Archive for March, 2013

In Search of Lawtons & Basingers: A Letter To Home, February 21, 1865

March 31, 2013

This next letter was written by William Starr Basinger to his mother.  I do not have a copy of the original letter, at least not that I can find, but I do have a typewritten copy that is a transcript of the letter.  When reading the letter, remember that the people of Savannah had already surrendered their city to Sherman rather than watch it burn.

Images first, then my transcription of the transcription.






(Small, white envelop, addressed by W S Basinger)

Mrs J S Basinger, Savannah, Ga.

(Written by him across the left end of envelop)

Whoever undertakes the delivery of this will please destroy rather than

let it be intercepted, as it relates solely to private affairs.

(Written across the top of the envelop)

Will call and pay my compliments to Mrs Basinger as soon as possible.

May 25, ….                                          John Screven.

                                                                Trenches near Chafin’s Bluff

                                                                                Feb 21, 1865

My dear Mother

                John Screven having been in Richmond a few days, I have

availed myself of the opportunity to have my photograph taken for you,

which he will seek an opportunity to send you surreptitiously.  And I

may as well try, by the same means, to get a letter to you.  I wrote

numerous letters just before the evacuation, of which I fear none reach-

ed you.  I wrote also a few days ago by flag of truce, sending some stamps.

Yours of Dec 6, and my sister’s of Jany 6, both reached me.  I have heard

of you by other means, as late as the 16th of January.  Do take advantage

of every opportunity, open or secret, to let me hear of you.

                I was sorry to hear of the misbehavior of the negroes;

though it did not surprise me.  If Wm Grant had given the letter to Tupper,

which the letter told you of, it might have saved John and Frank.  However,

that can’t be helped now.  In so great a struggle as this there are other

considerations than those of property involved, of so much higher import,

that the latter sink into comparative insignificance.  I had not many fears

that you would be able to take care of yourselves.  My fear was, and is,

that the triumphant and insolent enemy would, by a species of refined

barbarity, or by undisguised wantonness, subject you to indignities which

would be intolerable; or that the oath would ultimately be required of

even women, and that thus you would be compelled to choose between flat

perjury and the abandonment of all your means of living to wander home-

less and penniless through the land.  I am rejoiced to learn that, however

some (of) our people who are called men have behaved, our women do their

duty, and treat the enemy as becomes them.  I hope you will not, any of you,

abate a jot of that conduct.  It is not only proper in you, but of service

to the cause.  After what has passed, undying hostility to the Yankee is

the only sentiment regarding them that our men or women ought to enter-

tain.  Undying hostility, in peace as well as War, in defeat as well as

in success.  My sister asked me, in her last letter before the evacuation,

whether I had ever thought of finding a home in some other country in

the event of our failure to preserve this.  Say to her that I have; often.

And that I have long since made up my mind, in such an event, to seek it.

But I think we need not anticipate such a result.  We shall, doubtless,

have many trials and much suffering to endure, but I do not, and cannot

believe that we must at last be overcome.  So do not let your heart fail

you.  “Only be strong and of a good courage”, and all will yet be well.

                In one of my letters, in several, indeed, I asked you to de-

stroy some of my papers.  There are some, I think, in the large bureau in

my room.  Throw them all in the fire.  There is also a blank book, partly

written, in the left hand drawer of my office table.  Burn that, too.  I

suppose you will feel no great curiosity about either letters or books.

If you do, I prefer you should not gratify it.  Burn everything without

examination.  I suppose you know where the office table is.  If you don’t

remember, Dr. Martin, of Richardson and Martin, can tell you.  I heard (?)

had left town.  The best thing you can do with my professional papers is

to pack them together in the most compact form, and take measures for keep-

ing them as securely as possible.  Should your wants require it, sell my

clothes and books, the former first.  But I would be glad to have the good

shirts and my new cap, if any opportunity offers for smuggling them out

to me, even one at a time.  I don’t know but it would be well to convert

everything I have into gold.  As to that, I give you carte blanche.  Though

I should be sorry to think of clothes, books, or arms in the hands of the

Yankee.  As to all, however, disencumber yourself of as much as you can.

I shall have no use for them while the war lasts, and that will be for

some time yet.  The money they are worth will be of service to you, perhaps.

On reflection, that award of mine, with my name on it, I think I would

prefer to have destroyed, if necessary.

