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