Archive for April, 2013

In Search Of Lawtons & Basingers: William Starr Basinger Writes To His Mother, June 25, 1865

April 24, 2013


                                Johnson’s Island, June 25, 1865

My dear Mother, I wrote you at length by F. Blois, who has

probably delivered it (?).  Fleming was to leave N. Y.

yesterday, & he too will probably see you before this reaches

you.  I have nothing to add to the accounts they will

give you.  My health is as good as ever, & the living

fair.  (The next sentences are impossible to read clearly.)

I have probably explained that (?)  announced the

purpose to make regulations for the release of F.officers,

as soon as the inferior grades were  disposed of.   If it intends

to keep its word, it must do so very soon.  Dr. Caylor

wrote me, having received your letter.  Mother, I am very

sorry you did that.  I will explain when I see you.

I have not answered his letter.  Mr. McCalla also writes

us.  Him I have answered & told him to proceed.  But

they have no notion of what they ought to do to affect

anything.  I’ve put Mr. M on the task to (?), if he is

not anticipated by a yes (?) order.  If he fails (?) an order

does not come, I shall write to the New Gov. & Dist. Judge of

Geo, both of them acquaintances, perhaps I may say friends.

Don’t think me indifferent to his situation.  On the contrary, I am

full of anxiety about it.  (?) satisfied, though I can’t explain

myself now, that everything I do in (?) present condition is

with the highest motives & upon consideration of what

is best.  A letter from Mrs. Smith informs me of E’s release.

(?) Hays writes me about clothes etc.  My love to all.  Yrs Affly,

                                Wm. S. Basinger

In Search Of Lawtons & Basingers: William Starr Basinger Writes To His Mother, June 16, 1865

April 22, 2013






                                Johnson’s Island, June 16, 1865

My dear Mother,

                I have just received yours of the 8th,

informing me of the death of George & Tupper.  I was

not surprised to hear of it.  Poor fellows, I fear they

suffered greatly.  However dark the designs of Heaven

may seem to us now, perhaps they will not have

fallen in vain.

                I do not know whether all my letters

have reached you.  I’ve written so many I cannot

identify them.  Yesterday I wrote to my sister by

Yates Seay, who was released.  Fleming & Fred Blois,

of my room, leave to-day.  The latter will take this, &

both will see you perhaps.  They will explain my

attitude on the oath question.  Your letters all show

that you do not understand the situation.  It is

necessary to do right, whatever happens.  Heaven

knows that I’ve no desire to remain here a moment

longer than I can help.  Though I cannot contemplate

without a shudder a return to a life (?) and

miserable as the life of all (?) men must be in the

new order of things.

                I have thought of leaving the country

forever, but incline latterly to the opinion that we

ought not to leave to their wretched fate the

maimed men & the desolate women & children. It

seems to me we cannot abandon them.  Nevertheless,

the state of things may prove intolerable; & with a

view to that Maj. Stiles & I have projected a

visit to Canada, if we can get the money.  I wish

to see what prospects of success in the practice

of my profession are there.  I do this the more

readily because were I at home now I could

do nothing.  As that will be the case for some

time to come, I propose, if possible, to stop on

my return, whether we go to Montreal or not,

to stop at Newcastle to see Miss Read, at Balti-

more to see where those poor boys were buried,

at Washington to see Mrs. Smith, & in Virginia.

All this, if I can get the money.  That I must

have.  I am in rags, & cannot travel anywhere


                I have not refused Mrs. Smith’s offers.  I

had sent to N. York for clothes & money before

receiving her letter.  I told her that, & that if I

failed to get them, I would call on her.  But

she offered only under-clothing, of which I am

not so much in want .  That she understood me

properly appears from the fact that she sends me

a paper now & then as I asked her.

