Posts Tagged ‘Yorktown’

In Camp 5 miles ofRichmond,Va., June 14th, 1862

My dear Wife

Your long and agreeable letter was received yesterday in which you complain that I did not let you know of my promotion.  My darling I certainly intended to tell you in my first letter after it took place if I did not, for I always like to write everything that I think will give you pleasure, and I was sure that would.  It was not intentional, and you must not think hard of it.

I hope Mr. Stuart stayed long enough with you all for you to overcome the first bad impression he usually makes.  He is very amusing, as well as instructive.  It was very kind in him to take Jake home.  Jake I hope is improving and will soon rejoin the service.  You all must not keep him after he is able to come back.

I am having quite an easy time compared to what it was a few days ago, but how long it will remain so is the question.  The Yankees seem to all outward appearances as far from attacking us as ten days ago.  We are making some preparations for them.  They admit in the New York Herald a loss in the recent fight of 7,000 thus showing contrary to my expectations a larger loss than we sustained.  They had all the advantage of position, preparations and artillery.

May has passed and they have not taken Richmond yet.  In some of the letters taken on the field they were quite facetious about marching to Richmond.  Some said they had not time to write more as they were in a hurry towards the city.  Others said their next would be dated in Richmond, etc.

I received a letter yesterday from Col. A.M. Scales asking me to try to get his Regt. in my Brigade and congratulating me upon my promotion.

I went to see Almond Heart today and found the poor fellow in a bad plight.  Altho’ looking fat he said he was completely broken down and that the Doctor had promised to send him to hospital tomorrow.  He said he had not a clean white shirt or drawers to his name, having lost a few days ago, for the second time everything he had.  You will excuse me for offering him one of the shirts you made me.  He said he would accept it a pr. of drawers and seemed very grateful.  I then ventured to ask him about his finances upon which he said he had not a cent for three weeks and I pressed him to take $15.  He said he was so tired of salt meal and bread.  He has had diarrhea since leaving Yorktown.  We talked about when I was married and he said he was sorry when the affair was over as he was enjoying himself very much and that he often thought of Miss Mary Lilly.  It felt like old times for Almond was always a great favorite of mine.

… Honey I must close sooner than I anticipated, having some pressing business on hand.  May God in Heaven bless you all.  I have just gotten through part of my business, I will now give you a few more words to show you that even the duties of a general do not make me forget my wife.  Good night.

Your devoted Husband

Sources: William Hassler, ed., One of Lee’s Best Men: The Civil War Letters of General William Dorsey Pender (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999). William Dorsey Pender papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill. http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/p/Pender,William_Dorsey.html

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Camp near Richmond
23 May 1862
Mr. John A. Gibson, Dear Brother,
I this morning have the pleasure of writing you a few lyns to inform you that I am still in the land of the living.  I have not hird from you for some time.  I haven’t received a letter from home for two months.  I would have wood have written to you some time ago but I lost my nap sack on the march and I had no paper to write on.  We had a very heavy march and we marched about 60 miles.  We marched from Yorktown to Richmond or near Richmond.  We are within two miles of town.  The Yankees followed us for ten or twelve miles tho they are some 76 miles from this place we all came thro safe and supposed youse have hird that I was taken prisoner in the march but that was false.  I was sick when we left Yorktown.  I went in before with the wagons and got lost form them for five or six days.  I had taken the wrong road and went ahead of the wagons.  Nat Raymir got a letter and he told me that he hird that I was taken prisoner.  I don’t know who it was that sent such nuse as that home.
I saw James W. Gibson the other day.  He was well at that time there Regiment is Camped close here.  They are now on pickett guard day before yesterday.  I met them going out for three days then there will by some other regiment.  We have to go ten miles on pickett.  This is marching back and forwards.  I cant tell how long this will last.  I hope it may not last long I hope.  How soon peace may be made and we may all get home.  This marching thro the mud there is no fun in it certain and sure.  We haven’t any tents now our blankets is all the shelter now .  I lost all of my close and was not able to carry my napsack and it was put in the wagon and the roads was so muddy that they had to throw the knapsacks out.  John A. I want you to write to me soon as you can and let me know where Hugh S. Gibson is and where Will is.  I have been looking for a letter from home for some time.  I have wrote two letters home since I received any.  You will please write soon.
I remain the same your Brother Joseph F. Gibson.
Direct as before only to Richmond Va.
(PS) I must write a few lyns to father and mother.  Dear Father and Mother I will endever to try to write a few lyns to youse to let youse now that I am still on southern soil.  I can inform you that my helth is tolerable good at this time tho I have ween unwell for some time.  I hope this may find youse all in good helth.  I suppose youse that the Yankees had taken me tho that is not the case yet I must draw to a close as my paper is out, youse must write soon to Richmond.  I remain the same your son Joseph F. Gibson.
Sources: Christopher Watford, ed. The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers’ and Civilians’ Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865, Volume 1. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003). Original in the Catawba County Historical Association, transcription courtesy of Mrs. Addie Cloninger.

