Appalachia Civil War Letters

The End of the W.C. Penland Civil War Letters


Since Veteran’s Day is tomorrow, it seems like a fitting time to finish the story of Civil War Soldier W.C. Penland. Sadly, the story of his life doesn’t end on a happy note.

The Penland Historical Society has graciously allowed me to share the following historical notes with you. They were written  by Buford W. Penland. The details explain the situation surrounding the penning of W.C.’s last letter.

“General Pegram  set up headquarters at Camp Ebenezer near Knoxville. Various companies of Battalion 7 were then sent to Big Creek Gap for scouting and picketing the road to Kentucky. In his letter of Aug. 14, 1863 from Camp Ebernezer, Williams [WC] said he had been sick for five or six days. As the troops moved toward Big Creek Gap William got sicker. His next letter Aug. 16, 1863 was from the home of Joel Bowling at Coal Creek (now Lake City) Tennessee. Obviously he was sicker than he thought, since Joel Bowling had to complete the letter and send it. William was able to sign it. Three days later William died.

The part of William’s last letter written by Joel Bowling leaves the impression that Joel Bowling and William’s father, Harve Monroe Penland, were friends. They probably were, for Joel Bowling had previously been postmaster at Fort Hembree in Clay County, N.C. This also explains why William, and Doc McConnell, both sick, were taken in and looked after by the Joel Bowling family.”

In the Civil War most soldiers signed up and served with their neighbors and friends. This made it a certainty that W.C.’s family knew the men he wrote about in his letters. I’m not sure that knowing your fellow soldiers in an intimate manner would have made things easier or harder. You’d certainly be comforted by being surrounded by your people, but I imagine it would also make you feel their sorrow and pain on a deeper level because you’d know who waited at home for them to return.

As they say its a small world after all. Even though they were many many miles from home, W.C. and Doc McConnell found a familiar face of friendship during their time of need.

If you’d like to read the entirety of Buford W. Penland’s historical notes written about the W.C. Penland Civil War Letters go here.

Please drop back by tomorrow for W.C.’s final letter written to those he loved.




You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Ron Penland
    November 29, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Hi Tipper,
    I have a little feedback to this though not disputing Buford’s account of what he thinks may have happened.
    I don’t believe William ever made it to KY? I have roll calls on his unit up until the unit ceased to exist in KY. He was not listed on any roll call for the unit while in KY and the unit didn’t actually engage the Yankees until September, which was after he died.
    A lot of Confederate Units merged together at the Battle of the Cumberland in KY, including Williams unit and Uncle Chamberlains unit (62nd NC Infantry). I have found Uncle Chamberlain in a roll call in KY but not the final roll call of the unit at the Cumberland. That unit was literally wiped out in the Battle of the Cumberland (out of 465 soldiers just over 100 survived).
    I have come to the conclusion that when the 62nd met the 65th there, someone from William’s unit told Uncle Chamberlain that William was in bad shape in Coal Creek so he left his unit and went back to Coal Creek to check on him? That may be how he avoided getting killed at the Cumberland? That would also explain why he wasn’t on the last roll call for the unit? Of course, this is not set in stone but it seems a Logical Theory considering everything I have on it?
    According to a local newspaper I have on Zollicoffer and General Felix Zollicoffer, he was also killed at the battle of the Cumberland. Before he was killed, he was relieved of his command because he failed to follow orders (He crossed the river against his superiors orders). That action probably cost him and a lot of his troops their lives because when confronted by the enemy, they had nowhere to go because the river swelled behind them from rain and they could not cross back over? He was supposed to wait for the other troops before crossing the river.
    The Battle of the Cumberland has been reenacted in many Civil War CDs and VHS Tapes I have and it was listed as a Major loss in all of them for the Southern Forces. There were many Confederate Units lost in that battle.