                But I am writing as if any

(?) were certain.  On the contrary, as Blois

will explain to you, it is only those below the

rank of Major they are releasing, & we have no in-

formation of any (?) regarding the

rest of us.  But in any event I protest against

your falling into a depressed state of mind.  The

calamity is fearful, & the ruin, I know, universal.

We cannot accomplish anything by sinking under

the sorrow.  Cheerfulness is now an absolute es-

sential.  We will yet find a way out of this

valley of the shadow of death.  But I must

reserve what I have to say till I see you.

                It is reported that all hands are

to be released by the 4th (?).  If so, you may

look for me about Aug. 1st.  I cannot but

think it likely Eddie is with you, as they must

have begun to release the prisoners there simul-

taneously with it here.

                I have forgotten to mention

before that I had reason to think George was

engaged to a young lady near Mattoax, & George

Turner also.  Eddie will know more than I do.

My love to my sister & Aunt A. & Uncle C. if

he has arrived.

                                Affly Yours,

                                                Wm. S. Basinger

Ask Mr. Brigham, or some friend who has not behaved im-

properly, if I may draw for necessary funds if I am

obliged to do so, & how.  A better way will be for him, if he

will, to arrange with the Steamship agents at New York

to supply my wants.  I think I had better

go there first.  If Mrs. Hoover had (?) her-

self about one, I would be glad to know where

to find her; as it is, her address is of no value to

me.  If Mr. Brigham is not there, ask Mr. Padelford.

John Screven will be able to arrange it for me, &

do not hesitate to call on him & say I asked you to.

I will write to him I think.  A couple of hundred

will cover all my wants.  If Screven is away, ask

Wallace Cumming.


In Search Of Lawtons & Basingers: William Starr Basinger Writes To His Mother, June 11, 1865

April 15, 2013



Johnson’s Island

June 11, 1865

My dear Mother – I was as much pleased as sur-

prised to hear of the arrival of Mearing (?) with

your mare.  If you’ve not yet reposed of her, I

suggest that you get some one to keep her for the

moderate use of her for the present.  Riley, for exam-

ple, Lieut. of City Police, who did that for one (?).

But if your associates make it absolutely necessary,

I should think you could repose of her to advan-

tage.  Nevertheless, I should be very sorry to miss her,

if you will get one have her again, for I became very

much attached to her.  The money letters arrived

safely.  I hope you’ve received my acknowledgment of them

on this.  The news about Tupper & Smith gives me great pain.

And Elliott & Guerard too!  And poor Wade & Kreeger!

Yet it will not have been in vain; it never is to suffer

or perish in a good cause.  You seem to think it is in

my power to obtain my release at my will.  If so, you

are mistaken.  I suppose a day will come when I shall

be set free; but be assured that however high a

value Mr. Johnson may set on the “honor & dignity” of the

U. S., I value (?) much more.  And I shall cer-

tainly sacrifice not a jot of it.  I do not know what

regulations will be made in regard to field officers;

they may be such as I can’t comply with.  But I

beg you to remember that there are things worse

than imprisonment or even death.  All of the

prisoners under the rank of Major are to be released

on the oath of allegiance.  Upwards of 200 leafe

tomorrow.  I will yet have one of them who is to

pass through Savannah to call on you.

Should I be released, I have some

idea of going to Canada with Robt. Stiles for a

little while.  But whether I do that or not, I wish

to pass through N. York n my return, through

Newcastle, Del. to see Miss Read, Washington to

see Mrs. Smith, Baltimore to look after those

poor wounded lads, & to stop a few days in

Virginia.  But all this is premature.

I’ve found a good friend in Robt.

Stiles (the parson’s oldest son).  He is indeed a

noble fellow.  Mr. Girardeau is here, a prisoner.

He preaches every Sunday, sometimes on other

days, & quite equals the promise he gave when

we heard him in our church long ago.

Write often, & let me know as

much as you can of what is going on.  The letter

sent by Screven was a long time reaching you.

What do you think of the photograph?  Give him

my regards, & my love to my sister & Aunt A.

