1862: John N. Albin to William M. Albin

Two members of the Missouri state Guard
Two members of the Missouri State Guard

This letter was written by John N. Albin (1843-1916), the son of Doctor Philip Albin (1806-19xx) and Nancy Sherrill (1815-1865) who came from Jefferson, Putnam County, Indiana, to Township #62, Gentry County, Missouri where the Albin family bought a farm. The 1860 U.S. Census record tells us that the father was a native of Kentucky; the mother from Tennessee; John and his six siblings all from Indiana. The Find-A-Grave website tells us that Doctor Philip Albin (“Doctor” being a given name and not a title) was a son of William Albin and Jan Enlow. He married Nancy Sherrill on 1 Aug. 1831 in Putnam Co., Indiana, and they were parents of ten children. They appeared in the 1850 census in Putnam Co., Indiana and in the 1860 census in Gentry Co., Missouri. He purchased land in Gentry Co. and Worth Co. in Missouri in 1856 and 1857.

Gentry and Worth Counties are located in Northwest Missouri — north of Kansas City and east of St. Joseph. The settlers in this part of Missouri generally had strong ties to the mid-south and though most of them were not slave-holders themselves, they had little difficulty living adjacent to those that were. Like the Albin family, many of the settlers came from Indiana — a state that not only forbade slavery, but forbade the habitation of free blacks within its borders; in other words — a very anti-Black state and no love for abolitionists.

With the secession of the southern states from the Union in 1861, loyalties were strongly divided among the residents of northwest Missouri. Both pro-Union and pro-Secession Militia forces organized in Gentry and Worth Counties during the summer of 1861 and at first, the pro-Union forces led by Col. Manlove Cranor (1815-1883) prevailed in driving most of the pro-southern sympathizers south toward Lexington where they joined Confederate regiments. However, as the war dragged on and seemed to turn from a war to save the Union to one of freeing the enslaved negroes in the South, many of the former pro-Union men lost their enthusiasm for the administration.

In February 1863, after Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, a provost marshall named T. H. Collins in northwest Missouri alleged that Colonel Manlove Cranor and Lieutenant Colonel J. W. Curry of the Gentry and Worth County Regiment, 31st Missouri State Militia, “are open and publicly avowed enemies of the administration; have held Democratic, alias Secesh meetings, and declared that they would not be dragged into this Abolition war; that they would sacrifice their last blood first.”

This interesting letter by a member of the 31st Missouri State Militia written during the fall of 1862 characterizes the political climate and the condition of the economy in northwest Missouri very accurately.

1862 Envelope
1862 Envelope

Addressed to William M. Albin, Springfield, Missouri
Postmarked Albany, MO Sep 22 [1862]

Mound Farm, Mo.
September 21, 1862

Dear Brother,

I have received two letters from you since your return to Springfield and should have answered them before now but I have barely had time. Since I joined this Militia Company, I have not had time to do anything except attend to the calls of the officers. Since our return from St. Joseph, [Missouri,] I have been on duty at Albany half of the time and the other half I got to do but little at home. My far, work is all lying just as it was left at harvest. Next Thursday we are ordered to go into camp again at Albany. Our Colonel (Craynor) intends we suppose to complete the organization of the Gentry County Regiment of State Militia and what we will be ordered to do then, we of course do not know. I should not have been in the Militia but there seemed to be no other alternaty. It it true that there are some Union men that are not in, but when I joined it seemed to be the understanding that all Union men were going in. I can by no means afford to do as we have been doing when winter and feed time comes, but I see no chance to get out of the company or even to get excused for any lengt of time. I do not know what I will do but I will do the best I can. Our Captain has refused even to take substitutes. However, when the regiment is once organized, we may get free from duty — only an occasional drill.

As to the subject of drafting, I have made up my mind long ago, as you say hiring a substitute may be an expensive business, but that cannot be helped if one is so unfortunate as to be drafted. There is but little said here now about the draft.

As for news, there is but little except war news and I suppose you are better posted in that than we are. The news that we have now from Virginia is encouraging. Money is not so scarce as it has been but unless a man has something that will sell, he can get no money. Men do not think of paying what they owe. Fat steers and cows will sell for money at a tolerable fair price but that is all that will sell. Mule colts seem to be no sale yet. I do not know whether they will sell after awhile or not. It is weening time now. I have a good lot of hogs but they are worth nothing. There is nothing doing in this part of the country. The town is going to look worse than the country. The sawmills are all standing as they were left fifteen months ago. It is almost impossible to hire a days work on the farm. I get no money that is due me and have nothing that will sell. We have splendid crops of corn and other grain so there is no danger of us starving.

The country seems to be in the enjoyment of good health. I get but few letters now and have time to write but few. The Stephens & Brown Note is not likely to prove worth much. You may get it someday but I think now it is doubtful.

We have had some of the candidates for Congress with us — to wit: Maj. [John P.] Bruce ¹ & Gen. [Thomas Alexander] Harris. I would be glad you would write us often as convenient and if you remain at Springfield I will try to get time to write again. Is Isaac ay Springfield now? I get but few letters from “Old Putnam” and fewer from Illinois. Henry writes about a month ago that he is in the service and I suppose the Doctor is in long ago. Cap. writes that Felix has gone to the wars.

Yours, — John N. Albin

¹ John P. Bruce ran on the Union ticket for a seat in Congress from Missouri’s Seventh Congressional District.

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