Archive for the ‘Soldier – William Dorsey Pender’ Category

FLASHBACK! This blog is now a year and a half old and I’m going share some earlier posts off and on to help us remember where we’ve been, electronic friends from history who we grew to know, and how the trauma of war came home for so many families.  If you like the flashbacks or have some requests for topics, let me know.

First published on this blog on November 22nd 2011, we were just learning the depth of Pender’s love for his wife and his dedication to family and military duty.  Earlier this year [2013] we learned of Pender’s death after being wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Camp Fisher, Va., Nov. 22nd, 1861

My dear Wife

            I was beginning to get anxious to hear from you, as it had been several days since I had received a letter from you, but this morning your dear letter of the 19th came.  It afforded me much pleasure to find that you are getting on so well.  It was quicker getting to me than any I have yet received.  I am so proud of you honey for more reasons than one.  Least of all I see you are trying to adapt yourself to your surroundings and you will be repaid.  I know how they at home will love you for it.  You try to please and interest them in so doing no doubt make your time pass more pleasantly than if you did not try to take any interest in what is around you.    Turner must be getting on very fast in talking, the dear little fellow, I suppose he would call me Dorsey.  I wish I could have been with you all last Sunday evening.

            Oh! honey how anxious I feel that my parents should look to their future welfare.  Particularly my father who I fear is not much better than an infidel for he has never taken any interest in those matters, never had any charity for God’s ministers, and has lived a wicked life.  Honey you must read to them.  They have tender  feelings and can be worked upon.  Interest them by singing and then read portions from the Bible that will be likely to strike them forcibly.  I believe some good may be done them and are we not bound to do that good if possible.  This I feel, and moreover, I feel that it is my duty to try everywhere, but alas I do not which will surely be counted against me.

            Fanny, I do thirst after righteousness but am too indolent and weak to gain.  Of late I have almost despaired of ever becoming a Christian.  I try but fail to arouse myself to that earnestness that one should have.  I make good resolutions only to be broken.  I think of God and His Glorious Son less than I did, but I think honey I have a better conception of some portions of His doctrine than I did.  In reading Romans I am forced to see that by Faith and that only can we be saved.  I had the thing changed about.  I had some indefinite idea that if we did good because we were low-minded, etc., it would be well with us.  But now I think I feel that to believe in Christ’s ability and will to save us—not as [a] matter of reason—but to feel it and act it, is what we want.  And here is where I trouble, I believe it as a matter of the mind, but do I feel it in my heart and act it in loving kindness to all.  Alas no, but surely Christ who sees my feeble efforts will help, surely he who sees my ignorance of my wants, while in prayer—will ask those things that are necessary.

            You speak as if David was coming on very soon.  In one letter you speak as if you might come with him and in your next as if he might come right away.  Please tell him to bring Harris an overcoat.  Sweet potatoes also.  I shall show my appreciation of your promptness about the rice pudding by having one tomorrow.  Harris is very anxious to learn and does so very rapidly.

            I have given out the idea that we will be attacked here, and shall commence to build as soon as I can get the tools, but it will be rather slow work.  All my men have flues to their tents which makes them very comfortable barring a little smoke occasionally.  I have just finished the life of Havelock and what a good and great man he was.  A worthy pattern for any to follow….

            I wish I could hear you say “bless your old soul.” … You, I hope, will have a chance of troubling yourself with me before the fire.  How long do you propose staying upon Town Creek.  I have about come to the end and said nothing.  I knew you would not be frightened by my writing that we expected an attack or I should not have written.  My own wife, if anything happens to me you shall hear it as soon as I can get the news to you…. May God bless and protect you and the children.

            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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After a short nap, our Correspondent wakes up to an important fact

Taylorsville, Va, August 4 [1863]

Messrs. Editors – I have not written lately for two of the best reasons in the world: firstly, a total want of time to write, and secondly a total want of something about which to write.

Even now there are no items for me to spread before your readers, more than the fact that Cooke’s Brigade is still near Taylorsville on the South Anna River; that the Yankees, since their repulse a few weeks ago (of which I gave you’re the particulars) have come no more to the breach, and, consequently, the bridges (of which there are an endless number) across the North and South Anna, the Little and Pamunkey rivers, are unimpaired; the railroads unmolested, and no one at all uneasy, but everybody perfectly satisfied that at least so long as they remain as they now are nothing serious will occur.

