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Alfred English Doby papers, selected items

Identifier: SCL-MS-4546

The three hundred and twenty-six manuscripts of this collection presents in miniature the social, economic, and political history of South Carolina. Maria Elizabeth Preston Means of Fairfield Dist., niece of Governor John Hugh Means, married in 1843 John English, doctor and planter of Richland Dist. One third of the collection is the correspondence of this family connection including letters of Harriet Flud Hampton and Sally Campbell Preston. Comments on domestic and plantation activities, education of the children, and the family connections— Harper, Trotti, Nott, Coalter, and Mobley— provide information on life of the planter. Two letters of John English, 10 and 12 November 1851, from Charleston, to his wife, relate to his operation of a freight service on the Wateree River and comment on competition from the "Steamer Pee Dee," and his plans to use the Congaree as well as the Wateree. Civil War letters of Franklin, oldest son of John and Maria English, to his death in December 1861, relate hardships of camp life, military activities in South Carolina and Virginia, and his reaction to the War. A letter of Thomas D. Sumter, Stateburg, 12 March 1866, to John English, applying to teach languages to his children or any employment "I can fulfill" illustrates the desperate condition of the State. Letters, 1866-7, of Maria to her son John at the Virginia Military Institute stress the importance of an education. Letters of William W. Boyce, Washington, 1869, to John English, discuss legal matters in connection with his brother William's estate in California and a claim against the Mexican government for interest in a ship seized at Acapulco during the gold rush.

Beverley M. English, third son of John and Maria, married Elise Kennedy Doby in 1885, only child of Captain Alfred English Doby and his wife Elizabeth M. Kennedy of Camden. The Civil War letters of Captain Doby written to his wife constitute the bulk of the collection and present a vivid picture of the War as experienced by this young planter— born 1840, educated at the South Carolina College, University of Virginia. and in Paris. The first letter in this group, 25 July 1861, describing Colonel Joseph B. Kershaw's command at First Manassas, during which distinguished citizens of Washington came "to witness the grand performance of their army," is characteristic of the detailed information, readily available to Doby as Aide-de-camp to Kershaw, regarding battle plans and performance of Kershaw's Brigade, especially the Camden unit, in the major battles involving the Army of the Potomac. On 2 December 1861 Doby wrote of his plans to be home for Christmas "if you promise to become my . . . bride." They were married 1 January 1862. On the 29th he was again in Virginia at the Spotswood Hotel with "Cols Kershaw, Ancrum, John McKain & myself, with three servants . . . all staying in the same room," and relating the loss of blankets and theft of his "india rubber tub" at Petersburg. Doby's comment, 3 March 1862, could have influenced his descendants to preserve his letters— "It will be pleasant in after years, when, perhaps in the midst of an interesting group of children, these letters of ours will be reviewed. I regret exceedingly . . . the necessity of consigning to the flames many of your letters, but now I am determined to preserve every one for they will manifest . . . your noble spirit of patriotism"— but unfortunately none of her letters are in the collection. Until Doby's death, 6 May 1864, in the Battle of the Wilderness, he wrote an average of three letters a week to his wife, informing her of every phase of his activities, expressing his ideas about the War, civilian and military leaders, camp facilities, social affairs, entertainment, food, clothes, politics, and religion. In February 1862 he views the War as necessary "for the very sanctity of our firesides . . . national freedom, and the right of existence." A year later he discusses the demoralizing effects of the War— "God only knows how long this awful carnage will last . . War . . . always . . . will be the great & trying ordeal through which nations must pass to civilization & self government. But . . . a thing that true civilization should blush to witness." He views politics as "the most unsatisfactory life a man can lead," and after the War expects to confine himself to agriculture, "the occupation nature intended . . . especially for the Southern Gentleman." Remarks, based on personal observations, concerning Lee and Jackson as military leaders and gentlemen are interesting. Doby describes the Battle of Chancellorsville as "a most complete & magnificent victory" in which Lee, "the ablest commander living" had "displayed a wonderful genius"— and relates the receipt and reading of two letters "while shells & canister were bursting over my head." In 1863 from Pennsylvania Doby writes— "within the last three nights we have encamped upon the soil of three different states," and after Gettysburg re-marks on the gallant charge of Pickett's Division, heavy losses, and the disagreeable march to Hagerstown, Maryland. The letters express Doby's confidence "that I will survive" and his last letter, 2 May 1864, admonishes his wife to "Bear up with spirit & resolution . . . . I feel no apprehension about myself."


  • 1836-1917

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All rights reside with creator. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact The South Caroliniana Library.


326 items

Abbreviations / Legend

ADS = autographed document signed

ALS = autographed letter signed

ALS(T) = typed copy of autographed letter signed

DS = document signed

LS = letter signed

MP = printed manuscript

MS = manuscript

n.d. = undated


Also includes accession numbers 4550, 4554, 4558, 4561, 4566, and 7568.

Repository Details

Part of the South Caroliniana Library Repository

910 Sumter St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA
(803) 777-5747 (Fax)

Language of description
Script of description
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