Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Captured Yankee Envelope Used for a Confederate Letter Home

     I have heard of Southern Soldiers using "captured" Union stationery to write letters home.  I recently ran across a reference to an actual historical incident of a confederate soldier doing this.  I pass along this anecdote to give you "support" for doing this in your living history presentations:

When the sun came up the next day, Hotchkiss could see more clearly what had happened at the Battle of McDowell.  "The Yankees abandoned a large quantity of stores here, baggage, etc -- I got quite a number of things and enjoyed plundering them, retaliating for Rich Mtn," he wrote Sara in a letter mailed in a captured "Yankee envelope."  Despite the victory, Hotchkiss admitted that "this country is a scene of desolation.  Living scarce."  
             [pp.262-263 In the Presence of Mine Enemies:  War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863 by Edward Ayers 2003]

     The letter writer is Jedediah "Jed" Hotchkiss, cartographer for Stonewall Jackson in the Valley Campaign of 1862. Ayers cites the above quote coming from a letter Hotchkiss wrote to his wife dated May 10, 1862. Ayers lists the letter as being part of the  "Jedediah Hotchkiss Papers" collection in the "Library of Congress, Manuscripts Division, Washington DC." 
     I wish I had a picture of the captured Yankee cover, but Ayers does not supply it.  But the citation of Hotchkiss' letter to his wife at least gives a specific instance backing up what I've heard happening from time to time.  Such use of captured stationery makes perfect sense -- "you use what you have" to write home on.  Plus in this instance you can sense the satisfaction Hotchkiss has in sending home some evidence of victory over the invading Yankees.

Some suggested teaching points for integrating this historical practice into your Southern living history presentation:
     1) Shows the frugality of the times:  Soldier's used what they had.  Letters -- staying connected with loved ones back home -- was very important.  You can also share how especially in the South as shortages became more severe, they would reuse envelopes by turning them inside out;  use wall paper to make them, use any sort of paper they could find to make up an envelope.  So obviously using a captured stationery set just makes sense.
     2) Sent home as a Trophy:  Yes, it's a Yankee cover, but hey, they ran leaving spoils of war behind for us.  Using it to write home brings a bit of satisfaction to show our folks back home that we beat them Yanks!
    3) Write over/ change the Northern political message to reflect Southern Pride like I've done on this reproduction cover:

Illustration of how to use a captured Yankee cover
to show Southern Pride
Remember that patriotic envelopes were used to reflect political opinions.  I like to tell people to look at them as "1860s bumper stickers".  So have some fun being creative taking a captured Yankee cover and reversing the message to reflect Southern perspectives like I did with this 1861 Union cover.  By letting family see the Union message being "reversed" it serves as both a trophy and an encouragement for "our southern cause".  At the very least, you could cross out the Northern message to show victory over their aggression.  I trust you can see how you can have some fun with this practice and also help your listeners learn more about Civil War history.  Keep teaching history by making it interesting to your listeners.

     Brief biography of Jedediah Hotchkiss:  born Windsor, NY Nov.30, 1828; died Jan.17, 1899 Staunton, VA.  Was a teacher in Lykens Valley, PA.  Then relocated to the Shenandoah Valley/ Virginia area. He signed on as a Confederate teamster, then as a map maker for various campaigns.  His map making skills helped Stonewall Jackson immensely in defending the Valley.  He continued to serve on various command staffs, including General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, throughout the remainder of the war.  Almost all of the Confederate maps in the Official Records by the US War Department were his.

No comments:

Post a Comment