The Civil War Letters of John Weaver Cotton, Part 1

John Weaver Cotton

John Weaver Cotton (1831-1866) was born in Coweta county, Georgia, the son of Cary Cotton (1802-1881) and Hanna H. Bates (1806-1892). He married 16 year-old Mariah Hindsman (1833-1880) in February 1850 and in the mid-1850s he purchased land in Coosa County, Alabama, where he raised a family consisting of at least seven children by the time the Civil War began in 1861. John’s farm was near Mt. Olive in Coosa County, just off the main road between Hanover and Mt. Olive where on 65 of his 285 acres he raised wheat, corn, oats, peas and sweet potatoes as well as cattle, sheep and swine. His was a typical small farm in the South. He owned no slaves to help him work the land, but hired them seasonally from neighbors when an extra hand was needed.

It wasn’t until the second year of the war—on 1 April, 1862—that John enlisted at Pinckneyville and he remained in the service until he was paroled in 25 May 1865 at Talladega. He was first in Co. C (Captain Martin Greene Slaughter’s company) 5th Battalion, Hilliard’s Legion, Alabama Cavalry; later (30 December 1862) this battalion was consolidated with the 19th Regiment Confederate Cavalry. In these two organizations he saw action in East Tennessee around Murfreesboro and Chickamauga and in the Dalton-Atlanta Campaign. The 10th was in Wheeler’s last raid, moving north as far as Saltville, Virginia. Its last stand was at Bentonville, North Carolina; it surrendered with the army of Joseph E. Johnston.

There are over 150 letters in this collection which is rather remarkable in itself— particularly for a lowly private, and extraordinarily rare for a Confederate private. Not only were writing materials difficult to come by in the South, but the unreliability of the mail system dramatically reduced the probability that letters would ever arrive at their intended destination. Though Cotton’s limited eduction resulted in letters that lacked grammatical correctness, they convey raw, unvarnished expressions of his thoughts and feelings towards his family, his friends and neighbors, and the way of life he felt compelled to fight to preserve. It’s hard for most of us to understand how such a man, who owned no slaves (as most Confederate soldiers did not) could imagine he was fighting for his “freedom” as he mentions in several of his letters. Why he believed his freedom was being threatened by the U. S. Government, any more than the Confederate Government that replaced it, remains a mystery to me. I can only answer that while most Confederate soldiers did not own slaves, they aspired to be slaveholders like their more opulent neighbors. If they did not, as some scholars have suggested, then many of them were most assuredly duped by the slaveholders (who dominated politics and journalism) to believe that their very lives and livelihood would be threatened by liberated slaves.

To illustrate just how rare these letters are, let me just add that the descendants clung to them for years looking for an opportunity to publish them. After Margaret Mitchell wrote her blockbuster book, Gone with the Wind in 1936, followed a couple years later by the David O. Selznick produced movie, there was a resurgence of “Old South” and “Lost Cause” literature in the 1940s. This prompted the family to submit a synopsis of the letters to Margaret with the suggestion that she might, perhaps, write another similar book of fiction using the Cotton family and the Cotton letters as her inspiration. Margaret’s response speaks for itself:

“It was generous indeed of you to think of me in connection with your recently unearthed letters of your great-grandfather. I can’t help feeling a far-off and vicarious thrill of discovery, too. The number of the letters and the many places from which they were written and the replies from the family at home make them sound like a very valuable collection. I thank you for asking whether or not I would be interested in them as background for fiction. No, I would not, frankly, because my problem is something different. I have never lacked background or characters or stories; my problem has been since 1936, trying to find one minute in which to write, and not being able to find that minute.”

Margaret then proceeded to give the family another page and a half of thoughtful advice for getting the Cotton letters published, including one which was ultimately resulted in “Yours Till Death, Civil War Letters of John W. Cotton,” a publication of the University of Alabama Press, edited by Lucille Griffith, Assistant Professor of History at Alabama College, in 1951. This 128-page softbound book was transcribed and footnoted by Griffith and it is still available directly from the publisher and through the secondary book market, but my transcripts of the Cotton letters as well as the accompanying research posted here are my own, made directly from the original letters that have been purchased by my client. They not only include the letters that were in “Yours Till Death,” but several others.

When these letters begin in 1862, John and Mariah Cotton had seven children, the oldest being a 12 year-old daughter. They were: Ann T., born 16 Dec. 1850; John Michael Cotton (“Bud”), born 30 March 1855; William Cary (“Bunk”), born 21 April 1856; Nancy Hanner (“Little Cricket”), b. 3 February 1858; Jefferson David (“Babe”), born 11 March 1859; Andrew C. L. T. (“Sweet”), born 22 April 1860; Virginia Francinia (“Ginny”), born 18 Dec. 1861. These names were all taken from the family bible. Ann, the oldest, is the only one never referred to by nickname.

Part 1 includes letters 1 through 75. Part 2 contains letter 7 through 136 and may be found at The Civil War Letters of John Weaver Cotton, Part 2.

Hilliard’s Legion Flag (Alabama Dept. of Archives & History
The early 19th Century travel case in which the Cotton letters have been stored for the last 160 years.

1862

Letter 1

Addressed to Mrs. Mariah Cotton, Mt. Olive, Alabama

Montgomery, Alabama
April 24, 1862

Mariah Cotton, dear wife,

For the first time in life I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that we are all well. William Lessley has been sorta puny but he is better. He is down in town guarding the Yankeys. There is 744 Yankeys here in an old warehouse and we have to guard them.

We have been examined and received and they say our horses will be [ap]praised today and our Legion will also be organized today. I would be very glad to see you and the children. I am very well satisfied considering the way I left home. If I could see you and the children when I wanted to see you, I could make out very well.

We are camped two miles southeast of Montgomery. We received our [$50] bounty money yesterday. It is uncertain how long we will stay here. I don’t reckon I will come home till wheat gets ripe unless we get orders to leave. If we get orders to march, I will come home sooner. I would be glad to be there and see how things are going on and look around a little. Write to me and tell me how my wheat is doing and how things are going on. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 2

Montgomery Camp, Alabama
May 1, 1862


Mariah Cotton, Dear Wife,

I take my pen in hand to drop you a few lines to let you know that I am tolerable well. I have had a very bad cold but I am better. I am not at all sick but feel sorta bad. I hope these lines find you all well and I hope you have got more reconciled about my leaving you and the children. I think if you could see the Yankeys that we have to guard down here, you would say, “whip them or die on the battlefield.” I have had to guard them four days and nights. There is over eight hundred of them in all. Some of them wants to get home very bad and others don’t seem to care much about it. I would be very well satisfied if I could see you and the children when I wanted to. I want to see you all very bad and I would be glad to hear from you all for I have not heard nary word from you since I left home. I would be glad to hear how my wheat was coming on and how [our hired slave] Manuel 1 was coming on with his crop. We hear down here that wheat is all ruined with the rust [blight]. If it is, I may be home in about two weeks but if it is not, I don’t guess I will come until it gets ripe. The most of our men is at home now.

We hear that the Yankeys have taken New Orleans. Some of the people here are very badly scared and are moving out their families and they are hauling off the cotton. They say that our men burnt the cotton at New Orleans to keep the Yankeys from getting it. They burnt two hundred bales for Old Owl Nose.


We are doing very well now. We get plenty to eat and nothing to do but to guard the Yankeys. Our company has been received and our horses [ap]praised and we have got our bounty money but we have not got our saddles yet nor I don’t know when we will get them. We can’t drill any until we get our saddles for a heap of our men have not got no saddles. I want you to write to me and tell Liz to write too. Dock
2 wrote a letter yesterday but I don’t know what he put in it. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

1 Many farmers like Cotton who owned no slaves themselves often rented them for lengths of time, particularly during labor intensive periods of the growing season. The wages were always paid to the slave’s owner. The slave hired by the Cotton family was named “Manuel” and appears to have been owned by a neighbor named Epps Brown (b. 1817). A search of post war census and voting records reveals that Manuel was most likely Manuel Brown who was probably born a slave in the early 1820s. He was enumerated in the “Colored Population” State Census in 1866 with his spouse and five children—four boys and one girl.

2 “Dock” was Dr. Andrew Calhoun Lawrence Hindman (1834-1916), the son of William (“Billy”) Hindsman (1805-1886) and Nancy M. Cotton (1810-1855). He was a younger brother of John W. Cotton’s wife, Mariah Hindsman. Dock was married in December 1860 to Sarah Elizabeth (“Liz”) [Maiden Name?]; they divorced in 1867 in Coweta county, Georgia.

This broadside included in the archive of Cotton letters informs us that Dr. Andrew Calhoun Lawrence Hindman (see footnote 2 above) attended lectures at Aylett’s Medical Institute in New York City during the 1859-60 Session. It should be noted that the vast majority of attendees were from Southern states. Dr. Aylett had a long connection with the New York College of Medicine and opened his Institute in 1847.

Letter 3

Montgomery, Alabama
May 5, 1862


Mariah Cotton, dear wife,


I again take the opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and doing well. We get a plenty to eat but it is badly cooked. we had nothing fit to cook with but we have bought some things but not enough yet. We draw meal, flour, pickled pork, pickled beef, and sometimes fresh beef, rice, sugar, molasses and soap.
I am very sorry to hear that the wheat has got the rust so bad. I am glad to hear that Manuel is trying to do something and getting along so well but I was a heap gladder to hear that you were all well except bad colds. There is several of our boys complaining but none of them bad off. I never wanted to see anybody as bad as I want to see you and the children. I could do very well if I could see you and the children every time I wanted to but I can’t help studying about you all. If I could see you and talk with you, I could tell you of a great many things that has passed since I left you. I think if nothing happens, I will be at home about the 20th of this month. The most of our men is gone home now but the captain [Martin G. Slaughter] says they shant go no more. I could have come too but I thought as I could not come but once that I would wait awhile. I received a letter from you this morning dated the 29th of April for the first. Dock got a letter from Liz last Saturday. That was the first time I had heard from you.


I reckon you heard that the Yankeys had taken New Orleans. We are still guarding what Yankeys we have got here yet. One of our men killed one of them the other day for disobeying orders. One of our soldiers belonging to our Legion shot another the same day and the day before one of our men got drowned in the [Alabama] river.
Mariah, you said you wanted to know about our going to Talladega to drill. I have not heard nothing about it since we got down here—only our Colonel says that we may have our first battle here at this place. I expect we will stay here a good while and we may never leave here while the war lasts. We have not drilled any yet but the Captain says we will have to go at it the 10 of this month. He thinks that we will draw our saddles the ninth. My horse is very bad off with the distemper. He has eat nothing hardly for about a week. Old Denny Kelly is down here and he brought us a basket full of eggs which we was very glad to receive.


You said you wanted to know what to do with them stands. Tell Manuel to put them in the stillhouse on the floor. If Robberson don’t come and do that work, don’t pay him for it. Nothing more at present for I can’t think of half that I want to write. Give my love to Liz and tell her that I would be glad to see her. I would be glad to see little Ginny and give her a kiss and see the rest of the children frolic around and play on my lap and see baby suck his thumb. If it had not been for the love I have for them and my country, I would have been there now.


Nothing more but remain your affectionate husband till death. — J. W. Cotton

There is about four thousand soldiers stationed here now and there is more coming in. Direct your letters to John W. Cotton, Montgomery, Alabama in care of Capt. M[artin] G[reene] Slaughter

May 6, 1862

Nothing more has happened since yesterday. We went of dress parade yesterday and today we have not put out no guards around the encampment yet. We are doing nothing yet but go to town or anywhere else we want to. I don’t mind anything that is to do here—only having to stay from home. I am well today but some of the company is complaining. I have just now received a letter from you and I was glad to hear from you and to hear that you all was well and that all was going on well and that the wheat was doing better. I want to see you and the children as bad as anybody can.


Letter 4

Coosa county, Alabama
June 7, 1862


Mariah Cotton, dear wife,


I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope these few lines may find you and the children all well. Dock has been very sick but he is a good deal better. He had like to have died night before last. He had the congestive fever in his head. He left here this morning on the cars to go to Georgia on a 14-day furlough. The rest of us are well except William Lessley. He is complaining some. The most of the men has gone home with the measles.


We are not doing anything here—only lying about. I reckon you found out that I did not come home. When the captain comes home [back to camp], I will try to come home. He will be back next Wednesday. If I don’t get to come back home, you must do the best you can. Have that wheat and barley thrashed as soon as you can and turn the hogs in and don’t let Pars [Pa] nor Asa [Waldrop (a brother-in-law)] in and have the rye cut and thrashed.

The Yankeys are all gone from here but some sick ones. I believe that everything is still rising here. I had to pay fifty cents a quire for this paper. I have nothing of importance to write. There has been a big battle at Richmond [Battle of Seven Pines] but no correct account [of] how many were killed on either side. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 5

Addressed to Mr. John W. Cotton, Col. Hilliard’s Legion, In care of Capt. M. G. Slaughter, Camp Mary, Montgomery, Alabama

Grantville, Georgia
June 8, 1862


Dear Brother-in-law [John]

I now hasten to drop you a few lines by the request of Dock stating to you his present condition at this time. He arrived home a Saturday afternoon at half past five o’clock and he has been in bed ever since. He is very poorly and he is also laboring under a great many pains. I don’t know whether he will get better soon or not. He looked tremendously bad and he says that his trip has made him worse and was very much exhausted and wore out. He is very feeble and we hope he will be better soon. He has the symptoms last night of one of those bad spells. He rested very bad all night but it wore off. He has not had one yet and I can’t say how long he may escape from one of them for I am [so] uneasy about him that I can’t rest for fear that he will have one. He is so restless and complaining so much. I am trying to persuade him to send after a doctor but I have not got him in the notion yet because he has not got no medicine here with him.

I have nothing more of importance to write. Tell the Captain he will come back soon as he is able. Give his love to all enquiring friends and the boys. Pap was sorry to think you could [not] come with Dock. Pap says he would go and see Mariah but he has nobody to stay and mind his plantation.

Please excuse my distressed writing and spelling for I am taking care of Dock and you know I don’t have much chance to write to you. So write soon and let me know how you all are. Give my love to all enquiring friends. From yours and &c. — Lizzie Hindsman


Letter 6

Montgomery, Alabama
June 12, 1862


Dear Wife,

I again address you with a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may find you and the children all well. I have not much to write. I hant heard from Dock since Monday. I got a letter from Liz. She said that he was very poorly.

Our Captain [M. G. Slaughter] came home [back to camp] yesterday and several others and we went on drill this morning for the first time since I have been down here. He says tomorrow that he will drill all that hant got saddles on foot. We have drawn no saddles yet. I don’t know whether I shall get to come home anymore before we leave here or not. They say that the Colonel has stopped giving furloughs to anybody. A good many thinks we will leave here in a short time and go to Chattanooga, Georgia.

If we stay here, I want Par [Pa] or Wash [Smith] or Bill to come down here and bring us some vegetables for they are very high here. I bought some irish potatoes this morning at 15 cents a quart. If they do come and you have more bacon than you need, get them to bring it and sell it. It is worth forty cents a pound and from that to fifty.

I went to meeting last Sunday and I heard the Roman Catholic’s and the Presbyterian’s both preach and we had meeting at our camp that night and again last night. The regiment that was here when we came here is ordered off to Florida. There is now twenty-eight or twenty-nine companies in the Legion. Nothing more at present. I remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

Write, I hant got nary letter from you yet.


Letter 7

Addressed to Mrs. Mariah Cotton, Mt. Olive, Alabama

Montgomery, [Alabama]
June 19, 1862


Dear wife,

I seat myself to write you a few lines to let you know that I received a letter from you last evening and was glad to hear from you all but I was sorry to hear that little Ginney was sick. I hope that she is better by this time. If any of you gets sick and you think you need a doctor, it is not so far to Baker’s but what you can send for him. If you need a bit of medicine, send to William Words and you can get plenty. He lives one mile this side of Bill Adkins’s. These lines leave me well and all of the boys but there is some of our company complaining and a great many at home sick. I hant heard from Dock since last Monday. Was a week ago. I don’t know why he don’t write and let us know how he is.

It was thought last week that we would have been gone from here before now but the Legion is now turned into a Brigade and it will be some time—fifteen or twenty days—to get ready to leave here. I am going to try to come home before we leave here if I can. The Colonel says there shall be no more furloughs given to well men but some of the captains gave furloughs anyhow.

Everything is still rising yet. Bacon is worth from 40 to 50 cents per pound. Flour 9 cents per pound. Butter forty cents per pound. Cabbage twenty five cents a head. Irish potatoes 20 cents a quart. And beans the same and everything else according.
I want you to write and let me know how you are getting along. I want to hear from little Ginney again very bad. I shall be uneasy until I hear from her again. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 8

Montgomery, Alabama
June 23, 1862


Mariah Cotton, dear wife,

I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope these lines may find you all well but I am afraid that little Ginney has not got well. I want to hear from her very bad. I have not received but one letter from you since I left home. I tried to come home to see little Ginney but I could not get off.

The Legion will be formed in two Battalions this week and the officers elected. I hant much to write. I got a letter from Dock day before yesterday. He is very poorly yet. He said he had one of his bad spells yesterday—was a week ago—that lasted him for 10 hours. The boys here are well but William Lessley. He is complaining right smartly and one with the measles. He is the last one in the company to have them.

The Colonel says that we will get our equipment soon. Bill [John’s horse] is getting fat again. He is most well of his distemper. Our horses are all doing well. Write when you can and tell me how things are going on. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 9

Addressed to Mrs. Mariah Cotton, Mt. Olive, Alabama

Coweta county, Georgia
July 10, 1862


Dear wife,

I now seat myself to write you a few lines to let you know that I am at [my brother-in-law] John Fulmer’s and I am well. All of them here is well. Your pap’s folks are all well but Mike [Hindsman] 1 and he is able to knock about. He is at home on 30-days furlough and so is John Tramel.

Me and Dock left Montgomery yesterday morning and we stayed at your pap’s last night. Our Company was to leave today and we are to meet it tomorrow at Grantville and go on with them. We are going to Atlanta. I would be very glad to hear from you all for I hant heard from you since I left home [on furlough]. I want you to write to me as soon as you get this letter. Direct your letter to Atlanta, Georgia.

I am getting very anxious to hear from you all. Let me know how Manuel come on with his crop and everything and how the hogs are doing.

We have drawn our sabers and haversacks but the rest of our arms and our canteens we aim to get at Atlanta and our uniforms, our saddles, are making at Augusta. We will get them in a week or two.

