Posts Tagged ‘Spotsylvania’

June 5, 1864

Talk who will of the seed of noble blood having run out, that we have degenerated from the spirit & hardihood of our ancestors, I have just read a letter which gives them all the lie. It is from Captain Skinner to his sister, my neice Mrs Jones. It is dated “Front line of Entrenchments Near Old Church, May 31st.” He says in it —

Pattie we have had a dreadful time & a hard time & all is not yet over but I hope the worst is passed. Grant has been taught such a severe lesson by Lee & his ragged rebels that he is the most cautious man to be found. Battle has been offered him a half a dozen times since leaving Spottsylvania C H but he has not accepted. This army is in fine condition & overflowing spirits, notwithstanding that we have lost heavily & suffered untold hardships. Until the 29th we lived on 4 crackers & a ¼ lb of meat per day, but now our rations have been doubled & all are jubilant, tho before that happy event there was not a murmur to be heard & yet men in my company were whole days at a time without a morsel. We are all dirty & if you will pardon the expression — Lousy, having been 25 days without a change of clothing. During this time we have marched, counter-marched, fought, etc., without intermission. We have passed but three nights since May the 4th that we have not been in line of battle, required to keep on not only all our clothing but our accoutrements. We are worn & dirty but a[re] cheerful & confidant relying on our God for the Victory. Don’t be distressed. I am perfectly contented and if I can hear from you & our mother occasionally, I am really happy. Don’t imagine that because a battle is impending that we are long faced & miserable. On the contrary we are cheerful, in a word we are all right! I fear you suffer more than I. Our poor old company (yours & mine) has suffered greatly. We were in the engagements of the 5th, 6th, 10th, 12th, & 23d. I had but thirty men to carry into action in the begining. Of these I lost 4 killed & 18 wounded, one of the latter mortally. . . . A few who were wounded on the 5th have returned and are ready to try it again. . . . By the mercy of God I escaped. I firmly beleive that I will pass through unharmed. . . . If you love me, dont be troubled but trust all to God & pray for your dear brother Ben.

How can such men ever be conquered? The manly & bold spirit, the cheerful endurance of hardship, the firm reliance upon God that breathes in every line can be never be crushed & the tender solicitude he shows for her anxiety goes straight to the heart, so bold, so frank, so hearty & so unselfish. Elsewhere he speaks in most simple earnest tones of his faith & trust in Gen Lee. He closes his letter saying that they “are ordered to march he knows not where,” but Gen Lee has ordered it, & whatever he orders is right. On the 1st “Marse Robert” telegraphs to the Sec of War, “There has been skirmishing along the lines today” & after some particulars says “A force of infantry is reported to have arrived at Tunstal’s Station from the White House. . . . They state that they belong to Butler’s forces.” If so, & I scarce beleive it a ruse de guerre, Butler has gone by water around the Peninsula in stead of crossing through the Swamps of Chickahominy made famous by McClellan’s retreat. All of his forces have not, however, left Bermuda Hundred, as we have an official telegram from Beauregard saying that he had “captured his rifle pits near Ware Bottom Church,” dated June 2d. The details of the skirmishing of Lee’s army are all favourable to us. I use the word skirmishing but it does not express what really took place. In comparison to the grand attack it is a skirmish but whole army corps are engaged on both sides. For instance, about six wednesday night the enemy made another desperate attack on our right. They massed their forces in six lines & hurled them on our position with great rapidity. Our men no sooner recovered from the shock than they assailed them in turn & drove them back. . . . During the engagement 4 companies of a Wisconsin Regt volunteerd to take a battery by assault. When they arrived within 200 yds of the Battery it opened upon them. . . . When within 50 yds from our breastworks in front of the Battery, our infantry opened a galling fire upon them which mingled with that of the Battery annihilated the whole Battalion — not one was seen to escape. . . .

