Correspondence of Charles H. Winston in Richmond, VA during the Civil War.

In letters to his wife, Charles H. Winston, the President of the Richmond Female Institute (GH#4), describes the taking over of the building for the hospital, and its use. These letters are in the possession of Holmes Harrison of Richmond, a descendant of Winston, and are reprinted here with his permission - MDG

Charles H. Winston Papers, President of the Richmond Female Institute. Originals in possession of Holmes Harrison, Richmond, VA.


Richmond April 24th '62

My Dear Wife

    I should have written this afternoon but for having a crowd of company; but I scarcely regret waiting as I thus have an opportunity of replying to your most welcome & refreshing letter, which I have just received. I am quite delighted to hear from you so soon and so favorably. It was very kind & considerate to write so promptly & I trust this may reach you without fail tomorrow as I would not have a damper thrown upon your good intentions by any even apparent __ness on my part. I feel really glad to think of you as nearly well once more. You have been improving rapidly recently, but while you were here we did not note the change; now that you are away, however, & I think the matter over, I feel satisfied, & feel gratified too, that you are almost quite well again.

    Avail yourself fully of the fresh country air & the peace & quiet of your retirement for your stay as you have subscribed it is brief & I shall look for you to be much fresher & more blooming on your return.

    Mrs. Cosby came yesterday, although the river was so high, & travel by the boat so dangerous, that our girls are not here yet. She had heard that the Capt. was about to be off. She has been merry enough all day looking for the new carriage she is to buy, but tonight she is in the extreme of distress, & has gone to bed with her trouble. Mr. C. has marching orders for tomorrow, & she believes a very brief campaign on foot will kill him. I think it still doubtful whether he goes & I do not apprehend serious results if he does. It seems hard however that men enlisted for one service in one place should be sent into a different service elsewhere; but in the present straits I think it ought to be submitted to if possible. By the way I begin to think Professors etc are men of consideration in the eyes of our legislators, as I see we are exempted again under the Confederate law; this sets me free, but I have taken advantage of this to muster in my Substitute which I did today & paid over my $700, with a few extras.

    I went yesterday to see the farm, & have bought it, paid for it, & have the deed in my desk. So your advertisement was rather too late & even if it had not been the farm was rather large. I paid for the 95 acres, with crop etc, $1400. I do not like the place much & do not expect ever to live there but I still think it a good investment. Now I want to stock it, & it occurs to me that Roger & I could help each other in this matter. I want 1st a trusty man to be a sort of head servant over Esther & Sarah. Can George let me have one at once & at what price? 2d I want about 5 or 6 cows with calves. 3d Hogs & pigs. 4th A quantity of hens & ducks. 4th 2 work horses. See if these things can be gotten of George & at what price & report at once.

    Ella has not yet come. Don't know why. Mr. & Mrs. Steger, Maria, Edmund, Mrs. Harrison & Mr. & Mrs. Cosby graced my solitary chamber this evening. Girls are leaving & I feel quite lonely. Time & paper both out.

    Best love to all. Kiss Kate for me & believe me most devotedly yours tenderly, write soon.


Richmond May 18th '62

My darling wife

    I have put off writing until this (Sunday) morning but I fear this may cause me to miss Mr. Harrison who kindly offered to be the bearer of a note to you; & I know it will make this, of necessity, very brief. You know how hard it is for me to rise, & this morning particularly I was so tired. Yesterday evening I rode down to the Fort and Obstructions, & made a long personal inspection of the whole, & came back completely broken down. As to the fort, nature has done all we could have desired to make the place a strong one, easily defensible; but we have done very little; enough however to cause me to have more hope that the gunboats will not soon reach Richmond, unless they flank us and take the fort by land, or whip us in battle, either of which may occur. We had no papers yesterday & so the city was, & will today be, the victim of rumors. I have heard nothing reliable since Friday.

    I ought to have written by Mrs. Cosby a reply to yours by Mr. H, & so ought I to have gone to the Depot with Mr. And Mrs. C., both of which I certainly designed doing – but if you had known how I felt Saturday morning I think all would have been readily excused me. I send Mrs. G's gloves & your key. Your letter did not come till late last night. I will see about the matters contained, but cannot do them just now, for various reasons: so for the articles you wish , I will get them before I go up. That cannot be, I suppose, before next Saturday, as I expect the school still to hang on. Ma(?), Anna, Mr. Bland & Unc. Isaac, were here yesterday; they took Ella away. I have requested Misses Schultz & Gannulte become day pupils , & so we have only 5 in family. Excuse a short letter (but longer I believe than both yours) & write often.

