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.
The first 75 letters in this archive can be found at The Civil War Letters of John Weaver Cotton, Part 1
The remainder of the letters are posted below starting with Letter 76.
June 22, 1863
Itis again that I take my pencil in hand to write you a few lines to try to let you hear from me again. I am well and doing well and I hope these lines may find you the same. I hant heard from you since I wrote before. I am getting very anxious to hear from you all again. I know there has letters come for me but I hant been where I could get them. I hant been with the company since we left Jamestown. We were ordered off from there in the night and all of the disabled horses and footmen were left behind. My horse weren’t able to go with the company on a forced march.
The Yankeys got around us and got ahead of us and got to Watburg and burnt our ammunition before we found them out and they went from there to Lenoir’s Station on the railroad and burnt up the depot and all of the cotton and tore up the track. They took 80 of our regiment prisoners and paroled them but I don’t know who they were. It was men that we left there when we started to Kentucky and some of them run away and went back there.
The Yankeys went from there to Knoxville and our men run them off from there and they went on from there towards the Strawberry Plains above and tore up the railroad and burnt a little bridge and I hant heard from them since. But I think I will hear from them before I mail this letter. Our men is after them with a large force. The report is that there is only about twenty-five hundred of the Yankeys. They are taking negroes, horses, and destroying everything they can as they go. I think if our men lets them out of here unhurt, they may as well quit. I wish they would burn up all of East Tennessee and blot it out of the Southern Confederacy. Nearly all of the Yankeys that is down here was raised in this state. They are looking for reinforcements from above but I don’t know whether they have got them or not.
They killed a citizen not far below here. They went into his house and he resisted them and shot at them and they killed him. If I could see you, I could tell you a heap that I can’t write. I might sit down and write up a quire of paper and then I could not tell you all.
I can’t think of all I want to write no how. You may still send your letters to Kinston for I don’t know where we will stop. I hant heard from Asa but once since I left him at Kingston.
June 23. I am still well. I saw Mike last night. He was well. He is camped not far from me. He is with their wagons. Their regiment and ours is gone on after the Yankeys. I hant heard nothing from them yet. It is thought that they have or will get out of the way before we can hem them in. I don’t know what to write about it now but I will write again soon if I get the chance. I am in hopes that when the fuss is over and we get settled, I will get to come home. I think I will have a chance to come home after horses. i had to come back out of Kentucky without a horse. it is the worst chance to get a horse in this country that ever I saw. Nothing more at present—only I remain yours till death. — John W. Cotton
June 23rd. Mariah, I will write a little more. I have just received a letter from you. Was very glad to hear from you and to hear that you were doig so well. I would like to come home and see if you are doing as well as you say you do and get some milk and butter and honey and fried chicken to eat for we don’t get that here—only as we but it and it is very high. The most of our men has complained a heap of not getting a plenty to eat since we left Kentucky. There was three days that we did not draw any rations but I never suffered. I got something everyday. I never suffer when there is anything in the country to eat. We killed hogs, dug irish potatoes, and bought meal, and I made out very well and I stopped a Sunday and got very good dinner. I reckon we will draw a plenty rations now.
You spoke of my clothes. You need not be uneasy about me. I will try and get some before i get naked. I thought I would not write you about losing my clothes in the fight we had but i reckon you will hear it anyway. I lost my saddlebags and my blanket you sent me. I hated losing my blanket worse than I did my saddle bags but i hated losing all because they were things you had made for me. You need not be afraid I will get naked. I will get clothes somehow or other. I will have a good excuse now to come home. I am doing as well as anybody you ever saw away from home. I do almost as I please. I had to come out of Kentucky without a horse but my same old horse totes me yet but he is very poor and weak. Nothing more. I remain your true, devoted friend till death. — John W. Cotton
Camp near Sweet Water, Tennessee
July 7, 1863
I seat myself this evening to write you a few lines being that I am unwell and not able for duty. I have been unwell for some time. I haven’t been able for duty in about six weeks. I haven’t much news to write to you at this time.
I see [your husband] Weaver ever once in awhile. It has been about a week since I saw him. He was well then and doing well for he had his haversack full of bread and meat. I thought that he was doing well. If I had it, I would thought was doing finely at that time for I was very hungry at that time. But you had better know that I walked into Weaver’s bread. We all saw very hard times when we was up in Kentucky. We are now at this time faring tolerable well. We are getting tolerable portions for ourselves and horses to eat. It has been some time since we got as much as we are getting now.
I think that we are stationed now for awhile to recruit our horses but it is most too late for some of them. They are too near used up.
Mariah, I received a letter yesterday from Andrew and he is at home yet and he wrote that he was not well but he wrote that Pap’s family was all well. I will close for the present. Nothing more at present. Yours, &c., — M C. Hindsman
Camp near Childress Gap, Tennessee
July 9, 1863
Mariah, dear wife,
It is again that I take my pen in hand to write you a few more lines to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may find you all enjoying the same blessing. You must excuse me for not writing no sooner. I would have wrote when Nancy left here but I thought she could tell you more than I could write and I hant wrote since for our officers has been trying to get some of us off home on a detail but they hant got us off yet for that is all of the chance for our regiment to mount themselves. That is what the detail is for. If it is made, I will be one of the men that will come home for my horse is no count and horses is very high here and I reckon not very cheap at home.
Mariah, I hant got much to write to you but if I could see you, I could tell you a heap.
We are camped 11 miles north of Knoxville but we will have to move in a few days on account of forage but we will not move very far. We will be apt to stay around here some time if the Yankeys don’t make another raid in Tennessee.
I have received a letter from you since Nancy left here. It was dated June the 18th. You said you had a plenty of rain and your crop looked very well. I hope you will be able to make a good crop…I think if you can make a good crop you can life another year.
I got a song ballad from you. It is a very good piece of poetry. I wouldn’t take anything for it. It suits the times the best of any that I have seen. I did not know that you had got to be a poet. You said you wrote it one night after weaving seven yards of cloth. I don’t want you to kill yourself at work just because you can. You had better work as you can stand it. I would write more if I did not think I would get to come home soon. Asa, I reckon, is at home. I think we will get our detail yet but Colonel Slaughter says we shan’t come home till we draw our money. We may draw it in a few days. We have sent after our pay rolls.
Nothing more. Only I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton
Coosa county, Alabama
July 14, 1863
Dear beloved husband,
It is again I seat myself to try to write you a few lines to let you know the children is all well at this time and I hope these few lines may find you well and doing well. I hant much of importance to write to you but I thought I would write for I expect it will be some satisfaction to you to hear from home if it was only to hear we was well. I wish I could hear from you every day. I wish I knowed where you was today and that you was well but I don’t know where you are nor what you are doing. You may [be] in a battle now while I am writing this letter. If I knowed when you was in a battle, I don’t think I could sit still to write nor do anything else but I hope the Lord will be on your side and guide you safe through all your trouble and enable you to reach home safe one time more. I hope that happy day will soon come when you can come to see me and your little children.
I hope the war will soon come to a close and you can come home to me to stay. It would be a day of joy to see you come home safe again.I think if peace was made, it would be the joyfullest times that ever has been. It would be to me, if you was to come safe. I hant heard from you since Nan saw you. That has been two weeks. It seems long to me.
We have a heap of rain. Corn crops look very well but Asa can tell you about the crops. Mrs. Holinghead and Jack is gone to see Tommy and Mose. They got a letter last Saturday from Mrs. Mose and she wrote that Mose was sick and she won’t come home till he got better.
I wish you had been here today to have eaten dinner with me. I had some beans and a green peach pie. I have got some ripe peaches. Tell Asa I have made more green pie. Tell him I eat all I could. I don’t know whether it done him any good or not.
Weaver, if I could only see and talk with you one time more, I would be so glad. I can’t begin to tell you anything about how bad I want to see you. I hope that happy day will soon some when I can see your lovely face. Nothing more. I remain your true loving wife till death, — Mariah Cotton
To her dear, beloved husband in the war. Goodbye my dear husband.
Tennessee Camps near Concord
August 7, 1863
Dear beloved wife,
It is again that I take my pen in hand to let you know that I got back to camps again. I got here yesterday. I got here without any trouble. I weren’t bothered any atall on the way. It never cost me anything to get here. I had meat and bread a plenty to do me to camps. When I got here the boys—most of them—were gone to Jonesborough. Asa and Porter were both gone. They went up on the cars. That place is 20 miles above Greenville where we went last winter. The men that is left here says they don’t know what they are gone for. I reckon you will hear from Asa in a few days. Some of our men went to Kentucky and some of them has got back and some hant. They got into a battle and got cut all to pieces and some killed and some wounded and some taken prisoners but it is not known how many. They are coming in yet. It is though that 4 or 5 of our company is killed but there can’t be no correct account given about it yet.
I found our boys very much disheartened and whipped. There is a heap of them ready to give it up. I am awfully afraid if a change don’t take place soon for the better, that we will be whipped. I can’t write much now for my mind is bothered and the ink I have got to write with ain’t no account at all. When I get something that I can write with, I will write more.
Direct your letters to Concord, Tennessee. These lines leave me well. My old horse has mended up right smart since I left him. I think I will buy another or swap him in a few days. My captain never said anything about my not bringing no horse back with me. There ain’t but one of our men got back yet that went home with me. I was about the first of all the detail that bot back.
Nothing more at present. I remain your true, devoted husband, — John W. Cotton
Camp Big Springs, Tennessee
August 13, 1863
I again take my pen in hand to write you a few more lines to let you know that I am well and doing well. I begin to want to hear from you all again. I have not heard from you all since I left home.
We have moved from where we were when I first got back from home. We are 12 miles east of Concord. There hant no soldiers camped here before us and our horses have been faring very well since we came over here. We are camped between two valleys where we can get plenty of forage for our horses if the quartermaster does his duty and we can buy anything in the country to eat cheaper than where we were. We are drawing a plenty to eat now. We had a fine mess of beans yesterday and we have got as fat a turkey to bake for dinner today as ever you saw.
Our men has all got back from Kentucky but nine. They are killed or taken prisoners but they are not all killed. It is though that William Reynolds is killed by a bushwhacker and Jim Jacobs is taken prisoner. That is all that you know anything about. If you see Jane Jacobs, you may tell her that her sweetheart is gone up [North].
There was a heap of our regiment killed and taken prisoners on their raid into Kentucky. All that got back says they don’t want to go back there anymore. I am glad I weren’t here to go with them. I learn that Mike is gone home. They say Dock went home to get a discharge. General Buckner won’t receive no more substitutes. I hope when you read these few lines, you may be well and better satisfied than you were when I left you. I hope I will hear from you in a few days. This is twice that I have wrote since I got back. I han’t bought me nary horse yet. I reckon we will draw money today. Nothing more at present. Only remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton
Blount county, Tennessee
August 18, 1863
My dear beloved 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. I want to hear from you all very bad. I hant got nary letter since I left home. I want to hear how your hogs are doing and how things is a doing in general. I would be glad to see you all again already. I hant got but little to write to you. I will send this in a letter with Asa.
All of our footmen is sent to Knoxville—only those who had the money to buy them a horse to be mounted on government horses. But some thinks they will be put into infantry. Porter went with them and went off sick. He had been sick two or three days but was better, Me nor Asa hant got no horses yet. I bargained for one but failed to get him. I aim to go out into the country in a short time and swap my old horse off for a good one.
We have drawed money since I got back and I got all the boys was owing me but twenty dollars and I hant seen the man that owes that since we drawed our money. I have got about a hundred and fifteen dollars since I got back to my company.
If your hogs ain’t all dead, you had better have them fed about once a day with green corn. Give them about one stalk apiece a day. I think that meat will be of more value than corn and you should make your hogs to as well as you can.
I have nearly got in the notion if I can get a substitute to get one and come home and still this winter. Doctor Moon is here now trying to get in a substitute. If he gets him in, I will let you know and I will write all about it. I will write again soon. If Old Man Kelly ain’t gone to the war, tell him if he is working at the still if I can fix my business right, I will want him to substitute for me six months. Nothing more at present—only I remain yours till death, — John W. Cotton
Tennessee Camps, Bell’s Bridge
August 25, 1863
Dear beloved wife,
I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I have just received a letter from you for the first time since I left home. It was mailed August 19th. I was very sorry to hear that Ann was sick but was glad to hear that the rest of you were well. You never said what was the matter with Ann. I hope you will write in your next letter what is ailing her. I hope she is better by this time. These lines leave me well and hearty. Nearly all of the boys is sick that went home when I did but I have been as hearty as I ever was in my life. I hope when you read these few lines you will all be enjoying the same blessing that I am.
We have moved again from the big springs to Bell’s Bridge 9 miles west of Knoxville. We are expecting a fight somewhere not far from here. They say the Yankeys are aiming to try to take East Tennessee and everything is in a perfect stir. They are sending reinforcements from Virginia to our assistance.
