Civil War studies normally focus on military battles, campaigns, generals and politicians, with the common Confederate soldiers and Southern civilians receiving only token mention. Using personal accounts from more than two hundred forty soldiers, farmers, clerks, nurses, sailors, farm girls, merchants, surgeons, chaplains and wives, author Jeff Toalson has created a compilation that is remarkable in its simplicity and stunning in its scope.
These soldiers and civilians wrote remarkable letters and kept astonishing diaries and journals. They discuss disease, slavery, inflation, religion, desertion, blockade running, and their never-ending hope that the war would end before their loved ones died. A major portion of these documents were unpublished and were made available by the Brewer Library of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
With this, his third significant contribution to Civil War literature, Jeff Toalson joins the select company of Thomas W. Cutrer and Bell I. Wiley as historians who have devoted their body of work to preserving the 'voices' of common Confederate soldiers and civilians.
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Mama, I Am Yet Still AliveA Composite Diary of 1863 in the Confederacy
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Jeff Toalson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJanuary, 1863
As the cold New Year dawns on the Murfreesboro battlefield, the temperatures are below freezing and frost is on the clothing of the wounded and dead Union and Confederate soldiers. Captain Robert Smith of the 2nd Tennessee Infantry writes, "Last night was very cold, and many a wounded soldier was frozen to death this morning." The battle at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, ends the fighting of 1862 and is the opening battle of 1863.
1862, at times, seemed to offer great hope to the Confederate cause. They still held Vicksburg, Chattanooga and Richmond. Their armies had achieved quite a few military successes. Grant had been turned back at Chickasaw Bluffs, Burnside had been defeated at Fredericksburg, and Bragg had pounded the Union army on the last day of the year at Murfreesboro. 1863 will be the critical year for the Confederacy in its quest to achieve independence.
On January 1st General Magruder recaptures the city and port of Galveston for the Confederacy. It will remain an open Confederate port for the balance of the conflict and provide blockade runners a port for delivering supplies to the Trans-Mississippi area of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Arkansas Post, 40 miles up the Arkansas River from the Mississippi River, surrenders to Union forces on January 11th with the loss of 4,791 men and significant quantities of weapons, stores and munitions.
Mr. D. A. St. Clair, proprietor and editor of the Wytheville Dispatch, informs his readers on January 13th of the sinking of the USS Monitor off Cape Hatteras, "The famous Ercission [Ericsson] iron-clad steamer, called the Monitor, has fought her last fight.... she put to sea the other day to measure strength with Old Neptune, who brought one of his fierce Hatteras ruffies to bear upon her and ... she had to give up the ghost. Down she went ... into Davy Jone's Locker, and with her went down 32  of her crew...."
On January 20th General Burnside attempts to turn General Lee's left flank in what becomes the infamous "Mud March." By the 24th the Union forces are back in their camps facing Lee across the Rappahannock. On January 25th General Hooker replaces General Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac.
Inflation has reduced the value of the Confederate dollar to about 35 cents versus the U. S. Dollar. Prices of many staples have risen sharply and key items such as salt and cotton cards are becoming not only more expensive but more difficult to obtain.
Lt. Theophilus Perry of the 28th Texas Cavalry writes his wife from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, "My life is miserable on account of our separation. Oh God! that, this War would close, and all could return to our homes & families." His is a universal sentiment that is shared by soldiers in butternut and in blue.
January 1, 1863 Captain Robert D. Smith Murfreesboro, Tennessee Co. B – 2nd Tennessee Infantry
"The new year opened this morning ... Last night was very cold, and many a wounded soldier was frozen to death this morning.... Last night our troops took all the wounded with in reach and laid them in rows on the ground, both friend and foe ... They made fires between each row to prevent the poor fellows from freezing ... our troops kept up the fires all night."
* * *
January 1, 1863 Private Theodore F. Harris Murfreesboro, Tennessee Co. C – 8th Tennessee Infantry
"We ... fought the battle of Murfreesboro.... I can scarcly picture our hard ships up to this time. Provisions was scarce and bear [bare] for clothing. Some of us went along without shoes feet bleeding suffering from cold etc. In this engagement at Murfreesboro our Regiment went in with 600 men come out with 200, we sustained a heavy loss charging a battery across an open field, but we captured the battery alright, of course Bragg lost. Nothing more could be expected of Mr. Know all ..."
* * *
January 1, 1863 Private W. E. Preston Murfreesboro, Tennessee Co. G – 33rd Alabama Infantry
"The burning of inferior powder caused our guns to choke and I think all had exchanged their Enfields for Springfields on the battle fields ... We had also exchanged our cedar canteen [for] block tin, oval shaped Yankee canteen and those who [had] not picked up a U. S. blanket, good black hat, blue overcoats or shelter tent could usually buy cheap ... of men who had more than one."
