Appalachia Civil War Letters

A Civil War Letter from W.C.’s Fellow Solider

Civil war names mentioned in wc letters

Back in June I told you about Don Casada taking the time to write down all the names mentioned in W.C. Penland’s Civil War letters. The list contained family members as well as members of W.C.’s company of soldiers. In the Civil War most soldiers signed up and served with their neighbors. This made it a certainty that W.C.’s family knew the men he wrote about in his letters.

During Don’s research he came across a letter written by one of W.C.’s fellow soldiers on the Charles Thompson Families family tree on The letter was written by William H Coalman (also Coleman) which was sent from Knoxville on October 8.

Don pointed out-it was sent four days before WC Penland’s first letter. W.C. mentions Coleman being sick in this letter.

Don transcribed the letter for us-he did insert periods and capitalized the first letter of sentences to make it easier to read. Don’s transcription was not from the original, but from another transcription. The Charles Thompson Families family tree on noted that the letter was found at the Price home.


Knoxvile Tennessee Oct 8, 1862

Dear father and Mother and family

I now take the pleasure of droping you a few lines to inform you that we are in common health at this time with the exceptions of my old complaints, and my head nearly kills me at times. Howell is well and there is not a siveler man in camp than he is and I hope these few lines may come safe to home and find you all as well as common and doing the best you can fur we have a hard time here fur we don’t git more then half a nuff to eat nur far our horses. There between 75 and 100 thousand soulgiers where at this time we are campt west of Knoxville and north of the Clldeghill Hospittl and we drill in full view of the hispittle and in view of town. Tell father that we drill in the very field that he thought we would drill in rite to the rite of the hospittles and we use water out of the spring thay use out of. There is 3 and fifty sick soulgers in the colledg hill and there is about 25 hundred in all of the hospittles in this place. There is six companies where and there is 9 that has diserted but they were a east tennisee company. We are the best company in the Battalion the commander in this place says that John Morgin can’t beat us. We have had the praise deare Father and Famly and friends. I can say that I am trying to do the best that I can I have prairs in our camp and we had prair meeting last nite and if we never meet in this world hope and pray that we will meet in heaven where parting of friends will be no more. I want you all to pray fur me fur I can’t think of you all but what I am all most ready to cry. So no more at present fur the time is short that is given as I want you to write to us soon as you git this letter and as soon as you can fur we don’t know how long we will stay where. You must direct your letter Thus William H. Coalman in the ceare of Captian William P. Moore 7 Battalion V Cavely.

Please let Father see this letter. Tell him that I would rite to him in a few days if havt time the coin that I send is fur Elzabeth. Tell hur that se had better tak good ceare of it. We hant sent our saddles but we will in a few days by Patten to the Fort Hembree and you had better go as soon as you hear of them. So I must close.

Remain your son,

William H Coalman

Howel Curtis to Mr. Madison Curtis


A hard letter to read even though a full century has passed since he wrote it.



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  • Reply
    Maxine Appleby
    November 2, 2018 at 10:42 am

    A beautiful reminder of the sacrifices made by these dear people who answered the call to protect home and family at all costs. Those who stayed behind to keep the lanterns lit were a constant presence in the hearts and minds of the soldiers who longed so to be with them at home again. These people make me so proud of my Appalachian ancestors and so proud of those whose heritage we cherish today. Thank you for sharing this. It has touched my heart deeply.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    July 26, 2015 at 9:01 am

    What you have in your family tree is consistent with my understanding. The Curtis family also lived along Jarrett Road (east of the Coleman homes, if memory serves).
    According to records from “North Carolina Troops” William H. Coleman “Reported on September-December 1863 muster roll as ‘absent sick and dropped.'” So it seems likely that he would have been back home by the time Elizabeth Jane died.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    July 26, 2015 at 8:50 am

    Joe Penland,
    My speculation is that the hospital was located on what is now the UT campus. There’s a section of the campus still called “The Hill.” There are some engineering and science buildings in the area.
    According to the UT history web page “the university’s buildings were used as a hospital for Confederate troops and were later occupied by Union troops.”

  • Reply
    July 25, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    I’m kinda partial to the way folks
    talked back then, and their
    unconditional love they had for
    their family. It’s sad that war
    tore so many families apart too.
    Hope Chitter and Chatter had a
    good nite at Murphy Baptist. They
    got some exposier to some folks
    that had never heard of ’em…Ken

  • Reply
    Joe Penland
    July 25, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Does Don have any idea where this hospital was? It must have been close to the present downtown Knoxville.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    July 25, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    The heartache and homesickness of this soldier are plain to see in the words he wrote to his family. I wonder if those who have never served in the military in any capacity understand all who do face times like this, some more often than others, and that it’s a hard life, but it’s a “calling” one must answer and cannot ignore.
    Prayers for all who answer this calling, and for those who await them at home, often struggling mightily to keep the home fires burning in their absence.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 25, 2015 at 11:47 am

    If this is the William Henry Coleman I have in my family tree and the Elizabeth mentioned in the letter is his wife, the former Elizabeth Jane Curtis, there is a sadder note to this correspondence. She would die in less than two years from the date of the letter and about six months before the end of the war. I have no evidence to attest to this projection but it is possible he never saw her alive again.
    The Elizabeth Jane Curtis in my family tree is the daughter of Madison Curtis (mentioned at the end of the letter.) She died on 2 Oct 1864 and is buried at the First United Methodist Church Cemetery in Hayesville, North Carolina. William is buried beside her along with his second wife Celine.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2015 at 9:46 am

    These letters you have been sharing are a very interesting aspect of the war – a very human part.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    July 25, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Very interesting and very telling – the expressions, word usage and turns of phrase of a century and a half ago. The resemblance to W.C. Penland’s letters is evident- the writing style, the reassurance to the family, the hardships of army life and an undertone of apprehension.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    July 25, 2015 at 8:15 am

    This was written by William Henry Coleman. I’ve not asked my Price cousins about it, but suspect it was found at one of two Price homes in the Jarrett Road area of Clay County.
    Two sons of William Henry Coleman (Andrew Jackson and James Madison) married two Shearer sisters, Samantha and Laura). Both couples were childless. My grandmother, Minnie, and her brother, Will, were taken in by the Coleman-Shearer couples after their mother died in 1888.
    The two couples had homes which stood – and still stand – about 400 feet apart. After the Coleman-Shearer couples died, the property passed into the Will Price family, and much of it is still owned by the Clay County Prices.
    Here’s a photo of Will and Lillie Carter Price with (I think) their first child Laura. It would have been taken around 1904.

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