There is but few of our regiment here—only those that have disabled horses and them that are afoot. All of our brigade that had serviceable horses are about 10 miles from here on Clinch River awaiting for the Yankees to come on and attack them. I have heard that they were [with]in 8 miles of Kingston. They have moved all of the sick out of Knoxville that were able to be moved and lots of the citizens are moving out of the town. Everything is in a perfect stir. But I think if the Yankeys come in here, we will whip them badly.
I have just swapped off my old horse for a very pretty little mule and give $200 to boot. I would like to have it at home. It was two years old last spring. I would be glad to hear from you again soon. There has four of our company deserted since I came back from home.
Nothing more—only I remain yours till death, — John W. Cotton
Tennessee camp near Loudon
August 30, 1863
Dear beloved wife and children,
I once more take my pen in hand to try to let you know that I am well and I hope these few lines may reach you the same. I have not hear from you since I wrote before. I have not got but one letter from you since I left home but everything has been in such a stir that we have not got the mail regular. We have moved three times since I write my other letter. We have been traveling nearly all of the time. We are now in camp 4 miles below Loudon. We moved here this morning. I don’t know how long we will stay here. Our horses were inspected yesterday and a heap of our horses were condemned and turned over to the quartermaster to sell and a heap of them pronounced not able for service and sent off to a pasture to mend up. My mule was sent with them. Its shoulders were hurt with the saddle and it was bare-footed. They were all put in an old dry pasture and a guard put over them. They will perish if they don’t feed them.
There is a talk of all that is dismounted being put in the infantry. The men all swear that if they do put them in the infantry, they will go home. Some left last night. Colonl Goode says that his men shan’t be treated in no such way. He says he won’t stay in the Brogade no longer. He was sent to Jacksboro to relieve a regiment and when he got there, the regiment was gone and the town was full of Yankeys and our men rode right up to them [with]on speaking distance before they found them out and they made a charge on our men and they broke to run and the Yankeys after them and they run them about 10 miles and killed some of them and took some prisoners but we never lost nary [one] out of our company. I went with them. He only had 75 or 80 men with him. Alfred Deason run his horse till he died i the road, They run their horses 15 miles. They had like to have killed all of their horses. Some lost their hats, guns, blankets, clothes and some their horses.
I hear that the Yankeys is [with]in about 18 miles of Knoxville. Our men have give up Knoxville and moved all of the government property out of it. They are fixing for a big fight here at Loudon. There is a heap of troops here and they are still coming on every train. Some thinks the big fight will be somewhere about Chattanooga. I think if they come here they will catch a gentle flogging.
The most of us have just been to the pasture and got out our horses since I commenced writing. I aim to swap my mule off for a horse as soon as I get the chance. I saw Frank Worthen the other day and he said [your brother] Mike was discharged and gone home. He said John Trammel was not very well. They are going to move close to us. Dock hant come to us yet. I hant heard from him since he was with the company. I wrote to him but hant got no answer yet. I want to hear from home very bad and I am afraid that I will hear that Ann is no better but worse, but I have to live in hopes that she is better and all of the rest well.
I wish I had some of your peach brandy to drink. I think it would help me. Write how much you make. I can’t tell you what to do about hiring old man Kelly yet. Doctor Moon has been here more than two weeks and he hant got his substitute in yet. If our regiment gets out of the Brigade, I will try to put in a substitute. The papers won’t have to go no further than Col. Goode. Now they have to go to General Buckner. Nothing more, — J. W. Cotton
Tennessee camp near Charleston
September 4, 1863
It is again, dear wife, that I seat myself to try to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope these lines may find you well. I am very uneasy about home. I have not got but the one letter from you since I left home. I am very anxious to hear from Ann but it is very uncertain when I will get another letter. Everything is so tangled up. The postmaster here at Charleston says there hant been no mail in two or three days.
Our troops have all fell back to this place. They have burnt Loudon bridge and destroyed all of the flats and canoes to prevent the Yankeys from crossing the Tennessee river. We hear they are still following after us. They were said to be [with]in fifteen miles of this place and was trying to cut off our rear. Our Brigade covered the retreat and they were trying to cut them off. I don’t think we will make much of a stand here nor I don’t know where we will make a permanent stand but I think there will be one of the hardest battles fought here that has ever been fought. They say we have got over one hundred thousand men round about here.
I have not been with the regiment for several days till this morning. I have been detailed to drive some old horses and there is only a few of us here. There is some of us here and some back with the Brigade and some that is dismounted at town two miles from here. I don’t think there is any danger of my being into a fight yet awhile for our regiment is so badly scattered that I don’t think it will be put into a fight till it gets together. I don’t want you to be uneasy about me but take good care of yourself and the children.
I would give a heap if I could get a letter right straight from home. I don’t know where to tell you to direct your letters to but you may write to Charleston, Tennessee. If we fall back, they will be sent back to us. I may get a letter if I ever get to see the captain. I shall be uneasy about Ann till I hear she is well. Nothing more at present. I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton
September 11, 1863
Dear beloved wife and children,
I will try to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well but very uneasy. I have not hear from home yet. I am very uneasy about Ann and I can’t hear from her. I would be glad to hear that she was well. We have not got any mail in about 3 weeks and I don’t know when we will get any. I reckon not till the fight is over. I expect it will be at Rome, Georgia.
I am now at Calhoun on my way to Rome. Rome is about 120 miles from home. Our whole army has left Tennessee but I heard this morning that Longstreet had retaken Knoxville and 8,000 Yankeys.
They are going to have a big fight soon and I think we will whip them. There is a heap of soldiers deserting—more Tennesseans than anybody else. There is 15 of our company deserted.
I can’t write but little now for I hant got time. I have only stopped to rest. I hope these lines may find you all well and doing well. I shall be uneasy about Ann till I hear that she is well. Direct your next letter to Rome, Georgia. I would love to see you all again already but don’t be uneasy about me. I think if we get whipped in this fight, the war will soon end.
Nothing more at present. Take good care of yourself till I come to see you again. I will write again soon. — John W. Cotton
Tennessee camp 15 miles northwest of Dalton, Georgia
7 miles south of Ringgold
September 16, 1863
Once more, dear wife, I take my pen in and to write you a few lines to let you know that I have not heard from you all yet and I am very uneasy about home and about Ann. She may be well or she may be dead. I can’t hear. We don’t get any mail atall not I don’t know when we will. You don’t know how bad I want to hear from home.
We have been to Rome since I wrote to you. We only stayed there one night and we were ordered back to Dalton. We stayed there all night, then came here. We are 15 miles northwest of Dalton. We are camped in the battlefield where they had a fight last Saturday [12 September]. We lost 5 en and the Yankeys 17 killed. We took some fifty prisoners. We had only one regiment in the fight and I don’t know how many Yankeys. We whipped them. They are about three miles from here now. We expect a fight every day.
The 1st Georgia had a skirmish with them today. They tried to take some Yankey wagons but failed. I expect we will be into it before many days. There will be a bog fight before many days somewhere between here and Rome and I expect it will be the worst battle that has ever been fought in this war. They say we have got the largest army there has ever been together since this war commenced and I feel confident that we will whip the fight. If we do, I think that it will bring about peace.
There has been several small fights with the cavalry and we have drove them back. It was though 3 days ago that they were retreating back across the Tennessee river but they don’t think so now. We keep hearing that Longstreet has retaken Knoxville and a number of prisoners. If that is so, it will help us out a heap.
I saw Albert Martin today. He was well. He says he wants me to get a transfer to his regiment. I hant seen John Trammel yet. I saw Holmes Waldrop day before yesterday. He was well. Albert Martin says his wife has three children and Dock can’t walk yet without his crutches but can ride anywhere he wants to. He is overseeing for Frank Worthen and is getting along very well. He told me that John Hindsman was dead. He was killed at Vicksburg. I had not heard of it before nor I don’t know whether you have or not. I wrote to you that [your brother] Mike was discharged and gone home. I hant heard from Dock yet. We have got only ten men here with us to go into a fight. We have got fifteen gone home.
I am writing this letter but I don’t know when I will get to send it. I will try to send it off tomorrow. Asa Close says he is going to Dalton tomorrow if he can get off. I wish I had some of your good brandy to drink. I think it would help my feelings and maybe I would not study so much about home but if I could only hear from home it would help me more than brandy.
I would like to know whether you have seen Old Man Brown or not and would like to know how things is going on in general. How your hogs is doing and how Manuel is getting on pulling fodder, and how much brandy you made, and whether Par had to pay tax for stilling or not. Who paid it and how much he charged you for stilling your peaches. These lines leave me well but very uneasy. I hope when they come to hand they may find you all well and enjoying yourselves very well.
Mariah, don’t be uneasy about me but if I should get into a battle and get killed, do the best you can for yourself and the children. But I hope to live to see this war ended and return home to you and your dear little ones and that we may live a long and happy life and that I may live to be a better man. Nothing more at present, — John W. Cotton
Camp near Chattanooga [Tennessee]
September 24, 1863
Dear beloved wife and children,
I again take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and still alive and live in hopes that these lines may reach you the same. I hant got but little time to write. Our adjutant is going to Dalton and I will try to send this by him.
I reckon you will hear of the big battle [Battle of Chickamauga] we have had before you get this letter. I hant got time to write much about it now but we have given them the worst whipping they ever had—so their prisoners say. We have run them all out of Georgia and they have run then all cross the Tennessee [river] but one Corps. They say they will have to cross but they say they are in their fort at Chattanooga and will give us another fight before they cross. Our cavalry can’t do no more good here so we will go back to East Tennessee I think in a few days if we don’t start today. I hear that our men has whipped them there. They will all have to go back to Kentucky. The fight has been going on 6 days and is still going on.
Our regiment has been into it and around where they were fighting all the time. We brought on the fight Saturday morning but our regiment hant lost but few men. Our company hant lost nary man killed or wounded but I can’t see how we all escaped. We were supporting a battery on Sunday evening and the Yankeys commenced a cross fire on it and the grape shot fell around us like hail but we got behind trees and places so none of us did not get hurt. They shot off three horses legs close to us and killed one man and wounded one. If I could tell you all I have seen, it would make your heart ache to think of it but I could not tell if half as bad as it is. Nothing more at present. — John W. Cotton
Tennessee Camp near Chattanooga
September 29, 1863
Dear and most beloved wife and family,
I once more take my pen in hand to try to write you a few more lines to try to let you know where I am and what I am doing. I am well and doing as well as any can in the place I am in. Our regiment is in sight of the Yankeys all the time and have been for four days. They are in their breastworks here at Chattanooga and we are standing picket around them in gunshot of them and we have some firing backwards and forwards at them but they won’t come out nor we won’t go to them. Our men are planting their cannons as fast as they can to try to shell them out of their breastworks but I don’t know how they will come out. We have got the advantage of a big hill to shell them from and the Lookout Mountain. We can hear their drums and fifes and horns and hear them crossing the river on their pontoon bridge and we can go out on a big hill and see all over their fortifications and them too.
They say that there is a heap of our forces crossing the river to cut them off from their provisions but I don’t know how many. I think Old Bragg is trying to get them out of Chattanooga without a fight if he can. It will be the best for if we have to whip them out, we will lose many a man and maybe get whipped. I think they are fortifying on the other side of the river. It may be some time before we get them away from here if we get them away at all.
I wish you could be here to see them and their fortifications. There hant been no fighting here—only picket fighting—in about five days. They say our men has got 150 cannons planted to shell the Yankeys out of town and I heard that they were a going to commence shelling them today at 9 o’clock but they hant commenced it yet. I reckon we will leave here and let the infantry take our place. There is a heap more cavalry here besides our regiment.
I stood picket the other night in shooting distance of the Yankeys. There was three of us on the same post and one stood while the others slept. The Yankeys say we have whipped them the worst they ever have been. I reckon I have said enough about the Yankeys. I had rather read a letter from you than to write about them a week. I have got nary letter from you yet and there ain’t no use in trying to tell how bad I want to hear from you all. I want to hear whether you got Manuel for another year or not and how you are all getting on in general and if you can hire old man Kelly or not to take my place. If you could, I would try to find out whether he would be received [as a substitute] or not before he comes. But there will be no chance to get him until this peace fight is over, if at all.
I wish I had some of your brandy ere. I could sell it at any price I would ask for it. I have swapped my little mule away and got a fine young iron-gray horse 4 years old and give $175 to boot. You ought to see him. I think if we both live till the war ends, I will bring him home but I am afraid it will be a long time yet.
I saw John Trammel the other day and he said Mike was coming back to his company. Felix got him a substitute and went to the infantry and they told him they would receive his substitute and they mustered him in and his substitute was ot received and he is in the infantry yet and was taken prisoner at Cumberland Gap. I don’t know what to write unless I could hear from you.