    Best love to all. Kiss Kate for me. I shall have a dreary time here alone. I am most affectionately yours etc.


Richmond May 29th '62

My dear Wife

    The mails are not so obliging to me as to you, since yours of the 27th did not reach here till about 3 o'clock today. I am glad it came however and that it bore so early a date as I was getting quite surprised, at least, that you did not write. We are all in a flurry & bustle here; I have never seen Richmond quite so much excited or so feverishly restive; and in truth we have cause to be so; the enemy are all about us, pushing up closer and closer every hour; skirmishing is occurring constantly, rumors of the results are unfavorable & no bulletins - nothing reliable in the papers or elsewhere. We hear the reports of guns and expect to hear that something has been effected, and after hours or days of suspense, intensified by conflicting rumors, we feel that we are as ignorant as before of that which so vitally concerns us. The Central and the Fredericksburg roads have both been taken & the sick were yesterday all moved down from Ashland & laid out on the sidewalk of Broad Street, where they remained – a most pitiable sight – till late at night. Passengers by the last train all agreed that the Yankees entered the place just as they left it; & that we had no troops to resist them there except 2 or 3 regiments which had been (by gross neglect or bad management) suffered to be cut to pieces on Tuesday evening. I learn now, on what seems good authority, that it was our men and not the Yankees who came into the town and frightened the folks out of their wits.

    Today soldiers are marching in numbers through the city, & yet there seems no great haste as about 2 or 3 thousand, I should judge, are lying now under the shade on the Capitol Square - Dr. Jeter came yesterday to see me about getting the Institute as a hospital for the wounded - for 15,000 of whom they are preparing. It was agreed that if necessity required we would give it up for that purpose unhesitatingly, that I could retain if I wished a portion of the building, & that the Government would probably buy the beds etc. which of course would be almost useless to us after having been thus employed. I do not think anything but the occupation of the city by the Y's would justify me in coming to stay with you, & much as I long to see you I cannot wish to do it on those terms. 1st I ought to stay here where I can work some for myself or for others, & 2d I ought not to add to (unnecessarily) a family already rather large and overtaxed. I sent the sew. machine the Box and 50 lbs sugar last Tuesday. I hope all went safely, though the S.M. box was about to burst when it reached the depot. What does y'r brother want with Edy (?). Though it would be quite agreeable to me I can hardly see why he should take her away or what he would do with her now. I will try to make a satisfactory settlement but I really do not expect to get rid of her yet. The school remains in statu quo (not ante bellum, however). No more refugees yet. You may look for me tomorrow week. No. I mean Saturday week. The cars have changed now. They leave at 8 and arrive at 3:20. Write very often. I went out to "the place" Tuesday & carried some cabbage & tomato plants & some cucumber & cantaloupe seed. I go again tomorrow. I think I shall quit and run if the Y's come so you may keep a lookout for me. I am sorry Mrs. S and Mrs. Gs continue so sick; you must be very careful not to take the disease. Best love to all. I enclose Mr. Meade's receipts. Please hand them to him. It will puzzle you to find the end of this letter[1] but no matter--paper is scarce & high & I saw a poor soldier pay 50 cts. (one & a half days' wages) for a little black tin inkstand of ink- the cheapest he could find. Kiss Kate for me & tell her papa is very sorry she hurt her hand & that she must not eat all the strawberries from him.

    Your Love

Milly is engaged & cannot be gotten for your mother – I had a letter from Miss _ Gaines recently but she is quite cut off now & no communication whatever.

