1862: Joseph Richard Sadler to Julia T. Sadler

A Sixth-plate ambrotype of an unidentified member of Orr’s Rifles of South Carolina. He’s wearing the blue jacket with dark green shoulder straps and trim. By the time these letters were written in early 1862, a gray jacket had been substituted for the blue ones. He has a small brass palmetto tree pinned to the side of his hat.

These three letters were written by Joseph Richard (“Dick”) Sadler (1835-1864), the son of David Sadler (1812-1885) and Jane McLees (1813-1898). Joseph was 26 when he enlisted on 20 July 1861 at Camp Pickens as a corporal in Company D, 1st (Orr’s) South Carolina Rifles. He was elected Junior 2nd Lieutenant on 4 April 1863. During the Battle of the Wilderness, 5 May 1864 he was wounded. He was sent to the hospital in Staunton, Virginia, where he died on 7 October 1864 from his wounds. Joseph’s younger brother, John A. Sadler (1842-1862), also served the Confederacy. He died at a hospital in Richmond of typhoid fever on 4 October 1862. In two of his letters, Joseph mentions the purchase of a hat that he had trimmed as a gift for his younger sister Carline (“Carrie”) G. Sadler (1849-1871).

All three of these letters were written during a six week period early in the war and before Orr’s Rifles had seen “the elephant.” They suffered their first casualty at the Battle of Mechanicsville on 26 June 1862, and then were pounded at Gaines’ Mill the following day when they lost 81 killed and 234 wounded of the 537 men that took the field.

Letter 1

Sullivan’s Island
April 14th, 1862

Dear Jule,

I was somewhat disappointed today by not getting a letter from home to let me know whether Jno. was coming or not and when he would be here. In short, I wanted to know all about it.

I heard Saturday that Jim Gray was going to start home yesterday. Well I wrote him Sunday that I would try to meet him in the city last night but yesterday morning I got the chance of going to spend the day and I went expecting to see Jim in the city. I knew it was very doubtful whether Col. [Jehu Foster] Marshall 1 would let me go to stay all night if Jim started home. I did not get to see him. I wanted to send Carrie’s hat with him. Mrs. Georgia Teasdale 2 got it and trimmed it for her. The day I went over to get it, I went there to ask them what sort of a thing to get. Mrs. Georgia proposed to get it for me if I would rather. I was very willing for her to get it. They asked me seven dollars for such hats or hats not as nice as that. They are called jockey hats. It cost five dollars and that is more than double the worth of it. Everything is more than double in that place.

Jule, I would have been powerful glad if you and Ett would have come with Eugenie Carlisle. Like got a letter today saying they would start tomorrow. They will get here day after tomorrow (Thursday).

If Jim Gray did not take Carrie’s hat, I will send it by cousin Jennie. Jule, tell Jno. to bring all the butter he can find. The next time any of you write, tell what the chance to get a pair of shoes is.

There is some talk of us leaving here sometime soon. we may leave but it is very doubtful in my mind.

I would write something about the [war] but I do not know what to say. It is currently reported that Fort Pulaski is taken but it is mixed with great doubt. It may be so [but] I hardly believe it.

I will close for the want of something more to say. I send you a little hymn book for the sake of one hymn that I have never saw in any other hymn book. It is a splendid hymn. The man that brought us the hymn books preached last Sunday night here. He did preach an excellent sermon.

Give all the friends my respects. Yours, &c. — J. R. Sadler

P. S. Be sure to send my mixed pants by Jim.


1 Col. Jehu Foster Marshall took command of the regiment during the winter of 1861-62 when Col. Orr resigned his commission and entered the Confederate Congress at Richmond. Marshall was killed during the Second Battle of Manassas in August 1862. The following website describes the Marshall Plantation Site in Marion county, Florida, where Marshall established a Sugar Plantation in 1855.

2 Mrs. Georgia (Wharton) Teasdale (1844-1900) was the 18 year-old wife of James Hamilton Teasdale (1835-1871) of Charleston, South Carolina.


Letter 2

[On the road to Fredericksburg]
April 24, 1862

Dear Ett,

I wrote a few lines yesterday but I did not know where we would be sent. We are about fifty miles from Richmond on the road to Fredericksburg. It is thought there will be a fight here before long. The Yankees are this side of Fredericksburg. The pickets report this evening three thousand [with]in eight miles of this place. Our forces are concentrating to this place. [Col. Maxcey] Gregg’s Regiment came in this evening. We are looking for the Old 4th Regt. also. I hope it will come.