Direct your next letter to Tennessee, Chickamauga Station. Nothing more at present—only I remain your true, devoted husband till death. Don’t be uneasy about me. — John W. Cotton
October 2. Mariah, I will write a few more lines as I have not had the chance to send off my letter yet. I am still well and hope these lines may find you all well and doing well. I hope Ann is well by this time. I saw Old Archy Meneal about two weeks ago and he said he was at the still and he never heard any complaint. That is all that I have heard from home since the 18th of August and I reckon you know that I want to hear from home by this time.
We have had a powerful rain. It rained a day and two nights but it is the first rain we have had since I got back from home except one little shower. We have had the dustiest time that I ever saw. I have seen the dust so thick that I could not see no more than I could the darkest kind of a night. It looked like it would stifle men and horses on a march. I hant seen Asa in some time but I think I will see him today. I am going to the post office and they say our dismounted men is camped close to the post office. It is 5 miles from here. Everything is still here yet. There is no fighting going on yet but I am looking for it every day. Meneal told me that the cavalry that were hunting up deserters killed old Stephen Thomas. I was sorry to hear of it. I don’t know what else to write. Nothing more. I will write again before long.
Chickamauga Creek, Tennessee
October 5, 1863
Dear beloved wife,
I have received a letter from you at last. I was extremely glad to hear from you all but it gave me much dissatisfaction to hear that you had been sick but was glad to hear that you was better and I was glad to hear that Ann had got well. You never said what ailed you not Ann. I would like to know what ailed you both. I am afraid you won’t take as much care of yourself as you ought to. I don’t want you to expose yourself no more than you can help. Keep out of the dew and rain and cold.
We have some very cool weather here for the season. We had a killing frost here the 20th and 21st of October [September] and we are having some front now.
You never said anything about hiring Manuel. I would be glad to hear of your hiring him. I want you to hire him, let the price be what it may. I was sorry to hear of your losing so many of your hogs but was glad it weren’t no worse. I think you got a good price for your cow. You said you wanted to know whether you must kill that steer or sell him. If you need the beef, kill him. If you don’t, sell him.
Write to me whether the conscript [law] will take Par or not. They say here that it takes all up to fifty [years old] and down to 17 for Confederate Service ad from 50 to 60 for State service and I want you to tell me how much tax you have to pay. You said you could not sell your brandy without paying tax on it. If you don’t need the money, keep it and maybe I will get the chance to sell it myself.
There is talk of Colonel Slaughter drawing his Battalion from the regiment and moving it to Talladega but that is too good news to be so. But him and Goode is very much as outs.
I reckon you have not forgot where I told you to have wheat sowed. Have it sowed the last of this month if you can. The letter I got was dated the 26th of September. These few lines leave me well but very uneasy about you. I would be better satisfied if I knew what ailed you. I hope these lines may reach you soon and find you improving and all of the rest well. I am glad you have weaned little Ginney. I would love to be at home the best you ever saw but there is no chance to come home now. Write often and let me know how you are getting on.
We are expecting a fight here every day. Old Bragg is still planting his cannon to shell the Yankeys out of Chattanooga. We won’t have anything to do with it till they get them out of town. Nothing more at present. — John W. Cotton
Chickamauga Camp, Tennessee
October 11, 1863
Most dear beloved wife,
I this evening take the pleasure of writing you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and ope these lines may reach you in due time and find you all well and doing well. Mariah, I hope you are still on the mend and if not well, will soon be. I hope you will not expose yourself so as to make against you. I want to hear from you again very bad. I have got but one letter from you yet but I am looking for another every day. I am very uneasy about you and will be until I hear that you are well. I know from the way you wrote before that you were not out of danger. I was very well satisfied about home till I heard that you and Ann was sick. I am afraid the next time I heard from home some of the rest of you will be sick.
You said you wanted me to write whether I wanted you to make me any clothes or not. I don’t want you to make me any. I have got a plenty and when they wear out, I will draw more, I can draw them cheaper than you can make them and I think you have got as many at home as you can make for anyhow.
I hant got no news to write to you—only I heard the report of cannon on the other side of the river this morning. I suppose that some of our men has gone round and got in the rear of the Yankeys and they were fighting but the firing has ceased or gone out of hearing. Everything is still at Chattanooga. We are about three miles from Chattanooga, picketing on the river to keep the Yankeys from crossing and they are picketing the other side to keep us from crossing.
Mike or Dock hant come back yet. Some of our men that run away and went home has got back and we hear that some of them are on the way. I think the most of them will come back.
I would like to know whether you have got Manuel [hired] for another year or not and whether your hogs that is alive looks like they ever will be any account or not. But above all, I would rather hear how you are getting [along]. Nothing more at present. I remain your true, devoted husband till death. — John W. Cotton
Tennessee camp near Chattanooga
October 19, 1863
Mariah, dear beloved wife and children,
I again take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well—all but a little touch of the diarrhea. I hope these few lines may reach you in due time and find you all well. It is strange to me that I can’t get a letter from you. I have only got one from you yet. It was mailed the 26th of September. We send off mail every day but don’t get any hardly. I don’t know what becomes of them for I know you write to me. I would give anything to hear from you again. I want to know how you are getting along. I am afraid you hant got well yet and I am afraid that some of the other children has been sick since I heard from home.
Asa has got back to the company again. He says he don’t get no letter neither. He is well. I don’t know what to write unless I could hear from home.
I have got a stray mule that I took up on picket two weeks ago. If the owner don’t come and get it, I will let Asa have it. He is riding it now. It is worth four hundred dollars. I think it is a government mule but it is not branded. I don’t think there is any danger of the owner coming after it. There was two horses with it and they come and got them and never said anything about the mule.
Times are still here yet. There is no fighting going on yet. 10 of our men swam across the Tennessee River and caught two Yankey couriers and a dispatch and it said—so I hear—-that if they did not get reinforcements in 10 days, they would have to fall back from Chattanooga. We moved back night before last to their breastworks to stand picket round them. We stand in two or three hundred yards of them in an open old field.
Direct your next letter to Chattanooga and maybe I will get them. Old Goode is gone home on a furlough. I hear that he is going to see the Governor of Georgia and try to get to go down in Georgia to guard some salt works. Nothing more. — John W. Cotton
Tennessee Camp near Chattanooga
October 25, 1863
Dearest and most highly beloved wife,
Again I take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may come to hand and find you all well and doing well. I was glad to read a letter from Nan to Asa. She said she was at your house and you were all well except bad colds. You had better believe that I was glad to hear that you had got well. She said Mike and Sally was at your house. That was something that I didn’t expect to hear of. I reckon it done you a right smart of good to see them come. I like to have been at home what they come. I have not got nary letter from you yet but I keep looking for one every day for we have an every day mail. I would like to be at home now to help sow wheat and gather corn and see to things in general. I would be glad to know whether you had hired Manuel yet or not. I had rather you would buy him for I think you could raise money enough to pay for him. Tell me how much corn you make and how much you have to give to the government and write all of the news and write how Sack [Sally] likes Alabama and how she thinks you are getting along. And tell me all you can think of and so on.
We have had a sight of rain for the last four or five weeks. Our camps are very muddy but a part of our regiment has left here this morning for Harrison 10 miles from here. Our squadron is left here to stand picket three days and then we are going and one of the other squadrons will come here to take our place. We are still close to them but they are very peaceable. They threw a few shells at our infantry a few days ago. Old General Bragg has issued an order and says that he will give any man a 40 day furlough if he will recruit to his company. I want you to see Phil Coker and see if he intends to come to our company and if he does, tell him I want him to come as a recruit for me so I can get a furlough and I will do all I can for him in any way possible and be more than fifteen hundred times obliged to him if he does come too. Go to Goodgame and have his name enrolled and get a showing for him so that he won’t be bothered on his way up here. Tell him he will never find a better regiment nor one that has more privilege.
Nothing more at present—only I remain your affectionate husband till death. — John W. Cotton
I love to be at home awhile and I would like better to be at home all the time. Old Jeff Davis has been up here and made a speech and said peace would be made in six months.
Tennessee Camp near Chattanooga
October 28, 1863
Dear beloved wife and children,
I take my pen in hand this morning to try to answer your kind letter which I received last night. It was dated the 20th. It gave me much pleasure to hear from you and to hear that the children were all well and it gave me much displeasure to hear of your sickness and to hear what caused it. I was a little astonished to hear of your undertaking to throw up fodder and you in the condition you were. It looks like you migt have known that it would have hurt you. But you will always do too much. But I hope you will get well soon and I hope you will do less hereafter and take better care of yourself.
These lines leave me well and I hope they may reach you in due time and find you all well and doing well. You said you had not hired Manuel yet but you heard he was to hire. If he is, I think you can hire him. You said you had paid a part of your tax. I think they are very high and it looks hard too to think a soldier that has to hire a crop made has to give the tenth of it to the government and him in the field fighting to sustain it. But if the tax would sustain it instead of fighting, I would be willing to pay as much more. You wrote too about old man Kelly’s substituting for me. I talked to the captain this morning and he says he thinks that it will be a bad chance for me to put him in as all of the big officers is down upon substituting. But Colonel Goode is at home now but he will be back in a few days and I will see him or get the captain to see him about it and see what I can do about it and I will write all about it. I did not understand from your letter whether he was willing to come for the duration of the war at the rate of seven hundred dollars for six months or just for a few months.
We have moved out from Chattanooga so we will be more handy to forage but we send one squadron in at a time to stand guard and it stays three days at a time. The pickets got to fighting and the Yankeys come out of their breastworks and our men, it is said, whipped them back. But I hant heard with what result. Our squadron had just left there. We left while they were fighting. The fight was on the far side of the breastworks form us. None of our regiment were in it. Nothing more ay present—only remain your true, devoted husband till death, — J. W. Cotton
October 29. Mariah, I will write a few more lines this morning before I send my letter off. I am well as common. They are still cannonading at Chattanooga. They were at it all day yesterday and they commenced last night after midnight and they are at it yet. It is about sunup. I hear that day before yesterday the Yankeys took the 15th Alabama Regiment and we took seven hundred prisoners from them. I hant heard whether they fought yesterday with small arms or not. I think they will decide the fight now before they quit. We will have to go back tomorrow or next day on picket. Nothing more at this time. I hope you are well. — John W. Cotton
Camp near Chickamauga, Tennessee
November 3, 1863
Most dear beloved wife,
I have just received a letter from you a few minutes ago. I was very glad to hear from you all but I was very sorry to hear that you had not got well yet. You said you had just put in a piece of cloth. I am afraid you will go to wearing before you are able. I think I know what ailed you by the way you wrote. I am very sorry that you had such bad luck and I am sorry to think that my coming home a few days caused you to suffer so much. I had rather not come home at all but I don’t know when I will ever get to come home again. I hope when you get these few lines you may be well. They leave me well.
We are still here close to the Yankeys. Our camps ain’t no more than a mile apart but the river is between us. They are still shelling away at Chattanooga. They have been fighting there 9 days but they hant fought much with small arms. They hant fought any on the side where we stand picket. It is five or six miles from here to Chattanooga but we go there to stand picket. We stand two days and are off four but when we ain’t at Chattanooga, we stand picket on the river so we are busy all the time. We have a heap of rain but the weather is pleasant. We hant had much frost yet.
You said that I could get Old Man Kelly to take my place six months for seven hundred dollars. If I can put him in my place, I will d it but I can’t tell till Old Colonel Goode comes back. I will see him as soon as he comes back and see whether I can put him in or not. If I can, I will write to you. I think it will be a bad chance unless we get to come to Talladega. Slaughter is trying to get his battalion down there.
I want to know whether anybody is allowed to still or not, and if Vandaman and Webb and Carlisle is stilling. If they are and I get to come home to still this winter—if I could—I could make more money than I ever have in my life. I hope you will hire Manuel.
Nothing more at present. I remain your husband till death, — John W. Cotton
Tennessee camp near Chattanooga
November 10, 1863
Dear beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines in answer to your kind letters I have just received yesterday. One was dated August 31st and one October the 28th and 29th. I read them with much pleasure. I was glad to hear from you again but I was very sorry to think you were not well but I hope by the time you get this letter, you will be well again. I was glad to hear that the children was well and I was glad to hear you wre done gathering corn. I think you have made a very good crop of corn and I hope you will get your wheat sowed in good time. I hate for you to pay the 10 percent of your corn to the government. I want you from this out to sell everything you have, to sell for all you can get, and I want you to hire Manuel for next year, let him cost what he may, for if you were to miss a crop, it would ruin you for you would not be able to buy your provisions. Corn is worth from $4 to 8 per bushel here now. If you have any to sell, don’t sell it yet. You ought to feed your hogs well and make them very fat and keep your stock hogs fat and I want you to tell Manuel I want him to tend to May and get her fat this winter and not let anybody steal her. I hear they are stealing horses down there. Hold on to your brandy till all the rest is sold in the country and you can get anything you will ask for it. I have got my mule yet that I took up on picket at Chattanooga.
