Susie Overton’s War-time Correspondence

How Suzie might have looked.

The following collection of letters were all written to Martha Susan (“Suzie”) Overton (1844-1935) of Rice’s Depot, Prince Edward county, Virginia, during the Civil War. Suzie was the youngest of several children born to Dr. Thomas Carlton Overton (1803-1844) and Martha White (1811-Aft1880). Her siblings included: William M. Overton (b. 1829), Elizabeth Carleton Overton (1831-1860), James Lee Overton (b. 1835), Nancy (“Nannie”) Overton (b. 1838), and Mary (“Mollie”) Overton (b. 1841). 

Suzie married Lindsay Branch Walthall (1840-1912) in May 1866 in Prince Edward County, VA. They had three children. Lindsay served in Co. C of the 53rd Virginia Infantry Regiment. He was acting aide-de-camp at the surrender. After the war, Lindsay and Suzie settle in Lockett, Prince Edward county, Virginia.

The story that accompanies this small cache of letters claims that they were found “in the walls of the Overton/Walthall House in Prince Edward county, Virginia.” I have not been able to confirm this story but if true, it must have been Suzie Overton’s mother’s house where Suzie and her widowed mother were residing at war’s end near Rice’s Depot. It’s possible that Suzie hid the letters there in 1865 when Union General John Gibbon’s Corps approached the station on April 6th as they pursued Longstreet’s retreating Corps westward from Richmond on the South Side Railroad. The letters certainly have the appearance of having been stored in the walls of a home—they are badly stained though mostly still legible.

Map showing the location (orange oval) of the “Mrs. Overton” home near the South Side Railroad and overlooking the Appomattox River valley not far from Farmville. The famous “High Bridge crosses the Appomattox River at far right on the map. The Overton home was located just a mile to the northwest of the bridge.
In the 1850s, the South Side Railroad was built between Lynchburg and Petersburg passing through Farmville. Subsidized by a contribution from the Town of Farmville, this route required an expensive crossing of the Appomattox River.  High Bridge was built in 1853. In the following decade, High Bridge was heavily damaged during the final days of the Civil War. After the battle at nearby Sayler’s Creek, the last major engagement of the Civil War, Confederate General Robert E. Lee retreated directly through the Town of Farmville, and the Confederate army crossed and then attempted to burn High Bridge. The Union forces saved the bridge and continued their pursuit of Lee’s army towards Appomattox Courthouse, where General Lee surrendered a few days later to General Ulysses S. Grant.

Letter 1

Union Female College 1
Saturday, April 1861

Dear Martha Susan,

As I got up quite soon this morning, I will try and write you a few lines this morning before breakfast. Nannie Meador went home this morning but came very near being left. Judie and myself slept the first part of the night and Nannie and Luchie dropped to sleep and the candle went out and we did not have any matches. None of us waked until this morning after the omnibus came. She had to get up and dress in the dark while the omnibus waited for her. She left a dress, a cloak, a gown, her handkerchief, her trunk, key and even left her snack. You may know something [ ] to happen if she left that.

Mrs. Burwell and Rose Tacher are coming up to see us today. They say so but I don’t believe much. I went down to see Mrs. Burwell yesterday. She looked as sweet as ever. Luchie, Nannie, and myself took the rounds and told them all goodbye yesterday evening. Give my love to cousin Mollie and tell her John Ed. has gone to war. I hope he will fight a little faster than he talks. Tell her be sure to take the ribbon off her bonnet when she washes it. I have not written to anyone else but you since you left.

I have had the blues ever since you left. I would finish another two pages but it will make Luchies letter too large. Luchie received her button very safely the other day. All teachers join us in love to you and Mr. [William A.] Tyree says you must come back for three reasons. First is we all want to see you. Second is that you will have to pay all the session. I have forgotten the third. I have not had the measles yet. Yesterday in reading class, Mr. Tyree told Judie she ought  to learn to read poetry very well as she receives so much of it. Give my love to Cousin William [Susie Overton’s brother and a Confederate Surgeon] and tell him Mrs. Page says he ought to have gone to her before he left. Mr. Tyree says you ought not to have gone home. Love to Cousin Nannie and kiss her for me.

[from cousin Alice to Martha Susan Overton]

1 The college was incorporated by the Assembly of Virginia in December of 1859 as the Union Female College. A new brick building was erected on top of “Baptist Hill” at Ridge and Patton Streets in Danville next door to William I. Berryman’s home who had previously operated the Danville Female Institute. In 1861, Rev. William Allen Tyree replaced his brother-in-law Nathan Penick as principal. Tyree served a the principal until 1863. The school’s name was changed in 1864 (the word “Union” not popular) to the Roanoke Female College. It’s known today as Averett University.

