Civil War Letters Heritage

Civil War Letter 3

In this third letter of the packet-Penland writes of the actual fighting for the first time. As he writes-you can catch a glimpse of the difference between the North and South’s weaponry. He is impressed by the Yankees’ firearm power.

Mount Taylor, Carter County Tennessee Jan the 3rd 1863

Dear Father and Mother

I now take the present opportunity to write you a few lines  I am well at this time   hoping that these few lines will find you and all the family and friends enjoying the same blessing   I am as hearty as you ever saw me   I would have wrote you before this time but I wrote you one and had to go out to meet the Yankees and did not have to mail it     the Yankees were within one mile of us and said to be in force and there was but few of us   Col Folk could not muster more than one hundred and fifty men in all at this place   there was a dispatch come to us last tuesday that the enemy were advancing on the bridge at Zollicofffer and for us to go as soon as possible as we saddled and loaded our bagage and started late in the evening and got four of five miles from camp and heard that the forces at Zollicoffer were whipped and all killed and taken prisoners and were advancing and we turned back and went to a better position to fight and formed line of battle and stayed there until midnight and then we went about six miles and camped until midnight and then we went about six miles and camped and throughed out pickets until morning and then we heard that there was a crowd of what we call tories in the crabb orchard that was a going to cutt us off if the Yankees whipped us and we had to retreat and we went up into that country and found none off until we started back to our former camp and as we came on down we were fired on in two different places out of the laurel   two of our men were wounded but none killed    we took six or eight prisoners and wounded men of them that had a gun and was in the woods near the south   it was such a rough country that we could not get after them for the rocks and brush   I expect that there was near fifty or sixty guns fixed at us that day and but two touched    there was two men of Browns company that were left sick on the road and they started to come to the battalian and they were fired on by five guns but were not touched a  single time   we got back to camp last friday and I started to write saturday and sunday and was detailed before I had got half of a letter wrote to go about on scout   the Yankees have burnt two bridges and taken four companies of Loves regiment prisoners these force were sixteen hundred men   they have left this part of the country the Major Mcdowell surrendered without the firing of a gun but Colonel Love give them a fight at Carter Depot   there was five or six of his men wounded and one killed there were two of the Yankees killed and two wounded    they were the best armed that I ever heard of in my life   had Colts rifles that shot five or six times and two naval pistols a piece that shot six times   also there were several of our men runaway a few days ago and they will face tolerable tolerable rough if the get them    you wrote to me to try to get A E Pendergrass off if I could he runaway when had been in camp only one week   I think that it was a very little trick of them   their officers were all kind to them and they were getting plenty to eat   I fear that deserters will be the ruin of our country if they keep a deserting and going to that country there will be an army sent to that country   it will be eat up and will be starved out   I think that is the only danger of our country being ate up or coming to want   a deserter ought not to be countence   in any shape nor form whatever    James Crawford is on the mend and is a great deal better than he was when I wrote to you before   he as been very bad   M A Martin had not mended much the last account that I had of him    I have not heard from him since last thursday he was a little on the mend then   R V Alexander is well at this time   tell Mr. Sherman that John is well and is gone to Knoxville at this time with some prisoners   I am well this morning and have plenty to do lately   I have wrote every day for eight days and part of the night in fact, nearly every night more or less in that time   I would be glad to be at home but I do not know when I can get a furlough I do not think there will be any furloughing soon in this battalion   when we left camp we left all our our sick at camp and they left and we think that they went home   we do not know what has become of   write soon and give me the news write to Johnson Depot Carter County Tennessee

so no more at present but remains your son as ever W C Penland

I wonder if the writing he spoke of-was letters home or if he kept a journal too?

Hope you’ll leave me a comment with your thoughts on the letter.


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  • Reply
    September 17, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Dee, I was born and raised in Carter County, and it is God’s country. But I never realized there were any Civil War battles near there. I’m not even sure what Mount Taylor refers to. I’d be interested to know if anyone has any information on this. Carter County was very divided during the war, and a lot of people wanted to avoid the war in general. There were so few slaves in that part of the country that it didn’t really matter to most people.

  • Reply
    laoi gaul-williams
    August 3, 2009 at 5:03 am

    i really love these letters tipper~the american civil war has always been of huge interest to me~i always wonder if any of my ancestors who emmigrated was involved?~and i love the idea of such personal history

  • Reply
    Amy - parkcitygirl
    August 2, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I love these bits of history in his letter! Thanks for sharing Tipper 🙂

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 31, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    I have read and reread this letter. It is amazing but I hear no fear in this boy mayhap a little sadness but no fear. That is amazing given the terrible circumstances!
    Reading his account I cannot begin to imagine living through that and he writes about it so matter-of-factly.

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    July 30, 2009 at 2:33 am

    Dee from Tennessee
    Oh that just fascinates me about David Templeton’s grandfather…it’s really hard to wrap my mind around. I can’t imagine being a couple of generations removed. Wow! Thanks for sharing that!
    My gr-gr grandfathers were in the war (opposite sides), and I’ve just recently obtained some photos of them and it truly makes me ponder. What I would give for some correspondence…
    Forgive me Tipper but completly off topic…, but I was playing around on the internet the other night and stumbled upon a picture of my husband sitting on the airplane ready to leave Vietnam – thank you Lord. It was a bit surreal to click on that photo and there he was. 40 years ago this Sept. A photo can tell a story.

