Chattanooga, Tennessee – July 20, 1863 / July 26, 1863

Direct to me at this place for the present.  (Inverted at top of page)

Chattanooga, Tenn. July 20, 1863.

My Dear Wife.

I have not written to you now for two whole weeks for the simple reason that I did not think you could possibly get the lettre. + I write now with little hope of your getting this lettre. I cant stand it any longer thinking about you but must talk a little even if you never hear me.  Some times I think I will resign + go home any how, then I think of our situation, the Enemy crowding us at every point, so many of our people backing out + hiding.  My sense of duty tels me to hold on.  My place is still in the field.  You have doubtless heard before this of the fall of Vicksburg + Port Hudson + the consequences.1  Johnston has evacuated Jackson + is falling back pressed by overwhelming numbers.  Mobile I reckon will go next.  Lee after the terrible battle of Gettysburg + the repulse of his army has recrossed the Potomac, and all our hopes of his taking Washington + dictating terms of peace are disipated.  Bragg has fallen back to this place + we are fortifying, but I have small hopes of stoping the yanks here.  Rosecrans has a magnificent army of from 70 to 80,000 men well armed + equiped and can force a passage either above or below this point.  I do not know what Braggs force is but am told it is not more than a third of the Enemys. I know nothing of Braggs plans but suppose they will depend on the movements of the Enemy.  I know one thing we are living very hard here now.  Confined to Soldier fare entirely bread + meat  Vegetables are out of the question.  Just think of watermelons at $8 a piece peaches $2.50 a doz. Irish potatoes $15.00 a bushel.  The people ask these prices + the soldiers will give them.  At Bridgeport we had plenty of blackberries, but there are none here. 

I shall never forget the evening we left Bridgeport.  Our Brigade was the rear guard + was charged with burning every thing.  we crossed just at dark with the town in a blaze + then set fire to the magnificent R.R. Bridge.  It reminded me of the night we left Corinth.  I did hate to see the fine bridge burnt.  it was new + had cost so much labour + money.  The Company will be paid by the government + it will finally come out of us in the way of taxes.  I am bound to believe in the “Divinity that shapes our ends rough hew them as we will.” 2 still it looks like our authorities have made some great blunders.  Every body is abusing Bragg now for falling back without a fight, + very unjustly I think.  I am not one of his admirers, but I would like to see him have a fair chance one time.  At Shiloh he was overruled by Beauregard 3 or that fight would have terminated very differently.  Just before the Murfreesboro fight Kirby Smith was taken from him with his whole divsion some 15,000 men.4 When we were ordered up here from Mobile Bragg had every thing fixed for a fight.  Some thing like a fair fight with equal numbers + just a few hours before he intended to make the attack he received orders not to fight.  The big Generals fuss like the little ones.  Some do the hard work + others get the glory.  We have a report this evening that Beauregard has whiped the Yanks badly at Charleston.5  I hope it may be true for I was getting very uneasy about that place.  This is awful weather to fight, so warm, a few weeks ago I had strong hopes of an early peace, but the fall of Vicksburg + Port Hudson + Braggs + Lees retreat have made the Yanks more insolent + determined than ever.  I dont know where to look for it now.  European recognition seems as distant + unprobable as ever.  I look now to our own exertions + the blessing of Providence for the end of our troubles + fear that it is a long way off.  The President has at last called out the men from 35 to 45.  I have been looking for it for some time + thought he delayed it too long.  I reckon he wanted to waite till the crops were made.  I want us to put all our strength out + make a job of it.  We have always fought the enemy with inferior numbers. from 2 to 5 to one every time. 

The Yankees have one trait of Character that we lack to a great extent + that isperseverance.  When they are whiped instead of desponding it stimulates them to greater exertion.

The Yankees have one trait of Character that we lack to a great extent + that is perseverance.  When they are whiped instead of desponding it stimulates them to greater exertion.  They are learning to fight.  every battle is more + more desperate.  They fought extremely well at Gettysburg.  Who ever heard of men charging batteries seven + eight times in succession with such losses as they sustained in the Vicksburg Siege?  This thing of our being able to whip three + four to one that we heard so much of in the early part of the war is played out.  The prospect now to me is for a long war.  The best sign to me is the disaffection of the people of the North.  There was a tremendous riot in New York City a few days ago resisting the draft.6  I pray it may grow + spread.  but I fear Lincoln has the power as I know he has the will to crush all the opposition from the people.  The whole Army is at his command and it is large enough to keep things quiet at home + carry on the war with us.  Chattanooga is a very pretty place in the summer + a pleasant place to live but very muddy + disagreeable in wet weather, beautiful scenery.  the Look out + Cumberland Mountains in sight.  the river is about 500 yds wide + a beautiful stream.  on the river it is said to be very sickly in the summer + fall principally. Intermittent fever I prescribed for 65 of my Battalion this morning.  Chills + Diarrhoea. 