Letter 2

Danville [Virginia]
Thursday night, May 7th, 1861

Scarcely a day has passed since the reception of your kind, dear, missive in which I have not intended to devote one or more of its golden hours in sweet communion with thee, my  beloved friend. But various things have conflicted with my plans. Consequently, hope you will forgive my delay. Dear friend, you have no idea how much I have missed you since your  exit, & do, if you please, make haste & come back. I have no one to come in my room & laugh & talk to me now—no one to help me eat snacks and no one to cheer my poor sad heart.

I am exceedingly low spirited tonight. In fact, I have felt sad ever since our volunteer companies left town. I hear from John almost every day & he makes inquiries about you frequently. I think he is fond of you. Don’t you agree with me? Don’t you want to go down to Richmond (with me) to see him? I intend to go as soon as my Bank resumes. I think it has been suspended long enough for me to take a trip if it should ever resume, don’t  you?

Who do you reckon came up to see me last night? Well, it was that hateful old Turner, but I did not go out to see him. I had two friends to see me this afternoon—Mr. Taylor and Dr. Baily. They were very agreeable & I spent the afternoon very pleasantly. Mr. Taylor told me he saw your brother William in Richmond a few days since. I suppose you hear from him very often. It is heart-wrenching to give up a true brother. But I  don’t think any true woman would stay a strong arm from defending his country. Would to God I could volunteer my services. I would be off tomorrow. I don’t think there are enough gentlemen [left] in Danville to protect the ladies so I will have to stay at home & be Capt.

Mollie Vaughan has left town. She came to see Mr. Vry frequently after you left. Sallie Law has been suffering very much with her bosom (breast) for the last two days. Dr. Green lanced it today & she is much better. She grieves Bob’s absence much better than I expected. Sister Mary don’t do much else than cry about Sam’s being absent. He came up Saturday to  see her, but left yesterday.

My friend George is now at West Point. Poor fellow. I am fearful we shall never see  him again. Well my paper is out so I must conclude & besides, it is late & I want to dream about Mr. Turner. Write soon.

Farewell, dear friend, & may God bless & protect you is the wish & prayer of your devoted & affectionate friend, — Fannie

[Frances Walthall, sister of Lindsey B. Walthall]

This is the meanest pen I ever wrote with. If you can’t read this writing, you must guess at it.

P. S. Remember me very affectionately to Nannie & Mary [Overton]. Excuse this hastily written letter. I am sitting with my gown and I am fearful it will make “Poor little me” sick if I don’t write in haste. Good night. I did not write you half I intended to write but will do better next time.

Letter 3

[The following letter was written by Richard H. Phillips (b. 1832), the son of Joseph Phillips, 1800-1870) and his wife Louisa D. (last name not known but possibly Overton?) of Prince Edward county, Virginia. Richard was the oldest of at least six children.]

Unidentified soldier in Confederate uniform with state of Virginia buttons (LOC)

Yorktown [Virginia]
May 27, 1861

Dear Cousin [Suzie],

I am anxious to hear from you and will write to you hoping that you will not hesitate to  answer this when you receive it. I should have written to you before now, but circumstances would not admit of it. I have nothing that will interest you. We are spending the time as pleasantly as could be expected under the circumstances. We have great excitement in camp at present. It is supposed that we will be attacked in a short time. I would not be surprised if we were attacked tonight. We are all called out tonight. It said that Lincoln’s men is landing below here in large numbers. I hope that the excitement will soon be over though I fear it will not be the case. We can but hope for the best [even] if the worst comes. 1

“I would not be surprised if we were attacked tonight. We are all called out tonight. It said that Lincoln’s men is landing below here in large numbers. I hope that the excitement will soon be over though I fear it will not be the case. We can but hope for the best [even] if the worst comes.”

— Lt. Richard H. Phillips, Old Dominion Riflemen, 27 May 1861

We are blessed with good quarters at this time but don’t know how long we will have them. We are comfortably situated and faring tolerably well at present but I can tell you that we need your sympathy. We are bound  to suffer under the circumstances, having left all our friends behind. Oh that I could see you all. I would give anything on earth if I could but see the faces that I saw the  morning I left the depot. That scene has been before my eyes ever since I witnessed a  similar scene at the [Burkeville] Junction the same morning. I saw a great many of my friends there. I felt that my heart was almost broken after leaving you all. I hope the time is not far distant when we shall meet with as much joy as we parted with grief. I hope you all  have become reconciled by this time. We will do the best we can and return home as soon as possible.

Cousin, you must write soon and give me all the news in the neighborhood. I would write more but have not the time. I have so many to write to that I have to be short so as to get round with them all. Cousin, you must write as soon as you get this. Give my love to all the girls that you think will write to me. I would be glad to hear from you  often. I have written to several and have not received an answer. Cousin you must write. — R. H. Phillips

P. S. You must direct your letters to the care of Capt. H. D. Dickerson, ODR 2

Write, write, write.