Crops look only tolerable well. There ain’t much cotton planted out here. Your pap and all of them was very glad to see me but none of them weren’t looking for me. I hant much to write to you. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

July 11. We are at Grantville waiting for the cars and our Company but we don’t know whether they will come up or not. If they don’t come up, they will write to us. They may have passed last night but nobody can’t tell here. The cars last night never stopped. These lines leave me well. Nothing more.

1 Michael Cotton Hindsman (1835-1901) was a 1st Sergt. in Co. B, 1st Georgia Cavalry.

An unknown Alabamian who probably served in Hilliard’s Legion. It’s been theorized that many members of the Legion had their pictures taken at about the same time wearing this same military jacket which was most likely a “prop.” As seen in the previous letter, the Legion did not even receive their uniforms until many months after they entered the service and when they did, they were not as elaborate as this. (Stan Hutson Collection)

Letter 10

Atlanta, Georgia
July 13, 1862


Mariah, dear wife,

I again take my pen in hand to drop you a few lines to let you know where I am and that I am well and I hope these few lines may find you all enjoying the same blessing. I want to hear from you very bad—worse than I ever did in my life—but I am afraid it will be some time before I can hear from you.

We got moved out of town yesterday and got our tents put up and everything fitted for staying here and this morning we received orders to move to Chattanooga tomorrow, about 140 miles from here. We are camped about two miles above Atlanta. We have got good water here and a healthy-looking place. We are camped [with]in three hundred yards of that great steam distillery you have heard talk of but they are not stilling now.

I hant much to write to you—only to let you know where I am. Asa went down to his father’s yesterday evening to come back Tuesday and he don’t know that we are ordered off from here. I want you to write to me as soon as you get these lines. Direct your letter to Chattanooga, Tennessee, in care of Captain M. G. Slaughter, Hilliard’s Legion. I reckon that we will stay there till we get equipped and armed. They are expecting to have a fight there before long.

They have just now come here with the drays after our baggage to carry it to the cars to be ready to start in the morning. I don’t want you to uneasy yourself about me for I am doing very well. Bill is complaining right smart. The rest of the boys is well. Nothing more but remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 11

Chattanooga, Tennessee
July 16, 1862


Dear wife,

I now once more take my pen in hand to write you a few more lines to let you know where I am and how I am. I am as well as I ever was in my life and I hope these few lines may reach you all the same. I got the letter that you sent to me by James Arnold. I saw him at Dalton in Georgia. Him and Frank Corley stopped there waiting for passage on the cars and we overtook them. They went to Knoxville and we went to Chattanooga. I was very glad to hear from you. It was the first time since I left home [after my furlough]. I would be glad to hear from you all again today.

I wrote to you last Sunday when we were at Atlanta. We left there Monday morning at ten o’clock and we landed at Chattanooga at twelve o’clock that night. We had a very pleasant trip of it but our horses saw sights. They had to do about twenty-five hours without anything to eat and some of the lazy [boys] never even watered their horses when we got here that night. Some of them never waked to attend to anything and others watered their horses [for them] and we never got them off the cars until 8 or 9 o’clock next morning. We got nearly all of our things hauled out to camp yesterday.

We are camped five miles from Chattanooga. We have a very rough place here. It is right in the woods on the foot of a mountain. They say the Yankeys are [with]in about fifteen miles of here but the main army is about thirty miles of here on the Tennessee River. It is close to us—about a half mile. We have got nearly all of our company together now. We left our 1st Lieutenant [William W. Lee] at Montgomery and it is thought he will die. He has got the brain fever.

There is about forty thousand of our troops here and about forty thousand Yankeys but our men don’t appear to fear them no more than if they weren’t here. There is strong talk of us being dismounted. If we are, there will be a set of mad men for a heap of them says that are not able to stand the infantry. I had rather not be dismounted. They say they will pay us for our horses but we are not willing to sell them. The boys—the most of them—are very much dissatisfied here. They want to go back somewhere.

When we came up [in the cars], the people cheered us all the way—men, women, and children. They were collected on the road in great quantities and there was a continual holler nearly all the way. We passed some of the highest bridges that ever I saw and we passed through the tunnel under the Stone Mountain but it was night and we couldn’t see much. When we struck it, I could not hardly hear anything for the shouts of the boys.

Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate friend till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 12

Addressed to Mrs. Mariah Cotton, Mt. Olive, Alabama

Chattanooga, Tennessee
July 21, 1862


Mariah, dear wife,

I once more take the pleasure to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well but Dock is sick. He has had one of his bad spells. It was the worst he ever had but he is better. He is able to sit up right smart. The rest of the boys are tolerable well but several of our company is sick—more with the yellow jaundice than anything else. I hope these few lines may find you all well and I hope that you have become reconciled about my being from home for there is no chance now for me to come to see you all. There is no chance to get a furlough, sick or well, unless they thing we are going to die. I want to hear from you very bad for I haven’t heard from you since I saw James Arnold. I have wrote you three letters—one at John Fulmer’s, and one at Atlanta, and once since I came here, and I hant got nary answer yet.

We are doing nothing yet. We hant got our saddles yet nor nothing else but some old sabers and haversacks, muzzles to feed our horses in and I don’t know when we will get anything else. We get a plenty to eat and a plenty to give our horses.

I expect you hear a great deal about a fight at this place but there is no danger here of a fight at present. I don’t think they have armed all of the Legion but our Battalion. There is a great many soldiers around here. I saw Hiram Smith and Lige Gaden yesterday in a Texas Regiment. they are camped about a half mile from us. I heard about Uncle [ ] Cotton and where he lives and they told me about all of the Georgia boys. They say Uncle Weaver [Cotton] is doing mighty well now. He is raising stock [near Grantville] and has a very good wife. They say Jack Welch is doing very well but John is not doing as well and Jim Weaks is doing very well. Uncle Weaver lives in Houghman county. Houghman Post Office. If I could see you now, I could tell you a great deal that I can’t write.

Have all your peaches stilled that you can. I am sorry that I did not get them apples you sent to me by Jim Arnold. When you write to me, write how your crop is coming on and how Manuel is getting on. Nothing more at present, only remain your most affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 13

Chattanooga, Tennessee
July 28, 1862


My dear wife and family,

I once more hasten to write you a few lines to let you know I am well, I have had the roseola but I am well now. I hope these few lines may find you all well and enjoying the same blessing. I have not received nary letter from you since James Arnold brought me that one. I never wanted to hear from home any worse than I do now. I think certainly you have wrote but I have not received your letters. This is four since we got to Chattanooga.

I am now in the hospital waiting on the sick. Our captain [Slaughter] sent ten men to the hospital yesterday and sent me to wait on them. Dock was one of them. He has had one of his bad spells but is a great deal better. He can walk over the house a little. There is about 25 of our men on the sick list. We have moved from where we were nearer town to Camp Shorter. We have a very comfortable hospital and it is kept very nice and the soldiers is treated very well. I don’t know how long I will stay here. I get $7.50 more for staying here than I was getting but there is a great deal to do here. We have from 8 to 10 men to nurse apiece.

I want you to write. I want to hear from you very bad and know how things is going on and how the children is getting on with the measles.

There is a big fight expected here—or hereabout—not far off. Soldiers are landing here by the thousands. I am sitting in a window writing where I can see all over.

Chattanooga is a sorry looking place right in a hollow between two mountains and on the Tennessee River. It is about the size of Wetumpka [Alabama]. This is a heap more broken a place than Coosa County. We are at the foot of Lookout Mountain.

William Lessley has got the yellow jaundice but is better of them. Asa is well. I hant got time to write very much but if I could see you, I could tell you a great deal that I can’t write. Asa wrote Nan a letter yesterday and I wrote Liz a letter today for Dock. I wrote Thursday for your Pap to come after Dock. I think he will get a discharge. He has got to the place he can’t hardly hear at all but he may soon get over that. I want you to write as soon as you get this letter for you don’t know how bad I want to hear from you. Nothing more at present. I remain your most affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

Chattanooga, Tennessee in care of Capt. M. G. Slaughter, Hilliard’s Legion Cavalry Battalion


Letter 14

Chattanooga, Tennessee
August 1, 1862


Great God! What a thunderbolt struck my ear yesterday when Asa come up here to the hospital and gave me a letter from you and told me that Cricket 1 was dead. I know not how to address you on the subject. I hope she is better off but it breaks my heart to think I could not be at home and see the last of her. I want you to grieve as little as possible. I hope the time is near at hand when I can come home and stay with you and the rest of the children.

I hope these few lines may find you all well. I am not very well at this time. I have sat up nights and waited on the sick till I am wore out and grieved to death. I am not sick—only from grief. I don’t aim to stay here much longer. Our Company is ordered off from here to Louden, Tennessee. They are sending up all the sick from here that is able to go. There is a big battle expected here soon and I want to see it come on. I had rather die than live if it wasn’t for your sake and the children. I want to see you worse than I ever did in my life and talk with you. I don’t know what to write to you. I want you to write me a letter of consolation as soon as you get this letter.

Dock is better but his head. He can’t hear any yet. Liz is here. She is trying to get a discharge for Dock and I think she will get it for him. She was here when I got your letter. I reckon they will leave tomorrow and I will go back to camps.

I don’t know when we will leave here. If there is a fight here, we won’t have no hand in it. We hant got our equippage yet. The Captain is gone after our saddles now. You need not be uneasy about me. If I get killed, just say I died in a good cause. Old Abe Lincoln and his cabinet could not daunt me now. I could fall his whole army right now. I don’t feel like writing now but I will try to write you another letter in a few days. Forgive me for not writing no more. If I could see you, I could talk to you a week, but I can’t write what I could tell you if I could see you.

Nothing more at present. Only I remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

1 “Cricket” was the nickname of John’ daughter Nancy Hanner Cotton, born 3 February 1858. She died 12 July 1862—twelve days before the letter reached John in Chattanooga.


Letter 15

[Note: This letter was from Lizzie Hindman to Mariah (Hindsman) Cotton]

Chattanooga, Tennessee
August 1


My dear sister-in-law Maria Cotton,

It is with most painful pen and hand I have once more settled myself in this hospital to drop you a few lines. I am with [my husband] Bud. He has been dreadful sick. They gave him up to die. He is better now and is deaf so you know I am in trouble and so are you. I am so sorry to think of Cricket’s death.

You don’t know what trouble is until you come here and that you knew how your poor husband laid on a hard old straw bed and suffer like Dock has and now perfectly deaf. Oh! you don’t know nothing at all until you come here and see the men that die here every day. I tell you, it is awful indeed dreadful so I am all in trouble and don’t know how to console you at all.

Your brother is very sick—Mike I mean. [He] is [at] home at Pap’s and I am trying to get Bud home to Pap’s as soon as I can so when I get there I will try and write you a word or so. I most grieved to death and out of heart. I am troubled to death at the sight I now see and the trouble I am a bearing, so painful every thought to see his sight I now witness before me.

Bud sends his love to you and so do I. I will do the best I can t try to get Dock well and come and see you soon so I have nothing more at present. From your affectionate sister-in-law, — Lizzie Hindsman

Write soon and let me hear from you. I am trying to get Dock a discharge and I think I will start tomorrow.


Letter 16

Chattanooga, Tennessee
August 3, 1862


My dear wife and children,

I now with much sorrow attempt to write you a few more lines to let you know that I am not very well. I have got a bad cold but not very bad off. I left the hospital yesterday evening. They have sent to Dock to Atlanta and all of the rest that was able to go. I helped him and Liz on the cars to start. I never want to go to a hospital again. Men are dying there constant[ly]. There was about a dozen men died while I was there—three of our own men, and we have two more that I think will die—and lots more sick but I don’t know how many. Asa is not very well. He says he thinks he is taking the yellow jaundice. William Lessley has got well. The health of the Company is very bad.

We are now ordered from here to Louden, Tennessee. We will leave here in the morning and we hant got our saddles or arms yet. All of the other Companies in the Battalion has got saddles but ours and I reckon they will lend us saddles to ride. It is eighty miles from here and we have got to go by land. Phelit and John Sarel is at home sick. Liz did not get Dock no discharge. Tell Nan I was glad to get her kind and consoling letter. Tell her I can’t write to her now. I hant got time for it is getting late in the evening.

I don’t want you to grieve too much about the death of our little daughter. We must only hope that she is better off than we are. But Oh! how I will miss her when I come home. She will not be there to fondle on my knees with the rest of the children. I hope the rest may do well till I come home and want you to take care of yourself and not expose yourself too much. Nan wrote that Bill had gone after cousin Caroline Walker to come and stay with you. If she has come, tell her to take good care of you and the children till I come home. Nan said that Letha had been staying with you. Tell her I am more than a thousand times obliged to her for her kindness towards you for I know you needed somebody to stay with you. I hant much to write to console you for I am in too much trouble myself. I shall be uneasy till I hear that all of the children has had the measles and are well of them. I never knew what pleasure home afforded to a man before. If it were not for the love of my country and family and the patriotism that burns in my bosom for them, I would be glad to come home and stay there. But I know I have as much to fight for as anybody else. But if I were there, I know I could not stay so I have to take it as easy as possible. Let Nan read this letter. Nan, write to me when you can. Asa wrote to you today.

Mariah, write when you can. I have not got but the two letters since I left home. I would love to hear from you everyday. I wrote you one day before yesterday. Excuse my bad writing and spelling for I am writing on my knee sitting on a log. Nothing more at preset. I remain your most affectionate husband and friend till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 17

Alexander Hospital
Atlanta Georgia
August 15, 1862


Mrs. Cotton, Dear Madam

I take pleasure in writing you a few lines for Mr. Cotton or rather his request to inform you that he is not improving very much yet. The doctor is giving him quinine very heavy today which makes his head in an awful fire. His fever has never broke yet. The doctor has never given him any strong medicine—until today—since he has been here. He came here last Thursday evening which was the 14th of the month. I think he looks better today than he did yesterday. I think he will be up in a few days. He said for you to write to him soon as you get this. Let him know how you all are getting on—how your crops is, &c.

Mrs. Cotton. I will keep you posted how Mr. Cotton gets on as long as I stay here but I may have to leave for my Company this week. We both belong to the same Company. We are not in the same hospital though I can go and see him every day.
Write to him, Atlanta, Georgia, Alexander Hospital. As for the health of our Company, I can’t tell anything about it for I have not been with the company three weeks or more. I learn that they are at or above Knoxville, Tennessee. Nothing more at present. Will write again in a few days to you.


Believe me to be your friend & yours truly. — W. G. Johnson


Letter 18

Atlanta, [Georgia]
August 17, 1862


Mariah, dear wife,

I now attempt to let you know that I am in the Alexander Hospital. I am a good deal better than I was when I came here. The doctor says I have got the typhoid fever but he says he will have me up in a few days. I came here the 14th of this month. I can’t write much as I am sick and nervous. I had to get the nurse to do my writing. I hope I will be able to give you a full history of all things in a few days. I want you to write to me as soon as you get this letter. Direct your letter to Alexander Hospital, Atlanta, Georgia. I close my letter by signing my name, — John W. Cotton


Letter 19

Coosa county, Alabama
August 21, 1862


My dear husband,


I now seat myself to write you a few lines to let you hear from me and the children. The children is all well at this time and as for myself, I am not at all sick but I trouble almost to death about you and our little Cricket’s death. It almost breaks my heart to think that are gone so far off from me and the children but I can only hope that the time is coming when you will get home to us all again. I hope these few lines may find you well.

Everything is doing very well. Your stock is all doing very well so far. I hant much of importance to write to you for I can’t hear of anything here but war all the time. They say they are fixing for a big battle at Richmond again. I want you to write to me whether you have gone farther than you were before or not, and write to me all about how you fare—whether you get enough to eat or not. I hear of some not getting enough to eat. I am so uneasy about you not getting enough to eat so I want to know.

Your Par is stilling yet. He got a heap of peaches and apples. Mr. Norwood come and took up his note that I had. Wash come with him. Your Uncle John Tate was out here a while back. He said they had no rain in about 12 weeks. He said they was bound up. He said he would be back here in about two weeks. He said that he was coming to fetch his wool. He said that we all might have some wool. It is selling at a dollar per pound. Your Par said he thinks that I will make a mighty good crop of corn…

Your brother William and the rest of the conscript men started from around here the 19th of this [month]. There is talk of their taking [men] higher than 35 [years of age] but I hope they won’t take no more. I want those that is there to come home.
Weaver, do you want me to sell any of your wheat for seed or not? You write to me about what to do about it. You must write me all the good advice you can for I need advice, you know.

I received a letter from you Monday. It is now Thursday. It was dated the 3rd of this month. I was glad to hear from you [but] I was sorry to hear that you and Asa was not well. I am so uneasy about you. I don’t know what to do. I would [give] this whole world if you was at home with me so I could know when you are sick or well. You said that you would be uneasy till you heard that the children was all well of the measles. They are all well of them now. “Sweet” and Jenny has not had them yet. I don’t think they will have them now so you must not uneasy yourself about the measles now.

Since I commenced this letter, Nancy came up here with a letter that she got today from Asa. It was dated the 11th and it said that you was in the hospital sick. You don’t know how bad I felt to hear of your being in a hospital sick. Oh that I only could be there to wait on you. I will be so uneasy till I hear from you. I can’t rest but I hope you are better by this time. Mr. Lessley got a letter from William that was dated the 19th. It said you was sick. He said they had sent the sick to Atlanta and so I don’t know what to do about sending this letter and so I did not send it. I never was as uneasy in my life. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate wife until death, — Mariah Cotton

August 25, 1862

My dear husband,

I once more with sorrow and trouble, take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you hear from me and the children. The children is all well at this time. I am well—all to grief and sorrow. I have just now received a letter from you. It gave me relief for I did not know where you was. I never was as glad to hear from anybody in my life as I was to hear from you. I am sorry to hear of your being sick. I don’t know how to address you on it. I don’t want you to be uneasy about home. I want you to take good care of yourself and try to get well again. I want to come and see you if you are willing and are going to stay there long enough for me to come. If you are, write me about it whether I must try to come or not—if you are able to write. If I could see you, I could tell you a heap. I never wanted to see anybody as bad in my life as I want to see you now and wait on you.

