Mr. W.W. Batts
Please send for your negro and get mine and bring her to your house, if you please, and I will come to your house this Evening.
Jany the 1 1860 W.H. Edwards
[Second handwriting on face of letter]
Henry I will do what this calls for. I will bring her as far as my house. W.W. Batts
[Handwritten on reverse]
Permit Lewis to carry this to W.H. Edwards. W.W. Batts
In 1977, late Wilson historian Hugh B. Johnston Jr. published an annotated collection of letters written to and from members of the Edwards family of Wilson County during the Civil War. William H. Edwards (1839-1864), son of Edwin and Zilpha Batts Edwards, lived in the Joyner’s Depot area just north of present-day Elm City. He was killed by cannonball during a battle near Petersburg, Virginia. His kinsman William W. Batts (1827-1869) also lived near Joyner’s Depot.
The meaning of the note is unclear, and the enslaved people to whom it refers — “your negro” and “mine” — are unknown. The message on the back conveys permission for Lewis, an enslaved man apparently belonging to Batts, to travel in Batts’ service. In other words, it is a “free pass.”