We are now standing picket on the river not far from our camp. There is more soldiers coming here from Virginia and some going from here to up about Loudon and Knoxville. I think that there will be another fight here before long or else Old Bragg will try to flank them. There is a hep of them at Chattanooga. I left there Sunday morning and this is Tuesday. The boys talk to them across the river here everyday. They want tobacco very bad but out boys won’t let them have it. Our men swaps papers with them ever once and a while. They seem to be very friendly with us. It is thought that they are very scarce of provisions. I don’t think they can stay here long if they don’t get possession of the Lookout Mountain and the river below Chattanooga.
It has been raining a heap and the roads must be very bad and they have to haul everything they get. But it has fared off and turned cold last night. There was a heap of ice this morning.
You said Mike and Sally had been to see you. I think it is a wonder that Sack [Sally] took a notion to come to see you. You said Mike was coming back to his company as soon as he gets able. They are gone up in East Tennessee. They say we are not in their brigade now. They say we are under a man by the name of [Gen. W. H.] Martin. One company of our regiment is gone to escort a General Marion Bates and Bill Bates belongs to that company. They are both well. They have heard that Uncle Matt is dead. I heard some time ago that John Hindsman was dead but never heard that Uncle Wilson had his arm shot off nor of the rest that was wounded.
You said the cavalry had hung two men but never said who they were. I don’t think there is much deserting a going on now. I think the most that is deserting from here is Tennesseans. Some of our regiment goes home but they don’t stay log before they come back. You said Caroline had not heard from Bill in two months. Asa went to his regiment about two weeks ago and saw him. He was well and fat but reckon he wrote about seeing him before now. His regiment was in the line of battle in site of Chattanooga. I would of went to see him but I did not get the chance. You said you got 26 gallons of brandy. I would like to know why you did not et any more. There is something wrong about it.
These lines leave me well and hoping they may reach you in due time and find you well but I am afraid from what you say that you won’t be well till your 9 months is out. I don’t want you to do anything to hurt yourself any more. You said that Sweet couldn’t talk any better yet. I wish I could hear little Ginney talk and say Par. Tell Sweet if he don’t talk, I won’t give him no candy when I come home. I will give it all to Ginney. But if he will talk, I will give him some too.
You wrote a heap about my putting Old Man Kelly in as a substitute. I can’t tell you anything about it yet. Colonel Goode has come back but I hant had the chance to see him about it yet. I am on picket every other day. I am on picket now, sitting on the bank of the river writing. Nothing more at present, — John W. Cotton
I will see old Goode soon or get the Captain to see him for me and I will write all about it, but it is a bad chance.
Tennessee camp near Blue Springs
November 18, 1863
Dear beloved wife and children,
I again take my pen in hand to write you a few more lines in answer to your kind letters which I have received since I wrote to you. One was wrote when Mike was at your house and one November the 3rd, and the other I don’t recollect the date. I have got several old letters here lately. I have been getting letters tolerable regular now for awhile. I hope I will keep getting them. I hate to hear that you are unwell in every letter I read and I am glad to hear that the children is well. I am glad to hear that your hogs is doing well now. How many have you got to kill? Is any other of your sows died since I left home? How many shoats have you got left and how did your peas turn out? You ought to make your killing hogs very fat for pork and bacon will be very high. How is Mary coming on?
We have moved from where we were camped up the river about 10 miles near a place called Blue Springs but we are still picketing on the Tennessee River but our duty ain’t as heavy as it were before. But since we have moved here we have to drill twice a day and then go on dress parade in the evening and we have very strict orders.
I have got my mule yet. My horse looks very well. He has mended right smart since I got him but I am afraid that corn will soon get so scarce I can’t get any—only what I draw. But we are getting plenty now and there is a plenty of hogs about here. We are put in another brigade. There has been another detail made to go home to buy horses. Asa is on the detail. I don’t know when they will get off.
November 19th. These lines leave me well and hoping they may reach you in due time and find you well and doing well. We have got to move again today 3 miles further up the river. You will still send your letters to the same place till you hear from me. I will let you know when to change them. Nothing more at present. I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton
Georgia Camp near Dalton
November 29, 1863
Dear beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and hope that these few lines may find you all enjoying the same blessing. I hant wrote to you in more than a week. We have been riding almost every day and night for 8 days. We have been riding up and down the Tennessee River the most of the time trying to keep the Yankeys from crossing but they crossed anyhow.
We went to East Tennessee and they crossed at the mouth of Chickamauga and we was ordered back and we found them at Cleveland day before yesterday morning and we had a fight with them that lasted about two hours and we whipped them and made them skedaddle in a hurry. They left horses, mules, saddles, bridles, and provisions, cooking things, and they strewed everything as they went. I shall have to quit writing for I am detailed to go off on duty but I don’t know what.
I never got hurt in the fight nor none of our company. Colonel Slaughter was wounded in the shoulder.
I don’t think I will be able to put Old Man Kelly in my place. Give twelve hundred dollars for Manuel if you can buy him for me. Less if I can sell my mule and draw money. I can send you five or six hundred dollars. I would write more but I hant got the time now.
Bragg’s army is falling back from Chattanooga again. They are at Dalton, the most of them. I don’t know where he will make another stand. Nothing more. I will write again soon. — John W. Cotton
[The following letter was written by Saral Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Hindsman, the wife of Dr. Andrew (“Dock”) C. L. Hindsman—a brother of John Cotton’s wife Mariah. Lizzie wrote this letter to Mariah (Hindsman) Cotton.]
Coweta [county], Georgia
December 1, 1863
My dear sister-in-law,
I now hasten to drop you a few lines to let you know that I have not forgot you if you have me. I am in tolerable good health but Dock is very sick. He started to his company last Tuesday and come home very sick with the pneumonia and is very bad off. He could not get to his company for they were cut off by the Yankees. He says they were fighting at Knoxville and Chattanooga.
I have wrote two or three letters to you and have not received any answer from any of them. I want you to write to me. If you don’t answer this one, I shall think you don’t want me to write so I want to hear from you as soon as you can write to me.
I heard from weaver and he was not very well but he thought that he was a mending right smart. Give my love to all inquiring friends. I have nothing more at present to write. I have to write this and wait on Dock besides so excuse bad writing and spelling. From your affectionate sister, — Lizzie
Georgia Camp near Dalton
December 9, 1863
Dear beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to try to answer your kind letter I have received from you since I wrote to you. I wrote to you the 30th of last month but did not have time to write but a little, I thought then I would have time to write again soon but I was sent off on detail to guard some forage and was gone four days and then as soon as I got back, the regiment was ordered off and so this is the first time I have had the chance to write. I am expecting to hear the word “Saddle!” every minute. I hant got much to write to you but if I could see you I could tell you a heap.
You said in one of mine that I did not want to come home anymore. I think you must have been mistaken in reading my letter. If I wrote that to you, I did not aim to do it. God knows [that] if I don’t want to come home, nobody never did. I don’t want you to think that I don’t want to come home.
You said you wanted me to come home by Christmas. I would like to come the worst you ever saw but I don’t see any chance to get home. But I reckon asa will be at home soon on his detail. If he comes home, you may send me a pair of pants by him. You said Cohen and Medill and David Martin was coming to our company. If any one of them comes as a recruit for me, I will try to get a furlough.
I am afraid you won’t hire Manuel. I want you to hire him let him cost what he may. You said you wanted to hire if I could get Kelly in my place. We have so much running about to do that I hant had the chance to find out. I have almost give out trying to get him in. If you can’t buy Manuel, I want you to get Par to buy you a negro girl if he can find one to buy. If he hant got money enough, I can get a plenty by selling your brandy.
Nothing more at present. I remain yours truly, — J W. Cotton
Georgia Camp, 7 miles from Dalton
December 14, 1863
Dear beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well. I hant got but very little to write to you. We are here and have been here 3 days but I don’t think we will stay here long. Our army is still falling back and the Yankeys are advancing slowly. I don’t know where we will make a stand at. The most of the men thinks we will fall back to Atlanta, Georgia. I think our cavalry is only staying here until the infantry gets out of the way.
Mariah, I am sorry to say to you that I am worse out of heart about whipping the Yankeys than I have ever been. There is lots of our men says there is no use to fight them anymore. They say that both Congresses has met and I hope they will make peace on some sort of terms of peace so we can come home and live as we have done before. It ain’t worthwhile to try to tell how bad I want to come home.
I am afraid from what you wrote in your last letter that you and little Ginney is both sick. I would love to hear that you were all well one time more. I want you to take good care of yourself and the children and I will come home as soon as I can. I thought that Asa would have started home efore now on his detail but I think it is a little uncertain whether he gets it or not. There has been several details sent up but none of them hant come back yet.
You said that Dave Martin, Jim McDill, and Cohen was going to start here the last of last month but they hant got here yet. If they come here and hant been mustered into the service, I will try to put one of them in as a recruit and try to get a furlough.
Asa went out with a scout day before yesterday and they caught a Yankee and brought him in yesterday morning.
If I could see you, I could tell you a heap that I have seen since I left home. Nothing more at present. I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton
I want you to hire Manuel, let him cost what he will.
Georgia Camp 10 miles above Dalton
December 22, 1863
I again embrace the opportunity of writing you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and hope these lines may find you all enjoying the same blessing. Dave Martin and Bill got here night before last. They brought me a letter and two pairs of socks and a bottle but no brandy. They said it all leaked out. I was glad to hear that your stock was doing well. I hope that you will have meat enough to do you. I can’t write but little now. They have just brought in a Yankey that our pickets captured last night or this morning and I have to go and take him to headquarters. He says the Yankeys is all going back to Chattanooga and are going to go down the river to Rome and from there to Atlanta. He come over to give up to us. He is barefooted and nearly naked. He is from New York City.
Asa’s detail hant come back yet. I am going to try to get a furlough on Dave Martin. You sent me clothes enough. I had just drawed a very good pair of pants and could have drawn more close if I had needed them. I did not need the socks you sent to me but I can keep them till I do need them.
I hope you will get Manuel next year. From what Dave Martin said, there won’t be no chance for you to buy him. Dave says Pars still house was burnt up and there weren’t but 10 stands saved but he did not know whether mine were burned or not. I would like to know.
We are all of our regiment on picket and I expect we will be here several days. There is a heap of our cavalry gone down below Rome but we always have the brunt to bear. My horse has been barefooted and I have had a heap of riding to do and he has fell off right smart. But I got him shod this morning. We hant been getting near enough for them to eat but we get right smart corn but no ruffage. Our horses generally look very bad and the most of the barefooted. I think I will bring or send my horse home and ride my mule. I would like to be at home and help you pick spareribs and back bones and eat [ ].
Nothing more at present. I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton
Georgia Camp 10 miles north of Dalton
December 30, 1863
Dear beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and doing very well but I am sorry to say to you that I have had very bad luck. I have lost my horse. He died yesterday morning. He died with the scours. I done everything for him I could but it done no good. He was taken about midnight and died near morning.
We had started to Charleston, Tennessee, to try to capture some Yankey wagon trains and we stayed all night close to Cleveland and 27 of us were put out on picket and the whole command went on next morning and left us on picket and we stayed there all day [with]in three miles of the Yankeys and the rest of the command went on to Charleston and the wagon train had crossed the Hiwasee river and some of our men went up and skirmished with them some hour and a half and were in the act of leaving and the Yankeys made a charge on them and stampeded the whole of the command and taken a heap of them prisoners and killed some. They run right into our men with their pistols and sabers and shot and cut them with their sabers. One struck Asa on the head with his saber but did not cut him very bad. He got away from them. There is only one of our company missing—Lieutenant Guthrie has not been heard of yet.
I escaped a scouring by being left on picket. We had three brigades in the stampede. There was several of our boys lost their hats and nearly all of them lost their guns. Asa lost his hat and Bill Martin and several others. Asa hant got his detail yet nor none of our company but there is lots of the regiment is gone home on details. Our boys sent them up and they weren’t forwarded through and they will have to send them up again.
I have sent up my furlough [request] but it hant had time to come back yet nor I don’t reckon it will. That stampede I think will knock it in the head. It is said our Brigade will go down in Alabama in a few days to Decatur but I am afraid we won’t go.
I hope you have hired Manuel before now and I hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well. Nothing more at present. I remain your affectionate husband till death. — John W. Cotton
Calhoun county, Alabama
January 20, 1864
Mariah, dear wife,
I again take my pen in hand to try to let you know that I am well and where I am. We are in Alabama 21 miles from Talladega town. We are going to stop 6 miles below here at a place called the Cold Water Campground. We have come down here to recruit our horses. It is thought that we will stay down here about two months. You may look for me at home before we go back to Tennessee. I wrote to you that I had sent up a furlough [request]. I have not heard from it yet. Some that was sent up at the same time has come back disapproved and I have no idea that mine will ever come back. I am going to try for another. I think they will furlough all of us before we will go back.
