Sunday, February 16, 2014

Letter from Portsmouth

The following letter was written June 14, 1861 from Portsmouth Island by Sgt. John Wheeler (CSA):

"...Having finished dinner I shall continue my letter.  We had crabs, bluefish, spots, and mullets besides ham for dinner.  Our table was made of plank unplaned set on legs of unhewn timber.  Our utensils of tin made up our soldierly table quipments.  But Oh! the water such stuff I never attempted to drink! Out of our tin drinking cups we strain it through our lips.  Our cake today we saved for hard times which we expect at most any time.  Out company is of good cheer and their only solicitude is sympathy with the feelings of those at home.   We are very well situated.  Better by far than we expected.  Portsmouth has about 500 inhabitants.  Joshua Taylor [Collector of Customs] is dead and his family removed.  All this region is called Ocracoke.  Most of the troops are on this; the fort is on Beacon Island.  We are ready.

"Goodbye,  Your son John"

Sgt. Wheeler (1841-1861) died July 7, 1861 of typhoid fever. 

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an account of the 2013 Portsmouth Island Christmas Bird Count. You can read it here:


  1. Bear MacDonald9:31 AM

    It is rather ominous that Sgt. Wheeler comments on the poor quality of the drinking water a mere two and a half weeks before dying from typhoid. He was probably in early onset of the disease and continued to drink the fouled water as he became more critical.

    I wonder. How prevalent was typhoid fever on the Outer Banks during that period?

    1. Anonymous7:55 AM

      His closing of (goodbye) to me implies that he is expecting death.