Civil War Letters

Civil War Letters 5

It’s been a while since we checked in with W.C. Penland.

Greasy Cove Tennessee Washington County

March the 2nd 1863

Dear Father

I seat myself to write you a few lines that I am still in the  land of the living   hoping that these lines will find you and all of the family in good health   I am not very well at this time but have been well all of the time until a few days ago   I have the bad cold very bad   I think that I will be well in a few days   we have been doing some very hard scouting   we started one morning last week at two o’clock and walked all day until night over the mountains and did not get anything to eat until between one and two o’clock   some of our boys went to the limestone cave and they got back   and they got two bush whackers   General Jackson is in this part of the country and a part of our men crossed Chucky to go with the general   they are a going to give the mountains about the line a general scouting   they killed one of the bush whackers yesterday   they found three of them at a camp and they started to run and they shouted and they would not and they killed one of them and the others got a way   there is camps nearly anywhere in this country   where there is there is a thicket    Arch Henson met with a bad accident the other day   I believe it was yesterday morning   he was going to get into a canoe   had his gun on a rock and hit the cock on a rock and it went off and hit him in the back   I do not know if it went to his hollow or not   the doctor says that he will get over it    I expect it very uncertain whether he will

March the 3rd

I feel some better this morning but not at all well   Big Jason Ledford and Hezakiah Smith runaway a few days ago   I recon if he went strait on he is at home today   he did not tarry with us long   I think that he just come after his money and not as he aimed to stay   he is a true lover of money   and at least he thinks more of money than he does for his character   we a getting a plenty to eat for ourselves and our horses   my horse is in a little better condition than he was when I wrote you last   our men are very much scattered    Lieut Barnard and about twenty four are here   and there is a detail of fifteen with Lieut Feancher   Lieut Anderson and all of the rest of the sick a way down below Johnson Depot and the last that heard of Lieut Cunningham he was in the Elizabethton area   I do not know here James Crawford is now   He was a getting better   I have not got a letter from home for some time now   the last one I got was from brother James H Penland   I got a letter from Mr E M Scroggs   he is well   he says he thinks that the folks of Macon and Clay have forgot him   I expect that would be glad to hear from you all at home   I do not  know when I can write again for we are all nearly out of paper and we can not get any paper in this part of the country    we can get some by sending to Jonesborough or Greensville   I want you to write me as soon as this comes to hand   I must bring my few lines to a close   give my love and respect to all the children and Mother and grandma and also Mr Sherman   still address to Hanesville Washington County Tenn   tell Uncle Charles and family howdy for me   so no more at present but remain your affectionate son as ever

to H M Penland

                            William C Penland

Reading this letter-makes me sorry he’s sick-and sorry he hasn’t gotten a letter from home. I’m sure the reason he had not received a letter was the mail system itself.  I imagine in those days, the mail would have been slow and not very dependable. Much different from the ‘instant contact’ we have with loved ones today.

What jumped out at you from the letter?



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  • Reply
    Trixie Goforth
    February 25, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Honey, it’s great of you to do this!

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    February 1, 2010 at 2:34 am

    I thought it was interesting how he called that boy out for loving money more than honor and character! Very cool to hear more from him!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    January 31, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Good to hear from W.C. again. My wife and I are going to be in WNC the last half of March and we are going to meet my Dad there and do some family searching in Transylvania County, Jackson County, and Clay County.
    As I have gotten deeper into research on family history, I am more convinced that we owe it to our ancestors to learn as much as we can about their lives and pass it along. They sacrificed so much in so many ways to make a life for us possible. W.C. was the brother of my great-grandmother. He didn’t live long enough to have a family of his own, but he deserves to be remembered. I am glad that the letters got found and are being shared.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    January 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Tipper: I guess what hit me most if that Civil War was going on today we would be on opposite sides. Instead, even though we are from different side of the line, we are friend and fellow people from the same mountain range.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Such history in these letters. It’s really incredible. My mother-in-law has civil war letters and diaries from an old trunk that they found in their family home attic in Connecticut. A civil war uniform as well. Incredible stuff.
    The thing that stood out in the letter to me was the few lines about the men who ran away. Wondering if they made it back home to their families and what the repercussions of being a deserter were.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2010 at 8:54 am

    There was so much in this letter. His being ill, his horse doing better, Arch Henson’s accident. Did he recover? His mention of a paper shortage may have served two purposes, a) don’t worry if you don’t hear from me and b) add a sheet or two in your next letter.
    The term, bushwhacker, jumped out at me so I looked it up. Not only did they have to fight against the Union army they also had to fight locals who sympathized with the other side. “Bushwhacking was a form of guerrilla warfare during the American Civil War that was particularly prevalent in rural areas where there were sharp divisions between those favoring the Union and Confederacy in the conflict.” and “In some areas, particularly the Appalachian regions of Tennessee and North Carolina, the term bushwhackers was used for Union partisans who attacked Confederate forces.”

