1864: Henry Gideon Ely to Thoephilus M. Palmer

How Henry might have looked

This letter was written by 51 year-old Henry Gideon Ely (1813-1883), the son of Eleazur Ely (1765-1818) and Dorcas Brockway (1772-1839) of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Henry was married to Cornelia Maria Whiting in 1838. They were the parents of several children, one of whom was Ezra Brockway Ely (1840-1864) who suffered from ill health and is mentioned in this letter. He died at sea on July 9, 1864 while on passage from St. Augustine, Florida.

In 1860, Henry was enumerated with his family in Bridgeport, Stratford, Fairfield county, Connecticut. His occupation was given as “merchant.”

My assumption is that Henry addressed the letter to Theophilus M. Palmer (1823-1906), a dry-goods merchant from Bridgeport, Fairfield county, Connecticut. Theophilus was married to Comfort A. Middlebrook.


Beaufort [South Carolina]
April 25, 1864

Friend Palmer,

I have neither forgotten my promise to write you or my obligations to do so that you have been so long in suspense.

We arrived safely here after a most boisterous passage of nearly 5 days. Encountered a heavy gale of wind 2d day out south of Hatteras and having a large schooner in tow which interfered seriously with our progress, made it very disagreeable to say nothing of danger.

Ezra stood the voyage well and rather improved if anything under his first experience at sea. I cannot say that he is really permanently better in health than when he left though he feels in better spirits and has much better appetite and relish of his food. His cough is much the easier. We leave here for Florida—St. Augustine—this week to try the climate there for him and hope it may be beneficial. The weather here has been cold enough for the same reason in Connecticut ever since we arrived, if I except the past 3 or 4 days which have been quite summer-like.

You are probably aware that all or nearly so of the white troops are in process of removal from here to the Army of the Potomac—29 regiments comprising all the 10th Army Corps which leaves few here but Colored troops. The consequences to the business of this place and Hilton Head will be unfavorable no doubt. Just now, as the troops are leaving, business is tolerably good. The opinion here is, without any definite knowledge of course as to the purposes of the War Department, is that this is to be a Department of Colored troops entirely and it is generally believed Fremont is coming to take command, but no announcement to be made before next fall.

I have made no arrangements for business in consequence chiefly of the prospects this summer and partly on account of Eza’s health. If I see any chance in Florida to go into anything that promises, well I may do so there. I have consigned my goods to a house in Hilton Head who will sell them on point of having done pretty well on the first I shipped here. Apples will [sell for] $7 a barrel; oranges and lemons about the same. Shall write you from St. Augustine soon after my arrival there & hope soon to hear from you at that place.

Truly, — H. G. Ely


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