The dismounted part of our regiment hant got here yet. Asa is with them. I reckon he has wrote since I have. I hant had the chance to write in about 3 weeks. We were on picket 8 days and when we were called off we started down here the next morning and this is 10 days since we started. Our whole brigade is here—four regiments.
I heard you had hired Manuel again and had to give 150 bushels of corn for him. Miss Brown wrote it to him. I hant got a letter from you since Dave Martin came here. I am anxious to hear from you all but had rather see you all than to hear from you. I am coming home before I go back, let cuts go as they will.
I wrote to you that I had lost my horse. I have got the mule that I captured yet but I have hurt his back very bad on this trip. If I get to come home, I will bring him home. I hant got but little to write to you but if I could see you I could tell you a heap.
Nothing more at present. I remain your true affectionate husband till death. — John W. Cotton
January 24, 1864
I again take my pen in hand to write you a few more lines to let you know that I am still well and hope these few lines may soon come to hand and find you the same. I will send this to Talladega by Woodard Blair. When you write to me, direct your letter to Oxford, Alabama. I wrote to you the other day and I think I forgot to tell you where to direct your letters to. I hant got a letter from you since Dave Martin left home nor Asa neither. I begin to want to hear from you all very bad.
I have sent up another furlough [request]. I started it day before yesterday. If I get it, I will be at home before long.
I hant got but little to write to you. We are building winter quarters and have a very strict camp guard and five roll calls a day and as soon as we get our cabins built, they are going to drill us twice a day in infantry drill. We are not allowed to go out of camp without a pass approved by the general or the brigade officer of the day and we are not even allowed to ride our horses to water. Some of the boys are very much dissatisfied but I think they are doing perfectly right for if they did not have tight rules, some of them would be always gone and they would all tear up the country. We have got a new general and I think he is the best one we have ever been under. His name is [William Y. C.] Humes.
My mule’s back has been very sore but it is mending very fast. If I get my furlough, I will ride him home. Itis only 21 miles from here to Talladega. We have had some of the coldest weather that I ever saw. It turned cold at Christmas and stayed cold till a few days ago. We have had a few days of very pretty weather but I think it will rain again in a few days. I want to come home to see you all and see how Manuel is getting on with his farm. I heard you had hired him again.
Nothing more at present. I remain your true, devoted husband till death. — John W. Cotton
February 1, 1864
My dear beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to try to let you hear from me. I am well at this time and hope these few lines may find you the same. I thought I would have been at home before now but my furlough has not come back yet. It looks like that when a furlough [request] is sent up, it never comes back. There has been a heap of furloughs and details sent up since we came here but none of them hant come back yet. There is several of the boys got passes for 48 hours and went home but I don’t want to come home on that sort of a pass. But if my furlough don’t soon come back, I shall try to come some way.
My mule’s back has got most well. He is mending very fast. If I get to come home, I want to bring him and leave him and buy me a horse. Asa and Dave Martin is going to try to get a pass and come home tomorrow. If they do, I may send this by Asa. If he comes home, you will be apt to see him and he can tell you more than I can write.
We have got very good shanties built and are doing very well. We have to drill twice a day and have 5 roll calls and are not allowed to go out of camp without a pass approved by the brigade officer of the day and are not allowed to ride a horse out of camp without a pass approved by General Humes. If I could see you, I could tell you a heap. I may get home before you get this letter and I may not come in some time. I am looking for my furlough every day.
I have got two letters from you since I wrote before. The last was wrote the 10th of January. I was sorry to hear you had to give so much for the hire of Manuel but I reckon it is better to give that than to do worse. Your hogs done better than I expected. Nothing more at present. I remain yours forever, — John W. Cotton
Tunnel Hill, Georgia
March 7, 1864
Dear wife and children,
I arrived here last night at Tunnel Hill. We brought 16 prisoners through with us. We had a very wet, muddy time of it but got along very well. There is a heap of duty to do here but the boys seem to be in good spirits. They say they are living better here than they did at Oxford. Beef has played out here and they draw bacon altogether. I am on camp guard today. Lieutenant Conant is in command of our company and he is on picket about twenty miles from here and they don’t know when he will be back. He has been gone 12 days. Ten of our company is with him. We can’t send up our furlough [requests] till we see him. I will go or send to him this evening or tomorrow ad have our furloughs fixed up.
They are looking for a fight here before long if it stays good weather. Our men and the Yankeys are picketing close together. They have some picket firing once and a while. There is a talk of our brigade going back to Oxford to recruit their horses again.
They say that it only takes a furlough [request] 3 or 4 days to come back after it is sent up from here. I will get mine as soon as possible. These lines leave me well and hoping these few lines may come to hand and find you the same. Nothing more at present. I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton
Jim Brady [of Co. C] has runaway and it is thought that he is gone to the Yankeys.
March 30, 1864
Dear beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to try to let you know that I am at Oxford yet but I reckon we will leave here in the morning. There is a passel of the best horses to the front. We would have been gone before now but the commander here wouldn’t let us go on by ourselves.
I haven’t anything to write to you—only to let you know that I am well and all of the rest is well. Some of our boys that was dismounted got here last night from Dalton. They say there is no fighting there but they had orders to have all of their horses shod and have an extra pair to take with them but they did not know where they were going but it was thought they were going to make a raid somewhere.
Nothing more. I remain yours forever, — John W. Cotton
Tunnel Hill, Georgia
April 23, 1864
Most dear beloved wife and children,
I take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well in body but not in mind. I am very much troubled about not getting my furlough. Dave Martin and Bill got their furloughs and started home yesterday evening. I never have had nothing to hurt my feelings as bad in my life.
General Johnston has passed an order for no more furloughs to be granted for the present so there ain’t no chance now to get a furlough. I would give anything in the world almost to be at home with you now but as long as I can’t, my prayer is that you may do well in delivering your dear little babe. Do the best you can and take good care of yourself and the baby. I don’t know that I will ever live to see it but I still live in hopes that I will live till the war will end so we can live in peace and harmony once more. I think if this war was ended, I would be the happiest man living.
We are looking for a fight every day. Some of our regiment is gone now to run in some of the Yankee pickets. One of our men that went with them has just got in. He says they got 23 prisoners and killed 10 or 12. They are all coming in. We never got nary man killed and but 2 wounded.
Write as soon as you get this letter and let me know how you are coming on and how your wheat looks. Nothing more at present. I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton
Tunnel Hill, Georgia
April 28, 1864
Most dear wife and children,
I once more take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may find you all the same, I want to hear from you very bad. I hant heard from home since Asa left there. I hope I will hear from you in a few days.
If ever we are looking for a fight here every day, it would not surprise me to hear at any minute that the Yankeys were advancing. General Johnston is moving up his forces to the front, It is said that he is mighty well fortified betwixt Tunnel Hill and Dalton. It is thought that we will whip the Yankeys here. Our men seem to be in good spirits and willing to fight. Our cavalry is in very good condition for fighting.
I am not satisfied about losing my furlough yet. If I had got my furlough, I might have missed this fight but I hope I will come out unhurt and live to see the war ended and get home to enjoy the fruits of my labor here in this unjust and unholy war. I don’t know what I would give to be at home with you and our little ones but I can’t be with you now.
The 17th Alabama Regiment is at Rome, Georgia, but I recon you have heard of that. There will be a good deal of fruit in this country if nothing happens to it. We had frost here up to the 20th of this month but the weather is very warm now and looks like spring has opened. Vegetation is putting forth very fast.
Nothing more at present that I can think of. Asa is well and so is Porter. Asa is writing. I hope these lines may find you all well. — John W. Cotton
Tunnel Hill, Georgia
May 3, 1864
Most dear beloved wife and children,
I now take the opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that I am still alive and well and hope these few lines may find you all enjoying the same good blessing.
We have had two little fights here since I wrote to you before. One the next day after I wrote and one yesterday, but there weren’t much damage done. Yesterday morning the Yankey run in our pickets on the Ringgold Road and General Humes’ Brigade met them and skirmished with them awhile but there were such a heavy force of them that he fell back below Tunnel Hill. They come up near enough to throw some shells into Tunnel Hill. They threw a few shells into town and then fell back. Our pickets were all called in and a regular fight was expected but they went back. All is quiet this morning so far.
It is thought by some that there would not be no regular fight here soon. It is believed that they are sending their troops to Virginia and trying to keep it dark from us by showing fight here. It is reported in camp that General Johnston is sending troops from here to Virginia. It don’t surprise me at no time now to hear that the Yankeys is coming for I am looking for them every morning.
I thought that spring had come a few days ago but we had a white frost last night. I don’t think that it done much damage. I don’t think it was cold enough to kill wheat nor frost much but it killed the bushes right smart in low places. I reckon Dave Martin and Bill is setting up at home now digging a grand rascal where I would have been if I had got my rights. I am not satisfied about it yet nor I never expect to be. I want to see you all very bad and I am anxious to get a letter from home for I hant got nary one since I left home but I hope you are doing well. I would like to be at home now to see how Manuel is getting on with his crop. Write as soon as you get these few lines and tell me if Vardeman has fixed up my still.
Nothing more at present. I remain your true, affectionate friend till death, — J. W. Cotton
Tunnel Hill, Georgia
May 6, 1864
I take my pen in hand to try to let you hear from me. I am well and hope these few lines may find you all the same. I hant but little to write to you but I suppose you want to hear whether we are fighting or not. We are not at it yet but are expecting an attack every moment.
The Yankeys are advancing on us. They are not far from Tunnel Hill in a line of battle. We were saddled this morning by day and formed a line of battle and then marched back to camp and not allowed to unsaddle. We have had an alarm every day for several run out in a line of battle. The men are getting so they don’t care but very little for an alarm but I think if things don’t change, we will have something to do before Sunday night. This is Friday morning.
Our men are in good spirits. It is generally believed that if they move on us here that we will whip them. I hear that he infantry is very anxious for a fight. Asa is gone on a scout to see if the Yankeys are advancing and find out what they can. There is four others with him. If I could see you I could tell you a heap that has passed since I come back to the company. I dread this fight for I think the cavalry will have a heap to do and I don’t know whether I will ever get out of it or not but I only have to trust to Him who [paper torn] things for my safety. I hope He will guide me safe through the storms of battle and then return me safe home to you and our dear little ones.
I hant got nary letter from you yet but Asa got one from Nan dated the 27th of April. She said you were still up and well. Write and let me know how you are getting on. Nothing more at present. — John W. Cotton
Hitower [Etowah] River near Cartersville, [Georgia]
May 21, 1864
Most beloved wife,
I one time more take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines to let you know where I am and what I am doing. I am not very well at this time. I have been right sick but I am mending. I will soon be well. I hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well.
I got a letter from you dated the 7th of this month. You said that Sweet and Ginney were both sick. I was very sorry to hear that but I was glad to hear you was doing well and the baby also. You said you wanted me to send it a name. I hant got nary name picked out for it. If you have anyone for it, name it and I will be satisfied with it.
I don’t know what to write to you about the fight. I know you have heard that we were falling back. We have fell back to the south side of the Etowah river and give up all north of this river and we are still falling back. I don’t no where we will make a stand at but General Johnston is determined to get them to fight him now for two weeks but they won’t do it. They keep flanking him and he is obliged to fall back to keep them from cutting him off from his supplies. There has been a right smart fighting but no regular engagement. I think that we will whip them yet as soon as we can get them to fight us. It is thought that Johnston is getting reinforcements from Virginia. He has got a very good army here now and they want to fight. The infantry were the keenest for a fight at Resaca that ever I saw.
There is a heap of our men thinks we are whipped because we have fell back. As for my part, I hate very much having to give up so much of our own country to the enemy to be destroyed by them. It makes me shudder when I think of the poor women and children that is left behind us. The worst sight that ever I saw is to see women and children running and hiding to keep from being killed on the battlefield. Since this fight has commenced, I have seen them have to run from under the mouth of the cannon to keep from being killed. You may think that you have some idea about it but you have none.
If I could see you now I could tell you a heap but I don’t know whether I can send this letter off now or not. I hant wrote since the fight commenced for I hant had the chance to send letters off. I got my horse shot the first day of the fight and I thought at first it would kill him but he has got nearly well. He was not able for duty for a week. It has been done two weeks today. He is doing very well. He is a heap better horse than I thought he was. The Yankeys had like to got me when they shot my horse but I have escaped so far. There has been several of our company wounded slightly. John Brady was wounded tolerable bad. He is the only one gone to the hospital.
