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Brother Against Brother
A century ago this month began the war that set These unpublished letters show how one family was bitterly split
April 1961 | Volume 12, Issue 3
Boston, May 6, 1861 My dear Brother: I have just received yours of the ycA and hasten to reply to it. Your letter exhibits so much feeling that I begin to feel as if I had done some terrible thing. Why, Jabez, as “Old Abe” said “there is nobody hurt”; don’t make yourself unhappy. 8 The publication of the extract of your letter was wholly without thought or premeditation. I had no design to injure you and I had no thought till this moment that I had done so. The facts are these: At the time that I received that letter there had been no mail or telegraphic communication for several days from Baltimore, and there was the utmost anxiety felt to hear from Baltimore. On the way from the office with your letter in my hand I stopped at the Journal to buy an “extra”; one of the reporters (a friend) met me and asked, “Have you heard from your brother?” “Yes” I replied, “I have this moment received a letter.” “What does he say?” he asked. I replied, “Read it for yourself.” He did so and then remarked that he should like to print an extract from it. After a moment’s hesitation I assented, the names to be suppressed; and I had not the most remote or distant idea of doing you an injury. On the contrary, I thought you would feel complimented in being considered an exponent of public sentiment in Baltimore. The letter has done you no harm and if you should come here today the worst that would happen would be a few harmless jokes cracked at your expense. I have heard no hard things said about you; the few who know the author think you are “plucky” and our troops would prefer to meet a regiment of Southerners than a company of Yankees; all the genuine pluck there is at the South has been transplanted from the North. I hope, Jabez, you will consider this explanation as satisfactory. I am sorry, very sorry, if I hurt your feelings; if I did it was an error of judgment and not of the heart, and as to your publishing my letters, you are welcome to print every line I have written you in every paper in Baltimore. I send you the extract from your letter as printed. I might send you mine if I had it at hand. However, I only printed that part having reference to the war; all that of a personal nature was left out. As to the war, you know my sentiments. Seward’s instructions to the French minister is the doctrine of the North and West. The rebellion is to be put down, crushed out , and it will be done ; there is to be one Republic and one only and the dictates of true humanity are that the war should be prosecuted with all the vigor and energy possible. As to the Christianlike spirit of the South—I have no wish to discuss that. The names of Fort Sumter as they scorched the seventy heroes within its walls instead of appealing to human beings to stay the slaughter, appealed to fiends who revelled in the carnage and the shot of the artillery poured in as the flames rose higher. Read Major Anderson’s account of the mercy of Southern soldiers. Is privateering a Christianlike occupation? If it is there will be a few good Christians less if our steamers catch them. Hundreds of letters like yours have been printed in Baltimore, and the reporters of several of the papers have been after me to get letters from you to print, which I have declined. I did think of giving them that which contained the account of your interview with the President but did not do so. You say a great many harsh things in your letter which I will not reply to, for I have no doubt you were under as great a state of excitement when you wrote this letter as when you wrote your first, and you will regret what you say in the last as you have in the first case—“dishonor,” “private treachery,” “heart of confidence”—hard words, but they don’t apply in the present case. Your letter had reference to what was public in Baltimore. You gave me the public sentiment. There was nothing private about it and you are needlessly excited in this matter. As to bringing down upon your head “particular vengeance” in heaven’s name tell me who has any vengeance in store for you? Where? How? I don’t understand you. There is no vengeance in Boston for you, I can assure you of that, but as I said before there may be a little fun at your expense in the way of a joke . It can’t be in Baltimore , for great as the reaction there I don’t suppose the time has come when sentiments such as were contained in your first letter would hurt anybody for uttering them. Where is the “particular vengeance” coming from? It shant come. It won’t come, anyhow. I will put on my Ancient and Honorable uniform 9 and with my musket and sword will defend you against all vengeance, both “particular” and general, here, in Baltimore or anywhere else. The blood of the Pratts is up and woe be to whoever stands in the way. Now, Jabez, there is no use in getting mad or in keeping mad. Act like a sensible man and don’t make such a great fuss over such a small matter. I expect you and I will make our names immortal before this contest ends, and it won’t do to stop at such trifles as this. Give my love to Lucy and all, and “through evil and good report,” believe me, I am Affectionately J. C. P.