                There is a proposition on foot, indeed, the arrangement is

fully agreed on by both parties, to unite my Battalion with the 60th Ga.

Regiment.  We are now waiting only for Gen. Lee’s order to perfect it.  When

you next hear of me, it may be as Lt. Col. of that regiment.  The Battln

is to go in entire, without disturbing anyone.  Pearson will be Adjt.  It

is possible we may have to consolidate also, under the new Act of Congress.

If so, the arrangement will be modified to that extent, but not more, I

presume.  This is a thing I desire very much.  The Regiment is in Lawton’s

old Brigade, the present Commander of which is a very estimable man.  I

have taken a great liking to him, and am sure all my relations would be

agreeable to me.  Nevertheless, continue to direct your letters to Lawton’s

care at Richmond.  Wherever I may be, he will know; and I would be more

certain of getting letters so addressed.  And you can always find out what

becomes of me, if anything untoward occurs, by inquiring of him, or of

R. (?) Saulsbury, Agt. Geo. Relief Asstn, also at Richmond, or of Miss Eliza

R. Jones, at Mattoax.

                Notwithstanding the residency (?) of the union referred to, I

may offer my services to command a regiment of negro troops.  You may take

it as settled that a large body of such troops will be (?).  And for

many reasons, both of preference and duty, I not only would not hesitate,

but be glad, to get such a command.  If it be done, it will shorten the

war by half.  No doubt some foolish people would clamor against it.  But I

have considered the subject fully, and being much in favor of it.  I am

quite ready to show my faith by my words, regardless of the clamors of

the discontented.  But of the result of all these contemplated projects,

I hope to be able to advise you.

                Of course you inferred from what I said in some of my letters

that I have it in mind to make it a profession of religion.  I should have

deemed it my duty to do this at home, as the place where my example, which

is the chief end of the act, would do most good.  Since that is impossible,

I shall probably do so in the next best place, near Mattoax, and that fail-

ing, perhaps, at Richmond.  You know I incline to the Episcopal Church.  I

do not care a straw about forms etc, and am led entirely by personal asso-

citation.  My sister, I know, prefers that denomination, as your and her

account, between that Church and yours.  Unfortunately, I don’t yet know

what the difference of doctrine is, if any.  And you may be assured I am

not going to announce myself as believing anything I don’t believe.  I

have those inquiries yet to make.  All questions of preference must give

way to the result of those inquiries.  I have some hesitation too, on the

score of fitness.  Could I believe, as some do, that the exper-

ience of all is precisely the same, I should conclude at once that I ought

not to take this step just yet.  For I fear I am very weak.  But I can’t be-

lieve that.  It seems to me contrary to the nature of man and the inten-

tions of God, that it should be so.  I can’t but think it an absolute neces-

sity that men should differ in this, as well as in other intellectual

and spiritual operations.  Nevertheless, and indeed because Doctors (Doctrines?) differ,

I must consider the matter more deeply.  I can’t afford to make a mistake.

                We have had a very severe winter.  I’ve seen more ice and snow

than in all my life before.  Yet I’ve felt the cold less than for several

winters past, at least those just previous to the war.  My clothing is as

usual, too.  The thing that troubles me most is the mud.  It is perfectly

appalling.  That is the only word I can find, sufficiently expressive.  It

absolutely alarms me to look from the door of my shanty.  The worst of it

is, no amount of sunshine or wind dries it, as with us.  Five or six clear

days leave it as bad as ever.  The soil being all clay, you perceive, holds

an immense deal of moisture.  As it is freezing cold nearly every night,

the water, in crystallizing, forces itself out of the earth, sometimes a

very beautiful phenomenon.  When it melts again, it remains on the surface

until evaporated.  But I shall be glad of the return of spring.  Already I

perceive its breath.  My hereditary love of mild weather is very strong;

and I’m free to confess I don’t care to live where ice is made thick enough

to keep.

                Lest you should think I am withholding confidence from you,

I allude to certain reports about myself which grew into circulation last

summer, only for the purpose of saying they were not true.  How that busi-

ness will result, I cannot tell.  I don’t know exactly what to make of its

present aspect.  It will work itself out, at last, I suppose;  like every-

thing else.

                George is quite well, and lazy as possible.  Pearson ditto.