1 By the end of May 1861, nearly 4,500 officers and men under the command of Major General Benjamin F. Butler had been transferred to Fortress Monroe for its defense.

2 Capt. Henry D. Dickerson put together a company in May 1861 known as the Old Dominion Riflemen (“ODR”). This Company joined Major Edgar B Montague’s Battalion of Virginia Infantry. This Battalion had only three Companies; A – Halifax Light Infantry, B – Chatham Grays and C – Old Dominion Riflemen and was accepted into Confederate service on 1 July 1861. The Battalion was assigned temporarily to the 32nd Virginia Infantry and saw action at Big Bethel Church during the Peninsula fighting during June 1861, this was possibly the first land battle of the Civil War. During Nov. 1861 the Battalion was reassigned to the 53rd Virginia Volunteer Infantry per Special Order #214 from the A&IGO. The 53rd consolidated Fort Grafton in York County, VA then moved to Kings Mill Wharf just below Jamestown, VA. They then moved to Sandy Cross, Gates County, NC by rail in April 1862. In May 5 1862 it was in Suffolk County, VA and only 35 miles from the Battle of Williamsburg. The 53rd held elections on May 5th and at this time Capt. Henry D. Dickerson and other officers, including 2Lt Richard H. Phillips, lost the election. Capt. Dickerson and Lt. Phillips retired at this time.” [Civil War Talk, 21 August 2009]

Letter 4

[The following letter was written by Richard H. Phillips (b. 1832), the son of Joseph Phillips, 1800-1870) and his wife Louisa D. (last name not known but possibly Overton?) of Prince Edward county, Virginia. Richard was the oldest of at least six children.]

Williamsburg [Virginia]
June 24th 1861

Dear Cousin [M. S. Overton],

I am indebted to you a letter and should have written to you before now but having nothing that I thought would interest you—therefore would not write hoping I would get something by the time that would be worth your attention but have not. I am sorry you have taken up an idea that I had become offended at something you wrote in your last  letter. I can assure you that far from that, I was more than pleased to receive a letter from you and was glad to find that you were interested enough in my welfare to give me advice upon an important subject as you did. I return my heartfelt thanks to you for your kindness. Cousin, the advice you gave me affected me more than anything that I have seen or heard since I left home. The idea of your thinking that I had become offended with you is out [of] the question, when I think that you are one of my best friends.

I correspond with a good many and can’t get round very quick. I would like to write to all of my friends but have not time. Therefore I write to those that I think most of. You will scold me for putting off writing so long and then write nothing worth your  attention.

Our company is stationed in one mile of Williamsburg. I like the place very much. I have been fortunate since I got here. I have had the pleasure of seeing a great many ladies since I got here and have formed some acquaintances among them. I find the ladies here very kind. They appear to be willing to do anything that is in their  power. They have been working for the soldiers at the different churches. I enjoyed myself very well with them. I had a little work that I wanted them to do that made me feel free and easy with them. I was not acquainted with any of them but they showed a disposition to get acquainted. Therefore, I did not hold back. Some of them were tolerably fast, so I did not hold back at all. You may guess I engaged myself very well as I am fond of ladies company.

We are all well except those that have the measles. They are all improving. I hope they will be fit for duty soon. Cousin, you must make those militia boys come down and join our company if you can so as to get them…[unfinished letter]

[—Cousin Richard H. Phillips, Old Dominion Riflemen]

Letter 5

[The following letter was written by Richard H. Phillips (b. 1832), the son of Joseph Phillips, 1800-1870) and his wife Louisa D. (last name not known but possibly Overton?) of Prince Edward county, Virginia. Richard was the oldest of at least six children.]

Camp Page 1
[Williamsburg, Virginia]
July 3rd 1861

Dear Susie,

I received your letter yesterday evening and I now hasten to respond so you see I am returning good for evil, for you waited several days and I have not waited a single one. Now you see I am a very forgiving little cousin.

I received a very long and interesting letter from another young lady yesterday but I perused yours first with great pleasure, for nothing affords me more happiness than perusal of kind and affectionate letters from my dear lady friends. Oh! I would have liked so much to have been at the dining with you for oh how I would have enjoyed myself so much with you. Does the Capt. talk as foolish now as he did before he was married? If he does, I pity his poor wife for I know she will  get tired of such nonsense. What does she call him and what does he call her?

Give Sue Mottley my love when you see her. Tell her I was very much obliged to her for hers and that she must take good care of herself and not get married before I get back. I heard a few days ago that Mr. John Harper was going to see her very often though I don’t  reckon he will hardly make expenses.

