These three letters were written by Edward D. Kimball (1810-1867) to his brother, Nathaniel A. Kimball (1822-1862). They were the sons of Nathaniel Kimball (1779-1821) and Sarah Knight (1779-1849) of Rockingham county, New Hampshire. Both brothers lived in Salem, Essex county, Massachusetts, but Edward wrote these letters from Philadelphia, where he had a temporary residence in 1862 at 2010 Walnut Street. Edward was an import merchant and Nathaniel worked as an accountant/secretary in the firm.
A great deal of information about the Kimball family can be found in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. From a summary of that collection, we learn that Edward and Nathaniel, along with another brother named Elbridge Gerry Kimball (1816-1849) traded extensively with the west coast of Africa, the East Indies, Pacific Islands, South America, and Asia.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
February 3d 1862
My Dear Brother Nat,
Enclosed I hand you Messrs. Baring, Brothers, & Co. [of London] yearly account & interest account up to December 31, 1861 showing a balance to Cr. as cash that day ƒ213.19.8 which I presume is like his former yearly account correct, & in anticipation of such being the fact, I herewith hand you my acknowledgment to them of the account & its correctness, whenever you feel like looking at the books if correct, please have the letter to them mailed, although no occasion for it, perhaps at the same time it shows courtesy to acknowledge. I have a copy of the enclosed letter to them.
It rains or snows all the time here which keeps me in the house. Have had but three fair days for the last 25. I take cold & have some of my old-fashioned sneezing spells, but somehow the colds don’t stick to me here down east. Those winds that come from the Grand Banks froze me clean through and there was no thawing out short of a fit of sickness. I have had a serious trouble which has grown upon and weakened me for several winters & I have recently placed myself in charge of Doct. Berens. In fact, my object in coming was for that purpose. He says the trouble is on my liver and kidneys and will grow worse until I do something for it. Says it is the great cause of my taking cold so often & easy. Doct. Floto has repeatedly said your liver & kidneys are sick but at same time he could not give me any permanent help. Perhaps Berens can’t but he says he can. Time will show. I should like to be able to look out of doors in a damp day and not take cold but have not much faith that I ever shall. I am almost too old now to eradicate this strong tendency to colds that has hung to me so long. I have been housed so long during this stormy weather that I am becoming quite effeminate.
I notice a heavy rise in South American hides & think it must reach heavy Nunez [?]. All that is wanted to make hides command the old price of 40 c is the opening of Southern trade. If when the Orlando & Brig get in there is any prospect of such a thing, the cargoes would bring a large sum of money.
Capt. Chas. wrote me today for some $1300 for his mos. payment & I shall send him a check and note to sign. I will tell you now about it.
What do you think of John Bull’s [England’s] brass now-a-days? Lord John Russell must have a good share of that metal to write Mr. Seward that his countrymen can’t allow the Americans such a barbarous way of blockading their own ports as sinking old ships. Wish Mr. Seward would ask him if their Government have done firing human beings from their cannon’s mouth in India yet just for a pastime. And while he is asking, he might as well enquire how the English National Stove trade prospers. Perhaps when the Coolies begin to get scarce, they may make war on another unoffending nation & open up another Slave Mart.
The English papers have just found out that the Southern Slave is far better off than a cold gent in the free states. Oh what inconsistencies but a retributive cluster will overtake & punish such a false hearted overbearing, wicked power.
Please give much love to Serena & believe me your affectionate brother, — Edward
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
February 20, 1862
My dear Brother Nat,
I have just nothing to say that is new but still being here with nothing to do to kill time thought you might like a few lines. My health is better than when I last wrote. Have been out a little while today—the first for between two and three weeks—& if I do not take cold & can follow it up, I shall shortly be able to go on to Salem. If I was in Danvers or Salem which I should have half a dozen people in daily to talk over the affairs of State and War, I should not mind being housed so much. But it is rather still here for a housed man but I am perfectly satisfied & contented to stay in. I really think the medicine I am taking will permanently help me and I have got to like being left by myself & really did not care to go out today.
I have a few gentlemen acquaintances here who have called to see me since I have been confined. Ine has just left after sitting an hour and a half. There seems to be great news almost daily in army movements & it looks now as if the Federal Government meant to prove the means & the will to end this war—particularly as the European Powers for some reasons seem to favor this just at this time. What do you think of U. S. Bonds due 1881 at 90 c. This government can’t repudiate & why should not their stock bring a premium. It will be worth 10 p. c. premium in 3 years in my opinion. You look much more closely after the stock market than I do & I would like your opinion. I am buying some of the 1881 Bonds which are cheaper than the 7 3/10.
My family are very well. Have never seen the boys half so hearty before. With love to all, I remain.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
March 3, 1862
My Dear Brother Nat,
I received a letter from you day before yesterday and was glad to hear from your good self. Mr. Miller arrived here day before yesterday at 11 a. m. and remains & from present appearances is like to remain as it is a regular rain storm wind east. Have not had such a rain since I came here. Owing to the secret order in telegraphing we have no news from army movements and I for one am rejoiced. I want to see the war carried on by the Army & not the sensation newspapers. It is high time stringent measures were adopted.
With no news from the Army, stocks will fall a little. Have bought none since I last wrote you. Have orders in New York but below present market prices. I wanted to have gone out & shown Mr. Miller around town but the weather prevents. My health is improving slowly but don’t dare go out in dull weather. I sent my man down to the [post] office & he has just come in & brings letter from you to Belinda. We are always glad to get letters from you.
I can hardly realize that Salem has had two feet of snow, sleighing and cold weather, We have had no winter here yet or none that I call winter. We have had a few inches of snow two or three times & the glass at 16 above on two different days—last Friday being one of them which were the coldest days of the winter. My boys have been well all winter until four days ago, both of them since then have had awful colds & suppose it must have its run.
I am sorry to learn that General Landis is dead. I think he was largely endowed with the dare devil spirit—a quality much needed just at this time on and near the upper Potomac. I notice that Banks’ Division is safely over the Potomac & understand that great activity prevails all along our lines portending some early movement.
I also notice that Columbus [Kentucky] is being evacuated by the Rebels. If they can’t hold that place, they can’t hold any other. They seem to be panic-stricken and flee when no more pursueth. It seems to be a difficult thing to make a stand long enough to sacrifice the first one in the ditch, let along the last. The game of Bray is most played out. The surrender at Donelson was a weak, cowardly, disgraceful thing for an army that had pledged themselves to fight while a man was left. If the fort was not terrible, they should have cut their way through our lines in a body if it had cost them half of their army to have done so. It is difficult now for them to make a stand. Their soldiers must lose all confidence in their leaders. The way of the Transgressor is hard and a wrong cause makes cowards of brave men.
Mr. Miller has taken an umbrella & gone down to the Hotel to kill time. I would like to have him stay away from Salem until this tax bill is made public which I suppose will be in a few days. If the duty on hides is increased at all & we happen in the meantime to get good army news, it will pay well for staying away in the rise of hides.
I tell Mr. Miller that the stock of American goods at Sierra Leone will be very small & must command large prices this spring and no time should be lost in fitting the vessel away again. The fact is, I have always said it is a perfectly safe trade. Don’t buy any New England now. My order was before the great fire. It is worth much less now.
Your brother, — Edward