Appalachia Civil War Letters

Zollicoffer Sullivan County East Tenn March 18th 1863 Letter 7

Interior view of Rebel fort

Interior view of Rebel fort in front of Petersburg works, manned by Cowan’s Independent battery, 1st N.Y., 24th June, 1864 – Library of Congress

When we last checked in with W.C. Penland there was sickness in the camp and he was needing a coat.


Zollicofer Sulivan County  East Tenn

March 18th 1863

Dear Father

I embrace the present opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well    hoping that these few lines will find you and all of the friends well and enjoying the same blessing    we are stationed about one half of a mile from Zollicoffer Bridge    We have to guard there all of the time    I was there a day and night day before yesterday    the health of our company is good at the present    there is no new cases of sickness at the present    James Crawford is on the mend    he is stouter than he as been since he came from home    I think he will get well now soon    he is in better spirits than he has been    the cars have to cross the new Bridge today    I do not know whether they will or not    they have only been three weeks a making the Bridge    I do think that they have made good progress    there has been a good many Yankee prisoners passed up the road since we come here that were taken between Murforsoboro and Nashville Tenn    I got a letter from Aunt Margaret Mantooth a few days ago    she was well when she wrote the letter I also got a letter from Mr. Kenedy    he is well    I think that we will be stationed here for some time now but I do not know how long    I have heard that Capt M N W Moores company is to be here in a few days    I do not know when    We are not getting enough of feed for our horses but I think that we will soon    When they get regulated about transportation on the railroad    we get a plenty to eat ourselves of meat and bread    we are not a drawing any sugar and rice at the present   John Sherman has gone to Jonesboro to forward Commissaries   he is well    we are a looking for some of our men in now ever day   it may be that there will be another detail in there in a few days but I do not know it for certain    I am not in the detail now    it is made out and sent up for approval    I do not know whether it will be approved or not    if it is they will be at home by the first of April    I can inform you that James Mathison has got into camp he came up on the last nights train    he has had a considerable ride on the cars    he went from Atlanta to Chatanooga and then to Knoxville and on here   Big Jason Ledford has stared to go home once lately and met Mc Ledford and he told him about the Cavalry being in that part of the country and he came back    I wrote that Uncle Wyly was gone home    it is a mistake    he started and did not get his papers fixed  right and he had to come back    I do not know whether he will go home or not    I wrote to mother that I wanted her to send me a coat    I still want her to have it made and send it to me the first chance for my coat is worn out

I must   So no more at present but remains your son as ever

W.C. Penland

Direct your letters to Zellicoffer  Sulivan County East Tenn C B 65th N C Regt


There seems to be a lot of confusion thrown into the mix of soldiers arriving and leaving. W.C. sounds like he is in better spirits himself-I bet getting the 2 letters he mentioned caused the improvement.

2 other things I found interesting:

*James Crawford is on the mend I still hear folks talking about someone being on the mend from a bad accident or illness-love that the word usage from W.C.’s time is still around.

*I can inform you that James Mathison has got into camp he came up on the last nights train  he has had a considerable ride on the cars he went from Atlanta to Chatanooga and then to Knoxville and on here  I imagine in that day and time taking a journey of that length by train would have made James Mathison feel as though he had been around the world and back.

Was there something in this letter that caught your eye?


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  • Reply
    September 6, 2014 at 6:44 am

    Fascinating reading,, to try to put yourself in these letters is just hard to imagine, a war going on in your back door.. God help us that it never happens again…

  • Reply
    September 5, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    I was struck by the many pieces of “information” followed immediately by a disclaimer…sort of “this will be happening” then “I don’t know if it will.” Seems like he was trying to give his folks some news to hang on to, but he knew (probably from experience by that point) that it was all rumor and speculation and might not be true at all.
    “On the mend” is still alive and well up here in MA, too.

  • Reply
    September 5, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    As you also noticed, so many folks were “On the mend..” an antiquated phrase which I did not pay so much attention to until I read the posts of other who read this blog. It’s not one that I use personally but I took note of it because it is not in vogue today. “Quaint” is the word that I think I’m looking for. “The cars crossing the bridge” told me that it was a railroad bridge, not one built for foot or horse-drawn vehicular traffic. I wondered, however, about the use of the same term concerning Mr. Mathison’s ‘ride on the cars’. Does he mean, perhaps, to convey that Mathison rode on/in a freight car as opposed to a coach? Such was done in times of war; boxcars and cattle cars converted (or even NOT converted) to transport soldiers, something like today’s soldiers riding in the belly of a C-141, in little, hard, jump seats along the bulkheads, the bulk of the plane’s space being taken up with freight.
    ‘Nother thing I noticed: Whenever he introduces a new name into the conversation, the next sentence refers to the health of that person, i.e. “He is well…” My bride, East Kentucky born and West Virginia raised, will, as I mention that I got an email from/had a chat with so-and-so, immediately ask “How is s/he?” Needless to say, I get a dose of comeuppance if I cannot respond.
    These communiques from the war are very insightful, I really enjoy them. Thanks for making them available!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    It was referring to the train as cars that made me stop and think. I was taking the term literally. I think he is hoping for that coat to come sooner rather than later that is why he mentioned it once again. Also, the men coming and leaving was a bit confusing for him. Sometimes he may have heard different info than what really happened.