You mentioned in your letter that Cousin Ed came in occasionally. I don’t know but I would not be much surprised if he didn’t come in very often though no doubt you think it quite seldom for lovers have no idea of time when they are alone. You must write me word how you all are getting on with your love matters for I know he has not been visiting you as long as this without making known his business. I wonder greatly at his not carrying you to the associations. No I don’t either, for he thought that would be showing too plainly. I do wish I was at home. I would certainly carry you, if you would accept of my services. It would afford me the greatest of pleasure too.

You said in your letter you reckoned I hated parting with Alice Arends as badly the last time as I did the first. Certainly I did for I liked her equally as well now as I did the first time I left, for I think she is quite a nice, pretty, and sweet little creation, and I don’t see how anybody can help liking her or any other young lady possessing those qualities. You wished to know what I had done with the letters I had. I have them yet and don’t  know when I shall send them to her. I got the letter and ring that Ma had in her possession before I left. I haven’t heard a word from her since I returned to camp. I guess she thinks rather strangely of me for I received a letter from her before I went up home and haven’t answered it yet, and don’t know as I shall ever. I will acknowledge I am treating her badly, but that can’t be helped now, though I did not intend treating her so at first. This will learn me one lesson sure. Oh, you said something about the picture (hers). I have it yet. Have looked at it twice since I got back. Please don’t let her know what I have written.

— Mr. Richard H. Phillips, Capt. [Henry D.] Dickerson’s Company, Williamsburg Virginia

Col. [Benjamin Stoddert] Ewell, 65th Regt Vols. Va.

Capt. Edward A Phillips Junior Cadets, Prince Edward, Virginia

1 According to an account by Colonel Benjamin Stoddert Ewell, the Williamsburg Junior Guard had a training field on Capitol Landing Road that they called Camp Page. Land ownership patterns suggest that it was located on the west side of Capitol Landing Road on property that in 1871 belonged to Dr. R. M. Garrett (Chapman 1984:125, 127-132; Anonymous 1871)

Letter 6

[The following letter was written by Richard H. Phillips (b. 1832), the son of Joseph Phillips, 1800-1870) and his wife Louisa D. (last name not known but possibly Overton?) of Prince Edward county, Virginia. Richard was the oldest of at least six children.]

Camp Page
[near Williamsburg, Virginia]
July 22, 1861

Dear Suzie,

I think it is getting high time I was replying to your letter received some time since though we have seen each other since. Yet I hold the obligation good and I will transfer it to you. My visit among you all was more than satisfactory and has enabled since my return to my duties to perform them much more cheerfully than I otherwise would. I have been talking and telling the news ever since my return. Several of the boys enquired very particularly about you. You just ought to have sen Dick when I was telling of the pleasant moments spent with you while on my visit to my friends and relatives. They give me reflection which must soothe my mind here among the clang of warlike operations.

When I got here I found two letters for me which made twelve on hand unanswered and this is the second one I have answered and I think it will be several days before I will get through. How are you getting on? As lonesome as you expected? I often think of you and the pleasant moments I enjoyed with you when at home and then wonder how long it will be before I will be able to enjoy the same privilege with one whom I consider one of my best friends.

You can’t imagine my feelings at having to leave without seeing you again. I thought you would be certain to be at the train but how much disappointed when I asked Mary where you were and her answer was, “she is at home.” I eat the cake you sent and gave a part of it to several of the boys and they said it was the nicest cake that had been sent here and I know it was the nicest I had.

You should have been here yesterday to see the cannon fire. We fired off eleven here and seventeen at Yorktown were fired to salute the battle fought on Sunday [at Manassas]. I was very sorry to hear that so many of our brave and gallant boys were left on the field but we can’t expect to gain our independence without some loss and it may be that some of our nearest and dearest friends may fall.

Oh! I forgot to tell you of my visit to see Miss [illegible]…enjoyed my visit very well. She was looking as sweet as you ever saw her and the only objection I had was [illegible]…locks of hair to keep in remembrance of each other.

Give my love to all of my lady friends and tell them to write to me for nothing affords me more pleasure than the reception of letters from them. Farewell my dear Suzie. Write soon to your true friend and cousin, — Jos. Boys

Letter 7

[Late July or early August 1861?]

….You said you wanted I should write you long letters when I wrote. I will try my best this time, but I am afraid it [will] prove void of interest for I haven’t any news to write at all. Haven’t been anywhere or heard anything that would interest you. I reckon I think of the pleasant moments spent with you at Pa’s as often as you do and perhaps oftener. I hope it may be my privilege soon to enjoy some equally as pleasant [as] those.

Well, Dr. Owen 1 has left us. He left last Monday. Said he was going to his Pa’s and from there to Manassas. Then he was coming back to our neighborhood and stay a few days and then return to camp again, but I don’t much expect him back for I think he got pretty tired of camp life before he left. He told  me about writing to Susan. Said if he had thought of it, he would have shown me the letter before he sealed it. We had lots of fun with him while he was here. Dick, Rich, and your brother William all send their love to you. Dick says he wrote to you a few days ago. You must write me word how you and Dick are getting on for he won’t tell me a single word, or let me see your letters either so I guess there must be some secrets in them.

