Friday, February 23, 2007

Prophets and Patriots

February 23, 1812 . . . toward evening the wife of Mr. Charles Hicks brought us a very pleasing letter from him in which he wrote among other things: "The present is a very strange point in time. May God in his great mercy prepare us for the life to come. The people in my neighborhood are deeply disturbed because of the earthquakes, and I believe that fear and terror have spread through the whole Nation. How else could it be? Do not these belong to the signs which are to come to pass before the [last] great day? . . . "

Mr. [David] McNair [a white man living in Tennessee, married to a Cherokee] came in the evening and spent the night here. Again we heard much about dreams and false prophets. May God have mercy. There is at the present time a real tumult in the Nation and a dark, heavy feeling. . . . It is unbelievable to what kind of foolish fables the blinded heathen will give hearing.

During these days the residents of one town fled into the hills and tried to crawl into hiding in the holes of the rocks in order to escape the danger of the hail stones the size of half bushels, which were to fall on a certain day. As the stated terrible day passed without hail, they came back to their dwelling places, ready and willing to believe every new deceiver.

-From the Springplace Diaries. at the time of the Cherokee Ghost Dance Movement. Springplace Mission was located in northwest Georgia in the Cherokee Nation.

February 23, 1863
Dear Father and Mother,
I can inform you that I am in reasonable health, for which I feel very thankful to the "great perserver." I am very desirous to hear from you. I have not had a letter from home for these two months. I’d think you might write to me oftener than you have done. Wrote you by Capt. Teague and have received no answer. The Capt. has not yet returned. It seems that when any of our men or officers get off home, that they take care not to return. Neither do as the law and general orders direct, consequently I have had to drop twenty enlisted men from our company, from the roll in disgrace and I am ordered to have these names published as deserters, how mortifing this is to me.

I hear that brother Robert has deserted his command. If he but knew how little every true patriot think of such conduct, he would return immediately and try and reprieve his character by future mysterious conduct for his country’s sake for his own and for heavens sake and for the sake of his friends. Have him return at once.

No one is more ancious to visit him and friends than I. But before I would dishonor myself and family and kin by deserting my colors, comrades and country’s cause, I would suffer even death before dishonor. How acceptable due leave of absence from camp would be, that I might visit you my kind and bereft parents. My great desire is and has been to live and see the present national difficulties over and peace and prosperity prevail throughout the whole land, so I can enjoy home and friends no one to disturb my quietetude.

God has been merciful to our family. But how great the wickedness of soldiers. How sinful I have been due to my soldier life. It mortifies me to think of my profanity and wickedness, such as the evils and temptations that I do wrong, while conscience thunderous remorse. Oh how I crave the congenial influence of home and friends that nurture a better feeling than that which naturally prevades the soldier’s heart. There is nothing in the profession of arms but what is revolting to the noble heart and mind.

But they would have it so. The North has forced this war upon us. Now we drink the bitter drugs of revelation, starving for National peace, may it soon be won. May the time hasten when we strike our tents, deposit our arms and return home to enjoy the book of liberty.
- W.B. Ferguson

Lieutenant Ferguson served in Company E, 29th Regiment whose members were from Haywood County, NC and were serving in east Tennessee at the time of the letter. From Davis, Civil War Letters and Memories from the Great Smoky Mountains.

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