1861: Thomas P. Forrester to Mary T. Forrester

I could not find an image of Thomas but here is a tintype of Pvt. John Chitwood of “The Bartow County Yankee Killers,” 23rd Georgia. (Ada O. Fleischer Collection)

This letter was written by Thomas P. Forrester (1835-1864) of Co. E (“Tate Guards”) of the 23rd Georgia Infantry. Thomas began his service as a sergeant and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in December 1861. The 23rd Georgia was organized at Big Shanty, Georgia, on 31 August 1861, contained men from Bartow, Henderson, Floyd, Pickens, and Cherokee counties. It moved to Tennessee, then was sent to Virginia and assigned to the Department of the Peninsula. In April, 1862, it totalled 370 effectives and during the war served under Generals Rains and Colquitt. The 23rd participated in the campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia from Williamsburg to Chancellorsville, where more than 275 men were captured. It then was ordered to Charleston, South Carolina, and later Florida. After fighting at Olustee the unit returned to Virginia, took part in the conflicts at Drewry’s Bluff and Cold Harbor, and endured the battles and hardships of the Petersburg siege. It lost 4 killed and 56 wounded at Gaines’ Mill and Malvern Hill , had 14 killed and 64 wounded in the Maryland Campaign, and 2 killed, 66 wounded, and 2 missing at Olustee . During 1865 it was active in North Carolina and surrendered with the Army of Tennessee.

Thomas is presumed to have died in the fall of 1864. He became seriously ill with dysentery in the summer of 1864 and in September 1864 asked for a leave of absence to go home on a surgeon’s certificate. There is no further record in company muster rolls.

Several of Thomas’s letters have been transcribed and previously published on the internet at Letters of Thomas P. Forrester but that site does not include images of the letters and the following letter, datelined from the old Fairgrounds in Richmond on 28 November 1861 is not included.

Thomas was the son of Hiram Forrester (1799-1863) and Emily (“Millie”) Davis (1815-aft1861). In the 1860 US Census, the Forrester family was enumerated in Sharp Top, Pickens county, Georgia.


Old Fair Grounds
Richmond, Virginia
28th November 1861

Dear Sister,

I embrace this leisure hour to drop you a few lines which leaves me much better than I have been for some days. I have not been really sick but have a very severe cold as most of the men here have had but we are all getting better and I think when we get over this spell, we can stand Virginia very well.

I have nothing new to write you more than I have seen the prisoners and many other things since I have been here. There are Yankees being brought in every day more or less and they are being carried south every day for safe keeping and in consequence of so many being here, I will say to you we received orders yesterday that our regiment has to guard the scamps a while and probably all winter. One company goes at a time or 45 privates, 2 non-commissioned, and 1 commissioned officer, and guards them 24 hours and then another guard goes from the other companies, so I have no doubt we will stay here for the winter. I had rather do it than to go north from all reports.

I read a letter from T[homas] G. Stearns and C. P. West the other day. They were all well except Harvey who has been in the hospital either here or at Culpeper. The boys had not heard from him since he left them which is some three weeks ago I am satisfied he is not here as we have hunted over most of the hospitals in Richmond for him and other friends.

M. H. West 1 and Phil started to Manassas yesterday evening. They went after the body of Samuel Loveless 2 who died some ten days ago. Mr. Presley 3 is going to carry it home. Say to mother that I met with Henry Allen 4 yesterday evening. He is just on his way from Banks county where he has been to carry the body of his brother Robert who died at Manassas some two weeks ago. He is a private in a company from Banks county and belongs to the 2nd Georgia Regiment. He says it will be much better for us to stay here for the winter.

We have plenty to eat here of bacon, beef, flour, corn meal, sugar and coffee, and there are vegetables here in abundance for sale. We exchange some bacon and beef for potatoes, cabbages, &c. I must tell you that I and Bill Pool 5 have both got to drinking coffee because the water is bad. It is nothing but river water brought in pipes and is really not fit to drink though it will do for winter very well.

Give my kind regards to Mary Margaret and Jane Watson. Also to Mr. and Mrs. Watson, Mr. & Mrs. Stearns, and the rest of the family, and my love to father and mother and the rest of the children, and receive the same to yourself. Write soon.

As ever your absent brother, — Tom

1 Pvt. M. H. West was a member of Co. D, 23rd Georgia Infantry. He was from Jasper, Pickens county, Georgia, where he married Margaret M. Bailey on 21 August 1861. He died of disease on 22 April 1864.

2 Pvt. Samuel B. Loveless was a member of Co. F. (Dickerson’s Company), 2nd Georgia Infantry. Samuel died of pneumonia on 16 November 1861.

3 Jordan Presley was a musician in Co. E, 23rd Georgia. He was absent in December 1861 detailed as escort to the remains of Samuel Loveless.

4 Pvt. Henry Allen (or Allan) was a member of Co. A, 2nd Georgia Infantry. He enlisted on 20 April 1861 at Homer, Banks county, Georgia. His muster roll records indicates that he was detailed to carry 2nd Lieut. Robert Allen’s remains to Richmond, Virginia. Lt. Robt. Allen died at Mrs. Foster’s near Manassas with camp fever on 14 October 1861. Henry was discharged on 25 May 1862 on account of physical disability.

5 Sgt. William (“Bill”) Pool was a member of Co. E (Capt. Wm. Bacon’s Company), 23rd Georgia Infantry. Bill enlisted in August 1861 at Camp McDonald in Georgia. By the summer of 1862 he had been commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. He was taken prisoner on 2 May 1863 at the Battle of Chancellorsville. After returning to his regiment, he acted as the captain for a time and then resigned on 14 April 1864 giving the reason that he had been elected tax collector in Pickens county, Georgia.

3 thoughts on “1861: Thomas P. Forrester to Mary T. Forrester”

  1. Hi Griff, Where is the collection located for the John Chitwood tintype ?
    Love your posts !

    Tony Patton
    Resaca Battlefield Historic Site


    1. Hello Tony. Thanks for the kind words. I credited the image to my friend Adam Ochs Fleischer since he was the one that posted it on Civil War Faces Facebook but I just contacted him and he said he never owned it. He doesn’t know who does. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful. — Griff


  2. Thanks Griff, that was what I was looking for, I saw the photo posted somewhere but couldn’t remember. Thanks again !


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