Appalachia Civil War Letters

150th Anniversary Of The Civil War

James Jasper Scroggs Confederate Solider

James Jasper Scroggs Confederate Solider

“Two-thirds of all Civil War deaths were a result of disease, not battlefield injury. Most died of diarrhea, typhoid fever and dysentery, but the cause of four soldier deaths was officially listed as “nostalgia,” or homesickness.”

Quote from


This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. I hope to conclude my series of Civil War letters written by W.C. Penland this year. More than a few of you are probably saying “Yeah right you said that last year.”

I did say that last year…and I said it again last January. Here it is almost 5 months into 2015 and I haven’t really even made a start.

I’ve been dragging my feet. Why? For one, I keep finding other things I want to write about connected to W.C. and to the war in general.

But I would guess if I laid myself on the couch of a local head doctor I’d admit the real reason has nothing to do with the writing that lies ahead of me.

It was a war that nearly destroyed our country as a whole, not to mention the effect it had on individual lives. Heavy stuff to let roam around in your mind un-tethered.

I’ve had folks ask me how could you find the Civil War interesting when it was so destructive? I suppose the answer is the same answer I have for all the bad things that have happened in the annals of history.

I’m not interested in the blood and gore, nor in the politicians. I’m interested in the everyday folks like me and you who lived through the event.

People like James Jasper Scroggs who survived the war and made it home to live out the rest of his days just down the road from me.

Folks like W.C. Penland and his family. He cared enough to write letters to them often…and they cared enough to keep those letters forever.

Drop back by in a few days to read about how soldiers survived day to day during the Civil War.



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  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    April 22, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Just my own 2 cents, but I believe one can find hope in seeing others have gone through struggles similar to one’s own (or worse), survived it, found happiness and flourished.
    I also believe it’s good to learn about and remember terrible times, sometimes in great detail, as a way to motivate people to work hard to ensure they never happen again.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    April 21, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    I love it that you reach back to the Civil War in such human terms. All wars are personal and traumatic for those caught up in them, which for America has mostly been the military, including me, who went to foreign shores and came home changed forever. The Civil War was the exception, traumatizing and transforming the entire nation. The wounds have healed but the enduring scars require us to never forget the disaster of a century and a half ago that changed our country forever.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    April 21, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    My late father was raised on a former Civil War battlefield. The one story he told me that has really stuck in my mind was about playing outside barefoot and the minnie balls being so thick on the ground it was like walking on marbles. This would have been a good 50 years+ after the war! But- I think what really brought home the true horror of the war and it’s effect on ordinary people was our recent trip to “no man’s land” a few weeks ago. I realized in a very concrete way what a terrifying time it was for the folks who lived in my part of Appalachia. It was very sobering.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    April 21, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Tipper: You ‘touched’ the hearts of many folks with this post. I wish I had learned more about our local heros when I was attending Hayesville HS!
    Soon we will make a trip to High Hampton Inn for time with some mighty famous authors and I HOPE I DO NOT get inspired to write another book! Two prize winners is sufficient for a life time – especially since I am NOT a literary person!
    Fondly, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    April 21, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    For many years, I knew that my 3rd gr-grandfather died of illness in a Confederate hospital in Macon, Georgia, as a Confederate. I recently learned that another 3rd gr-grandfather died of wounds from battle in Natchez, Mississippi for the Union. This was a defining time in our history which must be remembered. And I’m looking forward to those letters!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 21, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Man was made to mourn: A Dirge
    Many and sharp the num’rous ills
    inwoven with our frame!
    More pointed still we make ourselves
    Regret, remorse and shame!
    And man, whose heav’n-erected face
    The smiles of love adorn,-
    Man’s inhumanity to man
    Makes countless thousands mourn!
    Written by Robert Burns…
    a poem of “Mans in humanity to man”

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 21, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    My great great grandfather Allen Ammons was 44 years old, married with at least nine children that we know of when he joined. If anyone ever had a reason not to join it was he. One reason could have been that the had at least one son serving in the Confederate Army. Another could have been that he was a man of God and many of his flock had joined or had been forced to join. If he felt he was led by God to guide to them through their lives and deaths, then he needed to be wherever they were. He joined as a private but was promoted to full chaplain.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 21, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    In Ken Burn’s ‘Civil War’ the saddest thing to me is how the men at Cold Harbor got ready for battle by making paper ‘dogtags’ to pin to their clothes so their body would be identifiable. They were getting ready to give – in Lincoln’s words – the last full measure of devotion. As was said, I believe, about those on D-day “All gave some. Some gave all.”
    On a happier note, I’ve noticed that men who served together in the same units not infrequently had descendants that married. I’ve wondered if it ever crossed their minds their families would be related many years into the future……

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 21, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    You know, the hardest thing to think about concerning the 150th anniversary of the Civil War is that I can remember the 100th.
    All this sunshine following a soggy past few days has brought out a million insects, birds and lawn mowers.

