This letter was written by Harrison Ball Tomlin (1815-1896) of Clifton Plantation, Hanover County, Virginia. Tomlin was the son of John Walker Tomlin (1765-1815) and Margaret Williamson Ball (1778-1819). During the Civil War, Tomlin served as Colonel of the 53d Virginia in the Third Brigade commanded by Gen. Lew Armistead, of Gettysburg fame.
Tomlin wrote the letter to Dr. Cary C. Cocke (1814-1888), the son of General John Hartwell Cocke (1780-1866) and Anne Blaws Barraud (1784-1816). General Cocke moved to Fluvanna County in 1803 where he purchased large tracts of land that were inherited by his son, Dr. Cocke. It is said that General Cocke and his heirs owned 1,000 slaves and 14,000 acres of land in Virginia as well as other states.
Doctor Cocke married Lucy Williamson Oliver (1816-1899) in May 1839. In 1861, Cocke and John J. Ancell organized Cocke’s-Ancell’s Battery [also called 2nd Fluvanna Artillery] in the Confederate Service. In November, 1862, it merged with Holman’s-Huckstep’s Battery to form the Fluvanna Light Artillery.
Addressed to Dr. Carey C. Cocke, 7 Islands, Fluvanna County [Virginia]
Old Church, Hanover County, Virginia
May 10, 1846
My Dear Charles,
On several occasions of late, it has been no less my good fortune than pleasure to meet with at dinner Mr. [George A.] Porter, our Consul General at Constantinople — the nephew of Commodore [David] Porter — the formal Consul of that place in whom I found a most agreeable and entertaining companion and from whom I learned more of the customs, manners, and religion of that country than I had before dreamed of. [He is] very reserved at first, but when drawn out, is exceedingly communicative and instructive, possessed with all of a great fund of good humor and anecdote and which you will no less do so when it shall be my good pleasure to relate some of them to you for they are altogether Turkish and of Parisian style. So much did I enjoy them as was apparent to him that our reserve was in our first interview quickly thrown off and a familiarity gotten up that to strangers would have appeared to be the result of years of intimacy. So great was the effect produced upon his audience in the portico at my neighbors Captain D____’s while relating one of the mysteries of Paris that the ladies in the parlor sent for me to know the cause of such great merriment and so nigh akin was the story to the treat given by the ____ that I was obliged as I was on the occasion when I first heard the latter and was begged by the Port Royal girls at Carter family wedding to tell it to them — that I was compelled on this as on that occasion to refer them to Mr. Porter as I had in the other to Alfred Chapman. Of course we all declined for fear it would spread from the one to the other till the whole family of girls would be in possession of good tales.
During one of our conversations, the subject of horses was introduced and some one mentioning Shaheen said his body and rump were perfect, his head good but large, his eye unobjectionable, but his legs and hoofs were bad. When Porter replied that he felt himself called upon in justice to the horse and as he was the one who purchased him to give the reasons for the bad appearance of his legs, he said a Turk of some standing brought several arabian horses into Constantinople of the purest blood which he had with the greatest care selected and with no less trouble and cost obtained. And that Shaheen was the colt of the favorite man and horse, that he was the pride of his owner and the admiration of Constantinople and often affirmed that money could not induce him to part with this horse. Mr. [Dabney F.] Carr, one of the sub consuls under him, knowing he was a general favorite with the Turks and aware of the partiality of this particular individual Turk — for Porter applied to him to intercede and purchase for him this horse — after the agreeing to which the Turk upon the first application made by Porter declined parting with him upon any consideration and it was not till after some six months smoking and taking coffee with him could he be induced to let him have him as the greatest favor.
At this time, Carr contemplated returning to the United States to remain but after changing this determination communicated the fact to Porter who who shortly after receiving a letter from Boulware to purchase him a pure Arabian Stud handed it to Carr who agreed to let [William] Boulware [have] him as it was not desirable to own a stud in Albemarle while he was residing in Constantinople, and in this way he says Boulware was so fortunate as to get him. He is 9 years old and a beautiful bay. His legs Porter says were as good as any other part of him when purchased, and their present bad appearance arises from his standing in a box with three quarters of an inch play only on either side for thirty days without laying down or moving in the voyage from Constantinople to some port in England, and thence a very long voyage to America with contrary winds. This is enough, if true, and he may be relied on, and declares there is no purer blood known.
I fear I cannot get you a hand bill as you desire but shall see the [horse’s] groom at the old church tomorrow. If he has one, will send it to you. But Billy Macon says there is only one deed that is written upon gauze in a language that he does not understand and when read is no better explained but it traces him back to the first horse. Any additional information I can get tomorrow I will send through. This is the best and the most desirable. I regret the cause, whatever it may have been that prevented my replying immediately as you wished but it so happened that though your letter was dated both by yourself and post marked about the 25th of April, I received not until last Tuesday night and answered it by this, the first mail or opportunity since its reception. If you determine to send either your mare or Father’s, or both, I should be glad if you could send them to my house where they shall be properly cared for and sent regularly to the horse or make him call by for he passes by my gate on his way from one stand to another. I must reserve the balance of my space for any additional information I may acquire from the groom who will be at the church tomorrow.
Monday morning. Old Church. This was written after late bed time last night and I am afraid you will hardly understand it as I can not read it over even to see if I can myself. I have seen the translation from Arabic as well as the original since getting here and understand no more of the one than the other. Not being any printed copies, I send to Boulware by his groom to copy one himself for me by this day week which I will send you as soon as I receive it.
Some time next week I shall write to you when I hope to have more room to tell of things more agreeable to write of, giving my love to Lucy and all and many kisses to our dear little one.
In the greatest haste for a waiting mail. Your loving — H. B. Tomlin