1861: Benjamin Joseph Pack to Salina Sarah (Dorrity) Pack

I could not find an image of Benjamin but here is a tintype of Pvt. John S. Shoolbred of the cavalry battalion in Hampton’s Legion. The uniform he wears dates to late 1861. (Joseph A. Matheson Collection)

This letter was written by 26 year-old Benjamin Joseph (“Ben Joe”) Pack (1835-1862) who enlisted as a private in Capt. Brown Manning’s Company (the “Manning Guards”) on 19 June 1861. He indicates on the envelope that his unit was Co. B, but Manning’s company was actually Co. C of Hampton’s Legion. When the Legion was organized in 1861, there were two companies of cavalry, one of artillery, and six of infantry. Most of the Legion participated in the Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) on 21 July 1861 but we learn from Ben Joe’s letter that he did not participate. Rather, he manned a battery posted on the Potomac that was placed to prevent Federal forces from landing troops and invading Virginia by that route, as well as to harass and potentially blockade river traffic going to and from the Capitol at Washington D. C. This battery set up two 8-pounder rifles at Freestone Point on the Potomac, Prince Williams county, Virginia, in late September 1861.

Save for a little illness, Ben Joe was with his company until the Battle of 2nd Manassas when he was wounded in the arm and died almost three weeks later on 18 September 1862.

When he died, Ben Joe left a wife, Salina Susan (Dorrity) Pack (1834-1877) and two children, Benjamin Joseph Pack (1855-1928) and Frances Elizabeth Pack (1857-1934). The family farm was in Packsville [now Paxville], Clarendon District, South Carolina.


Addressed to Mrs. S. L. Pack, Packsville, South Carolina, postmarked Tudor Hall, Va.

Camp Conner, Va.
October 3rd 1861

Dear Salina,

I have nothing worth communicating at this time but believing that the bare reception of a letter from me at any time affords you some satisfaction, I will write.

Your letter dated September 22nd came to hand a few days ago & gave me much pleasure as it informed me that you all were well & doing well. You wrote that you wished me to be caution how I wrote certain things to everybody as there was a variety of opinions existing in the neighborhood of home. Now I am not atall surprised to hear this for different persons very frequently have different opinion & inclinations & I have no doubt but very different tales have been told. I am truly thankful for your suggestion for I feel assured that you was actuated by that kind of love that never grows cold to give the advice. But my dear, have you not learned enough of me ere this to assure you that I always endeavor to give all men justice & that riches and royalty have but little to do in shaping my conclusions. No one has tried harder than I to do their whole duty & in all that I have written the plain, undisguised truth has been told & shall be maintained as long as life lasts.

I am well aware that some ridiculous tales have been told about the Manassas Battle. I was not there & consequently nothing in connection with it can be applied to me. Neither can I testify from personal knowledge to anything that transpired there, but I had friends there—& truth telling friends—and from all that I have heard I am satisfied that great injustice bas been done some men. They have this glorious consolation though. God is where he always was & the future proves all things. I shall comply with your request, not that I fear the consequences that might accrue from anything I have written, but simply because I wish to gratify you in such matters.

The Manning Guards are getting on extremely well at this time—I mean those that are well. Lieutenant Huggins is as kind as a brother to all of us & when we march towards the enemy, the idea of being lead on by a kind, christian patriot inspires us with a determination to fight as true soldiers in a just cause should.

The things you sent us arrived on Sunday evening last. We were all well pleased with our clothes and was delighted with the cake and other little eatables sent us. I never had drawers to please me better than the pair I am trying. My shirts are better than I thought you could get prepared, but the velvet is entirely out of place. I would have preferred having my wristbands and color of the same material of the short, but as it is an easy matter to take the velvet off of the wristbands, I can soon make them alright.

“Beauregard has fallen back from near Alexandria to Fairfax. His object was to coax the Yankees out, but burnt children dreads fire. I hardly think there is much prospect for a fight up there.”

B. J. Pack, Co. C, Hampton’s Legion, 3 October 1861

I am sorry to say that I have not learned yet where we will probably spend the winter. Beauregard has fallen back from near Alexandria to Fairfax. His object was to coax the Yankees out, but burnt children dreads fire. I hardly think there is much prospect for a fight up there. Everything remains the same down here as when I wrote last. We are here to keep the Yankees from invading Virginia & they to prevent us from crossing into Maryland so there is not much prospect for a fight down here except with artillery. The battery 3 miles below this at Dumfries has not opened fire yet. I can’t imagine what can be the cause unless they are waiting to get as many vessels cut off from the seacoast as they possibly can. We will be kept here until something is done by the battery.

Winter quarters is being spoken of pretty frequently as the weather is growing cool & a few weeks more will reveal to us the fact that we must either be barracked up in Virginia or return to good old South Carolina.

P.S. Dear sister, I didn’t think to say to Lizzie that I didn’t care for her to send me more than five dollars. I expect she can get that amount without changing the 20 dollar bill I sent her—though she can change it if she wishes. I would like to send a five dollar confederate bill for her to preserve as a keepsake. 20 dollars is too much for that. The Confederate money draws 8 percent interest. Kiss the children for me. I’ll write you a letter as I can. Give all my love. Your affectionate brother, — Andrew

2 thoughts on “1861: Benjamin Joseph Pack to Salina Sarah (Dorrity) Pack”

  1. Benjamin Joseph Pack is a brother to my gg grandmother Harriet Matilda Pack Bagnal.

    Thank you for sharing this letter. Now Benjamin Joseph is more than just a name on my family tree.


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