Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE
PART EIGHT: The previous installment dealt with the last surviving Fool Killer Letter by Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans, Editor of the Milton Chronicle. That letter was from February of 1879.
This time I’ll go back to look at another Civil War-era reference to the Fool Killer Letters, to an excerpt from an 8th Letter which has not survived and to a publication running their own list of figures they’d like to see the Fool Killer slay.
In 1862 the Southern Literary Messenger quoted from a Milton Chronicle Fool Killer Letter, but without an exact date and without the whole context it’s not sufficient to count it as an 8th surviving letter.
Before I get into the details of Jesse Holmes’ (The Fool Killer’s) murderous activities in this account I will briefly explain that this Southern Literary Messenger article seems to be the source of confusion regarding whether the Fool Killer began his famous Civil War hibernation period in 1861 or 1862.
Obviously the 1862 date for this SLM article about Jesse Holmes might seem to contradict the June 1861 Fool Killer Letter in which the roaming vigilante pronounced his disgust at all the fools in the north and south who brought on the Civil War and his melancholy desire to wash his hands of it all until the war was over.
I still go with the summer of 1861 for the start of Jesse’s hibernation. The SLM article may have come out in 1862 but that article is a recap of the career of Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans’ fictional Fool Killer. With no date given for the “new” letter which they quote from we have no conclusive proof that the letter was written after the summer of ’61.
As we’ll see below the “new” letter covers wartime themes that the June of 1861 Fool Killer Letter had already established. Since the war started in April this new letter may have come from May or even July of ’61, since sources of the time claim Evans ran one letter from Jesse Holmes per month. At any rate, we can’t know for sure about 1861 vs 1862 barring further discoveries.
The SLM’s excerpt of a Fool Killer Letter from the Chronicle features Jesse fatally clamping down on a Pittsylvania County, VA scam being run on Confederate soldiers and their families. The dead victim(s) of the Fool Killer were transporting mail and gifts from southern families to their men in the field and would charge $5.00 per item (an enormous price back then) to the family members AND would also charge $5.00 per item to the recipients at the Confederate Army camps.
This excerpt carries on themes from the June of 1861 Letter which featured Holmes using his club/ walking stick/ cudgel and his set of inscribed Bowie knives on similar War Profiteers.
The Southern Literary Messenger did not quote any more of this Fool Killer Letter but wished that the homicidal vigilante had come to Richmond to slay presumably well-known businessmen who bragged about price-gouging the Army of Northern Virginia for barrels of apples and for sandwiches.
The publication also referred to the way North Carolina and Virginia soldiers were sharing tales of the earlier Fool Killer Letters with Confederate servicemen from all over the south. Through the benefit of hindsight we know that those men would take that lore home with them to other Southern states when their military service was over.
Next time I’ll examine a non-Chronicle Fool Killer Letter from the 1870s.
FOR PART NINE CLICK HERE
I WILL EXAMINE MORE FOOL KILLER LORE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY LOOK AT JOE MAGARAC, THE STEEL MILL VERSION OF JOHN HENRY AND PAUL BUNYAN, CLICK HERE
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4 responses to “FOOL KILLER: PART EIGHT – THE SOUTHERN LITERARY MESSENGER”
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I wish more of this material had survived. The Foolkiller is so interesting.
I know exactly how you feel.