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Extremely Rare 1861 Letter, Sex in the Civil War Era

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Extremely Rare 1861 Letter, Sex in the Civil War Era (Image1)
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Item Number: CL546
 

 



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The author of this letter attended and witnessed and writes about a "Whore Ball" in Huntsville, Alabama!

Also includes content regarding famous Presbyterian clergyman, Frederick A. Ross, who had a national feud with the famous Methodist preacher William G. Brownlow!


4 pages, 5 1/8 x 8 1/4, in in ink, written by W. Mastin to his friend Tom.

Huntsville, [Alabama], Jany. 18th [1861]

Dear Tom,

I suppose you think Bob Shields* was very near true when he said I was a very poor correspondent as it has been nearly a week since I recd. your most welcome epistle. You have heard ere this time that Dr. Patton was joined in holy wedlock with Mrs. Moore a few weeks ago. They took an extensive pleasure trip from here to Savannah and back and Miss Mary Beirne accompanied them. They had a safe and pleasant journey and have now returned home. Mrs. Moore looks a little the worst for wear and the Dr. looks fat & hearty rejoicing over his good luck. The celebrated Dr. F. Ross is in our town and he has set the whole place in commotion.[1] "All must go and hear him" is the constant bawl of some person who busy interest about such foolishness. I as a matter of course had to hear his lordship Sunday and was not as well pleased with him as I expected to be. I had heard so much of him that I concurred Daniel Webster [2] would be no "whar" by the side of him. The Methodist cry for [William G.] Brownlow [3] to come and give him hell. We have a great amount of fun now. We have what we term a stunning party ever Friday night. A crowd of young ladies & boys collect at some house without any invitation and dance until 11 or 12 o’clock then we politely retire and as it is Friday now, we would have one tonight, but for Mr. Ross. All the boys and girls Mothers will make them trot to hear "Brother Ross" as he is affectionately styled by all the Church members. In my last letter I made several inquiries about Sam Matthews.** You did not answer them. How is old Sam coming on. I witnessed a pleasant little circumstance the other night in Huntsville. We had a regular "Whore Ball" here and some boys got a little drunk and went in to see the dance I among them. The men would dance to the women throw their arm around their necks, kiss them & hug them and after it broke up no doubt screw them, but I began to get tighter & tighter and drunker until I feared I could not get away and that some old man might find me in such a place so I left. Will you give my love to old Sam. Write soon.

Your friend,
W. Mastin

Wat says he will write as soon as he has time. He is keeping book for McCausey and it keeps him very busy as he has acct. the asst. to draw off this month. Old Chris stays with Tobe most all the time now. Charlie Masters is as damned a rascal as ever. He drinks privately yet I am the same old chap. I always was, only I don’t use ardent spirits since my introduction to Mr. Peck.

Very neat and well written letter on blue stationary. This letter is extremely rare to find as moral values being as strict as they were in the 1860's people were discouraged from writing sexual content in their letters, or if they were brave, or brazen enough to ignore the common decency expected of them during this era of history, such letters were usually destroyed so as not to be found among the possessions of the recipients, or in the case of the Civil War, a person would not want to find such a letter among the possessions of a deceased soldier, or amongst the possessions kept by a friend or a loved one of a deceased soldier. It was very common for soldiers to throw away pipes, tobacco, playing cards, dice, and other objects that they didn't want to be sent home with their possessions should they be killed in battle. Sexual content items were even more taboo during this period. In my 39 plus years in business I have never seen a letter referring to a "whore ball" before!! Extremely rare!! Written examples with sexual contact from the Civil War are exceedingly rare to find!!

Based on the information that was provided to me when I acquired this extremely rare letter, combined with the diligent research I did myself, this is what I know about the letter. It was once in the collection of a now deceased prominent Civil War collector, and out of respect I will not use their name in my description. This letter was found inside of a Confederate envelope that had been endorsed by Captain Thomas F. Spence, of Company E, 2nd Arkansas Mounted Rifles who was very probably the recipient of the letter. All of the letters written to Captain Spence during the war period were addressed, "Dear Tom," as was this letter. Captain Spence enlisted on July 15, 1861, as a captain, and was commissioned into the above named regiment. He was killed in action at the battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on December 31, 1862.