If you are willing for me to try to come to see you, you must write soon. I had a letter wrote to send to you but I heard that you was sent to Atanta and I kept it. I did not have the paper all full and I thought I would write this letter on it and send it all to you. You must excuse my bad spelling and writing for it is a hard task for me to write to you now. I wish I could hear from you every day…

Nan said she will stay with Sheridan and the children till I can come to see you. I will close my few remarks to you. Write soon. — Mariah Cotton


Letter 20

Alexander Hospital
Atlanta, Georgia
August 25, 1862


Dear wife,


I take my pen in hand to let you know how I am getting along. I am still on the mend but I gain strength very slow. I am up only long enough to write but a few lines at a time. I am not in any misery at all. I can get up and walk across my room and back to my bed.


I was taken sick at the hospital waiting on Bud [Dock]. I went back to my Company on Saturday night and that night I took a dose of pills and on Monday morning we took up the line of march to Louden. But when we got there, we never stopped. We went on to Knoxville and kept getting worse all the way. I gave out 23 miles this side of Knoxville and they put me on the cars and sent me to Knoxville to the hospital. James Dukes says I stayed there four and a half days but I don’t recollect how long for everything seems like a dream while I was there. They put me on the cars one night a little after dark to come to Atlanta. We got there the next morning. Everything seems like a dream till I had been here two or three days. I expect it will be a long time before I am able to leave here.

Write as soon as you get this letter and let me know how things are going on. When Manuel gets ready to split rails, tell him to split rails on the ridge from the horse lot over towards where we drug them dead horses and if there ain’t timber enough there, cut the dead timber from the cow pen to the top of the hill towards Moses’.

Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 21

[Note: This letter was written by “Nan” or Nancy (Cotton) Waldrop (1837-1914), a sister of John Weaver Cotton, and the wife of Asa Pitts Waldrop (1835-1910). The Waldrops were near neighbors to the Cotton’s in Coosa County. Their home was near the Mr. Pleasant Church Cemetery. Asa served in the same unit as John W. Cotton.]

Coosa County, Alabama
September 9, 1862


My dear brother and sister [Cotton],

I take this opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that we are all well and have been ever since Mariah has been gone—only “Sweet” ate too many beans and made him sick a day and night. I hope these few lines may find you all well. I have been waiting and looking for a letter from you but I have concluded to write anyhow and not wait no longer. Mariah promised to write to me about making clothes. I have got the promise of some wool. Asa wrote to me to make him a coat and vest and pants and blanket son and he said make the tails of his coat long and the waist of his pants longer. I have spoke to Miss Corley for her [ ] she is making provided I can’t get wool enough. Asa wrote to me that his pants is a getting thin.

I want you to write to me as soon as you get this letter and tell me how long you think you will stay there and if you can take Asa some clothes and if you don’t think I had better send you some yarn pants and all the rest of clothes that we have got made when Pa comes after Mariah. He talks about going to Wilkes when he comes there to see about that property. We have made two shirts. I would be very glad if you could take what clothes we have got made for fear when we undertake to send them that you will never get them/ I don’t know when Pa aims to come there. He has got some fruit to still next Monday. He is done all to that but I don’t know what he will do about coming. Let Wash fetch the buggy back.

I have come to Pa’s since I commenced my letter. He says he hant a going to Wilkes and he don’t talk like [he’s] coming to Atlanta. If I can get him to carry the things to [ ] and get them in the cars, I will send them to you if you say you want them and can carry them clothes to Asa.

[Brother] Willy [William J. Cotton] and Caroline [Walker] was married Sunday morning. I do not know what he aims to do though I think he aims to leave here, there to live with Mariah like she has been a living. Manuel is getting to big for his britches. He went off Saturday at dinner and never come home till Monday about nine o’clock and left 2 or 3 days pulling of fodder down and the most of it cured and when he come home, I said something to him about leaving the fodder and he got so mad, he jawed me to the last. He said he is going to take five days holiday, let Mariah say what she will. He says it was nothing but contrariness [?] that Mariah did not hire somebody to help him pull fodder.

Tell all the connection howdy for me. Give my love to all the people there in my old settlement. If I had any way to get back, I would come out to see them when Pa comes out. Tell John Filmer to move out here. — Nancy Waldrop

Weaver, write to me how many oats you want me to save for you. So many people is a wanting oats. Brown’s folks has got the diphtheria and I am afraid we will all get it for Manuel goes to Brown’s so much. Pa would [have] whipped him yesterday but he had a sore finger.


Letter 22

Atlanta, Georgia
September 12, 1862


Mariah, dear wife,

I received your letter this morning and was very glad to hear from you and that you was well but very sorry to hear that Little Ginney was so sick. I was in hopes that she had got well but I knew that there was something the matter that you did not come back but I never thought of the small pox stopping you. I was so uneasy I did not know what to do till I got your letter. I was afraid you was sick. I am afraid you won’t get to come at all. I shall be very sorry if you don’t get to come for I had a great deal to tell you. When Par comes, tell him to come and see me if he can. I hant heard from home since you left here.

I am still mending. I have got so I can walk about right smart by taking my time. I went to the car shed last night and night before to meet you but I never found you nor Ginny. I think I will go again tonight and look for you.

Our sick men are all mending at present. That man in our room that had the pneumonia is dead. There is talk here about breaking up all of the hospitals and send all that is able to go home and them that is not able, keep them till they get able. They have turned out all of them prisoners they had in the guard house when you was here. I want you to write as soon as you get this letter and let me know how you all are and if the small pox is spreading any. I want you to write the day before you start home if you don’t get to come to see me, Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate friend till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 23

[Note: The following letter was written by Dr. Andrew Calhoun Lawrence Hindsman (1834-1916), the son of William (“Billy”) Hindsman (1805-1886) and Nancy M. Cotton (1810-1855). He was a younger brother of John W. Cotton’s wife, Mariah Hindsman. “Dock” was married in December 1860 to Sarah Elizabeth (“Liz”) [Maiden Name?]; they divorced in 1867 in Coweta county, Georgia. Dock was an 1861 graduate of the School of Medicine at New York University.]

Knoxville, Tennessee
September 14, 1862


John W. Cotton, my dear brother,

It is of great pleasure to me this beautiful morning to address you a few lines which is accordance to promise when I left you in that low state of health in the hospital in the City of Atlanta. I pray and trust to our Savior above that these few lines may come to hand and find you enjoying the grand blessings of life and also finds sister and the baby in the same good blessings which may be stored upon you and all the family which is left behind in the sad mourning hours of our absence from our dear beloved wives and our sweet children—those who has them to depart from in this vain world of ours. But oh! may God bless every one of us and enable us all to return back home to the ones so dear to us all and be by our fireside with them, conversing with them on the triumph[ant] scene [that] has rolled before us while our absence from them in the dark and dreary hours of midnight.

Weave, I have not much of importance to write to you at the present time. I only wish that you was able to be here with me. I would be much better satisfied than I am now. But still I am getting along tolerable well to take everything in consideration. I have not been well since I have been here. I went to the hospital on last Tuesday and staid there until last Friday about dark when I got out to the camp. I have had a severe cold and neuralgia in the side of my left cheek and head and more that that, the doctor has put on one large blister behind each ear and I have suffered a great deal from them and ain’t done yet suffering from them. I can’t turn my head without my whole body with it. You can’t imagine the inconvenience I labor under here. I can’t talk to none of the boys without a great deal of trouble to them. I don’t think that I have spoke fifty words since I have been here in camp. My life is not much satisfaction to me here. No comfort nor pleasure do I see in the present condition I am now in. The height of my time I spend here is in writing—that is all the pleasure I see here, and also reading the papers when I can get hold of one to read.

Weave, your horse is here with us all. He improves every day but still I don’t know what we will do with him when we leave here. The report now roving through the company is that we will leave here Monday or Tuesday for Kentucky but still I don’t know when we will leave. There is one great consolation to me is this, brother Michael’s company is a going along with us. I am proud of that, you had better know it.

So I reckon you want to hear how I came out in getting a discharge. I did not come out atall for I almost knew how it would be before I departed from you all. I did not get nary one. You know the reason of it better than I can tell you. He done all he could against me to keep from getting it but he will repent for [it] yet if he don’t mind. If I had been under any other Captain, I would have got one without any trouble whatever.

So I believe I have wrote all I know at the present so I must bring my few scattering remarks to a close for fear I will tire you out reading them…I only wish I could get the chance to go back there to practice medicine in the condition I am now…Weave, tell sister when she goes back to send that paper they was getting up for me to come back there to practice for them [and] for them to do all they can with it and then send it on to the Secretary of War and I will come back and do all I can for them. So I will close.


Weave, write as soon as you get this letter. I want to hear from you before we have to leave here and when you heard from Pap’s family and from Lizzie. Yours until death, &c. I want to hear from Lizzie very bad. — Dr. A. C. L. Hindsman

Address your letters this: A. C. L. Hindsman, Col. Hilliard’s Legion in care of Capt. M. G. Slaughter, Knoxville, Tennessee, Co. C of Cavalry


Letter 24

Letter addressed to Mariah who was at her father’s home in Grantville, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia
September 15, 1862


Dear wife,


It is with much grief and fear that I take my pen in hand to let you know that I read your kind letter this morning and was glad to hear from you again but was very sorry to hear that little Ginney was so sick. I was in hopes that when I heard from her again, she would be well. But I am glad to think that she is better or that you think so. I have received both of your letters and was extremely glad to hear from you for I have been uneasy ever since you left here with little Ginney.


I am very sorry that you could not come back [to Atlanta] to see me but I am in hopes now that I will get to come to see you. They say the hospitals will be broke up in a day or two and that all that ain’t able to go to their Companies and are able to go home will be furloughed home till they get well and them that are not able to go home will stay here till they get able to go home.


I am still mending some. I am a great deal better off tan I was when you left me. I have got so I can eat a plenty. I bought me some potatoes this morning and are having me a rich pie made for dinner. I have eat up my ham and drunk up my brandy and want more. If I don’t get a furlough, I would be very glad for Par to come to see me when he comes out after you. Tell him to come if he can.

This hospital could break up tomorrow. They are building houses out at the fairground to put the sick in and they are moving bunks out there now. You need not look for me for I don’t know whether I will get to come or not but I hope I will. That will cure my uneasiness.

I got a letter from Asa dated the 10th. He said he and Porter was well except for bad colds. Our Company was then at Knoxville and he said he did not know when they would leave there. He said they might leave in a day or two, and they might stay there a good while. He said my horse was fattening. I will not write anything to you now about affairs at home. From what I can learn, it is not worthwhile to make me any clothes for if I had what clothes I have got at home, they would do me very well and you had better send them to me if you get home time enough by express. Nothing more at present but remain your friend and affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

I hope little Ginney will get well but I fear.


Letter 25

Addressed to A. C. L. Hindman, Knoxville, Tennessee, In care of Capt. M G. Slaughter, Hilliard’s Legion Cavalry Battalion, Co. C.

Atlanta, Georgia
September 17, 1862


Dear Brother-in-law [Andrew C. L. Hindman],

I take my pencil in hand to let you know that I have just received your letter and was extremely glad to hear from you. I had looked for a letter from you till I had nearly gave out getting again. I was very sorry to hear that you had been in such bad health and I am sorry you can’t get a discharge for you are needed at home. I got a letter from [sister] Nan [Nancy (Cotton) Waldrop] day before yesterday dated the 9th. She said that all was well but Brown’s folks had the diphtheria and I also got a letter from Mariah at the same time which I read with much dissatisfaction. Mariah left home after staying and few days and went down to Paps to stay a few days and then come back to see me but when she got ready to come, they would not let her get on the cars for fear of the small pox. The baby was taken with a running off of the bowels two days before she left here but we thought it was from cutting teeth shut she has been sick ever since. She says she thinks it is the flux. She sent for Doctor Philips. He had been there twice. He said he thought he was better. She hant eat nor sucked any to do any good since she was taken sick. Mariah says she never suffered as much uneasiness in her life and I know I never did. I tried yesterday to get to go down there but there was no chance at all.

They are talking of breaking up the hospitals here and send all that is able to travel home and send the rest to the fairground. If they break them up at all, I reckon it will be done this week. Ours was to break up yesterday or today but I don’t know when it will be done but it will be done sometime before long. They discharged four men here yesterday. I am still mending. I can walk about over town right smart by taking my time but I am very weak yet. I have a right smart cold and cough. I have had no backset yet. I think I will be able to come to see you all in two or three weeks if I don’t get no backset. We hant many men here now. They are gone to their companies.
I was glad to hear that my horse was mending. I hope you won’t leave there till I can come to you. I got a letter from Asa [Waldrop] the other day and answered it. Tell the captain to do what he thinks best with my horse when you go to leave Knoxville. I hope these few lines may find you all well. Write to me and tell the rest of the boys to write to me. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate friend till death, — John W. Cotton

I want to see Mariah and little Ginney and all of the children worse than I ever did. I shant rest till I hear from them again. You don’t know how uneasy I am about little Ginney. Mariah said she was the weakest little thing she ever saw. Brother Bill and Caroline Walker was married last Sunday—was a week ago.


Letter 26

Addressed to Mrs. Mariah Cotton, Grantville, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia
September 17, 1862


Dear wife,


It is with much uneasiness I attempt to write you a few lines to let you know that I am still mending. I am getting alog very well considering I am in so much trouble. I would give anything to see you and little Ginney. I hope these few lines may find you well and little Ginney better and all of the connection well. I looked for a letter from you yesterday or this morning but did not get it. I want you to write to me at least every other day until you go home. I don’t expect Par will come as soon as you looked for him from what Nan’s letter said about it…Nan spoke of sending me and Asa some clothes by Par. If she don’t, we will have to depend on the Yankees for them. I am afraid you can’t get home [in] time enough to send me any or I would want you to send me some by express…


Our hospital has not broke up yet nor I don’t know exactly when it will. They have discharged several last night and this morning and are sending off all that are able to go. I think they are waiting for further orders from the War Department.


When you go home, I want you to send for Par every time Manuel crooks his finger [at you] till he gets him straight. Tell Par if there is any work he wants to swap, I want him to do it so he can help him under charge. I reckon he will swap in gathering corn. I want the fresh field all sowed in wheat…I want the old field on the creek sowed in rye…— John W. Cotton


Letter 27

Medical College Hospital
Atlanta, Georgia
September 25, 1862


Mariah Cotton, dear wife,


I once more take my pen in hand to drop you a few lines to let you know that I am well and still mending. I hope these few lines may find you and all the children enjoying the same blessing. I hope that little Ginney is getting well as fast as she can and I hope that the babies is getting fat and all of the rest doing well. And I hope all of the connection is well.


I got a letter last night from Albert Martin from Knoxville the 18th of this month. He said that all of the Company was well but Dock. He said he had the neuralgia in his jaw and the toothache. But you can read for yourself and see what he says. I bought me a very good waistcoat for two dollars but I think I cheated the fellow. He threw down a whole pile of old course things on the counter and told me to pick out one for two dollars and there was one good one in the pile and I put it on and let. I hant been back since we have moved from our hospital to the Medical College. I am very well pleased with my move.


I hant got much to write to you. There is no fresh news here—only Congress has passed the act to furlough all sick and wounded soldiers home for not more than 60 days. But I expect they will soon give me a furlough to my Company. I expect there will be a good many leave here this evening.

September 26, 1862. Nobody went off yesterday evening but will go off this evening. The doctors has just been around their companies. I want to go to my Company next week. If I keep mending, I will go then. I just now got a letter from Liz. She said they are well. She said she had got a letter from Dock and he said he thought if he kept on the good side of his Captain, he would get a discharge. I can’t find out whether he is gone with the Company or not…

The papers say there is a proposition made for peace. I hope it will be made soon so we can come home and stay there unmolested the balance of our days. Write soon. When I leave here and get to my Company, I will write to you where to write to. I am afraid I shall be bothered to get to my Company. I am still fattening and I hope these lines may reach you the same. Write what Bill and Caroline is doing and how Manuel is doing and so on. Nothing more at present. Only remain your affectionate husband until death. — John W. Cotton


Letter 28

Addressed to Mrs. Mariah Cotton, Mt. Olive, Alabama

Medical College Hospital
Atlanta, Georgia
October 2, 1862


Dear wife,

It is with pleasure that I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and will leave here this evening for my Company. There is several of the Legion going with me but none of my Company. We will start at half past 7 o’clock. I wrote a letter and put it in the [post] office last week but I don’t know whether you got it or not. I have not received nary letter from you since you left here…I am very sorry to leave here without hearing from you and the children. I don’t know whether little Ginney is dead or alive but I hope she is well before this time…I am afraid that when I leave here that I never will hear from you all again nor see you until the war ends. If I never come back again, I want you to do the best you can for yourself and the children. Learn them to love you and obey you and try to learn them to be good children. And if I never return, I want you to keep your land and such things as you need and raise your children the best you can. I don’t want you to be uneasy because I have write this but be of good cheer. Hire Manuel next year if you want him to carry on your business as if you never expected me at home.

I heard from General [Kirby] Smith. He is three hundred miles from Chattanooga in Kentucky at a little place within thirty miles of Louisville. I wrote to you before that my Company left Knoxville on the 18th of September. I don’t expect they have got to Smith yet. I expect that I shall be bothered to get to them. I hant heard from them since they left Knoxville nor I don’t know what they done with my horse…

There was a colonel here this morning and he said the best of horses were selling at one hundred and twenty-five dollars, bacon 3 cents per pound, corn 30 cents, flour 10 dollars a barrel, butter 10 cents, cheese 15 cents, coffee 7 and 8 pound to the dollar, whiskey 33 cents per gallon, good shoes $1.25 to 7 dollars. Good boots five dollars, he says.

They are fattening thousands of pork and our men are living as well as they can. They get everything to eat they want to eat. I wish I was there. It will not be worthwhile for you to write to me anymore until you hear from me again. I am so bothered that I don’t know what else to write to you. Don’t be uneasy about me. If you don’t hear from me, you may know I am doing the best I can for myself—

Though in distant lands I roam, I will think the more about home. If on Yankey soil I be, don’t think I’ll ever forget thee.

I will try to go on to my Company but I expect I will have to stop at Knoxville and don’t know how long. If I have to stay there long, I will write to you. I may write anyhow. — John W. Cotton


Letter 29

Tennessee Camp Convalescents
Near Knoxville
October 8, 1862


Mariah Cotton, dear wife,


It is with much pleasure that I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines. These few lines leave me well and I hope they will find you all the same. I hope they may find little Ginney fat and sassy. I don’t know what I would give to hear from her now and see you all again but we are a good ways apart and it is uncertain when we will meet again.