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Thursday 8th [May 1862]

I finished Zona’s dress just after dinner & cut out a pea green chambra* dress for her, one Sister Jane gave her when we were down there. Dr. Neilson was here this evening, think Atheline a good deal better. He staid some time. Mr. Henry went to Asheville this morning, came home to dinner, is at the dam this evening. Hanes out in the field. Lonzo attends to Willie today. Hanes stays till 9 o’clock or till after I get the house cleaned.

Friday 9th [May 1862]

Mail brought no news this morning & battle is expected at Corinth& another at Yorktown soon. I sewed on Zona’s dress. It is very tough sewing & dreadful rotten. Warm & pleasant. Our garden is getting on slowly. The fly or something has destroyed all our cabbage plants.


*Chambray Fabric: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambric


Source: Diary of Cornelia Henry in Fear in North Carolina: The Civil War Journal and Letters of the Henry Family. Clinard, Karen L. and Russell, Richard, eds. (Asheville,NC: Reminiscing Books, 2008).

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May 9th

I have just heard of a terrible battle nearYorktown, our loss is 1200 in killed, wounded and missing. The enemy loss is great. I am in anxiety and suspense of mind about dear Willie, he was in the battle, his company suffered, was cut up. Oh my Heavenly Father, help to bear this great trial. I am so concerned about my dear boy, I do not know what his situation. My husband has gone to Danville to hear from the battle. Oh! this suspense of mind is so unpleasant, I never had such trials before in all my life, I pray for grace to bear it. I cannot get any tidings from my dear Mary Virginia, if the enemy are at Memphis they may flee to some place of refuge.

Source: Mary Jeffreys Bethell Diary, 1853-1873.  #1737-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/bethell/menu.html

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May 6, 1862

Mr E. really sick.  He has been very unwell since Thursday.  Indeed he has not been himself since he came home & the miserable uncertainty he is under about his Battalion aggravates it.  Today he is really sick & suffering and I only able to creep about.  So there is a pair of us!

Neither health or spirits were improved by a Bomb Shell which Sue threw into our midst, viz., that preparations to evacuate Norfolk were going on!  It seemed madness.  Are we never to cease retiring?  Are we to give up undisturbed possession of the water to our enemies?  For with the loss of the Navy Yard all hopes of a Navy are forever lost to us.  Of what use will breaking of the Blockade be to us when we have no longer a Port to unlock?  And theVirginia?  What of her?  Is she too to be sacrificed?  For with no place to fall back upon, what will be her fate, it will not be difficult to guess—captured or blown up to avoid capture as the Louisannia was by her commander.  What can Mr Davis mean?  I fear Gen Lee is at the bottom of all this.  He is too timid, believes too much in masterly inactivity, finds “his strength” too much in “sitting still.”

Our Army is falling back fromYorktownaway from these dreaded Gunboats, leaving their intrenchments & I suppose abandoning their Cannon after attempting to spike them.  The Gunboats of the enemy have advanced up thye York River toWest Point& thus compelled the destruction by our own hands of five gun boats which we had there in process of building.  We, of course, “fell back”!  Perhaps the notion may be to wear out the U S Government, crush them with a debt too heavy for them to bear.  It may be so, but in the mean time they try a most dangerous experiment with our own people.  But I remember Gen A SJohnston& try to be content & think Gen Joe Johnson and Mr Davis know best.  But it is hard work.  He (Gen Johnson) is falling back to the line of the Chickahominy, where I suppose he means to make a final stand & a desperate defense forRichmond.

Rumours of an impending fight atCorinthyesterday or today.  Grant us, O Lord, the Victory!

Amo Coffin left forRaleightoday.  Things begin to look brighter for the Battalion.

Ah! if Dr Ward had done his duty & either been Major or declined it & let Patrick choose another who would have been an assistant to him, what a world of trouble he would have spared!  Burnside is moving—but where, it is for the future to disclose.

Came a letter from Mr Hall saying that he goes into Camp today & will report to Patrick tomorrow.

Oh! for health & strength once more!

Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979). http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html

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The 2 day of May [1862] was a beautyful one And we had orders to leave Yorktown.  And soon in the morning the wagons was loded and everything sent off but our knapsacks and about 12 o’clock the Artillery was all plast in a line of battle acrost the field and about dark we was all marched out behind it and Colonel Pender told us that they expected a large fight the next day and we lade that in the filed all night with our guns by our side.  And next morning we marched out in the woods And we stade that untell about 2 o’clock in the night And then we was rousted up and marched about a half a mile and then for sume cause we was stopt and sent back.  And then about daybreak we started again and taken the same road back that we come down And about 12 oclock we got to Williamsburg and we onley went about 4 miles furher tell we stopt to stay all night And about 4 oclock in the eavning the Yankee Calvry overtaken ours clost to Williamsburg and we had a little brush but our men whipt thirs and we onley lost one kild and 3 or 4 sounded and we kild 9 of thirs and wounded sevrl and taken 10 horses.  And the 5 day was a very raney one indeed and we was rousted up about 2 oclock in the night and marched all day threw the mud and water at night we arrived in about 2 miles of West Point.


 Sources: Christopher Watford, ed. The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers’ and Civilians’ Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865, Volume 1. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003). Original in the diary of Bartlett Y. Malone, property of the Wilkinson Family.  Microfilm copy available in the Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


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april 30 1862

Dear sister

            I received you very kind letter which gave me much satisfaction to hear that you are all well your letter found me well and J.F. Gibson is here he is not very well but is not bedfast he is on dutie all the time there is many of us that have not been as well since we left Manassas as we were than, that was a very healthie country as we were most fixed to stay there when we had to leave and so we are not at Yorktown and have been expecting a battle every day till now we rather expect to evacuate this place in a few days.

            That is the supposition we cant tell how it will be yet there are immense forces here both of Yankees and our people but it is very doubtful when we leave.  I think we will fall back toward Richmond some twelve miles from this point.  We have been looking for a battle for some time ever since we came here but now we are rather in a leavening way for a few days and I suppose we will leave if we can get away.  They have every advantage over us and we will have to stay here till the fray is settled and I intend to try and do the best I can for myself and others.

            We will have a Bully Company after while, we will have to have one hundred and twenty five men for a Company.  I expect we will have a new set of officers altogether it is very uncertain who they will be but I know we will have a great many new officers.  But I will not tell you who they will be yet for I can’t tell till after the election and then I will report to yous and let yous know who our officers will be.  I wish I had herd that Hugh S. Gibson was going to volunteer, I should have said to him that he come out here as me and J.F. Gibson ware both out here but he is under a good Captain and he is a great deal nearer home than we are and probably further out of danger than us.

            We are in a place said to be very sickly place it is a very changeable place one hour very hot and then very cold.  It is right on the sea coast and when ever the tide flows it is very cold and chilly it is said to be a great place for chills and fever but I hope we will get away from here before long and get to a better place we have been nearly all over this side of the southern and I think they will send us to the other side before long, if we get off from this without a fight we will be lucky, that is one thing certain.

            I tell you that if we ever do fight here they will whip us just as certain as this world stands.  But I think we will fall back from this place.  You said the boys are all gone but Adlophs.  Where is William?  Tell him and Dolphus to stay at home till they are obliged to come for when they leave their they leave home.  But if they are old enough they will be obliged to come and if they have to come I should like to have them to come to me or Joseph F. one.  But it may be that they will be as well off some place else as here give my respect to all, please write soon and give me all the news your brother sincerely till death separates.

J.W. Gibson

Sources: Christopher Watford, ed. The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers’ and Civilians’ Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865, Volume 1. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003). Original in the Catawba County Historical Association.  Transcriptions courtesy of Mrs. Addie Cloninger.

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Camp near Yorktown, Va., April 27th, 1862

My dear Wife

            According to promise I write you again tonight altho’ I have but little to write about.  Today was passed about like all Sabbaths do in camp.  I should be very glad to be able to go to church but that is not allowed us.  I hope we shall have service Tuesday by Mr. Stuart.  I hope he will administer the sacrament for upon the eve of what we suppose is to be a great and bloody battle.  I should like once more to partake of that means of grace, altho’ I feel totally unworthy.  I could only trust in my sincere desire to accept it worthily.

            We have very cheering rumors from Richmond today. If only half of them are true.  One that Jackson has whipped [N.P.] Banks in the Valley, and one that Beauregard has whipped [D.C.] Buell, another that our gunboat Louisiana has destroyed the two Federal boats reported to have passed the Forts, and the fourth which is said to be from the President that the Steamer Nashville had gotten into Wilmington with 7000 rifles.  Pretty good for one day, is it not?

            Captain Ruffin has been reelected Captain of his old Company and Dr. [D.A.] Montgomery 1st Lieut.  The men of the Company are superior to most any I know from N.C. and I think I shall advise Jake to join it.  I know he would be taken good care of there.

