Appalachia Civil War Letters

Sweet Water Monroe Co. E Tenn July 19th 1863 – Letter 13


Knoxville, TN, vicinity. Bridge at Strawberry Plains – Library of Congress


July 19th 1863

Sweet Water Monroe Co. E Tenn

Dear Father and Mother I now set myself to write you a few lines in answer to your letter which came to hand some time ago   but there has been a good deal of passing lately but they always started with so little warning that I did not have time to write   I can say to you that I am well at this time and have been ever since I wrote to you   There is a good deal of sickness at this time John Sherman, S. V. Ledford, Eli W. Lewis, J. P. Cherry are all gone to the hospital at Louden   Andy Carson, J. M. Ownby and H. P. Ownby are all sick besides several others to tedious to mention   Mark Auberry that was left in Kentucky sick came to camp yesterday morning the Yankees took him and parolle him he started home yesterday with A. L. McConnell   there has been a talk of several of our men a getting to go home soon but I do not know whether they will get off or not   there is a fine crop of wheat in Tennessee this year the citizens says that there is the best looking prospect for corn that there has been for some years   my horse is a mending some now I will send him home the first chance that I have   the boys that went yesterday took some horses and could not take any more or I would have sent him by them   my mare looks very well at this time there is several of our company at Wattsburgh on picket and have been ever since we come from Kentucky  Lieutenant Virgil Barnard & R. V. Alexander are there with about 16 men   we are a looking for Samuel H. Allison to come into camp now every day   he has been gone a good deal over his time now   I would be very glad to see him come for I think that I will surely get a letter when he comes from home   I am anxious to hear from there now for I have heard that there is a good deal of sickness in that country this Summer   I want you to write to me what has become of A. E. Pendergrass it is a mistake about Big Jason being shot for deserting he was taken by the Yankees at Wattsburgh by the Yankees   I saw Newton Gibson he stayed with us night before last a going to his command below Sweetwater   I want you to have me a good pair of Boots made by fall and send them to me for boots can not be had here for less than 50 per pair and I do not expect that they are very hard to get there but I want them if they can possible be had   I would like for you to come down and see us all and see how we are a coming on and if you can not tell Mr. Sherman or J. H. Penland one or both of them to come  I forgot to state that J. H. Ledford was terrible bad off and has been for several days I will bring my few lines to a close by saying write soon and often   give my respect to all enquiring   Direct your letters to Sweet Water and as before excuse bad writing and composure   So no more at present but remains your Son as ever

William C. Penland

To H. M. & P. M. Penland

PS write to me whether you know where Uncle Chamberlain is or not I have not had a letter from Mr. E. M. Scroggs now for a long time he did not answer my last letter I do not know what is the reason of it W. C. P.


Things I noticed in this letter:

  • A few new names among the ones he mentioned from home.
  • He must have 2 horses-wonder if he’s had 2 the whole time?
  • He is anxious for word from home-he’s worried they may have been sick.
  • I would like to have known Big Jason-W.C.’s mentioned him so many times he must have been a character that everyone at home was familiar with.
  • The line-Write soon and often tugs at my heart.
  • I’m wondering if E. M. Scroggs is from the Scroggs family of Brasstown and if A.L. McConnell is related to my friend Kathy’s husband-Stanley McConnell. Kathy and her husband live in Clay County.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you noticed.


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  • Reply
    Ron Penland
    May 30, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Oh and I also learned that his unit was erroneously referred to in military records as the 66th NC Inf for a short time, which could be a reason he wasn’t getting the mail he thought he should be receiving from home?

  • Reply
    Ron Penland
    May 30, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Tipper, I have created a map of the path W.C.’s troops took during the course of his letters from beginning up until they reached Coal Creek (now Lake City)where he died.
    I used a popular mileage program and also records I have from the civil war. Seems they traveled a total of about 480 miles over the course of their origin to his destination in Coal Creek, which would have been quite a few miles to cover walking and on horseback.
    I also now have a complete list of the men who were, not only in his company, but also in his unit as a whole (65th NC Infantry which the 7th merged in to).
    “Uncle Chamberlin” as referenced in his letters was in the 60th NC Infantry, although I still have not found out what happened to him. He was my Great Great Grandfather.
    I have also learned since my last writing that his brother, James, whom he wrote a letter to, made it through Gettysburg but died on july 29th after Gettysburg(July 2,3, and 4th, 1863). His cause of death was not given, only the date of his death.
    All of this is based on Civil War Records I have read. I will email you the map when I get it scanned into the computer and will email you the complete list of names in his unit if you wish but I warn you, it is about 26 pages long.LOL

  • Reply
    January 28, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    I love these letters…sad, but a window into that hard, hard time. One of my favorite books of all is “Christy”, by Catherine Marshall and she taught in Cutter Gap, Tn. and she mentions a Mr. Penland who was the mail carrier. Getting to feel like I know these folks.

