The following letter was written by 2Lt. James Rhodes Garber (1847-1896) of Co. G, 8th (Hatch’s) Alabama Cavalry. James was elected to his position on 17 February 1864—an election of which he speaks of in his letter. The regiment was organized in late April 1864 by adding one company to the nine of Hatch’s Battalion that had entered Confederate service the previous winter. They served until the date of surrender on 14 May 1865 at Gainesville, Alabama.
James was the son of Alexander Menzies Garber (1815-1891) and Anna Maria Rhodes (1825-1911) of Livingston, Sumter county, Alabama. After the war he attended the University of Louisiana and graduated in 1867. Like his father, he too entered the medical profession and practiced in Georgetown, South Carolina, and later in Birmingham, Alabama.
The note added at the end of the letter is conjectured to be a request for a slave boy to be sent to the regiment to perform camp duties in exchange for room & board.
March 3rd 1864
From the close proximity of this place to Livingston and the fact that I have not yet written to you, has led you to suppose that I have made up my mind again not to write to you. I arrived here about sun down the day I left home—found the road very lonesome. Met Lee about seven miles from here. I expect to have heard something satisfactory from Bud when I arrived, but not so! Some of the men who have come in say that he was to have left Bladon last Monday morning to come up here. Was to pass through Livingston and would be here this (Wednesday) evening but as it rained quite hard yesterday, I don’t look for him before tomorrow.
Since I came over, I have heard any amount of rumors in regard to the company. Some say that an order has been issued from Richmond dismounting the whole regiment: that the Conscript Office are trying and are going to conscript all the members of the conscript age and to send all over seventeen and under eighteen into camps of instruction. Others say that Col. [Nathaniel] Wickliffe is not pleased with our election returns, that we shall reorganize, and some say that Bud told them that he was going to have another election. There are some in the other squad who are now sorry that they formed the junction with us and would get out if they could, and if Bud goes to reorganizing, they may take that as an opportunity & leave us.
I don’t see what right Bud has to call for a reelection of officers nor do I think Col. Wickliffe has the power to do so. If we do not break up (and I don’t think we will) and I hold my present position, I will be able (I understand) to buy a saddle & blanket at government price for $100. I don’t know what the bridal and other trappings will cost. There are no pistols to be had up here.
For the last night or two, I have slept “quite cool.” I made a bunk large enough to hold Bud & myself and fortunately a man who has gone home on a sick furlough left his bedding which I have appropriated until he returns. With that & my own blanket, I have managed to make out pretty well though I have slept “more comfortably.”
Everything looks dark and uncertain to me. I can’t say what I really think. Sometimes I think one thing and then again another. But I do wish we could get to the regiment until this fuss about relieving men doing post duty is all other with. I suppose Bud will have been with you long before this reaches you and don’t know of anybody going over nor do I know when the mail goes. I got the letter you sent by Mr. Connor some time ago. I was amused at the way Pa wrote. He said if I lost my horse, he didn’t know where I would be able to get another. Not five lines further on he says, “If you want a horse, I will send you Tom.”
Did Gerrie catch anything the morning he was so anxious for me to leave? I saw Mr. Connor & James Whitfield a day or two since. The latter expects to be ordered away soon. I have not yet been out to Cousin Bob’s but will go as soon as I can. Give my kindest regards to any of my enquiring friends that you may see—that is, if I have any enquiring friends. If Bud is there, tell him to come along. Remember me kindly to all of the servants. Love to all.
Your affectionate son, — James R. Garber
Tell Uncle George that there are four reliable men in the company who will take a boy upon the conditions that he [is] named to me—viz: that if the boy ran away or died, it should be no loss to them and that they are to have the use of him for keeping him. Any other conditions that he may wish to impose upon them, let me know them so that I may inform them of it. If he wants them to have the boy, he had better send him over at once. The names of the men are, viz: Burroughs, [M.] Sellers, [J. C.] Pugh, (and [A. K.] Martin, I believe). Bud knows them all. All men of some property. Let me hear from it in your next. — J. R. G.