1815: Ebenezer Jackson to Ebenezer Jackson, Jr.

This letter was written by Ebenezer Jackson (1763-1837), the son of Michael and Ruth Jackson. He was born in Newton, Massachusetts and enlisted in his father’s regiment (the 8th Massachusetts Infantry) at the age of 14. He served in various regiments until 1783 when he was sent south to establish the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina. He settled in Savannah, Georgia, and was involved in various business activities, among them the sales of rice and cotton; the establishment of a packet between New York and Savannah; several land companies, including the Tennessee Company; and the ownership of two plantations. He also owned a home in Walnut Grove in Middletown, Connecticut from 1801-1826, which served as his family’s summer home. He married Charlotte (Fenwick) Pierce (1766-1819) in 1792.

Ebenezer wrote this letter to his son, Ebenezer Jackson, Jr. (1796-1874). Ebenezer, Jr. was born in Savannah, Georgia. He graduated from St. Mary’s College, near Baltimore, Maryland, in 1814, and studied law at the Litchfield Law School, Connecticut. He was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1821. He moved to Middletown, Connecticut, in 1826. He served as member of the Connecticut House of Representatives 1829-1832. Jackson was elected as an Anti-Jacksonian candidate to the Twenty-third Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Samuel A. Foote and served from December 1, 1834, to March 3, 1835. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1834 to the Twenty-fourth Congress. He was again a member of the State House of Representatives in 1849. He died in Middletown, Connecticut, August 17, 1874.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Ebenezer Jackson, Junior, Law Student, Litchfield, State [of] Connecticut

Savannah [Georgia]
February 19, 1815

My Dear Son,

I have in common with all the people in this part of the country been for some time past under the greatest apprehensions from an expected attack of the British. We should not have suffered so much from the mere apprehensions of common warfare, but the enemy has resorted to measures the most fatal and deadly to our hopes — that of raising an army from our Negro population. To every Negro man, they gave a bounty of sixteen dollars and a compleat suit of British Uniform, since which they have taken all that would come to them — men, women and children.

Mrs. Shaw's house on Dungeness Plantation used as British Headquarters in 1815

Mrs. Shaw’s house on Dungeness Plantation used as British Headquarters in 1815

Mrs. Shaw [of Dungeness Plantation] — who was formerly Miss Louisa Green[e] — has lost every negro she owned — they went on shipboard — and as Admiral [George] Cockburn and Col. Williams, the Commander of the land forces, occupy Mrs. Shaw’s house as headquarters on Cumberland Island, at Mrs. Shaw’s request all her negroes were brought on shore and she gave them a long talk and told them how kind they had been treated by all the family [but] all this had no effect. I suppose the British had been tampering with them and they all preferred to go on shipboard again.

The people to the Southward of this are very great sufferers. Major Butler ’tis said has lost nearly two hundred of his negroes and Mr. Cooper and many others are said to be great sufferers — their negroes taken; their houses plundered, and their crops taken. From all accounts, the British have suffered themselves to act like savages.

I desire to thank God for the prospect we have of peace. We have direct accounts from England that a peace has been concluded, and I hope we shall have it officially soon. I have not as yet removed any of my negroes but I have been all prepared. My cotton plantation is only 7 miles from Savannah and my rice plantation only one quarter of a mile, being on the Island directly opposite to the City. I had two flatts and two row boats with a number of canoes to start up the River with my people in case of an attack on Savannah. We have been hard at work all the winter fortifying the City. Our fortress cannons extend three miles including all the angles besides our water Batteries. We have had to do more than any city on the continent according to our population.

This invasion of Georgia has destroyed all our trade with Amelia Island — and indeed all trade — so that I have been unable to sell any thing to raise funds to send on to my family. I hope we shall have better times soon. The whole militia of Savannah have been for sometime in the pay of the United States, and are under constant drill. Most of the women an children have deserted the city and we in a great measure resemble a garrison town.

I have received several letters from your mother since the death of poor William. She appears more composed but she is now excessively alarmed at my situation in the present times. I hope all the danger is now passed away and that we may all yet see many days of happiness.

I sincerely hope your brother Charles is doing well with you. I hope you will give the strictest attention to him. Give my love to him and tell him he must attend strictly to his studies and to his good conduct.

