1861-62: George Bouton to Lucetta F. (Nalle) Bouton

These two letters were written by George Bouton (1817-1891), the son of Richard Crittenden Booton (1785-1842) and Lucy C. Ware Scott (1789-1846) of Madison county, Virginia. In his letters, George mentions two of his brothers, James W. Booton (1815-1889) and R. Sinclair Boton (1830-1882). George was married to Lucetta F. Nalle (1819-1893). I believe the plantation where they lived at the time of the Civil War was called “Hilton” and was located in Rochelle, Madison county. It should be noted that George’s signature appears to read “Bouton” but the family surname was actually Booton. This change in spelling appears to have been intentional as his name appears as Bouton in military records and post war census records.

Thomas Taylor Pettus was 1st Lt. in the 34th Virginia and took over as Captain of Co. B, 4th Regt., Heavy Artillery in May 1862.

Muster records of the 34th Virginia Infantry indicate that George raised his own company and joined the regiment in June 1861 when he was nearly 45 years old. His company was shortly afterward designated Co. B (“Madison Artillery”), 4th Regt. Heavy Artillery and placed in charge of some of the guns at Yorktown. His requisition for fuel in December 1861 indicates that he had in camp a total of 37 members in his company, including himself and two lieutenants. The placement of the Madison Artillery in the defenses is not known but it was reported to be near the “Naval Battery.” In late May 1862, at the reelection of officers following one years service, George was not reelected as captain. His last requisition as captain of the company was for the replacement of tents and cooking utensils—having been “left on the field at Yorktown” when it was evacuated—was dated 8 May 1862.

Once replaced as captain of his company, it appears that he took a position as captain of Co. H in the 1st Battalion of Virginia Reserves guarding Richmond. He did not take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States until 1865.

The first transcribed letter comes from a private collection and was written not long after George and his company arrived at Yorktown, having come from Culpeper, Virginia. The second letter was transcribed by me from the on-line digital archives of Cornell Library where the letter is housed but not previously transcribed. It should also be noted that the Library of Virginia purchased two letters of George’s letters—one dated 13 January and the other 20 February 1862 while stationed at Yorktown, Virginia, to his wife, Lucetta Bouton discussing his health, camp life, military preparations at Yorktown, and friends in the regiment; and another, 2 March, to his daughter Mollie Bouton discussing the same topics and trying to explain the significance of the war. (44972)

Letter 1

Addressed to Mrs. Lucetta F. Bouton, rochelle, Madison county, Virginia

Yorktown [Virginia]
15 July 1861

Mrs. Lucetta F. Bouton, dear wife,

Your letter of the 13th inst. came to hand today, it being the first that I have received since I have been here. My health is as good as usual. For the last day or two I have had some headache and felt bad generally, but I can assign it to a trip I made some days since to a farm house about two miles in the country to east milk, butter, honey, warm corn bread, and not having fared so sumptuously for some time, I ate rather heartily. I hope to be well in a few days by a little abstemiousness. I am still going about and attend to all my duties.

We have rumors of an attack contemplated every day or two. It is said Col. Fremont has been added to Gen. Butler’s staff [at Fortress Monroe] adn he may advise a forward movement. We feel safe here against a force of 20,000 men, when Butler has but 12 to 15,00[0] & will have necessarily to leave a force of from 4 to 5,000 to guard his posts.

The post here is quite healthy—more so than in Culpeper. The military discipline is quite rigid of which the men complain very much but it relieves me of a great deal of trouble. We have taken charge of one gun and placed a detachment of 10 men to guard & man it. we expect others in a few days when all of the men will move to the outer works.

We are now quartered in a house in town. The detachment have no tents but sleep under an arbor & get wet when it rains. We are expecting tents every day. Tom Burroughs is with me in the house, is well, and looks as well as you ever saw him. He keeps himself quite clean, attends to his duties, gives me no trouble, has never been in the guard house or on double duty. The only time that anything has been the matter with him was in Culpeper, he caught that from a dirty man by the name of Colvin, but was relieved in a short time by timely attention. He has no difficulties with the soldiers. His mess seem to be fond of him. In drill he is awkward but attends and tries to learn & has improved very much. I have just told him he must write to his mother which he has promised to do tomorrow.

