1861: Jane Margaret Brown to Christopher Valentine Winfree

How Jane might have looked

This letter was written by 40 year-old Jane Margaret (Winfree) Brown (1821-1910), the daughter of Christopher Winfree (1785-1858) and Cornelia Meyer Tilden (1798-1836) of Lynchburg, Campbell county, Virginia. Jane married attorney Edward Smith Brown (1818-1908) in 1845, the son of James and Mary (Spearman) Brown of Cumberland county. The couple had three children: Cornelia (b. 1846), Mary Virginia (b. 1849), and Anne (b. 1856). After the Civil War, Edward and Jane moved to Lynchburg where he resumed his law practice.

Jane wrote the letter to her younger brother, Christopher Valentine Winfree (1826-1902)—a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and a civil engineer on the Norfolk & Western railroad. In November 1860, just a few months before the Civil War, Christopher was married to Virginia (“Jinnie”) Ann Brown (1838-1884)—a younger sister of Jane’s husband. Christopher was commissioned a Lieutenant in Co. E, 11th Virginia Infantry on 19 April 1861 and promoted to Captain in August 1861. He was dropped from the reorganization in April 1862.

Illustration from Steve Cottrell’s Book, Civil War in Tennessee


Addressed to Mr. Christopher V. Winfree. Lynchburg, Virginia

[Sunnyside, Va.] 1
May 27, 1861

My very dear brother,

As you may so soon have to leave home, I will address this letter to you. We reached Farmville very safely after a pleasant trip. Old Mrs. French, mother of Mrs. Powers, came down with us. One of her granddaughters (Miss Woodson) came in with her. Mrs. Loomis, daughter of Mrs. Sam Hobson came also. After we got to Farmville, several Tennessee soldiers came out of the cars. A good many girls and gentlemen had collected at the Depot. The girls threw bouquets to the soldiers. One of them (the soldiers) made a nice little speech in return for the flowers. Mrs. Loomis said he was an Editor and a very nice gentleman. She came to Virginia under his care. One of the soldiers proposed three cheers for the Virginia girls and they were cheered in style. 2

We got home about three o’clock. Mary Virginia had a little dinner for us. She had gathered strawberries and insisted I should let her have cream with it. I did so and they were very nice. The next morning she and Willie gathered some for dinner. In the evening Mary and Anne Eliza gathered a large mess for Sunday. Mary and Toliver have gone again. They are wild strawberries but larger than wild ones are generally.

Philip St. George Cocke (1809-1861) was a wealthy planter in Powhatan county with hundreds of slaves and thousands of acres. He organized a cavalry troop in response to John Brown’s Raid. He committed suicide on 26 December 1861.

Willie went with Mr. Brown Saturday to drill. He drilled one squad. He says they drilled pretty well. A few members of the Powhatan Troop have returned to visit their friends. They say Mr. [Philip St. George] Cocke wants more persons in his troop. I understand he authorized Mr. Murray to get new members. They say Mr. Cocke is very kind and furnishes them with many comforts. Some of them spoke of sending for money. He told them that was unnecessary—he would furnish it to them. That if they would spend their money right, he would not mind letting them have what they wanted. It is quite convenient to have a Colonel who is able to supply the wants of his men.

John French is still sick at Culpeper Court House. Old Mrs. French insists she will go to see her boys. Wesley Garrett 3 came up to see Pattie last week. He left the troops well. He says they have great difficulty about getting their food cooked. They made him cook a good deal. He says they would put thick pieces of meat in the pan to fry and burn up the outside before the inside was cooked at all. You had better learn to cook before you go. Pattie stood Mr. Garrett’s leaving better than at first. She thinks of going to see him in about three weeks. She is much better.

I understand George Palmer has made oath to keep the Constitution of the United States. Mr. Palmer from Cumberland (Tell Parlin [?] he is cousin of Sam Garrett’s children) was so sick when the troops got to Powhatan Court House that he had to be left. He was taken either to Willis Dance’s or Mrs. Dance’s.

We heard yesterday that Federal troops had taken Alexandria. Is the report correct? If it is, I reckon Lynchburg is in danger. Willis Hobson is anxious for Mr. Daniel to join the Powhatan troop. When I got home, I found no one here but Mary and Anne. Cornelia was at Mrs. Haskins’. I brought here and Salina home with me from church yesterday. I saw sister Ann, Mollie, and Laura yesterday. All were well and asked many questions about Jinnie and other Lynchburg friends. Our relations are well. Cornelia looks a good deal better than she did when I left home.

Miss Mary is still at Mrs. Haskins. She told me she would come home with me from church next Sabbath. Next Saturday and Sunday will be our Quarterly Meeting. I expect Mr. [William H.] Christian to come home with me. Our preacher is not on the circuit. Brother Jordon preached for us yesterday. His sermon was on Temperance. It was very good. Old Mrs. Clack is very sick. I have been to see her. She told me she did not think she would ever be well. Ellen and Bently staid with us last night. If you see Mr. Figgai, you can tell him she is well. Only staid last night. Also Willie seems to be enjoying himself very much. He seems quite well. Says I must say that as I am writing, he will wait till another time. He sends much love to all and will write soon. The boys see, delighted to have him with them. My children seem to be very glad indeed to have him here.