            Do you know Honey I feel very solemn tonight, possibly more so on account of some singing which is going on near.  Oh! Darling I do so long to be a Christian and I do find it so hard even to have the outward semblance of such.  It is impossible for me, I suppose I trust too little to Christ and expect to do too much myself.

            Have you seen any account of the dream a solider had at Pensacola.  We were to have a big and severe fight the last week in April, in the first week of May peace was to ensue, and that the day after his dream at a certain hour he was to die.  The latter part of his dream was fulfilled and I cannot help from being superstitious enough to think a part at least of the remainder is to come true.  May the Lord, if it be his good pleasure, protect me from harm.  I cannot contemplate leaving you with any degree of composure.  My dear, excuse this laborious strain I am in tonight and set it down as worth nothing, but you know how impossible it is to prevent ourselves sometimes from indulging ourselves far enough to communicate our feelings to others.  To none would it give so much pain but at the same time none can sympathize so fully with me as you will.  God bless you my more than guardian Angel.

            I sometimes treat you badly and am cross with you, but I love you none the less.  Fanny, it seems to me that I can want no other blessing conferred upon me in this world than to be allowed to live quietly with you and the children.  I may appear to be restless, etc. when you are with me, but it does not arise from not being satisfied.  You always say I do not talk to you.  I talk but little to anyone, but it always seems when with you that I am content to sit down and enjoy my happiness in quiet.  Live on my dear wife in consciousness that you have been a true wife a good wife and a devoted one.  That you have inspired in me the desire at least to be better than I was when you married me. 

            Matters militaire stand about the same with the exception of a little activity on the part of the enemy in throwing up some dirt last night, a good deal nearer our works.

            Honey, won’t you write me that I am the same to you that I was before I wrote that unfortunate letter.  I feel guilty and therefore uneasy.  I am scared at the calmness with which you wrote that reply.  Darling, I cannot bear to lower myself in your estimation.  Kiss the children.  May the Lord have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

Your devoted Husband

Sources: William Hassler, ed., One of Lee’s Best Men: The Civil War Letters of General William Dorsey Pender (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999). William Dorsey Pender papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill. http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/p/Pender,William_Dorsey.html


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YORKTOWN, VA., April 13, 1862

 Dear Mother:

            I commenced a letter to you the other day but was unable to finish it, being called off to participate in a slight skirmish with the Yankees.  We arrived at this place last Thursday evening and having sent out our portion of the picket, of which I was one, we ate our hard bread and meat and laid on the hard, cold ground for the night, with the blankets we brought on our backs for a covering.  On Friday we were ordered out, for the Yankees were about to attack us, our skirmishers went out towards the enemy for the purpose of drawing them within range of our batteries, the enemy came in sight with a long line of artillery and drew up in battle array about half a mile from our batteries, by that time there was some right hard fighting on the part of the skirmishers.  About two o’clock p.m., our batteries opened upon them and they were returned with the greatest alacrity; bombs, shells and balls flew about promiscuously, but happily they did no damage on our side, nearly all of them going over our heads.  We threw some shells that seemed to do damage with the Yankees, the way they scattered when the shell fell among them.  One shell which came over us bursted and fell all around, one piece fell right between two of our boys, but no injury done.  The firing continued until dark, in the time the skirmishers set fire to a large dwelling houses, near the enemy’s infantry and under the cover of the smoke they broke in on them and routed them, but they had soon to retreat for the Yanks turned their batteries upon them, after which hostilities ceased for the night.  We lay in the entrenchments all night.  Next morning, Saturday, the enemy was not to be seen.  This morning we are expecting an attack again, and have been ordered into the entrenchments, but they have not made an attack yet.

            Gen. Magruder says that if they do not attack us to-day, that he will them tomorrow.  We are exactly on the battle ground of Washington and Cornwallis, but all that remains to be seen are the old breastworks of the British, which lie immediately behind ours.  The Yankees hold the same position that Washington did.  There is also the place where Cornwallis surrendered his sword to Washington.  Yorktown is the oldest place I ever saw.  I do not believe that there is a single house that has been built in fifty years.  As I was walking through the town, I chanced to come upon an old grave yard, that had gone into entire ruin.  There could be seen the tombstone, I chanced to come upon an old grave yard, that had gone into entire ruin.  There could be seen the tombstone of the Revolutionary soldier, citizen and foreigner.  The oldest one was dated 1727, that was the tombstone of an old lady sixty years old, and another of a president of his majesty’s council in Virginia.  He died in 1753, and all the rest of nearly the same date.  It was a perfect pleasure to me to look over the old place, such a contrast to the clay hills of Manassas.  I feel nearer home, but still I am a long ways off.  I am wanted now, as they are continually detailing men for something or other.  I will send the letter I wrote the other day.  When the battle closes I will write again.

