1861: Georgia Ann (Harrison) Starke to Alexander Wallace Starke

How the Starke’s might have looked

This letter was written by Georgia Ann (Harrison) Starke (1835-1924), the wife of Alexander “Wallace” Starke (1830-1866), and the daughter George Washington Harrison and Frances Sampson West. Alexander and Georgia were married on 23 December 1857 in Milledgeville, Georgia. Their son, John Walter Starke was born in 1860 in Pike County, Alabama, where the Starke’s made their home before and after Wallace’s brief service.

Alexander Wallace Starke was the son of Bowling Starke (1790-1848) and Eliza Gregory New. He received his academic and legal training in Richmond; then relocated to Pike County, Alabama, in 1852 where he opened a law practice and edited a newspaper at Troy. He was a member of Gov. Gabriel Moore’s staff, a trustee of the University of Alabama, and a member of the Alabama legislature 1859-1861.

“Wallace” served in the 15th Alabama Regiment, Co. I, as Bvt 2nd Lieutenant during the Civil War. He returned home on a furlough to attend the state legislature and then returned to his regiment but resigned on 1 May 1862 at Swift Run Gap, Virginia, citing health reasons. He returned home to Pike County to resume his law practice but died in 1866. His brother was Capt. Bowling William Starke (1822-1901), a lawyer and probate judge in Pike County, Alabama, who served in the Mexican War as well as the Civil War. In 1861 he became the adjutant of the 18th Alabama Regiment but resigned his position after the Battle of Shiloh where he was severely wounded.

This letter was written from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, at the home of Georgia’s brother-in-law, Col. Lucien Douglas Starke (1826-1902). Lucien was the editor of the Democratic Pioneer at Elizabeth City from 1850 to 1859. He gave up the newspaper to establish a law practice there while accepting an appointment by President Pierce as the Collector of the Port of Elizabeth City. Buchanan renewed the appointment but Lucien resigned the post upon Lincoln’s election. Favoring succession, Lucien became colonel of the Third North Carolina Militia and was responsible for overseeing the construction of the battery placed on Cobb’s Point on the Pasquotank River for the defense of Elizabeth City. In May, 1862, Lucien became assistant commissary of subsistence in the 17th North Carolina and saw action at Wilmington, Kinston, New Bern, and later at Drewry’s Bluff, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and Bermuda Hundred in Virginia.

Addressed to Lieut. A. Wallace Starke, Manassas Junction, Va.
Co. I, 15th Regt. Alabama Volunteers
Postmarked Elizabeth City, North Carolina (Oct 31)

Elizabeth City [North Carolina]
October 28th 1861

My own darling husband,

I have just this moment received your dear and interesting letter of the 23rd and Darling, I hardly know how to describe my feelings. I am so thankful to know you are still ewll and unharmed, but oh! so, so disappointed about your furlough — it is too bad to think they won’t grant it. Darling, patience and perseverance accomplish all things so don’t be weary in well doing, but persevere to the end. Now, don’t be excited and worried if they don’t grant it at first, but be calm and opportune in the time for your application. God grant that they will release you, for I cannot bear the idea of not seeing you, tho’ this is nothing in comparison to having you remain in service all winter. The most consoling thought I have had was the rest and relief I hoped was in store for you.

Now, my Darling, don’t be too proud to ask anybody’s influence that might aid you in getting your furlough. I should think your captain & colonel might secure it for you, and I am sure if they can, they ought. Now, I will know you would not do anything dishonorable to gain it, and I would not have you do so, but I do most strongly urge you to do everything else. Your letter was directed by someone else and gave us a real scare. Bro. Lunien says you must not do so again, but darling, I am thankful to get them anyway.

I went round to see Mrs. Gardner this morning and found her and the children right well & cheerful. I will go or send again in the morning to let her know I have heard from you but I hope she got a letter also.

Sister Lizzie & I went over to Mrs. Tillet’s [probably Tillett’s] yesterday and spent the day. After we got there, she went visiting elsewhere and Mrs. Tillet & myself went over to Indian Town where she showed me all round — first through the house and then through the outdoor premises. It is certainly one of the most complete & convenient places I ever saw and it seems a great pity it should go down. When Sister L. first returned, she spoke of moving over there till after the war thinking it would be safer, but now I hardly think she will.

I received a long letter from Mrs. Cunningham last night in which she spoke much of the hard times. She said coffee was fifty cents per pound, bacon forty, and everything else in proportion. She said there was not a yard of calico in 50 miles of Troy [Pike County, Alabama] and all were making arrangements to clothe their families in home manufactures. And while I think of it I must tell you Sister L has a homespun suit just made up which she intended to don upon your arrival. But alas! for human expectations!

