James’ Island, South Carolina – August 4, 1864

James’ Island S.C.1

August 4, 1864

My Dear Wife

Your letter of June 25th sent by The Virginia Soldier came to hand yesterday after a long long chase from one Regiment to another.  It was mailed at Montgomery + went first to my old Regt the 1st Confederate Ga in the Army of Tenn. then to the 8th Miss Regt + back again to the 1st Confederate.  An old friend Capt Holman2 put the proper endorsement on it 5th Ga Regt. + it came to hand.  The reason you get letters from Joe oftener than from me is that he has always been with troops from Texas or La.  I have been with Georgians all the time + never have an opportunity of sending letters by hand.  I have heard nothing from Joe for a long time.  He was in Frenchs Division.  Polks Corps 3 They joined us on the march from Dalton.  If I was to look at the matter in a purely human probability way I would be very uneasy about Joe + Enoch + Spoon but when I think of it as a Christian philosopher should + remember that “man is immortal till his work is done”4  I rest easy + trust them to Providence- You ask “if you may start to see me at the end of the two months if I dont come home”  I answer no again most emphatically.  Stay where you are.  You are comfortable + doing well.  Dont think for a moment of taking such a journey under any circumstances.

do you ever consider our responsibility in the matter of religious instruction to our slaves?

I am so sory to hear of Elij death. I had heard nothing from him for a long time.  Poor uncle Peter, how sad and lonely he must feel!  How can I ever forgive, much less love such enemies as ours?  They have killed so many such friends as Elij for me.  Some people did not fancy him because they did not know him.  I almost loved him.  Quiet, Sensible, unobtrusive, brave + generous. let us inscribe his name among the martyrs in our holy cause, remember only his virtues, + hope he has made a hapy exchange of worlds.  Where he will not remember the sorrows + misfortunes that clouded his young life + partially sound a disposition naturally confiding + affectionate.  Poor old Bris5 is at rest at last you say.  I am glad to hear he was reconciled to die.  By the way, dear do you ever consider our responsibility in the matter of religious instruction to our slaves?6    I have thought of it often.  They are certainly rational + accountable + should be taught that “better way” which is so plain that the way faring man though a fool can not err therein. Do you know that I think the neglect + ill treatment of our slaves is one of the prime causes of this Civil War?  I feel sadly ashamed of myself when I remember this among my other sins of omission.  Try to remedy the matter my dear wife for you are equally interested with me.  

“I did not ask you to send the likeness” and you said it as if your pride was a little cut?  Eh?  darling?  aint it so?  Well, I did not ask for it for several reasons.  I did not know that you would have a good chance to send it by mail or otherwise, and then I have that dear handsome, (I never called you a beauty you know when I was courting you) honest, open, un-sophisticated face, ever present to my minds ego, not painted on paper or glass or metal, but graven on the table of my heart of hearts, where it cant fade or get wet or broken or lost, where I can contemplate it at all times + places.  No darling, if you knew how completely the originals of yourself + children (unless you have had some since I left? eh?)  fill all the space in my heart you would be jealous of any pictures that could be taken.  Your faces fill the main surface, all others are dim + hid about in little corners.  I would like very much to have a perfect likeness in small locket form to wear round my neck, but I know of no chance to get it now.  It would be folly to send such a thing by mail.  I am moving about from place to place + in all probability I would never get it.  I am glad to know that you are looking so well.  In case you should be left a widow you can marry again.  without joking though I am afraid you will be ashamed of me when I get back. I am looking considerably older than when I left home.  I was looking at myself the other day + im agrieved there were several wrinkles about the corner of my eyes that I had not noticed before.  You dont say much about the dear children, but I can excuse you as you are very much hurried when you wrote.  Tell them if they want me to love them, to be kind to Ma + love their books + learn fast.  I want them to be good children + Smart. —Cant you beat Dr. C treating flux.7   Do you remember how I used to treat it with Cream of Tartar?  We have a good deal of it in the army + we treat it with broken doses of Salts.8   If the tongue is much coated indicating derangement of the secretions, I frequently use what I call the alterative pill.  1/2 grain of Calomel  1/2 to 3/4 grain opium + 1 to 2 grains of Ipecac to the pill.9  Take one every 2 hours- I hope you will all miss it.

Genl Hood of Texas is in Command now. Genl Johnston was thought to be too cautious 

I am so glad to hear that the Yanks are all out of our part of the Country.  GoD grant you may never have another visit from them.  The war news is important.  Here about Charleston they are Shelling the different forts + the city, but doing very little damage.10  We are looking every day for important news from North Georgia.  Genl Hood of Texas is in Command now.11 Genl Johnston was thought to be too cautious + was removed some time since.  The news from Va does not speak of any large operations.  I like the last news from the Northwest.  The desire for peace seems to be growing there, particularly in Ohio heretofore the most rabid + fanatical of all the west; They call for peace at any cost, even on our own terms, recognition + separation.  I pray that the feeling may grow + spread.  My health was never better.  fine sea breeze + bathing + as many fish + crabs as I choose to catch.  Kiss the children for me.  love to all + believe me till we meet only your Alex

(Postscript inverted at top of pages) Direct to me 5th Ga Regt Charleston S.C.  we may move at any time some of us think to Florida.  if so the P.M. here will know

and can forward the letters.  I have sent you three letters recently by Mobile to the care of the La Relief Committee.  They out to go

through promptly.  I cant tel you where to look for me but I will come just as soon as I possibly can, no late news from Eutaw.

The Letter:


  1. James’ Island is one of South Carolina’s most urban Sea Islands. Approximately one-half of the island is within Charleston city limits. Confederate intrenchments there were illustrated in Harper’s Weekly, September 12, 1863. Fort Sumter is located on an island just off the eastern tip of James’ Island.
  2. Most likely, Seymour W. Holman who was taken as a POW on Jul 22 1864 at Decatur, GA; released on Jun 14 1865 at Johnson’s Island, OH.
  3. Maj. Gen. Samuel G. French and Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk.
  4. A quote from St. Augustine.  Joe was Fanny’s brother, Enoch and Spoon were Alex’s brothers.  Spoon was killed at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, July 21, 1864 as Lt. Gen Hood tried to prevent Sherman from taking Atlanta.
  5. Bristow
  6. This question was greatly debated. The Religious Instruction of the Negroes in the United States (1842) by the Rev. Dr. Charles Colcock Jones was very popular in the South.
  7. Flux is also known as dysentery, an inflammation of the bowel caused by bacteria, protozoa, or virus. Dysentery is easily spread in crowded areas with poor sanitation.  The disease resulted in thousands of deaths during the war.
  8. This treatment is outlined in Chisolm’s A Manual of Military Surgery for the use of surgeons in the Confederate Army.
  9. Calomel, sometimes also known as “Blue Mass,” was a purgative mixture containing mercury. Ipecac is an emetic.
  10. Charleston was an important port city for the Confederacy which was attacked by both the Union army and navy. Compare images of the destruction of Charleston with the modern day city by moving the slider in these pictures.
  11. Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood was known for his aggressive tactics.