Two car loads of wounded were sent to Richmond & they reported that not a single man of the four companies got back! That is “skirmishing” with a vengeance. We take many prisoners. For instance, in this account alone, Ewell flanks them on the Mechanicsville pike & takes 500, Wilcox’s skirmishers bring in 100, Hampton at Ashland 75 & 300 horses. We rush on them “whilst at dinner, capture many prisoners, & all the dinner,” which to men living on ¼ lb of meat & 4 crackers a day must have been the most welcome of the two! Ewell took three lines of breastworks with but slight loss to himself, but amongst the killed is the brave Gen Doles of Geo. Thus it goes. Time fails me to tell you all. I preserve in my repertory 2 letters from an Englishman, correspondant of the London Herald, giving an account of the battles of the Wilderness & Spotsylvania C H.  They stir the blood like the sound of a trumpet & are said by those who ought to know that they are as true in detail as they are spirited & graphic in description. Lee’s army now lies in Hanover county covering Richmond. “Cold Harbour,” “Atlee’s,” “Hanover Old Church,” “Storr’s Farm,” “Ashland,” names familiar as household words two years since in McClellan’s advance, are now all occupied by our forces. Breckenridge has joined Lee & Whiting is ordered there, & speaking of Whiting, the rumour of which Mr Hill told us respecting himself & Martin we are told on newspaper authority is false. He, it seems, is still in command as is also Gen James Martin. As for Barton, Gen Robt Ransom says he has suspended him — but magnanimously “gives him the benefit of an investigation.” As to the “coup de theatre”  about breaking his sword on the field, we hear nothing of it, but from that lying jade Rumour who at the same time deposes Martin & Whiting — & do not beleive that Beauregard ordered any such thing. To be suspended by that foul mouthed, ill governed tempered man Robert Ransom jr is prima facie no disgrace. Barton had he his deserts is doubtless the better man & the better soldier of the two.

From Gen Johnston we hear officially under date of June 1st, “This army is in a healthy condition. In partial engagements it has had great advantage & the sum of all the combats amounts to a battle.” Signed J E Johnston. He also reports reinforcements from the 17 army corps to be on their way to reinforce Gen Sherman — bad news for us, for I fear we are already out numbered there, but the victory is not always to the strong.

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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May 30, 1864

Grant continues his attempt to flank Lee. Lee still continues to frustrate him. Grant appears to have receded from his determination as expressed to his government “to fight it out on this line if it takes all the summer.” Summer is not quite here & he has changed his base of supplies twice already & circumstances seem to indicate a third, to the White House & York River. Skirmishing goes on constantly, endeavours on Grant’s part “to feel our lines.” Lee has offered battle, but the gage has been declined. Grant is now moving down the Pamunky towards the Peninsula, his army massed on Totopotamoy Creek & shows no dispositions to move further South. The suspense is most painful. Our fate hangs in the balance. May a merciful God shorten our period of probation & give us Peace!

News from the Army of Northern Georgia, cheering. Gen Joe Johnson has inflicted heavy loss upon Sherman, tho as yet there is no general engagement which cannot, however, be long delayed. We have captured many prisoners, a Brigade Commander, & immense numbers of small arms. Cleburn’s Division on the 28th engaged the 4t Army corps under Howard; took 200 prisoners exclusive of the wounded which fell into our hands, killed one thousand, with a loss to us of five hundred men, Maj Gen Howard Johnson & Brig Gen King, the piano stealer, wounded.

The New York World & the Journal of Commerce were suspended by his highness A Lincoln for publishing immediately after the battle of the Wilderness a proclamation appointing a day of fasting & prayer & calling into military service by volunteering & draft 400,000 men, which proclamation proved to be a forgery. Seward & Lincoln accordingly let loose the phials of their wrath upon the unfortunate Editors, ordered their arrest & imprisonment in Fort Lafayette & a military occupation of their premises. When their highnesses were at length appeased & allowed the delinquents again to resume their avocations, the Editor of the World comes out in an address to him which proves old Hudibras to have been a keen observer of human nature. He says, “No Rogue ere felt the halter draw/With good opinion of the Law.” And so Mr “Manton Marble,” for so is he inept, after applauding His Excellency in every step he has hitherto taken in trampling on the Constitution now endeavours to shelter himself behind its broad Aegis! Rob, steal, murder, seize presses, Churches, Slaves, horses, yes the land itself in the South, put your foot down firmly, crush out these Southern Aristocrats, you are a hero & a patriot, but touch me, me Manton Marble& Abraham Lincoln, you are a wretch too vile to enjoy the light of day. Thus does he now discourse, now that he has felt “the halter draw.” Pity Mr Lincoln, that whilst you were about it you had not tightened & ended Mr Manton Marble’s commendations & Phillipics at one stroke. A rascal! But if I dwell on the behaviour of my Yankee bretheren, I shall be in a fair way to emulate Mama’s condition. She said with great earnestness a few days since, “I declare! if this war continues much longer I shall lose the little Christianity I have got!”

So it is with me. The bounds where Christian charity ends & I can “be angry and sin not” are very ill defined in my mind when I read either of the outrages or the meannesses of the Yankee. I rejoice when I hear of their slaughter by thousands, which is all right, for by their death the lives & liberties of my fellow countrymen are preserved. I never stop as Mrs McPheeters did to resolve “that I will be wicked for this once.” When I hear of any of their Generals sharing the fate of that infamous Lyons, it is all good news to me.