All the officers are very well.  Tell their friends.  Stiles has been at

Hospital some days, but is getting well, and will probably resume duty

soon.  Tell his mother he received a letter from her last week.  Bob Stiles

(son of the person) is in this command.  The men are generally quite well,

and hearty as bucks.  Symone has been sick, but is convalescing.  Young

Snider, son of Mrs. Peter Laurens (?), died on the 12th.  His grave is mark-

ed.  His disease was typhoid dysentery, I think.  Tell the Minis, Elliott,

Garrard, Postell, Duncan, Woodbridge, every one that asks, their boys are

well; hungry as wolves, and hardy as Indians.  Find Joe’s wife, and tell

he has suffered a good deal; this climate is too cold for him.  Mrs. Jno.

Sheridan lives in that range of little houses near the Albany and Gulf

Depot, the second from the Yard, facing Liberty Street.  Let her know he

is as well as can be.  When you write, tell me about her and Joe’s wife,

too.  You can find the latter by inquiring at Screven’s.  She belongs to him.

                Uncle C is either at Macon or Columbus.  We don’t know which.

The mails are now interrupted, and we hear nothing from any body.  I hope

Aunt A. recovered from the effects of her fall.

                Send word to Mrs. Jno. Hopkins that her boy George is very

well, and waiting on me at present.  It may please her to know that with

proper government, he is an excellent boy.  By the way, Joe is of the es-

tate Tom Clark.  Perhaps you had better tell Geo. W. Davis, or his wife,

if he has gone that I will take care of Joe.  And ask those owners what

shall be done with their pay.

                Thinking of money, I remember you have some notes and bonds.

Had you not better send them to me?  That is, if you cannot use them.  I

had to borrow the other day to pay for a coat.  And that reminds me, I owe

W. R. Norriss, tailor, a bill.  If you can, use that Confed. money, perhaps

it would be best to pay him, if he will take it, as I’ve no doubt he will.

And tell him about drummer Louis what you say about George to Mrs. Hopkins.

                What have the enemy done with the Armory?  Screven tells me

he sent you several things belongs to the Corps, before  left.  Take

good care of them.  If we unite with the 60th, I shall send our colors and

the books to Miss Jones, to be kept till the war is over.  Remember this.

                I do not think just now, of anything else.  The spring cam-

paign is about to open, and will probably be a desperate and sanguinary

one.  Notwithstanding my conviction and yours, that I will survive this

war, I may be mistaken.  This may be the last letter I shall ever write you.

Should I be, indeed, cut off, I will fall with a firm hope and belief that

we shall meet hereafter, where no wars disturb.  My greatest regret would

be to leave you and my sister, is a world torn upside down, to labor, pos-

sibly, for bread.  But the same God in whom you have so constantly trusted,

would then only the more carefully provide for you,  and do not forget, un-

der any circumstances, that all things are preferable to the dishonor of a

willing submission to our unprincipled enemy, whom God will yet surely pun-

ish for his most wicked injustice.  If I should be wounded, do not come to

me unless sent for.  By the time you could hear of it, the matter would be

settled one way or the other.  If able to move, I will be either at Miss

Jones’ or Lawton’s; more probably the former.  In view of late events and

these possibilities, I cannot but regard it as Providential that I had the

opportunity last summer to make those friends.  I regard them so securely

so, that I would not hesitate to cast myself upon their hospitality in case

of any such mishap.  Therefore, do not be unusually anxious about me.  I will

promise faithfully, in case of any serious danger to be apprehended from

sickness or wounds, wherever I may be, if there is an opportunity, to let

you know.

                                With my love to my sister and Aunt A, I remain

                                                                Affly Yours –

                                                                Wm. S. Basinger.

I forgot to tell you that we are now in the Division of Maj. Gen. Custis

Lee.  I have renewed my acquaintance with him, and he is very kind and

considerate.  You see I am fortunate in finding friends wherever I go.


(Aunt A is his Aunt Adeline Starr, the sister of his mother.)

(The previous summer, he met, at the house of the Jones Family in Mattoax, the Jones sisters, along with a Miss Emily Read, and Miss Margaret Roane Garnett.  He later returned and proposed to Miss Margaret, they married and moved to Savannah, then moved yet again to Athens, Georgia, which is where they were living when they died.)

In Search of Lawtons & Basingers: The 18th Georgia Battalion, April 6, 1865

March 30, 2013

In the William Starr Basinger Family Papers, we jump from the Dade Massacre in 1835 to the Civil War.  The next is a paper relating to the Casualties of War in the battle at Sailor Creek in 1865.