There is a large graveyard in sight from my tent door.  I have been too lazy to visit it yet.  I often light my pipe + sit down in my tent door + gaze at these monuments + ruminate on the lives of the sleepers + if it was not for you + the dear children would envy them their quiet rest. Like Duncan “After lifes fitful fever they sleep well.  Treason has done its worst, nor steel, nor poison, malice domestic or foreign levy, nothing can touch them further.”7  “Honest Jack” 8 did not like to be reminded of his latter end, but I have a strange fancy, I cant call it a pious one, for visiting an old grave yard to see the different tastes in the form of the monuments. + read the quaint inappropriate + some times ridiculous inscriptions.  The degree of taste displayed in the construction + decoration of their tombs is considered a true test the refinement + civilization of a people.  I cant approve the practice of spending a large sum of money on a toomb stone.  You will say it is a lack of sentiment I know.  This war has destroyed a great deal of that sort of sentiment among the men.  I never hear a man now say he wants his body carried home to be buried.  Thousands after a big battle are buried so they can never possibly be recognized by their friends.  friend + foe tumbled unconsciously into the same hole + covered up.  Their bodies to sleep + mingle quietly + peacably whose last act in life was to destroy one another.  How do their Spirits meet in the other country?  Did you ever think of it?  Do you ever think of these strange things?  

“Misfortunes come not in single spies but in battalions.” 

The night before we evacuated Bridgeport. Enoch passed in a few hundred yards of me but neither of us knew it till next day.  I have not seen him yet.  The Col of his Regt J.D. Webb was wounded in the fight at Shelbyville, supposed mortally + left with the Enemy.  His particular friend who fought beside him, Steve Nunnely was also wounded + taken prisoner.9  He had a good horse + made his escape  We are all very uneasy about Genl Morgan.  He crossed the Ohio river some time ago with his Division into Indiana on a raid + the Yankee accounts say he will certainly be captured with his whole command.10   I look for it we are in a streak of bad luck now.  “Misfortunes come not in single spies but in battalions.” 11 I am afraid for the Yankees to get him.  They have sent a long acct against him I am afraid they would not treat him as a prisoner.  There is no prospect of a fight here soon.  Three companies of my Regt are in from 1 to 15 miles of home.  How I envy them.  Their wives and children can come in + eat dinner with them + go home at night.  How I would like to spend one day with you all.  I am afraid I would not know the children.  I had a long letter from Emma yesterday.  All well there.  Emma writes as if she was cheerful + [?]. Complains that they hear from you so seldom.  a great many refugees in Eutaw from Miss.  I have heard nothing from our kin the Greens + Gunns  Where are they?

(Inverted at top of page)   July 26.  Dont think hard of me for not sending this letter off as soon as written, but I have been waiting + hoping for one from you to know that the communication was open.  Dont be uneasy about me.  I am in good health + will take the best care I can of myself

 as soon as the weather turns cool I will make an effort to get a little nearer home.  I dont care to change my present pleasant location for the bad water + mosquitoes of any part of La.  I would like to have a position as Surg in the state service  

I try to believe with some of the knowing ones that the war is nearly over though matters look rather dark just now.  They say the darkest hour is just before day.  I pray it may be so.  Take the best care you can of your dear self + children have patience + trust to providence for a speedy end of our troubles + believe me till we meet your own Alex

The Letter:

 

 

  1. Upon hearing of the fall of Vicksburg to Gen. Grant on July 4th, Confederate Gen. Franklin Gardner surrendered Port Hudson on July 9th, 1863, after having been under siege for six weeks.
  2. Hamlet, Act V, Scene 2.
  3. After achieving considerable success on the first day of battle, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard made a controversial decision to call off the attack against Ulysses S. Grant’s final defensive line in the evening. Union reinforcements arrived before morning and the Confederates were defeated.
  4. Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith was ordered to East Tennessee just weeks before the battle at Murfreesboro.
  5. Gen. Beauregard was in command of coastal defenses in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. In 1863 he successfully defended Charleston Harbor against Union naval and land attacks.
  6. The New York City draft riots (July 11-13, 1863) were violent and bloody. The Enrollment Act of Conscription was the first military draft in U.S. history, calling for 300,000 men. The act contained several exemptions, including the controversial payment of a “commutation fee” that allowed wealthier and more influential citizens to buy their way out of service. African-Americans, who were not considered citizens, were exempt.  Public resentment of the draft, and tensions between white immigrants and free blacks erupted into mayhem.
  7. Slight paraphrase of Macbeth, Act III, Scene  2: “…better be with the dead/ Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,/ Than on the torture of the mind to lie/ In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave;/ After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well;/ Treason has done his worst: nor steel, nor poison,/ Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing,/ Can touch him further.
  8. Falstaff, Henry IV Part 1, Act II, Scene 4.
  9. Lt. Col. James D. Webb, 51st Alabama Cavalry Unit was mortally wounded. Steve Nunneley is likely S.F. Nunnelee, Company H of the 51st Alabama Cavalry.
  10. Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan lead a highly publicized raid traveling over 1,000 miles into the Northern states of Indiana and Ohio. He was eventually taken prisoner, but escaped from the Ohio Penitentiary with the assistance of Confederate spy, Thomas Hines, and returned to the South. Despite the financial damages they caused the Union, the loss of “Morgan’s Men” was a great blow to the Confederacy.
  11. Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5.

One thought on “Chattanooga, Tennessee – July 20, 1863 / July 26, 1863

  1. The Gunn and Greene’s are Alex’s Aunt and uncles of GunnVillage, MS in Chickasaw.Monroe counties. The both had plantations here.
    Alex’s wifes family was Col. James McCown and Elizabeth Harriet Greene.
    Elizabeth Greene came from a large family, two of her sisters married Gunn brothers, another sister was my great grandmother Martha Louellen Greene Cary. The Greene’s moved to MS shortly after Alex’s mother- in- law moved to Texas. The Gunn’s went to MS first and established their plantations and the Greene’s followed shortly after.
    note: Alex’s wife ( Fannie for Frances) to whom he is writing here was born in 1834 and lived to 1917. RG Cary-MontalVo

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