Your poor sister Charlotte writes me in great affliction on account of the death of her brother William and her amiable friend Miss Norton. It is truly distressing. Poor child — I pity her and wish I could be with the family to afford them all the consolation in my power.

I have lost another negro man by death whose name was Forty — about 21 years of age. This is the tenth negro I have lost within twelve months by death.

I have finished the rebuilding my rice machine which has cost me $1500 — a sum I could ill afford in these times. I commenced it the last summer when I fully expected a peace the last fall.

I was not nor never shall be displeased with you for inviting any of your friends to spend a little time with the family. You cannot forget what you told me of _________________ that he was dissipated, and in no respects a student. My inference was that you must have been intimate with him and that you would of course by such an intimacy neglect your studies at the most precious period of your life. The old Spanish proverb — I believe is correct — “Tell me who you associate with, and I will tell you what you are.” I will not conceal from you, that I have always formed the greatest expectations from you and without you study and acquire a fondness for study, you will not succeed in life according to my fondest wishes and expectation. Every word I hear in your praise is a balm to my heart. I am all [paper torn] … life is uncertain and I may be taken from my family. It would afford great consolation to my last moment did I know for a certainty that your habits of application were such as to convince me you could take care of yourself as well as the family I might leave. It would call from me,

‘Tears such as tender Father’s shed,
Warm from my aged eyes descend,
For joys to think, when I am dead,
My son will have mankind his friend.Ӡ

When you write me next, I pray you give me an account of your progress. You can write me nothing more interesting to my feelings.

I believe I wrote you that your cousin Martha Campbell was dead. She willed all her property to her sister Harriett. Your relations here are all well — much enquiring is made after you and great expectations are formed of your progress in your profession. Do not for God’s sake, my dear son, disappoint them or me.

I am, thank God, in the enjoyment of perfect health. Your cousin Edward [Fenwick] Tattnall ¹ has been wounded in the breast and arm — no bones injured. He is nearly well. He was with me a few days but returned again to resume the command of his company. I think it not improbable that he may receive a Brevet. [His brother] Josiah [Tattnall] ² is now in the Brig Epervier ³ at present in this port, nearly ready for sea. I expect this Brig in the event of a peace with England will [text smudged] to pay a visit to the Algerines. They both desired I should give my love to you when I wrote you next. Please remember me to Mr. & Mrs. Gould and the Miss Percey. May God bless and prosper you my dear son. Your ever affectionate father, — E. Jackson

P. S. Your cousin Edward Tattnall’s affair of honor has been happily compromised while you were at Middletown. I wrote you a long letter directed to you at Litchfield post paid.

† Poem from the works of Amelia Opie.

¹ Edward Fenwick Tattnall (1788-1832) was the son of Georgia Governor Josiah Tatnall. He was solicitor general from November 1816 until September 1817. He served in the Georgia House of Representatives in 1818 and 1819. Tattnall was elected as a Democratic-Republican Representative from Georgia to the 17th United States Congress. He was reelected to the 18th, 19th and 20th United States Congresses and served from March 4, 1821, until his resignation in 1827 before the start of the 20th Congress. Tattnall served as first captain of the Savannah Volunteer Guards and was wounded in the assault on Point Petre and St. Mary’s in January 1815.

Josiah  Tattnall (1850s)

Josiah Tattnall (1850s)

² Josiah Tattnall (1794-1871) was an officer in the United States Navy during the War of 1812, the Second Barbary War, and the Mexican-American War. He later served in the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War. Josiah was a midshipman on board the Epervier when she sailed in May 1815 for the Mediterranean with Commodore Stephen Decatur’s squadron to engage the Barbary Pirates in Algiers. In July, when the Epervier was ordered back to the United States, Tattnall was transferred to the U.S.S. Constellation, thereby avoiding the fate of the Epervier crew.

³ The U. S. Brig of War Epervier was an 18-gun ship built for the Royal Navy at Rochester, England in 1812. She was captured by the U. S. S. Peacock in 1814 and taken to Savannah where she was repaired and taken into the U. S. service. An uncertainty remains as to how the ship was lost. While returning home in July 1815 carrying a copy of the treaty she disappeared after passing the Straits of Gibraltar. Accounts circulated widely in American newspapers, however, that she was sunk by the British.


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