This is really difficult to read, even when enlarged, so I expect errors in transcription on my part.  There are letters to come which mention several of these men.  Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

Corrections, comments, and random musings are welcome.




18th Georgia Battalion

G. W. C. Lee’s Division, Devil’s Corps,

in the Battle of Hillman’s Farm, or Sailor

Creek, Va., April 6, 1865.

                Field and Staff – Wounded – Major William S

Basinger, Lieut E P Starr, Adjutant.

Company A, Lieut W H King, Commanding.

                Killed – Lieut Wm H King, Sergt R Miller (?),

Sergt W H Bennett, privates Henry Crook, E L

Gordon, J W Myddleton, John Vicars.

                Wounded – Lieut Fred A Tupper, Sergt Harry

H Woodbridge, Corp’l H Batra (?), privates James

Belote, J S Gans, J Hitchcock, B Newbern, J T

Smith, S Syntis (?), B Green.

Company B, Lieut Geo D Smith, Commanding.

                Killed – Sergts Chase B Postell, Sim Moreton,

Privates E L Bare (?), Jas C Bryan.

                Wounded – Lieut Geo D Smith, Lieut Wm D

Grubb, Sergt E C Wade, privates Percy Elliott,

J Kreeger, J Darrasett, J Douglass, J N Guerard,

T Kreeger, J H Polk, J H Butler (?).

Company C, Capt Gibert C Rice, Commanding.

                Killed – Capt G C Rice, Lieut Geo M Turner,

Sergt George E James, privates B Abney, Alfred

O Bowan, Jacob Gould, John H McIntosh, Ed A

Papy, H J Rouse, Corp’l W H Rice.

                Wounded – Lieut Eugene T Blois, Lieut John E

Dillon, Sergts F Ripon Sweat, Bayard J McIntosh,

Chas R. Maxwell, N McLean, C J Sweat, Albert


                Died since of their Wounds – Company A

Lieutenant Fred A Tupper, private B Green.

Company B – Lieut Geo D Smith, Lieut Wm

D Grant, Sergeant E C Wade, privates Percy

Elliott, F Kreeger               Company C – Lieutenant

Eugene T Blois.

                The balance of the command were either

captured unhurt after fight, or escaped and

were present at the surrender.


Lee surrendered 3 days later, but I think that these troops didn’t know it, for Basinger wrote a letter home to his mother on April 14, 1865, stating that he was a prisoner of war, and he didn’t know where the Union soldiers were taking him and his comrades.

A Follow-Up Letter

March 29, 2013



                       (illegible), Nuntez Office

                                New Orleans, Feb (?) 1836

Dear Sir,

                At the request of Mrs. Basinger

the widow of your lamented (?) brother

W E Basinger, I have this day shipped

a Small Box, intended for you to

the U. S.  Quarter Masters at Charles-

ton with instructions to forward it

immediately to Savannah.

                                (illegible closing)


Clearly I need help with this transcription…

In Search of Lawtons & Basingers: William Elon Basinger

March 26, 2013

Suddenly realizing that it was 1 o’clock and time for lunch, we took a break from all the paper.  We stopped at the reference desk to ask the nice library lady if there was an eating emporium nearby within walking distance.  She directed us to an area known at “The Pit”, a sunken bricked patio close at hand with food sources all around.  I admired her zip-lock bag of knitting casually laid out on the counter, and I asked what she was making.  She said, “A sock.  I knew you were a knitter when I saw your cowl.”  Sugar decided that I was famous.  I wondered how many cats the nice librarian had.

Sunny, but cold and crisp.  The weather, not Sugar.

Sunny, but cold and crisp. The weather, not Sugar.

We headed back to the library, and started with the William Starr Basinger family papers.  There were two cover sheets that identified the contents and when they were donated.



When I first read the contents of the Basinger papers online, it mentioned Eddie Basinger.  Sugar didn’t know who that was.  When I photographed and enlarged the cover sheet, it also mentioned “Eddie Basinger”, and this goes back to 1947.  As I transcribed more of the letters, which will come at a later date, I found that his name is not Eddie Basinger at all.  I’ll let you in on who he is later, when I get to those letters.

