Civil War Letters

Civil War Letters 9

It’s been way too long since we checked in with Civil War Solider W.C. Penland.

March 23 (on envelope) 1863

Headquarters 65th N C Regt

Zollicoffer Sulivan County East Tenn

Mr James H Penland

I set myself pen in hand to write you a few lines in answer to your kind letter which came to hand sometime ago   I have not answered it as soon as I would have but we have moved a good deal lately   we are stationed here to guard this bridge   I expect that we will stay here for some time   my health is very good at the present and in fact all of company is in tolerable good   all that were sick are on the mend   the last account we had of Arel Henson he was a getting better   we are not a getting much for our horses to eat since we come to this place   it is a very nice day here today    there has been a great deal of rain here lately   we are not doing much riding lately but are not a feeding much   I would like to be with you and talk with you but I can not do so and I will just rite   I have not had a letter from any of you at home in a month   I do not know whether you have not written or they have been miss placed   I would like to hear from there now   Uncle Wm Moores Company is to be here in a few days so I have heard but I do not know whether it is so or not   we are a looking for the Yankees to make a rade into this part of the country but I do not know whether they will or not   write to me as soon as this comes to hand and give the news in general   give my respects to all of my friends and acquantances and especially to all of the family

so no more at present but remains you affectionate brother ever

                               Wm C Penland

to James H Penland


This letter was especially interesting to me-because it is written to his brother James instead of to his Mother or Father. As in some of the other letters-we can see his longing to hear from home. I’m positive they wrote him often-I’m betting the letters they sent were lost along the way or as he said “miss placed”.

One other thing I thought of concerning W.C.’s writing style. Has anyone else noticed-kids today don’t learn to write in cursive? In this area-it’s just not required. Chitter and Chatter are in their first year of High School-when they write an essay or something for school-it  often has to be typed-but most of the time they’ll also accept a neatly written version-but cursive is not required (a good thing since they never learned to write in cursive). To not teach cursive writing seems so weird to me. I mean if they can’t write in cursive how can they read it-it must look like Egyptian Hieroglyphics to them. But I guess if none of the kids across the nation are learning it-being able to read cursive won’t be an issue in another decade or so.

What jumped out at you from the letter? Do kids in your area learn to write in cursive?



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  • Reply
    October 22, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Not learning cursive down here either.
    Two things stood out to me….
    he stated they are not getting much to feed the horses….now you know I have horses…not a good thing to not be able to feed them. Poor things.
    And how he put “a” in front of things….a getting and a looking. I’ve heard it said that way many times but never written that way.

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    October 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    I had NO CLUE that Zollicofer is Bluff City, TN —where by the way, is the nearby home of some of the BEST barbque in these United States — Ridgewood. If you are ever near and you like barbque — Ridgewood’s is THE place if you can find a parking place. Nothing like it and I think they’re on fb too. YUM and double YUM.
    Okay, cursive writing. To teach cursive writing within the school day DOES take a good bit of time -20- 30 minutes daily esp. during the first year it is taught. Plus, additional time somehow, someway is “sneaked in” for those who are struggling with it — and, trust me, you would be surprised how many struggle with it.
    Okaaaaaay— guess what? Cursive writing is not tested on the almighty standarized tests that determine school’s ratings, teacher’s jobs, principal’s jobs, the dreaded “failing list” from the state etc. Sooooo, when it comes down to it — do you use that precious 20-30 minutes to teach/review/drill more : math skills/concepts, specific reading strategies, vocabulary, English applications, higher-level thinking skills & more — ALL of which ARE tested?
    Seriously, think about it– if you had a job that all that mattered was if you produced boxes of — let’s say detergent– and all that counted in order to keep your job and be in good standing with the company AND your paycheck AND the public perception regarding your performance was to produce the sealed boxes — doesn’t matter if the labels are crooked just as long as they are labeled — would you take the time to make sure the labels were straight when you could use that time to produce more boxes? I know this is not a good analogy but the bottom line is that all the testing has indeed taken a toll on various things that are being taught AND not being taught.
    Just don’t forget about that barbque if you ever get a chance — you won’t regret it! (And I didn’t proof this so it’s probably horrible…lol)