  • Reply
    April 21, 2015 at 10:58 am

    I’ve thought alot about the Civil
    War and I still ain’t got no answer for all the useless killings. Both sides believed so strong in their cause, and now we have idiots killing folks just because of their religious beliefs.
    But I love to hear your take on
    things. I look forward to reading the Blind Pig every day.
    This Sunshine today will brighten the day for everybody.

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    April 21, 2015 at 10:49 am

    The first conflict in which combat deaths outnumbered casualties from disease was World War I.
    We are interested in how common soldiers lived 150-years ago, but the Civil War cannot be understood without knowing what the armies fought for, and how the North and South became opposed so irreconcilably that 720,000 young men had to die.
    The great issues which divided the nation were Freedom and the related question of States’ Rights, Senator Stephen A. Douglas’s doctrine of “Popular Sovereignty.” Northerners opposed this rightly as a violation of humanity’s “inalienable rights” under Thomas Jefferson’s Natural Law. Southern planters were asserting a license “to enslave thy neighbor by majority vote.”
    Freedom versus tyranny is the great theme of human history, the Glorious Cause for which our patriot ancestors fought the American Revolution. In the words of philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    April 21, 2015 at 10:26 am

    I read “The Widow of the South” by Robert Hicks this winter and highly recommend it to anyone interested in, as you say, the everyday folks who lived through the Civil War. The book is a historical novel, based in enough fact to be real and just enough fiction to keep it interesting. Hicks takes readers through Carrie McGavock’s day-to-day life as the mistress of a mansion-turned-hospital near Franklin, Tennessee. She was intent on preserving as much information as possible about the dead soldiers buried in her yard and in nearby fields. In essence, she was their caretaker. Some of the stories are told from the perspective of the dead or dying soldiers. It’s very well done.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    April 21, 2015 at 10:01 am

    Any one whose family lived in NC during the “War of Northern Aggression” should research their family history, many will be surprised at how many members were involved on one side or the other and some on both. Personally I have discovered a 3rd Great Grandfather who died a POW at Ft. Delaware, a 2nd Great Great Grand Uncle who died a POW at Pt. Lookout, Md. several uncles and cousins who died in battle, several uncles and cousins who were wounded and a couple of 2nd Great Grandfathers and Uncles who returned home without obvious wounds but lived out their lives with terrible memories. NC provided more soldiers to the Confederate Army and suffered more losses than any other state even though they voted against secession until they were ordered to raise troops to attack SC. History being written by the winners most have heard of the horrors of Andersonville but never hear of the Union POW camps which were just as bad or worse. We need to learn from History or risk making the same mistakes over and over.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 21, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Your thoughts are very similar to what I’ve learned from genealogy. I discovered that the history of my families is the history of America and they don’t have to be name-recognized for that to be true. Whatever is noted by the history books, if they were there they were part of it. And the same is true of ourselves. We are each making history now whether history notes us or not.
    Beyond that, I believe that – though a life can be lived in vain – there is by design a redemption for the common life.
    OK, I’ll lighten up. My mind just works that way.
    Have a blessed day everyone.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    April 21, 2015 at 9:51 am

    The Civil War was a tragic time in our nation’s history, but one that forged the nation into a stronger one. In James McPherson’s book, Battle Cry of Freedom, he states that the Civil War was known as “Rich Man’s war, poor man’s fight!” That is true of most wars. The typical soldier on either side had no vested interest in the outcome of the war, but they went, fought, and died. About 620,000 died in the Civil War. The total for all other wars that we have engaged in during our country’s history is less than 690,000.

  • Reply
    April 21, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Letters not only fill the lines of history, but also help to keep in touch with the familiar and those we hold dear. They help on both ends – sending and receiving. I look forward to your attempts to conclude the history involved in this war.

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