Spirit of Jefferson
AN APPEAL: FOR HELP, For the Starving Suffers of the South.
AN APPEAL: FOR HELP, For the Starving Suffers of the South.
Benjamin F. Beall Charlestown, (West) Virginia 3/19/1867
At the Public Meeting held in Charlestown, on Saturday last , the undersigned were appointed as a Committee to prepare an Appeal, to our more favored people, for contributions to relieve our countrymen in the South now suffering from want. We feel that we can best perform this duty by a brief statement of the facts, which show that extreme suffering exists, a part of which it is in our power to relieve, in order to call forth prompt and earnest action. It is generally known and undoubtedly true than when Gen. Johnston surrendered, and the war ceased in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, in May, 1865 , immediately after the ravages of Gen. Sherman's army, it was too late to plant corn. After the little that had been planted matured, an impoverished people struggled through the ensuing year, having hardly a sufficiency to support their population until the next crop became available. The year 1866 , after being very wet in the winter, was one of remarkable drought. The drought was so severe as to cause a general failure of the corn crop -- in themselves many localities not producing seed. According to the carefully prepared estimates of the Agricultural Bureau, published several months since, the corn crop of South Carolina was only three-fifths of the very small crop of 1865 . The cotton crop was also injured to such an extent that it does not afford means to purchase supplies. The inevitable result has been that much suffering has already been endured -- some have actually starved to death, and gaunt famine is now pressing upon large portions of these States. Of the truth of this statement and the extent of this terrible suffering, we have abundant proof in official reports, and from private sources known to members of your committee to be above suspicion, with whom there can be no reason for deception. We cannot quote all these, as to do so would make our statement oo long. -- We give some briefly. The report of Gen. Howard, sent to the U.S. Senate, states from official sources, confirmed by others, he estimates that 56,860 persons will need food from some source before the next crop relieves them. This was evidently an under estimate, probably including only those who have made application to the Freedmen's Bureau, since he estimates Georgia as having by 8,000 that need aid, while the Governor of Georgia telegraphs that the destitute in that State number 60,000 whites and 30,000 blacks. -- Gov. Orr, of South Carolina, has written to the secretary of the Southern Famine Relief Commission of New York, that 500,000 bushels of corn are estimated to be needed to feed the people, over and above all that can be obtained within the State. The Legislature of South Carolina has tried to raise $500,000 to buy corn, but could not sell their bonds. The Governor of Alabama has made similar statements.
Rev. J. Leighton Wilson. D.D., one of the most honored and trustworthy men in the Presbyterian Church, writes from South Carolina, March 2d : "Since making a tour of 200 miles through the heart of this State, I have come to the conclusion that the distress of the people is unprecedently great. Many of our people are destitute, and without credit to get the means of subsistence. This distress is not confined to any one section of the State, but prevails to a greater or less extent in every portion of it. A goodly number have raised cotton enough to purchase food, but the greater mass of the people have neither cotton, money, nor credit to buy the food necessary to prevent their families from actual STARVATION." After showing that the distress is beyond their power to relieve it, he says that "several hundred thousand bushels of corn will be required to relieve the distress in South Carolina alone." We have also well authenticated instances of actual death from starvation before the first of march.
A letter to Dr. W., which he has published says: "I have seen, sir, on many of the bitterest days of our severe winter, just past, feeble women, wan with starvation, walk ten, fifteen and twenty miles, scantily covered with rags, with their babies in their arms, to receive a half bushel of corn, which they are thankful to be able to carry home to their starving children."
We might go on adding proof to proof; but we think the above sufficient to satisfy you, as it does us, that a very alarming and terrible state of destitution exists in the South -- so great that actual starvation must overtake many -- so great a number, in truth, being in want, that the contributions of both Government and the people will probably fail to supply more than half the need. Many of these people, too, are the very best people of the land who have been reduced to want by the war. Many are the widows and children of those who came to help Virginia in her hour of need, and whose bones sleep beneath her soil. These are startling truths, and we who have had our prayers for daily bread answered so abundantly that we have never known the fear of want, can hardly realize their meaning; but we appeal to you to consider, ponder and act upon them. Were there but a few actually starving, it would show that there are a great many pinched by want; but now many are starving and we should realize, as the National Intelligencer states, that "poverty sits by the fireside of most Southern homes and the cry for bread comes up from famishing lips." We cannot hope to relieve all, but we know that what we may give will relieve actual want; and we appeal to each and every one whom we can reach by this, our most urgent call, to join us in the effort to supply bread in response to this famishing cry. We hope that in determining how much you will give, each of you will go in thought into these poverty-stricken homes -- will think of the corroding, heart sickening care -- the prolonged, helpless agony of these parents unable to give their children the bread for which they unceasingly ask -- will think of the gnawing pangs of hunger ever present even in the feverish dreams of these perishing multitudes -- will think of the deep set eyes -- the wan and hollow cheeks, covered with shallow, tight draw skin -- of the bony hands clasped in almost hopeless prayer for daily bread or death, and then, realizing that these are actual cases in reach of your charity, make up your minds how much of thismisery you will relieve. -- We would fain hope that even the poor among us will determine to share with some poor one there, and that the rich will give abundantly, and so all lay up treasure in heaven.
The best mode of giving relief is by giving Corn and Bacon, and we think we can assure all donors that their charity will reach those for whom it is intended, with but slight cost or danger of misapplication.
We hope that all who can, will attend the adjourned meeting next Saturday , and hear the facts more fully stated. We also appeal, by direction of the meeting, to the newspapers of the Valley and the State, to publish these facts and urge upon our whole people prompt action in relieving our Southern Brethren.
WM. H. TRAVERS.