But to my subject, Mrs. Cunningham ¹ said she would not be able to keep her husband at home much longer if he could get a situation that would enable him to provide for the little ones as his war fever had not at all abated. But as they looked for another little charge to be committed to their keeping this month, he had promised not to leave until after that event transpired. She said she had succeeded in forming a soldier’s aid society of about 25 members — that they had just finished 100 pairs of coats & pants for the government and hoped by the end of the month to be able to forward a box of serviceables to the Quitman Guards [Co. I, 15th Alabama]. I was right glad to hear it & hope they will carry out their good intentions for I think it as little as they can do. Oh! Honey you ought to see how she [Mrs. Cunningham] talked about Mr. Fielder. ² He has been pitching into her  husband now and if she didn’t give it to him strongly — she called him a vile scorpion — black guard — and all such endearing names.

Now, Honey, suppose you don’t get a furlough at all. What do you think about our remaining here all winter? I very much doubt the propriety of it unless I was doing you some good and so far I have been a source of anxiety instead of comfort. And really, unless I could be near you & of some assistance, I think there are some very strong reasons why I should go to Milledgeville. In the first place, we would not be surprised any moment of an attack, and of course the larger the family, the more trouble we would give brother Lucien. And if we should be attacked, I haven’t any idea that I should be able to take away any of mine or Walter’s clothes, and you know we are not able to lose particularly at this time. And another thing — I don’t think a winter here would be beneficial to wither Walter or myself. And to tell the truth, Honey, I can’t bear the idea of paying such a long visit. I think it has already been quite long enough. There will be no difficulty about my getting home and having company for I know the Captain of the Baldwin Blues [Co. H, 4th Georgia] at Norfolk would readily grant a furlough to any member of his company to see me home. Indeed, some of them are passing back & forth continually.

Now, if I were only benefitting you one iota,I would be willing to sacrifice my feeling or anything else, but as it is, I think I would be happier with Anna & Martin. Now, my Darling, I merely suggest these things so if you do not get a furlough you can think of them and tell me what to do, and God grant you may do this with your own lips. I would take a furlough if it was the last week the Legislature was in session, for perhaps it may be the last you may have for years. A kind Providence alone can tell. He is chastising us for some wise purpose, no doubt, so we should not murmur, but look to Him still with abiding confidence and faith for “He alone doeth all things well.” Oh! Honey, I so much hope you can come, but if you cannot, I think I had better go.

Bro. Lucien had the militia out Saturday drilling them and some of them made a real snappy appearance. When he gave the order to double-quick, I assure you they did it to perfection, for this is a North Carolina hobby & practice. Oh! Honey, I haven’t much faith in their patriotism. I have heard it said by some that if a Lincoln fleet was seen coming, the Union flag would be raised. What think you of that?

Miss Eloa has just come in and says I had better stop for I have written so much now that you will have to take Sunday to read it. I received a letter from brother Walter last week & answered it this morning. He was very well. When I first commenced writing, Sugar Lump was playing round me so that I hardly knew what I was saying, and now the dear little creature is asleep or I know he would send you some loving message. Sister L. has a present for you that I know you will prize. It is a photograph of your mother. She gave me a pretty worsted dress today. Good bye.

Addie wants me to quit so she can write to her sweetheart but I hardly know how to oblige her for I could fill both these pages out closely and I cannot stop without saying something about your coming again. If you cannot decide at once what i had best do, don’t wait on this account to write, for each day is like a week now. Addie joins me in love to you. My love to dear little Cally. Tell him to write to me again, and be sure to tell me everything about you.

Goodbye my own dear one. God grant that ‘ere another week rolls round I may hear your kind words and be clasped in your fond embrace. I commission you to remember me to those friends who may ask after me. And now, accept many sent kisses from your little boy and your wife’s warmest and truest affections — and be assured of her earnest prayers for your earthly & eternal happiness.

Your own, — Georgia

Accept the leaf & bud, darling, as a simple token of my heart’s affections. I brought the bud from Indian Town for you.

The leaf & bud from Indian Town — “a token of my heart’s affection” from Georgia to Wallace Starke

¹ This was Harriet Eugenia (Hamilton) Cunningham (1833-1897), the wife of Columbus J. L. Cunningham (1829-1908), of Troy, Pike County, Alabama. Columbus was a well-to-do lawyer originally from Georgia. He was a newspaper editor and an attorney in Macon and Pike Counties before the Civil War. In 1862 he accepted a commission as 2nd Lt. of Co. E, 1st Alabama Infantry. In 1863, he accepted a promotion to Major of the 57th Alabama. And in 1863 to 1865 he was Colonel of the 57th Alabama. He was wounded during the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee. After the war he was an attorney and judge in Union Springs, Alabama.

² This was Thomas L. Fielder, a 26 year-old lawyer residing in Troy, Pike County, Alabama, originally from Georgia.  


2 thoughts on “1861: Georgia Ann (Harrison) Starke to Alexander Wallace Starke

  1. Hi I am writing a book that will include a biographical sketch of Col. Columbus J.L. Cunningham. I was wondering if you had any additional information on him other than what was in your footnote? Do you know where in Georgia he was from? Do you know where his wife was from? I have seen South Carolina listed for her in one source. What was the relationship between Georgia and Eugenia? Any help would be greatly appreciated.


    1. Glad you found the letter. Whatever I research I captured to accompany this letter was gleaned from available sources on the internet. I have no other information. — Griff


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