I heard from Arch yesterday. He is well. He has not volunteered yet. If they come up here, I will get him. Ett, I would like to give you the details of our trip but I am writing on my knee.

Tuesday, 25th

It has been raining & snowing ever since we got here and is still raining. We are not fixed like we were at the [Sullivan’s] Island. 1 We have had no bread, but crackers and my mouth is so sore that I cannot do much at eating them. I had a splendid night’s rest last night—the only good night’s rest I have had since we started. We are all taking cold. Jno. Clink is sick. He has the disease his folks had or at least I suppose that is it.

We are looking for the recruits today. Ett, be sure to write occasionally. Direct your letters to Richmond, Company D, Orr’s Regiment S. C. V., Care of Col. Marshall

Tuesday 25th

We left Sullivans Island Sunday the 20th about 11 o’clock. 2 Left Charleston at 4. I had time to run up to Mr. [George Cochran] Wharton’s to get them to send Carrie’s hat to the hotel to Jo Simpson. I suppose Jim Gray was there in a few minutes after I left so you would be sure to get the hat. I would have been glad to have seen Jim but I missed it.

Well, we rode all night. However, it is no use to say we road all night for we traveled all the time, only stopping now and then to get wood and water and let other trains pass. We got to Wilmington the second evening and hour by sun. We had to change cars there. We stopped there two hours or more and got supper. I got a very nice supper.

Wilmington is a beautiful place with Cape Fear River as it were rolling at the foot of it. Hoot.

The next night we got to Petersburg at 3 a.m. We laid in the cars till day. We stayed there till 3 o’clock (it is also a very nice place) then we left for Richmond. Arrived there between eleven and twelve, formed at the depot, and marched up to Broad Street which is the main street in the place. Well, we all expected to see Col. Orr but he left the night before. We got a warm reception there. We had four hours to stay there but did not look over the city much. I went down to the State House. I must close as the mail is leaving.

1 On Sullivan’s Island, the regiment was quartered in dwellings then standing on the island. Part of the regiment was quartered in the old Moultrie House.

2 According to J. W. Mattison of Co. G, Col. Marshall “received orders on April 19th, to report with his command at Richmond, Va., at once. Our surplus baggage was packed and sent home at once. On Sunday, April 20th, we left the Island rejoicing that we were going to the seat of war. The regiment was called by other troops ‘The pound cake regiment,’ because of our easy position [light duty] . Our trip to Richmond was slow and tedious. We left Charleston on the evening of April 20th. When we reached Florence we were delayed the balance of the night. Monday night we reached Wilmington and remained there all night. Tusday we made Weldon. Wednesday morning we took breakfast at Petersburg, Va., and reached Richmond about 12 o’clock noon. We left Richmond in the afternoon on the Fredericksburg road, reaching Guiney’s Station after night. Tents were pitched in short order and a good night’s rest obtained. The next morning (April 24th), when reville sounded we formed line in about three inches of snow. After remaining stationed a few days we were moved nearer Fredericksburg, to a point near Massaponax church, picketing the roads towards Fredericksburg. We remained in this camp [Camp Ledbetter] until the last week in May, when General Johnson evacuated Yorktown and Peninsula and withdrew his forces to around Richmond. The commands near Fredericksburg were ordered to Richmond.


Camp Ledbetter
Spotsylvania Co., Va.
May 25th 1862

Dear Jule,

I received your letter a few days ago and yesterday I received a letter from Buff McLees. He said he had seen some of you about Arch and told you all the particulars. He is in the hands of the Yankees but I trust he will get good attention. I heard from good authority that our surgeon and all that attended the hospital had gone to Williamsburg under a flag of truce to attend to our sick. I think the Yankees will try to show the people of Williamsburg that they have some humanity about them.

I was in suspense a long time before I could hear anything positive about Arch. I tried to get to go to Richmond but Col. Marshall had orders from Gen. Anderson to let no man leave the camp. Col. Marshall said though if Arch was sent to Richmond, he would try to get Gen. Anderson to let me go to see him. If I hear anything from him, I will write to you. I expect there will be a big fight near Richmond. We are all doing very well here. I would rather be here than the Isle.

I am looking for Jim & Wes every day. Burris got a letter from K. Sullivan the other day saying he had swore the boys in although you said father had concluded not to let Jno. come. I hope you got my letter before he started, or rather that Wes got the letter Jno. Sadler wrote to him about bringing a cook with him.

I must close as the mail leaves in a few minutes. Tom McLees is improving. Bill Simpson is doing very well with the measles. All the rest are well.

Yours, &c. — J. R. Sadler

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