Did Hoppie go to Aunt Betties when he got to Lynchburg Friday? I felt afraid he would have some difficulty in getting along. Cousin Frances got a letter from home Friday evening saying her Pa would meet him at the Bridge. We have been more cheerful since I got home than before I left. I will try and keep so. I know it will be much best if I can…

Mr. Brown has gone to Cumberland County today. He will begin to teach in the morning. He says it will give him much pleasure to instruct Willie in arithmetic.

How are the sick soldiers? Have the leaders been in to see any of them? Cousin Robert saw Dr. Walton when he was in Richmond. He told him he had some very ill patients with measles. Some have pneumonia. He has about thirty to attend to. Mary and Salina have returned with their berries. I wish you were here to have some. Give much love to every one for me. Sister Anne says when you go, Jinnie must come down to Cumberland.

My dear brother, try and prepare your heart for what is before you. I am not writing this because it is my custom to give you advice, but because I want you to find more delight in waiting on God. Don’t be satisfied without the constant evidence of your acceptance. This is your privilege. You ought to prepare yourself so that you may discharge your duty in camp. The responsible position given you by your company, God will require you to improve. It is your imperative duty to watch over the souls given to your care whether poor human nature is willing or not. Be sure to have prayers in your camp and get, if you can, every member of your company to sign the pledge. If you will start right with your company, you will be able to wield a moral influence over them that will tell in eternity. Let songs of praise rise to God from your tents and let every man have morning and evening in prayer to the giver of all good.

The Charlotte troop 4 passed while I was in Lynchburg. At the Court House they took their seats in the court yard and sung hymns. None of them drank liquor at the Court House. There were 88 in their troop. 44 were married men.

Dr. Lewis Walkin was a member of Mr. Harrison’s Company of this county. He was sent back because he was too feeble to bear the fatigue of the service.

Goodbye dear brother. No one is with me ot lots of love would be sent. Kiss Jinnie, my sisters, and Aunt Bettie for me. I hope Mrs. M____ is better, Give much love to John and all at his house. write very soon to your devoted sister. — Jane M. Brown

Dear Jinnie,

I have written a long letter to Christopher & as I wrote you a long letter before I went up, I will only write a few lines to return you the hardy thanks of little Anne for her doll. She is also much obliged to Aunt Bettie for the piece of ___. Salina is delighted with her flat [?] and other things and is much obliged to you for her doll. She says she wrote to you a few days ago. She seems pleased to get back to school and looks well and happy. Receive for yourself and C. the warmest love of Salina and all the children. Mrs. Wilkerson has gone home and the children are at Father’s. Mr. Brown went round to see his relatives while I was away. Bro. Daniel Bently and Bro. Zack expect to go to Richmond this week. James Reynolds was here yesterday. He said he would go in a short time to Randolph-Macon [College] to commencement. He hopes he will take measles while away as he wants to join the army and is afraid to have it in camp. Bently hopes he will take it while in Richmond. Willis Hobson advised Dr. Thomas not to let Bently join the army.

Go to class, Jinnie. Try to get more of the love of God in your heart. you can never be as happy as you might until you have an assurance of your acceptance. The love of God sweetens every joy, soothes every sorrow. You have so much leisure time, spend more of it in prayer and in the study of God’s Hold Word. There you will find every duty made plain. Write very soon. Kiss my dear brother for me. I don’t feel very sad about his going into camp. I believe the good Lord will be with him. So few of our family are in the army, I would do nothing to prevent his going. Be sure to write very soon.

Your affectionate Aunt, — P. M. Brown

1 Sunny Side was an unincorporated village in Buckingham and Cumberland counties, Virginia. It was a stop on the Farmville and Powhatan Railroad. It is located approximately four miles east of Cumberland and some 50 miles west of Richmond.

2 These Tennessee soldiers were probably members of the 1st Tennessee Infantry. This regiment was ordered to proceed by the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad to Lynchburg, Virginia on 3 May 1861. Six companies arrived there on 5 May 1861; the other four companies arriving shortly afterwards. They were mustered into Confederate service for twelve months on 8 May 1861. They were then ordered to proceed by the Southside Railroad to Richmond on 19 May 1861 and arrived there very late on 20 May 1861. They probably passed through Farmville (midway between Lynchburg and Richmond) on the 19th or 20th of May. A private in the 1st Tennessee named Sam Watkins remembered, “Leaving Nashville, we went bowling along twenty or thirty miles an hour, as fast as steam could carry us. At every town and station citizens and ladies were waving their handkerchiefs and hurrahing for Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy. Magnificent banquets were prepared for us all along the entire route. It was one magnificent festival from one end of the line to the other. At Chattanooga, Knoxville, Bristol, Farmville, Lynchburg, everywhere, the same demonstrations of joy and welcome greeted us. Ah those were glorious times…” [Civil War in Tennessee, by Steve Cottrell, pg 13]

3 John “Wesley” Garret was married to Pattie Frances Clark of Cumberland county, Virginia, in July 1860. Wesley served as a corporal in Capt. Henry R. Johnson’s Company (Cumberland Light Dragoons) or the 3rd Virginia Cavalry from 14 May 1861 till he was wounded on 29 May 1864 at Haw’s Shop.

4 The 14th Virginia Cavalry, Co. B, was sometimes referred to as “the Charlotte Troop.”

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