I had my picture taken in Petersburg as I came on down here. It is not a very good one but if you will accept of it, you are perfectly welcome to it. I will send it by the first passing. I would like to have yours very much. Will think as much of it as anybody except [ ]. Mine is in a very small case and just about as black as the one you now have.

Well, I believe I have written you all the news I have at this time or almost all I can think of. Give my love to your Mother and Mary, and accept a large portion for yourself. Be sure and answer this soon. Don’t show my letters to any lady at all, for if you do, I will  certainly find it out. I don’t show yours. Goodby, Susie

From your fond cousin, — J. Boy

P. S. I have concluded since I finished my letter to send the picture by mail with the letter, as we have just received orders to hold ourselves in readiness to march at a  moment’s warning and don’t know when I shall have an opportunity to send at privilege.  I think I have done mighty smart. Have written about six pages to you and have fixed my  picture up too for my dear little cousin Susie. — J. Boy.”

1 Christian David Owens, Surgeon 1st Virginia Cavalry

Letter 8

[The following letter was written by Richard H. Phillips (b. 1832), the son of Joseph Phillips, 1800-1870) and his wife Louisa D. (last name not known but possibly Overton?) of Prince Edward county, Virginia. Richard was the oldest of at least six children.]

Camp Page
[near Williamsburg, Virginia]
August 16th [1861]

My Dear Susie,

I received your long looked for and interesting letter this evening. Will now make a faint attempt to answer it though I am afraid it will prove void of all interest as I have not heard any news since I wrote to you last. I had almost given out ever getting an answer to mine. Was thinking perhaps it was lost and you had never received it or that you did not intend making me any reply at all, but under the circumstances I can’t think anything of it or at least I will not as I know you to be such a good little creature. Enough of this.

I went to preaching twice last Sunday. Dr. McCabe preached in the morning and Dr. Young in the evening. The latter is much the best preacher. I think he is a Baptist and Dr. McCabe an Episcopalian. We went to the Georgia camp to preaching in the afternoon and there were more of our company there than there were of the whole regiment. Don’t you think that speaks well for us? We also had a great sermon last night from Mr. Witt and he complimented us very highly indeed and I believe brought tears from almost every one of us for he spoke very touching in winding up—called us all “his boys” and wondered if he should ever meet us all again under similar circumstances. He said he thought we had been greatly blessed since we left our homes and friends—more so than any other company he knew of.

You said you had a very lonesome time at the association. I wonder at that as your cousin Ed was there. I did not think he  would let you get so while he was there. You seemed to think if I had been there you would have enjoyed yourself a great deal more provided my beloved was not there and if so you didn’t think I would notice you at all. Well, if you think so, I can’t help this.

I was very sorry to hear you could not have your picture taken for me for I would like very much to have [it and] would prize it very highly. You said you reckoned the young [lady] that I  alluded to in your last whose picture that I would prize more highly than yours was one by the name of Alice. Perhaps she may, but I will leave that to you to find out. Dick sends his love to you. Says he has a great mind to stop writing altogether to all his  correspondents. It is because he doesn’t receive letters as often as he thinks he ought from Anna, I reckon. He has written to her twice since I have been here and hasn’t gotten an answer to either of them yet. I don’t know why though she hasn’t written…. [unsigned]

Letter 9

[The following letter was written by Richard H. Phillips (b. 1832), the son of Joseph Phillips, 1800-1870) and his wife Louisa D. (last name not known but possibly Overton?) of Prince Edward county, Virginia. Richard was the oldest of at least six children.]

Camp Page near Williams[burg, Va,]
August 21st 1861

My Dear Susie,

I received your very dear and interesting letter yesterday and will now try and answer it tonight as I will have to be on guard duty tomorrow and will not have time to write and I can’t think of waiting longer to write in reply to your kind letter as you are so punctual in writing. You are the only lady that I have received a letter from for two or three weeks except Cousin Jennie Branch. I received one from her a few days ago. She said as  she had not received an answer to the last letter she wrote me (which was about two  months ago), that she had come to the conclusion that perhaps I had not received it and under the impression she had at last come to the conclusion to write again, and she said if I did receive the other one, that I must forgive her for writing the last and let it pass by  unnoticed and let her know if I ever received her letter. I haven’t written to her yet and don’t know when I shall, though I know I ought to have written to her before now. I feel very badly about it very often for I know I have treated her as I ought not to have. Well, enough about this affair.

I would like very much to come up home and spend a few days  with you all and go to one of the society meetings. I think I could have some fun there if I could just get up there for a short time—especially if [I] could just ride out with you [on] horseback occasionally.

