Camp near Bridgeport, Alabama – May 20-21, 1863

Camp near Bridgeport Ala.  May 20, 1863.

My Dear Wife

Yesterday, after I had “clean a most entirely give you out” + concluded to wait till the war was over to hear from you again, your long, sensible, affectionate + comforting letters of Apl 5 + 10th in one envelope came to hand + you can imagine what a treat it was.  I read it over carefully twice to be sure of all the news.  It is very consoling to get such a letter even if it is a month old.  You were all well + doing well on the 5th + 10th of April.  I am thankful for that, + hopeful of more.  At present dear it looks like throwing away ink + paper to answer it, but I will do it + hope this letter may wind its way to you after a while.  I write you a short letter every Saturday regularly to keep you posted as to my where and wat a abouts.  I am sory I missed the letter before this.  I have some curiosity to know what it is that you want unwritten.  I dont remember any thing to censure you for in any of them unless perhaps for loving me “not wisely but too well.”1  You say you love me better than all the rest of the world. + I try to believe it all.  Who has so little politeness as to slight you?  + who has dared to censure you?  I would like to know.  This war will not last always + if it does I will not be gone always.  If you will follow the dictates of your own pure heart + let your native good sense have fair play you can never incur censure justly.  I would never know when to stop beating a man that was cowardly enough to insult you when I was gone.  But I have no fears of any thing of that sort.  It never crosses my brain for a moment that my wife is a woman too, when I hear of such terrible falls as Mrs Dr Peter made.  As long as I am true to her I never think she can fall, but love on as well as Wigfall dares to love Charlotte.  I reckon we are both satisfied on that score. 

The enemy is pressing us now heavily in Miss.  They have taken + burnt Jackson + are now making for Vicksburg.  Just look at the Yankee country now + imagine what will be our fate if they finally conquer us.

+ now I’ll answer your question. I have never applied for a furlough but have gone far enough several times to find out it would be useless to try.  If I had known it at the time I could have gone home when I was examined + waited there for an order from the Surg Genl, but then I would have gone to Richmond, Va, I could not have gotten a furlough of more than 30 days at any time + it would have taken me half the time to get home + stay only a day or two + then tear [?] loose + come back.  The trip was a long tiresome expensive one + for the time I would have to stay with you I did not think it would pay.  I have concluded now to be quiet till the heavy work of the summer is over + then If I cant get a furlough to resign.  I would rather waite a while longer + stay when I get home than make a short unsatisfactory visit.  Now darling dont trouble yourself any more about my absence.  I know that you are proud to know that I am in the field doing my duty. Instead of furloughs dear you should be pushing every able bodied man we have to the field.  The enemy is pressing us now heavily in Miss.  They have taken + burnt Jackson + are now making for Vicksburg.  Just look at the Yankee country now + imagine what will be our fate if they finally conquer us.  Vallandingham taken up + tried by a military court + condemned to banishment for expressing his opinion of the government.2    If I was a bachelor I could content myself to put in a substitute + lie about home, but I cant get my consent for you + my children to live in such a country the Yanks would make of this.  As long as my health is good I think it is my duty to stay in the field where I can be of most service to the Country.  Why what has aroused your ambition?  “I charge thee Cromwell, fling away ambition, By that sin fell the angels + how can man then the image of his Maker hope to win by it?” 3 Has the prospect of poor little Sue’s elevation troubled you?  Why darling I would let the poor child have some thing.  If a little empty honour will satisfy her let her have[?] it by all means.  How long do you reckon She be deciding between [Murrah?] + all the fame + wealth he will ever gain, + your husband + children?  I see from the way you write that you dont know much about the Army Regulations.  There are but three grades in the Medical Staff of the Army.  The Surg Genl himself ranks only as Col.  Surgeons as Major.  Asst Surg as Capt.  The difference in rank is so small it is not worth contending for.  many of the ablest men in the army are Asst. Surgs.  Very many who like myself dont intend to remain in the Army after the war is over content themselves with the position of asst.  In a Regt the duties are equally divided, + frequently the asst is the elder + more experienced man.  In the army as in civil life the medical profession is not the steping stone to political advancement.  For political fame I never had any aspirations.  I thought you knew my modest retiring disposition better.  I thought over all these things twenty years ago when I chose my profession, + settled on the path of quiet unobstrusive usefulness Earthly honours + distinctions I have never coveted.  If I expected to live always here it would be different, but I am “a pilgrim + stranger here as all my fathers were,”4 I look to another country for a permanent settlement.  + my first wish is to make sure of my interests there + then spend my time here usefully + + proffitably to my fellow men.  Let me do this + some one else may take all the fame + honours that this wooden world affords.  