  • Reply
    October 19, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Richard-thank you for the great comment! So neat that you have a family connection to W.C. If you see this and could email me at [email protected] I’d appreciate it. Another relative of W.C.’s would like to talk to you about your common family ties.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    October 19, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    David-you didn’t miss anything-in fact you caught me being lazy : ) When I first started posting the letters-I had 2 or 3 photos of the letters that I had formatted for my site. Instead of doing each letter-I just keep using those first ones since its easier : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    October 19, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Janet-I’ve been thinking about signatures too-how will the kids here sign their name? I know my girls-will just print theirs cause thats all they learned to do.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    October 18, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    I enjoy your civil war letters. I can’t believe that they don’t learn cursive in school there. I’m not sure about here, I know my kids did, but my youngest is 21. I don’t know what they require now. They still require signatures when you sign your name, so they would have to know cursive writing.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    October 18, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Tipper, it makes absolutely no difference except to make me curious. The image of the letter copied above the text differs from the text. Is there another letter?
    If I, in my senility, missed something obvious I’ll be embarassed and feel pretty dumb so maybe you can reply outside this log.
    Did you say the letter, dated October 12, was in an envelope dated March 23?

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    October 18, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I learned of your website from Jim Casada’s newsletter and have enjoyed every new post. But I was not prepared for the delightful surprise of the Civil War letters and the realization that W. C. Penland and many of the people named in the letters are all related to me.
    My Great Grandfather was Norbonne W. Moore (usually signing his name N.W. Moore) of Clay County who was a brother of W.C.’s mother Patience Mahalia Moore Penland.
    Patience was the second child of John Moore (b1777) and his 2nd wife Susanna Jones(b1792). My direct ancestor N.W. Moore was the sixth child of John and Susanna. As John had eight children by his first wife Martha Covington and nine by Susannah, it is not surprising the countryside had many relations. The Crawfords mentioned, for example, were cousins to W.C.
    Patience Moore married Harvey Penland in 1842 and they had ten children. The author of the letters William Chamberlain Penland was the oldest (born 1843) and Luola Penland (b. 1861) was the youngest. Patience died in 1903 at the age of 82 and is buried at Union Hill Cemetery in Clay County. I’ve seen the location listed as Shooting Creek, NC but I can’t vouch for that specific.
    Her father and mother John and Susannah Moore are also buried in that cemetery. From a picture John’s marker looks to date from his death in 1857.
    William Chamberlain Penland died shortly after these letters were written. He died “of disease” on August 19, 1863 and is buried near Clinton, Tennessee. Several of the letters are addressed to his brother James H. Penland. James was born on March 12, 1848. He died of typhoid fever in 1889.
    A few notes on the organization of Confederate units mentioned. Most of the members of W.C. Penland’s company and regiment were from Clay, Macon and other Western NC counties. W.C. enlisted at age 18 on July 5, 1862 in Clay County. He was mustered in as a Sergeant, which I think speaks well of him as so many older men entered as privates.
    Originally, his company was part of the 7th NC Battalion, a cavalry unit that was later in 1863 was merged into the 65th NC Regiment. From the references in the letters he was at the time of most of the letters in the company of his kinsman William Patton Moore, a grandson of John Moore and his first wife. Most of the Captain Moore references are to William P. Moore but one is to my G.Grandfather N.W. Moore, who was also a Captain of an infantry company who for a few months was transferred to the same area for the same duty of guarding bridges and passes.
    I could write more but this is already long. Thank you, thank you for the wealth of information these letters provide about that sad era and, on a more personal note, my family. My grandfather was born in Clay County in 1861.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    October 18, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    To help with David Templeton’s question, W.C. was my great-great uncle. He was the oldest of 11 children. The next oldest boy was James Hannibal Penland, who was 17 in 1863. National Park Service Civil War Sailors & Soldiers System shows two James H. Penlands. One in Co. K, 25th NC Infantry, the other in Co. F, 60th NC Infantry. Don’t know if either is him, but he probably would have enlisted after W.C. died. I do know that James died in 1889, surviving the war.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    October 18, 2010 at 10:25 am

    There’s a general overtone of sadness in this particular letter even though, for the most part it is just routine reporting of his situation; no complaints, no reminiscing about days at home gone by, no particular intimacy.
    Here he says, in effect, ‘all I can do for contact with home is write and hope home folks write back’.
    “I would like to be with you and talk with you but I can not do so and I will just rite I have not had a letter from any of you at home in a month …”
    Each letter I read shows him matured by the experience of war and more and more philosophical about his situation.
    That his brother is not fighting makes me wonder about the age difference: Is this brother much older or not old enough to fight? or, disabled?