Nothing more. I will write again as soon as I get the chance. May God bless you all. Nothing more. — John W. Cotton
[12 Miles west of Marietta, Georgia]
May 27th 1864
Mariah, dear wife,
I again take the privilege to write you a few lines to try to let you know that I have just got two letters from you. One was dated the 10th, one the 17th. I wsa glad to hear that the children was all well and that you were doing as well as what you said you were but sorry to hear that your back hurt you so much. I thank you for your prayers and hope they may be heard and granted.
Mariah, we are still fighting the Yankeys. I am now writing close to where they are fighting. Our brigade is now in a line of battle on the right wing of the infantry to keep off flakers. The infantry are skirmishing and cannonading very heavy. There is a big fight expected here today. We are 12 miles west of Marietta, Georgia. There was a very heavy fight here day before yesterday and heavy skirmishing yesterday. Our men whipped the Yankeys very bad and took about 300 prisoners.
Our brigade went on a raid last Tuesday in rear of the Yankeys and we captured their wagon train of over a hundred wagons and 20 days rations for one whole division of their army and about 200 prisoners and several negroes and 700 mules and 10 ambulances and a car and two many things to mention. Our regiment received but little of the benefit of it for we were sent ten miles further in the rear to capture a train of cares but we never got to the railroad in time. It had passed before we got there. We passed close by Uncle Travis Cotton’s but I could not stop to see him.
I was with the 1st Georgia Regiment day before yesterday. All of our connection was well. They told me that Mike [Hindsman] was married to one Miss Tuett. I never heard her name. You may have heard of it before now. Dock is an Assistant Surgeon in a hospital at Newnan. They are both out of this war, I would like very much to see your big boy you write so much about.
Mariah I am sorry to say to you that I am not well for I am afraid you will be uneasy about me but you need not. I am able to go with the company but not able to do much. I have been unwell for two weeks and have eat very little so my flesh is reduced right smartly and strength too but I feel better today. Our regiment is almost run down. There is lots of our horses run down and gone to the convalescent camp and the men are all nearly wore out. If I could get a few days rest, I think I would be all right but the other day when we made that raid, we started one night about midnight and rode all that day and night till three o’clock the next morning and there was one of the hardest rains I ever saw and it was so dark I could not see my hand before me—only when it would lighten some. We have to travel some nearly every night.
Our regiment has distinguished herself in this fight. General Wheeler says she is the best fighting regiment in his corps. We hant had nary man killed yet but several wounded but all slightly but John Brady who was wounded in the back. There has been several killed out of our regiment. Nothing more at present. I remain your fond, affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton
Direct your next letter to Marietta, Georgia, and I will get it. It will be apt to follow us up.
[The following letter was written by Nancy (Hindsman) Trammell, the sister of Maria (Hindsman) Cotton, and the wife of John Trammell of the 1st Georgia Infantry.]
May 29, 1864
Dear Sister [Mariah],
I now seat myself to write you a few lines. I received your letter last week. I was glad to hear from you. This leaves us well. I have nothing interesting to write at this time. There is a great excitement here about the Yankeys. There was a false alarm given here last week that they would be at Newnan Thursday by twelve. The people was very excited here.
Sister you said that you want to know where Bud and Mike was. Mike is at Aunt Kizy’s. He is married. He was married the 17th of April to Emeline Truit. Bud [Dr. A. C. L. Hindsman] is at Andersonville [Prison]. He is a doctor in the hospital. Liz started there last Saturday was a week ago. I don’t know when she will come back. She went to carry some clothes to him. Sister, I have not got nary letter from John since the fight. He was there at the fight but he was not hurt. The last I heard from him there was one of his company killed and one got his leg shot off. I don’t reckon that you would know them if I would name them. Peter Hindsman and Jake is in John’s Company. Ben is at home. All of the connection is well except Aunt Sally and Uncle Israel. They have the measles.
I must come to a close. Write to me soon. Nothing more. I remain your true sister, — Nan Trammell
[West of Marietta,] Georgia
June 1, 1864
Most dear beloved wife,
I once more take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines to let you know where I am and what I am doing and that I am about well and hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well. I have not received nary letter from you since I wrote. I want to hear from you very bad. I want to see you. You don’t know how bad. It ain’t no use to try to tell anything about it but there ain’t no chance to come home now. Our cavalry is doing more now than they have since the war began.
Wheeler’s Cavalry is on the right wing of our army and they are lying in line of battle like infantry. We have built splendid breastworks and are ready for an attack. We keep our horses about one mile in the rear and 1 man to every 4 horses to attend to them and the rest at the breastworks and on the skirmish line. The skirmishers fight day and night but they are so far apart, there ain’t but very little damage done. I wrote to you once since we have been here. I wrote that we were looking for a heavy fight. There was a right smart fight that evening. [See Battle of Pickett’s Mill] Our brigade was in it but they did not fight long till the infantry come in and relieved them. Our Major got his arm shot off at his shoulder and another private shot through the wrist and several slightly wounded but nary one killed nor nary one of our company wounded. We have had 8 of our company wounded since this fight commenced but nary one killed. But there has been several of the regiment killed. Me nor Asa hant been touched. Asa is well. He has been into the fight all the time.
My horse has got well and is doing well. His wound did not hurt him as bad as I thought it would. The ball went in at the bulge of his ribs and come out near his sheath and cut the skin on his thigh. They were shooting mighty close at me. There has been several right hard fights here since we have been here and our men have whipped them in every instance and their loss has been very heavy. Our brigade was in it too. Our loss was 50 killed and our men buried 650 Yankeys besides what they carried off. Our men whipped them and took the battlefield. We have not had no general engagements yet but we are looking for it everyday but a heap thinks the Yankeys won’t come on us.
Mariah, don’t be uneasy about me for if I get killed, it won’t do no good to be uneasy but I hope I will have your prayers. I think if they don’t [attack us] in a few days that Johnston will go on them. They have been trying to flank us on the right but they have failed so far. I think if they will come up and fight us, that we will whip them badly. This is enough about the fight.
I would like to be at home to see how you are all coming on and how Manuel is getting on with his crop. I wish Vardeman would fix up my still if there is fruit enough to still. If you get the chance, send Vardeman word to come and fix it up. Par wants to fix it up and still on it. Let him have it for half [of what] he makes and you may let Manuel help him when he has time. you must name the baby and send me its name. Nothing more at present—only I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton
Georgia Camp 5 miles north of Marietta
June 9, 1864
Dear beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope that you are enjoying the same blessing. I want to hear from you very bad. I hant got nary letter from you since the 17th of last month. We get but very little mail. There is but very few letters comes to our company. I am afraid you don’t get mine for I know you want to hear what we are doing up here.
The big fight hant come off yet. The Yankeys are trying to flank us yet on the right but I think they have gone about as far as they can go. Our brigade is picketing on the left. There is but very few Yankeys where we are picketing. We hant done any fighting now in six days and there has not been but little fighting on the lines. The Yankeys charged our men night before last at Big Shanty and we killed and captured fifteen hundred of them. That is about the way they get done every time they attack us. I think if they would come up and fight us a fair fight, that we would give them the worst whipping they ever got.
It is reported by deserters and citizens coming into our lines that they are suffering very much for the want of rations ad that their horses and mules are starving for want of forage. From all accounts, their army is in a very bad condition. Our army is in good spirits and are getting a plenty to eat. Our horse rations are short. We don’t get but half rations of corn but we get grain wheat to feed on. Our horses have stood up very well considering what they have had to do.
I want to see the baby very bad and all the rest of you. Nothing more at present. I remain yours as ever, — John W. Cotton
Camp near Marietta [Georgia]
June 17th 1864
Dear beloved wife,
I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may find you enjoying the same blessing. I got a letter from you sent by Dave Martin. You said you did not get my letters. I was sorry to hear that for I know that you want to hear from me while this fight is going on here.
I hant been hurt yet. We had another fight day before yesterday, We got our orderly sergeant killed. He was all that got hurt out of our company. There was two killed and one wounded in our regiment. We made the Yanks get back. They are fighting everyday somewhere on the line but there hant been no regular fight yet but we are looking for it every day. We have had a heap of rain and the roads have been very muddy but they are getting better. The Yanks quit trying to flank us. I think they have got where they will have to fight or back out. I think if they come on to our men in their breastworks, I think that they will get a good whipping. But I don’t think that General Johnston will go on them.
I hant got but little to write to you. I hant got nary letter from you by mail since the 17th of May. I know that it ain’t because you don’t start them. I want to see you very bad and I want to see that big boy and see how he looks. I hant got no name for him yet. I want you to name him and send me his name. I hope you will get these lines in due time and I hope they may find you well and doing well.
Nothing more at present. I remain your true, devoted friend till death, — John W. Cotton
Georgia camp 4 miles west of Marietta
June 22, 1864
Most dear beloved wife,
I once more take my pen in hand to try to let you hear from me and to answer your kind letter of June 10th. I was glad to hear the children was all well but sorry to hear you were pestered so bad with the spring nettles but it may keep you from being sick otherwise. I begin to want to see that big boy of yours that you brag on so much and I am anxious to see all of the rest of you. I trying to swap my horse for a 15 day’s detail to come home but my officers wouldn’t let me do it. There is five of my company gone home now on details and there is one [paper torn] William Lessley but he is gone to the hospital. He was very unwell. He had the shingles very bad. He had a bad cold that ailed him.
We have had the most rain here that ever I saw. It is almost impossible to ride the roads in places. I think that is keeping off a general fight here but there is fighting here every day and some days very heavy. Our regiment hant been in a fight since [Orderly Sergt. William] Selevan [Sullivan?] Johnson was killed [on 15 June 1864 near Marietta]. I wrote to you about our sergeant getting killed—he was the man.
Our brigade was in a fight day before yesterday but our regiment was sent around on the left to stop a raid of Yankeys but they went back and we are here yet on the left of our army. We have been on the right all the time. No more about the fight.
These lines leave me well. You said you knew that we lived hard in this fight but you are mistaken. If you could see the pork that we eat yesterday and this morning you would not think so. We get bread baked and brought to us and we have drawed half pound of bacon every day. I can’t let Old Man Hollingshead have that iron. I never got Lizzie’s letter in yours. I hope you will make a good crop of wheat, Don’t be uneasy about me, I will do the best I can. I hope your prayers may be answered.
Nothing more at present. I remain yours, — John W. Cotton
[Editor’s Note: Cotton wrote the following letter on the day of Sherman’s attack on Kennesaw Mountain. The attack began at 8 a.m. when more than 50 cannons opened on the entrenched Confederates which was followed by Maj. Gen. John Logan’s frontal attack on the slopes of the mountain. The Confederate defenses proved impregnable, however, and by 10 a.m. the attack became disorganized and the attackers fell back. The fighting was over by noon.]
June 27th 1864
My most dear beloved wife,
I take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines in answer to your kind letter I received from you last night dated June 16th. I was very glad to get it and to hear that you were all well and all of the connection. These lines leave me well and hoping they may find you the same.
I am out in the country 3 miles from camp having some clothes washed at 50 cents a garment and it’s only half done at that. You said you wanted to see me very bad. I would be glad you could. I want to come home very bad but there ain’t no chance now till this fight is over. You wrote to me some time ago that Old Porter Vardeman and somebody else had been talking about me. I want you to write to me what they said and what it was. You said you wanted to know if I wanted my still fixed up any. I do if you can get it done. If I can get it fixed up, I would rent it out if I could. If there ain’t fruit enough to still, maybe somebody might wanmt to make some whiskey. Have them stands made up if you can get it done. I would like to know how my mule is coming on at old man Lessley’s. I want him to get fat by the time I need him. My horse looks very well yet and so does Asa’s.
The boys are all well this morning. Porter is gone to the hospital. I hant heard from him since he left. There is a detail here for him to go home after a horse. If he gets a furlough from the hospital, tell him I want to buy it and for him to write to me what he will take for it. I saw Coker the other day. He said they were all well, You said there was a heap of talk of peace. I had not heard anything of it up here nor seen anything of it in the papers. I don’t want to kill your hopes for peace but I don’t see no chance for peace till we whip the Yankees out here and at Richmond.
We were on the left of our enemy when I wrote to you before but we have come back to our brigade. General [W. W.] Allen has quit us. Colonel [J. Patton] Anderson is in command of our brigade. We hant had no fighting to do since I wrote before unless there has been some done today. A courier come to Colonel Anderson’s headquarters just before I started out here and said the enemy were advancing. There has been heavy cannonading all along the lines today. It is the heaviest that has been since the fight commenced but I don’t know what has been done. I think it has been mostly artillery dueling. I heard an old citizen say that he heard in Marietta that General Johnston was a going to give them a general fight this evening but there ain’t near as much cannonading now as there has been all day. It has nearly all ceased but it may break loose in one moment worse than ever. It is now about 4 o’clock. I will start back to camp as soon as I get my letter done. My pass is out at seven o’clock. The Yanks are still trying to flank to the left. I think we will whip them right here if they don’t flank us out of our position. Ours is a splendid position here. We have the top of Kennesaw Mountain covered with artillery. You ought to see it turned loose at the Yankeys.