            Give my love to all.

            Your loving son,



P.S. I have not heard from Walter yet, except from a man that came from the hospital, he says that his hand is nearly well. 

Source: Laura Elizabeth Lee, Forget-Me-Nots of the Civil War: A Romance Containing Reminiscences and Original Letters of Two Confederate Soldiers (St. Louis, Missouri: A.R. Fleming Printing Co, 1909).  See also Joel Craig and Sharlene Baker, eds., As You May Never See Us Again: The Civil War Letters of George and Walter Battle, 4th North Carolina Infantry  (Wake Forest, NC: The Scuppernong Press, 2010).

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In the Trenches near Winns Mill

Yorktown April 22nd 1862

Bro George,

            I have received your favor of a recent date & was much pleased to hear from home as letters are now quite rare & news from that portion of the country almost unattainable.  This leaves me in good health, not withstanding the severe exposure through which we have recently passed.  We were for three weeks without tents, blankets, or cooking utensils and out in the worst weather that we have had through the winter, our only articles of furniture being an axe which we made fires and cut the bark of trees to make our trays ovens etc.  But we are yet alive & well though many of my recruits have given away under the hardships, none however being seriously sick.

            In the hurry & confusion of writing I can give you but little of interest in regard to military matters on the Peninsula.  Suffice it to say we have a splendid army here under command of our best Genl.  Our line of battle extends from Yorktown on York River to the James River across the Peninsula, a distance of 8 miles.  The right wing is commanded Genl. Magruder, the center of Genl. Longstreet & the left by Genl Hill, the whole being under Genl Johnston.  The force is estimated to be 65000.  I should think it will approximate that figure as we have brought the army of the Potomac with slight exception here and have concentrated many troops from other points.  Our whole line is well protected with earthworks or rifle pits with redoubts for cannon at regular intervals.  We have splendid siege guns mounted at Yorktown (to resist the gun boats, which lie Just below) and have quantities of artillery and mounted guns on the whole line.  The enemy occupies our whole front in large forces being in full view.  Their camps artillery and in fact all of their preparations are now in sight.  Our pickets are but three hundred yards from theirs—all in the same field and just in front of us in full view.  We have been lying in the trenches for five days.  The enemy has kept up a furious cannonade on our whole line all the time, frequently firing all night on us.  None of my company are yet hurt but we had a narrow escape a day or two since as a shell bursted in the company, the fragments flying in every direction.  I had quite a lively & little affair with enemy’s picket a few days ago while out posting our pickets—they fired on me in splendid style—the balls trimming around on every side but they had the gentility & kindness not to injure me for which I am obliged to them.  We have had several severe fights with them since we arrived, our regiment not participating as the attacks were just to our right.  They made four assaults on our entrenchments, with the intention of cutting our line & getting in our rear, in all of which they were repulsed with heavy loss.  The 15 N.C. Regt acted very gallantly in one of these affairs, Col. Mckinny being killed the other attacks were made in the night.  The fighting was furious & desperate, they charged over our trenches & we encountered them in a hand to hand fight killing and wounding nearly the whole of the assailants.  These men are selected for this purpose and fighting most desperately.  Our Regiment has done no fighting yet excepting with the pickets (they fire constantly) but we have been compelled to take the enemys fire from their batteries & gun boats for five days.  I have become quite adept at bowing as I very politely come down when a shell bursts over me, which being so frequent I have become extremely polite.  But we have become used to it and our boys only laugh & cheer as they whistle and burst harmlessly over our heads.  I think that we can hold our position here against any force that the enemy can bring against us, as we have an admirable position & are all ready.  I can give you no idea when the general attack will take place.  It may be this evening, tomorrow or at any moment as both parties are apparently ready & we have nothing to do but pitch in.  I think the enemy are endeavoring to weary us out & exhaust our men by a constant cannonade & shelling and then charge our works with the bayonet while they attempt to take Yorktown with the gunboats.  Our troops are in good spirits and bid defiance to the bayonets which now gleam before us.

            No more, I will write again in a few days.  Remember me very kindly to sister and Mrs. Taylor (if with you) also to Sallie & other friends.  Dock is well but somewhat sick.

            Very hastily and lovingly yours

            C.C. Blacknall

Sources: Christopher Watford, ed. The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers’ and Civilians’ Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865, Volume 1. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003). Original in the Blacknall Collection, North Carolina State Archives.

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