Edisto Island, [South Carolina]: 1862. Unbound. This four-page letter, datelined “Edisto Island May 10th 1862,” was sent by a trooper in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry stationed in South Carolina to a family member at home in Brighton, Massachusetts. Its envelope is franked with a 3-cent Washington stamp (Scott #65) that has been cancelled with a bullseye hand stamp. It bears a circular Port Royal postmark dated May 12. The letter and cover are in nice shape. A transcript will be provided. In this letter Rice describes the receipt of three food “boxes” by soldiers in his company, “min was the largest of the lot.” His box “was just what I wanted,” and contained knives and forks (“half the company wanted to buy them”), cake (“just tuched with the heat but went down good”), “tip top” boots that “fit just right” and stockings. Unfortunately, “they open all the boxes before they get her to see that there is no rum in them. But I was glad to get it anyway.” The only thing that didn’t arrive safe and sound were the cheese and doughnuts. They were spoiled, inedible, and “moldy . . . so [I] gave them to the darkies” who “devour[ed] them like rats.” He also chuckles over “John Warren . . . I can’t stop laughing over him. He got through off his horse yesterday jumping a ditch and his head went clear in the mud out of sight – bunging up his eye. . . . he looked like a downcast grave digger.” And, perhaps most interesting, Rice reports: “Last night myself and a squad of four men surrounded and took two prisoners . . . over to the Provost Marshall (I dint say they was rebels) They belonged to the 55 Penn Reg and was smashing in the doors to the negro shantees. They was drunk”. Very good. Item #009290
Edisto Island was, for a time, home to a large colony of abandoned and escaped African-American slaves, perhaps as many as 10,000. It was also a major Union staging area holding as many as 13 regimental-sized units—including the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry and the 55th Pennsylvania Infantry—while they prepared to assault Charleston, South Carolina. A fine record of the types of foods and clothing Union soldiers prized but were simply not available through the army or sutlers. And . . . a testament to how many Union men actually felt about the slaves they were fighting to free.