I’ve transcribed the two most legible letters.  In the meantime, y’all feel free to attempt to read these letters that date back to 1835.  Scroll down to read the two letters, and left-click on any image to enlarge.
















                                Fort Brooke, Tampa Bay, Fla.

                                                Dec 10th 1835.

My dear Mother,

                I wrote to you a few days before leaving Fort Pickens, in-

forming you that we had received orders for this Post.  We arrived here af-

ter a passage of three days.  I would have written to you immediately upon

our arrival, but I could not find time, & in fact an opportunity was want-

ing to send the letter.  For the last week we have been constantly at work,

erecting defences against the Indians, who are in a state of hostility

and from whom we are every day expecting an attack.  Everything is now fin-

ished & we are perfectly secure.  All the Indians in Florida could not do

us the slightest injury.  This letter I intend to send by a vessel which

leaves here today for Key West.  It may probably reach you; but when you

will again hear from me is quite uncertain.  Our mail has ceased to run, in

consequence of the hostility of the Indians & it may be 6 or 8 weeks before

we shall again have communication with Fort King.  I must beg you not to be

in the slightest degree alarmed.  We are in no danger, as we are so well

fortified.  My wife is with me & is very comfortably situated.  There are

three other officers at the Post who have their wives with the, so that

she is not in want of company.  She sends her affectionate love to all of

you.  We are both in good health.  You shall hear from me by the first con

veyance that offers itself.

                Give my love to all at home & believe me

                                Affectionately, your son

                                                W. E. B.



Letter (in ink, manuscript), signed Jno. C. Casey, addressed to Mr Thomas

Basinger, Savannah, Georgia – via N Orleans.  Amt of postage written on en-

velope 25 cents.  Post Mark, (illegible) circle, New Orleans, La, Jan 10.  Also written

on envelope “only to be opened by Mr Basinger – or in his absence by

Col. W. T. Williams.”


                                (Fraser’s Redoubt)

                Fort Brooke, Fla. 10 Jany 1885.

Mr Thomas Basinger

Dr Sir,

                It has become my melancholy duty to inform you that your brother

was killed in action on the 28th (illegible).

                He accompanied a Detachment of Troops which left here for

 Fort King on the 23d.

                They were surprised by an immensely superior force on the morn-

ing of the 28h between 6 & 9 o’clock.  In about ½ (¼?) of an hour three of the

officers and 2/3rd of the men were killed or disabled.  The survivors find-

ing it impossible to advance or retreat threw up a little breastwork but

before it was finished the Indians rushed in again from all sides and shot

them all down immediately.

                Your unfortunate brother was the last officer alive – he turned

to his men – wounded, himself & nearly all or all his men wounded too –

and said “I am the last officer left; boys, we’ll do the best we can”.

                They fought to the last, but the enemy was too numerous.  The

poor fellows were all out down (outdone?).  Some time after the (illegible) – the negroes

who had held aloof in time of danger – came up and butchered the wounded.

One of the soldiers (Clark of “A” Company 20 Arty)  escaped by pretending

to be dead – and brought in the news – two others only are as yet known to

have survived – and all of these wounded.  The action took place about 60

or 65 miles from here on the road to Fort King.  We doubt very much wheth-

er any of them made their escape to Fort King – if not then the three here

are the only survivors of 110 picked men & officers that composed the ex-


                We are here, and have been here without any instructions – author-

ity or means – the General Commanding has not been to the Fort since we

have been here – and in opposition to our opinions, formed on the spot,

orders come for a handful of men to march through the heart of the nation.

                The noble fellows are all cut down – and let us now think of noth-

ing but vengeance.  We expect your Georgia volunteers – and let them know

that yr brother & my best friend after fighting till the last and covered

with wounds was (while nearly insensible I think & hope) butchered by the

Indian negroes – as brave as noble a man as ever breathed.

                But enough of this horrid business.  Mrs B is now here – she will

sail in the U.S. Transport Motto for New Orleans and from thence to her

sister’s in Washington, Penn.  We all of us have friends on her way, and

she will receive all possible attentions.

                She is fully informed of the death of her husband – and is as

composed as could be expected under such trying circumstances.

                I will attend to the arrangement of your brother’s affairs.

Meanwhile direct to Lieut J C Casey, 2nd artillery, Fort Brooke, Fla.

(via Key West, or New Orleans, or Fort King).