The former’s letter in which she referred to Uncle

C. came to hand.  Find out from Dillon about our

fellow soldiers & tell me.              Affly Yours,

Wm. S. Basinger

In Search Of Lawtons & Basingers: William Starr Basinger Writes To His Mother, June 1, 1865

April 12, 2013



                U. S. Mily. Prison, Johnson’s Island

                                June 1, 1865

My dear Mother – Yours of the 14th May with the check for

$25 arrived this morning; that is, it reached me.  The $5 was

also recd.  I feared the state of things was such that it would

embarrass you to spare anything for me, & have tried to manage

with a friend in N. York.  If I succeed, will let you know.

Do not assume (?) until you hear from me again.  Wm. Rail-

ford was released the other day.  He promised to see you

& to deliver a message which I could not send in writing.

I see no prospect of being released just now, though some

go daily.  When you see Pres. Johnson’s proclamation, you will

understand that prisoners of war are excepted.  But I may as

well leave this subject as long as I can’t express myself

freely.  Give my love to Dillon.  Tell him Genls. Ewell & Lee

desired me to communicate to the surviving officers & men

of my Battln, their thanks for what they denominate the “splendid conduct”

of the command.  I heard a day or two ago that the men at

Pt. Lookout were all well.  Mrs. Smith wrote me recently,

offering clothing etc.  As I sent by Railford to the friend

in N. York for some, I will not write to her until I hear

from him.  But tell me how she is related; I’ve forgotten,

& don’t know how to write.  I have written to Pearson

since finding out he is at Ft. McHenry, which Mrs.

Smith told me.  I am sorry to hear of Blois’ death.  Fred

Blois is one of my room-mates.  My love to all.

                                Affly Yrs, Wm. S. Basinger

(There is a P. S. that I cannot read clearly, something about a letter written between

a range of dates have not come to hand.)

In Search Of Lawtons & Basingers: William Starr Basinger Writes To His Cousin Edwin Pearson Starr, June 1, 1865

April 11, 2013



                                U. S. Mily. Prison, Johnson’s Island

                                                June 1, 1865

Dear Pearson – I heard a few days ago you are

at Ft. McHenry, but delayed writing because

I was expecting a letter from mother.  It came

today, dated the 15th (?).  She says “Charles is

not yet arrived”, from which I infer he is

expected.  Dillon got home the 14th, on a (?)

but doing well.  Blois died in Washington.  Smith

& Tupper are in hospital at Annapolis.  The un-

wounded men are at Point Lookout.  I heard a

few days ago they were all well.  But did you

ever hear of such destruction?  One loss was 62

(?)  But if destroyed, the Battln finished glori-

ously.  Whatever little (?) annoyance we

may have had, they fade from my recollection

as I think of that closing scene.  Genls Ewell &

Lee desired me to communicate to the survivors

their thanks for what they were pleased to call

their “splendid conduct.”  Write & tell me whatever

you hear from home or of any of our officers &

men.  (?) is here.  I see no prospect yet of release.

I want presented myself a candidate for Mr.

Johnson’s pardon.  But understand that I consider

that fairly an open question.  I blame no one

who does.  But I can’t give you my views pro or

con in a letter subject to surveillance, as it

would probably not reach you.  Remember, in

writing, not to send a page of this size direct

to me by my rank as, Prisoner of War, Johnson’s

Island.  Mrs. Mary A. Smith, (a cousin of your

father), Corner 14th (19th?) & I Street, Washington City,

has written to a friend in Baltimore to aid you

in the matter of clothing etc.

                                                Yours Affly

                                                                Wm. S. Basinger

Lt. E. P. Starr

Pris. of War

Ft. McHenry      


William Starr Basinger does not know that Smith and Tupper are deceased, which we already know from Edwin Pearson Starr’s letter to Basinger’s mother on May 24, 1865.