And you intend to set your cap for a big Genl when you are a widow eh?  Dont be in a hurry about it.  I have no notion of giving you a chance if

I can help it.

And you want an exact account of my wardrobe.  Well let me see.  I am now the proprietor of four good shirts, five in all but one is badly worn.  two of them nice linen bosom’d that mother sent me last winter.  two nice check’d linen shirts that Emma gave me when I was in Eutaw.  She made them for over shirts for McLemore + they just fit me.  two thin cotton under shirts, two pr drawers, one of them you made, The wash woman in Mobile lost the other. + I bought a pr. something less than a doz cotton socks from Ma + Jan Clark. I am well supplied with clothes, got a heap more than the law allows me.  If ever we start on a march I will have to throw away more than half I have.  I have only kept what I have thus far because we have traveled by Rail Road.  I have no idea when that will be.  Our Brigade (Jacksons) is strung out on the RR from Chattanooga to Tullahoma, Guarding bridges, depots, + the RR Generally with orders to hold our selves in readiness to move at a moments warning in any direction, we will hardly be in the big fight when it comes off.  I got a letter from Joe yesterday he was in fine health.  Said his Division had been ordered to Vicksburg but I think he was mistaken.  I dont think Bragg can spare a whole Division from here + I have heard nothing of their passing this place He is promoted to Corporal.  He said write to him at Vicksburg.  And you intend to set your cap for a big Genl when you are a widow eh?  Dont be in a hurry about it.  I have no notion of giving you a chance if I can help it.  I could tell you some bad tales on some of our big Genls if I would.  An old lady on the cars the other day was abusing Dr Peters at a great rate for killing Van Dorn a dog looking old fellow sitting by said to her “Madam perhaps if you knew all the circumstances you would change your mind.” The old sister never said a word more, Strange that so few military men have any moral character.  I suppose that is one reason why Lee + Jackson are so much honoured they are such bright exceptions to the general rule.  Suppose I was off.  where would you look?  have any of your old beaux distinguished themselves in the war?”  [Jim?] will be badly plagued with his three women, his Regt is in a place now where the women cant go.  My Battalion has disgusted me with having women in camps.  They are a nuisance about a camp.  If I was Genl I would not allow it at all.  Well my paper is out + I must stop.  I cant tell you when to look for me home.  Bear it as well as you can, we will enjoy one anothers society so much the better when we do meet.  Love to all the friends, kiss the dear children for me + believe me your own

[Inverted at top of page]   May 21 the mail closed yesterday before I finished your letter. bad news from Miss to day hard fighting heavy loss + our men falling back.5  Alex

The Letter:

  1. Othello, Act V, Scene 2.
  2. A member of the House of Representatives from Ohio, Clement L. Vallandigham spoke out against the war and against military arrests of civilians and Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Vallandigham was arrested and convicted by a military tribunal, and eventually banished to the Confederacy by Lincoln.
  3. Spoken by Cardinal Wolsey in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, Act III, Scene 2.
  4. Psalm 39:12.
  5. A major assault against Vicksburg took place on May 19, 1863.  Another would take place on May 22.