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    Fannie R. Boyle Archive of Letters with Portrait. Collection of 14 letters, written by Fannie Boyle, the majority dated postwar, relating to Mrs. Boyle's family and plans to move to Mexico. The archive spans the years 1866 to 1867, with one letter undated, but likely written during the war.

    Fannie Reynolds Greene was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and was distantly related to General Nathaniel Greene of the Revolutionary War. She married Dr. Cornelius Boyle; they had nine children, six of whom lived. Fannie was a devoted wife and mother, as seen in her letters, and she initially supported her husband's plans to move to Mexico. Fanny's letters detail her journey to Mexico, via San Francisco. While in transit, Fanny changed her mind and insisted that Boyle abandon his plans.

    In a February 23, 1866 letter (four pages, 7.75" x 9.75") to her sister, Fannie relays her husband's desire to move to Mexico: "[Gordonsville, Virginia]...The subject of Mexico I will postpone until I see you. I cannot discuss it in a letter. I will only say that I have neither urged nor opposed our removal there. I believe the Major to be utterly, thoroughly, completely, disgusted with the entire condition of affairs in this country and that he thinks that matters will grow worse instead of better. I believe he will never be a happy or content man so long as he remains in it and under those circumstances if he desires to leave the country and thinks he would be better satisfied and that it would be better for the children that he should do so, I am willing to go. If it should be that events should determine otherwise I am equally willing to remain...a large number of others will go provided they can sell their farms as otherwise they have no means. A very large number of the most respectable & intelligent landowners in the state, who have lost their labor by the War and who do not care to cut up their farms and leave them occupied by Yankees and Freedmen, are now making preparations to sell out and leave the country." Toning, along with usual wear and mail folds, with some separation at folds where paper has weakened.

    Another letter from Fannie reveals the details of Dr. Boyle's scouting trip to Mexico. In a four-page letter (4.75" x 7.75") dated May 28, 1866 she writes (in part): "[Gordonsville, Virginia]... I have had four letters from the Major since he left - the first dated from the Steam Ship, the second from Havana, the third off Vera Cruz and fourth from Paso Del Macho May 6th. He was much pleased with his trip out and with everything and everyone he had met with. A Mr. Barron said to be the wealthiest man in Mexico, whose property was estimated at forty millions [sic] of dollars was a passenger on the same ship and became so interested in the Major that he has made him very liberal offers and has engaged him to survey a track of land belonging to him on the Pacific Slope and to report on it as to whether it would be suitable for a colony - promising if it should answer the purpose to pay part of the expenses of emigrants and aid them in every way until they should become able to take care of themselves. As he has an immense income he is entirely able to fulfil all that he promises and persons settling upon his land would avoid all trouble about titles... Genl Early whom the Major saw at Havana advised him to hold onto Mr. Barron, his friendship was better than Maximilian's. The Emperor's special car was sent for Mr. Barron on his arrival at Vera Cruz and he invited the Major to accompany him so that he had the honor to ride in his Majesty's own car... " Toned throughout with usual mail folds.

    Boyle returned to Virginia, and Fannie joined him for a return trip to Mexico, via San Francisco. Fannie was a charming and descriptive writer, and her letters during her time in San Francisco contain great details of life in California during the late 1860s. In an eight-page letter (8" x 10") to her daughter Fannie (in part): "[San Francisco, California, May 25, 1867]...I must tell you that the houses referred to although very handsome, are almost all built of wood, which is made to look like stone. None of them are higher than the house you live in though layers in extent. The reason for this is that the people here are always anticipating an Earthquake, as there have been several, and consequently built their houses with a view to safety...One feature of San Francisco which immediately attracts the attention of strangers is the great numbers of Chinese or Chinamen that one sees in the streets. They are generally small and the color of new leather or of light mulattoes. Their features are of course of the Asiatic type and they wear long cues hanging down their backs almost to their feet. Sometimes these cues are wound around their heads but a Chinaman would rather die than have his cue cut for it is considered a great disgrace. They all dress exactly alike at least everyone I have seen had on a pair of black pants cut American fashion, with a loose blue shirt hanging outside of the pants, made of some material brought from China, a slouch hat and Chinese slippers made of cloth, pointed and turned up at the toes. There are comparatively few Chinese women in the city. I saw two a few days ago on a Steam Boat as I was returning from Oakland, a town on the opposite or west side of the Bay of San Francisco. These women looked very much like the men, except that they were more fleshy and did not have long cues hanging down their backs...The Chinamen import all their clothing and a good deal of their food from China and when they die their remains are invariably sent back to that country. Their numbers in the city and on the Railroads is estimated at 100,000.

    There are very few colored or black people here and I was here a week before I saw a black woman. The servants are nearly all white, principally Irish, German & Chinese. I suppose there are more different kinds of people than in any other city in America. There is no civilized nation in the world that is not represented here and you hear the different languages of the world spoken all around you. I can occasionally understand what is said but not always and I feel the want of such knowledge very sensibly and will of course feel it much more when I leave my beloved country the land of the free and the home of the brave [illegible]. This place is Radical, very, and that is the reason why I have become so patriotic. Perhaps by the time I come home I shall be ready to entertain the Bureau Man and the Yankee schoolmaster at my house and to throw Breck out of the window because the incorrigible little rascal 'won't be reconscucted [sic]'. I say perhaps because rebellious sentiments are very hard to get rid of and who knows but that I may return to 'District No.1' as great a rebel as every and instead of pitching Breck out the window, be more apt to smother him with kisses...A large number of ex-Confeds call daily to see us and among the ladies are Mrs. Albert Sydney Johnston the widow of the lamented General, Mrs. Judge Robinson of Kentucky, Mrs. William Carey Jones (Old Benton's daughter) and Mrs. Col. Wickliffe of [illegible]..." Toned throughout with usual mail folds and some slight foxing, with partial separations at folds.

    All of the letters have great content, and additional images are available upon request. The lot includes a portrait of Fannie (4" x 3.5") identified on verso "Mrs. Fannie R. Boyle". Good condition, slightly toned.

    More Information:

    Major Cornelius Boyle was a respectable physician whose career was cut short by the Civil War.  Before the war, he had headed a pro-Southern militia unit, known as the National Rifles, and when war did break out, he set aside his professional practice and offered his services to the state of Virginia, becoming a Major in the Confederate Army.  He was made provost marshall and post commander at Gordonsville, VA, a critical position due to the railroads.  The key location allowed for him to pass messages quickly to and from the Headquarters of the Army of Northern Virginia, and he quickly became an important Confederate agent.  General Robert E. Lee is even reported to have said of him, when it was suggested that Boyle should be moved to another area, "Major Boyle was commissioned specifically for the service on which he is now engaged. I know of no one who can take his place".


    Boyle was part of numerous undercover operations and communications during the Civil War. It has even been suggested that he could have been aware of or played a small role in both Thomas R. Harney's attempt to bomb the White House and John Wilkes Booth's assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.  After the war, Boyle's vast properties were seized by the government, and he planned to move and settle in Mexico.  After his wife, Fannie, died in 1969, he married a Miss Cherry Bethune of Georgia in 1877.  He passed away in Washington, D.C. in 1878.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2017
    19th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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