I went down to Williamsburg to preaching last Sunday and what do you think—I went  to sleep as soon as I sat down and slept the whole time the man was preaching. But that was because I had just come off of duty and had not slept any since the night before so I  think I was excusable for it.

You wished to know what I meant when I told you you must not be too sure that Ed might fool you. Cousin, I didn’t want you to think for a moment that I thought he would jest or flirt with you in earnest for I don’t think he would. And another thing, I don’t think you would let him. You seemed to think I was displeased at something that you wrote me in  your last letter—certainly not. My dear cousin, you have never written anything I could get offended at. And another thing is I am not one of the sort to be watching and itching at every little thing I see and hear—to be making something of nothing. I am always willing to look on the bright side of everything so you need never be afraid of my getting offended or displeased at anything that you will write for I know you don’t mean any harm in anything that you say or do, or at least I don’t reckon you do.

Dick says I must give you his best love and tell you he has stopped writing to every[one], but if he ever writes to any”

[— Mr. Richard H. Phillips, Capt. [Henry D.] Dickerson’s Company, Williamsburg Virginia]

Letter 10

The High Bridge conveying the South Side Railroad across the broad seeping valley of the Appomattox River east of Farmville, Va.

[uncertain author]

Farmville, Virginia
December 5th, 1862

My Dear Susie,

I received your kind this week in which you asked me to go to Lockett’s 1 and get you one quire of letter paper and ten stamps. I send you the stamps and one quire of the best paper which is to be had in Farmville. I did not want to get you blue paper but it was the very best I could do. I send you five sheets of nice white paper. You must write to your beau on them if you have one and if not, you can write to who you please. I got the paper and stamps at Mr. Lockett’s. Hope they will suit you.

Well, Martha Sue, how do you manage to keep warm this chilly, cold snowy night. I can well imagine you all drawn around a warm fore in Aunt Martha’s room and she sitting in the corner smoking her pipe. I often wish that I could be with you all sometimes. I reckon you have scolded me before this for not writing to you sooner but the days are so short I scarcely have tome to write much of a letter after school before night come on and then I have to prepare my lessons for the next day. Surely your friends and Luchie must be married or she would have answered my letter before this. I wrote to her sometime before I wrote to you the first time and she has not answered my letter yet.

Sue Motley was in town yesterday. She bought her two winter calicoes at 150 cents a yard. I think if I was in her place, I would have given a little more and gotten something nicer than a calico while I was getting. What sort of a Christmas do you expect to spend? I have not decided yet whether or not to go home. I think you and I both had better get in the bed and sleep the whole week of Christmas out. Has your school broken up yet? You did not say anything about her in your last letter, or first either.

I saw Mrs. Farley 2 yesterday evening. I have not been to see her yet, nor do I expect to as long as she stays at a hospital. She begs me to visit her every time she sees me. Mr. Elijah Baker is going to be married next Wednesday evening [10 December 1862] at four o’clock to Miss Rhoda Harvey of Richmond. 3 I reckon you have seen Mr.  Baker. He lives at Walton’s store.

Martha Susan, I send you a few pieces of music and if you have the words to “The Cottage by the Sea,” please…”

1 Christopher Columbus Lockett (1815-1870) was a merchant in Farmville, Prince Edward county, Virginia. When he died in 1870, townfolk called him “one of our oldest and best citizens.” He was for more than twenty years a leading merchant in Farmville—“a good citizen, a kind parent, an affectionate husband and a conscientious christian.”

2 Mrs. Farley was identified as the Chief Matron at the Farmville General Hospital from 1 January 1864 to 1 January 1865. Source: Confederate Matrons—Women who served in Virginia Civil War Hospitals by A. Elise Allison, 1998, page 62.

3 Elijah Fuqua Baker (1837-1892) was the son of William Price Baker (1802-1860) and Maccarina Barksdale Harvey (1804-1884) of Farmville, Prince Edward county, Virginia. He was married to Rhoda E. Harvey (b. 1842). One source [Virginia Select Marriages] places the date of their marriage on 18 February 1863 instead of the 10 December 1862 date stated in the letter. It may be the couple had to quickly wed as Rhoda gave birth to her first child, William Abner Baker on 21 December 1862.

Letter 11

[Nannie Overton to Susie Overton]

[Amelia county, Virginia?]
June 24th, 63

Dear Martha,

I suppose you all would like to hear something from me so I thought I would try and write a few lines home this evening. Cousin Toody has been quite sick for a fortnight—confined to her bed all the time and Dr. comes to see her once a day. She is strongly threatened with the typhoid fever but I think she is better this morning. I have to keep house and doing something of most everything. Have as much as I can stand too. Cousin Toody says I came in very good time. They also have the mumps in the family, but no one has it at this time. I expect I shall have it soon.

