1865: James V. Cornue to Harriet (“Hattie”) L. Emery Cornue


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How James might have looked

This letter was written by James V. Cornue (1832-1895), the son of Daniel I. Cornue (1794-1876) and Maria Van Evera (1799-1885). He wrote the letter to his sister-in-law, Harriett L. (Emery) Cornue (1843-1928), the wife of Archibald Cornue (1825-1900). James married Addie Tymeson (1841-1922) and resided in Geneva, Walworth County, Wisconsin by 1870 where he was employed as a grocer.

Cornue penned the letter from Memphis, Tennessee, in April 1865 where we learn he has been working as a civilian employee in the Ordnance Depot. It contains a wonderful description of the celebration in Memphis upon hearing of the news of Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. He also shares rumors of the impending surrender by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.


Addressed to Mrs. Arch Cornue, Hebron Station, McHenry County, Illinois

Memphis, Tennessee
Ordnance Depot
April 11, 1865, Tuesday Morning

Sister Sister Hattie,

Your good letter of April 9th I received some little time since and would have replied to it sooner had I thought in necessary.

I have just finished a letter to Irsie. I met Edgar last week on his way to town to express some funds somewhere. He has just been paid off the same here.

For several days this town has been a noisy place all owing to the glorious news we are daily receiving. Last eve a steamer came in bringing the good news that Lee’s army had surrendered to Grant and soon all the guns were belching away. I went down town in the eve to see the excitement which I could see was running high. We had such a big illumination and would send you paper with account of it if I could get any. Our office was very brilliant.

Last eve as the Lt. Artillery were about ready to fire, an orderly rode up to the Major of the batteries with orders to not to use the guns as [Nathan Bedford] Forrest had just sent in a flag of truce to surrender his command. At that time there was considerable excitement about it. Some said he intended to attack the place. Soon the guns were at work and they did make all the noise necessary. This morning it is reported that Forrest wishes to make some arrangement with Gen. [Cadwallader C.] Washburn to clean out the Guerillas. How true this is, I cannot tell. Will know soon. Another report is current that N. B. Forrest is three miles from the city with 18,000 men and wishes to surrender and that Gen. Washburn has not enough troops in Memphis to meet him but is bringing the scattered forces in that are out on the railroad. The above is rumors.

Yesterday 300 citizens were discharged from the Quarter Master Department. My occupation will not end within three months should peace be declared today. There will be a heap of fixing up in this Department after the war is over. I was offered a situation as bookkeeper downtown last week but could not see it. I don’t like to write.

For a change of atmosphere I go steamboating quite often. My detail of soldiers (laborers) live on Gov-Island distant four miles from the fort. I go just when I want to ride. A steamer goes and takes them home and when I go, I discharge the men early so I can have plenty of time and it all Uncle Samuel — he pays the fare.

Please tell [sister] Jane I have received her letter dated March 24th and this letter will do this time for an answer to it.

Capt. [D. S.] Pride and wife with Mrs. Baldwin left this city last eve for the North. The captain will return soon but the ladies will remain North during the hot weather. The mosquitoes have been driven to their hiding places owing to the chilly weather. It is now some warmer and they will soon be about. I don’t know how long I shall remain here. If I remain well, I may stay through the summer. I am not feeling first rate just now. I have so much headache when the weather is hot. I think it may drive me north.

I have just returned from town and see that prints are selling at 20 cts per yard. I think I will buy me a dress now.

If there is anything I have neglected to write you this time, please mention it. Love to all and regards to everybody. I must no go and see my darks, One death in my family last week.

Your wandering and erring friend, — I. V. Connul



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