Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SAY HOWDY TO GEORGE CARTER:  There is absolutely nothing of pop culture relevance contained in yesterday's Letters of Note entry, an August 7, 1865 letter from Jourdan Anderson of Dayton, Ohio, to Col. P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, but nothing you read today will be more satisfying.


  1. Joseph Finn8:42 AM

    And that's a good start to the work day.

  2. Maret9:22 AM


  3. Barbara Dickson9:39 AM

    I saw a Civil War show years ago called "Reunion" that used snippets of that letter. Brilliant.

  4. gretchen9:48 AM

    Is that for real?  I love it. 

  5. Lou W9:51 AM

    Wow, amazing letter.  I've been checking into more information and found this posted on Snopes today:  http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=45660

    As further support of the authenticity of the letter and its contents, I direct the reader to the 1870, 1880, and 1900 federal censii for Dayton, Ohio which show Jordan Anderson (b Dec 1825 in Tennessee) in a household with his wife Amanda (b Oct 1829 in Tennessee). In the 1870 census, five years after the letter was published, they were listed with four of their children -- 19 year-old Jane, 12 year-old Felix (Grundy?), 5 year-old William, and 1 year-old Andrew. Over the years, Amanda had had eleven children, only six of whom were still living in 1900. Three of the children we were living with them 1900, including their 29 year-old son Valentine, a physician. In the years of the censii, Jordan lists himself as hostler, a coachman, and a butler. He cannot read or write, and Amanda can only read, but all of his children attend school in the records shown.

    Patrick Henry Anderson Sr., born 1823 in Tennessee, merchant and farmer of Wilson County, Tennessee, appears in the federal censii of 1850 and 1860, with his wife Mary Ann, and his children Patrick Henry Jr., Martha, Pauldin, Timis, Edgar Poe (Allen?), and Mary. The slave schedules of 1860 show him as the owner of thirty-two slaves, including a 34 year-old male who could be Jordan. There's a three-year old boy who could be Felix and a ten year old girl who could be Jane, but Amanda doesn't seem to be in the list, unless her age has been mis-recorded. As genealogists will know, slave schedules did not include the names of the slaves, just their age, sex, and whether they were black or mulatto (of mixed ancestry). Notably, seven of the slaves, all of them minors, were listed as mulatto, however the distribution of ages of slaves (in particular the lack of female slaves of the correct age to be mothers) suggest that many of the younger slaves came from different owners originally.

    According to other published and online records of his family tree, P.H. Anderson died in 1867. His son, P.H. Jr, the Henry mentioned in the letter, appears in censii in Wilson County as late as 1880.

    There are multiple George Carters in Wilson County in the period in question, but the likely one is a carpenter who appears in censii in 1850, 1860, and 1870 in the same township as the Andersons. Before the war he owned two slaves, and each was mulatto.

  6. Professor Jeff10:14 AM

    It's absolutely legit. In his Pulitzer-winning Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery, historian Leon Litwack reprints the letter in full, with the following commentary: "Few individuals--white or black--have ever articulated the meaning of freedom more clearly or precisely than Jourdon Anderson. How many such people came out of slavery remains difficult to determine. But as former slaveholders assumed the role of employers and prepared to deal with the freed slaves as workers, they sometimes found their plantations and farms overrun with men and women who evinced the same spirit and the same determination to work under conditions that would in no way compromise their newly won freedom. What happened to that spirit and to that determination would profoundly affect race relations and the nation for more than a century."

  7. Wow. That is brilliant, and inspiring. 

    Love the last line, too.

  8. bella wilfer1:03 PM

    Definitely the most satsifying read of the day (and likely the week, month, etc...).  Awesome.

  9. Jordan1:29 PM

    That is pretty great.  I read a lot of slave narratives and letters in college, but that might be the best (certainly the most feel-good, not exactly a happy subject).  

    And Adam, I know the letter is about The Master and all, but it's not PH Anderson, not PT.  Hell of a Freudian typo, though.