This reminds me that I never copied the list of the Generals lost during the last few weeks in the Virginia Campaign. I do it now, premising that I have kept no record of the Louisianna or Georgia enemies Generals. These are Lee’s, Beauregard’s, and Morgan’s alone. Confederates killed Maj. Gen Stuart, Brig Gens Jones, Stafford, Jenkins, Daniel, Gordon, Perrin, & Jenkins again — 8; Wounded, Lieut Gen Longstreet, Brig Gens Pegram, Hayes, Walker, Benning, Ransom, Ramseur, McGowan, R. D. Johnson, Walker again — 10; Prisoners, Maj Gen Edward Johnson, Brig Gen Stewart — 2. Of the Yankees so far as known to us, killed, Maj Gens Wadsworth & Sedgwick — 2; Brig Gens Hayes, Carr, Webb, Taylor, Owens, Stephenson, Rice, Baglie & Ames — 11; Wounded, Brig Gens Warren, Stephens, Robinson, Morris, Getty, Talbot, Baxter, Wright, Smith, & Averil, & two whose names I have lost belonging to Butler’s Command — 12; Prisoners Seymour, Shaller, Neil, & Heckman — 4; 20 Confederates, 27 Yankees. The Yankee papers admitted a loss of 31, independant of Heckman & the two whose names I have lost, making their loss 34, but we had no account of their names. We have lost two Jenkins & — what is a little odd — we have now three Gens Walker all wounded in the foot!

Speaking of wounded Generals, I must tell an anecdote of a little girl who had just begun to read the papers for herself. She looked up from her paper & said “Bad news, sister, bad news, Gen Wheeler is dead”! “How do you know my dear?” “Because I see that Gen Johnston has just reviewed his corpse (corps)”!


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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Near Hanover Junction Va

May 25th 1864

My dearest Corrie

I have written you often since the fighting commenced but I have fear that you did not get them in time as the railroads have been torn up by the enemy in so many places.

We arrived here day before yesterday leaving Spotsylvania on the evening of the 21st, didn’t leave until the enemy had disappeared from our front trying to make his way by our right flank.

There has been not casualties in the company since I last wrote. Parks, Galloway and others have come in. Tom brought my pants but left them with the wagon train so I haven’t seen them.

We boys are all well. Billie seems to take every thing quite easy. I fear exposure will bring back Rheumatism on him.

We have good earthworks here and I very much fear the enemy will not attack us, now don’t think I’m anxious to fight, not so  but this I do know, we have Grant to fight again somewhere and knowing such I’d rather he would attack us while in a strong position as at another time we might not get it. The enemy is out front, there was considerable artillery firing yesterday and this morning we were looking for an attack but as yet everything is quiet. If the enemy continues to assault our lines we will weaken his ranks so after a while we will be able to drive him across the river.

Picket’s Hoke’s and Breckinridge’s divisions have joined us since we left Spotsylvania. You will see by the papers the enemy admits a tremendous slaughter in the former fights. We are all getting lousy.

Give me love to all. I hope I may be spared through these trying times.

As ever




I received a letter from you yesterday. Please write often.



Sources: Mike and Carol Lawing, eds., My Dearest Friend: The Civil War Correspondence of Cornelia McGimsey and Lewis Warlick (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2000). Original collections of the papers are in the Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.


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Winder Hospital, Richmond

Second Division, Ward 28

May 25th 1865


Dear Mother

You will undoubtedly be surprised and I fear alarmed to receive a letter from me at this place. But do not let your mind feel any uneasiness at all. Kind providence has so far favored me that I have passed through another very severe battle with only a skin wound on the inside of my knee. Though the exposure that we had to endure that evening and night (Thursday the 19th inst.), was most too much for me. We fought for three or four hours in the evening, in a drenching rain, until night coming on, we rectified our lines, threw up some little breastworks with our bayonets, anticipating a night attack by the Ynkaees. Our lines were in speaking distance of each other. The Yankees would give us a cheer, then our boys would answer with a deafening Rebel Yell. Gen. Ramseur hallooed out to them twice, “Come on Yankees,” but they did not choose to do so, though I believe they tried to make their men charge us, as we would hear their commands to that effect. We lay there about half the night, in the mud and water, behind our little mound of earth thrown up with our bayonets and hands, when we were ordered to fall back as quietly as possible.

