The following letter was written by G. Berkeley Green (1841-1893), the son of Bishop William Mercer Green (1798-1887) and Charlotte Isabella Fleming (1810-1860) of Jackson, Hinds county, Mississippi. Berkeley was attending the University of Mississippi at Jackson when the State of Mississippi seceded from the Union on January 9, 1861. On 4 May, nearly the entire student body (most of them sons of large slave-holding families) and many of the professors at the University formed ranks, left, school and enlisted in the Confederate Army. Only four students reported for classes in the fall so the university closed temporarily. The “University Grays” became Co. A, of the 11th Mississippi Infantry. When the company was ordered to leave, his father attempted to have Berkeley discharged so that he could finish his studies and graduate in May 1861. It was an unusual request but successful no doubt because of his father’s station as Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Mississippi. Within days of his graduation in late May 1861, Berkeley enlisted again, this time in the “Burt Rifles” or Co. K, 18th Mississippi Infantry.
During the next four years of service, Berkeley saw plenty of action. He was captured at Fredericksburg, Virginia, on May 3, 1863, and exchanged just in time to rejoin his unit and fight at Gettysburg. In that battle he was again captured, and sent to Fort Delaware prisoner of war camp. He was released on May 22, 1865, after taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
Berkeley Green later married Sarah Joanna Hillyer of Natchez, Mississippi. In 1880, Berkeley and his family resided in Vicksburg where he worked as a clerk.
In his letter, Berkeley mentions his brother “Rave” several times. This was John Ravenscroft Green (1830-1890), sometimes referred to to as “J. R.” and named after Bishop John Ravenscroft. He married 1st to DeLainey VanDusen McGahey, and 2nd to Hannah Lavina Lee. He became a physician after the Civil War and lived in southern Indiana for a time.
The letter was addressed to Sallie S. Green (1845-1917) who would later marry John Mercer Cotten (1842-1915), a veteran of Co. G, 7th Tennessee Infantry and Co. K, 7th Tennessee Cavalry.
Headquarters 18th Mississippi Regiment
December 23rd 1862
My dear sister Sallie,
I received your letter of the 1st inst. a few days ago & was truly grieved at the perusal of its contents. You said truly when in commencing your letter to wrote that you all at home had not written quite as often as I might have a right to expect for it was the first letter that I had received from home for two months. But I did not much wonder at the fact when I saw in how much trouble you had been from sickness & other causes. I have felt very sad since the receipt of your letter & the news of father’s terrible illness. I am looking most anxiously for another letter from you telling me of his health & your general welfare. I have rather delayed writing I hopes of receiving another one before I wrote again.
This bids fair to be the dullest, hardest Christmas that I have ever spent—one of the dreariest spots on memory’s record. My Christmas dinner bids fair to be nothing further than beef & biscuits & no eggnog or anything of a spiritous character. I have been very anxious to go to spend Christas at the place where I was sick after the battle of Malvern Hill 1 last summer but there is not the slightest chance of my accomplishing anything of the kind. We suffer considerably from the cold at times. The weather, however, for the last three days has been uncommonly mild for this winter which has been much more severe than the last one.
I had looked forward also some months ago to the granting of furloughs about this time but it seems that that is completely played out & I cannot tell when it may be my good fortune to see home again. I am afraid I shall never get there until the war ends unless I get a pretty bad wound in some battle. That is paying rather too dearly for my whistle.
Speaking of wounds, I suppose you. have heard ere this of cousin Robert Greene’s wound. Brother Rave was in Richmond nursing him when I last heard from him but his life was in great danger & one eye was entirely gone, although the doctor thought that if he could save his life, he might be able to save him one eye. I am quite anxious to hear from him. Brother Rave is trying to get a furlough himself but with poor success, I believe.
When you next write, tell me all about my friends at home—particularly of Mollie D. for I have not heard from her for months. Tell [brother] Dunc[an] he is treating me very badly about writing as he has not written to me since I left home at Wilmington six or seven months ago. Tell Lilly I am glad to hear that one of the family at least keeps gay and happy all the time for I have been having the blues myself for some time. And Rave is not much better. There is nothing to write about so I will bid you goodbye hoping to hear from you soon.
Your affectionate brother, — G. Berkeley Greene
1 The 18th Mississippi Infantry participated in the Battle of Malvern Hill on 1 July 1862. They were part of the evening attack and lost 16 killed and 126 wounded.