“In the Trenches”
near Marietta, Ga.1
June 30, 1864.
My Dear Wife
You cant imagine how I was “help up” yesterday by the reception of two letters from you. the first + only word I had received from you since Jany 15. Your letter to Joe. just think what a relief it was. I could see from the papers where Banks Army started + the course it took.2 + how they were treating the people but could not go to your relief or even write to you what to do. Like hundreds of other Louisianans I was at my post here in front of the enemy + could not possibly leave. I would lie + toss on my blanket at night + think of you until I was nearly desperate. Then give you all into the hands of Providence in earnest prayer. He has protected + brought you all throug[h] safely. Oh’ how thankful I am. May his good ness + mercy to us lead us all to repentance + faith in Him.
we are well fortified here + anxious for the Yanks to attack us in our trenches.
Our army left Dalton on the 8 of May + have fought + retreated to this position. we are well fortified here + anxious for the Yanks to attack us in our trenches. we are confident of repulsing them with heavy loss. They attack us at some point of our lines every day and are severely punished. The artilery fight every day + the pickets all the time day + night + we have some killed + wounded every day. I have a hole dug in the ground under the hill in the rear of my Regt with logs + dirt thrown up round it to protect me from the balls + shells. When I have a man wounded I have him brought to me there + dress his wound + send him on to the Hospital.
You spoke of two letters that have not come to hand giving an account of the battle. I am anxious to get them. I want to see your description of the battle. of course it will be as it was told to you by others. I am sory to hear of the death of so many of my old friends, good men. But that is the way in a battle the best + bravest are lost whilst the worthless + cowardly dodge + escape. None of us know when to look for the big fight here. They have attacked us + been repulsed with heavy loss so often that they are slow to begin. You did right to get out of the way. always do it if you can. The Yanks are committing deeds here that would shock a Commanche. I never heard of treatment as the women + children are receiving from them. They have made a perfect wilderness of the portions of Tenn + GA that they hold. You have heard of Forrests last victory in Miss.3 I am astonished that he took so many prisoners after the way they acted.4 Don’t fall into the hands of the Yank + Negro if you can help it. We are very anxious to hear the news from Va. We have nothing from there now for four days. At last accounts Grant was [desperate?] and pressing Lee with a heavy force. GoD help us there. We need his aid.
You ask when I am coming home? I have asked myself a hundred times when and how could I get home. Last fall Genl Bragg issued an order forbidding all applications for furlough to cross the Miss River. I then made [?] separate trials at a transfer to that Dept. but failed in all. There are hundreds of [other?] men in the army who have been absent from home longer than I have. I am not known to the officials at Richmond [Inverted at top of page:] and the friend who I asked to assist me there in the matter could not influence them to act in my case so I must hold on a while patiently.
It would be cowardly to leave my post now, if it was possible to do so honourably, just in the crisis of our affairs. a big battle imminent perha-ps one of the most decisive of the war. I assure you though as soon as this is over I will make another + greater attempt to see you all. I want to arrange it so as to remain there when I go. It is a long dangerous + expensive journey now there + back + I want to make it but once there + not back.
My health is very good, but the last two months in the roughest soldiering I have seen yet. This is a much pleasanter country to soldier in than any part of La. There is always plenty of good water + no mosquitoes + no fever. I am sory for our boys in the swamp on Red River in the summer. I would certainly have the fever there
I light my pipe + sit down alone + muse of you all + my plans when the war is over +c for an hour repeat my favourite hymn.
So you are at your old tricks again, having bad dreams about me eh? You know what I think about dreams. Read your Bible darling + trust to Providence. When you get low spirited think of what separated us at first + Still keeps so many of us separated. I am fighting for what? the privilege of living like a free man? not that alone but life itself, our enemies have avowed this purpose of exterminating us. Killing all the males, making concubines of all the women who will + slaying all who will not become so + appropriating all our property to their own use, + they are actually carrying out their plan when ever they hold the country. We cant stop fighting under such circumstances, + our enemies wont. Thank GoD my dear child that he has thus far not suffered our enemies to over run + hold our part of the country. until that hapens you have seen nothing of this cruel war. Dont spend any of your precious time grieving at my absence but take the dear children in hand. now is your time to teach them the rudiments of an education. you are well qualified for the task + instil into their minds the principles that are to guide them through life. Let me tell you darling this is a heavy responsibility on you now + you have no time to be sentimental. I will allow one hour in the day, my favourite hour, twilight. You + the children, my little world, are hardly ever out of my mind, but at that particular time of day I am most apt to dream of you. I light my pipe + sit down alone + muse of you all + my plans when the war is over +c for an hour repeat my favourite hymn. “I love to Steal awhile away From every cumbering care” +c then commit you all to the care of “Him whom I adore” in humble prayers. Spread my old dirty blanket + drop to sleep + dream. Mind you not bad dreams of you all.
Tell Ma I will tell the Surgeon General what she says. he is my master now. You are, shall I say it? foolish about your children. Do try to get along smoothly. you must consider that Maj is getting old. He has been very kind to us all + I would not have any feeling get up for any thing. Dont let the Children forget me. I dont see any chance for that picture you ask for. If I have a chance I will attend to it. I wrote you from the Hospital about the 6 of this month + sent it to the La. Relief Committee at Mobile. I will send this the same way. I am sory to hear that Polly the colt has made such a bad start. May be you allowed her to go abroad too much. Hope she’ll do better.
(inverted at top of page) I am sory to hear of Bristows bad health Have you tried the different tonics? He is not so old. Did Major go out into the fight? I was afraid he would + be killed + then you + ma would have been widows indeed. How is Uncle Peter + Elijah? Write me every chance you have. Getting these two last letters has encouraged me to hope for more-
(inverted at top of page ) I have not seen or heard from Joe in a long time. He is with this army some where. Enoch + Spoon are both here but I have not seen them lately. I told you in my last letter that I was transferd from 1st Confederate to 5th Ga Regt. Direct to 5th Ga Regt Jacksons Brigade Army of Tenn
Remember me kindly to all the kin + friends.
Kiss the dear children for me + believe me till death your Affectionate Alex.
Listen to an excerpt from the letter.
Hear Alex’s favorite hymn, “I Love to Steal Awhile Away”
Words by Phoebe H. Brown, tune Woodstock (Dutton). The hymn is printed in Hymns for the Camp issued in 1861 by the Baptist Colportage Board of Virginia for use by Confederate soldiers (Hymn No. 28, p.33).
- The Marietta Operations were part of the larger Atlanta Campaign. Confederate troops under Gen. Johnston were entrenched, and had been fighting Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union army since June 9th. The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain had taken place three days earlier, and in three more days the Union army would force a Confederate retreat. ↩
- Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks and the Union Army of the Gulf. This was part of the Red River Campaign which had among its goals the capture of Shreveport and penetration of Texas. Read a brief account of that battle written by Fanny’s brother Jim. ↩
- Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest (“The Wizard of the Saddle”) at the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads near Baldwyn, Mississippi. ↩
- In April, 1864, at the Battle of Fort Pillow, Forrest and his troops were accused of massacring African-American (and some white) soldiers who attempted to surrender. Public outcry was intense and Morgan would certainly have feared retribution. ↩