I am at the Convalescent Camp at Knoxville waiting for company to go with me to my Company. There is one of my Company here and I expect we will start to the Company soon—about day after tomorrow. I will write again when I leave here. I don’t know whether we can get to our Company or not but we will go as far as we can. I understand that the army is still moving on north. I received a letter from you just as I was leaving Atlanta and did not have time to read it until I had to leave. I was very glad to hear that you had got home safe and as well as you did. I was afraid you would have to stop on the way with little Ginney. I hope she is now well and all of the rest of you.

They took my horse off and left me afoot but I have another one that belongs to the Legion that I will ride unless the owner comes before I get off. I had to go about twelve miles after him. He belongs to a man that is at home. There is several horses left here and he can ride him if he ever comes back.

I hant got nary a letter from the Company since I saw you. Albert Martin has gone home. He left here the evening I got there but I never saw him. They are furloughing a great many of the sick home from here and discharging them too very fast. But there is a many a one here that need it that don’t get it. I am messing with Sam Plunkett and others. He ought to have a discharge. He has partly lost his hearing.

If you want to write to me, direct your letter to Lexington, Kentucky, our Company may be there yet. I am to go from here there. I will be very glad to hear from you if I should ever get there but I have a dangerous road to travel for about two hundred miles. I only hope that I will go through safe. I want you to pray for me that I may go through safe to my Company and through the war till we have moved the Yankeys back from our soil and peace is made and that I may return safe home to you all again. Nothing more but remain your best friend, — John W. Cotton


Letter 30

Tennessee Camp Convalescents
near Knoxville
October 9, 1862


Dear wife,


I again have the pleasure to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and getting tolerable stout again. I hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well. I hant much to write to you. I sent you a letter yesterday by mail but I will send this by hand. Old Mr. Hand that lives down below is going home on a furlough.


I don’t know yet when I will leave here. The adjutant talked yesterday of sending off about 100 men today or tomorrow and sending me with them but there is a good many of them that they had started coming back, not being able to make the march to their companies so they talk of not starting us yet awhile. I don’t know when I will leave here. There was lots of the Legion came in here from Cumberland Gap this morning that weren’t able to go with their companies. They say they don’t know where the cavalry is now but they are all gone to Kentucky. They say that it isn’t [safe for] just a few to go through from Cumberland Gap on account of the bushwhackers so I shan’t undertake to go to my Company without a right smart squad of men unless the officers force me.

We are not faring very well here but I can make out very well. We get bread and beef and a little rice. There is a heap of grumbling in camps about not getting enough to eat but it is the way they manage it. I have plenty. I am messing with Sam Plunkett and two others you know nothing about.

I hant got anything much to write to you but if I could see you, I could tell you a great deal. I want you to write to me as soon as you can when you get this letter and direct it to Knoxville, Tennessee in care of Captain M. G. Slaughter, Hilliard’s Legion, Cavalry Battalion. If I don’t get it here, it may go to the company by the time I do. I am very sorry to think that I can’t hear from you all. I would give almost anything to hear from little Ginney and hear that she was well and all of you. But it will be some consolation to hear from me. Nothing more at present but remain yourfriend till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 31

Tennessee Camp Convalescents
[Near Knoxville]
October 15, 1862


My dear wife,

It is with much dissatisfaction that I again take my pen in hand to write you a few more lines to let you know that I am well as common. I am at the Convalescent Camps near Knoxville and I am doing tolerable well. We don’t get anything hardly to eat but fresh beef and flour. We got a little bacon yesterday for the first time since I have been here. There is more grumbling here than I ever heard but my mess makes out very well. We bought a little bacon and we bought a very nice catfish this morning for one dollar. There is but three in my mess so I get plenty to eat. I am as heavy as I ever was—nearly 167 pounds—but I ain’t very stout yet.

I hope these few lines may reach you all well and doing well. I would be very glad to hear from you all. I want to hear from little Ginney very bad so I could know how she was and all of the rest of you. I shall be uneasy until I hear from home again. I fear she has follows little Cricket. I can’t help from shedding tears when I think about her and think how bad I would miss her if I were at home, but I don’t know that it will ever be my happy lot to be there again to enjoy the privileges of being with the rest of you all and enjoy our freedom as we have done before. But I hope that we will soon meet again. I hope the war will not last much longer but I don’t see much chance now for peace.

The news has come here that the Legion has been in two fights. The Yankees attacked them in the march from Cumberland Gap to Livingston but no straught news about the fight. There is 135 men of the Legion here on the sick list but none of the cavalry. The officers here talk of sending off about four hundred men from here tomorrow that has got able to march. If they go, I shall go with them. But I think its uncertain about their starting for they hant near all got guns and it is uncertain about there getting them.

There is none of the Legion here that you ever knew but Elijah Plunkett. There was 73 of them came in here last night that was sick at Cumberland Gap. There was none of them cavalry left there. I hant heard anything from my Company yet. This three letters I have sent since I have been here. I sent one by old man Ham that lives away down towards Reckford and two by mail…

I was just over at the hospital just now and there was six dead men carried off from there. They die from six to eight a day. There is 26 or 27 hundred men here and not many able to go to their regiments. There is a band of doctors here now to examine the sick and furlough and discharge all they think need them. Breckenridge’s command is here and a great many others camped around her.


There was a man came here from Cumberland Gap night before last. He says that Hilliard left orders there for the officers there not to let any more Legion pass there but if any of them come there, to turn them back here. It is thought that he aims to take us down country somewhere. If they do come back, I wish they would make haste and come before I leave here. I don’t know when I will leave here.

There was an old Union man come in here to where some cavalry were camped and they took him up and he refused to take the oath [of allegiance] and they hung him three times before he took it, and then they made him double quick it from there over here to our camp and our men gathered around him and deviled him a good deal and then they turned him loose and made him leave in double quick time.

Nothing more at present to write to you but I hope these lines may find you all well. No more at this time. I will let you know when I leave here, I remain your most affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

There is a talk of the camps being broke up. If they are and they won’t let me go to my Company, I will be sent to Atlanta or Montgomery. Farewell. I hope I may see you all soon and see little Ginney fat and sassy and all of the rest.


Letter 32

Knoxville, Tennessee
October 18, 1862


Mariah, dear wife,

It is again that I take my pencil in hand to let you know that we are about to leave Knoxville. The order is to leave this evening for Kentucky. These lines leave me well except the diarrhea but it is not hurting me much. I hope these lines reach you all well and doing well. I hant heard from you since I left Atlanta and I am very uneasy about all and especially little Ginney. I want to hear from you all very bad but I am afraid it will be a long time before I can hear from you all. I was in hopes I would get a letter from you before we left here.

There will be 7 or 8 hundred in all—cavalry and infantry. We will all go together. I have got the same horse yet that I got when I first came here and I will ride him through [even] if I have him to pay for, but I ain’t much uneasy about that. There is seven of our Company here and Lieut. Baird, our 2nd Lt. Six of them were left here for carriers. There is 211 of our Battalion here to go along and a right smart infantry and artillery.

I saw Frank Carley this morning. He came from Strawberry Plains yesterday. He says he is not able to go with us but he is mending slowly. He looks very well.

You must excuse my short letter and bad writing for I hant got much to write now and not much time to write it in for I have got to fix for leaving here and eat dinner. I want you to write as soon as you get this letter—if you call it one. Direct your letter to Lexington, Kentucky, in care of Capt. M. G. Slaughter, Hilliard’s Legion, Cavalry Battalion. I can’t tell you how bad I want to see you all. So I must close. Nothing more at present, only remain your most affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 33

Knoxville, Tennessee
October 26, 1862


Dear wife,

I again take my pen in hand to write you a few more lines to let you know I am well and am at Knoxville. Our Battalion is coming back here. One company has got back and we are looking for our Company every day. What few of us that is here is doing very well and get plenty to eat and not much to do. We have been detailed a few days to patrol the streets of Knoxville.

We have had a beautiful spell of weather till last night and today and we have had several pretty [hard] frosts. It commenced snowing last night and it has snowed over half the day. The leaves here is perfectly green and all covered with snow.
Dock has started home but I reckon you will get a letter from him before you get this. Strickland’s Company was here this week but they are gone from here now. I stayed with them one night. Mike and John were both well and fatter than I ever saw them. I weigh more than I ever did but I hant got the same action I use to have I think it is for want of exercise. There is part of our Company left us and gone to Stevens’ Company. We were ordered to Kentucky and we went about a mile and stopped to stay all night and go on next morning. We had orders to start and before we got off, we had orders not to go and we moved back close to where we were before and near here.

October 27. Mariah, I will write you a few more lines. Our captain that commands our little squad will leave us today and go to his company but our first lieutenant [Isaac Baird] is here with us and another lieutenant of the Legion. There is three of our Company here that the Yankeys took prisoners and paroled them. The talk now is that we will be stationed at Cumberland Gap this winter and I’d rather go anywhere else. The whole army has left Kentucky but I reckon you have heard that. There is more soldiers about here than I ever saw.

I hant got any news from you since I left Atlanta. I have looked for a letter from you for some time but I hant got nary one yet. I want you to write to me again as soon as you get these few lines. Direct your letter to Knoxville to J. W. Cotton, Knoxville, Tennessee. I may stay here till I get a letter from you and I may not stay here two days. I want to get to my Company very bad. I am tired of being drug about by other officers.

I hant got much time to write to you. It is not worthwhile to try to tell you how bad I want to see you all or hear from you. If I could hear from you all and hear that little Ginney has got well, and all the rest of you, I would be very glad to come home and see you all and see how things is going on and make arrangements for another year but there is no chance now. You must do the best you can for yourself and the children. Only remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 34

Knoxville, Tennessee
November 3, 1862


Mariah, dear wife,

I once more take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and doing tolerable well so far as bodily health, but I am distressed in mind. I have not heard from you since I left Atlanta. your last letter was dated the 28th of September which has been one month and six days. You have no idea how bad I want to hear from you all for I can’t hear whether little Ginney is dead or alive. I want to hear from you all but I had much rather see you all but I don’t know when I will get to see you all again.

There is several of our boys gone home now and our captain is gone home and Joe Leavitt and Bill Adkins that lives above Attaline. They left here yesterday morning. They have gone home after clothing. I want you to send me a coat and my knit shirt by Bill Adkins, and a letter, and if Dock has got home, tell him to write to me. Bill Adkins was here night before last at our camp but I did not get to see him.

I have been off on detached service for six days and just got in last night. There was 16 of us went away over into North Carolina to drive some beef cattle out of the mountains about 75 miles from here and about 25 miles right through the mountains and fourteen miles of trail. It was the worst mountains and the worst tail that ever I saw. There is but one house for 25 miles. Our horses had to do three days and nights on twenty nubbins of corn but we had plenty to eat. We brought out 70 head of cattle. If I could see you, I could tell you a heap more about our trip over there but I won’t write no more about it.

I heard from Asa and Bill Lessley last night. They are at Cumberland Gap. All is well. Bill is sorta puny but able to be about. Floyd Goodgame is here now. He is right from the Company. He says our Company will be down here in a day or two. Our lieutenant [Isaac Baird] says he is going to start to them tomorrow if they don’t come—if he can get off. It is not known yet where we will take up winter quarters. I have no notion where we will stay. There is a great deal of shifting about of soldiers now that our captain is gone home and our men say they don’t think he will ever come back anymore.

Mariah, I want you to send me 25 or 30 dollars of money by Bill Adkins with the other things for I hant got but $9 and 25 cents and I don’t know when we will draw any money for our service and i don’t want to get out of money for I might need it very bad. Write in the letter you send how much you send to me and write about things in general—how you are and how you are getting on. And how your stock is doing and how Manuel is getting along gathering corn and sowing grain and so on. Billy Brown is very poor. Making a trip to Kentucky and back, and then to North Carolina and back, has worsted him and doing on no feed a part of the time.

I hant much to write to you. I have a bad way to write. These lines leave me well and hope they find you enjoying the same blessing. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate husband till death. — John W. Cotton

When you write, write your letters to Knoxville, Tennessee, in care of Captain M. G. Slaughter, Hilliard’s Legion, unless I write to you to direct them somewhere else.


Letter 35

Camp Baker, Tennessee
[@ 10 miles below Knoxville]
November 8, 1862


Mariah Cotton, dear wife,

I now take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and fat as a bear. I have been heartier than I ever was in my life. I can eat anything that comes before me. I am happy to tell you that I have got with my Company again. I got with them yesterday morning and was glad to see all of the boys and they appeared glad to see me. They all are very glad they got out of Kentucky. They say they saw many hard times part of the time they were gone and nearly all of them suffered a good deal of the diarrhea. I will put this letter in with Asa’s and I reckon he will write all about their trip. The boys are all about but a heap of them are complaining right smart. Billy Martin is complaining right smart today.

I hant got but a few words to write to you but I thought I would write a few to let you know I was well. I hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well. I was very glad to hear that you were doing so well. You said all you lacked was me. I wish I was with you but it may be a long time before we see each other again—if ever. But I am not out of heart yet. I think I shall come back again to stay with you all and enjoy the freedom we are now fighting for. I hope I will come home soon.

I don’t want you to get out of heart about me but enjoy yourself the best you can. I could not help shed tears when I received your letter the other day. You said you got worse about the loss of little Cricket. I shall dread to come home for I know I shall miss her so much. She will not be there to fondle on my knees with the rest of the little fellows but I try to study about it as little as possible for I know she is a great deal better off than I am. We should not grieve that she is gone to a better world than this and gone where she never can come to us, but we can go to her. I can’t help shedding tears every time I get to studying about you all.

It’s now nearly dark and I hant got no candle. The next letters you send, send htem without paying the postage on them and then if I don’t get them, I won’t have to pay for them.

We are camped today ten miles below Knoxville and it is thought we will go from here to Murfreesboro. They are expecting a big fight there before long, and at Nashville too. Some thinks that we will not take up winter quarters at all but keep fighting all winter. If they don’t soon stop and let our horses rest, we will soon be afoot for our horses look very bad. But my horse looks better than he did a few days ago.

I want you to do the best you can for yourself and the children and not be uneasy about me for I am doing very well at present. I hope little Ginney will be well by the time you get this letter. I am going to try to come home betwixt this and Christmas if I see any chance, but I want you to make your arrangements as though you never looked for me. Nothing more at present. Only remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 36

Addressed to Mrs. Mariah Cotton, Mt. Olive, Alabama

Camp Baker, Tennessee
November 15, 1862


Mariah Cotton, my dear, loving & affectionate wife,

It is with great pleasure I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I have received your kind and affectionate letter and was very glad to hear from you all and to hear that you were all well and doing so well. I am very glad to think you don’t like nothing but me and I am very glad to hear that little Ginney is getting fat and sassy again for I have suffered a great deal of uneasiness about her. I am better satisfied than I have been since you left me at Atlanta. The other letter that I got from you gave me great satisfaction but this one gave me more. I have received two letters from you since I come to Knoxville—one dated the 25th October, and one the 30th of October. I begun to think that I weren’t going to get nary one from you but I knew you had wrote to me before that time.

I wrote to you that we were a going to leave here the next day but we are here yet 10 miles below Knoxville. We may leave here tomorrow and we may not leave here in a week or two. The officers say that we will go to Murfreesboro from here and from there to Bridgeport, 18 miles below Chattanooga. Lieut. [Isaac] Baird has wrote to the men that was sent home after clothing to take them to Bridgeport. If you get this letter before Adkins come back, you need not send me any money for we have drawn $72 apiece so I have got money aplenty. Now you need not send me anything but a coat. We have not got them clothes that you sent us yet but I reckon that the men that were sent home after clothes will get back and bring them to us.

It is thought that our captain [M. G. Slaughter] won’t never come back to us anymore and our 1st Lieutenant has already resigned and our 2nd Lieutenant talks of resigning. If they all resign, it will leave the Company in a very bad fix. Our Battalion is all together now for the first time since I left them. Our Battalion is taken from the Legion and detached to General Kirby Smith’s Division for his body guard and we will not be apt to stay here long for they are expecting a big fight at Murfreesboro and we will be apt to go there soon. It is near Nashville, Tennessee.

The lines leave me well and Asa is well. William Lessley is complaining some. I hope these few lines may reach you all well and still doing well. Write me as soon as you get this…I don’t know when I will get to come to see you all. Don’t get out of heart. I think I will come sometime or other. it is not worthwhile to tell how bad I want to see you all. Don’t be uneasy about me and I will not be no uneasier than I can help. No more at present. Only remain your loving husband till death, — John W. Cotton

November 16. We are now packing up to leave for Bridgeport. Direct your next letter to John W. Cotton, Bridgeport, Alabama in care of Mr. M. G. Slaughter, M. M. Slaughter’s Cavalry Battalion. Send me a letter by Adkins if he don’t leave before you get these few lines. Farewell my dear wife.


Letter 37

Chattanooga, Tennessee
November 23, 1862


Mariah dear wife,

It is again that I have the opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope you are enjoying the same good blessing. We are now encamped at Chattanooga at the same place where we were when we left here to go to Knoxville. We will leave here this morning to go to a place called Jasper about 30 miles. We may stay there awhile but I don’t know how long. When you get this letter, write to me and direct your letter to Bridgeport, Alabama. It is only five miles from Jasper. They are having all their letters directed to Bridgeport. I hant got but little time to write this morning. It was late last night when we got here and we are now fixing up to leave here.

We had a very pleasant trip down here. if I could see you, I could tell you a heap but I han’t got the time to write much. When we get stopped, i will try to write more when I get more time. I thought maybe I would get to come home before Christmas but it is very uncertain now when I will get to come. We may go to Murfreesboro and have a fight. There is talk of a fight there before long.

Our company is improving in health a great deal. Asa and William is well. The company is about but some of them re complaining some. Our horses are improving a little. My horse is mending some but he has got a sore back. We have had plenty for them to eat ever since we left Knoxville. Nothing more at present. I remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

Don’t be uneasy about me for I am doing very well.


Letter 38

Jasper, Tennessee
November 26, 1862

Dear wife,

I once more take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know where I am and to let you know that I am well and doing well. We have plenty to eat and tolerable plenty for our horses. We find corn very scarce in places. we have to press the most of our corn. It is selling from $1.50 to $2.00 per bushel. We pressed some yesterday that had been sold at $2.00 per bushel. As to fodder, we hardly ever get any.

