This letter seems to have been written by an English merchant named Ned Nender who wrote it from “Fernandasso” on the Mellicouri river in western coastal Africa. From the letter we learn that the author was merchant in the hat trade.
The letter was addressed to Edward Dearborn Kimball (1810-1867), the son of Nathaniel Kimball (1779-1821) and Sarah Knight (1779-1849) of Rockingham county, New Hampshire. At the time of this 1862 letter, Edward had a temporary residence at 2010 Walnut Street where he worked as an accountant/secretary in a merchant firm with his brother Nathaniel. 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.
Most likely this letter pertains to the suspension of trade activities between the author and Kimball’s firm due to the American Civil War and the blockade that was placed on the southern ports.
Fernandasso, Mellicourie [River]
February 18, 1862
My dear Major,
I was very pleased to get your letter dated the 6th January as I began to think you did not intend to write again. I am glad to find that you and your family are in good health and that you have made up your mind now to settle in Philadelphia during the cold season.
As regards business matters and all you say respecting them, I quite agree with you. Therefore, it is useless to open the subject further. It now only remains for me to close up the old affairs satisfactorily. I shall close the Brigs 1st voyage by the “Orlando” and the [ ] due on “Orlando’s” 1st voyage on which of course I am bound to pay interest. I shall use my utmost endeavors to close by the next vessel. Until this is done, you will not see me. I am certainly very desirous to see you all again and I hope I shall be able to get away in July next.
As to a war with our country, I don’t know what to say. I am afraid your people are rather inclined for it, but what a dreadful thing it would be, next thing to a Civil War and once commenced, God only knows where and when it would end. I hope the thinking, reasonable people in your country as well as mine will use their influence to prevent such a calamity. I enclose a printed speech of our Dr. [William Ewart] Gladstone‘s on this subject, the tone of which you only take as the universal feeling in England. ¹
I am afraid the blockade question will give rise to hard feelings, but I hope France and not ourselves will be the hands in this matter. I am writing under difficulties as I have a number of dark party about me begging. I will come and pay them for their groundinets [grasscloth], so you must excuse this short letter. I am glad the pony got over his illness. I would have sent a letter but could not at that time find one. He is scarcely high enough for Mrs. Kimball to ride. I shall no doubt pick up a good one soon.
Pray give my kind regards to your good wife. Miss [Balinda] Brown, Master Frank, and any of my friends who may ask about me. I am pushing ahead in the hat trade ² and expect a good profitable season, but I have given over being sanguine as to anything in this world. At all events, nothing is certain. Good bye. God bless you all and war or no war, I shall do my best to see you all again soon.
Believe me, my dear Major, yours faithfully, — Ned Nender
[to] E. D. Kimball
¹ I am not certain I have found the speech herein referred to. It was until October 1862 that Gladstone made the speech supporting the Confederate States of America. Gladstone himself apparently had no serious objection to the slave trade.
² I presume the author was in West Africa purchasing grasscloth that was used to make straw hats.