  • Reply
    Stan Kleer
    September 5, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Tamela – Paper was scarce at that time and letters were sometimes read and forwarded with attachments by each reader much like we do with emails today.

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    September 5, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Love these historic photos! But something here doesn’t compute. A New York battery-artillery company-of Northerners in a Confederate fort? Am I missing something?
    Parenthetically, private letters were, of course, not published, so any intelligence they contained would not reach the enemy. Also, it’s not unusual for family members and friends to share letters and send them to one person for safe-keeping. We have an archive of correspondence on any number of topics going back to the 1850s, passed down to us by cousins as well as great-grandparents and their associates in different states.

  • Reply
    September 5, 2014 at 10:57 am

    I find it interesting that there is so much reference to location, movement and possible timing. Letters such as this could have given “the enemy” a lot of useful information.
    Also, how did it happen that one person came to hold the copies of his letters written to a variety of people? I seem to recall letters to others than his mother and father – – or, as is not uncommon, I have a faulty memory.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    September 5, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Also, Aunt Margaret Mantooth was Margaret Penland Mantooth (husband John Mantooth).
    W.C. also had a younger brother, Robert Norbonne Penland, born in 1856, who apparently was named in honor of his uncle, Norbonne West Moore. The brother Norbonne Penland lived until 1944. My Dad, who is 91, remembers “Uncle Norbonne”, so the younger Norbonne apparently went by that middle name.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 5, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Yes, several things caught my eye!
    “on the mend”…as you mentioned, still used around here as well.
    “he is stouter”…does that mean, stronger or heavier than before. My grandmother used the word for a strong muscular person not necessarily fat.
    “Murforsoboro”…I am sure he means Murfreesboro, TN.
    “a plenty”…Appalachian mountain term used as “a this or a that!” Also,
    we are not “a drawing” any sugar or rice…same mountain term as “a plenty”
    “Chatanooga”…Chattanooga…I would forget the spelling myownself during that time!
    “they have only been three weeks “a-making the Bridge”…Does he have doubts that the cars will make it over that new bridge?
    “not a drawing any sugar or rice”…
    Like water from the well of plenty, the rice and sugar well must have been dry!
    “for my coat is worn out”…I love the way he expresses his need for the new coat.
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Great interest that Don’s relatives are in the letter. I guess all are connected in some shape, form or fashion!
    Some will read this comment and check out all the parts as well, I am sure of it! LOL

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    September 5, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Being able to see the situation from the eyes of a soldier–whether fighting for the South or the North–gives us a first-hand perspective of the war that tore our country asunder. I find a sense of sadness and pathos in any of the personal letters, but even underneath the needs and conditions expressed is a sense of hope. “Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be blest,” wrote the English poet, Alexander Pope (1688-1744) in his “Essay on Man.” It is amazing that even on a battlefield, W. C. Penland was “Still nursing the unconquerable hope” (Matthew Arnold, (1822-1888). Without hope, regardless of where we are, the prospects of life are dark, indeed. Hold onto hope; it is the very breath of life!

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    September 5, 2014 at 7:20 am

    I’m not sure where the “M” came from, but Captain M N W Moore would’ve been Blind Pig regular Richard Moore’s great-grandfather, Norbonne West Moore, Captain of Company B of the 62nd NC Regiment.
    What is interesting is that he has routinely referred to William Patton Moore as Captain W P Moore, and here refers to Norbonne West Moore in the same fashion. William Patton was his first cousin and Norbonne West was his uncle.
    On the other hand, he refers to “Uncle Wyly” – who was Benjamin Wylie Moore, the brother of Norbonne West and was the Battalion Surgeon. Clearly, he is deferring to the use of title for a commanding officer, but a title of affection for Uncle Wyl(y)ie.
    According to “North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865, A Roster” Benjamin W. Moore:
    -begin quote-
    Submitted his resignation April 8, 1863 by reason of friction with fellow officers to the point “that harmony of action necessary to secure the efficiency of the command can never subsist between us again.” Resignation officially accepted April 28, 1863.
    -end quote-
    The descendants of old John Moore, who died in 1857, a few years before this mess began, appeared to be medically inclined. John Jay Moore, his grandson and brother of Capt. William Patton Moore (and my g-grandfather), was also a physician and a Major of the 52nd Georgia Infantry.
    There’s at least one of your other faithful readers, fellow engineer Mike McLain, who descends from John Moore (and WC Penland’s parents). So there are at least five regular readers (including brother Jim and sister Annette) who have blood connections to this entire series.
    Tipper, of course, had no idea of that when she’d begun.

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