  • Reply
    January 28, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Interesting insights to daily Civil War life… As a retired officer my experiences in combat ranged from days of sheer boredom to those of the extreme opposite…
    The 7th Battalion NC was organized in Asheville and B (Bravo) Company comprised of mostly men from Clay county…
    Bravo Company saw action through numerous skirmishes in Kentucky and East Tennessee… At the time of his letter on July 19th 1863 The Battle of Tullahoma had come to a close less than a month before and The Battle of Gettysburg had concluded just two weeks prior. Many Confederate soldiers were re-directed to defend Chattanooga and the rail lines which were the life-blood of the Confederate Army.
    With a little more research it would be likely show through order of battle that B Company was moving out of Wartbug (sic) “Wattsburg” south to Sweet Water (Sweetwater) as a blocking action in defense of Knoxville. Col. Geroge Folk later came under the Command of Pegrams Division where he led the 6th North Carolina in Davidson’s Brigade…this reorganization was in preparation for the Battle of Chickamauga.
    Here’s a link to the detailed order of battle:
    Does anyone know if William survived Chickamauga and or the Civil War?

  • Reply
    January 28, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    I notice the care he has for the horse that was mending, more it seems for the horse than for himself, cause he’s trying to send the horse to safety at home while remaining in harm’s way himself. That touched my heart as these letters always do, because having served in the military myself, I well remember how treasured those letters were and how lonely mail call was when one didn’t get one each time, remembering especially those that never got any letters at all then.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    January 28, 2015 at 12:05 am

    I, too, love the cadence of these letters. I wondered, as well, If he meant Wartburg, Tenn.,b. Ruth, and thanks for the definition of ‘picket’.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 27, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Sorry to interfere with this letter post….but…you said for me to let you know!
    No snow cream here…so I made the Cracker Candy this afternoon.
    I put crunchy peanut butter on 12 cracker…none on the rest.
    I ground up some mini toffee heath bars (better half couldn’t find the chips)in my mini elec. chopper…chopped some toasted pecans and began…smeared the cooked syrup, baked 5 min., sprinkled the chocolate chips and spread them, sprinkled the heath bar chips and nuts….They are cooling as we speak! I couldn’t stand it and tasted one little corner…My goodness are they good!
    Thanks for the recipe,
    PS…I still have to test the corner where the crunchy peanut butter was spread…
    My better half is always accusing me of having a rat in the kitchen when he goes to still a piece of anything and finds corners or pieces missing before things have cooled…He really just tells on hisownself for trying to sneek a bite…

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 27, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    I think E M Scroggs is Enos M Scroggs. He is likely the grandfather of Fred O Scroggs.

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    January 27, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Tipper: The letter seems like it from someone straight out of Clay County. All the names are ones I have heard all my life. Now days when I drive through ‘Sweet Water’ recollections of things will be different – having read William . Penland’s letter.
    Always, Eva Nell
    p.s. My BEST EVER TEACHER in the Clay County schools was Mr. Lee Penland in the 8th grade!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 27, 2015 at 9:52 am

    What caught my attention was Penland saying, “there is several of our company at Wattsburg on picket and have been ever since we came from Kentucky”!
    He means Wartburg, Tn. not the spelling Wattsburg! I also find that a picket consists of 1 lieutenant, 2 sergeants, 4 corporals and 40 privates from each regiment! A picket (duty) was the most dangerous for all the men…
    my brother said picket duty was awful in Viet Nam…
    Wartburg is just a hop, skip and jump from here, on the outer fringe of the Cumberland Plateau…
    Also, since his letter is from Sweetwater, Tn. (Monroe County}, I would say he was near or in the Sweetwater valley. Of course I wasn’t there at that time, but it is impressive to drive through and see all the fields of corn and some wheat that is grown there in the valley. Beautiful farmland and diaries today!
    He seems to be missing everyone, and I know longing for a farm/place of his own.
    In this letter he is closer to home than he has been in a while…
    I am sorry but I can’t help but have empathy for his parents. With all their trials during the war and worry over their son! You know they are concerned about trying to get him boots…One more thing…Did he send a pattern of his foot size in the letter? He never mentions the size of his feet. It very well could be one size fits all! That could make for some sore feet, or many pairs of socks to make up the room, if they were too big!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…We have snow…schools are closed. Not deep enough to make snow cream…Mayfield Dairy (Sweetwater Valley farm) used to make a snow cream flavor. I may have to hunt it down!

  • Reply
    Roy Pipes
    January 27, 2015 at 9:50 am

    I love his dialect. “My horse is a mending” Priceless.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2015 at 9:18 am

    It saddens me to know Mr. Penland
    was so lonely not being able to
    hear from home enough. I love these
    war letters from a war that
    destroyed so many lives. I hope
    we’ve learned something…Ken

  • Reply
    steve in tn
    January 27, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Every time you post one of these letters I am reminded of the luxury that spoils us and all the things we take for granted. Makes me want to take a trip to visit every one of my friends and family. I am really taken with the writing style and phrases that seem formal compared to what we use today. Thanks for posting these.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 27, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Pulls at my heart strings!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2015 at 7:53 am

    I think he is missing his family and friends. He appears to be compassionate and worries about those he has not heard from in a while. He seems to be someone who wants to keep people together and not let the war divide families and friends. Communications seem to keep him going.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    January 27, 2015 at 7:46 am

    I noticed his concern for those ill and his fear that reasons for his not receiving letters from home was his folks’ possible illness.
    His request for boots before winter; how very hard they were to come by–had to be made by hand often from home-cured leather, even though made by a local shoemaker. Times were hard and boots would probably cost his parents a lot, too–maybe almost as much as what he would have had to pay near his encampment.
    His letter is almost like a roll-call of people he knows and wants his folks at home to know about. Touching!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2015 at 6:07 am

    Lonesome and uncertainty are the 2 words that come to my mind when reading this letter.. You can feel the nervous anxiety, he must have been having..

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