Introduction by Phil Norfleet
The original of the following letter is in my possession and was obtained from among the papers of my great-grandfather, John W. Norfleet (1833-1922) of Cole and Moniteau Counties, Missouri. The letter was written to him by Archibald McPhaill, the husband of Johns second cousin, Sophia Norfleet (a daughter of David Norfleet of Pulaski County, Kentucky). The letter is interesting from two standpoints:
1. The salutation used in the letter "Dear Cousin" helps to substantiate the conjectured sibling relationship of James Norfleet (1767-1849) and David Norfleet (c. 1770-1824) as presented in my essay on the Norfleet Settlers of Kentucky.
2. In the letter, Archibald vividly describes the severe suffering experienced by the Missouri farmers during the Civil War.
Except for adding some punctuation (periods, etc.), the letter is transcribed exactly as written, including spelling and grammatical errors.
Transcription of Letter
To: John W. Norfleet, Cole County, Missouri
Lafayette County Mo, August the 10th 1863
I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines. I received a letter from you last Spring which I intended to answer long ago but living under a Reign of Terror and kept in almost constant excitement I find it very hard to compose my mind long enough to write one and I hope you will pardon me for neglecting you so long.
Our family what is left of them - are all in tolerably good health except Sophia. She is feeble and nervous caused doubtless from so much excitement. When you were in Lexington last fall we had twelve Negroes but early in April Six of them made there way to Kansas. The six that remained seemed anxious to Stay with us and were doing very well until four weeks ago when the Brushwhackers commenced Stealing Negroes and taking them South. As we had every reason to believe they would take ours we sent them off where we thought they would be Safer then at home. So for the last four weeks we have been living like good freesoilers doing our own work in this house and out of doors. We could bear all this well enough if they would let us alone but robbing and Stealing is constantly going on and we are called on in that way oftener than we like. About four weeks ago they broke in on us after midnight and took in clothing and various articles of about $60 or $70 worth. About ten days ago they attacked me at the side of my own farm and took my pocket book and about 35 cents. Three days after, one of the same scoundrels attacked me again and presenting his revolver for some time got neither pocket book or money because I had none to give.
I am trying the Best way I can and if we get a good rain in time we shall be able to make our bred and meat. I have about 40 acres in cultivation and upward of a hundred acres are going up in weeds and it is so with hundreds of farms besides mine. Our country is going to desolation as fast as it can.
You state in your letter that [you] wanted to come and see us when the war was over. I hope you will not forget it and come as soon as you can come with safety.
I would like to write you a good deal more but things are in a sad condition here. Every two or three hours we are hearing some exciting rumors which operates so Strongly on my nerves as to leave me in a bad condition for writing. Our military authorities are sadly deficient and we are left entirely at the mercy of the Brushwhackers. But we put our trust in God that he yet bring all things out right.
Sophia joins me in Sending her love and compliments to your Father and Mother as well as to yourself.
I remain as ever your cousin until death.
/S/ Archibald McPhaill
P. S. please write soon.