In the reference to the letter from Basinger’s mother Jane Susan Starr Basinger, she mentions “Charles”.  Charles Henry Starr is her brother, and Edwin Pearson Starr’s father.  Charles Henry Starr dies the following year in 1866.

In Search Of Lawtons & Basingers: William Starr Basinger Writes To His Mother, May 21, 1865

April 9, 2013



                U. S. Military Prison, Johnson’s Island

                                May 21, 1865

My dear Mother –  Your letter of the 7th, with its

enclosure, reached me a few days ago.  It is the first

news I’d had of you, direct or indirect, since the letter

sent by Mrs. M. in February.  Though you mention as much,

I presume you are all well.  I have written several

times since that from Petersburg, & hope some have been

received ere this.  I have not heard yet from Mrs. Hoover; &

indeed, as you may suppose, would hesitate to receive

(?).  There is no probability of my being paroled, though

some have been liberated on those terms (?) since my arrival

here.  The proclamations of the Pres. of U. S., now daily

expected, will probably make known what is to become

of those, who, like myself, prefer awaiting it to a sacri-

fice of honor & duty.  An oath, since it ought to be ob-

served, is not to be taken lightly.  In the meantime, I

must renew my request for money, since former letters

may not have reached you.  I need everything, & would

be in a situation really deplorable but for the kindness

of fellow prisoners.  I understand the difficulties, of(?)

course, which command (?) you; (?) that you (?) my

name, if necessary, in procuring what I need.  But should

you do so, pray be careful to whom you resort.  I saw a “Repub

-lican” some days ago with a list of my killed & wounded, which

was not correct.  I’ve sent you correct lists.  Eddie, I suppose, is

at Ft. Delaware; I wish he were here with me.  Have you heard

from Uncle C.  Love to all.  Affly Yrs – Wm. S. Basinger.

In Search Of Lawtons & Basingers: A Letter to Lizzie Basinger From Lizzie Smith, May 27, 1865

April 9, 2013



                                Washington City, May 27, 1865

My Dear Lizzie,

                In the box you

will find a black skirt.  The plaid

muslin is intended for a lady to

wear (?) with it.  We now regret that we

sent you as light a bonnet for you

may be wearing as deep mourning as

your Mother and Cousin Adeline.  If

you are, write me and I will send

a piece of black silk in an envelope

and you can cover the frame with it.

Virginia went to Baltimore this morn-

ing.  I am sorry she can not see Edwin

but she hopes to communicate with


The white bodice (?) that they wear here

with colored skirts we (?) made in the

old white bodice you will find in the

box.  Mother has I believe told Cousin

Adeline about the making and lining

the black bodices.   We do not wear any

whalebones in them.  I think if you will

all try them that way, you will find them

very pleasant for summer wear.

Mother has written to your Mother

and Cousin Adeline.

I should be glad to hear from

you any time.

Mother and the girls join me in much

love to you.

                                (?) affectionately

                                                Lizzie S. Smith


In Search Of Lawtons & Basingers: A Letter To Jane Basinger, May 27, 1865

April 8, 2013





IMG_3361 (2)

                Washington City                              

                                May 27th 1865

Dear Jane           

                I received your

letter and was glad to hear

from you but sorry to hear

that you were suffering with

rheumatism.  I wrote to Annie

Hoover (?) (they are at Libety Springs).

Jonah has no influence with

this administration and is

very sure that he can do nothing

towards getting the young men

released.  I wrote yesterday

to the commanding officer at

Johnson’s Island and to

William also.  I hope to hear

from him in a few days and

will do what I can to relieve

his wants (that is if they will

allow me to).  I wrote to a

very dear friend in Baltimore

about Edwin.  She sent her

son to the hospital but Edwin

had been removed to Fort

McHenry.  He went there, –

they would not allow him to

see him but said he might

write to him or send him

some clothes.  I made up my

my mind to try to get a fass

from the Sect. of War and if I

could, to take one of my daughters

and go up to see him.  I learned

this afternoon that it was im-

possible to get one.  One of my

daughters went to see Gen. Harden (?)