Nothing more. I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton
Camp near Chattahoochie River
July 4th 1864
Mariah, dear wife,
I again take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and still living and I still hope these few lines may reach you in due time and find you all enjoying the same good blessing.
Mariah, I would like to see you to tell you something about how we are getting along with the Yankeys for I know I can’t give you much satisfaction about it by writing. They have flanked us out of Marietta at last. They would not fight us at Kennesaw Mountain and kept flanking to the left so we had to fall back between there and the [Chattahoochie] river and some think that we will fall back across the river before we can make a successful stand [once and] for all. We keep falling back. We have had a heap of little fights with them and have killed a wounded a heap of [them] while our loss has been comparatively small. From their own accounts, we have killed and wounded betwixt 50 and 75 thousand of their men since we left Tunnel Hill.
There is a right smart bombing a going on now on our left. Yesterday as we fell back, our brigade got into a terrible shelling and several of our brigade got killed and wounded but none of our company got hurt. All of the neighbor boys are all well. I hant heard from Porter since he went to the hospital.
I have got two bunches of thread I wish you had. They were going to burn up some in Marietta to keep the Yankeys from getting it and the soldiers took it. Nothing more. We are ordered to saddle up and I can’t write anymore now. May God bless you and protect you all, — John W. Cotton
Coosa County, Alabama
July 12, 1864
My most dear husband,
I seat myself to try to write you a few lines in answer to your kind letters I received from you last Wednesday. I was glad to hear from you and to hear you was well but I am sorry to think I can’t have your clothes to wash myself. You must excuse me for not answering you sooner. I would have wrote Friday but I was at Mrs. Duke’s frolic. She has a boy this time. It hant more than half as big as mine was. That is the reason I did not write Friday. We can’t send off letters only Friday and Tuesday. I don’t know what to write to you but I thought I would write to let you hear from home and let you know that we was all well at this time and hope these few lines may come to hand in due time and find you well and doing well.
It was old man Willingham’s own negro that killed him. 1 It was old Bill. They burnt him last Friday. I saw three deserters last Thursday. Wes Finch and John Bailey and old man Hall had them and [were] taking them to Rockford. One of them was Amos Banks. The others was Kelleys. I did not know them. I only heard their names but I knowed Banks. I thought of my soap he got and never paid for.
Your letters was dated the 22nd and 27th [of June]. You said you wanted to know how your mule cae on at old man Lesslie’s. I can’t tell you. I hant seen him in some time. The last time I seen him he looked very bad. I will soon see him. I am a going to send for him to haul my wheat. Manuel is done plowing. He has got a little hauling to do but I will have my wheat hauled first.
You said for me to have your still fixed up. Weaver, I don’t know how to get it done. If I can’t get Mr. [ ] to fix it, I don’t know how I will get it done. As for Vardeman, I don’t know where he is now [and] I don’t care. The last I heard of him the cavalry was after him. I hope they have got him before now. You said you want me to write you what he said about you. I can’t tell you. He has talked about you in John Bailey’s presence and Doctor Baker’s presence too. Bakers told it at Mrs. Hollinghead’s that Vardeman was talking about you [but] he did not tell what he said. I will go to see the baby some of these days to hear what he did say. Don’t say anything about it. Let it all pass by. Maybe the day will soon come when you can come home to see and know how things is. You said for me to have them stands made. I don’t know how I will get it done. I will try Robson. If I can’t get to see him. I hant heard anything of him in some time. Maybe he will be at Mount Olive meeting. I will try to get your still fixed if I can and I will have the stands made if I can. I will have it all done.
I wish this war would end so could come home. I want to see you the worst in this world. Nothing more till I get another piece of paper. — Mariah Cotton to her dear beloved husband.
1 The only Willingham family I could find in the census records of Mount Olive, Coosa county, Alabama, was headed by Isaac (“Ike”) B. Willingham (b. 1804). All of the family trees posted on Ancestry.com gave his death date as 28 June 1863 but a Last Will & Testament was files in court with his signature on it dated December 1863 and the court entered the will officially on 5 September 1864 after his death. It’s my opinion that the Mr. Willingham killed by his own slave “Bill” was 59 year-old Ike Willingham. Subsequent to reaching this conclusion I found the following article.
August 1st 1864
Dear beloved wife,
I once more take my pen in hand to write you a few more lines to try to let you know that I am well and have got to my command safe, or to our wagon train. I got here day before yesterday. My brigade is gone after a Yankey raid and I can’t hear where they are. The raid they are after crossed the Chattahoochie river and burnt Palmetto and tore up the railroad the night I stayed at John Fulmer’s coming up here. Lots of the people run out of Newnan thinking they were coming there but they struck across towards Griffin and tore up the other road between Atlanta and Griffin. There is a heap of our cavalry after them and we hear they have captured a heap of them. I will start to hunt them today or tomorrow.
It took me six days to get here. I had to go to West Point to cross the river. General Armstrong had sunk all the flats afore. I came through Coweta and saw a heap of the connection. I saw old John Israel, Ben Crittendam and Sally Israel at Uncle Mike’s. I stopped there and got dinner. Uncle Mike is gone to the war and Uncle Israel is stilling. They are making a heap of brandy and selling it at $1 per gallon. I went from there to John’s and stayed all night. I went by Aunt Lizzie’s and your pap’s. The connection is all well. Your brother Mike is gone to the war too. They are taking all of the detailed men and putting them in the war. John had to report to town as I came on but I don’t know what they done with him—whether they will send him off or not. The Hindsman’s are mightily opposed to Uncle Mike’s having to go to the war.
I hant seen any of our settlement boys yet. They are all with the regiment. I sent Moses and Toney’s letters to them by one of the brigade. The rest of the letters I brought I have got yet. There is a bad chance to get them to the boys for there ain’t no post office now in Atlanta. It is moved out and there ain’t no chance, only to send them by hand.
I would like to tell you a heap about the fighting up here but I can’t tell but little about it. I hear that they had a very hard fight here last Friday [22 July 1864]—was a week ago—and General [William] Hardee whipped the Yankeys and taken four thousand prisoners [see Battle of Atlanta] and they had a fight with the cavalry and John Trammel’s company got badly cut up. Colonel Strickland is wounded but not very bad and Lige Trammel is badly wounded through the thigh and several others you don’t know and some killed and Pete Hindsman taken prisoner. Uncle John was taking on very bad about it.
My regiment hadn’t done any fighting since I left it [to go on furlough] unless they have fought [in] that raid they went after. There was a very heavy fight here last Friday. I was in hearing [distance] of it but don’t know the result but I heard that the Yankeys charged the militia and the militia gave them a good whipping. They got the railroad to Macon done yesterday where the Yankeys tore it up and sent off a load of wounded soldiers.
I swapped off my mare before I got up here and got one of the finest kind of mules for her. It has been raining a right smart since I left home and I am in hopes you have had rain since I left. Nothing more at present. I remain your true, devoted husband till death, — John W. Cotton
Georgia camp, three miles from the Social Circle
on the Augusta Railroad and fifty from Atlanta
August 10, 1864
Most dear, beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and doing very well. I hant any news to write to you. I reckon Asa has wrote all about the raid that they were after when I got here. We are fighting now to make a raid in rear of the Yankeys. It is thought that we will start tomorrow. I don’t reckon you will hear from me anymore till we come back. If I ever come back, I will write again. I hope we will be able to pay them back for all the raids they have made on us. If we can be successful in getting in their rear and cut off their supplies, it may be the means of making them fall back from Atlanta. There has been two very hard fights here at Atlanta since I left home and reports say our men whipped them badly. We still hold Atlanta and I hope we will be able to still hold it.
Mariah, I hant seen Asa since I got here. The rest of hte boys says he stopped at his Pars but he may be at home for what I know. He has been gone over a week. I got a letter for him that Nan sent by O’Neal and read it. I was glad to hear you were all well. It had a letter in it for Tony. I mailed that to him. Asa captured two Yankey horse’s saddles and bridles.
I hope these few lines may reach you in due time and find you well and doing well. It is uncertain whether you get this letter or not but you may get it after awhile. Nothing more at present. I remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton
East Tennessee Camp
4 Miles from Jonesboro
100 miles northeast of Knoxville
September 24, 1864
My dear beloved wife,
It is with uncertainty that I write you a few lines. You may get them and you may not but I hope you will. These lines leave me well. This is the 45th day we have been on this raid and I have been well all the time. Don’t be uneasy about me. We hant had but little fighting to do but I have been in it all and hant been hurt yet. I think we are out of danger now [that] we are inside of our own lines. We have had three men captured on this trip—[Oliver] Burton Shaw and William [H.] Deason and a man by the name of Bruce and one wounded. Porter and Brown is well and all of the company is well.
How came us here? We got behind General Wheeler and got cut off from him. There is two brigade of us and a part of another. Our men were very uneasy while we were in[side] the Yankey lines for fear we would be captured but we got out safe. We whipped the Yankeys wherever we came in contact with them. We have tore up a great deal of railroad on our route but I am afraid it hant done much good. We hear that the Yankeys has got Atlanta but I hear that our men has taken it back. It ain’t worth while to say how bad I want to see you. I hant heard a word from you since I left home and this is the third letter I have wrote to you. If I could see you, I could tell you a heap. I wil write more as soon as I get the chance.
Nothing more. I remain your true lover till death, — John W. Cotton
Camp near Thomaston, Georgia
November 24, 1864
Dear beloved wife,
I now take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and all the rest of the boys. We are ordered to Macon, Georgia, what forces are not with Hood in Tennessee are all reporting at Macon. I reckon you will hear before you get this that the Yankeys have burnt Atlanta and all left there. They are not far from Macon somewhere but I can’t tell you where. It is though they are trying to go to Charleston or Savannah.
Mariah, I thought I would get to go by your Pap’s but I never got the chance, The nearest I got to there was at Greenville. It will take us two more days to go to Macon. I hant anything to write at present. I will write again in a few days if I have the chance. I hope these few lines may find you all well.
Direct your letters to Macon, Georgia. Nothing more but remain your best friend till death, — John W. Cotton
Camp Macon, Georgia
November 26, 1864
Most dear beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to try to let you know that I am well and all of our boys are too. We have got to Macon but the Yankeys are gone. They come near enough to throw shells in Macon but the malish [militia] kept them off. They only sent their cavalry here while their infantry passed on. They are at Milledgeville or have been for several days. Old Sherman’s headquarters has been at Milledgeville. It is thought they are making for Savannah. They are followed closely by Wheeler’s Cavalry. We will go on after them as soon as we can get arms and equipment.
There is talk of our drawing money but that is uncertain. The man I sold my horse to told me this morning that he was ready to take up his note. I have got my saddlebags and all of my clothes but my pants. Some damned thief took them out of my saddlebags. If I catch him with them on, I will raise him out of his boots one time. I hant got anything worth writing more at present—only I remain your true, devoted husband till death. — John W. Cotton
Direct your letter to John W. Cotton, Co. C, 10th Confederate Regt., Macon, Georgia. They say we will draw clothes today and I will try to draw some pants. Asa says tell his folks he is all setting. We have had some very cold weather. I wanted to come by your Pap’s but I never got the chance. Nothing more. Dave Martin sold his stolen horse to Porter and gone back home and Sam has took it and swapped it off and got a horse that ain’t no account so he is about afoot again. His old horse give out and he got 15 days detail to go home to get another and Dave has swindled him out of it. Nothing more. I will write again when I get the chance.
Camp on Canoochee River 22 miles west of Savannah
December 6th 1864
Dear beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and not far from Savannah and the Yankeys a following us up. We hant got to Wheeler yet. We have got about 350 men with us. We have just got out of a fix. We have just crossed a little river and are just waiting for the Yankeys to come to burn the bridge to keep them from crossing. We come across some of their mounted infantry and got into a little fight with them and we got them stampeded and we run them about 7 miles and took 31 prisoners and several mules and horses and two negroes and lots of commissaries they had gathered up that day in the neighborhood. They were out a foraging for their army. We fooled along [ ] they had like to get us hemmed between [ ] a river. We had but one place to cross so we started this morning before day and we have got out of their way now if they don’t get us hemmed in again.
We are not far from Wheeler but we will have to go about sixty miles to get to him. Itis thought by a heap that the Yankeys are not going to Savannah but leave it to those left and strike the coast a ways below Savannah. They are now in the poorest country I ever saw. The Yankeys are destroying everything before them in the way of provisions and burning houses and ravishing women. The citizens are fleeing from them like chaff before the wind. If I could see you, I could tell you a heap about how they are treating citizens and a heap other things too tedious to mention. I would like to hear from you all and hear how you are getting along and whether your hogs has took the cholera or not.
