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America's History in the Making

Resource Archive: Search Results

Excerpts from Letters Written Home from the Front

This letter was written by a Texan to his wife, after the bloody battle of Gaines's Mill outside of Richmond, one of a series of Confederate victories in June 1862 that left a great many casualties and thwarted the North's attempt to end the war.

"Yesterday evening we (the Texas Brigade) was in one of the hardest fought battles ever known. . . I don't think the Regt (4th Tex) could muster this morning over 150 or 200 men & there were 530 yesterday went into the engagement. . . . I got some of the men from the 5th Regt to go and look up our wounded. . . . I never had a clear conception of the horrors of war untill that night and the [next] morning. On going round on that battlefield with a candle searching for my friends I could hear on all sides the dreadful groans of that wounded and their heart piercing cries for water and assistance. Friends and foes all togather. . . . Oh the awful scene witnessed on the battle field. May I never see any more such in life. . . . I am satisfied not to make another such charge. For I hope dear Ann that this big battle will have some influence in terminating this war. I will assure you I am heartily sick or soldiering."


This letter was written by an Alabama soldier to his wife early in 1863, after the Battle of Murfreesboro (or Stones River) in Tennessee. Each side suffered casualties of about one third of its forces, making this one of the deadliest battles of the war. Like many common soldiers, this one wrote eloquently but with poor, inconsistent spelling

"Martha . . . I can inform you that I have Seen the Monkey Show at last and I dont Waunt to see it no more I am satsfide with Ware Martha I Cant tell you how many ded men I did see . . . thay ware piled up one one another all over the Battel feel the Battel was a Six days Battel and I was in all off it . . . I did not go all over the Battel feeld I Jest was one one Winge of the Battel feeld But I can tell you that there Was a meney a ded man where I was men Was shot Evey fashinton that you mite Call for Som had there hedes shot of and som ther armes and leges Won was sot in too in the midel I can tell you that I am tirde of Ware I am satsfide if the Ballence is that is one thing shore I dont waunt to see that site no more I can inform you that West Brown was shot one the head he Was sent off to the horspitel . . . he was not herte very Bad he was struck with a pease of a Bum"

Bell Irvin Wiley, The Life of Johnny Reb (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1943) 32-33.

Creator Confederate soldiers
Context Soldiers were separated for long periods of time from their families, letters were the best way to keep in touch.
Audience Their families
Purpose To maintain contact with their families

Historical Significance

Soldiers, then as now, wrote to their spouses for several reasons: to feel closer to a loved one, to fulfill a promise, to reassure, and to share something of their remarkable, often harrowing, experiences. The letters provide historians and students with candid descriptions of military live during the Civil War.

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