Asa is well but William is not. He is right sick. He has been complaining several days. I think he will come home before long if he don’t get a heap better. His old complaint is working on him and he has the diarrhea very bad. Asa looks as well as you ever saw him and I am as fat as you ever saw me. I hope these few lines may find you all enjoying the same good blessing.

Mariah, I would be happy to know that you and the children were all enjoying as good health as I am at present. I would be glad to hear from you all now. I hant much to write to you.

We had a very rough road and we had to cross the Tennessee river in the night. We were from about 8 o’clock in the night till about sun up next morning. Our company crossed first and we went about a mile and camped till the rest got over. We got here last night. We were two days coming. We may stay here a few days but I don’t know how long. I will not write no more now. I will finish in the morning. It is time to commence about supper now and I may yet get some more news by morning how long we will stay here.

November 27. Mariah, I can’t find out anything about when we will leave here. William is no better yet. I am all well. Asa says tell you that he is well, setting up washing the dishes. The company is generally well. I would be glad to see you all and see how you all were getting along but I don’t know when I will get to come to see you. You must not grieve nor trouble yourself about me for I am doing better than you are. I am doing as well as I could wish to do in the war. I want you to enjoy yourself as though I were at home. Go to all your neighbors and get them to come to see you and I will come to see you as soon as I can get a furlough.

There is several of our Battalion deserted from camp and one of our Company has deserted. There is 13 deserted from one company. You need not look for me til you see me coming. I am going to start to Bridgeport now in a few minutes to see if I can get a letter from you. It is 12 miles. We heard before we got here that it was only 5 miles but I don’t mind riding five miles to hear from you all. Nothing more at present—only remain your affectionate husband till death. Farewell will I write to you again, — John W. Cotton


Letter 39

Addressed to Mrs. Mariah Cotton, Mt. Olive, Alabama

Winchester, Tennessee
December 1, 1862


Mariah Cotton, dear wife,

It is again that I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am still well and enjoying good health but I am not satisfied in mind. I hant got nary letter from you in some time. The last I got was wrote the 30th of October. I would like very much to hear from you all and to know that you are still doing well. I want to come home very bad but it is a bad chance now and the chances don’t get any better. I don’t know whether I will get to come home at all or not but that don’t keep me from wanting to come.

I hant got them clothes you sent me yet but I am looking for them now every day. The men was sent home after them has not got back yet. Their time was out yesterday. I would be very glad to get my yarn shirts now. We are having some bad weather now. We had a powerful rain last night and it is cold and cloudy today but we have got a good tent and we don’t mind rain when we are stationed at a place so we can stretch our tent.

We got here last night. We left Camp Jasper the next day after I wrote to you before. I don’t know how long we will stay here but I don’t think we will stay long. I think they are fixing for a fight at one of them places before long. I was in hopes a while back that the war would end this Christmas or sometime this winter but I don’t see any chance now for it to end soon. But we must live in hopes if we die in despair. I don’t dread the fighting that I will have to do. All I hate is having to stay from home and being exposed to the weather. I don’t want you to be uneasy about me for I am fatter than I ever was in my life. I weigh 179 pounds. I have out-fattened anybody you ever saw since you left me [in Atlanta].

I hope these few lines may find you all enjoying as good health as I am, I want you to carry on your business as if you never expected to see me anymore. Do the best you can and you will please me. If I don’t come home, you must make your arrangements for another year and do the best you can. If anyone wants to rent the Jacob’s place, rent it to them for whatever you can.

I hant got much to write to you. Tell Wash to write to me and all of the rest and I want you to write but I don’t know where to tell you to direct your letter to for I don’t know where we will go from here. I will write to you again soon. Nothing more at preset but remain your loving husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 40

Tennessee, camped to stay all night
December 9, 1862


My dear beloved wife,

It is again I take my pen in hand to answer a letter than I received last night. It was dated the 15th of November. I was glad to hear from you all but I was sorry to hear that the children was sick and had been sick but I am glad that they are no worse off. I was sorry to hear that Dock had not got no better of his hearing. I got a letter from him too with yours. I was very glad to hear that everything was going as well as what they were. You said you did not know what you would do for salt. I am afraid you will have to do without it. Salt is very scarce up here.

We have been stationed at Winchester, Tennessee, but we left there yesterday morning. We are now on the march to Readyville about 15 miles from Nashville. There is a big fight expected there in a few days. If we have one, I expect all of our Battalion will be in it. There is some of our men running away and going home. There is four that went home without leave has come back. They were court martialed and put under guard for ten days and live on bread and water and deduct their wages for one month. There is two of our company gone now—Floyd [N.] Goodgame and McBarnet.

Our army is in a heap of confusion and mightily out of heart. A man told me today in Manchester [Winchester] that there had been as many as 50 of their brigade deserted in one night. I could write a heap but when I got to write, I can’t think of half I want to write. If I could see you all, I could tell you all a heap. I dd not much like to leave Winchester when we did for we got as much corn as our horses could eat and enough to eat ourselves. I wanted to stay there till we got our clothes. We have not got them yet. They are at Bridgeport on the Tennessee river and they can’t get them across on account of their being so many clothing and commissaries to cross and soldiers. They won’t get across before the fifteenth of this month. It will be about Christmas before we get our clothes but the men that started with them will stay with them till we get them.

We had some very cold weather and it is cold yet. We have had some as cold weather here as I nearly ever saw in Alabama. The roads is very muddy and hard frozen. Smith’s whole command is right ahead of us going to the same place. They say the Yankeys are advancing on us from Nashville.

You said you wanted me to give you all advice I could. I don’t now how to advise you unless I knew how everything was going on. You can tell what is the best to do. I was sorry you sold the corn for I think if you had kept it till spring, you could have got two dollars as easy as one but I don’t blame you for selling it for I know you done the best you could. If you do the best you can, I will be satisfied. You never said whether you had hired Manuel or not nor whether you had sold your beef or not.

I want to come home the worst [way]. Perhaps I want to come home to see the children before they forget me. Nothing more at present. I remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

A few lines to Dock. Well Dock, you said you had wrote to me two or three times and had not got nary one from me. I wrote to you about drawing your money and directed it to your Pap. I drew three months wages for you but no commutation money and I have got it yet. I got a letter from you and Mariah last night [in which] you wrote to me that you had drawn 3 months wages—the same that I drawed for you. Don’t say anything about it and maybe we will make that much for nobody don’t know here that you drawed any at Atlanta.

I was glad to hear from you but was very sorry to hear that you had not got no bettter of your hearing. You wanted me to see if the Captain was willing for you to have a transfer. He is gone home and some of the company officers thinks he won’t come back anymore. Baird has resigned and gone home. We will have an election for lieutenant before long. Some of the boys wants me to run. I may run and I may not. [William F.] Sterns is our commander now. I want you to stay at home if you can. I hant much to write to you now nor much chance for I have to write on my knee by fire light and no light wood. I got the five dollars that Timmons owed you. He has got a discharge and gone home. Nothing more at present. I remain your friend till death, — John W. Cotton

December 10th. These lines leaves us all well but Porter. He is not very well. The company is in very good health. I am still fattening. Nothing more.


Letter 41

Tennessee, 4 miles west of Readyville
December 12, 1862


My dear wife,

It is again that I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and to let you know that I have got the clothes and money you sent to me by Bill Adkins. He got here last night but did not bring all of th clothes. He started with ten. He brought mine, and Asa’s and Bill’s and some others the box of provisions you and Nan[cy Waldrop] sent and the other clothes was left at Knoxville and a man with them. They could not get them through but I wrote to you in another letter. But I will send this with the others. I could not get to mail them when I wrote them so I will send them together. I am well pleased with the clothes you sent me. The coat is some too little. The vest does very well. I would not take nothing for my necktie. I found a very good pair of gloves yesterday.

When I wrote the other letter, I did not expect to get my clothes till about Christmas but I have got them now. You said something about my old coat. Somebody stole it from me between Atlanta and Dalton when I went to Knoxville. I hant much to write to you now. We are stationed 4 miles from Readyville and 8 miles from Murfreesboro. I don’t know how long we will stay here but you may direct your letters to Murfreesboro. I hope these few lines may find you all enjoying good health and doing well. I will write again soon. Write as soon as you get this letter. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 42

Tennessee, Rutherford county
December 17, 1862


Dear beloved wife and children,

Once more I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well.

Our company has got all of their clothes but one box. It got lost on the way and nobody don’t know how. Adkins left the clothes with [Wiley] Jinks at Chattanooga and he brought them to Murfreesboro. The box that we lost only had three pair of pants, three shirts, one pair of drawers, and our sack of fruit. Our box of provisions came safe. We were very glad to get them but we did not much need the bacon, We got the box last night and we made the apples and potatoes get further [scarce] and we had a setting up mess of peas for dinner today. We hant eat much of our butter yet. We tried it a little. We drawed seven days rations this morning. We drawed flour, bacon, molasses, sugar, rice, and soap, and a little salt. We get plenty to eat now and has all the time. Our horses get more corn than they can eat but no fodder. They don’t pull much fodder in this country and it is very scarce.

We are at the same place we were at when I wrote to you before. I wrote to you before about getting our clothes and where we were. We are four miles from Readyville and eight from Murfreesboro and about 30 miles from Nashville. The Yankeys are betwixt Murfreesboro and Nashville. They were fighting over there yesterday but we don’t know how they made out. We don’t hear much war news here. You hear a heap more than we do.

It is reported here that there is a great many soldiers deserting on both sides and I hear a heap say that is all the [only] way to make peace, but I don’t think so. I think it is the worst thing that our men has ever done for the South. There has several of our men deserted from the Battalion. I want that to be the last thing that I do. I would be glad to come home to see you all but I don’t want to come without a furlough and there is no chance to get a furlough now for the Major won’t let nobody have a furlough.

Mariah, you wrote that you wanted me to come home and make arrangements for another year. I would be glad to come but I can’t so you must make your own arrangements. I know you are at a great loss to know what to do but you can see what is needed better than I can and me not knowing how things is going on. I think if you can hire Manuel again, you can do very well till I can come home. If you have more money than you need, lend it out if you can. Get good notes for it. If you need anything, you need not be afraid to buy it. I don’t need the money you sent to me but I will try to take care of it.

You never wrote what you had done with your beef. Asa got a letter from Nan night before last wrote the 2nd of December. I hant got any one wrote since Adkins left there. Asa is well but William Lessley is very poorly with his old disease. Write to me and direct your letters to Murfreesboro. We may stay here a right smart while. You don’t know how bad I want to see you all and be at home to see how things are going. Nothing more at present. I remain your loving husband till death. Farewell at present. — John W. Cotton

It was reported here that had stopped our letters from going home but I hear it disputed. I don’t thin it is [true] so I will start this letter anyhow. I will send you a few flax seeds.


Letter 43

Addressed to Mariah Cotton, Mt. Olive, Alabama

Tennessee, camped to stay all night
December 21, 1862


Dear beloved wife,


It is with pleasure that I write you a few lines to let you know that I am still well and I hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well and enjoying yourselves the best you can. I want to come to see you very bad and make arrangements for another year but we are now on the march from Readyville to Knoxville. We have been on the march three days. We are now near Sparta, Tennessee. We will be some 8 or ten days more on the march. As soon as I get to Knoxville, I will write again, if not before. Direct your next letter to Knoxville. We will stay there awhile. Some thinks we will stay there all the winter.

The news here is that the Yankeys are going to Mississippi river and all the soldiers is leaving from about Murfreesboro but Bragg’s Army. They have give out fighting there. I can’t find out what they are moving us to Knoxville for. I don’t see no chance to get a furlough now but when I get to Knoxville, I will try to get a furlough.

We have elected Bill Adkins for our lieutenant. He says he will do all he can to get me a furlough. He is elected in Baird’s place till he comes back. I hant much to write and not much chance to write. I am writing by a fire made out of rails and almost no pen. I hope you will do well till I get to come home. It’s thought that we will get to come home by spring to stay but I don’t see no chance for me to come home to make a crop. I would send you some advice but I don’t know how things is going on. You must do the best you can and I will be satisfied. You wrote to me to give you all the advice I could but I don’t know what to advise you to do for the best—only to try to take care of what little you have got and see that Manuel don’t waste nothing. I am in hopes you will hire him again for I don’ know any other chance for you to make a crop.

Pay old man Brown for this year’s wages [earned by Manuel] and pay your blacksmithing if you have got money enough. Tell all that wants to write to us to write to Knoxville.

William Lessley is better now. Asa left us at Readyville to go after some cattle about forty miles and he hant overtook us yet. It is uncertain when he will get to us.

Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 44

Tennessee, camped at Kingston
December 26, 1862


Mariah, dear wife,

It is once more that i take my pen in hand to write you a few more lines to let you know where I am and to let you know that I am well and doing well. The boys are most all well. William is better than he was when I wrote before. Asa hant got to us yet. I am looking for him.

We are at Kingston. We got here yesterday. We will stay here awhile. The Major got orders to stay here awhile till he got further orders. We may stay here some time. They say there is three cases of small pox here in the hospital but I don’t hear much said about it but there is several of the boys being inoculated. I hant much to write to you—only to let you know that I am well. I tried this morning to get a furlough. I got it wrote out and Lieutenant Stears signed it and then the Major would not approve it. He said it was against General Smith’s orders so you may guess what my chance is to come home. I am very sorry that I can’t get to come home. I know you are at a loss to know what to do with your farm. I am afraid you hant got Old Manuel hired again. If you hant, you must try to get somebody to tend your land for I don’t know what you will do if you don’t get somebody to make some corn for you. I have almost give out the war’s closing this winter, This is one Christmas that I won’t see much fun nor drink much eggnog but we got some brandy Christmas eve and we had a Christmas dram but no nog.

We have a heap of guard duty to do—camp guard and picket guard—on our march. I wrote to you since we have been on the march from Readyville to this place. We have been on the road 8 days. We had beautiful weather on our march but it is raining some this evening.

Tell Dock to write to me and let me know what he is doing and I will write to him when I can. Tell Liz to write some too and you must still write. Direct your letters to Knoxville. The Major got a dispatch from there and he won’t tell what was in it so we don’t know what will be done next. He has just got it. I don’t care much where we go to no how for I can’t get to come home no how. It ain’t worthwhile to tell you how bad I want to see you all. I would like to come home before the children forget me. Nothing more at present. Only remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 45

Kingston, Tennessee
December 31, 1862


Mariah Cotton, dear wife,

It is again I take the opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and the company is in tolerable good health. There is but two sick. Sam Jacobs is sick. It is thought that he will die, The other one is not very bad off. I am sorry to say to you that I hant heard from you since Bill Adkins left there. I am very anxious to hear from you all. Asa hant back to us yet but I am looking for him every day. It is time he had come back. I have wrote to you twice since he has been gone. He has been gone from the company 2 weeks.

I hant much to write—only to let you know that I am well. I hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well. I want to see you all very bad but there is no chance to come home yet. The most of the people here thinks that the war will come to a close about spring.

We have a heap of duty to do now. There ain’t no troops here but us and we have to boat our corn down the river three miles and we have to stand guard over prisoners that are under guard for going home without a furlough and stand picket and go out on a scout every day. I went out night before last on a scout with twenty more men and we rode 25 miles after night. We rode till 3 o’clock in the night. We went 17 miles from camp.

We have moved two miles from Kingston right in the fork of the Tennessee and Clinch rivers. We went into some camp that some other soldiers had just left. We have good chimneys to put our tents to and good fireplaces. We are very well fixed to take the winter. The Major says we may stay here all the winter and may not very long but he says the prospect is good for us to stay here a good while. The Legion is ordered here. It will be here soon. One of the colonels was here this morning. He said they stayed [with]in 8 miles of here last night.

I am anxious to hear from home to know how you have made your arrangements for another year, I am afraid you hant got nobody to make a crop for you. If you don’t get somebody to make a crop for you, I don’t know what you will do. Tell Dock to write to me and let me know what he is doing. Direct your letters to Kingston. Mariah, if you have got any more money than you need, lend it out if you can get good notes for it. I have swapped [my horse] Bill off and [been] given $30 to boot. He was rode down. He had the thumps every day I rode him. I have got a big sorrel horse 9 years old next spring. He is as large as old and a better riding horse. I hated to swap Bill off but I saw he was going to give out if he did not get rest. I think I have got a good handy horse, He is in good order.

Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

I will send you some seed called pie melons. Plant them like a water melon.


Letter 46

Camp Kingston, Tennessee
January 7, 1863


Mariah Cotton, dear wife,

It is with pleasure I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well but not satisfied. I have not got nary letter from you since Adkins left home nor hant ever heard from you since he got here. I want to hear from you and the children very bad and I want to see you all a heap worse but I don’t know when I will get to see you all again. I wrote to you about trying to get a furlough and could not get it. The Major got orders a few days ago not to sign no furloughs under no circumstance whatever unless the doctor said they would die if they stayed in camp. So you may know that my chance is bad to come home.

We have heard here that there is a talk of stopping the women from writing to their husbands in the war. Whenever that comes to pass and I know it to be so, I am coming home and I will stay when I get there. There is right smart of excitement about it here. I won’t come by myself.

Our Battalion is formed into a regiment with a Georgia Battalion [19th Ga. Cavalry]. A man by the name of [Charles T.] Goode is our Colonel and [M. M.] Slaughter, Lieutenant Colonel. Our Captain [M G. Slaughter] hant come back yet. [M. M.] Slaughter is commander of the post here.

I just got back from a scout last night. We went up towards Clinton and the salt works. We were [with]in 8 miles of Clinton, 20 miles of Knoxville. The news came here that the Yankeys had taken our forces at Big Creek Gap and had come on through but we could not hear anything of it up where we went so it must not be so.

We hear that our men have whipped the Yankees bad at Murfreesboro. There is a great talk here of peace being made about spring. I hope they may make peace about spring or before for I would like to know whether you have got anybody to make a crop for you or not. I want to come home time enough to make a crop myself.