Has Jimmie gone to his company? If he has, does he ever write to any of you. I heard from my friend & you know who last week. He was well but has to be on the march all the time. He was [with Lee’s army] in or near Pennsylvania at the time he wrote. Someone is all the time coming in here. Have a great deal of company since she has been sick.

Have you found my Guineas nest yet? I wish you would find it and set the eggs. Cousin M. has a great many chickens and 46 turkeys. How many chickens have you? I don’t get much chance to do sewing. Haven’t done any work hardly since I left home. I feel very unwell this morning myself. You know I left off my gown before I left home. I took a violent cold from it and had to put them on again. So I shall have to buy me some cloth soon or at least to make me some as I  have none but nice ones [and] I do not like to wear them.

Cousin M. said she thought you were coming home to see her. Says she thinks you all might come down once [ ] at least. My bonnet is very much adored down here. They say it is the prettiest one in  the neighborhood. Write to me soon as you get this and all the news. Tell Mary and sister to write also. How is Aunt Lou Overton? All send love. My love to Mother and Mary and tell Mary she must write. I must close as I am in a hurry. My love to Beck Farley and all hers. I saw Mrs. Gills and Bettie Sunday. They were well. I haven’t been anywhere since I have been here, as I am so closely confined now, but I hope it will not be so long, for I hope cousin will be well soon. Have you all had beets and potatoes? We have them every day and chicken all the time. Mr. Whitlock says he thinks I will make a very good housekeeper. They broke into his smoke house not long [ago] and took three or four hundred pounds of meat and some ice.

Your sister, —Nannie [Nancy Overton]

Be sure to write soon. Burn this letter.

Letter 12

[Amelia county, Virginia]
August 13th 1863

Dear Susie,

It has been a week today since I received your long long looked-for letter. I had come to the conclusion that you did not intend to write again. Perhaps you are thinking the same about me. Well, I would of written before but I have been busy making myself a dress. I finished it yesterday.

I guess you will be surprised when I tell you that I have not been to Nottoway yet. I thought I would have been there two weeks ago but I could not possibly get ready and now I am nearly ready. I will not go until I find out whether Uncle Charlie has to go in the army or not. So you see I am bothered on all sides. I doubt whether I go there at all. I would like so much to go to [see] cousin Eugenia and Ada is up now. Sister gave your note to Johnny last Thursday. I guess by that time you have got it as he goes to see you every day so I am sorry you did not enjoy yourself when you were here last. I was in so much trouble that I could not be at all agreeable. I am getting over my trouble a little.  You have no idea how much trouble I have seen since I saw you. I almost wish sometimes I was hearing of some of some of the people around here. Perhaps I will be  some of these days.

Fannie Walthall came to see us once while she was staying with Alice. They got here about dark and left about ten o’clock that night. Four gentlemen were with them. We would of gone to see her but the horses were busy all the time she was there. Some people down this way think Fannie quite pretty. John S. told me that you showed him your foot when in Farmville and that you said I would do the same. I told him I never show my feet to gentlemen.

I havent had peas but once. That was yesterday. We have had some time watermelons &c. Also sister and the children are eating a watermelon now. I have had a few very nice peaches—some that Cousin Joe brought me. I reckon you have had them plentiful. I have not been from home but once since you were here. I staid at Mr.  Farley’s a week. Cousin Joe and Cousin Jimmie came to see us while we were there. The rain caught them and they had to stay all night but I did not talk as loud as I did when Johnny was there. I had a jolly time with them.

Miss Lightfoot—the one that was at Mr. Walthall’s—is teaching at Mr. Tom Webster’s. She commenced her school last week. I heard Fannie intended going to Mr. [Elihu] Morrisette. 1 I am sorry your pigeons got out. I would like so much for you to have them. I would make my beau Johnny more accommodating if I were you. He might have carried the pigeons home for you. I don’t reckon you blame him at all as you are so desperately in love with  him. Judy says she is coming with us when we come to see you but there is no telling when that will be—months before [we do] I reckon, but hope not. The Baptist school in Danville will commence the 15th of September. All new teachers. Mr. Lake president. Suppose you and I go back?

Dr. Lipscomb is a sergeant in the navy at Charleston. What do you think of that? I  would not like to take medicine from him. William Henry is still in the army. I suppose you got the buttons for your wedding gown when in Farmville. If you will have it made like I want it, it will certainly be nice and pretty and will cost only $100 now. So you had better get the materials now if you expect to sew soon. I would certainly get me one  like it now if I could. I never seen one made so but sister and I took of a notion, it would be pretty. If I had one hundred dollars, I think I would spend it for a gown. I will certainly have yours made when you get ready—that is, if you think Sallie can make it nice enough. Be sure to tell Mollie [Susie’s sister Mollie] to send the pattern of her handkerchief the next time you write and any others that she has. I can’t think of anything else to write, so must close. You must write soon. Don’t do as you did before,  and write a long letter. This neighborhood is so dull. I never hear anything worth writing. Be sure to burn this. My best love to all and accept for yourself the most of it. Your true friend, — Mollie

1 Elihu Morrisette was born in Chesterfield county, Virginia in 1837. He graduated from William and Mary College at the age of 19 and conducted the Smithside Institute in Farmville. Served in the Farmville Guards during the Civil War and was wounded at Frazier’s Farm. He was married to Nannie Overton of Cumberland county who died in 1866.