  • Reply
    Ron Penland
    November 28, 2016 at 2:19 am

    Hi again Tipper. Buford was correct in Patience and Harvey knowing Joel Bowling. He was a Preacher in their area and in Georgia before moving to TN. I may have already posted this somewhere, sorry if that’s the case. Take care! Merry Christmas!
    P.s. I have started posting my family history to find a grave
    uncle Chamberlain is here:

  • Reply
    December 14, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Hi Tipper,
    Just checking back in with you. I have now confirmed that Joel Bowling was actually the “First” Postmaster of Coal Creek, TN. Took a lot of research to find that out but I now know it is a fact. I also found this link below, written by Elizabeth Wilson of the North Carolina Civil War History Center, in which she states that Harvey did start on the trip to see his son but while on the road, he met someone who told him that William Chamberlain had died and was buried in Tennessee. Pretty interesting article.

  • Reply
    November 10, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Tipper, how sad that oldier W.C. Penland’s life ended on such a sad note. So many Veterans in both US and Canada died during the Civil War. Many Canadians did cross the border to enlist.
    Thanks for sharing these with us. A part of history that we will never know other than reading about it from our ancestors.

  • Reply
    November 10, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    I am sad to be near the end of W.C. Penland’s letters, which thanks to the Blind Pig, and those who preserved the well written and heartfelt letters, we had a personal glimpse of the privations and experiences of that tragic war.
    History is all around us, but how can young people know? Lake City is very near my hometown of Oak Ridge, and the hometown of one of my aunts.
    Thank you.

  • Reply
    Edwin Ammons
    November 10, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Please tell Miss Cindy there were Civil War letters supposedly found in a coffee can in the walls of a house that was being remodeled in the Bethel Community of Haywood County. They appear to be from Robert and Mathias Mease to Peter and Nancy Mease. The name was spelled Meece in the letters. Robert and Mathias were brothers of her great grandfather Morgan Mease who also served the CSA. Mathias died of disease Danville, VA in 1862. Robert died at the infamous Camp Douglas in Chicago, IL and was probably interred in a mass grave with more that 4200 other Confederate prisoners. Two other Mease brothers, John and George also served the South during that war.
    I am not sure of the authenticity of this information but someone with more access to Haywood County could check it out.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    November 10, 2015 at 11:40 am

    For many months I have enjoyed reading about Mr. Penland and that awful war. Now his life is coming to an end and it will sadden me. This has been one of many true stories about the hard times of the past, but life must go on…Ken

  • Reply
    November 10, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Miss Cindy,
    So glad to see you back on here!

  • Reply
    November 10, 2015 at 10:35 am

    So much valuable history is around, but finding it may be difficult. Many people do not realize what they have hidden in their attics and/or closets and old trunks. It is amazing how much history this society has been able to uncover. I thank all veterans for giving their time or their life to make this country where we have so much freedom. Thanks for your sharing this part of history. I would not have sought it out on my own, so this site has helped me learn more about this area and its history. I look forward to tomorrow’s letter as we honor all veterans. My husband has thirty-two years invested.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    November 10, 2015 at 9:59 am

    The Civil War, although fraught with much sadness, disappointment and hardship, is a favorite era for study for me.
    I can imagine the situations and longings the letters express. Those that have been preserved for our perusal lend personal and first-hand accounts of the situations faced. This, of course, is true of letters from any war. My purpose behind writing these lines is to ask readers, if you have any letters from any war–whether Civil War or conflicts such as World War II or any since, consider them valuable and seek to preserve and share pertinent information from them with others. These, like the letters of W. C. Penland, can give us first-hand insights into how life was with military personnel (and others) of the period.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 10, 2015 at 9:09 am

    This is such a sad story…all those hopes of getting back home and buying his own place, etc.
    All wars are terrible, but this one, so close to everyone but still so far from home is very sad indeed!
    and Cindy ….glad you are back. Sometimes I’d just like to give my computer a good smack with my broom…but then I would just have to call the “squad” to fix it and be in more trouble, except the satisfaction of a bit of revenge! ha So sometimes as payback for aggravating me, I let it sit here without scratching its keys….ha
    Thanks Tipper,
    I think it will be very sad to read the last letter…

  • Reply
    eva nell mull wike, PhD
    November 10, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Great POST! Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 10, 2015 at 6:48 am

    It is really amazing how much information is available about the men in the Civil War and how much of it has been gathered together. It must be very comforting to later generation family to be able to see so much of their ancestor.
    Makes me wonder if we have family that fought in that war and is there any information about them.
    Tip, it sure is nice to be back!

  • Leave a Reply