For the past two weeks trains from Staunton have been freighted with those of the wounded in the Gettysburg battles, who escaped before our army was repulsed. An average of 300 have passed down this road every evening for the last two weeks. Many others are being sent to Lynchburg. When we recollect that these are only the slightly wounded, and that thousands of others were left on the field and in the temporary Hospitals around Gettysburg in the hands of the enemy, we are enabled to form some idea of the terrible suffering of our brave troops in those sanguinary battles. Two thirds, if not more, of all the wounded who have passed on this road to Richmond are North Carolinians. From some of these I have learned many touching incidents of the part taken by NC soldiers in the Gettysburg battles that I would be glad, had I the time to mention in this letter. Suffice it to say that they, and many intelligent soldiers from other states with whom I have conversed, are satisfied that the NC Troops, not only in the Gettysburg battles, but in fact during the whole war, have been treated with gross and intentional wrong. Said a Louisianan to me day before yesterday, “I have known some of your NC Brigades to fight day after day without being relieved, and, without  any support, to drive the enemy before them, taking thousands of prisoners, the honor of which achievements in the accounts published by the leading papers would be ascribed to troops, who were not in the engagements.” An instance of this kind is given in the battles of Seven Pines, where the 9th Virginia Regiment is said to have run like frightened sheep, for which cowardly act, the lamented Pettigrew could hardly restrain his old Regiment, the 22nd North Carolina, from opening on the recreant Virginians instead of the Yankees. Yet, in the accounts of this battle published by Richmond papers, Virginians were lauded to the skies, while not a word was said of the North Carolinians who drove the Yankees from a series of the strongest batteries and breastworks, ever charged on by any soldiery, a Gen. Pettigrew was spoken of as a South Carolina General, leaving the inference that his Brigade was from the same State.

The name of Gen. Pender, which, when the true history of the war is written, will figure as conspicuously as that of any officer in the confederate army, has not received at Richmond the mention that has been given to one of Pickett’s Corporals. And yet Gen. Pender, was always at his post, even when so badly wounded that he was warned by Dr. Johnson that mortification might ensue. He was the trusted officer of AP Hill, but his achievements stand unmentioned in the record, or, as in many instances is the case, have built up a reputation for others who unable to do anything within themselves are content to wear that laurels that should decorate another’s brow. And now Gen. Pender has done the last thing a patriot can do for his country, yielded up his life; he has passed away comparatively unknown, simply because he was a North Carolinian, and, no sharer in the favoritism of the authorities, won his way to distinction by his sword alone. But North Carolina soldiers will do their duty to the last, and notwithstanding the injustice with which they are treated, will never disgrace the State they are so proud to represent.

Source: Greensborough Patriot, August 6, 1863 as found on www.ncecho.org

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As you may recall, Pender was wounded in the thigh during the Gettysburg campaign by a piece of shrapnel.  Pender decided to head home to recuperate but the wound became infected and doctors decided to amputate his leg on July 18th.  Pender lived for about 2 hours after the amputation was complete.  In his final hours, Pender asked his staff to “Tell my wife I do not fear to die” and “my only regret is to leave her and our children.”  He also remarked that “I have always tried to do my duty in every sphere of life in which Providence has placed me.”  His body was returned to his native Tarboro for burial.

His twenty three year old wife, Fanny, who was pregnant at the time with their third son, could not attend the funeral and went into seclusion.  She never remarried and after her death in 1922, she was buried next to her loving husband.

The newspaper announcement below describes Pender’s military career and never hints at the man we have come to know through his loving letters to his Dear Wife.


Another North Carolina General Dead

We regret to learn that Major General W.D. Pender, who was wounded in the battles at Gettysburg, died at Staunton, Va., after the amputation of his wounded leg at that place. His remains were brought to Richmond on Sunday last and placed in the Capitol, and subsequently brought to Edgecombe county, his place of residence, for interment.

Gen. Pender was a graduate of West Point of the class of 1854, was promoted to 1st Lieut of the 1st Reg’t of Dragoons in 1858, and Adj’t in 1860. After the war broke out he resigned of course, was soon after elected Colonel of the 3d (now the 13th) Reg’t, and subsequently appointed by the Governor Colonel of the 6Th State Troops; vice Fisher, killed at the first battle of Manassas. He was promoted to Brigadier General after the battles around Richmond, and subsequently Majo4 General. He stood very high as a gallant and useful officer. He was about 30 years of age.