* * *
January 1, 1863 Private Nimrod Newton Nash Fredericksburg, Virginia Co. I – 13th Mississippi Infantry
... We are going on piquet again to night.... have had a dull Christmast except one day we got plenty of apple brandy at thirty dollars pr gallon.... Some think [Longstreet] is going to give the most deserving furloughs - ... if that is so your man will come in for one; now wont that bee fine for me to come home and see your big fat self. If you are smoking I wont stay with you long as light ... Newton"
* * *
January 1, 1863 Mrs. Catherine Edmondston Halifax County, North Carolina Farm wife
"... I indulged in the now unwanted luxury of a Pudding, for with sugar at 87 ½ to $100 a lb, and with so many calls upon us as we have, I do not think it is right to visit the sugar barrel every day ..."
* * *
January 1, 1863 Mr. R. S. Norton Rome, Georgia Merchant
"This is the day President Lincoln says the Negroes shall be free. Everything is quiet, the hireing of servants going on, and at an advance of full 25% over last year ..."
* * *
January 1, 1863 Corporal James Kibler Camp near Fredericksburg, Virginia Co. F – 10th Virginia Infantry
"we Were Paid off yesterday. The confederacy paid us off, up to the Very Day. They owed us for two Month. I Drew $26.00. I think I shall send [home] some twenty Dollars."
* * *
January 2, 1863 1st Sergeant Henry S. Figures Fredericksburg, Virginia Co. F – 4th Alabama Infantry
"My Dear Ma
Isaac Gill got here this morning. He said he had a letter & a pair of boots for me but they were stolen from him at the hotel in Richmond, He lost a suit of clothes for Jack Byrns & something for almost all the boys. I am very sorry you know as it is the second pair of boots that have been sent for me. Do not send anymore for fear that they will get lost. I am well and have been so ever since we left Maryland....
I expect we will all get furloughs in a week or two. Col. Bowles told me yesterday that Gen Law said that he would have them for the regiment in that time. I dont know how many will be allowed to go from each company but I suppose about fifteen or twenty, in that case we will have to draw a number to go If I dont I will buy some one of the boys. We had a very dull Christmas here, some of the regt were drunk ... but not a drop went down my throat.... Tell Pa that my promotion has not come yet. Tell Otey that I have bought that little rifle from Pres Drake for him. I gave him Twenty five dollars for it. When I come home I will bring it to him & learn him how to shoot ...
Has Mary Alexander got back from Georgia, if she has ... give my love to her ... Ask sister if she has ever heard from Annie Brown my old sweetheart.... I must close. So good bye.
Your eff son Henry S Figures"
* * *
Description of the Confederate Soldier Private Carlton McCarthy Richmond Howitzers
"Reduced to a minimum the private soldier consisted of one man, one hat, one jacket, one shirt, one pair of pants, one pair of drawers, one pair of shoes and one pair of socks. His baggage was one blanket, one rubber blanket, and one haversack. The haversack contained smoking tobacco and a pipe and generally a small piece of soap, with temporary additions of apples, persimmons, blackberries and other commodities as he could pick up on the march.
Common white shirts and drawers proved the best ... (for) the common private. The infantry ... carried their caps and cartridges in their pockets. Canteens ... were discarded. A good strong tin cup was better ... easier to fill at a well ... and serviceable as a boiler for making coffee.
(Each soldiers) one blanket and one rubber cloth were rolled together lengthwise, with the rubber cloth outside, tying the ends together and throwing the loop over the left shoulder ... the (tied) ends hanging under the right arm."
* * *
Undated Private Evan S. Larmer Co. B – 25th Virginia Cavalry
"we had very scanty rashens & porley closed the only close I got my dear old Mother sent me. Som of my comlads were almost ber footed & raged close ... at times we suffered greatly."
* * *
Undated Private W. E. Preston Co. G – 33rd Alabama Infantry
"A dogfly is made of cotton sheating about five feet square, with buttons and button holes on three sides, each weighed about one and a half or two lbs.
Three men slept together, each had a fly, they button two flys together, stretch it across a ridge pole, close up the North or back end with the third fly so it is a tent with the front end open."
* * *
January 2, 1863 Private Marion H. Fitzpatrick Richmond, Virginia Co. K – 45th Georgia Infantry
"General Hospital No. 20 Richmond, Va. Jan. 2nd, 1863
I write to you again to let you know how I am getting along. My wound is improving fast, and I think it will soon be entirely well so that I can rejoin my Reg ...
... You also wrote that your cards [cotton cards] were nearly worn out. This I am sorry for, as it cannot be easily remedied. Cards are worth $25.00 a pair here, but I hope they are cheaper there. But you must get them when yours wear out no matter what the price ...
