26 May 1862: “I was in Wilmington a few nights ago, and saw the famous blind Tom of whom you have seen articles in the papers.”

Item description: F. W. Bird, an uncle of lawyer and legislator Robert Winston, wrote to his sister about life at Camp Davis, his regiment, and most importantly about seeing enslaved black musician Blind Tom, who was an autistic musical savant who traveled internationally throughout the late 19th Century.

More information on Blind Tom can be found at : http://www.blindtom.org/index.html.

 

 

Item citation:  In folder 2 of the Robert Winston papers (#2369), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Item transcription: 

Camp Davis
May 26th 1862

My Dear Sister

Your letter came to hand a few days ago. I hope before this you have gotten the answer I wrote to your first. It is Monday, a very rainy, dark, and disagreeable day. There is no news for me to write to you. As we are out in the woods about eight miles from town. I have heard of the visit of four of the Federal Gunboats to Windsor. I am glad our people were not treated as the captured often are. I think it very probable you will be again visited soon and I fear our correspondence cut off. I was in Wilmington a few nights ago, and saw the famous blind Tom of whom you have seen notices in the papers. He is a negro boy, plays very finely on the piano. I heard him play Yankee Doodle with one hand, the Marseilles Hymn with the other and sing Dixey at the same time.

Is Mr. Winston in Raleigh or Windsor? I have not heard from him, by letter since I have been in the army the last time. Our Regiment is becoming very well skilled and I think in quite a short time we will be in condition not to disgrace our Bethel name. I become daily more and more pleased with our Col. Leventhorpe. He is a very fine gentleman. The Lt Col. is also a nice man. His name is Martin. Our Major is named Ross. I suppose you have plenty of ice, oranges, apples, and all the luxuries of live now, except liberty.

What are our strong seccesion friends doing now? Staying at home I suppose as usual. I would be glad to see you and my friends, but it will I fear be a long time before I can with impunity visit my home. Write to me once or twice a week, whether you hear from me or not, for I can not at all time write to you. I hope your children are well. Ned Outlaw got a letter from home today in which was stated that the enemy, some of them, walked about town, but the letter generally from there state that they offend no one, except perhaps so far as there presence would offend.

Write soon,
Your brother
F. W. Bird

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