Civil War Letters Heritage

Civil War Letters 1

front steps

In the early 80’s the old homeplace beside the TVA Lake was purchased by the Stines Family. Historical details of the house:

  • Built in 1882 by the Patton family
  • Holt Patton was 6 mos. old when the house was built by his parents
  • Holt was raised in the house
  • Holt married Annie Jones-and they raised their family in the house
  • Holt died in 1983 at the age of 101

old house by the lake

When the Stines purchased the old homeplace the house was in severe disrepair. As they began the arduous task of making the house inhabitable-Mrs. Stines discovered an old pillowcase full of letters in the attic. The letters were written by W.C. Penland. He was the son of Patience Mahalia Moore Penland-and the brother of Luola Penland Patton, who was Holt Patton’s Mother.

I’d like to share the letters with you-let you hear his first person account of a horrible war-let you learn W.C. Penland’s story-a story that was hidden for close to a 100 years in the attic of the old house.

Knoxville Tennessee October the 12 1862

Dear Father and Mother    I take the present oppornituity to inform that I am as well at the present time as I ever was hoping that these few lines will find you all enjoying the same like blessing    all of the boys from Clay County are tolerable well    James Crawford has come up and is well Joab Crawford has had the mumps but is well    William Waldrupe is agoing to take my saddles home    Zoro will please take them home and pay him one dollar for hauling them    it has been raining here for two or three days and is a getting tolerable muddy    it was the dustyest time when we first got here that I ever saw    they have been running soldiers here for several days    that is ever since we have been here they are breckinridgees men going to Kentucky    there is a great many soldiers about this place    everything is the highest here that I ever saw    sweet potatoes are worth five dollars per bushel    everything else in proportion onions are bringing ten dollars per bushel    we are getting tolerable plenty for ourselves and horses to eat but some of them are a ganting up tolerable bad    my horse doing about as well as any of them    Uncle Wiley Moore has come he got here late Tuesday    I heard from Aunt Margaret Mantooth yesterday    she is well    we do not know when we will leave here but I expect before very long    there was a battle at Corinth last week    we whipped them on Friday and Saturday but they whipped us on Sunday but we retreated in good order the report that we lost about four thousand in the engagement there was a great many of the wounded passed up    the yesterday evenings train tell Mr. Sherman that John is well    tell Mary to write me    I helpt to take some deserters to jail yesterday they had went home without leave but come and the colonel sent them to jail to give others warning    be sure and write for I would be glad to hear from home every day    be sure to have those boots made for me for shoes are worth $10 dollars per pair and boots $9 dollars    I have not wrote much of interest as I did not have any thing to write    give my compliments to all inquiring friends    so no more but remains your affectionate son until death

W C Penland

P O Address Ft Knoxville Tenn 7 Battalion N C Calvery Co A in care of Capt W P Moore

I find W.C.’s writing ability fascinating. He left for war in 1862-he was 18 years old. To say he lived in a rural area-would be an understatement. Clay County was made a county at about the same time he went to war. Makes me wonder-where he went to school or if he was taught at home?

There are about 14 letters in all-they tell a story-more than a story a first hand historical account of a young soldier boy. I’ll share the rest of the letters with you as time goes by-it really is a peek into the past. And the whole scenario of finding them in the old house is a perfect example of how walls can talk.


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  • Reply
    Betty Patton
    December 9, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Holt Patton married Annie Jones!
    Lou Pendland was Holt’s MOTHER.
    Andrew Patton, son of Holt Patton

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    August 13, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    This caught my attention while I was doing a search on Holt Patton. Uncle Holt was my great uncle. His sister, Juanita Patton, married Fred N. McLain and had 6 children, the 5th of which was my father, Jim McLain, who is still living in East Tennessee at age 86. Thanks for sharing. Any information that you may have about Louola Penland Patton and Burgess Gaither Patton is greatly appreciated.

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    May 26, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    That about took my breath away. Love stories about old houses and the treasures they hold. Can’t believe she held those letters that long. What a great tribute to someone’s life. xxoo

  • Reply
    May 26, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Wow, This is so amazing!
    We went to the farm at North Dakota this weekend. It started out as a huge horse ranch. One of the nieghbors brought over an old artical about the man who owned it. I wish someone had written a book about him.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2009 at 1:50 am

    How utterly fascinating! I would be beyond thrilled to make such a discovery. I look forward to future editions.
    That old house reminds me a lot of my Nanny’s old house in Oklahoma.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    What a wonderful post. I had ancestors on both sides of the war. I loved his language. He said ‘tolerable’ almost as much as my grandma did.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    What a beautiful treasure they discovered in that pillowcase. How I would love to read them all. Thanks for posting this. I’m looking forward to more of them in future.