Source: Fayetteville Observer, July 23, 1863, as found on www.ncecho.org

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Gettysburg update on Pender

According to Pender’s biographer and editor, William W. Hassler, General Pender and his men were on the line at Seminary Ridge and Pender was seated on a large granite boulder awaiting orders.  The Union artillery opened  fire on the line and General Pender coolly remarked amid shell and shot exploding the boulder nearby “this indicates an assault, and we will ride down our line.”  During this ride down their line, Pender was wounded in the thigh by a ragged piece of shell.  Unable to mount his horse the next day, Pender made plans to return home to recouperate.

Source: 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).

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Fayetteville, Penn.

June 28th 1863

My dearest Wife

Our mail came in today and the only think I heard from you was that four letters had reached Shocco the day after left. We are resting today after marching 157 miles since leaving Fredericksburg twelve days ago yesterday. If I had an surety that you would get this in a reasonable time, I should have a good deal to tell you.

Until we crossed the Md. line our men behaved as well as troops could, but here it will be hard to restrain them, for they have an idea that they are to indulge in unlicensed plunder. They have done nothing like the Yankees do in our country. They take poultry and hogs but in most cases pay our money for it. We take everything we want for government use. The people are frightened to death and will do anything we intimate to them. The rascals have been expected us and have run off most of their stock and goods. I bought a few articles for you yesterday and will get you a nice lot before we leave. We pay about 200 percent.

I am tired of invasions for altho’ they have made us suffer all that people can suffer, I cannot get my resentment to that point to make me feel indifferent to what you see here. But for the demoralizing effect plundering would have on our troops, they would feel war in all its horrors. I never saw people so badly scared. We have only to wish for a thing and it is done. I have made up my mind to enjoy no hospitality or kindness from any of them.

Everything seems to be going on finely. We might get to Phila. without a fight, I believe, if we should choose to go. Gen. Lee intimates to no one what he is up to, and we can only surmise. I hope we may be in Harrisburg in three day. What a fine commentary upon their 90 days crushing out, if we should march to the Capital of one of their largest states without a blow. It seems to be the impression that hooker will not leave Washington, but will leave the states to take care of themselves.

We are in Adams Co., having marched through Franklin. If we do not succeed in accomplishing a great deal all of us will be surprised. Our men seem to be in the spirit and feel confident. They laugh at the idea of meeting the militia. This is a most magnificent country to look at, but the most miserable people. I have yet to see a nice looking lady. They are coarse and dirty, and the number of dirty looking children is perfectly astonishing. A great many of the women go barefooted and but a small fraction wear stockings. I hope we may never have such people. Nearly all of them seem to be tenants and at first I thought all the better people must have left. And such barns I never dreamt of. Their dwelling houses are large and comfortable, looking from the outside – have not been inside – but such coarse louts that live in them. I really did not believe that there was so much difference between our ladies and their females. I have seen no ladies. We passed through Hagerstown but saw little Southern feeling displayed. The fact is the people in the NW Md. are as much of the Dutch Yankee as these, and I do not want them.

I hope you reached home safely and feel satisfied with me, and see that this time at least, you did not leave camp much too soon.

I never saw troops march as our do; they will go 15 or 20 miles a day without leaving a straggle and hoop and yell on all occasions. Confidence and good spirits seem to possess everyone. I wish we could meet Hooker and have the matter settled at once. We got the Richmond papers of the 14th today and they bring us good news from Vicksburg. This campaign will do one of two things: viz – to cause a speedy peace or a more tremendous war that we have had, the former may God grant.

Joe enters into the invasion with much gusto and is quite active in looking up hidden property. In fact the negroes seem to have more feeling in the matter than the white men and have come to the conclusion that they will impress horses, etc., etc. to any amount. Columbus is laying in a stock for his sweetheart and sisters. Gen. Hill thus far has managed the march of his Corps and I think will give as much satisfaction as Lt. Gen’l as he did as Maj. Gen’l.

My love to all and keep my folks in Edgecombe posted as to my well being. Write to me occasionally through S. Cooper, A. and I. Gen’l Richmond.