Richmond June 7th '62

My dear wife

    You may expect me up Tuesday morning. I regret exceedingly that I must disappoint myself & you this morning but I think duty compels me. The house is still in utter confusion, carpets are still down & much furniture still unstored & I must stay & see it put away for even then as I am told may expect to have it broken into & stolen. The mattresses are in the nursery the bureaus in the sick room bedsteads in the chemistry room. Chairs etc in the attic two pianos & the sofas etc in the parlor, crockery in the storeroom downstairs & carpets etc nicely shaken & packed will be in the storeroom upstairs. I intend to leave out nothing whatever giving only the bare rooms. Already fifty cots are in the hall all set up & ready, & stewards doctors & servants are filling the house. Mrs. Mallory has been very kind in overlooking movements. She has secured rooms elsewhere but will be here today. My teaching closed yesterday with a hard day's work. On Monday I expect to dismiss the Preparatory too though the ladies are for holding on to this up to the last moment.

    V. Parrish (on 3 studies), S. Prentis (on 3), Misses Mountcastle on 3, & Misses Elliot Prescott Marsh & Ramos each on one, graduated yesterday. The girls are still here but leave today so tonight I will probably be sole occupant.

    The war makes slow progress here & elsewhere we are growing very impatient for a battle but begin to fear it may still be long deferred. The high waters may however be the temporary cause of delay. The river is higher than it has been since '47 & within 4 or 5 inches of the mark reached then. It presents a truly grand sight as it rushes with its vast volume of water over the wide territory it has covered. Some fear is felt lest the Yanks may come over our obstructions now or have them removed for them but I have much faith in the forts even then.

    Mr. Powers will have charge of this. I spent an hour at his room last night with himself, Edmund "Milton" & Mr. Kennedy & I joined them in plate of strawberries & looked on while they enjoyed whist & Cigars.

    Mr. A returns Monday. Please write by him or earlier.

    I hope to find you fresh & blooming as you should be with such abundant & dainty fare. We are almost starving out here. There is Mr. P at the door. Goodbye.


Xcuse mistakes

Richmond June 24th '62

My dear wife

Your Brother and myself have been whiling (or loafing) away the afternoon, while it rained, while exhibiting our respective blunders over a newly bought chess-board. This fact & the other most agreeable one that the time for me to leave this lonely place & travel wifewards & almost homewards, caused me almost to forget that I had intimated in my last a purpose to write again. I have nothing however that cannot be better told than written, & so I will keep over what I have to say until Thursday. I should tell you, however, that I am well but tired & somewhat worried occasionally, & shall take a short recreation very kindly indeed. I can't stay long, however, & we must submit to that, for short visits are almost as efficacious as short accounts in making "long friends".

I have listed your wants and will attend to them if practicable. The cotton cloth is all gone however & I doubt whether many of your orders may not fail to be executed for a similar reason. I saw Edmund Sunday. He was complaining partly of a cold and partly because his wife did not write. Beverly was down today & reported all well. No patients in our Hospital yet, & the time for the battle is still "tomorrow". It must surely soon occur now & is generally anticipated tomorrow in earnest. I have not sold much furniture yet, only some chairs sheets etc. It is quite inconvenient to go up Thursday instead of Friday or Sat; but I will try to go at the time appointed. I wish you had come with the Powers or with me when I came down. Perhaps I may invite you again, but I am not sure. My love to the family. Kiss our little darling & tell her Papa is poor papa now (a fact by the way) & can't bring good things.



Richmond, June 29, 1862

My darling wife[2]

    I sit down, not very composedly, to drop you the note I promised to write. I found the Institute crowded to overflowing with the suffering wounded; 260 is the number reported to be here. Every room and some of the passages are full. There is besides almost a crowd of visitors and nurses; a minute ago, when I was down, there were perhaps as many as 50 persons-doctors, nurses, gentlemen, ladies & girls, in the hall with about the same number of occupants of the couches. I saw Dr. Jeter, Dr. Gwathmey, Dr. Snead, ____, Mrs. Mallory, Mr. And Mrs. Stanard, Mrs. Grant, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Spotis, Misses Hilliard, and a host of others too numerous to mention and to numerous too, I fear, either to last or to be desirable if it could last. Our night parlor is the amputating room until Mrs. Randolph moves. There is much confusion as yet and has been more I learn from lack of surgeons - Dr. Bullock being still sick. I have spent much of the evening washing on some poor fellows and I expect to work some tonight.

