This letter was written by 56 year-old William J. Gray (1808-1888), the son of Andrew Gray (1770-1857) and Mary Simpson (1785-1863) of Little River township, Orange county, North Carolina. William was married to Judia B. Dunnegan (1827-1896). Together they had at least ten children, the oldest being son, William Simpson Gray (1846-1906) born in October 1846.
William wrote the letter to his younger brother, Alexander M. Gray (1819-1874) who was apparently in the Confederate service at the time.
[Little River township, Orange county, North Carolina]
December 8th 1864
Mr. Alexander M. Gray,
Marion Sneed received letter of the 24th Nov. This leaves all well. Andrew & Sidney both has had diphtheria but both of them got well without a doctor. We shucked your corn last Saturday & finished cribbing today. There is 56 barrels of good sound corn and 10 barrels of nubbins. I delivered your tithes—oats & fodder—last Monday (8 3/4 bushels of oats & 368 Pounds of fodder).
Major finished sowing wheat & is going to repairing the pasture fence next. There has been no press master there to press horses as yet. I expect them every day. I will send your cloths & money the first chance. Marion went to see Jones at Sumner’s old place & he cannot tell when he will start to his company. I understand the Yankees has taken 200 of our men prisoners at Stoney Creek this side of Petersburg. I got a letter from William. He didn’t write where he was but I suppose he is near Williamston in this state. He is well and marching every 2 or 3 days. He told nothing about his fare. The most of the Senior Reserves is gone in this neighborhood. Harvey Rountree has got back & R. N. Hull. The county was divided into 3 companies. The first company went first, then the 2nd. Now they have taken the 3rd company last Monday, they say for 30 days.
The crops of corn turned out smaller than many expected. Very little to sell except Negro’s crops. They offer $100 per barrel. I thought six of your hogs would be enough to fatten this fall. They are going to press everything that can be taken. The press man told me if Charley Miller’s wife would not open her door and let him have his brandy, he would be compelled to get some men and break the door open. I told him I thought it a hard case to put Charles in the army, then break open his house & take what he left from his family. He admitted it was, but he had to obey orders. 1 They took one of H[arvey] Rountree’s best mules & allowed $800 in a government scrip which I consider as good as nothing. The country here is feeling the effects of this miserable war more than they ever did before. Some pretend to think it will last four years longer. I hope not one year longer.
I hear from Tom Rountree nearly every week he is yet in the ditches at Petersburg. I went to see Tom Gray. He promised to make your shoes & bring them. Last Saturday was a week [but] I have [not] seen nor heard from him since. If he won’t make them, I will get Fisk to make you a pair. When you write next, write whether or not you have heard from Robert J. Carden. 2 I saw his Father [John Carden] in Hillsborough. He is very uneasy about him. Has heard nothing from him since you wrote to the family. He heard by some source he was seen in the mountains after the fight of the 19th October [Battle of Cedar Creek] sitting by a tree with his ankle sprained. You had better write to the family as you did before & tell me also whether you know anything of him or not and if one of us should fail to get the letter the other might get it & let the old man hear from him. Thomas P[erson] Berry’s Solomon is dead. 3
It is getting late & I have to take a beef to town tomorrow. I butcher it at home, keep the hide, & deliver the meat at 80 cents per lb. & get one-quarter of the pay in salt at 50 cents a pound. The beef is pressed. County salt is 80 cents. H. N. Brown sells at $1.00 per lb. I will come to a close. I remain yours, &c. — Wm. J. Gray
Alexr. M. Gray
1 This was probably Charles Rountree Miller (1826-1897), the son of William Miller (1798-1830) and Rebecca Rountree (1804-1837) of Little River township, Orange county, N. C. In December 1864 when this letter was written, Charley’s wife, Francis Jane (Nichols) Miller, had five children at home ranging in age from 1 to 9 years old.
2 Robert John Carden (1835-1910) was the son of John Carden (1804-1896) and Mary Ann Stevens (1798-1874) of Orange county, N. C. He served as a private in Co. K, 12th North Carolina Infantry. In the Battle of Cedar Creek, the 12th North Carolina fought in Brig. Gen. Robert D. Johnston’s Brigade of Brig. General John Pegram’s Division, under the overall command of of LTG Jubal Early. Robert’s father has reason to be concerned as late in the day of the battle, after initial success, the Union army regrouped and, led by the Union cavalry, attacked Early’s army that had not pressed their advantage and most of the Confederate troops panicked and ran, the Union army taking many prisoners.
3 Thomas Person Berry (1808-1884) was a neighbor of the Gray’s in Little River township, Orange county, North Carolina. Thomas and his wife, Sarah Lunsford (1811-1870) had four children but none were named Solomon. But Thomas was also a slaveholder and my suspicion is that “Solomon” was one of his slaves.