This letter was written by Pvt. William R. Erwin (1839-1864) of Co. G, Palmetto Regiment Sharp Shooters (a.k.a., Jenkins’ Regiment, or 1st Palmetto Sharp Shooters). Muster rolls for the regiment indicate that William enlisted in April 1862 at Yorkville and that he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Williamsburg on 5 May 1862. Though absent from his regiment from time to time due to sickness, he had returned to his regiment in early October 1863 (recovered from syphilis) and was with them in East Tennessee when this letter was written late in December 1863. Less than a month later—on 17 January 1864—he was killed in the Battle of Dandridge, a relatively minor affair resulting in approximately 250 casualties total between the two armies.
William was the oldest son of Francis James Erwin (1813-1876) and Letitia (“Lettie”) Jenkins Smith (1819-1896) of York county, South Carolina.
Camp near Morristown [Tennessee]
December 29, 1863
I have written so often since I left home and have never received a letter or heard a word from there that I almost despair of ever hearing from home again. I wrote to you about sending up my papers for exchange and do not deem it necessary to repeat it.
I have had a hard time of it since I came to Tennessee. Hard marching, short rations—and sometimes none at all. We are camped for awhile now if the Yankees will only let us alone. But they seem determined to harass us as much as possible. Our pickets have been fighting every day since we came here and sometimes we are all under marching orders. Minor is well and doing well.
I wrote to you some time since to send me some two plugs of tobacco and $20 by someone that may be coming out. I think that Lt. W[illiam] B. Smith [Co. G] will be coming by home shortly from Atlanta. I wish you would enquire and let me know if Thom. Bratton got the box I left up in Atlanta for him.
I have nothing of any importance to write. We are in very good quarters at present but from the sound of the artillery that has been booming all day, I think we will have to defend even our camp firesides if we stay here long.
John Erwin is sick. I have not seen him since he took sick. Tom Guy is well & B. Winay.
Your son, — W. R. Erwin
Near Morristown, Tenn.