  • Reply
    October 18, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I adore these letters, Tipper. The fact that he was starving for letters from home touched me the most. I am saddened and a bit irked that cursive is not required in the upper grades here either. My kindergartener is learning the D’Nealian alphabet (the other 2 did as well) to make the transition to cursive easier. My middle daughter in 3rd grade was in tears because she could not grasp cursive….it felt slow to her. I think most kids feel this way when learning soemthing new…she and the rest, mastered it but by 6th grade it was not required anymore…Why on earth not? Seems you poked a touchy button with me, Tipper. 🙂 Have a good day and thanks for the letters.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I am appalled that cursive writing is not required in schools today. I wonder who makes these decisions and why they would not have children learn to write. Does that mean they learn to print and that is as far as it goes? Communication is such an important part of our culture and important to relationships throughout the world.
    Electronic technology should not have replaced cursive writing.
    The letter from the soldier touches my heart as he misses his family and worries about them.

  • Reply
    Helen G.
    October 17, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Not only did I have to learn to write in cursive some 60 years ago, my father was forced to learn to write in cursive right handed when he was a natural lefty. It was not proper one hundred years ago to write left handed…
    Since I’ve no children and thus no grandchildren I don’t know if cursive is still taught in the Oklahoma schools or not. I enjoy reading the old letters. What a wonderful glimpse into lives past.

  • Reply
    Counting My Blessings (Dorothy)
    October 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I came over from Susie’s blog when I saw you had a civil War letter posted! I have a transcribed copy of a letter that my husband’s g-grandfather wrote to his wife during that was. Very touching. He was captured and taken to Delaware where he died and is buried there. A couple of years ago my son was up there on business and he went to the place he was buried and made pictures of his name and others who died in that prison camp.
    Also, on my side of the family, my g-grandfather kept a daily diary all the time he served in the Civil War. It was later published, a section at the time, in out weekly county paper.
    Some of the old papers and letters I have were handwritten beautifully in cursive. It’s a shame it is not being taught any more.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    October 17, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for the post of the letters. I too enjoy reading and learning about those times. Among many “papers” two of my aunts gave me were copies of letters written during that time. One in particular was interesting in that it was written as the family was abandoning the mainland home in southern Miss. and heading to an Island…to hide out…Thanks again for your interesting blog….by the way Aunt Mary Jo’s apple pie recipe has twice been a hit!!!

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    October 17, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Tipper, I immediately noticed the place the letter was written. Zollicoffer is now known as Bluff City , Tn some 10 miles southeast of Bristol , Tn. I love these glimpses of history and I am thankful for a keener eye than I have in reading them. LarryProffitt

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    October 17, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Shame on my historian brother for not catching this;) – but the mention of Uncle WM Moore’s Company grabbed my attention.
    Our mother’s name was Anna Lou Moore. Her great uncle was William Patton Moore of “Captain William P. Moore’s Company, Folk’s Battalion” according to records of our uncle. Though born in Macon County, the Moores had apparently moved to Clay County by the time of the war, since the same record indicates he returned home to Tusquittee on April 20, 1865.
    I’ve not had a chance to look through all your previous posts, but I did see in one of them that letters were to be sent in care of Capt W P Moore, so this is obviously the same Moore.
    Mama’s grandfather, John Jay Moore, was W P Moore’s younger brother. He also served on the side of the confederacy, and became a physician after the war.
    Thank you for the posting – I’ll have to do some more checking on connections. There’s also a story that Mama used to tell about “Billy Moore” with regards to his capture by Yankees that I’ll try to pass on when more time is available.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I have never seen any of these letters and look forward to reading the others.
    On reading/writing cursive: That would make too much sense – and we cannot expect that when it comes to educational trends! The students should have at least a semester or two of instruction on this. Think of how much emphasis forensics places on handwriting; and how about reading historical documents, such as these letters, long-ago writings from family members, or even an old census? Personally, I love deciphering vintage writing.
    Sadly,it’s just another part of our heritage being taken from our youth.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I agree with Ethel’s comment. In
    the last letters back in cold weather, I was gonna save my lunch
    money and buy Mr. Penland a coat.
    In high school years ago I’m glad
    I learned typing, reading, and can
    spell almost anything. But I’m most proud of my hand writing ability and that’s important…Ken

