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William Gibbs McAdoo letter

William Gibbs McAdoo letter

Descriptive Summary

Title: William Gibbs McAdoo letter
Creator: McAdoo, W. G. (William Gibbs), 1820-1894
Inclusive Dates: 1866 April 23
Language(s): English
Extent: 1 folder(s) (1 letter)
Collection Number: ms1400
Repository: Hargrett Library

Collection Description

Historical Note

William Gibbs McAdoo (1820-1894) was a man of import in Tennessee. Born in Knoxville, he was graduated from East Tennessee University in 1845. From 1845-1846, McAdoo served in the State Legislature, and from 1846-1847 saw military service in the Mexican War. Subsequent to the war, he was back in Tennessee and held the position of attorney general for the Knoxville district from 1851-1860. Involved in disputes with Governor Brownlow over the politics of sectionalism, McAdoo removed to Georgia in 1862. During the 1861-1865 War, he served as a Captain in the Army of the Confederate States. Still in Georgia in 1871, he was the judge of the 20th Judicial District. He later returned to his native Tennessee, the location of his primary mark as a jurist. McAdoo published a book on Tennessee geology, a tract on geographical nomenclature, several addresses, and wrote a history of his Mexican War experiences which, unpublished, is at the University of Tennessee. The National Union Catalog describes his published writings, of which not one is literary in nature. This is a point of significance and will be commented on later. McAdoo was the father of William Gibbs McAdoo, Jr., later secretary of the Treasury under Woodrow Wilson. Further details on this six foot four, "handsomest man in Tennessee," can be found in Appleton's and in a manuscript biography owned by the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah.

Scope and Content

A love letter, faintly veiled, to an unmarried young woman, written at the time McAdoo was married to the daughter of General John Floyd, a prominent Tennessee Indian fighter. His wife was a published author, and he and she apparently enjoyed together cultural pursuits (see biography at Georgia Historical Society), pursuits which his letter indicates would have found acceptance with Miss Prudden. The Prudden liason never broke the marriage, as he spent the remainder of his life with his then wife. Written from the coast of Georgia, the letter is framed against a background of local history and scenery, but it is constructed in a literary fashion. McAdoo reveals himself to be eloquent of word, not unphilosophical, and well read. On page 2, there appears an original poem by McAdoo, a point of significance. The National Union Catalog shows all McAdoo's published writings to have been non-literary. The manuscript sections of the American Book Prices Current for the period 1945-1977 show no appearance of McAdoo manuscript material. The tone of the letter and his comprehension of poetry (e.g. quote from Campbell on page 1 of the typescript) create the impression that McAdoo was inclined to verbal eloquence and resorted to paper for its recording. His literary output, however, has not come to light. This may be the sole surviving example of his poetry. Most of the local historical and natural scenery comment reveals what is already known, some of it, however, nicely presented within the literary framework already noted, is of interest from that perspectives and hence transcends being purely a rehash of already available local historical information. There are several descriptions of War damage which may not be available elsewhere (e.g., comment of Dungeness on page 3 of the typescript). On one occasion, the letter displays a boyish humor. Noting the passivity of basking alligators to the approach of his steamer, he finds them "as languid and motionless as if they were, also, under the protection of the Freedman's Bureau." On another occasion, it is clear that his sentiment for the Confederacy had not died in April of 1865; passing Fort Jackson, he notes: "As we came down the Savannah River, we passed the dismantled old Fort Jackson. A piece of artillery lying here and there tumbled out of its embrasure, covered with rust, and the general neglect and decay, seemed sadly typical of the fortunes of that power which had it manned and bristling with guns when I last visited the spot two and a half years ago." Should there ever be a full fledged biographical treatment of McAdoo, this letter presents some evidence of the romantic side of the man's make-up together with a lead for the biographer to develop. There is no question that McAdoo hoped to build upon whatever the extent of his relationship with Miss Prudden had been. Additionally and specifically, this letter gives his thought on war. Additionally and generally, the letter displays evidence of a man quite at home in worlds less structured than that of the jurist. The typescript of the original accompanies it.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

William Gibbs McAdoo letter, ms 1400. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Related Materials and Subjects

Subject Terms

Fort Jackson (Ga.)
Georgia -- Description and travel.
Judges -- Georgia -- Correspondence.
Love letters.
Love-letters -- Georgia.
McAdoo, W. G. (William Gibbs), 1820-1894 -- Correspondence
Prudden, Miss -- Correspondence
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.

Related Collections in this Repository

Related collections held by the University of Tennessee Special Collections Library and by the Georgia Historical Society.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

1Letter, 1866 April 23