1822: Musgrove to George Washington Williams

This letter was written by someone who signed their name “Musgrove” from Washington, Macon County, Kentucky. I assume Musgrove was his surname. From the letter we know that he had previously attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. We also learn that he was a good friend of Albert Sidney Johnston (1803-1862) of Washington, Kentucky, who also attended Transylvania University.

Musgrove wrote the letter to George Washington Williams (1801-1870), the son of Gen. Roger Williams (1770-1833) and Mary (“Polly”) Kerfoot (1772-1841) of Bourbon County, Kentucky. “Major Williams was a conspicuous figure in the life and affairs of Kentucky for half a century. He was a graduate of old Transylvania University, served more than twenty consecutive years without a single defeat in both Houses of the Legislature, was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1840, became champion of the new constitution party, was a whig in politics, also a member of the American party, and some years before the war freed his slaves and was an uncompromising Union man during the war. He was made permanent president of the first republican state convention at Louisville in 1864. In 1868 he was republican candidate for the Supreme Court. His death occurred at Paris, Kentucky, in Januarv. 1870. In March, 1824, Major Williams married Winifred Webb, daughter of Charles and Mary (Ware) Webb.”

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. George W. Williams, Lexington, Kentucky

Washington, Kentucky
13 May 1822

Dear George,

Under any other circumstances than those which really exist, shame would prevent me from ever again attempting to write to a friend whom I have so wretchedly neglected. But when you learn the miserable state of my health, you will readily pardon my long neglect. Long indeed, has been the time since I could say, “I am well.” And from prospects at present, I cannot — my dear friend — ever expect another hour of good health. Would to God I had vanity to flatter myself that I should only know what it is, to taste of health. Oh, George, a man in health knows nothing of its loss. When I saw you in Lexington, I felt strong hopes that I should again be healthy. But my anticipations were groundless. Since that time, I have been by far the greater part of my time confined to the house, often to bed, where I now am. But am able to sit up and walk about the room.

I have seen Albert [Sidney] Johnston ¹ since his return from college. I know not when I have heard anything that done me so much good as the news brought me by him. “Your friends in college are all well. I presume you are anxious to know something about Williams?” “Exceedingly anxious! What of him?” “Why! He will obtain the 2d honor of his class. And most of his fellow students consider him a young man of the best talents about the University.” You cannot imagine how it raised my pride! God forbid they should ever take up a contrary opinion.

I am unable to give any news about our unknown friend, or more correctly speaking, our unknown enemy. I have had some strange conjectures since I saw. I fear he is a man too respectable to be suspected. I am even afraid to let you know whom I suspect lest this letter should be intercepted also.

I’m too weary to write anything more further than to suggest you to make my respects to my friends. Tell Will Drake of my bad health and anxiety to hear from him.

When I am able, I do a little at my studies.

For God’s sake, don’t make it long till you write. — Musgrove


Albert Sidney Johnston

¹ This is clearly Albert Sidney Johnston who was born in Washington, Kentucky, the youngest son of Dr. John and Abigail Harris Johnston. His father was a native of Salisbury, Connecticut. Although Albert Johnston was born in Kentucky, he lived much of his life in Texas, which he considered his home. He was first educated at Transylvania University in Lexington, where he met fellow student Jefferson Davis. Both were appointed to the United States Military Academy, Davis two years behind Johnston. In 1826 Johnston graduated eighth of 41 cadets in his class from West Point with a commission as a brevet second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Infantry.


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