Mariah, you may tell Dock the officers have made out the pay rolls to draw two months wages but they won’t draw no money for nobody that is not present. Tell him that the money that I drawed for him before, I will have to pay back to the company. If he had not told Adkins, I might have kept it but I will have to pay it back to the officers. Tell Dock that there is an order issued for all soldiers absent from camp to return to camp by the 20th of this month. We may stay here some time. I think the prospect good to stay here some time. Direct your letters to Kingston, Tennessee.
I would like to know the reason I don’t get no letters from you. I know you must write to me. I am looking for a letter from you every day but get none. Asa and porter is well. Nothing more at present. Only remain your affectionate friiend till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 47

Addressed to Mariah Cotton, Mt. Olive, Alabama

Kingston, Tennessee
January 13, 1863


Mariah, dear wife,

It is with much dissatisfaction that I write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may find you all enjoying good health. I am well but not satisfied. I hant got nary letter from you yet. I hant heard a word from you since Adkins got back. I am afraid the mail is stopped. There has been such talk here as their stopping our women from writing to us. If it is so and I find it out, I will be as certain to come home as I live and I won’t be all. There is lots of men says the same.

We are doing tolerable well at present. We get plenty to eat and plenty corn for our horses but no hay nor fodder. I am afraid we won’t get plenty [for] long. There is too many of us together. We have formed into a regiment. Goode is our Colonel and Slaughter is our Lieut. Colonel and [John B.] Rudolph [our] Major. Goode had a Battalion from Georgia and they put ours and his together and made a regiment.

I hant got much to write to you. We have right smart of picket and scouting to do and camp guard duty to do and we have to go up the river from two to seven miles after corn and bring it down on a flat for our horses.

I would like very well to hear from Dock and hear how he is getting [on] and what he is doing. I would like to hear from you all and know how you all are getting along and I would be very glad to hear from you. Have you made your arrangements for another year? I am uneasy for fear you hant got nobody to make a crop for you. I can’t hear nothing from you all. I am afraid you hant hired Old Manuel again. I believe I want to hear from home worse than I ever did or ever have since I have been in the service and it is not any use to talk of coming home for there is no chance for a man to come home unless the doctor thinks he will die if he stays in camp. I think if I could come home and see how everything was going on, I could stay in camp better satisfied than I ever have for I am getting more use to staying from home but I am very much dissatisfied now and will be until I hear from you all. I ain’t in no humor to write this morning so I will come to a close. I remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

Mariah, I don’t want you to think that I accuse you of not writing to me. I think the fault is in the mail for you have never failed to write to me and I know you do it yet. Direct your next letter to John W. Cotton, Kingston, Tennessee, Col. Goode’s 10th Confederate Regiment, Co. C.


Letter 48

Addressed to Mrs. Mariah Cotton, Mt. Olive, Alabama

Kingston, Tennessee
January 19, 1863


Dear wife,


It is with much pleasure I take my pen in hand to answer your kind letter. I received a letter from you last Thursday and was very glass to hear from you all one time more and I was glad to hear that you were doing so well. You said all you liked was me at home. It gave me much satisfaction to hear that you were doing so well. I would like very well to be at home with you but I can’t tell when it will be our happy lot to meet at home again. I am in hopes the war will come to a close toward spring. It is thought by a great many that there be a change now soon for the better. You need not look for me till you see me but I am coming as soon as I get the chance.

I was glad to hear that you had hired Manuel again for I was afraid you would not get nobody to make a crop for you this year at all.

We are at Kingston yet and there is a good many more troops a coming in here. John Tramel’s company is here. It has been here several days. I saw Mike [Hindsman] and John this morning. They were well. They are camped [with]in about a mile and a half from here. Holmes Waldrop is here now. I don’t think we can all stay here long on account of getting corn. We can’t get corn long unless they tote it to us with a steamboat. We will not have so much duty to do now as we have had. These troops coming in will do a part of our duty. We can’t daw our money yet. We sent the pay rolls to Knoxville twice but it came back as we sent it. The Major said he would try to get the paymaster to come here and pay us.

You had to pay very high for salt to salt your meat. It looks like paying the worth of your meat to get it salted. There was some of your hogs that did not weigh very well. It is thought that bacon will be very high. I think you have lost smartly by selling your corn when you did. I hear that corn is worth two dollars and a half per bushel. About Picnkneyville, Captain [M. G.] Slaughter has not come back yet but some of the boys are looking for him. He sent us word he would start back the 15th of this month.
I reckon you heard Asa had lost his horse. He hant got nary another yet. There is several of our boys without horses and it is a bad chance to get any more here.
I can’t think of anything else to write now—only to tell you that I am well and much better satisfied than I was when I wrote before. All of the boys are well. I hope these few lines may find you all enjoying the same good blessing.

I must say something about the children. I was glad to hear that little Ginney was doing so well. I hope she will walk soon. I am sorry that Sweet can’t talk. I will bet that Babe can talk about that candy Par sent him and all of the rest. Tell them I will bring them some more when I come home if I can get it. I want to see the little fellows very bad. Tell Bunk he must get that eye straight before I get home and tell Bud he must make haste and get big enough to plough. Tell Ann she must not get married till I come home. Nothing more. I remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

Home, home, sweet home. my long loved home way down in Alabama
Home, home, I hope when I get home I will be out of hearing of wars clamor.


Letter 49

Kingston, Tennessee
February 2, 1863


Dear wife,

I take my pen in hand to write you a few more lines to let you know that I am well—only have a very bad cold but it ain’t hurting me much. I hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well. I read a letter from you last night dated the 14th of January. Jim Brady brought it. It had been here a week before I got here. I just got back from Kentucky last night. We were gone up there ten days. I would have wrote sooner if I had been in camp. It has been about two weeks since I wrote to you. I write one time every week whe I am in camp. I have got only two letters from you since Bill Adkins came back with our clothes.

You wrote that you had hired Manuel again. I was glad to hear that for I was afraid you would not get nobody to make a crop for you. I was glad to hear that you were all well and doing well. I was not very well pleased when I heard what you had to give for salt enough to salt your pork. I was glad you had the money to pay for it. I think if times don’t change, you can make it back when you go to sell your bacon. I would like to be at home now to eat some sausage and ribs and backbones but we have fresh meat a plenty now. The boys had just been out when I got back and killed two hogs so we have fresh meat a plenty. We go out and kill a hog. We won’t suffer as long as we can find any hogs. We are all getting so we don’t care much for nothing.

They say we are ordered to the Cumberland Gap and lots of the boys says they won’t go. They say if the command starts there, they will start home. There is some leaving constant[ly]. I am going to try again to get a furlough but I am afraid it will be a bad chance. John Tramel has furloughed twenty-seven men home. They are furloughing a heap of their regiment. Maybe it will come to my time after awhile. I would like very well to come home and see you all and see how things are going on at home and see how Manuel is getting on with his crop and show him how to plant his crop and see to things in general.

You wrote to me to write all the advice I could. All I have got is for you to enjoy yourself the best you can and go and see your neighbors and go to meeting. You wrote to me you had not been to meeting since I left home. I think you could enjoy yourself better if you would go to meeting and go to see your neighbors. You need not be uneasy about me for I will be sure to take care of myself. I can make out where anybody else can.

Lieutenant Baird has come back to us and Lieutenant Sterns has resigned and is going home. The Captain has not come back yet. He says he can’t come back till spring and if they try to make him come back before spring, he will resign. A heap of our men came in while I was gone and we have some new recruits. Asa said John Tramel was here the other day to get Dock transferred to his company. He will be transferred to that company and then he will get a discharge.

I will tell you something of our trip to Kentucky. We had a bad trip of it. It rained on us a heap and snowed on us two days and nights and it was very bad traveling in the snow and the roads were very muddy. They are the worst roads that ever I saw. We went to Monticello, Kentucky—one hundred and twenty miles. We saw no enemy—only some bushwhackers. We shot one of them and wounded him very bad and we took one Yankey recruiting officer. We got one man taken by the bushwhackers and one drowned and one shot accidentally but not dangerous. We had about 300 men with us. If I could see you, I could tell you a heap but I must bring my letter to a close.

Asa is complaining with the diarrhea and Porter is right bad off with his old complaint. You said you wanted to send Ann to school. You may send her if you can do without her. Nothing more. — John W. Cotton


Letter 50

Kingston, Tennessee
February 3, 1863


Dear wife and children,

I will write you a few more lines to send to you by Mr. Gray. He is coming home and I will send you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may find you all enjoying the same blessing. I hope you are all doing well. I will not say much about coming home for they say there is no chance to get a furlough at all. You must do the best you can till I do come.

There is a heap of talk about peace among the officers. I hope it will soon be made and that soon for I have been under an overseer about as long as I want to be and I have been away from home a heap longer than I wanted to be.

You said you wanted me and Mike to have our likenesses drawn and send it to you. I would like to have mine drawn but there ain’t nobody here to draw it and Mike is gone but I told you about that in another letter. He is not in our Brigade. I heard they were ordered back here.

You wrote that Miss Martin were coming here but she hant come yet. You said when I wanted any clothes I must let you know. I have sent to draw a shirt from the government. They say they we can draw clothes in the place of our commutation money. I don’t think I will need anymore clothes till spring. If you get a good chance, you might send me a shirt. I could send you some money and if I thought you needed it, I would send it. Write if you need it and I will send it. I have got $160 and we will draw $78 more in a few days. We will be mustered today for our pay.

If we have to take any more marches as we have been taking, I will have to buy me another horse for my horse is nearly worn out. Our horses look very bad and there is but little chance to mend them up here for we don’t get nothing but corn and not enough of that.

It is snowing a little now this morning. The first two days of march was pretty weather. Don’t be uneasy about me for I can make out anywhere [better than] anybody else can. Nothing more at present only I remain your loving husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 51

Kingston, Tennessee
February 6, 1863


Mariah Cotton, dear wife,

Again I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and I hope these few lines may reach you all the same. We are not doing as well as we have been. We hant drawn any meat in several days. We hant had anything to eat only as we bought it—only rice and cornbread and the meal not sifted. There is a heap of complaint about something to eat. For myself, I can make out to live where anybody else can. I reckon we will get some meat this evening. If we don’t, we will kill a hog.

I hant got but little to write to you but Asa is writing and I will send this with his’n. He is well and Porter has come back to the company. He is not very well yet but a heap better. We have one man in our company that is very sick with pneumonia. The rest of the company is doing very well.

I would like to come home and see how things are doing and see you and the children and be with you all awhile. I could tell you a heap [that] I can’t write to you. I would like to see how Manuel is getting on farming and see to things in general. I don’t want you to be uneasy about me at all. I will come home as soon as I can but I don’t want you to look for me at all. When you write again, write all the news. Let me know where Bill is and what he is doing. And whether Wash is at home or not. Tell Wash to write to me. Write how Miss Hollingshead is making out since Mose has gone to the war. Bill Brown hant got here yet. We are looking for the Captain and several men in a few days. I hant heard from Dock yet not I hant heard from [your brother] Mike since he left here. Nothing more at present—only remain yout true, loving, and affectionate husband till death.


Letter 52

Kingston, Tennessee
February 7, 1863


Mariah, dear wife,

It is once more I take my pen in hand to write a few more lines to let you know that I am well and doing well as common. We have some very cold weather here now. There is a big snow on the ground for two days and three nights. It ain’t melted any hardly yet but this is a beautiful morning. I hant but little to write to you.

The 1st Georgia Regiment has left here and gone to Rogersville 60 miles above Knoxville and two companies of our regiment is ordered to go to Greenville, 65 miles above Knoxville on the railroad to guard the town— our company and Capt. Rollins Company. They say we will start tomorrow. I am afraid we won’t get off there for I want to get away from our Colonel [Greene]. None of our regiment hardly don’t like him. He is drunk ever time he can get the whiskey to get drunk on. There is six of our mess sent for a transfer to Ashley’s Company. It is at Pollard [Alabama], below Montgomery. I think I will stay with the company awhile longer. I am getting along very well with it. I would be very well satisfied if I could get a furlough to come home to see you all. I think if we go to Greenville, I will get a furlough. You must do the best you can till I get to come home.

I hope these few lines may find you and the children well and doing well. I got the letter that you sent by Brady and one since dated the 23rd of January. I was very glad to hear that you were all well and doing so well. You said your cows looked very bad. I was sorry to hear that but glad to hear they had brought you three calves. If they live through the winter, you will get milk a plenty. Tell the children I will come to see them some of these times.

We have just drawed 4 months wages. I would be glad if you had some of my money for I have got more than I want to keep in camp. I will send this letter by Lieutenant [William H.] Partridge to Pinckneyville. Nothing more at present. I remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 53

Knoxville, Tennessee
February 11, 1863


Mariah, dear wife

We are at Knoxville—or near there—to stay all night. We are on our march to Greenville. We have stopped here to draw some ammunition and mules, bridles, and rations, and so on. I hant but little to write to you. These few lines leaves me in fine health and I hope these few lines may find you all in the same health.

Our team is not able to take us to Greenville and we will have to return them here and get better mules to take us to Greenville. We are only allowed four mules to the company and one wagon. We only travel 12 or 15 miles a day. I am in hopes we will stay at Greenville a good while. Direct your next letter to Greenville, Tennessee. It is 65 miles above Knoxville on the railroad. We are going there to guard a bridge. We will leave here tomorrow evening. There is several of our men afoot and we get along slowly but we have got our own time to go in. Our horses is very low order. Our trip to Kentucky had like to have killed our horses. I have got about the best horse in our company.

There is no excitement here now. There is no expectation of a battle no where I hear of—only in Virginia. They are expecting the Yankeys to make their last effort to take Richmond but from what I can hear, it will be in vain. I hope to God that the thing will soon end and I will get to come home to you and my little ones. Don’t get out of heart but be of good cheer. Do the best you can and I will come home as soon as I can. I think I will get a furlough before long. Asa is well and William Lessley is not well. He is just able to travel. All of our company is well that is going to travel. There is several gone home on sick furlough. Me and Asa will try to come home together if we come at all but you need not look for us till you see us.

I hope these few lines may find you all in fine spirits and doing well. Nothing more at present. I remain your affectionate husband till death, — J. W. Cotton

February 12, 1863—Mariah, I will write you a few more lines this morning to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may find you all well. Some of our men came to us last night that had started home on a furlough without the General’s name to it and they could not go on the railroad and they say the General here won’t sign a furlough at all so I don’t reckon I will get to come home without I run away. Nothing more. You said you wanted me to send my weight. I weighed yesterday evening. I weighed one hundred and eighty-two.


Letter 54

Greenville, Tennessee
February 20th 1863


Dear wife,

It is with pleasure I write you a few lines to let you know that I am well. I am still mending. I weighed this morning 185 pounds. I hope these few lines may find you all enjoying the same blessing.

We have got to Greenville. We got here last night. I wrote to you while we were at Knoxville. We have had a bad trip from Knoxville to Greenville. It rained on us a good deal and the roads were the muddiest that ever I seen. It was one eternal mud hole and our mules gave out and we had to lay over one day and put our things all o the railroad and put some of our horses to the wagons to get them here. We will stay here some time I expect as couriers. I think there is a chance for us to stay here till spring. I think we will do tolerable well if we can feed our horses. We hear forage is scarce.

I hant got much to write. Porter was left at Knoxville sick. He was right sick when we left him. I reckon he will get a sick furlough. He may get home before you get this letter. Asa is well. The health of the company is better than it has been in a good while. We have got more men for duty than we have had in some time. Our horses look very bad but if we could get forage a plenty, we could mend them.

Greenville is a very pretty little town but they have got the small pox here but only a few of us will stay in town at a time. The rest will stay about twenty miles from here where forage is more plenty. When you write again, write Bill and Wash what the conscript has done them.

February 21—Mariah, I am still well. I hope you all are the same. We have got to go back to Kingston today—or start. We got an order last night to go back to Kingston, Tennessee. Nothing more at present. I remain your affectionate husband till death. Write how you are getting on with your crop. — John W. Cotton


Letter 55

Kingston, Tennessee
February 28, 1863


Dear wife and children,

It is with much pleasure that I take my pen in hand to let you know that I have just read two letters from you last night—one dated the 1st of February and the other the 14th. You said all were well except bad colds. I was glad to hear that you were all well and you said you were doing very well and your stock were doing very well but your milk cows. You ought to try to keep them alive till spring for milk cows will be worth something. Butter is worth one dollar per pound and milk one dollar per gallon. Corn is from 3 to 5 dollars per bushel and meat according. Everything is very scarce everywhere we go.

We got back from Greenville last night and we found things very scarce. We had a rough trip of it but we done very well. We had no tents after we left Knoxville and when we left Greenville we returned our wagon and put our things on the cars and sent them back to Kingston so we could tote our provisions on our horses and get them cooked as we could. Our boys spent a sight of money on the trip. I weren’t out but little. I made back what I spent but I done it honestly. Some of our men pressed horses and sold horses and the squad was reported at Knoxville by the owners and it was stopped as we came through there and the command was examined for the horses but none were found. They had swapped most off and some of them were off from the command and they went around Knoxville so they have all come clear so far.


I saw William Lessley as I came through Knoxville and he was a heap better than he was when we left him. We heard when we were gone to Greenville right smart about peace but I don’t put no faith in nothing I hear yet, but a great many think that peace will soon be made. I hope it will but I am afraid it will not come soon. I want to come home the worst you ever saw but I don’t see much chance to come yet. I have almost forgot how the children look. I want to see how much they have growed. I reckon Ann nearly grown. When you write, let me know whether little Ginney can walk or not. And tell me all about the children and how Manuel is getting on with his crop and how the wheat looks.

I can’t think of half I want to write. It is raining and I hant got much to write. We hant got our tents yet but they are at the boat landing. They will be here this evening. We had the worst rain on us day before yesterday than we have since we have been in the service. The river is up very high. Our trip injured our horses a great deal. Some of them gave out and we left them. We had to leave William Lessley’s horse. My horse is nearly worn out. All of our horses look very bad. I don’t expect we will stay here very long. Nothing more at present only I remain your loving husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 56

Kingston, Tennessee
March 13, 1863


Mariah Cotton, dear wife,

I take my pen in hand this morning to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines mat reach you all enjoying the same blessing. I hope you are all well and doing well. I hant but little to write to you—only to let you know that I am well. I think there is some chance now to get a furlough before long. Colonel Goode is gone to Knoxville and the officers says that he is going to try to get an order to furlough ten en out of a company at a time till all of the men goes home than hant been home since we left Montgomery. If he gets that order, I may get to come home sometime this spring but I don’t want you to look for me for Colonel Goode may not get no order to give furloughs.

Asa is well. Porter is better than he has been. The company is in tolerable good health. Captain Slaughter hant come back yet. He started here and got to Talladega town and got sick and went back. They say he won’t never come to us. Bill Brown hant got here yet. we are still getting more recruits. We have sent off some of our horses to recruit them up. We sent 25 horses from every company to tend to them. i sent mine with them/ We sent them about forty miles where they can get corn and hay plenty. They say they will stay two months.

