Behind the scenes at Pamplin: Spousal support
Harry, the son of famous South Carolina politician James Henry Hammond, had returned to camp at Tudor Hall (present-day Pamplin Historical Park) and poured out his frustrations to his wife Emily about the thanklessness of his position.
However, it appears that in mid-December 1864, Harry received a furlough to go home and visit his beloved wife. He had previously mentioned attempting to get a 30-day leave, and there is about a month’s break in their correspondence at this time.
Harry penned a brief missive on Feb. 1 from Richmond, but his next letter to Emily, now back “In Camp,” was on Feb. 7, 1865. He mentioned that he just arrived “through a storm that was snow at first and then sleet, and at last rain.” Once back in his quarters Harry “found two refreshing little streams running across [sic] the floor of my tent.” However, with a little repair work, he was “as comfortable as I could desire.”
Harry explained that as he approached his camp at Tudor Hall he heard cannonading. “It seems there was a fight on our right yesterday, and that it was continued today, not however in our immediate front,” Harry wrote. Indeed, a significant fight from Feb. 5-7, 1865 occurred just southwest of Tudor Hall at Hatcher’s Run, as elements of the Union’s Army of the Potomac attempted to cut the Boydton Plank Road, and if possible, the Southside Railroad. Harry rightly explained, “this weather must put a stop to any serious movements on either side for the present.”
As the Union army eliminated the Confederate supply lines one by one it affected Gen. Lee’s army. Harry penned that “they [Federals] know that we are living from hand to mouth, and will try to cut off our supplies. We are rather short [on rations], but I don’t think it likely they will catch us without enough [food] to make a fight on.” He went on to tell Emily that while they had stocked enough fodder for the army’s animals to last through early April, he worried about the soldiers. “I only hope that the want of full rations will not affect the spirits of our troops, and I do not believe it will, their health or strength,” he wrote.
The bleak winter views Harry returned to at Tudor Hall: “this country stripped of trees and covered far and near with miserable shanties [winter quarters] so dreary and cheerless,” reaffirmed his decision not to bring Emily and daughter Julia back to the army with him. Harry closed out the letter with a mention of the failed “peace negotiations,” attempted by Francis Preston Blair with visits to Jefferson Davis in Richmond. “I never believed in them, but I was quite willing to indulge the pleasant dreams [of peace] that they excited,” Harry wrote.
Never receiving his desired resignation, Harry surrendered with the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox and returned to South Carolina where the managed his inherited lands until he died in 1916.
“I never believed in them, but I was quite willing to indulge the pleasant dreams [of peace] that they excited.” —Harry
Like many families, Hammondís letters home and those received from his wife Emily, offered relief and support to loved ones far away.