I expected the draft would produce a great trepidation. I am really glad of it on account of some, but others it is a serious matter with. If Henry Fry could get a bayonet put on my gun & get the pair of moulds made like the minié ball to make his cartridges upon, it would be the best gun he could have.

How is Dr. Graves, Dr. Buckner, and Capt. Addison now? After a man gets in the army, he does not dread it near so much and after he has had a battle, he does not dread that so much. The Howitzer Battery & N. C. 1st Regiment are now panting for a fight, having shared the fight at Bethel. John Z. Wharton & Jimmy Utly & Henry Thornton & John Fitzhugh are here & Dr. John Banks. We have acquaintances enough. This is the last time that I shall ever undertake to be a captain. I had rather be a private but if I can get through this, I will have the consolation of having served my country to the best of my ability in this her time of need.

Has Jerre returned? Mr. Burroughs had better fallow the upper part of Davis field on the Run to make out his wheat crop. If you are in want of money, I can spare you some. I have paid Brother James for last year through Sinclair. Let Mr. Burroughs have money if he wants it. Mr. Burroughs must not go to the war. We have done our part. Sinclair will suffer very much. He is not able to go and will dislike very much to make the excuse. Gibbon was right to get a substitute. But what I would dislike most is being drafted for my country service.

You had better get Mr. Sprinkle to fix your hearths & get some sheet iron or tin & perforate it with holes and nail it over the air holes on the outside. When you take up the hearth, get rock beat up & cinder from the shop and make a thick bed, well rammed before laying the hearth & mix in some salt.

Write me more frequently. I wish to hear particularly as to the effects of the draft. I saw Mr. Scott at Gordonsville as I came down. It is no time for active men to be idle. Yours husband, — George Bouton

Remember me to my daughter Lizzie & Phil

Letter 2

Yorktown [Virginia]
20 March 1862

Mrs. Lucetta F. Bouton, dear wife,

I am quite well. Tom Burroughs has been suffering from chills for several days but is better now. I have hearrd that Johnston was falling back, probably to Gordonsville, if not further. She he make a stand at Gordonsville, the flour and bacon had better be sold keeping just enough for home use. Should the enemy want horses, you had better let Roderick and Brother James had better let his horse go. Sell as many of the cattle as possibly can be done without, and under a press you might part with a couple of yoke of oxen. In short, put yourself in a condition should the enemy come to have as little for them to take as possible. The negro men had better be sent south and hired out—particularly Jerre Strother, & Jack & Nancy had as well be sent along too.

My bonds and other papers would be safe with Mr. Burroughs as their e__ity against me will be much greater than against him. If you have a small tin box, you coud put my bonds into it, take up some of the brick in the lock closet fire place, bury the box, and lay the hearth back. If well done, this place would not likely be suspected and in the event of fire, would not burn. If you do this, do it privately. Do not let the servants know it. You could get Mr. Burroughs to aid you. Wrap the bonds in flannel. The tin box is necessary to keep the rats and mice from them. If you & Sinclair do not think it necessary to carry the servants so far, they had better be hired to the Army to work on fortifications. Negro women are also hired to cook for the men. If the enemy should take possession & you are not willing ot stay at home, your only chance will be to hitch Queen to your carriage and start south. I had rather all should be burnt than fall into the enemy’s hands.

There is no chance for me to leave here. In my opinion, three months will determine this question in a material degree. We are now approaching our darkest hour. If we can but reverse the enemy at three material points, we are safe/ It is his dying struggle.

Your husband, — George Bouton

P. S. I have hoped as possibly Gordonsville will be the center of the line that possibly the wings of the army will not reach so far as our house & that you may escape annoyance. Be however prepared for emergencies & contribute all you can to the cause. Wear a cheerful countenance for it will relieve you of much anguish. I would not write this letter if you were timid. — G. B.

Burn this letter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s