• Civil War Takes Toll on Boston Economy; July 4th, 1861, Fires Destroy Many Buildings, Homes and Ships in Boston

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    A number of fires struck the city of Boston on July 4, 1861, just three months after  the Civil War began. The New York Times reported that a fire broke out in East Boston, near the shipyards, consuming wharves, warehouses mills and nearly one hundred dwellings.  Brigs and schooners were destroyed as well.   Damage estimates ranged from $150,000 to $200,000. Another fire on Albany Street destroyed twenty buildings at a loss of $500,000. A third fire broke out on Hudson Street, destroying twelve three-story homes.   The Times didn’t report a cause, but the residents and businesses felt the losses. (Times story included)

    They also felt the impact the Civil War had begun to have as illustrated by the writer of the 3 page letter offered here.  A.D. Kilham, writing to his brother from Boston, on July 9, 1861, just five days after the fire laments that the economy has suffered immensely.  Spelling and punctuation corrected for clarity.

    “I now take pen to write you a few lines, thinking perhaps you would like to hear from me. We are all well and hope you are the same. Business is very dull. There is nothing that anybody can get to do. I am out of work. They have stopped all together and turned seventy men out of work, so I think that you farmers are the best of hope that you have got a lot of corn and potatoes planted. If you have, you are all right for another winter, but we city fellows it looks dark, it is all war here now it is rather exciting times here in Boston. Henry or Charles Littlefield has got back from New York to stop a while this summer Henry wants to go to war but his father won’t let him. I guess that he wants to go pretty bad. If you want any carpenter work done just get the lumber and I will come down and do all the work you want. You need not pay me any money only give me my board while I am doing the work. I would like to have you write me. Let me know what you think of the plan. I suppose you have heard of the great fires that we had up here on the forth. It burnt fifteen houses not but a few steps from where we live in and East Boston its burned out two hundred families and burnt quite a number of ships. It is very hot and dry here now. When you write me please tell me where Mrs. Hatch is stopping now. If you see Salter folks tell them that we are all well but not in very good spirits…”

    Folds, toning, but in excellent condition and a wonderful first-hand account of  the Boston fires and the economic impact the Civil War began having just a few months after it began.

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