This letter was written by Doke Young (1804-1874), a farmer of Cherry Valley, Wilson county, Tennessee. He wrote the letter to his friend, Capt. Archibald Doak Norris of Co. K, 7th Tennessee Infantry.
Doke was the son of David Young (1774-1856) and Sarah Phillips (1776-1845). He was married to Sarah (“Sally”) Reeder (1806-1878). Four of his children are mentioned in the letter; two at home—Mary or “Polly” (b. 1838) and Jacob or “Jake” (b. 1845), and two in the Confederate service—John Bell Young (1840-1913) and Alexander Young (1844-1921) at Russellville.
In the 1860 Slave schedules, Doke owned five slaves. The value of his real estate in 1860 was $28,350 and the value of his personal property was $12,845. From the content of the letter, it appears that Archibald may have boarded with the family at one time.
In his letter Doke informs Archibald of the apparent Union movement against Forts Henry and Donelson. He also provides some particulars of the battle of Mill Springs (or Fishing Creek) in which Union forces under the leadership of Gen. George Thomas defeated those of General George Crittenden and General Felix Zollicoffer was killed.
February 7, 1862
Mr. A. D. Norris,
Your letter from camp near Romney came to hand the 1st inst. I assure you it was received with much pleasure not only by me but by the whole of our small family. I landed home from Russellville the 1st inst. Have been on a visit there to see the boys, friends, and acquaintances. I found Jno & Alek with bad colds but mending. Met Toby coming home for the first time since he left. He is well and weighs 167 pounds. He started back to camp this morning. I found Mr. Rosser very low with fever. He says he is some better. Mrs. Rosser is there with him.
Russellville was a very handsome place before the soldiers were posted there. Now it is the muddiest place I ever saw. The forces there is estimated at 20,000 & more coming. The prospect of a fight at Bowling Green. I think, is blasted for the present & Russellville is threatened. About 8,000 Lincolnites came across Green river at Carrolton & was fortifying for 15 or 20 days but Jno writes me since I got home that they are gone from there but does not know where. The newspapers say they are coming up Cumberland & Tennessee rivers as far as Fort Donelson on the Cumberland and Fort Henry on the Tennessee. Rumor has it that they were fighting at the latter place day before yesterday. I think we will hear tonight. The danger lies in that direction now, I think. They are aiming for our railroads. If they destroy the bridges, they cut off our supplies from Bowling Green to Russellville.
I suppose you have heard of our defeat at Fishing Creek under General Crittenden. It was not near as bad as it was at first reported, but was bad enough. The best information is we lost about 200 killed & 300 prisoners. Among the killed, General [Felix] Zollicoffer, Col. [George] Raines, and Col. Bailey Peyton. The Lincolnites call it Bull Run, Jr. Crittenden is called everything but a patriot by some. I suppose our generals were deceived as to the strength of the enemy. They were in 2 divisions on either side of Fishing Creek—the creek very much swollen [and] supposed to be impassible. Our generals concluded to attack the division in between the river & creek, made a forced march of 20 miles in the night and joined the other division in the fork which made their forces double as strong as was expected. Zollicoffer was decoyed up to a Indiana Regiment by a Confederate flag hoisted by them and was shot in the early part of the engagement (Tennessee is in mourning at his loss). The remains of Zollicoffer & Raines was interred at Nashville last Saturday; that of Peyton at Gallatin the same day with military honor. All the good wagons & teams have been pressed to supply the loss at Fishing Creek. Yankees state their loss as great as ours in men.
While at Russellville, I came across a young man—a native Kentuckian—who went to Virginia last spring, was in the hospital when the battle was fought at Manassas, has never been well since, was discharged, went to Bowling Green on his way home, [and] could get no farther. He came home with me.
Our boys have had a hard time of it ever since they went to Russelville. They have been scouring the Green & Mud river country ever since they went up there. Jno. A. Bass’s hand has cured up but cannot use it yet. Captain Phillips is well and is very popular in his company. He lost a fine horse while I was up there worth $200. I understand that General Anderson is at Nashville trying to get his brigade orders to Tennessee or Kentucky. If you come, let us hear from you as you pass. When your letters comes to hand, there is a scramble between Polly & Jake who will read it first.
Pardon my scribbling and I will not intrude on you patience longer. Write soon and often and remember your friend, —Doke Young
N. B. My wife says she wonders if she will ever see you walking into the dining toom to your meals as formerly. Give my respects to al of my acquaintances. Tell them I have never received a line from one of them. — D. Y.