Williamsburg, Virginia: 1864. Unbound. This three-page letter, dated 23 February 1864, is unsigned and contains a number of cross-throughs and revisions indicating it is, no doubt, a draft. In nice shape. Transcript included. In this letter, the author—probably the Sergeant of the Provost Guard—reports to his lieutenant that: “Mr. George W. McCandlish who after having taken the Oath of Allegiance to the United States has used the Privilege his oath entitled him to, to assist disloyal Persons living in the Place contrary to Genl Orders Served at this office forbidding such Persons receiving communications from any sections of the county Mr McCandlish was arrested by the Corpl of the Provost Guard and searched during my absence from the Town under the impression that he was carrying on a Correspondence for the benefit of disloyal Persons in this Community and without the Knowledge of the Comdng Officer. . .. The accompany letters that were found on his Person will show the extent to which this correspondence has been carried The letter marked “A” admits that Mr McCandlish is the medium by which the writer received letters from the North the letter marked “B” was also found on his Person _ the tenor of the letter will convince you of the sentiments of the writer the letter marked “C” is but a family letter but the manner of Communication in violation of orders I have in consequence retained it it also shows and easy way of Communication with the Enemy Mr McCandlish I allowed to go free in consideration of the fact of his Possessing the before mentioned Pass and also from the fact of his being a Person that could be served at any time Awaiting instructions from Head Qrs”. Very good. Item #009410
Public records show that McCandlish, who was about 60 years old at the time of this letter, was a long-time resident of Williamsburg and an alumnus of the College of William & Mary (1821-1822). According to the 1830 census he owned 11 slaves, so it is likely that he was a small planter. In the 1830s-1840s he owned the Chiswell-Bucktrout House and rented rooms to college students. At about the same time, McCandlish served as the “Sergeant of Williamsburg.” (Since colonial times, many Virginia communities had Town or City Sergeants. Depending upon the needs of their communities, these elected officials provided a variety of functions similar to those of constabularies, jailers, tax collectors, etc.) Although it is unclear how these charges were resolved, McCandlish died from a “continued fever” in July of 1865. An excellent starting point for further research as to what information McCandlish was smuggling, for whom was acting, possible accomplices, and the outcome of his case and its effect, if any, upon his health.