Such a command at such a time puts a strange feeling on a person, a relief to the mind which I can’t describe, nor any one realize, but those who have once been placed in that situation. I always have had a horrible idea of a night attack, and I do hope I may never have to encounter one. We marched back to our breastworks that night(about six miles). Reached there about day break; since then I have been troubled with weakness in the back and a general exhaustion from over fatigue. I was not able to keep up and do duty with the regiment, so I was sent off with a lot of wounded, as that was no place for a sick man, looking for a big fight at any moment. I think I shall be recruited enough in a week or so to return. Don’t feel any anxiety on my account, as every thing may turn out for the best. Write me at this place as soon as you receive this.

Yours, etc.


PS Don’t either of you get uneasy on my account and try to come out here. I will let you know if I get bad off to need your attention. I have written you two letters since the fighting commenced; did you receive them? Send me a sheet of paper as soon as you receive this, and I will write you again immediately.




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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May 19, 1864

Rode out to Hascosea to while away the time until the mail should come in. Met a soldier & stopped him to ask the news. He told us that a mail arrived in Halifax from Richmond late last night, that Gen Dearing had captured Spears Cavalry, 1000 strong, somewhere between the Danville & Petersburg roads, that Lee had captured fifty Yankee Generals, & that Gen Daniel was dead!

Went on to Hascosea & transplanted Dahlia cuttings & set out sprouted Tea nuts until near dinner time when we came home just escaping a heavy shower — which it would have been bad for Pattie & I to have been caught in as we were heated & excited, having performed the last part of our journey on foot, one of our carriage horses having given out entirely, so we deserted him & took to “Shanks mare.”

We found the mail awaiting us &, thanks again to Susan’s fore thought & kindness, we were releived of a crushing load of anxiety. Besides her letters containing all the information she could gather, she sent us slips from the Petersburg papers &, wonderful to tell, a Petersburg paper of yesterday morning. It contained the greatest solace we could have under the losses & anxiety we have sufferd. A congratulatory order of Gen Lee to his troops under date of the 16th — what a blessing that we can trust implicitly everything which comes from his hand! He tells them that “the heroic valour of this army with the blessing of Almighty God has thus far checked the advance of the principle army of the enemy & inflicted upon it heavy loss . . . assures them that it is in their power under God to defeat the last great efforts of the enemy, to acheive the independance of your native land & earn the lasting love and gratitude of your country men & the admiration of mankind.” Signed R E Lee. Words such as these mean something coming from him. His last official dispatch to the President tells him under date Sunday the 15th “that the enemy has retired his right & extended his left towards Massapona Church & occupies the line of the river, his right being east of the stream.”

We have no further details of our dead beyond a confirmation of what the soldiers told us of Gen Junius Daniel. He died on Sat of wounds received on Thursday. His body had arrived in Richmond. My nephew Thomas Devereux is his courier & a part of his military family & attached particularly to his person, so that our anxiety is cruel as regards his safety. God be with him & help his poor parents to bear the load of sorrow which now oppresses them. Yankee papers captured from Butler’s command claim a victory, say that Lee is falling back to Richmond, but with strange inconsistency admit a loss of thirty one General Officers & forty five thousand men! By loss I mean killed, wounded, & captured. Fredericksburg, from their own account, is a vast hospital, and a Squadron of Cavalry could not deploy through the streets so thickly were they strewn with wounded men! No details on either side. They claim to have captured our Maj Gen Edward Johnson, but they are such Cretans that until we hear it from our own side it does not concern us. Coming south in Hanover within six miles of Richmond their cavalry under [ — ] have been turned aside with a heavy loss by Fitz Hugh Lee & Stuart. Here at the Yellow tavern Stuart, sad to say, has lost his life. His funeral together with that of Col H Clay Pate took place in Richmond.

I well remember dining at the same table with Col Pate & his wife at the Ballard House for several days consecutively a little more than two years since. Mr E and himself were in Richmond on the same business, each raising a Battalion of Cavalry. How can I be thankful enough to Almighty God for having ordained them different lots in life. Butler, with even more than usual mendacity, telegraphs to his Gov the very day on which he sustained so signal a repulse at Pt Walthall Junction that he had obtained a great victory, had cut Beauregards forces in two, had destroyed the bridge over Swift Creek between Richmond & Petersburg, beaten Hill, & would soon whip out Beauregard & advance on Richmond, whereas the truth is he is confined in the narrow point of land between the Appomattox & the James. After repeated skirmishes which we would once have called battles, he can advance no further. He has attacked Drury’s Bluff & been repulsed, has lost three, if not four, of his gunboats, and has now no prospect of success. His troops commit the most terrible excesses, rob, murder, & insult defenceless citizens with impunity. Numbers have been killed & our own loss has been heavy, but no permanent advantage has accrued to the Yankee arms from his buckling on his harness.

