This letter was written by William Lindsay Brandon (1802-1890), the son of Gerard Brandon (1750-1823) and Dorothy Nugent (1757-1816). An older brother, Matthew Nugent Brandon (1792-1841) is also mentioned. The letter is a request for Rhode Island shoe manufacturer Rowland Gibson Hazard to make shoes for the Brandon family slaves. Hazard was the owner of a company started by his father called the Peace Dale Manufacturing Company. One of Rowland Hazard’s responsibilities was selling the company’s products to plantation owners in the southern United States, particularly Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. He spent winters in New Orleans from about 1833 to 1842 to sell goods that included cotton bagging cloth, pre-cut garments, low-priced shoes, and raw “Negro cloth” for use by African-American slaves. Hazards involvement with abolitionist causes and in the Republican Party eventually caused his company to lose favor with its markets in the southern United States, however. This helped to prompt the Peace Dale mills’ transition from making cheap cotton products to selling higher quality woolens.
The following biography was found for W. L. Brandon:
“He was educated at Washington College and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) where it is believed he studied medicine. He returned to Mississippi and became a prominent planter and sometime physician in Wilkinson County, near Pinckneyville. He served in the state legislature in 1826 and rose to the rank of major general in the state militia.
When the Civil War erupted Brandon helped form the 21st Mississippi infantry regiment and in spite of his age, about 60, he was named commander of Company D, the Jeff Davis Guards, with the rank of captain. Shortly before the 21st was sent to Virginia, Brandon was named lieutenant colonel. The 21st saw action during the Seven Days with Brandon commanding the 21st for a time until he was severely wounded at Malvern Hill, losing a leg. After returning to duty in time to see action at Gettysburg, he was promoted to colonel on 14 August 1863. He accompanied the rest on James Longstreet’s 1st Corps to Tennessee and saw action at Chickamauga and during the Knoxville campaign. Shortly after the 1st Corps returned to Virginia Brandon was appointed brigadier general to rank from 18 June 1864. He was named to head the Mississippi Bureau of Conscription. The bureau closed before the end of the war, mainly due to a lack of draftable men in Mississippi at the time as the war wound down. After the conscription bureau closed Brandon returned to his plantation, Arcole, in Wilkerson County, Mississippi and to planting. He remained there, in semi-retirement, until he died on 8 October 1890.”
Addressed to Mr. R. G. Hazzard, Peace Dale, Rhode Island
Arcole [Wilkerson County, Mississippi]
10th June 1842
Enclosed I send you the measures for Negro shoes. You will send me seventy-one pairs for my place to suit the following measures, to wit: 10 pair 10½ inches, 10 pr. 11 inches, 9 pair 10¼ inches, 8 pair 10 inches, 3 pair 6 inches, 5 pair 6½ inches, 3 pair 11¼ inches, 5 pair 10¾ inches, 2 pair 10 1/8 inches, 4 pair 11¾ inches, 8 pair 9¾ inches, 1 pair 8 inches, 3 pair 10 5/8 inches long. These measures are the exact length of the feet of the Negroes. You will consequently please allow about a half of an inch on each measure so as to enable them to wear thick stocking with comfort.
I also desire you to send thirty pair for the estate of M. N. Brandon. I enclose the measures. I don’t exactly understand it, but perceive it is the same measures you had last year & suppose you can fit again by it. At first I thought the measures were taken in inches & fractions & commenced to class them as I did my own, but observed the measure for Eliza marked 1 I concluded it was the number for they could not want a shoe for a foot an inch long.
18th June. For fear of mistake & to have all straight, I have delayed writing until the present time & sent & got the measures for the shoes for the Negroes on the estate of M. N. Brandon & they are as follows, to wit: 6 pair 10 3/8, 5 pair 11 1/8, 5 pair 10 5/8, 5 pair 10 1/8, 1 pair 11 4/8, 6 pair 9 5/8, 1 pair 8 5/8. 1 pair 7 2/8. The above measures is of the exact foot in inches and eighths. YOu will make a reasonable allowance for the purpose of enabling them to wear thick socks or stocking. Please forward the shoes as early as possible as I have delayed too long in writing for them. Ship to the care of Messrs. Franklin & Henderson, New Orleans.
I congratulate you on the pacification of little Rody. ¹
Respectfully, your obedient servant, — W. L. Brandon
¹ The “pacification of little Rody” is a reference to the suppression of armed insurrection in Rhode Island in what historians have labeled the Dorr Rebellion which erupted over suffrage issues in 1841-42.