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    May 24, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Wow! How cool to have this kind of history! It’s really neat to hear the first hand account from a soldier. I can’t wait to hear more!

  • Reply
    Kim Campbell
    May 24, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    What a treasure! That is so neat.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 24, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Wow Tipper, what a find! He seems to be not only articulate for 18 years old, but mature—guess war matures people fast. Obviously misses his family and values hearing from them!
    I’ve never heard of a horse ganting…wonder what that means.
    Walls do talk. We can learn a lot from the past.
    Sweet potatoes $5 a bushel!!

  • Reply
    May 23, 2009 at 7:56 am

    how amazing and thank you so much for allowing us the chance to see and read this bit of history!
    i find your civil war so much more interesting than the one over here~and the little bits of social history, like this, makes it even more interesting

  • Reply
    May 23, 2009 at 7:13 am

    That’s a marvelous find! It’s amazing the letters are in any sort of tolerable shape being unpreserved essentially. Attics would typically destroy letters one would think. Anyhow, can’t wait to hear more!

  • Reply
    May 23, 2009 at 6:59 am

    You know I love old letters! I’ve found in my own collection that some members of the same family were more literate than others and I can’t explain it. This letter mentions so many others that must have been neighbors and I hope they are found through your transcriptions. It will be very interesting to me to see the different perspective that W.C. offers. Thanks for transcribing and sharing!

  • Reply
    May 22, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Those were tough times. Makes me appreciate how good and simple things are, really. This find is a treasure trove.

  • Reply
    Amy @ parkcitygirl
    May 22, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Incredible! That sort of history really fascinates me. I should write more letters 🙂 Thanks for sharing Tipper!

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    May 22, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Tipper: I agree that the writing ability of this man was really special. This was certainly a wonderful find.

  • Reply
    May 22, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    That is really a wonderful piece of history. What an amazing letter to find. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    May 22, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Tipper, thank you SO much for sharing these letters with us here! I really enjoy this kind of correspondence, not only to learn about the hardships that people in those times went through, but also to recall the now-lost days of writing letters.
    My granny and I used to write letters to each other. Yes, we talked on the phone, too, but she and I both enjoyed each others’ letters. It was something we could hold on to and read over and over. Now that granny is gone, I treasure her letters all the more… just as those letters you have shared with us were treasured enough by someone not to have thrown them away.
    I’ve often thought about trying to start up some sort of letter writing club or something, just to see if anybody else felt the same way I did.
    Have a safe & happy Memorial Day!
    – Leia (TennZen)

  • Reply
    Caution Flag
    May 22, 2009 at 9:45 am

    What a fantastic discovery. It is amazing how well so many people of that era could write without formal education. Now, when is the next letter coming?

  • Reply
    Farm Chick Paula
    May 22, 2009 at 8:58 am

    That was so interesting Tipper… and I LOVE that house!
    You’re right, I think his letter-writing skills were wonderful, but I think letters and composition are a dying art these days!

  • Reply
    May 22, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Great stuff,
    My granddad had letters from two of his uncles who served in the area of Franklin, Tenn. One was wounded there and later died, and the other was captured and sent to a prison camp in Ohio where he died. There is a special feeling about holding something old knowing that another human being in a bygone era held that same thing. I used to get the feeling when I found arrowheads. Pappy

  • Reply
    May 22, 2009 at 6:05 am

    These letters are certainly a treasure. Penland’s grammar and spelling is far above that of some old letters and cards in my collection. If he wasn’t able to attend school much, his parents must have been educated and able to teach him.

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    May 22, 2009 at 1:36 am

    Wow, truly a treasure!! Thank you for sharing this, and I agree, I can’t believe the writing ability of this young man.

  • Reply
    May 22, 2009 at 12:21 am

    What a great couple of posts Tipper. History is fascinating, when it is personal it is even more so, compelling to make a person pause and wonder.

  • Reply
    May 21, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    Great post, Tipper!!
    Not often that we run across something this timeless.
    I can’t wait to hear more!

  • Reply
    May 21, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Those letters are a great find!
    Thanks for sharing them. I’ll be looking forward to the next one.

  • Reply
    May 21, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    That letter was truly fascinating to say the least, a lot of history.
    I have always been interested in the civil war. My great great great grandfather was union calvary and fought at gettysburg, he lived to be 93

  • Reply
    Rick Morton
    May 21, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    That is so cool I can’t wait for the rest of the story.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    May 21, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    What a treasure! Thanks for sharing. I’ve always been fasinated with this era.

  • Reply
    Helen G.
    May 21, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    It is with treasures found like these that help to piece together, not only a family’s history, but a state and a country’s history. Looking forward to more…

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