                We expect to be attacked here every day but have a strong de-

fence of block-houses and stockade and 200 effective men – besides the

promised assistance of Holah Ematta (?) and his people who are near here

waiting to remove.

                                In great haste

                                I am dr sir

                                Sincerely & truly yours

                                                Jno C Casey

P S          Publish nothing with my name





Comments and corrections welcome.

In Search of Lawtons & Basingers: Photos

March 25, 2013

We schlepped through a few more folders, and, realizing that time was pressing upon us, we skipped over to the folder with photos.

Alexander James Lawton

Alexander James Lawton

The back of the photo of Alexander James Lawton, giving the date the photo was made, his date of birth, and his age.

The back of the photo of Alexander James Lawton, giving the date the photo was made, his date of birth, and his age.


The back of Robert E. Lee's calling card to Mrs. Lawton, that being Mrs. Alexander Robert Lawton (Sarah Hillhouse Alexander Lawton).

The back of Robert E. Lee’s calling card to Mrs. Lawton, that being Mrs. Alexander Robert Lawton (Sarah Hillhouse Alexander Lawton).

Sarah "Sallie" Hillhouse Alexander Lawton liked the finer things.  She was in Paris when this photo was made.

Sarah “Sallie” Hillhouse Alexander Lawton liked the finer things. She was in Paris when this photo was made.

The back of Sallie Lawton's photo.

The back of Sallie Lawton’s photo.

The sculptor of Corinne's monument, Benedetto Civiletti.

The sculptor of Corinne’s monument, Benedetto Civiletti.

Benedetto Civiletti was from Palermo, Sicily.

Benedetto Civiletti was from Palermo, Sicily.

There are several photos of a torso, and also a model of a monument that is similar to Corinne’s final monument.  I’m guessing that Civiletti sent photos of his work for approval.  The final monument is more grand that the original photo.



Corinne’s monument at Bonaventure. It’s my understanding that this was originally at Laurel Grove, and was moved at some point.

There are a few more unidentified photos which will I add later after a bit more research.

In Search of Lawtons & Basingers: 1877 Letter of Condolence from Stuart Robinson to the Family of Corinne Elliott Lawton

March 23, 2013





                           Louisville, Ky

                                Feb 3, 1877

My dear Mrs. Lawton,

I have just received a copy

of the Savh Morning News

of Jan. 25th in which I find

announced the death of

Miss Corinne Lawton, after

a short illness.  The intelli-

gence is to me, peculiarly

sad & startling.  For I have

often recalled the happy

hours spent in your house-

jold, as one of the pleas-

antest visions of the past,

though I look back upon

many happy scenes of this

sort.  I need not tell you that

among all the figures that

moved about that delightful

Christian household, that

sweet, noble, Christian girl

was recollected with spe-

cial interest & affection.

Her lovely Christian spirit,

her elegant culture & her

surprising intelligence on

any & every subject that

happened to be called up,

were to me most fascinating.

And no doubt she won my af-

fection the more by the

simple & childish confidence

with which she reposed in me

the plans & prospects of her

future life – all so thorough-

ly Christian in the conception.

                I feel that no one can

enter into the depth of the

sorrow of you & Gen. Lawton

at the loss of such a daugh-

ter, just as you had begun

to reap the joy & comfort

which came to you as the

result of your long & careful

training of a spirit so

lovely by nature, & of such

bright intelligence, crown-

ed by so simple & beautiful

a faith in Christ as how

But allow me to “weep with

those that weep.” It is a

glorious thought in such a

case “that you sorrow not

as those that have no

hope.”  For you can but feel

that while you weep as Ra-

chel weeping for her child-

ren & (illegible) to be com-

forted, she is displaying

this more wonderfully.  Her

brightness & joyous spirit

in heaven – that though

“it brightness hath (illegible) from the earth,

Yet a star is newborn in the sky –

And a soul hath gone home to the

Land of its birth.

Where are pleasures & fullness of joy!

Where her thirst shall be slaked by the

water that spring

Like a river of light, from

the throne of the King, –

And a new harp is strung, and a

new song is given

To the breezes that float o’er the

gardens of Heaven.”

                This is the time, dear

Madam, for the exercise of

your faith in Jesus as Lord,

the Lord of Providence, to

whom all power is given in

heaven & earth – Who has the

key of Hades & of death, & none

can go out of life but at his

bidding.  It is the trouble with

all of us, that while we can so

implicitly trust Jesus as our

Priest, who has atoned for &

blotted out our sins, yet we

fail to trust Him as implicit-

ly as our King, who overrules

& directs all that concerns

us & ours.  And because of

the failure of our faith

in this regard, we are

often led into darkness

of soul under our bereavement.

