William Howell was the son of Richard Howell and a soldier during the war of 1812. After the war he removed to Mississippi where he met and marred Margaret Kempe. He was the father of Varina Howell Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis, President of the confederate states.
This letter is from Jefferson Davis to William Howell.
To William B. Howell
Washington D.C. 22 Oct. 1854
My Dear Sir,
I am in receipt of yours of the 16st Inst enclosing a check for three hundred dollars drawn by Pickett, McMurdo & Co. in my favor, on Saml. Harris & Sons.
The proceeds will be placed at the disposal of Mrs. Howell as instructed. Present circumstances render it difficult to say when and by wha[t] route she had best return home. The western rivers are too low to be relied on and Fever and Cholera combine to render that route objectionable. The sea voyage would bring them throug[h] a tropical climate to your city fro[m] which it appears the yellow fever h[as] not entirely disappeared and the se[ason] is such as suggests rough weather off the Atlantic coast. The Southern or Rail Road route has such frequent changes as to be scarcely suitable for a Lady with helpless children. It has seemed to me proper under this stat[e] of case to delay for a while the contemplated journey, but I will confer more fully with Mrs. H. and advise you before any action is take[n.]
I must ask your forgiveness for my failure to reply at an earlier date to your’s of the 16th Ult. and can only say in extenuation that I should have been more prompt if I had been able to make a definite or important reply. The Post Master at New orleans has not been removed and I have not learned that it had been decided to remove him. Mr. Nevitt wrote to me on the subject and I referred his letter to the P.M. Genl. with such an endorsement in relation to Mr. N’ character and position as information derived from you and others justified. The office as you are aware has no official relation to the War Dept. and I could not give any assurance as to the selection which would be made in the case of a new appointment. Several persons of much influence have been strongly recommended as a su[c]cessor to Mr. Kendall and if Mr Nevitt wishes to be considered as a Candidate it would be well for him to send on his recommendations and have them on file in the event of a vacancy.
Mrs. Howell is in better health than when she arrived, the children have improved more than their Mothe[r.]
Varina is not well, for some time past has suffered greatly fro[m] a nervous cough and is subject to painful depressions the consequence [of?] irreparable grief.
I hope William will have returned to New Orleans before this reaches and have received the promotion which I have learned is designed for him. The duty on which he went to Arkansas was important and difficult beyond the trusts usually confined to persons of his age, but I anticipate success and increased consideration for him as the result. I have much confidence in him and look forward to his future career as likely to be you asource of pride and pleasure.
It always gives me real gratification to receive a letter from you and though I should seem negligent in replying it cannot proceed from a want for either regard or respect or of that affectionate solicitude with which I am ever yours
From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 5, pp. 91-92. Transcribed from privately owned original.