will be two more from Port Tobacco posted here next week. From what I can determine, Charles Bates and Companies A and E, 4th U.S. Cavalry were there for about three weeks before moving west to join the rest of their regiment and General Rosecrans' army in Tennessee.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. I used to travel between Washington and Dahlgren, VA quite a bit and made my way over to Port Tobacco to check it out, since it is so often mentioned in early correspondence. If Bates thought it was played out in 1863, he should see it now!

April M. Beisaw said...

I'll keep an eye out for the new Port Tobacco posts!