Remember, He is Jesus Christ,

the same yesterday & today

& forever – and just as ready

now as when on the earth

to execute his commission

“to comfort those that mourn

& bind up the broken hearted.”

                God comfort you &

General Lawton in the loss

of that brightest & loveliest

of girls!  He alone can

comfort.  I can do nothing

but weep with you.  And

the Lord enable all your

children who survive to fol-

low her as she followed Christ.

                Yours truly

                Stuart Robinson

(You can read more about Rev. Stuart Robinson by clicking here.  You can also read the funeral invitation which I transcribed from the abstracts of the Savannah Morning News which does not mention a “short illness”.  Sugar & I went to the Georgia Historical Society two days ago and looked at the microfilm for the newspaper, which matches the abstract, and is conspicuously silent.  There is no obituary, and no further write-up after the funeral, which we noticed was common in the newspaper for people of stature in the community.)

In Seach of Lawtons & Basingers: 1877 Letter of Condolence from Sarah B. Adams to the Family of Corinne Elliott Lawton

March 23, 2013

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AdamsSarahB (2)

AdamsSarahB (3)

               Thomasville, Jan. 27th, 1877.

Dear Mrs. Lawton,

                Words seem very

weak & empty as I try to express to you

a little of the sorrow & sympathy that

has filled my heart since I heard of

your loss; – mine too, I must add to

that of many, for the dear one who has

gone home had drawn very many

hearts to hers that are left aching now.

                I know that Father & my sisters will

feel deeply for you all for Death is no

stranger in our family circle, but they

cannot feel as I do who have realized

what she was in herself & the place

she filled, & this I have realized for

years, yet never so strongly as during

my recent visit.  One day when we

were alone together I could not help

telling her how I had felt her

peculiar power for making people

happy merely by her presence, & a

certain influence that was not easy

to define, & I shall never forget how

lovingly dear Corinne thanked me.

                As I have stood by a sister’s grave,

feeling that the wide world did not

contain any being quite so precious as

the one who had left me for a season,

I can truly sympathize with dear

Lulu & Nora, & pray that the comfort

I received may be theirs also, as it

must be when we feel that to those

“in Christ” there is no wide separa-

tion from those with Him, only a

hiding of the loved faces for a little

while that we may better learn how

entirely our comfort is in Him.

                In Mother’s favorite Psalm there are

two verses that Father loves especially

to dwell upon because of their close

connection.  “He healeth the broken in

heart & bindeth up their wounds”

comes just before “He telleth the

number of the stars, He calleth them

all by their names,” as if to make us

see the power of Him who only can

comfort as He afflicts.

                Praying that He will sustain & help

you all at this time, dear Mrs. Lawton,

and trusting that you will not doubt

the sympathy which can only be poorly

expressed, I am

                                Lovingly yours,

                                                Sarah B. Adams.

In Search of Lawtons and Basingers: 1877 Letter of Condolence From J. E. Johnston to the Family of Corinne Elliott Lawton

March 22, 2013



                                102 E. Grace St, Richmond

                                Jan 27th 1877

My dear General,

                We have just

been informed by Dr Willis of the

great calamity that has befall-

len you in the death of your

sweet child – and learned it with

much pain.

                Her lovely dispo-

sition, manners and character

had completely won our love,

and therefore we grieve for her

early death, and deeply sym-

pathize with Mrs. Lawton

and you in your great sor-

row.  And earnestly pray that

our Merciful God will soften it

to you as much as may be.

                Yours very truly,

                J. E. Johnston


Genl A. R. Lawton


You can read more about General Joseph E. Johnston by clicking here.

In Search of Lawtons and Basingers: Corinne Elliott Lawton

March 22, 2013

When I started writing this blog in 2009, it was for a college assignment.  When I started writing about the Lawtons, my hits went up.  When I started writing about Corinne Elliott Lawton, I found that almost every day someone found my blog by using the search term “Corinne Elliott Lawton”, or just “Corinne Lawton”.  I get the most comments on posts about her, although I haven’t written that many, and she was the most popular topic for my yearly stats in 2012.