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 30, 2010 at 7:52 am

    I wonder what the “hollow” is in the back of that man who shot himself. Didn’t say if the bullet was removed. Medicine and medical treatment was so iffy then. JC’s cold could be a serious thing.
    Yes, the paper, we take our instant communication for granted!
    Overall this breaks my heart. I can feel lonely desperation.

  • Reply
    Shane Moad
    January 30, 2010 at 4:28 am

    Hi everyone, great letters Tipper. Many of my kin were in the war, mostly on the Confederate side but also some within the Union side as was often the case. One family member, David Moad was a Confederate and captured at Vicksburg on July 4 1863, ironic hey, considering it was a day of to celebrate freedom. I have always been a Southern sympathiser so I guess I would have been on the side of the Confederacy. I dont believe in slavery, but then the war was not about slavery at the start. It was about unfair taxes. Slavery became an issue only when the North were losing and they needed to gain support from the people in the North.

  • Reply
    January 29, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I love these old letters! Every one I read makes me more appreciative of all we have today and of all the hardships our families had to survive. We take so many things for granted – they had to work so hard for everything they had then. I’d never even thought about paper being scarce! I am so thankful there are letters like these left, that someone before us treasured them enough to save them and that we have an outlet to share them with the world today. Thanks, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee ♥
    January 29, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Dee from Tennessee
    1. “true lover of money”
    2. lack of paper
    3. the location — two of “my” drs are located in Washington County. We go to Johnson City all the time, and when I think of all the history….
    Our county has more Civil War history than many realize, including myself. It’s only been very very recently that I learned — after all these years — that two of my great(s) grandfathers were in the war. One for the South and one for the North — they are buried at little country cemeteries 3-4 miles apart. If these hills and hollows could talk….

  • Reply
    January 29, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    That war was “hell”.You know why it went on for so long? The south had a cause,the north had a war!
    There is a lot of diferance.

  • Reply
    January 29, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I enjoy these letters so much. I immediately wished that he had more paper to write home and very sorry he was so sick and had to continue on without medical attention. I imagined he would be feeling very loney with no letters from home and could almost feel his saddness.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    January 29, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I really do enjoy reading the letters. It’s has a habit of bringing back in time. A time to when my great great great grandfather lived and took part in the war.

  • Reply
    My Carolina Kitchen
    January 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    My ancestors fought in the Civil War and how I wish I had some of their letters. The thing that puzzles me is how did the letters get through. I don’t imagine they were close to a post office.
    He seems very lonesome but trying to keep his spirit up for his family in his letter. That had to be hard.
    In the eighties we lived in Vicksburg, MS in the old Civil War battleground. I often thought of the soldiers who had fought on what was now our property. We went to several reenactments and one fourth of July saw Grant take the city. Not a good day for Vicksburg when Grant rode in.

  • Reply
    January 29, 2010 at 11:33 am

    What sticks out is the line, “he is a true lover of money” our W.C. Penland says it as if it is the terrible thing God says it is. To Leford and or Smith, money meant more to them than their very own character. My heavens that is saying a lot and it is said well.
    Thanks Tipper for sharing more of these letters, makes history such a personal thing.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 29, 2010 at 10:51 am

    What jumps out to me is the names referred to in the letter of people and towns….some names I’ve heard my parents speak of in NC and TN…some very prominant! can almost see the area and neighbors of this person…the reference to thicket reminded me of the laurel hell thickets usually on the north side of the mountains and valleys..My Dad said you could hide in one of those thickets forever if you had any food or water!….I can’t imagine what those folks really went through during the civil war…The hunters and the hunted!

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    January 29, 2010 at 10:50 am

    One of the things that stuck out for me that there wasn’t any paper. How much paper do any of us throw away on any given day? My, how things have changed.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    January 29, 2010 at 10:50 am

    This is wonderful — what a treasure.
    These are the lines that jumped out at me:
    I think that he just come after his money and not as he aimed to stay he is a true lover of money and at least he thinks more of money than he does for his character

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    January 29, 2010 at 10:38 am

    He is lonesome for home and family-and I think things are not as well as he lets on. He loves his family so much and he doesn’t want to worry them.

  • Reply
    January 29, 2010 at 9:02 am

    All the things you mentioned. And I love the fact that he also updates them on others from his area.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Thomas
    January 29, 2010 at 8:46 am

    I think more letters like this need to be made available so that we can see what our soldiers go through during our wars. It also made me think of the “skirmish” that happened just feet from where I’m sitting now. How many people pass by today and don’t know what happened in their own towns.

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