I wrote a letter to Dock day before yesterday. I hant heard from him since Mike left here. I hant heard from you in just a month. The last letter I got was dated the 14th of February. I want to har from you very bad. I have looked and looked for a letter till I have got tired and hant got nary one yet. I think the fault lies in the mail between home and Montgomery. I am afraid you ain’t a getting my letters neither. I write one every week and sometimes oftener. I don’t want you to be uneasy about me for I am doing very well and could do better if I could keep from studying about home. Write to me how Manuel is getting on with his crop and how the wheat and rye and oats and stock looks, and how the colt looks, and how the children is doing and how you are yourself. Nothing more, — John W. Cotton


Letter 57

Kingston, Tennessee
March 17th 1863


Mariah,


I have just heard from you for the first time in over a month. I was very glad to hear from you all but sorry to hear you all had such bad colds, but I was glad that there was nothing worse the matter. Billy Brown got here yesterday morning and brought me a letter. I was glad to hear that you were getting on so well with your crop and glad to hear that everything was doing as well as what it was. You said you had all the children vaccinated but little Ginney but you never said whether it hurt them much or not. It is strange that it didn’t take on you. I hant never been vaccinated yet.


There ain’t any danger here now of small pox. Joe Learnet saw John Tramel the other day and he said Mike was very sick. He said he though Mike had dropsy. I don’t know but I expect he is home before now if he is able to go. John was going down below here to a place called Mouse Creek to recruit up some of their horses and mules. The rest of the sick ones is gone down there and all that was able to travel has gone to Kentucky to mount themselves.

You said you wanted to know if Bud [Dock] had got a transfer to Tramel’s company. He hant got it yet but he could get it yet if he would try. There hant been anything done about it since I wrote about it but Lieutenant Baird says he will grant him a transfer any time.

We are getting tolerable good rations now. Our meat is mostly new bacon. We get rice, flour, meal, and bacon. I want to come home very bad but there is no chance now. We got an order the other day to issue no furloughs nor details so there will be no chance till that order is countermanded. You said you wanted to know whether I wanted any clothes or not. I will want some summer clothes—two pairs of pants and one shirt. I drawed a home spun shirt last night and the one you brought me last summer me last summer is a good shirt yet but my checked shirt is worn out. if you get the chance, you may send them to me but I hope I will get to come home before I need them. Don’t be uneasy about me for I am doing very well and i don’t think there is any danger of our getting into a fight. Nothing more, — John W. Cotton


Letter 58

Kingston, Tennessee
March 23, 1863


Dear wife,


I again attempt to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well although a bad cold. But I am better of it. Asa is well but Porter is very poorly and Loney Bullard—one of our mess—has been right sick. But he is a heap better. There is some of the boys complaining but not very bad off…We hear that they are going to stop [the mail] from Wetumpka to Talladega. If you get this, write in your next letter whether you get my letter or not…

I hant got much to write to you. We have moved from where we have been camped to the opposite side of town about two miles from where we were but closer to town. The whole regiment is camped in a square and we have a guard round the whole regiment. We have a heap more duty to do now than we ever had and tighter rules. But they ain’t too ight yet for some of the men has been doing all of the duty and others none. I think I wrote to you about hearing of Mike’s being sick and John W. Trammel said he thought he has the dropsy. John is at Mouse Creek recruiting some horses and mules. I think I will write to him and try to hear from Mike.

I wrote to Dock not long ago but I hant got no answer from him yet. You don’t know how ad I want to hear from you all and I want to see you a heap worse but there ain’t no chance to come to see you now. If I could see you, I could tell you a heap [more] that I can’t think of to write and if I could think of it, it would take me too long to write it all. I can’t come to see you without running away and I don’t want to do that for when men runs away and comes back, they put them in jail and I don’t want to go there for I hant been crossed nor on double duty since I have been in the war nor I hant had a cross word with my officers. Nothing more—only I remain your loving husband til death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 59

Kingston, Tennessee
March 27, 1863


Dear wife,


It is with pleasure that I again have the opportunity to answer your kind letter which I read yesterday morning. I was glad to hear that the children were all well but sorry to ear that you had such a bad cold and cough but I hope that when these few lines reaches you, you will be well. I was sorry to hear that you had lost one of your cows but them [that has] must lose.


This is the first letter that I have received from you since the 14th of February. This is dated the 15th of March. I got a few lines from Porter Vardaman. He said he wanted to borrow my lead piping and take my iron and make my boiler for the use of it till I come hoe. If he comes after it, let him have them. He can take them and make the boiler and if he wears it out, he can pay me the iron back. It won’t hurt the piping. I will write to him about it.

I was glad to hear that your grain looks so well. I hope there will be a good crop of grin made this year. Wheat up here looks very well. You said you was afraid you would have you bacon pressed [taken for government] from you. I don’t think it would be right for them to press a poor man’s property and him [fighting] in the war. I don’t know what to tell you to do. I heard yesterday that bacon was worth $1.25 cents per pound in Montgomery. I think if you could get that, you had better hire somebody to haul it down there and sell it [rather] than to have it pressed at 60 cents per pound. It looks like as you are home and me here in the war and so many children to support that you ought to have as much for anything you have to sell as anybody else. If times don’t get no better, I think bacon will be one dollar and a half or two dollars per pound. It’s selling up here from forty to fifty cents per pound, eggs fifty cents a dozen, butter $1 per pound, and we can’t hardly get any at that.


Whiskey is worth 4 to 5 dollars a quart in the country and ten dollars per quart in camps and one dollar per drink. Billy Brown is gone out today after some and got water bound and had to stay all night and then had to swim our horses across a big creek next morning. I sold what i got and made about forty dollars. I went out one day before and made about twenty-five dollars on some. There is a heap of speculating in camps on whiskey. If I could see you I could tell you a heap more than I can write. It would be a heap of satisfaction to me to come home once more and see you.

Tell Ann to be a smart girl and learn fast. Tell Bud and Bunk to be smart boys and help Manuel mowing corn, to keep the pigs fat. Tell all of the children I want to see them. Tell Babe and Sweet I will bring them some candy when I come home. Nothing more at present. Only I remain your true, affectionate husband till death. These few lines leaves me well. Don’t be uneasy about me. — John W. Cotton


Letter 60

This letter was written by Michael Cotton Hindsman (1835-1901), 1st Sergt. of Co. B, 1st Georgia Cavalry, to his sister Mariah (Hindsman) Cotton.

Coweta county, Georgia
March 30th 1863


Dear Sister,

I seat myself this morning with the earliest of attention to drop you a few lines being that I haven’t wrote to you in some time—not since the war commenced—and being that I am at home at this time, I will try to drop you a few lines. I am very unwell at this time and have been for some time but I’m a great deal better than I have been. I have been right poorly every since the Murfreesboro fight. I have been at home about ten days.

Mariah, I haven’t much news to write to you. Times are very hard in camp and I find them also the same at home and everything are very scarce and high and still getting higher.

I saw [your husband] Weaver in January and I haven’t seen him since. I passed through Kingston last Saturday—was two weeks ago. That is where his regiment is stationed but I never saw Weaver but I inquired about him. He was well at that time. The health of the boys in our company was tolerable good when I left them. They are at this time in Kentucky. The regiment started home and I haven’t heard from it since. I was not able to go with the regiment and I was sent home. John W. Trammell is also at home at this time.

I will write you the price of corn and meat in Georgia. Corn is worth from two dollars to three dollars per bushel and bacon worth from thirty-five toforty cents per pound and everything else are as high accordingly.

Mariah, the health of all the connection are well at this time as far as I know but there has been right smart of sickness here from all accounts. Peachy Plant is dead and also Jason Plant. They died a few weeks back. They died with the typhoid fever. There has been right smart of the fever through this settlement and several has died with it and also the small pox has been very thick in this settlement and has been a good many died with them. But they have never died out in this settlement—there have been a few cases yet but not so close as they have been.

Mariah, I believe that I will have to come to a close for this time and you must excuse me for not writing more for I am very unwell at this time and I don’t feel like writing for I haven’t been able to go to see my sweetheart since I’ve been home but she has been to see me and I think that I will go to see her tomorrow if I feel as well as I do today. I guess that she would very much [like] to see me—at least I think so, Mariah, I will come to a close. Jack and Pap send their best respects to you and all of the children and also says that you must write to them and I would like very much to hear from you occasionally but I think that I will write to you again soon. Nothing more at present. Yours &c. — M. C. Hindsman


Letter 61

Kingston, Tennessee
April 1, 1863


Dear beloved wife,

I again take my pen in hand to write you a few lines in answer to your kind letter which I read dated March 20th. I read it with great satisfaction. I was glad to hear that you were all well and doing as well as you was. I was glad to hear that Manuel was getting on with his crop as well as he was and glad to hear that everything was doing well.

We are doing tolerable well here now. We get cornbread and new bacon but we have a heap of duty to do. We have to stand camp guard and provost guard and picket guard and then there is most always some of us on the scout. Some of our boys went out on a scout last week and brought in a man supposed to be a bushwhacker and Colonel [Charles T.] Goode turned him loose and some of us went with him and when they had got him about a half a mile across the river, they tried to hang him and they could not get him high enough off of the ground to choke him to death so they shot him twice and left him hanging there. The Colonel found out and had six of them arrested and put in jail but I don’t know what he will do with them. If I could see you, I could tell you a heap more about it but I reckon this is enough.

Our colonel is getting tighter [on discipline] every day. He has got 30 or 40 in jail, some for one thing and some for another. He had two taken this morning for deserting their post last night. The whole regiment, I think, would be glad if he was dead. He speaks of going to Kentucky in ten or twelve days but I don’t think we will go that soon. I think we will stay here a good while or somebody will have to stay here.

You wrote to me about Vardaman’s coming after my still arrangements. If he comes after them, let him have them. You wrote about your money. You said if I owed anything, you could pay it. If I owe anything, I don’t know it. You said you wanted me to use it in some way. I don’t know how you will use it unless you buy land or negroes. If you get enough, buy you a waiter girl. I have money enough here to do me a while. I have got $245.

I heard from my horse the other day. They say he was mending. Adkins is tending to him. We have had some very bad weather here for a few days. It snowed yesterday evening and last night and the wind blew very hard and there was ice here this morning more than a half inch thick. But the weater is moderating fast. There ain’t nobody here planting any corn yet. Wheat looks very well but late.

We have drawn 8 days rations since I begun this letter. We draw 6 days rations of corn meal, two of flour, new bacon, rice, peas, vinegar, and soap and salt. We have got sixty-six in camp and 7 with our horses. Mr. Brown says he is getting very homesick. The body lice bothers him very bad. You ought to see him raking and scratching and cracking them. Porter is some better. Asa is well. We have got two men at the hospital very sick. It ain’t worthwhile to try to write all to you that I could tell you if I could see you. These few lines leaves me well and doing well and I hope when you come to read them, you may be enjoying the same. Nothing more at present—only I remain your loving and affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton

Sword and scabbard carried by Col. Charles Thomas Goode (1835-1875) during the war. Col. Goode was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863 and resigned in June 1864. [American Civil War Museum]

Letter 62

This letter was written by Rev. John W. Fulmer (1825-1903) of Coweta county, Georgia, to John Weaver Cotton at Kingston, Tennessee. Rev. Fulmer was a Baptist preacher. He was the husband of Rachel Cotton, a sister of John W. Cotton. After the war they moved to Coosa county, Alabama.

Coweta county, Georgia
April 6, 1863


John W. Cotton, dear sir,

This is to inform you that I received a letter from you the 1st of this inst. and was glad to hear that you was well and fat for we hardly ever hear from you.. We couldn’t write to you from the fact that we did not know where to write you nor Asa has never written to me since you left my house on your way to Tennessee. The cause why, I could not tell, & the connection in Coosa [Alabama] hardly ever write.

It’s needless for me to say anything about the scarcity of provisions & the high prices for I suppose you are posted. The weather is cold and rough & the latest spring I ever saw. The health of the people is tolerably good. There has been a good chance of small pox in most every direction & and a good number of them died with the loathsome disease.

My son John has been gone to war ever since the last of December. He went with Captain Graham’s Company. It is a cavalry company. He was in Tennessee about Fayetteville & Millville the last we heard from him which was about the 23rd of March. He had been well all the time. He said they would be moved in front of the enemy where he wanted to be for he wanted to show them what he come up there for. Their regiment is Avery’s 4th Georgia Cavalry.

My family has not enjoyed very good health this year. Bill had a spell of the pneumonia and seems that we all had bad colds & sore throats. I have been and am quite unwell for four or five days.

April 9th. I have been sick ever since I commenced this letter. We have frost nearly every morning. Write soon. Tell us how and where to direct our letters to you. I reckon you have heard that Frank Gordon came home and died of typhoid fever. So nothing more at present but yours as ever, — John W. Fulmer


Letter 63

Kingston, Tennessee
April 11, 1863


Dear wife,

I take my pen in hand to answer your kind letter which I received yesterday. It was a letter I reckon you aimed to send by Nan Gray but Capt. Slaughter brought it. I had a plait [knot] of your hair in it that looked very natural but I had a heap rather seen you. I was glad to hear that you were well and doing well. I hant but little to write…

We have plenty to eat now and a plenty to do. We are on duty about every other day. There is one hundred and twenty of our men gone on a 15-day scout and we started 7 men yesterday morning with a dispatch to Monticello. General [John] Pegram’s Brigade went to Kentucky and met the Yankeys and got a whipping [Battle at Dutton’s Hill north of Somerset] and had to fall back. John Trammel’s company is in the brigade but he was not with them. He was left not far from here with some horses and mules to fatten up and [your brother] Mike wasn’t with them neither for he was sick when they started to Kentucky and I hant heard from him yet. I wrote about his being sick before.

Asa is off [as] a courier from here to Knoxville. He stays 9 miles from here, one in about a week. He will be back tonight or tomorrow. My horse is at the convalescent camps yet. The horses that is here gets a plenty to eat now.

Our Colonel [Goode] is getting very tight on us. He gets tighter and tighter every day. He has got lots of boys under arrest now and some for very small crimes.

You said you wanted me to tell you what to do with your money. I don’t know what to tell you. If you can lend it out and get good notes for it, it would be the best thing you could do, but I don’t reckon there is anybody that wants to borrow. If you can’t lend it, if you can find anything you want you can buy it. I wish I could come home and stay a few days till I could see how things were going on but I had rather come to stay…But there is one thing that gives me great consolation—you have a plenty to live upon and from what I learn, there is lots of soldier’s wives that has not much to eat. If I were to hear that you had nothing to eat, I should come home at the risk of my life…

I wish you had somebody to stay with you. I will send you a song ballad that suits the times very well. Nothing more at present, only I remain your true devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 64

Kingston, Tennessee
April 16, 1863


Dear beloved wife,

It is again I take my pen in hand to answer your kind letter which I received a few days ago. I would have wrote sooner but I had just wrote you when I got your letter. I was glad to hear that you were all well and doing as well as what you were. I was glad to hear that Manuel was getting along so well with his crop. I hope he will be attentive to his business and make you a good crop. I hant got but a little to write—only to let you know that I am well and doing well, but there is a heap of our men sick. Floyd Goodgame is very sick.

We have got orders to move from here about one mile east of town. We are going to move on account of health. The doctors think it will be healthier to move. 1

Our Colonel [Goode] is getting tighter and tighter. There ain’t but two privates allowed to leave a company at a time and one officer and he only can be gone two hours at a time. Captain [M. G.] Slaughter is with us now but some think he won’t stay long. Nearly all of our men is in camp now but there is no furloughing agoing on and I don’t see much chance to come home at all. But don’t get out of heart. I will do all I can to get to come home. It may come to my time after awhile.

Asa is a courier. He stays 9 miles from here. He was here last night. He was well. Porter is in better health now than he has been since he came back from Kentucky but he is not well yet. Hant come back to our company yet. I am looking for a letter from him now. I hant heard nothing from him since I wrote about him and I hant heard nothing from [your brother] Mike nor John [Trammel]. My horse is at the convalescent camp yet. They say he is mending.

I hear they are expecting a fight at Murfreesboro in a few days. I hear of several fights here lately and our men has got the best of it on nearly all of them. The report of General Pegrams getting such a whipping is disputed. Instead of his being whipped back, he has gone on to Lancaster, Kentucky, and had another fight and whipped the Yankeys there. That is 20 miles from Lexington. It ain’t worthwhile to write anything about the war for you will hear it by the papers before I can write it to you. I want you to write all the news when you write. I get your letters more regular now than I ever have since I left Montgomery. I send a letter that I got from John Fulmer.

If you hant had little Cricket’s funeral preached yet, don’t have it preached till I come home—if I ever come. That is one thing that I hate to write about or talk about. I can’t hardly write or talk about her without shedding tears. I never shall forget how she used to fondle on my knees and her antic motions and her little prattling tongue. But all this is past and she is at rest and is better off than her bereaved parents. Nothing more at present, only I remain your affectionate husband till death, —John W. Cotton

1 The location of the original encampment was “right in the fork of the Tennessee and Clinch rivers” according to Cotton. The following map a location marked “Old Garrison” which was probably the location referred to.

This map of Kingston, Tennessee, was drawn in April 1863 at the time the 10th Confederate Cavalry was bivouacked near there.

Letter 65

Kingston, Tennessee
April 22, 1863


Dear beloved wife,

It is again that I take my pen in hand to answer another kind letter that I received from you a few days ago. I was very glad to hear that the children was well but sorry to hear that you had such a bad cold and such a hoarseness. I shall be uneasy until I hear from you again. I am afraid it will run into pneumonia. The lines leave me well and doing tolerable well…

We have a heap of duty to do yet and Colonel Goode heard the other day that the Yankeys had flanked General Pegram at Cumberland River and were making their way to Kingston and so last Friday morning we got orders to be ready to march to meet them with two days rations cooked and we had our meat to draw so we fired up as soon as possible and started. The horsemen went ahead and the footmen after them of which I were one for my horse went at the convalescent camp with two hundred and fifty others but the Colonel sent after our horses for them to be brought to us and he had one hundred and twenty-five men out on a scout. He sent for them too.