The letter writer, W. Mastin, mentions that it is Friday when he is writing and when I looked at my Civil War almanac the only January 18th that fell on a Friday during the war period was 1861. So Mastin no doubt wrote this letter on January 18, 1861, from Huntsville, Alabama, less than 2 months before the first guns of the war were fired. In researching all of the Mastin's that fought for the Confederacy that came from Alabama, assuming Mastin joined the Confederate army, I was only able to find two possibilities. One was William Mastin who enlisted on November 15, 1862, as a private, and was mustered into Co. A, 4th Alabama Cavalry. The second one was William F. Mastin, who enlisted on May 1, 1861, as a 1st lieutenant, and was commissioned into Co. D, 7th Alabama Infantry.

[1] Frederick Augustus Ross: (1796-1883) Was a Presbyterian New School clergyman in Huntsville, Alabama, a slave owner, publisher and pro-slavery author of the book, "Slavery As Ordained of God" that was published in 1857. In the late 1840s, Ross began quarreling with Methodist minister and Whig newspaper publisher William G. Brownlow. Ross had earlier "declared war" on Methodism as a co-editor in his Calvinist Magazine, published from 1827 to 1832. Brownlow initially responded to Ross with a running column, "F.A. Ross' Corner," in the Jonesborough Whig. In 1847, he launched a separate paper, the Jonesborough Quarterly Review, which was dedicated to refuting Ross's attacks, and embarked on a speaking tour that summer. He derided Ross as a "habitual adulterer" and the son of a slave, and accused his relatives of stealing and committing indecent acts (Ross's son responded to the latter charge with a death threat). This quarrel between the two men continued until Brownlow moved his newspaper to Knoxville in 1849. Ross would go on to author a book in 1857 (written in response to the earlier 1852 book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin: or Life among the Lowly," by Harriet Beecher Stowe) that he entitled "Slavery As Ordained of God." Abraham Lincoln later read "Slavery As Ordained of God" and found in Ross's interpretation of the divine will pertaining to the national question of slavery as material for a telling passage as to how slavery advocates and owners themselves benefit from slavery within the 1858 Lincoln–Douglas debates. Ross died in Huntsville, Alabama in 1883.

[2] Daniel Webster: (1782-1852) American statesman, lawyer and orator. Served as a United States Congresman, 1813-17, and 1823-27; United States Senator, 1827-41, and 1845-50; and United States Secretary of State, 1841-43, and 1850-52. He was one of the greatest orators of his time, well known for his brilliant speeches and eloquent public addresses.

[3] William G. Brownlow: (1805-77) A leading Tennessee Unionist during the Civil War. He was originally a Methodist minister, thus earning the lifelong nickname of "Parson." He became editor of the Knoxville Whig in 1849. Although a strong pro-slavery man, he violently opposed secession in 1861 and soon became a leader of Unionist elements in east Tennessee. Confederate authorities suppressed his newspaper and later imprisoned him for several months during the winter of 1861-62 on suspicion of complicity in the bridge burning that so incensed Jefferson Davis. Later released, he became a firm advocate of a hard war against the South. He was elected governor of Tennessee on the Republican ticket in 1865, and again in 1867. In 1869, he became a U.S. Senator.

* I found a Robert G. Shields, who enlisted on May 1, 1862, as a private, and was mustered into the 37th Alabama Infantry. He was the only one with that last name and the first name of either Bob or Robert that I could find in an Alabama regiment.

** I found a Samuel H.B. Matthews, who served in Co. I, 4th Alabama Cavalry, the same regiment that I found a William Mastin serving in. This Matthews enlisted on October 1, 1862. There is no way to be certain these soldiers are the same men from this letter, but it does add another connecting dot that makes it a possibility.



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