Nothing more at present. I hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well. — John W. Cotton
Direct your letters to Savannah, Georgia. You ought to have seen them Yankeys run till they got to their main army and they they got behind their breastworks and we let them alone and got away with our prisoners.
December 15, 1864
Most dear beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to try to let you know where I am and to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well. We are inside of hte breastworks at Savannah. The railroads are all cut between here and home so we can’t send letters out by mail. There is a negro going to start to Montgomery tomorrow so we will send our letters out by him. He is going out horseback and he will mail them on the way.
We are looking for a fight here every day. There is a right smart skirmishing going on the lines all the time and sometimes very heavy cannonading, They shell our lines but do but little damage. One of our company got slightly wounded in the head today on the skirmish line. His name is Smith. Our boys are all well but Porter. He has been complaining of the toothache for several days.
There has come an order here today from General Hardee for our horses to be sent across Savannah river till thefight is over and send one man to every three horses. We are camped 8 miles from town but we stayed in town one night and I saw the city. It is a fine town.
I would like to hear from you. I hant heard from you since I left home. I would like to be at home. I want to come home very bad. I hope it won’t be long before we can come home and stay there, what is left of us. The boys don’t like the idea of being dismounted and I dislike it very much myself. We have not got with Wheeler yet. They say that he is just on the other side of Savannah river but they won’t let us go to them. We have been here 7 days. There is not many places that the Yankeys can come into Savannah with a force. It is surrounded with some little rivers and big marshes on each side so it is impossible for them to cross. They say we have fourteen thousand troops here. It is thought that we will have to give up by a great many but there is the greatest natural defenses I ever saw. They have taken one of our forts on the coast—Fort McAllister.
Everything is unusually still this evening. I would like to hear what General Hood is doing. I don’t get any news at all. I am afraid it will be a long time before I hear from you and I am afraid you won’t get this letter. This is the third time I have wrote since I left home. I wrote sooner but I saw no chance to send a letter off.
Nothing more at present—only I remain your true, devoted husband and friend till death. — John W. Cotton
Camp [six miles from Savannah, in South Carolina]
December 23, 1864
Dear beloved wife,
I take my pen in hand to try to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well. Savannah is evacuated and we have all got out safe. We are now in South Carolina about six miles from Savannah. Our company is all dismounted but three—me, Billy Brown, and Sentel. Our horses are ordered back to the men. They will be here today or tomorrow. There was some Yankeys on this side of the river but they have all gone back on the other side of the river. The boys are all well.
I hant got anything to write. I hant heard from home since I left home. I don’t know whether you will get this letter or not. Nothing more at present. I remain your true, devoted husband till death. — John P. Cotton
Direct your letters to Charleston, South Carolina
Camp east of Savannah
December 25th 1864
Most dear beloved wife,
I once more take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines may find you all well and doing well. All of the boys are well so far as I know. Asa and Porter is gone off with our horses. I hant seen them in several days.
I reckon you have heard before now that our company was dismounted in Savannah and our horses sent out. I have wrote to you about it before. I told Asa to write and I then he has done it and he had a better chance to send off letters than I have had. He has been 30 or 35 miles above here where he had a better chance to send off letters than I have had.We have looked for the Yankeys to come yesterday but they have not come yet. We have evacuated Savannah and are now on the east side of Savannah river and the Yankeys are all on the west side of the river. All of our cavalry are leaving here but our brigade. They say they are ordered to Tennessee and I don’t think that we will be here very long.
I hant heard from home since I left. You don’t know how bad I want to hear from you all but I had rather see you all than to hear from you. But there is no chance to see you. I am very anxious to have this cruel and unholy war ended so that I can come home and all the rest of the boys to live in peace with mankind. I think if I was out of this war, I would be the happiest man in America. Almost everybody thinks the war will end soon but for my part, I can’t see no chance for it to end unless we go back into the Union and free the negroes.
The Yankeys hant hurt anything in Savannah or reports say. They say there is a heap of the Georgia State [guards] that stayed in Savannah when we crossed the river and are now staying with the [ ] this Christmas day but we haven’t got anything to drink. It is very dull here and [ ] it is with you to drink [ ] eggnog for me as I cant get any here. I would like to be at home and help you eat sausage and pick spareribs and backbones. If you had good luck with your hogs, I would like to hear whether the cholera got among your hogs or not and how things are in general. My mule is doing very well. I am writing but I don’t know whether you will get this letter or not. I have wrote [ ] times since I left home.
No more at present. — John W. Cotton
South Carolina Camp near Savannah
December 31, 1864
Dear beloved wife,
I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am still well and hope these few lines may find you all enjoying the same good blessing. I hant got but little to write to you. I wrote you a letter on Christmas Day and I wrote all the news that I had.
We are still picketing on Savannah River in sight of Savannah. There has been no move here by the enemy since they got Savannah. I heard today that Wheeler’s Cavalry was ordered to Tennessee. There is some of Company A of our regiment going to start home tomorrow on furlough. They have lost their horses since we left home. I will send this by them. I have wrote several letters since I left home but I don’t know whether you have got any of them or not. I hant heard from home since I left home. I want to hear from home very bad.
They are fixing the payrolls to draw money. We will daw 8 months wages. I got pay for my horse at Macon. There has been some picket fighting today across the river but no hurt done on our side—only two horses killed. I don’t think we will stay here much longer. If we don’t go to Tennessee we will fall back out of this flat country. It is very flat and marshy. There ain’t anything raised here hardly but rice. Our cavalry is very much out of heart.
I can’t think of anything more to write at present. I remain your true, devoted husband till death. — John W. Cotton
Camp [30 miles east of Savannah]
January 9th 1865
Most dear, beloved wife,
I once more take my pen in hand to try to write you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and hoping these few lines may find you all the same. I hant got anything to write to you—only to try to let you know that I am well. There ain’t anything new transpired since I wrote before. I hant got nary letter from you yet. You don’t know how bad I want to hear from home. I would give anything to be at home and see you all and know how you are getting along. I have wrote several letters to you since I left home and I don’t know whether you have got them or not. We have not got any mail here since I left home—only a few letters wrote about the 15th of December.
We are now about 30 miles from Savannah on the Augusta road. The Yankeys advanced on us and we fell back and blockaded the road behind us. They are not making any move now that I know of. I hear today that we are a going to move up the country tomorrow to recruit our horses. We will move towards Augusta, I think. We will leave if the Yankeys don’t make no move before we get off.
I will start this by one of our regiment that is going home. Dave Martin hant got here yet. He is dropped from the rolls. They have just made out the payrolls to draw money and they have dropped all from the rolls that have been absent 7 days without leave. There is several dropped from the rolls. Bill Adkins is dropped too. Nothing more at present—only I remain your true affectionate friend till death. — John W. Cotton
South Carolina, Camp near Lawtonville
January 20, 1865
Most dear, beloved wife,
I again take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to try to let you know that I am well and doing well. All is quiet at the front now. I have not heard any cannonading for several days. The Yankeys have got Pocataligo that is on the railroad about halfway from Savannah and Charleston.
We have moved twice since I wrote to you before. We are now 75 miles from Augusta. We are getting a plenty to eat ourselves and our horses. We are not doing anything but recruiting our horses. My mule is fatter than he was when I left home. We have five roll calls a day and 1 drill and dress parade. We have not drawn our money yet but I have plenty. I would like to send you some for I am afraid you hant got money enough to pay your war tax but this ain’t what bothers me the most. I hant heard from you since I left home but I hope you have heard from me [even] if I can’t from you. You don’t know how bad I want to hear from home. Asa got a letter from home the other day but Nan never said anything about you but I reckon you were all well or she would have said. Mr Brown has got two letters from home and I don’t see why I don’t get none from you. I know you must write. I would have wrote sooner this time but I thought I might get a letter from you. I will start this by hand as there is no regular mail from here.
I hant any news to write for we don’t hear but little here. We hear that General Hood is whipped out of Tennessee and is in Mississippi and we hear that a part of Lee’s army is at Branchville, South Carolina. Itr looks like the Yankeys has got the upper hand of us. I would like to hear of some terms of peace before they run clear over us. I think they will take Charleston without a fight. Our soldiers are very much disheartened and the most of them say we’re whipped.
It is said that Georgia is golding conventions to know whether to go back in the Union or not. If she goes back, it will look like the rest will have to go back too. I hate the thought of going back but if we have to do it, the sooner the better. I have suffered too much in this war to ever go back in the Union willingly. I would give a heap to see you and see you all well and one frolic with them. There is nothing in this world that can gratify my feelings like being with a kind and affectionate wife. I don’t think that if I were at home to stay clear of this war, I would ever want to leave again. Nothing more at present—only I remain your affectionate husband till death, — John W. Cotton
[Camp near Lawtonville, S. C.]
January 23, 1865
I will write you a few more lines. My letter is not gone yet. The man I gave this letter [to] did not start when he promised to so I will send it by another man that says he’ll start tomorrow morning. These few lines leave us all well. I am well and all of our boys. There is nothing new happened since I wrote. We have had a heap of rain and our camps are very muddy. It has been raining 4 days and the place where we camped is so flat the water don’t runoff. This is a very flat, marshy country anyhow but not as bad as it is down about Savannah. The roads are very sandy. They don’t get muddy here like they do inn Tennessee. The people here are generally rich and they are all refugeeing. It looks now like it would clear off.
Mr. Brown is writing and Asa will send a few lines with me. I hant got but little to write but I think if I would get a letter from you to answer, I could write a heap more. Maybe you don’t know how to direct your letters right. Direct the next to John W. Cotton, Augusta, Georgia, Anderson’s Brigade, 10th Confederate Regiment, Co. C. I have looked for a letter till I have nearly give it out. It looks like I won’t get nary other letter at all but if I can’t get yours, I hope you will get mine and I hope they may find you all well and doing well.
Dave Martin hant got here yet. I wrote to you that he was dropped from the roll but he is not. The Lieutenant had orders to do it but he never done it. We hant drawn money yet. I would love to know whether old man Brown has got his corn yet or not and how old Manuel is getting on with his farm and how your fattening hogs turned out and how you all are getting along. Nothing more. I hope to get a letter from you soon. — John W. Cotton
Camp South Carolina [Lawtonville]
January 27, 1865
Most dear beloved and highly esteemed wife,
I once more take my pen in hand to write you a few more lines to let you know that I am well and in hopes these few lines may find you all enjoyingthe same blessing and I want to let you know that I hant heard from you yet. I want to hear from you very bad. I don’t see much satisfaction now nor won’t until I hear from home although I am doing very well. You all might get sick and die and me not hear anything about it.
I hant got anything hardly to write. We hear that there is some proposals now for peace but I fear that Old Jeff Davis won’t come to them. It don’t look to me like there is any use of fighting any longer. I think they had better make peace now than to wait till we are subjugated. It looks like we can’t whip no where. They whip us at every point. Here is Sherman’s whole army and nobody to fight them—only a few cavalry ad a few militia, and it takes the cavalry all the time to watch th movements of the army.
The boys is all well. I will send this by one of my regiment. There is several of the regiment got detailed to go home after horses. I can’t write but little but I think if I could get a letter from you, I think I could write a heap more. I would love to see and know how you all are getting on and I would love to know what the people thinks about the war. We hear that Tennessee has gone back into the Union and Georgia is trying to go back too.
Mariah, when Manuel gets done hauling you might let some good hand have one of your mules to work for his feed. There is a captured negro here that I would buy if I could send him home but I don’t see no chance. Nothing more. Only I remain your affectionate husband and friend till death, — John W. Cotton
South Carolina Camp near Lawtonville
February 1, 1865
I again take my pen in hand to write you a few more lines to try to let you know that I am well and all of our boys. Asa and Billy Brown is both writing. We will send these letters by one of the regiment. I hope these few lines may find you all well and enjoying yourselves as well as posssible. I hant got but little to write to you. There is a right smart of the regiment getting furloughs but I don’t see any chance for me to get nary one. I don’t know what to write without I could get a letter from you. I hant got nary one yet. There was four come to our company last night but nary one from our settlement.
Home sweet home—how I long to hear from home, but had rather be at home. We have moved camp since I wrote before.
The Yankeys are advancing their scouts and were [with]in 7 or 8 miles of here last night. We are falling back as they advance towards Augusta. I don’t know where we will take a stand to fight them. We may take a stand soon and we may not take a stand this side of Augusta. I hear that General Wheeler said we would have an armistice in less than ten days but I don’t know whether he said it or not. We hear a heap about peace but we don’t know whether to believe it or not, but I would be glad if it was true. Nothing would do me more good than anything else for them to make peace for I want to come home very bad for I don’t want to spend all of the best [years] of my life here in this cruel and unholy war. But I hope to outlive it so I can once more enjoy freedom again.
I don’t know what else to write now. I must stop writing for the man that is going home is hollering for the letters. Nothing more. Your affectionate husband till death. — John W. Cotton
Additional Letters & Envelopes in the Cotton Collection