Camp near Dalton, Georgia – December 7, 1863

Camp near Dalton Ga. Dec 7, 63

My Dear Wife

I have received three letters from you in the last two weeks, the last one dated october 28 came to hand yesterday + encourages me to write to you again.  I have not written for a long time because I thought there was no chance for you to get a letter by mail + I have seen no one who was going over the River.  I saw a notice the other day from the P.M. Genl directing that letters going from this side should be marked “Via Enterprise” Miss. + those coming from your side be marked as your last was “Via Shreveport” La.  I am in hopes it is true + that the arrangement is a permanent one so that we can hear from each other again.  You made a slight mistake in directing your letter.  Genl Bragg did not command a Division.  He was commander in Chief of the whole Army of Tennessee.  Your mistake is a very pardonable one however, a full General (+ Bragg is one) commands a whole Department or army.  A Lieutenant General commands a corps, pronounced core, which is composed of several Divisions.  A Major General commands a Division, composed of several Brigades.  A Brigadier General commands a Brigade composed of several Regiments.  A letter comes much sooner when properly directed + if not, it is often lost.  Here after direct to me in 1st Confederate Regt Jacksons Brigade.  Cheathams Division.  A.T. for army of Tenn.  The Army P.M. does not know every Regt in a Brigade + every Brigade in a Division but when it is all on the back of the letter it goes through at once.  Thousands of letters never reach their destination from neglect of this little matter.

There is no romance there.  Hundreds of wounded + dying lying stretched on bits of straw or blankets, pale + haggard calling for water! water! help! help!.

Well I reckon you want to know something about the great battles. The Battle of Chicaumauga1 seems to me a long way off in the past I would not if I could paint to you the horrors I witnessed at that battle.  I was on the field most of the first day, but that night + the next two days I was at the field hospital,  engaged in operating.  Here is the place to see the dark side of “Glorious War.”  There is no romance there.  Hundreds of wounded + dying lying stretched on bits of straw or blankets, pale + haggard calling for water! water! help! help!.  Then the operating table a rude affair on forks covered with a blanket the chloroform, Sponges, Knives + pile of legs + arms under it + blood every where + on every thing.  I have got hardened to these sights.  sometimes I wonder if it is myself.  I got hungry as at any other sort of work + at meal time would wash my hands, not very clean either, + eat heartily, we had a great many wounded in that fight, an unusually large proportion to the number of killed.2

What the Yankee loss was we will never know.  Their dead on the field were never buried.  hundreds of their Skuls are whitening now in the sun unless they have buried them.  They now have possession of the field.  That great victory was a barren one to us after all.  The Enemy now hold all the country north of Ring gold.3    The battle of Chicamuaga will have to be fought over again. The battle of the 23d I was not in it occurred on our extreme right the Enemy attempted to take the end of Missionary Ridge from us, but were repulsed with sever loss. 4  on the 24 they took the point of Lookout Mountain, 5 our extreme left, from us before we knew it.  I was lying in the trenches about a mile off + could see the whole fight.  They commenced about 10 o’clock A.M. + fought without intermission till 12 that night.  on the 25 they again attempted to turn our left + were again badly whiped.  They then late in the evening massed their troops and attacked the Center of our line + broke through it like a storm.  I never saw such a complete panic.  night was all that saved us.  we lost more canon than we took at Chicamuaga.  I cant think why the Yanks did not pursue us.  I was sitting down behind a big tree just in the rear of my Regt, when all at once the balls began to pass by me at right angles from the direction I was looking for them.  I got up + looked about + saw the Yanks in a hundred yards of me They had passed our breastworks + had us completely flanked + were firing on our rear.  You ought to have seen me get away from that position.  I “changed my base” in the shortest possible time.  Bragg, Hardee,6 Cheatham,7 + I dont know how many other of our Genls were there + by desperate exertions rallied the men in sufficient numbers to make a stand till dark, when the retreat commenced in some sort of order.  we came on as fast as we could conveniently to this place where the army is now lying reconciling, gathering up the straglers, going into winter Quarters, some say + some say we will fortify + await the enemy near this place.   If there is a fight soon the Yanks will have to make it, for we have not got force enough to go after them.  Grant may follow us up here as soon as he recovers from his losses.  He is said to have lost very heavily in the three last fights.  He is a go ahead sort a fellow + the Yanks have more Confidence in him than any of the rest of their Genls.  I am low spirited about the war.  I see nothing ahead of us but fight on fight ever.  Our enemies have greatly the advantages of us in men + means + seem more united and determined on our destruction than ever.  I have given up all hope of foreign interference + trust now to our own endurance + the blessing of GoD for an honorable peace.  I cant see the beginning of the end.  Well I am glad to see that you are doing so well.  If I should be killed you are likely to get along very well without me.  You “wonder if I have not forgotten you?”  If you knew how often in the day + night the dear little home squad fills my thoughts you would not ask that question.  I sent an application to the Surgeon General for a transfer to the Trans-Mississippi Dept some two months ago but have not heard from it.  I sent another on this morning to Senator Maxwell + asked him to get it through for me, as soon as it comes I will start 8  It is almost an impossibility now to resign or I would have been home long ago.

as to home matters I cant give you any advice.  I have been gone so long that I have lost the hang of things.  Do the best you can. I am doing my best to get to you without deserting.  Suppose the Yanks catch me on the way?
I see from the paper that John Morgan has got out of the Ohio penetentiary + is in Canada I hope it is true for we need him here now.
9  Dont get uneasy about Jims schooling, if he has not made extraordinary progress you can teach him for a long time yet.  Teach them all what you do know + what a great many college bred folks dont know, to read Spell and wright a good hand.  I would like to help sister Jenny out I have not caught a baby since I left home I expect I would be awkward at it.  If this passes I will write again soon Love to all kin + the dear children for me + let them kiss you for me till I come.
Your Alex.

(Inverted at top of page) Genl Bragg has been relieved + Genl Hardee is in command of the army

 The Letter:

  1. The Battle of Chickamauga (September 19-20, 1863) was the most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater.  The only other battle of the Civil War to see more casualties was Gettysburg. The Army of the Cumberland under Maj. Gen. Rosecrans met The Army of Tennessee under Gen. Bragg. View Library of Congress photographs and prints.
  2. Amputation was very common as a means of preventing infection. See Civil War medical practices.
  3. Ringgold is a city in north Georgia where troops under Gen. Patrick Cleburne successfully delayed the Union Army while Confederate artillery and wagon trains made a safe retreat.
  4. Battle of Missionary Ridge.
  5. Battle of Lookout Mountain.
  6. Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee.
  7. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Franklin Cheatham.
  8. Augustus Emmett Maxwell represented Florida in the Confederate congress.  At one time he practiced law in Eutaw, Alabama which is likely why Alex Morgan contacted him.
  9. Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan lead a highly publicized raid 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.