Search using this query type:

Advanced Search (Items only)

Letter of Nathan H. Street, Peter G. Evan, John N. Washington to John W. Ellis, January 9, 1859


Letter of Nathan H. Street, Peter G. Evan, John N. Washington to John W. Ellis, January 9, 1859


This letter was written by three citizens of New Bern, North Carolina, about the sentiment between North Carolinians and Virginia. One of the authors, Nathan Street, was a member of the House of Commons from Craven County and a member of State Senate. The letter details a very close relationship, where they express North Carolina and Virginia should react in a similar manner to an event, even if it occurs in Virginia. The authors warn of the impending dangers and the need for military preparation. They continue to discuss the close relationship between Virginia, south Carolina and North Carolina. This letter, written almost 10 months before John Brown's raid, show early support for Virginia in North Carolina, specifically New Bern.


Noble Tolbert


Nathan H. Street, Peter G. Evan,  John N. Washington to John W. Ellis, New Bern, January 9, 1859, ed. Noble Tolbert, in The Papers of John W. Ellis Volume 2, (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1964), 345-348.




Hammond, Andrew




New Bern

Original Format



At a mass meeting of the citizens of Craven County, held at
the Court House in New Berne on Thursday, the 15th ulto, a
committee of five were appointed to "bring to the attention of
your Excellency the condition of the 'Depot of Public Arms* at
this place, and also to request your aid in obtaining for the State,
her full quota of all arms of the latest and best improvements;
and to ascertain from you, if the companies proposed to oe
formed, can be secure of being supplied with all proper arms
from the State's quota."
From causes unnecessary to be here detailed, the committee
found it impossible to act upon the resolution; and were consequently unable to report the desired information to an adjourned meeting of the citizens held in this place on the 5th instant. In the meantime, the letter of your Excellency of the 23thd ulto, to W. H. Abernathy Esqr of Lincolnton and your Excellency's correspondence with the War Department of the General Government, have placed us in possession of all the information sought for, or contemplated by the resolution.
This information however, disclosed such a woful state of
unpreparedness, for the emergencies which may at any time, be precipitated upon us, that, it was deemed necessary, by the
meeting on the 5th to appoint a new committee to correspond
with your Excellency upon the present condition of the State
defenses; and to take counsel as to the best means of placing
them upon a footing demanded alike by prudence and honor not to say, imperitive necessity. The discharge of that duty,
committed to the undersigned, will, we trust, furnish a sufficient
excuse for the liberty we take of troubling you with the present
We are gratified to perceive, from the correspondence refered
to, that your Excellency seems fully alive to the responsibilities
entailed upon us as a state, in whatever contingency may
threaten the safety or permanency of the institutions of the
South. That those may arise, and that speedily some such contingency,
it is useless to deny or strive any longer to conceal.
Even the most careless observer of the signs of the times, must
be aware that danger not only threatens us, but is imminent.
What then does wisdom suggest as most expedient to be done,
and done at once ? It seems to us that even the most prudent and
cautious cannot fail to answer "to put the State in a condition to
meet and sustain with honor and safety, any position she may
find it necessary to assume in the progress of events." To do
this, many things are necessary—money, arms, munitions of
war, arsenals, a thorough reorganization of the militia &c. &c.
To furnish all which in the best, speediest and most economical
manner, requiring grave deliberation and authoritative and
united action—to be found effectively perhaps, only in Acts of the
General Assembly of the State. In other words, Sir, we humbly
conceive that a special meeting of the Legislature at an early
day, is imperatively demanded by the present situation of the
affairs of the whole country. All the necessities of our position, as one of the slave holding states, render it indispensihle.
Action has become general in nearly all of the other Southern
states. Our immediate sisters Virginia and South Carolina, are
earnestly engaged in the work of preparation, and are already
far, very far in advance of us.
It is useless to say that we hope and pray, (as we know every
patriot does earnestly) that the occasion may never be forced
upon us, to take up arms in defense of our homes and our institutions;
especially against our sisters in this great and once
glorious confederation of States. Nevertheless, however to be
deplored and warned against to the last plank of hope, this
calamity may be in reserve for us. And every dictate of selfpreservation
warns us to strive to be prepared for it.
Our geographical position will not permit us in this or any
contest involving the South, to be neutral or indifferent, even if we were craven enough to desire it. Whenever Virginia and
South Carolina act, North Carolina must take her part. It will
not do to say that, we think that the time has not yet arrived.
The time for such thoughts will then have past—and action,
stern, vigorous action for life or death, for independence or
lasting subjection, will be fully sufficient to occupy all our time,
and all our thoughts. And woe betide us, if that time shall come
and find us in our present defenseless state.
Admitting the helpless situation in which our good old state
now finds herself, and the indispensible necessity of a radical
and complete change, there are yet those who say there is no
occasion for hurry. Wait (say they) until the regular time for
the meeting of the next Legislature, and then, apply whatever
remedies may be thought to be necessary. In our humble opinion,
such a delay may be fatal—and certainly will be, if the evils of
which we are now apprehensive, should really come upon us.
This year, money, arms, all the muniments of war, may be obtained
on easy terms. Another year, or possibly, the latter part
of the present, it may be impossible for us to obtain either money
or arms upon any terms! But further; to place North Carolina
in the position which her safety and honor now demand, is not
the work of a day, nor a month. It must be the result of much
time and of patient, earnest work. The Legislature of North
Carolina, though indispensible to commence, to carry on, and
to complete it, are yet not possessed of magical powers. There
is something more to be done besides enacting the necessary laws.
If therefore, there are potents which augur the possibility,
that a fearful alternative may soon be forced upon us; and if,
(as is universally admitted) it is necessary for us to be prepared
for it when it does come, what does wisdom dictate, what even
common prudence, but to seize the only time that is positively
our own, and use it to the very best advantage?
But, let it be admitted Sir (which may God grant!) that we
may never be called on to use the defenses which we now so
strenuously urge, the State will have gained by them infinitely
more than the mere time, labor and money expended, in the
security which her strong condition would afford to her property
and her institutions, and in the position which it would give her
among her sisters in this confederacy.
Permit us therefore, to press upon your Excellency the propriety—let us use, a stronger and a more fitting word—the
necessity, of invoking to your aid at an early day, the Legislative
power of the State.


Copy the code below into your web page




Noble Tolbert , Letter of Nathan H. Street, Peter G. Evan, John N. Washington to John W. Ellis, January 9, 1859, Civil War Era NC, accessed June 16, 2024,