Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Letters to Former Masters - Edmund Delaney, Part II

As promised in the last post, here is the second letter Edmund Delaney sent to his former owner Harvey Graves. It came less than two months from his first letter, and interestingly, it further illuminates the intriguing relationship between a former enslaved individual and the man who owned him.

In his first letter Delaney indicated he was somewhat disappointed that no one from home had written to him since he enlisted. At that point it would have been almost two years without word from those back in Scott County. Still, in that first letter, Delaney's seemingly genuine care and respect for his former master comes through.  

Delaney's letters are well written.  The spelling is very good and the use of punctuation is probably better than the majority of soldiers' letters (whether black or white) that I have read. It makes me wonder if Graves educated Delaney or at least allowed him to be educated, or if Delaney had the letter written for him by someone in camp. Or, perhaps, Delaney used part of his time in the army to become educated.

"Brownsville, Texas
Aug. 9th 1866.

Mr. Harvey Graves,
Dear Sir:

Yours of July 23d was rec'd yesterday, & I was very glad to hear from you. My health is pretty good generally, though I have been a little unwell for a few days. On the whole, I am getting along well. I am always glad to hear from you or any of the rest of my friends: a letter always renews my spirit. My respect to Mr. & Mrs. Berkley, & his son John: I wish he would send me John's likeness: - My regards also to Mr. & Mrs. Kenny & family; & tell them all I was sorry to hear that Mrs. K, is in such poor health. My respects to my father in law & his wife, & tell them to write to me soon. My repects to Leeven & his family: The same to Mr. Hamilton & his family:- tell all my friends that I would be glad to see them & to hear from them: but, somehow most of them seem to be very much afraid of their pens & ink. Campbell Nutter is well, & sends his love to all his folks and friends. The time is passing rapidly away, & I shall be home, if I live, in about fifteen months at the farthest.

Please write often, & let me know how things go in Kentucky.

I hope to see the old place once more. My respect to all inquiring friends.

Yours Respectfully,
Ed. Delaney"

I cannot help but wonder if the people Delaney mentions in his letter are black or white. I assume that Delaney's father and mother in law are African American, but are Mr. & Mrs. Berkley and their son John, Mr. & Mrs. Kenny, Leevan and his family, and Mr. Hamilton and his family other African Americans on the Graves farm or neighboring farms, or are they neighboring whites? Delaney wishes for John Berkley's "likeness," meaning his photograph. Was John Berkley a fellow black soldier in a different regiment, or was he a white soldier?  Was John Berkley even a soldier? I assume that since Delaney mentions that Campbell Nutter is "well," that apparently means that Nutter is in Delaney's regiment and that Graves is familiar with the man.

Delaney's closing two sentences about wanting to "know how things go in Kentucky," and his "hope to see the old place once more," seems to say a lot about how he feels about Graves and his fondness for home, family, and friends.

As often is the case, questions just naturally come with sources like these. But regardless of what we don't know about Delaney's friends and family these letters do show just how diverse relationships between former slaves and their masters could truly be.    

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