... May God bless you. Write soon. Your husband, M. H. Fitzpatrick"
(ed: Cotton cards were rectangular wooden paddles with hundreds of metal teeth, about a half inch long, mounted on one side. The "cards" were used to separate and align the fibers of cotton prior to spinning. Wool cards were used for accomplishing the same task with sheep's wool.)
(ed: Marion received a 30 day furlough on January 18. He rejoined his unit near Guinea Station, Virginia on February 18. This would be the first of only two furloughs he would receive during the war.)
* * *
January 3, 1863 Exemption Committee Petition Polk County, North Carolina Mrs. Violet Johnson & neighbors
"To the Exemption Committee Dear Sirs
The undersigned wives or Sisters of the Soldiers of this immediate Section of Said County: Proposes respectfully to Showeth unto your Honors, our very great dependence upon Mr. G. W. Rhodes, and his Mill. We are all living within a Mile + a half of the said Mill, and Nearer to it than any other Mill, besides we are all poor + a large majority of us have no other way of toteing our grain to Mill than packing it upon our Shoulders; Now if we were deprived of this friend and convenience, the Most of us will be necessitated to pack our grain a cross a very high + rugged mountain to other mills; Your Honors will please consider the premises ... [and] confer a lasting favor + benefit upon your humble petitioners by detailing Mr. G. W. Rhodes to remain at home ... as Miller of a grist mill on Mill Creek ..."
Violet Johnson Harriet Panter Elmina Phillips Rebecca Goodson Jane Rhodes S. A. Thompson Caroline Newman Imanda Buly"
(ed: The ladies were successful. A 60 day exemption was granted and the initial exemption was followed by further exemptions. The last exemption in the file was a 60 day exemption dated May 19, 1864. Mr. Rhodes was able to provide services, based on the above petition, till at least mid July 1864. It was noted that he would often provide milling services for free to assist the families while their husbands and brothers were off in the army.)
* * *
January 3, 1863 Private William T. Charles Murfreesboro, Tennessee Goldthwaite's Alabama Artillery
"... of all the nights I ever passed through, before or since, this Saturday night ... was the most terrible. The following night may have been colder ... But on this Saturday night – no man who was there, and lived to get through it will ever forget it.... we left Murfreesboro at about 7.30 OC [o'clock] in a pouring rain. I was riding next to the lead in our gun ... The wagon train, of course, had gone on in front, and the turn pike, from incessant rain and the excessive travel of marching and counter marching of the army with artillery as well as wagons, was "cut up" until it was worse than no road at all. There was so much suffering that night among the infantry, that really in as much as it was possible for human nature to forget their own troubles ... we, of the artillery, forgot ours. The riders were mounted, though it was colder riding, and the cannoneers were allowed at very bad places in the road, to "mount" the limber chests and caissons, though it was all the horses could do to pull them. But the poor infantry, many with worn out shoes – alas, many with no shoes at all! – the rough, uneven stones cut their feet until they bled. – many gave out; dropped down by the way side to die, - probably to freeze to death!
All night long we marched through the rain.... just about daylight on this gloomy Sunday morning, when we had halted for a few moments for some purpose, "Enoch," the body servant ... of Lieut. Fitzpatrick, came up to me as I sat listlessly on my horse, and slyly touching the canteen by his side said in a low tone of voice: "Mr. Charles don't you want a drink of Tennessee Whisky?" "Great Scott!" I cried, brightening up in a second; "how much?" for I knew he had it for sale. He produced a "cap-box" – one of those tin boxes intended to contain 250 waterproof caps – and which would hold a good sized wine glass full, and replied, "a dollar a drink." I had just one five dollar bill in my pocket – Handing him that ... I said, "Give me the canteen." He did so, and turning it up to my mouth I drank ... and I have often said to him since ..., "Enoch, I believe you saved my life on that Sunday morning on the retreat from Murfreesboro to Estelle Springs."
* * *
January 2 and 3, 1863 Miss. Kate Cummings Chattanooga, Tennessee Hospital Matron
"... A battle was fought at Murfreesboro on the 31st ... The weather is very cold, and I shudder to think what our men have had to suffer on the battlefield. Our hospital is filled with wounded. Mrs. Williamson and myself are not able to do any thing for them....
The wounded kept coming in last night [January 2] ... Every corner of the hospital is filled with patients, and the attendants had to give up their beds for them.... Many have to be carried from the ambulances, as they are unable to walk. We have sent off a great many to-day, to make room for others.... Bread, beef, and coffee are all we have to give them; they are thankful for that. Our cooks have been up for two or three nights in succession; the surgeons and nurses the same...."
(ed: Kate is the hospital matron, or head nurse, and Mrs. Williamson is the assistant matron. The Confederate government passed an act to allow the employment of women in the hospitals on September 27, 1862. Matrons were provided a salary of $40 per month and assistant matrons were paid $35. Kate will spend the entire war providing services for the Army of Tennessee..)
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Table of Contents
Index – Biographical....................435