Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia

Union or Secession
  • "The whole of our state will be conquered"
  • "The whole of our state will be conquered"
On December 31, 1860, Bettie Banks Anthony McDermed wrote to her sister-in-law describing the funeral of a family member as well as her fears about Virginia's being conquered if the state were to go to war.
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My Dear Callie

"The whole of our state will be conquered"

Bettie Anthony McDermed to Almira Anthony, December 31, 1860, Anthony Family Papers, 1785–1952, Acc. 35647, 35648, Library of Virginia.

Callie Anthony says: This letter is from Aunt Bettie (Bettie Banks Anthony McDermed, one of Pa's sisters), to Aunt Mira (Almira Arthur Anthony, the wife of Pa's brother Abner). It describes the funeral of my cousin Penn. He was not sick for long, and we were all surprised by his death.

We often pass letters around because it is hard to find the time for everyone to write to each other. By sharing our letters we can all keep up on the news. Aunt Mira also confided that she was worried about what will happen to Virginia. What if it secedes from the Union like South Carolina did just eleven days before this letter? She is afraid "the whole of our state will be conquered before the middle of this year," but I'm sure she was just in a low place, being so sad over Penn's death.

Bettie Anthony McDermed to Almira Anthony, December 31, 1860, Anthony Family Papers, 1785–1952, Acc. 35647, 35648, Library of Virginia.

Dec 31st 1860
Dear Sis Mira,
Christmas has passed; This is the last day of the year with it expires many of our hopes, & bright prospects. Has it not been a sad time to us all. Who of us expected such a heavy blow to fall upon us so soon when last we separated. How much unprepared I was for such a dreadful summons. I was sorry you could not be with us on the 24th I suppose the weather prevented. I started within an hour after hearing of our sad misfortune The weather was exceedingly severe but I did not think of it, We did not get there until 11 Oclock that night. We found several there, but the sadness of our feelings were indescribable. how much we wished for you. You were the only living one that were absent. The burial did not take until 3 Oclock [S]aturday evening. The coffin was open how natural he looked. I greatly feared we could nt get to see him, I felt as if I could never realize his death without seeing him! Why [d]id you not go to see him. I had never h[ear]d of his illness until I heard he was dead I was never as shocked. Why should he have been taken? so soon. One so brave, intelligent & such a generous disposition. One whose example so worthy of imitation. Why was it the dispensation of Providence to remove him so soon. There is only me & Mary that bears me up under this sad trial. [his d]ying admonitions, his hope of eternal life! Ah! That I could have heard it from his own precious lips. His dying messages to Papa has deeply impressed him. he says he has not long to live & he must try to meet him in heaven; he says he is very sorry he is so ignorant about the bibles truthes May his resolutions be strengthen, & may he soon be rejoicing in a savior love for this end let us all pray. Would we not be happy if such a reformation could be brought about. We came home Sunday. Since leaving Papa's I heard he had a very severe attact though then going about Penn death is a severe blow the all more especially to Papa he takes it exceedingly hard Sallie not much better if any. I have been ove[r smudged] her since my [torn] . . . The [torn and smudged] the Yankees. I feel more gloomy about our success than ever, though it will not do to speak so plainly to every one. I am fearful. the whole of our state will be conquered before the middle of this year. If it is the design of Providence I am in hopes we will be able to submit. He is able to scatter our darkest clouds in a mysterious way & uknown to us. Since poor Penn death I have lost my interest with the news. all I hear is far from being encouraging: Write me all the particulars of his death I shall wait with impatience for them. My lo[ve] to Mr Anthony & the children Tell them all to write How is C— & P. tell them to write to me I hardly ever get the chance to write. Come to see us. I should be happier to see you now than ever I have always thought so much of Penn's visits, he was the only one that had it in his power to visit when at home, but little peace he has enjoyed since the beginning of this terrible war. He thought when he left Papa's he would visit you. See how his hopes were blasted
Write soon, Your affectionate Sister,
Mr Mc. sends his best respects to you all. The children are all well. Mary sends her love to Suey & say[s] she must send her word what her babe is named Says you all must come to us [smudged]
Mrs Almira A. Anthony
Bedford, Co