Letter from Samuel B. Reed to Jennie Reed, March 8, 1863

In this letter from March 8, 1863, Samuel Reed writes to his wife describing how busy he has been preparing "the estimates for the western work." He notes the lack of available laborers and expects the situation to grow worse if the government calls for more troops (which he believes it should). He also states, however, that there has been a decrease in business over the past month and that they have been "discharging quite a number of men" as a result. Reed also describes accounts he has seen of rioting in Detroit, and details similar civil disobedience which took place recently in Keokuk, Iowa. He expresses fear of the possibility of "military despotism."

Dearest Jennie

Yours of last Sunday was duly recieved [sic] I was very glad to hear from you but sorry to hear that Anne was not well. She must be very careful until warm weather. The cold damp winds of spring are very trying to all and especially to our spring flower. I have been very busy the past week hardly taking time to eat or sleep. The estimates for the western work are almost completed. Mr. Thielsen will go to Boston with them sometime this week if we can get them ready. Mr. Ainsworth will go home as soon as he can close up his figures on the [semego]. I wish that I could do so also go home for a month or two this spring you can't know how I long to be with you and our children. When I have all I can do and more than I ought to do then I have o time to think and am comparetively [sic] contented but the moment that I have an hour's leasure [sic] then I want to be at home. I don't believe the work on the line west of Ottumwa will be commenced this season. There is money enough but the laborers are few. And if government calls for 600,000 more men the chances for publick [sic] works are slim for some years to come and there must be more men raised for the army or what are in the field now can't make much headway towards conquering the south, or liberating the slaves which latter seems to be of more consequence than maintaining the constitution and laws of our country.

Have you seen the account of the dreadful riot in Detroit. The facts as near as I can learn are these a negro was tried convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary for life for committing a rape on a small girl of 13 or 14 years of age. An attempt was made to rescue the criminal and resulted in a riot in which 150 or 20 negroes were killed and as many houses occupied by negroes burned to the ground.

Riots and mobs are to be deprecated no matter what the provocation while we have a government and laws let us abide by them if the laws are not enforced then we have no government and no laws except the law of might.

Not long ago there was a disgraceful affair in Keokuc [sic] . A squad of soldiers marched to one of the printing offices and proceeded to demolish the press and tipe [sic] breaking what they could and throwing the fragments into the sheet.

I fear we are very fast approaching a military despotism when no law or tribunal in the land will be of any avail except it be the military court which sets at naught the habeus [sic] corpus act. And all other laws sacred to social and civil liberty.

I have not written to Mrs. Baily and wish you would for me. I have been trying to get a place for Walter on the road but can't do so this spring. We have been discharging quite a number of men in consequence of the decrease in business the past month. Please write to Mrs. B. for me and I will be under very many obligations to you. For you know since my first letter to you I have dropped all other female corespondents. [sic]

Has Adda heard from the county judge of Knox county yet in relation to the farm below Joliet.

I was at church this morning and shall go again this evening. Bishop Lee will be here make his annual visitation to this parish on Easter Sunday. I wish you could hear him. There is servis [sic] in the church here durring [sic] Lent two days each week besides the regular Sunday servis [sic] .

I sent Anne a little letter and hope to hear from her very soon. Yours Affectionately
Saml B. Reed

About this Document

  • Source: Letter from Samuel B. Reed to Jennie Reed
  • Extent: 3 pages
  • Citation: Yale University Library, Manuscripts and Archives, Samuel Reed Family Papers, Box 2, Folder 29
  • Date: March 8, 1863