1863: James Gardner Thayer to Harvey Platt

How James might have looked
How James might have looked

This letter was written by James Gardner Thayer (1835-1908), the son of Gardner Thayer (1812-1893) and Innocence Arvilla Kingsley (1817-18xx) of Glens Falls, Warren county, New York; later Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both Gardner and his son James were employed in the manufacture of venetian blinds in Philadelphia during the Civil War. James married Anzie Browning (1841-1887) about 1870 and had at least two children: Marjorie Thayer (b. 1876) and Nelson Browning Thayer (1879-1963).

James wrote the letter to his friend Harvey Platt (1838-Aft1897) of Glen’s Falls, New York, in February 1863. Harvey married Anna Morgan in 1867 and later moved to Philadelphia.


Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
February 10, 1863

Friend Harvey,

I suppose that by this time you are at home and I was almost saying enjoying yourself on the river but conclude that ’tis very probable that ice may be wanting.

Since you left we have two days of cold — the mercury as low as seven Fahrenheit. Ice made very rapidly and dealers in the article began to feel jubilant over their prospects. But alas, their disappointment came soon. The third day the wind came from the southwest bringing a warm rain which carried off the [ice] a considerable faster than it came. Today is like a beautiful day in April.

I had a letter from Sid after you left. He was well. He is now, I think, at Port Royal.

The Democrats had it rumored around on Sunday last that McClellan was to be placed in command but thank the stars tis not so. The Princess Royal captured off Charleston ¹ arrived here on Sunday afternoon with more of the particulars of the émeute ² at the former place. It does not seem that the Rebs had everything their own way by a good deal. The idea of the representatives of Foreign governments at Charleston declaring the blockade raised is preposterous and I do not think their say so will be allowed by our Government.

What do you think of the Colored Soldier bill. Is it not right that [they] should have [a] part in this struggle?

256 S. 11th Street in Philadelphia today
256 S. 11th Street in Philadelphia today

Democrats in this section trying to run down the Greenbacks saying that shortly they will not be worth more than so much paper and that rather than take them they would discount their bills for the notes of our best banks. I generally tell them that when Greenbacks are worthless, I would not give much for the notes of any of our banks.

How is lumber at the Falls? Many here think twill advance and are holding tight and buying.

How is that finger? Mine is coming on slowly. I am using it now in writing.

A good article in February Atlantic on aphorisms. The others I have not noticed much. Tis growing dark. I have to quit for this time.

Yours &c. — J. G. Thayer

256 South 11th [Street]

¹ In 1863 the Confederate Government had major contracts for large and specialised British manufactures, including steam engines and boilers for ironclads under construction at Charleston, South Carolina, heavy artillery and armament-making machinery. The government’s UK representative, Fraser, Trenholm & Co, arranged the purchase of Princess Royal by private investors to carry these and other supplies direct to Charleston. The ship sailed from London on 8 December 1862 but called at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Federal spies gained valuable information on the ship and her cargo. After a further call at Bermuda, Princess Royal sailed for Charleston, but in the early hours of 29 January 1863 she was seen as she approached the port entrance by the Federal blockade squadron and forced aground. The captain, pilot and some passengers and crew were able to escape before boarding parties from USS Unadilla and G. W. Blunt could arrive. The ship was sent to the Philadelphia Prize court for adjudication.

² French — émeute means uprising or rebellion.

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