  • Reply
    Eggs In My Pocket
    July 29, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Just loved reading old letters and thank you for sharing this. How worried his loved ones must have been for him. Such a wonderful post. blessings,Kathleen

  • Reply
    July 29, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    What a treasure you have found. Amazing that this family has kept these letters all this time.
    I read a worried tone to the letter, even though he was trying to sound positive.

  • Reply
    July 29, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I always loved to read true life accounts of the life of soldiers in the war of Northern Aggression. My granddad had a letter his uncles had written from Tennessee. One was later killed and the other captured and sent to a prison camp in Ohio where he died. Pappy

  • Reply
    July 29, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    I miss pen and paper. Well, actually, I don’t, because if there were no keyboards, no one would be able to read my horrendous writing. But the fact that a man sat down and wrote such a long and newsy letter is a novel thing in today’s world. What a piece of history!

  • Reply
    July 29, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Wonderful letter. He went into such detail about everything.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    July 29, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Tipper: Certainly a wonderful story about a sad time for our country. This man is truly articulate.

  • Reply
    July 29, 2009 at 8:24 am

    I love hearing these stories!

  • Reply
    July 28, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    An incredible snapshot of what it was really like. Reading his letter makes feel the worry and heartache his parents must have felt. Just to survive during that time was a miracle. Those who fought and those who were left at home.

  • Reply
    July 28, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Good read Tipper, thanks.

  • Reply
    Pat Workman
    July 28, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    This is a treasure and of great historical significance. Mr Penland was a very responsible and caring young man. He wrote with very mature and objective insight, especially considering the circumstances. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    July 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    I have often wondered how I would have endured if I had been in the combat of a war. Many of my buddies, friends and family went to Viet nam. I didn’t get sent there.
    I would like to believe that I would have endured just as WC Penland did, but I do not know. He was a good and brave person and it is a fitting tribute to him and his legacy that the world can be with him, through your sharing of his journals, as he faced his call.
    What a wonderful treasure you have in these letters.
    By the way, my grandfather (not my great, great or my great grandfather, but my father’s father fought with North Carolinians in the Civil War. He was well into his sixties when Dad was born in 1902 and Dad was well into his forties when I was born. That I am only a couple of generations removed from the Civil War amazes me. My grandmother, it follows (who was only in her teens when she took up with my grandfather) was one of the very last surviving Civil War veterans’ widows.
    Anyway, thank you for sharing a precious treasure.

  • Reply
    July 28, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Think about the boy’s on both sides
    of the civil war!!They had “hell”.
    no “c” or”k” rashions-no MRE’S-They
    had to cook whatever they had on a
    fire.the South had little to fight
    with-biggest thing they had was a

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    July 28, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Oh, I find it fascinating. THANKS for sharing. And I bet it was really cold too in Jan….it’ll snow in Carter and Johnson County if no where else in Tn. I love history, esp. local history and Civil War history. They just had a reenactment in Carter County a week or so ago.
    (I met some guys a million years ago when I went to school who were from Carter County…only they called it God’s Country. It is beautiful.)

  • Reply
    July 28, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Such a treasure!

  • Reply
    July 28, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    wow how amazing!
    fascinating,sad and so nessesary for more people to read and appreciate the growing pains of our awesome Nation!
    Thanks for sharing. hope all is well in your corner of the country 🙂

  • Reply
    July 28, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Thanks for letting me read this letter. I am very interested in the Civil War. I have some pictures on my blog of Fort Donelson and more of the Natchez Trace. Have you been to either?
    One of my cousins has a book one of our ancestors wrote about the war. Are you related to WC Penland?
    I read the first letter and how they were found, so interesting. I’m gonna have to go find the second letter.
    It really breaks my heart to read them. It was such a sad time for our country. We have lots of Civil War history here in MO., more than most people think. The Civil War actually started in MO and we are represented by a star on the confederate flag. MO was the third most fought over state in the war.
    I can’t imagine what people went through at that time, it must have been horrendous.
    Thank you for sharing this piece of our history.

  • Reply
    July 28, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    What an interesting letter. The details are amazing, not just because they give us such insight to what was happening, but also because they tell you that he needed to share his experience with his parents and did so with what good news he could give. blessings, marlene

  • Reply
    July 28, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    What a great treasure. It sort of makes me sad reading it as most of what he talked about involved bad stuff going down… deserters, sick and wounded, etc. Still, to see his insights was very interesting. I can’t imagine not being more jaded about life during the war.

  • Reply
    July 28, 2009 at 9:30 am

    These civil war letters are really interesting. It reminds me of when I found out about my great great great grandfather Leander, he was with the 1st New Hampshire Calvary

  • Reply
    July 28, 2009 at 9:19 am

    I would have thought it might be a journal until the last thing he wrote when he said write soon and give me the news write to Johnson Depot.
    I truly enjoy reading these letters, I have been a civil war buff ever since I hear about my great great great grandfather.

  • Reply
    Old Red Barn Co.
    July 28, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I do so love your blog. I love coming here and learning something new. About this land I call home.
    I’ve missed seeing you much this summer. Soon I hope.

  • Reply
    July 28, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Mr. Penland went into great detail to his family. I’m sure his mother was afraid for him. She must have stayed on her knees in prayer. I love to get to look into the past and watch it come to life in the words left by this Confederate soldier. It was a very horrendous time for our nation. Thank you for sharing this with us. Blessings, Annie

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