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Armistead Bright Christian Galt Garrett Johnston Maupin Semple Southall Tyler

Confederate Letters regarding arrest of Travis Southall, Williamsburg, Virginia, August 2, 1861

[WILLIAMSBURG, VA.,] August 2, 1861.

President of the Confederate States.
DEAR SIR: About four weeks ago my son, Mr. Travis Southall, arrived here from Washington where he had been for some months for the purpose of joining a volunteer company. Want of means together with other difficulties attending such a step alone prevented his getting here earlier. So soon as he reached this his home he was arrested, underwent a strict examination, and though the examining officer, Captain Werth, congratulated him on answering every question satisfactorily yet Mr. Southall was the next morning sent off to Richmond without previous notice. From Richmond he has been removed to Raleigh, N.C., and up to the present moment no action has been taken in the matter. What the charges are against him or who makes them we know not. All I ask, Mr. President, is that he may be heard, his case examined into. If he prove guilty, though his mother I can say let him be punished; if innocent let him be discharged at once and join his company. Colonel Ewell gave me permission to-day to say to you that had Mr. Travis Southall applied to him to join his regiment (and which Mr. Southall certainly would have done had time been allowed him) he would have received him without the slightest hesitation.

With this letter, Mr. President, I send some depositions. Please examine them, and if you will remember how guardedly all letters had to be worded to get them through Washington at all you must see that they are of some weight. I could send many more equally strong but feel sure that those will suffice to prove the loyalty of my son. May God bless you, Mr. President, and always lead you to do what is right.

Most respectfully,

[Inclosure No. 1.]

The following are expressions made use of in the letters received from my son, Mr. Travis Southall, at various times since the 4th of March, 1861, the letters themselves having been burned at the time of the alarm and preparation to leave the place:

Look out, mother, we are coming and may be with you without a moments warning. The ladies only will remain with you; we will of course join the volunteer company immediately.

Mother, fear nothing on my account. I can swim too well for them to shut me up in Washington.

I have been offered a situation here but could not think of accepting. Virginia's fate shall be mine; she needs every one of her sons to stand by her.

They came to our house last Saturday and in my absence took down my name on the militia roll. I'll die before I'll serve.

In a letter from Miss Jennie Johnston to me in April I think she says:

T.'s name is on the militia roll but he says he will see them at the devil before he serves. He is on the lookout to leave the first moment that he can. Any one sympathizing with the South is marked, and on the slightest pretense made prisoner. Spies are everywhere.

Again in a letter written to me during the month of April about the 20th Travis Southall says:

Last Saturday I started to Norfolk on my way home on the Government steamer Anacostia (that is the name I believe), a free passage having been given me by Captain Fillebrown, whom you know, mother. When some distance down the Potomac we were met by the Pawnee, the powder and marines were taken off, and we sent back to Washington, where I am now much to my disappointment.

[Mother of Travis Southalt.]

CITY OF WILLIAMSBURG, TO WIT: This day V. F. T. Southall, E. B. Bright, C. M. Maupin and J. S. Armistead, whose names are subscribed to the deposition annexed, personally appeared before me, Robert M. Garrett, mayor of the city, and made oath that the facts and circumstances stated in this deposition are true. Given under my hand this 2d August, 1861.

RO. M. GARRETT, Mayor.

[Inclosure No. 2.]

I, Samuel F. Bright, of the city of Williamsburg in the State of Virginia, certify as follows: Some time in May I think it was I was informed by my wife, who is the sister of Mrs. V. F. T. Southall, who is the mother of Travis Southall, that he, Southall, was in Washington City, D. C., very anxious to come on to Virginia to join the Virginia army, but that he did not have the means nor could he get the means to bring him on. I requested her to see Mrs. James Semple and ask of her to write to Purser Semple, her husband who was expected to pass through Washington about that time and to request him to bring Mr. Southall on with him and that I would pay him the amount he might advance for that purpose immediately on his arrival, but unfortunately Purser Semple arrived in this place the next morning and the mails were not considered safe after that time, and from the conversation in the family I was led to believe that the deficiency of means was the sole cause of his not coming sooner.


Sworn before me this day, August 2, 1861.

RO. M. GARRETT, Mayor.

WAR DEPARTMENT, Richmond, August 2, 1861.

Mr. PRESIDENT: The inclosed letters* are from Travis Southall, arrested and sent prisoner to Raleigh, N. C., as a spy. They were addressed by him from Washington to a young lady in New Kent County, Va., Miss Octavia Christian, daughter of John P. Christian, clerk of the superior and inferior courts of that county. They tell their own tale and show conclusively that the young man's heart beats in the right place. I have known all the parties since infancy and although differing politically from them can answer for the fact that they are no traitors. There exists in Williamsburg bitter feeling against the father of young Southall on the part of some citizens based on private griefs, and I have but little doubt that the father is struck at by these parties through the son. Having acted during the last canvass through this district as sub-elector of Breckinridge I know the complexion of them all.

With high consideration, your obedient servant,


WAR DEPARTMENT, Richmond, August 3, 1861.

President Confederate States.

Mr. PRESIDENT: I forgot to say in my note of yesterday that the letters of Travis Southall to Miss Christian were brought to the Secretary of War by Mr. Waring, of New Kent County, without the knowledge of the parents or relatives of young Southall, but on making the facts known to the father of Travis Southall last evening he immediately produced a letter from his son while in Washington to his sister in Williamsburg, signed like the others "Melvor," and fully confirmatory of the sentiments expressed to Miss Christian. The letter of Dr. John Galt, superintending physician to the lunatic asylum in Williamsburg, and one of the purest men of one of the purest families on earth, in itself is a voucher in behalf of young Southall of great weight. With entire respect,

Your friend and servant,


* Omitted.

SOURCE: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 2, Volume 2, pgs. 1365-1367

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