and he told her he was very

sorry but he could not give

her a pass as the Sect. would

not allow persons to visit the

prisoners at this time unless

they were very sick or very

badly wounded.  He said the

oath would be offered to them

in two weeks and if they would

take it they would be released

Which he thought they all

might as well do, as it was

all over now.  He was very kind

and gentlemanly.  I think it

is likely my daughter Virginia

will go up to Baltimore Monday

and go out to the Fort.  She

can then send a note to him

and wait there for an answer.

If I hear anything I shallwrite you again.

I hope this may find you

up and about.

The girls join me in love to

you.  Hoping to hear from you


                I remain

                                Your Cousin (?)


In Search Of Lawtons & Basingers: E. P. Starr Writes To His Aunt, May 24th, 1865

April 7, 2013


Fort McHenry (Wednesday)

May 24th 1865

My Dear Aunt,

I have written you

frequently lately.  My business now

is to inform you that George

Smith is no more.  He died at

this place yesterday afternoon.

I got to the Hospital in time

to see him breathe his last –

too late for him to know who

I was.  He had gangrene in his

wound, besides inflammation of

the bowels which was more ob-

stinate than the former.

Wed P. M. – I have just returned from

the Hospital, poor Fred Tupper died

one hour ago.  My Battation has

lost more officers in the last fight.

Love to all.  Too sad to write


Your Aff Nephew

E. P. Starr

In Search of Lawtons & Basingers: Eddie Writes To His Aunt, May 31, 1865

April 5, 2013





                                Fort McHenry (?), May 31, 1865

My Dear Aunt;

                I have heard from you

once, which I answered immediately.

I have been compelled to write to our

cousins in Washington, Virginia,

daughter of Mrs. Smith came here

to see me, but was only permitted

to gaze at me in the prison door.

No words passed between us.

She left me a bunchof cigars

and a few boxes of sardines.

Also the paper I am writing

on.  They appear to be very

anxious to relieve my wants.

I have written to Mr Webb

several times but have

received no answer.  There

are fourteen (rats?) in my apart-

ment, the cock-left of an old

government stable – lice and

bed-bugs & rats are largely in the majority.

I am in very good health and

spirits, but no little prospect

of my getting out for some

time.  I have written to Cousin

Peter Pearson to do what he

could for me in Washington.

Have you heard any thing

of father, I anxiously await

some news of him.  Do you

know if Silver Stream is

occupied?  I do not expect

to call it mine again.

The President’s proclamation

is out, but prisoners of war

are excepted from its benefits

while in confinement.  God

knows what will become

of us.  I recd a letter from

Cousin Mary yesterday, said

she had written to Cousin

William – poor fellow.  I feel

sorry for him, if he is treated

as me and I wish I could

open my heart to you now,

but must acknowledge that

I am afraid.  I expect to

send this letter through by

Capt Walker of the 64th Ga

Regt, who will probably be

released this afternoon.

He has been in arrest for

five months with a parole

in his pocket.  There are more

of the same here with on excep-

tion.  They have no certificate

of parole.  Give my love

to Those of my command

that have reached Savh, also

to Cousin William (Basinger?)

and others that may be with

them.  We occupy a room 30 x 20

and not allowed to leave it

without a sentinel, & only one of

us at a time.  We can not

go beyond the door sill.  I

hope you have entirely

recovered from your

rheumatism.  Give my

best love to Aunt & Cousin.

I will endeavor to bear

up under all difficulties

and lean upon One whom

I can trust.  Will you in

your close worship

and prayer meetings, ask

a blessing for your poor

nephew.  Farewell & God be with

us all.

                                Your Aff Nephew


What has become of Mrs. Hugenin

& John Thomas.  If they are

in Savh, give them my best

respects.  Also Jack Dillon

if alive.