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    October 17, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    This very thing about cursive writing came up in the doctors office. I hate having to fill out all that paper work every visit, whether it is a weekly, monthly, or yearly visit and said so!
    “Quality control, PLEASE PRINT”, she said. “I thought all this was in your computer?”, I said. Nothing had changed, meds, pain, address, phones, job, etc. in a week..duhhh!
    “Whoops, and please sign the bottom in cursive please! Whhhaaaatttt!! For fun I said.
    “I can’t cursive write my name, how ’bout an X, I said..LOL
    “Well OK, she said. did you bring two people that can sign their name that verifies your X”..
    “Nope…they can’t write cursive either”…LOL
    There was laughter behind me…I don’t know why, but I felt a little embarrassed. Eventhough, it was a joke on my part..I found out there were two elementary school teachers sitting there taking it all in! LOL
    A conversation ensued about cursive writing when I sat down.
    Writing in cursive is an individual idiosyncrassy we are losing..Cursive teaching stopped at our grandchildrens school this year!

  • Reply
    October 17, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    That was so interesting to read -I always like to read about the Civil War. He was very clear in what he had to say. He must have been very lonely. Can’t imagine the isolation from his family and one other thing I can’t imagine are children not learning cursive. I believe I would have to teach it to them myself! Thanks for the history today

  • Reply
    October 17, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks Tipper, I love these letters! The thing that strikes me is how William seems to avoid saying how awful things must have really been for him. I suppose I would too,so as not to worry the folks at home, but I have to believe that his heart must have been crying out to unburden itself and be comforted by his loved ones. Last week I found the burial site of my g-g-g-grandfather who died in the civil war. It was such a relief to know he is in a proper grave and not under someone’s cow pasture or garage. I may have never disovered the final resting place of that brave man if I couldn’t read cursive – what are these educators thinking???

  • Reply
    October 17, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Since my early years at university, I have been particularly interested in American History and Civilization and more specifically in the American Revolution and Civil War. This is one more reason why I truly loved reading those letters which reveal so much more than history books. Unfortunately, modern technology has had a negative impact as well, especially on the younger generation. . In Cyprus, kids no longer write in cursive – they’ve never learned to. Most of their schoolwork must be typed or neatly handwritten. Many teachers at high school won’t even accept neatly handwritten projects. Some kids feel like being second-rate students because they don’t have a computer. It just so happens that the parents will cut down on their expenses in order to get their kids a computer. I remember having asked my Junior A class (8 year-olds)what they’d like Santa to bring them: most of them said: a laptop!

  • Reply
    October 17, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Jim-great point! Yes to historians it will always matter : ) I only have copies of the letters so I’m not sure if the envelopes/stamps still exist.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    October 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Hey Tipper,
    I think writing his brother was to communicate with a sibling (close brother) to find out how his parents and other family members are doing, whether there is sickness, worry, crops, etc…without directly writing his Mother..He said he had not heard from “any of you in a month”, but he is answering a letter from his brother that
    “came to hand some time ago”, as he begins the letter..So I think he is more curious about the condition of his parents or to let him know that letters have not arrived from home without worrying his Mother..or that the letters from home have been lost?

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 17, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Tipper–Two thoughts on your post, and remember they come from a “recovering” professor with a Ph. D. in history. First, are the envelopes in which the letters were mailed intact, and if so, are the stamps or postal markings present? I ask because I know, as a lifelong philatelist, that such covers have considerable value. If you’d like to know more, I can certainly help.
    Second, I’ll have to disagree a bit with your statement that in another generation cursive won’t matter. It will always matter, at least to historians, because it is almost essential in order to read the documents from yesteryear.
    Interesting stuff, as usual.
    Jim Casada

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