|Closeup of 1827 Finley map of Mississippi. Click for larger image|
My dearest Sister,
On my return from an absence of six days from this place, I just now received your letter of the 16th Feb: I am indeed grieved that you have all been so severely visited with affliction; and I cannot avoid feeling serious alarm at Charles's situation. My last intelligence from home had left me satisfied that his disease was quite vanished; and what you tell me is unexpected and distressing. I hope, however, that as the indications of the presence of gout are stronger than formerly, it will soon appear decidedly & in earnest, and make every thing safe.
I sympathise most warmly with you all in the visitations which have been heaped upon you, and lament that I can not yet be among you to do what I could in alleviating them and to
Sister Lizzie has really had a severe illness -- but as the worst is over, I know that in your care she will soon be well. You and my sweet cousin have certainly borne the requisitions upon your arrival very well; and you must have sunk down under them if you had not been quite indefatigable in kindness.
I cannot say yet with certainty when I shall take the road homeward -- I think not later than the 15th; and if I am fortunate, twenty days will find me among you. On my arrival here, I learnt that Mr. Davis, without whom I could do nothing, was gone into the interior; and I appropriated a week of vacant time to a trip to New Orleans, out of mere curiosity -- an idle one, perhaps you think it -- have it so if you please; but it afforded me much gratification. A letter does not afford room for me to detail to you all that amused & entertained me; and it will be much more agreeable to talk over such things then to spin out an arm's length letter about them, especially as it will certainly not be long after this reaches before I will present my phiz to you, and again make one of our dear family circle.
Since my return to Natchez, I have been engaged principally in going thro' the country hunting up property to lay my hands on. In the meantime Mr. Davis is preparing to make an exhibit of the business here; and then, when I have made one or two more hunting excursions, I shall turn my face towards the spot to which my heart is so strongly attached.
I am sincerely sorry for the poor Doctor. You are mistaken in supposing him to be a man of 'cold nature.' He is quite the opposite -- his temper and feelings are quick and strong; and I can well believe that such a blow inflicts 'deep anguish' upon him.
I have not seen my father's friend, P. Randolph, nor do I expect to meet with him. He lives forty miles from Natchez. I was yesterday within three or four miles of his house, and would have gone to it if I could have done so at night -- but it was in the forenoon, & I could not spare the day.
I met with Bolling Robertson in N. Orleans -- he received me with much kindness & cordiality -- and desires to be remembered to my father in the warmest manner. Tell the General's family, that I saw Col: Isaac Preston frequently -- he is in fine health, & sends them the usual quantity of good wishes and kind remembrances.
I am pleased that Charles has consented to go into the country -- he s right; it is an arrangement that will conduce, I am sure, to his comfort, and to my father's gratification.
Give my most affectionate love to my brothers & sisters, and to your dear cousin of mine, not forgetting the little folks, whom I beg you to kiss for me -- And believe me, my dear sister, with the warmest affection
P. C. Johnston
[Peter Carr Johnston (1793-1877)
Louisa Smith Bowen Johnston (1800-1873)
Charles = Charles Clement Johnston (1795-1832)
Lizzie = Eliza Madison Preston Johnston (1803-1828), daughter of John Preston (1764-1827) and Mary Winston Radford Preston (1781-1810)
Mr. Davis = most probably Joseph Emory Davis (1784-1870), who had three "natural" daughters by that time and would marry 16-year old Eliza Van Benthuysen (1811-1864) on October 4, 1827; he and Peter both had brothers attending the United States Military Academy at West Point at the time: Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) and Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1807-1891), Class of 1828 and Class of 1829, respectively. Joseph Emory Davis moved from Natchez to develop the "Hurricane" Plantation in Warren County, Mississippi, by the end of 1827.
P. Randolph = Judge Peter Randolph (1779-1832), Woodville, Mississippi
Bolling Robertson = Judge Thomas Bolling Robertson (1779-1828), former Attorney General and Governor of Louisiana.
The General = Francis Smith Preston (1765-1836), married to Sally Buchanan Campbell (1778-1846)
Col: Isaac Preston = Isaac Trimble Preston (1793-1852), a "natural" son of Francis Preston. Lived in New Orleans and was Attorney General of Louisiana at the time of Peter's visit.
My father = Peter Johnston, Jr. (1763-1831)]
For their help and assistance, many thanks to the staff of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. For more information about the John Warfield Johnston Papers, here's a link to the guide.
[Many thanks to William Myers, Mary Davy and Sally Young for their ongoing research collaboration.]