1860: Augustus Colson, Jr. to Charles Eliphalet Walbridge

This letter was written by Augustus (“Guss”) Colson, Jr. (1841-1919) from Savannah, Georgia, to his Cousin Charles Eliphalet Walbridge (1841-1913) in Buffalo, New York. Guss was the son of Augustus and Sarah Ann (Kennedy) Colson (formerly Von Colson) of Buffalo. He had several siblings, one of whom, Frederick Augustus Colson (1835-1900), is mentioned in the letter.

Colson was from Buffalo but moved South to make more money. He resided several years in Savannah and, by the time this letter was written in 1860, he was manager of a store and lived in the storeowner’s home.

From other letters we know that Guss grew increasingly uneasy about the political situation in Savannah — especially when other young men of his acquaintance began inquiring why he did not join one of the city’s military companies. He was careful to avoid political discussions, but when he began to suspect he was being watched and his mail intercepted, he and his cousin Charles concocted a story that his mother was very ill and that he was needed back in Buffalo. Charles wrote a letter for Guss to show to his boss asking for some time off to return home for only a month or so. Not only did his employer (Mr. Jones) grant the absence, he took charge of Guss’ luggage and insisted on paying for his roundtrip steamboat ticket. By the time of the bombardment of Fort Sumter, however, Colson was looking for work in Buffalo.

In 1868, Guss Colson married Annie E. McCullough. In 1870 he resided in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and by 1880, he had relocated to Brooklyn, New York, where he lived out his days. From his passport, we know that he was born on 21 February 1841 in Buffalo and that he stood 5 foot 5½ inches tall, had hazel eyes and brown hair.

During the Civil War, Charles E. Walbridge served as a Lieutenant, and later as a Captain, in Company H, 100th New York Infantry. He was promoted to a Lieutenant-Colonel before being muster out of the service in October 1865. His Civil War correspondence [Charles E. Walbridge Papers] are housed at the University of South Carolina.


Savannah [Georgia]
August 17th 1860

Dear Charles,

Your good letter was received O. K. and I was glad to hear from home again.

I am glad that [your sister] Louise [Henrietta Walbridge] has obtained a situation in B[uffalo] for I know how disagreeable it must be for a young lady to be from home so much as she has been. As to [your sister] Sarah’s conduct, I hardly know what to say but wish I could be there and hope to be remembered at the cake cutting. ¹

I wish that I could be in B[uffalo] to get some good apples. We have apples here but they are not so good as at home. Other fruits are abundant here and come early. I sent Father a basket of peaches some time since but I suppose they have plenty in New York by this time. Figs are ripe and I have had a few, but they are not so good as a great many other fruits.

Everything is very dull here. Everyone that can get away from business leaves the city so that it is most deserted. Mr. & Mrs. Jones are North so that I have the whole house to myself which is very lonely at night and on Sundays. Not a Sunday passes that I do not wish I could spend it home or with Father but of course it is no use talking.

The Great Eastern docked in New York City (1860)

The Great Eastern docked in New York City (1860)

Did you go to see the Great Eastern? ² A great many went from here. One of our military companies went to New York while she was there and had a gay time. We have lots of soldier companies — two of which number over two hundred men each.

We have had very hot weather here this summer. In fact, the oldest inhabitants say they have not seen so much hot weather for years. Yet the city is quite healthy for the time in the year.

I attended a political meeting a short time ago and heard Ex-Governor [Herschel Vespasian] Johnson speak. ³ There were very few Douglas men there though a great many Bell and Breck[inridge] men.

I am sorry that the Niagara Club got beaten so badly. How is our club flourishing?

Give my love to all and write some for things are so dull that I am like to get the blues if I do not hear what is going on elsewhere.

Your affectionate Coz., — Guss

P. S. Please remind [my brother] Fred[erick] that he owes me a letter. — G

¹ Sarah Colson Walbridge (Charles’ sister) was the oldest child of George Brush Walbridge (1814-1852) and Wilhelmina Caroline Louise Colson (1814-1883) of Buffalo, New York. George Brush Walbridge was engaged from 1835 to the time of his death in the wholesale grocery and lake transportation business in Buffalo. He held a high position in business, social & church life. George’s wife was the daughter of Rev. Carl Wilhelm Colson, a native of Prussia. She came to Buffalo in 1831 with her brother, Augustus Colson (Sr.). Apparently, Charles’s remark regarding Sarah’s “conduct” is a reference to her marriage with Charles Warren Butler in 1860.

The Great Eastern Steamship

The Great Eastern Steamship

² The Great Eastern steamship created quite a sensation when she made her first voyage from England to North America in June 1860. She made the journey in 10 days, 19 hours, even though she took a more southerly route which prevented her from making the passage in 9 days. The Great Eastern was an iron sailing steam ship and was by far the largest ship ever built. She had the capacity to carry as many as 4,000 passengers. When she arrived in New York City in 1860, she was opened to the public and it is said that 143,809 people paid to tour the ship.

³ Herschel Vespasian Johnson served as Georgia’s Governor from 1853-1857. He was the Vice-Presidential candidate with Stephen A Douglas in 1860. He served in the U. S. Senate, the Confederate Senate, and was considered one of the most powerful orators in the nation in the mid-19th century.



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