There are so many letters and statements in the family papers at UNC-CH’s Wilson Library’s Southern Historical Collection that I could copy and transcribe them night and day and still not finish in my lifetime.  I have a sampling of things that I will attempt to put online as we search for the answer to the mystery of her life’s ending.

Corinne Elliott Lawton

Corinne Elliott Lawton

The back of the photo of Corinne Elliott Lawton, which brings up another mystery.  Why was she in Nashville, Tennessee, having her photograph made?

The back of the photo of Corinne Elliott Lawton, which brings up another mystery. Why was she in Nashville, Tennessee, having her photograph made?




House of Representatives.

Atlanta, Ga Jan 26th 1877

Dear General,

                I have just heard of your

heart-rending loss, and truly do I sympathize

with you and family, and were it in my

power, I would attempt to console you

my dear friend, but you must look to

Him, who does all things well, and whose

decrees, we all must submit to.

                Remember me in the kindest man-

ner to Mrs. L. and your children, and

believe me         Your friend,

       W. W. Paine


In Search of Lawtons and Basingers: A Bonus

March 21, 2013

The first Lawton folder started with statements from individuals about an incident in Mr. Holt’s school in the early 1800’s.  We don’t know what that incident was precisely, but the character of Alexander James Lawton’s daughter Adeline was addressed.  Apparently some boys (men?) were spreading rumors that were interfering with her sterling reputation, and statements were made by individuals regarding her good character.  It sounded perfectly sleazy.

We slogged through the first folder, then decided to skip right on to 1877 to see what we could see about the death of Corinne Lawton.  There were several letters about the “calamity”, but nothing definitive.  So I suggested that we look at the folder for 1876 prior to her death.

We found a bonus.  A letter written to Corinne’s mother Sarah “Sallie” Hillhouse Alexander Lawton from a M. G. Basinger.  We weren’t even viewing the Basinger papers yet.  And who was M. G. Basinger?

She’s Sugar’s great-grandmother!  Margaret Roane Garnett Basinger!  One of her daughters became Sugar’s grandmother, although at the time of the writing of this letter, that daughter was less than 2 years old, and no one could possibly have known that she would grow up and marry a Lawton.


IMG_3230 (2)



Mrs. A. R. Lawton

Gainesville, Ga.


                                                                Sept. 11, 1876

My dear Friend,

     I have intended

writing to you all sum-

mer, but waited vainly

hoping for a cool day.

Writing is not a favorite

amusement of mine,

and is such hot work.

I cannot convey to you

an idea of what I have

suffered from heat this

summer.  And my eyes

have troubled me a great

deal some days I have been

obliged to confine myself

to a dark room.

     However the summer in

many respects has been a

pleasant one.  I am very

comfortably quartered, and

find the Misses Green

pleasant companions.

     I have heard of you and

the girls frequently from

the Major and others.  I am

glad you all kept well,

and had left town before

such dreadful trouble

came to it.  Is it not sad?

On the 15th of this month

we expect to go to Catoosa

Springs to remain until the

14 of October hoping the

waters will benefit the Major.

He is really a sufferer with

boils, indeed I fear this

last is a carbuncle.

     From Catoosa we expect to

go to Atlanta to remain

until it is prudent to go

home.  In Atlanta the Maj

can have the use of the

State Library, and be at

work which is his delight

and will prevent his being

so restless to get home.

I keep perfectly (illegible), and

the children (illegible).

     Now that I have so fully

explained my plans, I

should be glad to know

yours.  I greatly hope Atlan-

ta may be your destina-

tion, too.  We hear from

a friend that it is already

full of Savannah refugees.

It sounds like rain again,

a sound I hoped never to

hear again.

     Of course the girls

have been able to find

amusement where you are!

Give my love to them

and tell Corinne I have

heard reports about her

since I saw her last.  I

can’t give my consent

unless she writes and tells

me all about it.

    Maggie begs me to send

her love to you all.

Answer this when you

can.  It will give me

great pleasure to hear

from you.

                                Most fondly yrs

                                                M. G. Basinger


So Margaret Roane Garnett Basinger and Sarah “Sallie” Hillhouse Alexander Lawton were friends, and according to the old Savannah maps, the backs of their homes were across the alley from each other.

But what is the cryptic message regarding Corinne?

Y’all please feel free to help with the transcription.  Comments, corrections, and questions are welcome!