• Post Civil War Tension: Soldiers' Brawl Leaves Ceiling Looking Like a Whore House

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    During the Reconstruction period in the decade or so following the Civil War, the conflict between the North and South continued to exist but in a somewhat different way. Some wanted the South punished for seceding yet many wanted to see it rebuilt. Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's successor, was impeached, but not convicted, for being too lenient with the South. The Radical Republicans took power in Congress and forced through the 14th and 15th amendments to provide Civil Rights and Voting Rights to former slaves. Many blacks were elected to office in the South, something that was enormously unpopular with Southern whites. Liberal northern publications remained hostile toward Reconstruction. They felt the election of blacks put uneducated people in office. Reconstruction also brought the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and other white vigilante groups.

    Peter Peugh was in Washington, D.C., as part of Reconstruction just months after the war ended. In this 4 pp, 8" x 10", ALS, written on December 10, 1865, Peugh writes a highly detailed letter to his friend Ira explaining that Col. Lee is upset with him and others for cheating him out of his stores and how he and his friends engaged in a rough housing episode that resulted in a kettle of tea, bottles and coal pails being thrown creating several injuries. One person was choked and another went for his pistol and knife. The ceiling looked like a hore [whore] house in distress.

    This letter is a wonderful example of activities involving soldiers in Reconstruction America and occurring in the city where heated debates and political infighting led to the first impeachment of an American President.

    "...I have been very busy receiving Stores at Alexandria. You know that Col. Lee is so [?] about us cheating him that he asked the general to send clerks down to receive the stores there. Me and T. Champlis and Pickel go down in an old Ambulance every morning. You can bet it is not pleasant to get up so early while the ground is white with frost but it will soon be over. We shall be through in three days more. Well now with our permission I will try to tell you some fun. The other day we brought up some oysters with us and as it so happened, Davie and Mobley and some others came over to play some music in a room below, the one we use for a reception hall (ours being the 2nd storie) after they had played a while I went down and invited them up to ours. They came and in the meantime Springer Jessie and John (Demajohn) came in the room below but they soon came up to partake and...Brought John and introduced the gentleman we then had a dance but Springer would have me to dance one set with him nothing but my consent seemed suitable. Well I went but was my first on the flore [sic] you would have laughed your sides sore to see me it was like a toad in a thunder shower. Well the dance went off well enough but John made the boys feel loose and careless. The next program was the oysters and by that time Whital and Holt was How come you so, they got Holt down to his room but he was like a crazy man all night they had to have two watchmen to hold him all night. But to wind up I am ahead of my storey [sic]. After the oysters then came the cleaning up but of all the falling down stairs of things that might beat all they commenced by throwing a kettle of Bonesett Tea through the window. It belonged to Barnett. It was a poor way to doctor but it had to go. Then came bottles, coal pails and other loose things...Somebody hit Holt on the head with a bottle. Then Springer went down to try to still Holt but Whital pitched on and E.R. choaked [sic] the gentleman then went up to get his pistol and knife but they were taken away from him.

    "Hawkins is Supt. of Watchmen and mess houses. He was at the grand affair and at one time started to take Whital to the guard house. But the windows sealing look a little like a Hore Hous [sic] in distress. Well Holt looked pretty well banged up in the morning. He has not got over it yet -- some cuts and scratches are yet to be seen. Hughs is in charge of the Medical Department with Holt & Whital as Assistants. So you see the thing has strength enough to run. Hughs has his family inside the Enclosure...Pickel has returned and looks well. Barnett is still coughing. You would hardly know him he is so much changed he is falling away every day. All the rest of the boys are well and sends their love and well wishes to you and wants to know if Ira has got married to some fair one. They all say it would do you good but I don't know what kind of Doctors they are. Springer is out seeing his girl. I supposed you know whom I refer to. She lives in the country. Ira I want to ask a favor of you. When you write to E.R. drop a few good words for me for I want to stick out this winter with the government departments. Then I shall be better prepared to face the storm but please do it in a way that he will not know that I have asked it of you for he always wants to see your letters and a great many times enquires after you and says it is a pity that Ira don't get some good little woman...

    "Your ever well-wisher and happy to be your friend Peter Peugh."

    Folds. Toning. Creative spelling. Punctuation added in transcription for clarity. One fold tear reinforced with archival tape.

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