The following two letters were written by Pvt. George Hendrix Woolen (1839-1864) of Co. B, 27th North Carolina Infantry. George enters the service on 28 April 1862 when he was 23 years old. He was taken prisoner at Bristoe Station, Virginia, on 14 October 1863 and died a POW on 19 September 1864 at Point Lookout, Maryland.
In the 1860 US Census, George was enumerated in the household of his parents in Greensboro, Guilford county, North Carolina. His parents were Benjamin Ellis Woollen (spelled with two “L”s) and Susannah Hendricker. Benjamin worked as a cabinet maker and a farmer.
Men of the 27th North Carolina were recruited in Orange, Guilford, Wayne, Pitt, Lenoir, Perquimans, and Jones counties. It was assigned to General R. Ransom’s, J.G. Walker’s, and Cooke’s Brigade. After fighting at New Bern, the 27th saw action in the Seven Days’ Battles and at Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg. During the spring and summer of 1863 it served in North Carolina, South Carolina, and in the Richmond area.
It appears that after the Seven Days’ Battles, George became too ill to remain with his regiment and was either in the hospital or placed on detail. From the second letter, written from Danville, Virginia, in July 1863, me might infer that George was on detached service working as a guard at the Union prison there. Three months later, he was taken a prisoner himself.
Near Richmond, Virginia
August 28, 1862
I seat myself this morning to pen you a few pages. I ought to have written to you before now but we have been moving about so that I had no opportunity of writing. We left Petersburg—yesterday was a week, got to Richmond as week ago today. Moved over here Saturday morning. The wagons started Saturday evening after our tent to Petersburg. I got permission to go along to get our box as Lieutenant [John H.] McKnight left it there. I got what was left. It was all gone but part of the honey, coffee, and a few potatoes. James Wiley was there. He thought we was gone to Jackson and sold some and eat the rest. I got back here Monday evening. Stephen and I ate some of the honey and drank some coffee that night.
Tuesday morning we had orders to march. I have been unwell ever since Saturday night and Dr. excused me and told me to stay until I got well. They all left Tuesday morning for Jackson. I suppose that is where they are gone. I haven’t heard yet. There is three others is left with me—James [R.] Wiley, Wilbur [F.] Owen, and [H.] Smiley Forbes. We all went out to the Seven Pines Battlefield yesterday. I was almost broke down when we got back. It is three miles from here. I seen a great many Yankee notions where their camps had been. I have no idea how long I will stay here. There is not much chance to send a letter to, or get one from, the office here since the regiment left.
The morning they left I thought I would have to go and Stephen and me had our honey and coffee put in Lieut. [John A.] Sloan’s box to carry along, and after the doctor told me to stay, I tried to get some of it but they had the box nailed up so I got none except a little which I had put in a bottle for me and Stephen’s use until we got there. I’ve got that saved. I hope we will have better luck with the next box. If I had money plenty, I could get plenty to eat. Eleven dollars per mont won’t go far here. They sell a cooked chicken for $1.50.
I would like to hear from you all. How does your corn look? Have you got much fruit? Tell Ma to dry a heap for I am in hopes I will get home in time to help eat it for I hope and pray the war will end by Christmas. If it does, I will be at home by spring if I live. They are going to be granting furloughs before long to the sick. If I get sick, I hope I will get to go home. The doctor came round to see us awhile ago. he says I am taking the ganders [jaundice]. I feel yaller [yellow] in spots about as big as the whites of my eyes. I have just been eating a spice muskmelon. It was splendid I tell you. I gave fifty cents for three.
How is Aunt Nancy and Julina Kirkman? Tell Aunt Nancy if I never see her again in this world, I will strive to meet her in heaven. I seen Web Woollen last Saturday. He was well and [looked] as well as I ever saw him. Stephen was well when he left here. Also John Coltrane and Sam Young. James Will get a discharge. He will be at home before long, I think. Capt. Adams told him if he could get home, it would be all right. If he had told me that, I would [be] home in a week, but I don’t think he will ever tell me that.
I must close and try to send my letter to the office. I will try and write to you again before long. You all need not be uneasy. If I was to get bad sick, I would write a letter or have one written to you immediately. Give my love to all enquiring friends. If you write to me, direct to Richmond. I guess you will wonder how I keep my paper so clean. Tell Ma I put on my clean new socks yesterday. I hear good news from Old Jackson.
Write soon. It may be I will get you letter. I wrote a few lines to cousin Mat the day I was in Petersburg. I remain as ever your affectionate son, — G. H. Woollen
Liberty or death
P. S. Tell Eddy to treat the girls on melon and tell them he is treating them for me.
July 12th 1863
Dear Pa & Ma,
Glad I am to inform you I have returned to Danville safe [but] taken a [ ] cold from being out in the rain and marching through the mud although we did not march more than 25 miles all together. The Yankees have left and we were ordered back here. I sent word to you all by William Ward. Had you heard anything about my leaving? I know Ma is uneasy about me. I feel better this morning than I have for some time. I would like to hear from you all very much.
I suppose you have had plenty of rain. I tell you I never saw the like before in my life. I think I saw at least 2,000 acres of corn washed down and ruined. Also a lot of wheat. It made me feel bad to look at it. Some men lost nearly all their crop as it was nearly all bottom land.
Hoes does your corn look and your melons do? I have a notion to try for a transfer to Salsbury. How do you think it would do? If I get transferred, I will come by home. I think I could do better in Salisbury. I saw Dick in Richmond Wednesday night. He was well. He told me he was going out to my regiment ext day. He said he expected he would stay with them some time. He said he saw Capt. [John] Sloan and told him he was going out today with them, They are near Richmond.
I have the same place I had before I left. Give my love to all my friends. I hope to hear from you all soon. I will close as I want to go to church.
When you write, give me all the news. If you see anyone coming over here with the wagon, tell them to find me for I want to send Dick’s clothes home. Has cousin May and Pat been to see you all yet? I will write to some of you again soon. I haven’t made much money since I was at home but I spent about twenty dollars last week for something to eat while we were out.
Mad, did the medicine do you any good? If it did, you had better get some more. Tell Titia and Fannie I don’t know when I will get them shoes—not until I make some money. Tell Eddie I will try and send him another dollar before for his time. So goodbye. Your affectionate son, — H. H. Woolen