Now darling, may our Good Father protect us and preserve us to each other to a good old age. Tell Turner I have a pretty pair of low patent leather shoes with heels for him.

Your loving husband.


Source: 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).


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Shepherdstown VA

June 24th 1863

My dearest Wife

Tomorrow  I do what I know will cause you grief, and that is to cross the Potomac. The advance of our column is at Chambersburg, Penna. tonight. May the Lord prosper this expedition and bring and early peace out of it. I feel that we are taking a very important step, but see no reason why we should not be successful. We have  large Army that is in splendid condition and spirit and the best Generals of the South. Our troops are sending a good deal of stock out of Penna. and Gen. Lee has issued an order which altho’ it prevents plundering, at the same time makes arrangements for the bountiful supplying of our people.

The inhabitants of this part of the country are very enthusiastic in our favor. We hear all sorts of reports of rebellions in Baltimore, etc. but how true they are of course we cannot know. One thing is certain, however, and that is that the General commanding the Federals is much scared and asking for reinforcements. No one seems to know where Hooker is, only that he is between us and Washington. I hope the conflict will soon come off, for I feel that the first battle is to settle the campaign, at least until they are able to get forces from the West. I was sorry to hear tonight that Burnside had taken Knoxville, Tenn., but I hope if he has not left – which I hear also – that he soon will.

Hope and pray for the best. This is a momentous time but at the same time we are in better condition to meet it than we have ever been.

We will get many a horse before we come back. We have the authority and everyone seems determined to have all mounts and transportation well fixed up. I have written very regularly up to this time but of course after this my letters will be exceedingly irregular. I have been very handsomely entertained today by a fine family.

Darling, rest in a certainty of my great love for you and try to be as cheerful as possible at our distant separation. My love to all and now my own darling may God in his infinite mercy watch over us.

Your loving Husband

Source: 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).

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Camp near Berryville, Va

June 23rd, 1863

My dear Wife

I was delighted last night by again hearing from you. Your letter from Goldsboro and one of the 14th from Shocco and also one from Pamela came.  I do wonder that you did not like your quarters at Shocco, and think very likely you will be much better satisfied at home. I want you to go where you like best.

I wrote you a few days since that you might not be able to hear from me this summer, which Gen. Lee says was wrong, so I shall be able to communicate with you. The General seemed yesterday in fine spirits, but said he was going to shoot us if we did not keep our men from straggling. They marched finely coming up here. I told him if he gave us authority to shoot those under us he might take the same privilege with us.

I think our prospects here are very fine. Gen. Lee has completely outgeneraled hooker thus far and then our numbers are more equal than they have been. It is state on all sides that Hooker has a small army and that very much demoralized. The General says he wants to meet him as soon as possible and crush him and then if Vicksburg and Port Hudson do their part, our prospects for peace are very fine.

Gen. Ewell’s Corps is in Md. and ours has started. I will move this evening or tomorrow morning, but will be three day6s before crossing. Our army is in splendid condition and everyone seems hopeful and cheerful. Cheer up my dear little girl and hope for good things ahead. Ewell captured 31 cannon and 4700 prisoners, but still Milroy claims a complete victory figuring it out that he lost only 300 men and no cannon or arms.

Col. Scales has been appointed Brigadier. I am anxiously looking for him every day for his presence is much needed. Col. Hoke is the greatest old granny and had the impudence this morning to recommend him for promotion which I did not promise to do, nor shall I.

We are living here on fine mutton, milk, butter, etc. I have two fine wagon trains at my headquarters, and you may rest assured that they will have to haul a goodly quantity of dry goods if we get a chance which I think we shall.  I want to fit you out nicely by fall if not before.

What do you think of Mrs. Englehard? I am getting so that I cannot bear Maj. Englehard, he is so presumptuous but I will take some good opportunity to set him down, which will, I think, improve him. I gave Dr. Holt a raking last night and now one for the AAG will I think set things right for awhile. Capt. Hunt is my best man. Capt. Kirkland has been reappointed as I want a staff officers immediately.

Write to me about twice a week, honey, and I will probably hear from you occasionally. The children no doubt enjoyed themselves very much going down to meet you and repaid all the trouble. I will probably write you again before I cross the Potomac. Mr. Williams sends his regards.

My love to all and my own darling may God bless you and all that are dear to us.

Your loving Husband.

Source: 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).

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