We went about 10 miles the first day and the cavalry went on about twenty miles and camped close to a little town and Colonel Goode and several more of the officers went to town that night and got drunk and we went on 7 or 8 miles next morning and met them coming back. They said they could not hear of any Yankeys so we all turned around and started back to camp. The cavalry got back that night and we got back where we got the first night and stayed all night and come back to camp next morning. There was a heap of our infantry give out and fell behind but they got in that day. I stood it tolerable well but I got very tired of it. My feet and legs got very sore but I have got about over it now. Our officers and men did not like the way our Colonel managed our trip. They say there was no use for the infantry to go. Our Colonel is very much disliked by the regiment.

I don’t think you see much satisfaction from the way you write. You said you had not been to meeting since I left home nor anywhere else—only where you had business. I would be better satisfied if I knew you were enjoying yourself by going to see your neighbors an to meeting and so on…

You wanted me to tell you what to do with your money. I don’t know what to tell you—only to do the best you can. You spoke of thread-beeing $15 per bunch. I think you had better buy cloth than to pay that much for thread if you can get such as suits you. As for my clothes. I shall soon need some pants but our captain says he is going to try to detail some men to go after our summer clothes. Nothing more at present—only I remain your true, affectionate husband till death. — John W. Cotton


Letter 66

Kingston, Tennessee
April 24, 1863


Dear beloved wife,

It is with pleasure that I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines in answer to your kind letter which I read last night. I was glad to hear you were all well and doing well…I was glad to hear that Manuel was getting along so well with his crop and I hope from what you say you will make a good crop of small grain. I would be glad if I could be at home to help cut it…If anybody were to get furloughs it would be men that are sick and complaining. I am always able for duty and they won’t furlough such men if they can help it.

I got the ring and sweet gum you sent to me. I would not take nothing for it. You said you made it Sunday. You ought not to work a Sunday but go to meeting and to see your neighbors. but we poor devils have to work a Sunday as well as any other day. But I will send you a ring of my own make and see how you like it. I could’ve made it nicer if I had the right set of tools.

You wrote about the children. Tell them all that I want to see them. Tell them they must be smart children. It ain’t worthwhile for me to try to say anything about how bad I want to see you all. I would like to see Babe with his breeches on and see his capers, and see little Ginney run about and play. But I have no idea she would know me if she were to see me. Tell Sweet he must learn to talk before I come home. Tell bud and Bunk they must help Manuel cut bushes and weeds and make a heap of corn. Tell Ann she must be a good girl and learn a heap and be kind to her teacher and learn to write.

Billy Brown is sick. He is at the hospital. He looks tolerable bad. It is cold that ails him. There is heap of our company sick and complaining. Floyd Goodgame is very bad off yet. Porter is better off now than he has been since he came back from Kentucky. Asa is well and so is all of our mess. Our horses is at the convalescent camp yet and I expect Adkins has sold my horse. He said he could get $80 for him and I told him to sell him. [He] ain’t no account. I will have to buy me another horse anyhow. Porter has got to buy him a horse too. There is a heap of boys afoot and there ain’t no horses about here to buy and they are higher than ever. I saw horses and everything else is higher than I ever saw. It looks like men don’t care anything about money/ We bought two old hens this morning and paid two dollars for them. And butter is worth one dollar per pound and eggs he same per dozen. Nothing more at present, only I remain your dear, beloved husband till death, — John W. Cotton

A post-war view of the brick courthouse at Kingston that was used by both Union and Confederate troops as a hospital at various times in the war. It was built in the mid-1850 by slave labor using local lumber and bricks.

Letter 67

Kingston, Tennessee
May 1, 1863


Dear beloved wife,

It is with pleasure that I take my pen in hand to answer your kind and affectionate letter which I read last night with pleasure dated April the 20th. I was glad to hear that you were all well but Bunk. I was sorry to hear that he had such a sore foot. I was sorry to hear that you had not got a letter from me in ten days for I know you want to hear from me as often as you can…

Everything is very high here…there can’t be a horse bought here that is fit to ride for less than 250 or 300 dollars and I have got to have one for my horse won’t never be no more account. But if I get the chance, I will raise me a horse from some of these old Lincolnites about here or take it off and trade it. I have got money enough to buy me a horse—or will have in a few days—but I don’t want to spend it in that way. We will draw two months wages in a few days. We were mustered yesterday for our pay. They will pay us up to the first of May.

I hant got but very little to write at present but if I was with you, I could tell you things as I could think of them. I could tell you of a heap of ups and downs that is too tedious to write.

We hear they are expecting a fight at Tullahoma. They are having skirmish fighting there everyday but no regular engagement. Our men have stayed here till they are getting restless. They are very anxious to go home and anxious for the war to end. A heap of them says their families are out of provisions and they can’t buy it with the money and they assign a heap of reasons for wanting it to end. A heap of them talks of going home but very few of them goes. I want to come home as bad as anybody can. It looks to me like but I shan’t run away yet. Maybe I will get a furlough some time or other. I don’t want it throwed up to my children after I am dead and gone that I was a deserter from the Confederate Army. I don’t want to do anything if I know it that will leave a stain on my posterity hereafter.

I was glad to hear that your crop looked so well and Manuel was getting on so well with his crop. Nothing more at present, only remain your kind and affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 68

Kingston, Tennessee
May 5th, 1863


My beloved wife,

It it with much pleasure that I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to answer your kind letter which I received dated the 24th of April. I was glad to hear that you were all well but Bunk. I was sorry to hear that he was having such bad boils…
I hant but little to write at the present. General Pegram’s Brigade has come out of Kentucky. They had another fight with the Yankeys and whipped them and when they got them a running, they took up a retreat for Tennessee. They say they left the Yankeys 6 miles this side of Monticello.

You said you was in hopes you would make some wheat if the rust did not kill it. I am in hopes you will make a good crop of small grain and corn too, and i hope I will get home to help gather corn but I am afraid [I will] not. There is more men wanting the war to end than ever I saw. They are all getting tired of it. If the big officers were as tired of it as the poor privates, it would soon end but I am afraid they will carry it on a heap longer.

The papers speak a right smart about fighting but I can’t think there will be as hard fighting as has been. The Yankeys are tired of it as well as we are. I think we will stay here a good while if the Yankeys don’t run us off from here and I don’t think there is much danger of that. I am in hopes that if there ain’t much fighting done before the water falls and the river gets too low for the gunboats to run, there won’t much more be done at all for I am in hopes they will come on some terms of peace this summer. I would give a right smart for them to make peace. You don’t know how much good it would do me to start home to stay. It would do me a heap of good to start home for a few days. But if I had no ties at home, I would as leave stay here as anywhere nearly. I should not like to be under such close confinement. We don’t have as much guard duty to do now as we have had. We don’t have no camp guard now.

We are seeing very tolerable times but we have more good duty to do than necessary. Lieutenant Baird is trying to get a detail to come home after horses. I would like to come but I don’t expect that I shall. There is so many that hant got no horses at all and I have got a thing but he won’t never be able for duty anymore. I told Bill Adkins to sell him or swap him. If they come home after horses, I don’t expect they can get them there. Ain’t no chance to get them here without pressing them.

Nothing more at present. Only I remain your true, devoted friend till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 69

Kingston, Tennessee
May 7, 1863


Dear wife,

It is again that I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that we are going to leave here tomorrow morning at 7 o’clock. We are going to join Pegram’s command at Clinton, 28 miles from here. We will leave our tents here. We have sent them to town. We will leave this time to stay, I think. You may still send your letters here till you hear from me. I will write as soon as I get to where we stop.

These lines leave me well and I hope these few lines may find you all the same. I was in hopes a few days ago that I would get to come home before long but this move knocked it in the head so I don’t have any idea when I will get the chance to come to see you all. Don’t get out of heart for I will come as soon as I can. Don’t be uneasy about me. I will be sure to take care of myself. Take care of yourself and our little children and don’t work yourself to death but enjoy yourself the best you can. I am in hopes I will get a letter from you tonight.

Our horses will be here tonight from the convalescent camp. We have got everything ready to start in the morning. Nothing more at present, only I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 70

Monticello, Kentucky
May 14, 1863


Dear beloved wife,

It is with much pleasure that I take my pen in hand to answer your kind letter which I received since I left Kingston. I was glad to hear from you all one time more and glad to hear that you were all well and doing well. These lines leave me well and doing well.

I wrote to you that we were going to Clinton. We went to Clinton but we only stayed there one night and then we started to Kentucky. We are now camped near Monticello. We are now in the enemy’s land. The Yankeys are not far from us—I don’t know how close. I expect we will be in a battle before many days. There is a good many troops coming in here. They are going to try the same Yankeys that whipped General Pegram and if they don’t look sharp, we will worst them. We have come here to whip them. General Morgan whipped some of them last Sunday and run them across the Cumberland river. They fought [with]in about 15 miles from here.

I don’t know how long we will stay here. We may leave here tonight and we may stay here several days but I don’t think we will stay here long. We have only stopped today to rest our horses and get something for them to eat. We traveled them 5 days on three handfuls of corn [and] only what little pastures we could get. But we are where we can get plenty I think for our horses and ourselves too.

I will send this letter back to Kingston tomorrow by some couriers. This may be the last one that I will get to send to you till we come out of Kentucky. You may still direct your letters to Kingston. I can get them from there if I can from anywhere. I was glad to think you are doing so well. I think you you will do to make a living and if I never come back home I want you to raise the children right and do the best you can yourself. I hant got much idea but what I will come home to see you all again but I don’t know what will happen to me but I don’t fear the enemy. I come out to fight and I am as ready as I ever will be. Nothing more at present. Only I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton


Letter 71

Kentucky Camp near Monticello
May 20th 1863


Mariah, dear wife,

It’s once more that I have the opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know that I am well and doing well. I hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well. I hant heard from you since I wrote before but I am looking for a courier here with our mail. I hope I will get a letter from you. I hant got much to write to you but if I could see you, I could tell you a heap that has happened since we left Kingston.

The boys are mounting themselves very fast on good horses. Some they swap for and some of them take them wherever they find them. Some of them has to give them up and some don’t. I hant got nary one yet but I intend to have one before I come back out of Kentucky. There ain’t no danger of a fight yet. Everything is still. The Yankeys are all on the other side of the Cumberland river. I heard this morning that some of our army had gone to the river to cross that is fifteen miles from here. I think there will be a move in a few days.

All of our men that were afoot is with a brigade of infantry. Asa went with us. He is left at Kingston as a courier. There ain’t no use in talking about coming home now but if I live to get out of Kentucky, I think I will come home. Don’t be uneasy about me for I ain’t in any danger yet. You may still write to Kingston. They say they are going to try to get the mail every week. A courier leaves here now directly to take our letters to Kingston.

Nothing more at present—only I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton

I want to see you all very bad.


Letter 72

Kentucky Camp 15 miles from Monticello
May 26th, 1863


Dear beloved wife,

It is with much pleasure that I write you a few lines in answer to your kind letter which I received yesterday and day before our couriers brought our mail from Kingston and I got two letters—one dated the 9th and one the 13th. I was truly glad to hear from you…

Porter is well. Asa is not here. He is still at Kingston. All of our company is well that is here. There is a good many left at Kingston. We have moved our camp about ten miles from where we were on the account of getting more handy to forage. We don’t get near enough for our horses. Forage is very scarce here. It is a very broken, mountainous country and there ain’t much made here. It is the worst kind of bushwhacking country but they don’t fire on us. They are afraid of us. All of the men has left the country.

The Yankeys are all on the other side of the Cumberland river 15 miles from here. I don’t think there is any danger of a fight here. Some of our regiment has been standing picket there at the river—them on one side and the Yankeys on the other—and they made an agreement not to shot at each other. And some of our men went over among them and traded with them. Some of them say they are very tired of the war and want to go home. They say a heap of their men’s time is nearly out and when their time is out, they will go home and stay there.

I am getting very anxious to cross the river among the Yankeys and so is a heap of our men. I hant got me nary horse yet but my old horse would do a right smart service yet if he could get a plenty to eat. I think if I could cross the river I could get a horse from the Yankeys that would not cost me nothing. I am to get another before I leave Kentucky anyhow. There is lots of boys got horses since we came up here. Captain Slaughter has resigned and gone home and we have another election for lieutenant. I ran against our orderly sergeant and got beat and we elected William Lessley for our orderly sergeant…

I hant got nary letter from Dock but I heard he was coming to the company soon. I expect that he is at our old camp with the rest of the boys. Well I reckon this letter will start tomorrow. Nothing more at present, only remain your true, devoted husband till death. Think of me when far away for I may be nearer in a coming day. — John W. Cotton

May 28th. I am still well…my letter never started when I thought it would but they say it will start in the morning…

May 30th, 1863 Mariah, my letter ain’t started yet but they say it will start today. We was ordered to Monticello night before last at midnight to meet the enemy and our couriers did not start. We went on [with]in a mile of Monticello and we got orders to return to camp. You ought to have been here to have heard the boys curse. They wanted to go on. they said it was a misunderstanding betwixt two generals that we were ordered out. We heard that the Yankeys was crossing the river by thousands but it was all false. If I could only see you I could tell you a heap. I am well.


Letter 73

Kentucky Camp near Monticello
June 3rd 1863


Dear wife,

It is with much pleasure that I write you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may find you all enjoying the same blessing. I hant got much to write to you nor much time to write. There is a man a going home out of the regiment and he will leave in a little while.

There is some prospect of a battle. We had orders this morning to saddle before light and be ready in five minutes to leave. We went about two miles and formed a line of battle and stayed there about three hours and we were ordered back to camp. We got a dispatch that the Yankeys were crossing the river but we found out it was a mistake. They say we will leave Kentucky in a short time. We are brigaded under [Col. John S.] Scott and it is forming at Lenoir Station not far from Knoxville. It is thought when we get with the brigade, we will be sent to North Alabama.

When I get back to Tennessee, I am a going to try to come home. I want to see you and our loved ones. I don’t want you to be uneasy about me for I am a getting along very well. Nothing more at present—only I remain your true devoted husband till death. — John W. Cotton

Pray for me when I am gone that I may safely return. I got a letter from you last Sunday and was glad to hear that you were well and doing well and glad to hear that your wheat looked like it would make something and was glad Manuel was getting on well with his crop.


Letter 74

Kentucky Camp near Monticello
June 13, 1863


Mariah, dear wife,

It is again that I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines in answer to your kind letter which I received dated the 26th of May. I was glad to hear that you were all well and doing well…

I hant much to wrote to you but I reckon it will be of a great importance to you. These lines leave me well and hearty. Mariah, I am happy to say to you that we have been into a battle and all of our company came out safe. I came out untouched. There was two of our regiment killed and some few wounded but none mortal. The fight commenced soon in the morning. The Yankeys came across the river in the night and had like to have got on us before we knew it. We met them about a mile from our camp with two hundred of our men. They had four regiments and were thrown in the line of battle when we attacked them. We were run right up on top of a ridge [with]in about one hundred ad twenty-five yards of them a firing on us. We fell back a short distance and formed a line of battle and them firing at us all the time. We dismounted and made a charge on them and gave them a fire but they put it to us so that we were obliged to fall back.

So we kept falling back and fighting for about two hours and a half and we could not get any reinforcements and being under a heavy fire all the time and them trying to out flank us, we had to retreat back where we got reinforcements. We fell back about 7 miles from where the fight commenced. They followed us 5 miles and turned back. We sent three regiments back after them and they overtook them right where the fight took place in the morning and a heavy fire commenced and our men whipped them badly from then till night and drove them back to the river and they crossed back. That night they got reinforcements of twelve hundred men but they did not get over in time to do them any good. We did not fight them any in the evening. They had two cannon a shooting at us all the time.

As many of them as there was in the morning, we killed more of them than they did of us. Their loss during the day is about fifty and ours was four killed. The 1st Georgia was in the fight in the evening and they never lost nary man. We are looking for another fight every day but we are better prepared than we were before. We have four regiments right here and two batteries and some more not far off. If they come back, they will get hurt if they don’t bring more help. 1

I saw Mike about a week ago. he had been sick but was getting about again. Their regiment is camped not far from us but I hant had the chance to go to see them. They were all well. Felix and Steve Boswell and Frank Worthen were with Mike when I saw him.

June 16th. Mariah, I hant sent off this letter yet. I hant had the chance. The mail hant left yet. We have fell back 30 miles from Monticello. We fell back a Sunday. It was thought the Yankeys would follow but they hant yet nor I don’t think they will. We may go back in a few days and we may go to Kingston. It is not known yet. I saw Mike yesterday morning. He was complaining some but not much. Tese lines leave me well and doing well and I hope they may reach you you the same. There ain’t no danger of a fight now. Nothing more at present. I remain yours forever, — John W. Cotton

1 For a great article regarding the fight that took place on 9 June 1863 which Cotton describes in this letter, see The Battle of Mill Springs 1863 published by Darryl R. Smith on 10 June 2021, The Western Theater in the Civil War. The Union forces engaged initially were from Co. F, 45th Ohio Mounted Infantry and from Co. C, 7th Ohio Cavalry. More of Wolford’s Brigade later joined in the fight.


Letter 75

[Jamestown, Tennessee]
June 17, 1863


Mariah, I hant sent off my letter yet. I think it will start in the morning by courier. I hant had nary letter from you in some time but I look for one by the next mail. I want to hear from you all very much and I want to come home very bad and I think I will come home when I get back to Kingston. If they don’t give me a furlough, I will come without one, but I think there will be a chance for a furlough.

We are now at Jamestown, Tennessee. We came here yesterday evening. I think we will leave here tomorrow for Kingston or Lenoir Station to join our brigade. It is thought that we will go from there to Mississippi or Louisiana. I don’t think we will go back to Monticello anymore. Everything is in such an uproar that I don’t hardly know what to write.

I reckon you will think strange of the writing on the other side of this letter. It is a piece of paper I picked up in the clerk’s office in this place. The court house has been broken open and all of the papers in the clerk’s office is destroyed. I picked up enough paper to write several letters on that is [only] wrote on one side. We can’t get any paper till we get back to Kingston.

I would like to be at home to see how your crop looks and see how Manuel is getting on but I had rather see you and the children than your crop. Nothing more. Write all the news in your next letter. These lines leave me well and remaining your true devoted husband till death. Farewell till I write to you again, — John W. Cotton


The early 19th Century Travel Case in which the Cotton letters have been stored for the last 160 years. The newspaper lining in the lid dates to the 1840s.

To read the rest of the letters, go to The Civil War Letters of John Weaver Cotton, Part 2

One thought on “The Civil War Letters of John Weaver Cotton, Part 1”

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