Our uneasiness about Col Clark is happily ended, as Sue’s letter is of a later date than the attack on Drury’s Bluff in which he was reported killed. At the Stoney Creek bridge, just as it had been repaired, back came Spear’s & his Cavalry but a few troops stationed there & some citizens, hastily collected, held them at bay for half an hour. When the thunder of Gen Dearing’s detachment of cavalry was heard approaching, when they left at double quick, with the loss of many men. Gen D was in pursuit, but whether with the result announced by my soldier friend does not yet appear.

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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Battlefield near Spotsylvania CH, Va

May 19th 1864

My own Dear wife,

By the mercy of God I am still spared to write you a few, rather hasty lines. On the 12th of this month my Brigade did some of the best fighting of the war. My loss that day was very heavy, especially in men. The officers were quite well comparatively. I was slightly wounded through my right arm just below the elbow.  My Yankee horse was shot severely, but yet he still lives. I also received four holes in my overcoat. Some of the troops which were driven early on in the battle behaved shamefully.

The Yankees have been quiet for nearly two days, with the exception of a feeble assault on our lines yesterday the 18th, which we easily repulsed. I think they are attempting to strike the Railroad in our rear. Their loss has been immense – 50,000 is the current estimate. Ours is about 15,000 in killed, wounded, and prisoners, 5,000 of those being prisoners.  May God give us a victory which will insure peace and independence to our struggling Confederacy.

The Railroads appear to be and are cut in this part of the country, so I suppose I will not hear from you in quite some time. Your last was received two weeks ago. Pray for me and pray for our noble army and the success of our Cause.

S.D. Ramseur


Source: Christopher Watford, ed. The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers’ and Civilians’ Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865, Volume 2. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003). Original in Stephen D. Ramseur Papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Spotsylvania CH Va

May 19th 1864

My dearest Corrie,

As there is an opportunity or soon will be of sending a letter I will write to you again.

I wrote two or three days since but being aware that you will be very anxious to hear from me frequently during these fighting times I will endeavor to write as often as an opportunity affords.

We had a mail to-day the first in nearly two weeks, none from you. Our command has not been engaged since I last wrote but expecting every night and day to be attacked: the enemies line of battle is in full view, about a thousand yards in our front but I think it very probable he will never attack us in our strong position, if he should he will be repulsed as heretofore. We were under a terrific shelling yesterday for two hours with very little damage. Ewell repulsed the enemy yesterday three times making great slaughter in his (the enemy) ranks. To-day so far everything is quiet the skirmishers don’t ever fire at each other but seem to be quite friendly, meet each other and exchange papers and have a talk over the times; one came and met Capt Brown of the 44th and after having a chat he, the Yankee, told Brown that Lee had destroyed half their army; there has no doubt been an awful slaughter in their ranks as, men who have fought over many bloody fields in Va. say they never saw dead Yankees lie so thick on the ground as they do in front of the works where they charged. Their dead lie unburied from the Wilderness, well I wish they could all the time have such victories I consider when an army is driven back leaving their dead and wounded both in the field and hospitals that they have been badly whipped, don’t you? That is the kind of a victory they gained at the Wilderness for I was there and know it to be so, we remained on the field till Sunday evening of the 8th and not an enemy could be found in front by our scouts.

We have to mourn the loss of many good officers and solider since the fight began. From all quarters we have good news, every where our arms have been victorious – Butler driven back, Grant checked, Steele captured with his command and many other places we have been successful for which we ought to give God the praise. In my last I wrote to you of the death of brother Logan   I also wrote to his wife. Bill McGimsey had an attack of cramp yesterday is nearly well to-day.  Aus P. has been a little unwell but improving. Pink and I are very well. I am very thankful that we have come out through so many dangers as well as we have, nothing but the hand of an Allwise providence has protected us thus far, for which we ought to be very humble and give him all the praise for his goodness. My wound is not well but does not hurt me. I saw Sam Tate when we were coming down here – haven’t seen or heard from him since. We have had a hard time since we left camp, have been marching, lying in line of battle and fighting all the time, are now in the works not allowed to leave any distance as Grant is a sly fellow and has to be watched closely.

Grant is twice as badly whipped now as was Burnside or Hooker but he is so determined he will not acknowledge it, but I think before he gets through with Lee he will have to own up.

I haven’t had an clean cloths since I left camps  the wagons are in the rear and we can not leave to go where they are to get our cloths, all the officers are in the same fix, so you may well suppose we are somewhat dirty.

Give my love to uncle John, Puss and Sue. Do you get your papers?

Your devoted




Sources: Mike and Carol Lawing, eds., My Dearest Friend: The Civil War Correspondence of Cornelia McGimsey and Lewis Warlick (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2000). Original collections of the papers are in the Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.

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