    As to the fighting, we can learn nothing reliable. There seems to have been but little either yesterday or today. That yesterday was in another part of the lines and not very favorable. Today, too, if I am rightly informed, we lost right heavily (say 400) and accomplished perhaps no more than the taking of a single battery. You will see by the papers tomorrow all I could write. Rumor says, however, that Lee has demanded of McClellan the surrender of his whole force, & that they are now hemmed in south of the Chick. And south too of the Y.R.R.R.; but this I fear brings them rather close to the James River and that they may escape if they are again whipped.

    I called to see yr. Bro.[3], but found that he had gone early this morning to the battlefield, where he was likely to spend the day as he had the day previous. So I have heard nothing of Roger[4], but presume of course he is safe.

    I saw Mr. Wood twice. He could not pass the pickets and is in a terrible trouble about it. The 2 times I met him he had just seen Mrs. Seaton Tinsley who had just come into Mr. Greenhow's. She reported all well and that all had been well treated, except by the negroes, who deserted almost unanimously, & some came back riding fine horses, gaily caparisoned, with sword etc., to get some of the boys to take to camp to wait on them!! That's rich. Not so however the fact that one of these scamps knocked Dr. G. [5]down and then escaped. The story about the corn and the wheat harvested etc. was all untrue.

Richmond Sept. 23d '62

My dear wife

I have only bad news this evening. Mr. Hyman has at last decided he will not let us have Caskie's house, & then the church has decided that we shall not have the basement. So we are now without even the chance of a house; & I see no prospect that the school can go on. Besides, the little whippersnapper who acts as steward here has notified me that I must give up all my rooms at once today or he will rent a place elsewhere at my expense & store the furniture there. I told him to proceed & do so if he liked. The worst things to move are my storeroom furniture and my parlor furniture, though the carpets, books etc in the other storeroom will be bad unless I can retain that. None of the prominent Trustees are in town - Jeter, Burrows, Gwathmey & Goddin being all absent & you may be sure I am worried enough, & expect to be perhaps more so. They are going to use the storeroom for a sort of kitchen. 80 wounded have come in during the last few days & others are constantly expected.

What I shall do now, is a question I will find it hard to answer; but I will await the offerings of Providence & endeavor to be content.

I dined at Mr. J.B. Taylor's today & was sorry to find Mrs. T rather a disagreeable woman. I saw your Bro. Yesterday & "Bob Powers" today. Tell your mother that $6 was the most I could get offered for her apples, & that I don't know whether they would "pay" at that price. Have not seen Gibson yet.

I hope, darling, you are continuing to do well. I feel so thankful & happy to know that you have commenced so prosperously, & to believe that the dreaded affliction will not befall you this time. I am exceedingly grateful to you for your very nice present, with which I am entirely pleased, & am very sorry you should have put yourself to so much trouble about it. Kiss both my children for me, & take good care of yourself & them. From present appearances I may be to see you soon, but will probably write again. Yours ever


Note in the hand of Charles Henry Winston, apparently two pages out of at least six, which bears title "Use of the Institute as a Hospital".

During last vacation frequent and urgent applications were made to me by the Government & by committees from some of the States in order to secure the Institute as a Hospital. Acting upon what seemed to be the wish of the Trustees, which coincided with my own judgement I persistently declined. In May again the subject was mooted & after the battles of the 31st May & 1st June a messenger from the Prov. Marshall's Office came to dignify the intention of the authorities to impress it. Thinking to gain some advantage thereby Dr. Jeter the President of the Board and myself went to the Prov. Marshall's

Office & tendered the building. We were told to hold it in readiness & to get rid of the school as soon as practicable, which as I had foreseen the state of affairs and had been for weeks drawing the session to a close I was able to do on 6th of June. The Government had taken possession the day before June 5th & they still hold it on the following terms as will be seen from the SG's letter.



[1] Here, Winston refers to the fact that he is writing on Richmond Female Institute stationery, and ran the letter over into the graphics of the stationery.

[2] Charles Henry Winston and his wife had lived at the Richmond Female Institute until the Confederate Government took it over for use as a hospital. At the time this letter was written, she was living at her family home in Amelia County.

[3] Probably refers to John Stegar, half-brother of Mrs. Winston, who was Postmaster of Richmond during the War.

[4] Roger Stegar, another half-brother, who was serving with the cavalry. He survived the War and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery.

[5] Dr. Gaines, who owned Gaines' Mill. He was Winston's uncle.

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