April 10th 1867
My dear General,
Since I met your mother & sister here in Feb. & March, and learned your
whereabouts, I have been promising myself to inflict you again with one of my paper
bullets [?]. Like myself you have changed base, hoping [to benefit] thereby, and I
sincerely trust you may be [successful]. I was gratified to learn you were [healthy?], able
to work & hopeful of your being able *** make a living for yourself, your noble [wife,
and those] rising young ones upon whom is to [be laid?] a burden heavier even than we
have had to bear.
Such has been the condition of the country and the river for the past two months
that no one can look to the future with any confidence. I trust you have not been among
the sufferers, tho' an escape in the alluvial country has been an exception. Such is getting
the want of confidence in our ability to longer to control the waters of the Miss valley,
that capital is being withdrawn where it is available, and no inducement short of a
minor's usury will induce the few who have any to risk it on country paper. A mortgage
from the country is regarded as only so much waste paper.
With the abolition of slavery our whole levee system fell. Proprietors cannot
possibly afford to keep up their levees now, even if the could command the necessary
assistance. But negroes hired as laborers refuse to do the necessary work, and as often
refuse even to watch the levees, as formerly. The question then arises, how is this to be
remedied? And it is a very difficult one to answer. Our states are impoverished, and have
not the ability if they have the disposition. From the general government, we judge from
the past there is slight hope of relief. But [if] either or both could & would furnish the
means, [then what?] a gigantic scheme it would be, and what [gates?] would be opened
for fraud & [co***. The?] system of production known to us cannot serve?] to support
such a scheme, and it really [seems?] to look as if the great valley was to be given [up?]
for years to come. Not only are the new levees built unable to stand the floods, but the
old ones are growing worse for want of care and attention, and are frequently giving way.
This state of affairs has produced the most gloomy effect here, and our strong
men, especially those who came in with Yankee capital, are drawing out of business -
most of them heavy losers in the last two years. Hardly a day passes but some case
occurs, and many will be most happy to end their troubles by availing themselves of the
Bankrupt act [Bankruptcy Act]. This will open up the way for new men in this business,
but on new principles. The old system of heavy advances by merchants to planters is
now abolished; and can never be renewed. Such business will hereafter be carried on
more on the cash principle, and supplies only will be furnished planters on such terms
that they can be had from the dealers. Commission merchants, then, will be the agents of
planters for transacting their business in the city instead of planters being the agents of
merchants in the country for raising cotton. It will in time be a more healthy business,
and greatly more satisfactory to the planter & factor's character, and not his capital will
then *** & command business, and there will be [a lot?] less swindling on both sides.
My friend encouraged me to go into such a business. In the beginning [I had to?]
appeal to my old confreres to aid me. I am considering the subject & feeling of many of
my old soldiers *** if they are disengaged. Should the encouragement be sufficient I
shall launch my back & try my luck.
I am now employed in the city Water Works in a subordinate capacity, with a
salary that pays my board only. But this is better than many are doing, and I am hopeful.
With politics I have nothing to do & see nothing to encourage me to do so in future. Mrs.
B. is not with me or would join in sincere regard to you & your family,
Very truly your friend,
Transcribed by Christopher A. Baker, University of Florida, 2008.