Letter 13

Oak Grove
Amelia County, Virginia
March 5th 1864

My Dear Friend Susie [Overton],

A long, long time has passed since I received your letter but I have a good reason for so long a delay. I received it a day or so after getting from Petersburg. I then expected to come to see you the next week but could not get ready and I have been waiting so as to tell you when I now can come, but I cannot now say I know. You would not want me now and I would be afraid to come as we have the variola small pox here. I have not yet  been exposed to it but am awfully afraid I will get it. I am currently tied at home now  for a long time. I cannot go anywhere until it it all over and no one can come here. How sad to think of it. I must tell you of the pleasant time I had at the Springs on Wednesday last. You know the Amelia Cavalry had a dinner and party given them on that day. I had a delightful time. We commenced dancing in the evening and danced until about three the next morning. I missed only one set & I could hardly walk the next  day. I certainly enjoyed myself. Got acquainted with several very nice gents. Several  were there from your neighborhood. I saw your Brother William [Confederate  Surgeon].

I commenced this yesterday and would of finished it but commenced to come down here  (Mr. Farley’s I mean) to keep from the small pox. We have one case here but I do not think I will get it if I stay here as the  one that had it is far from the house. I was afraid to stay at home as so many have it and nearly all have been exposed to it. Fifteen have it. Now I have moved here and intend to stay until everyone gets well at home which I expect will be in the summer. I shall  stay at home. Soon everybody will be glad to see me I guess when I do get out again. Nannie Meador was at the party. She intended coming to stay with me some but the Dr. would not let her come to our house, so she went from the depot to Mrs. Southalls and went with Alice Miller to the Springs. She was very lively  indeed and is the same Nannie. I had a very nice time with her. I was so sorry she could not come to our house. I anticipated such a nice time. Her beau Mr. Graham was with her. I liked him very much indeed.

Had a very pleasant time in Petersburg. Did not  stay as long as I expected. Stayed only two weeks. I am so sorry I could not get to see  you. The next week the weather was so bad that I could not get my clothes ready and after that I heard of the party and I could not miss that and now I am afraid I will not get there until the last of Summer. I am certainly coming there the first place after the small pox gets well. You must take the will for the deed for I certainly have been anxious to come. Annie Roberts, one of Judie’s cousins died not long since with diphtheria. I never heard of so much sickness in my life. I suppose your beau has left for the war. I saw him at the Springs. He did not stay to the party. Said he had to  leave the next morning. What a pity it was. After frolicking all night, some of them were  looking very serious. Others enjoyed themselves as much as possible. I wish they could  have stayed a second week or too longer. Their furlough was not out until the fifteenth but the Yankees were advancing so fast they were called back. The city battalion acted very badly & surrendered. The say everyone run like anything. If I were you I would  advise my beau to leave that company and join some other. I heard it from good  authority. Give me a cavalryman, but no doubt some of them have run too.

Tell Mollie [that] Aunt Duss has her lamb for her and intended sending it by us but as we cannot go, I do not know how she can get it. I expect she would be afraid to send after it and I think she ought to be. Aunt Duss says tell her she will have to make her another bed quilt for feeding it so long. She told me all this before we had the small pox and then told me to  tell Mollie to send for the lamb but of course she won’t expect her to send as long as they are sick. The Dr. says no one must be allowed to come there and no must be allowed to leave and it is the same case here. I heard from home this morning. None of the white ones has it yet. I hope you will not be afraid to read my letters. If I do get the small pox or be exposed to it, I shall stop writing for fear I might send it in the paper, and that I would not do for anything in the world. I wish so much I could see you. There are so many things I can’t tell you that I cannot write. But I expect I shall forget all before I see you.

Your intended sis Sue was at the party. She looked very sweet indeed and was considered as one of the prettiest girls in the house. I think myself  she is very pretty. There were a great many pretty girls at the Springs and some very handsome gentlemen also. I wish you could have been there but perhaps you are such a good Christian you would not attend such places. But a great many members of the church was there and some danced. I will not call names. I expect you will find out who they were as Fannie Walthall was there. She can tell you. Fannie was looking  badly.

You must write me a long letter. Tell me everything that is going on. This is the longest one & I expect to write you for several months. I cannot see any one and of  course will not hear any news. You know that is a very good reason and I am in hopes  you will write me one as long as this every time. Try and see if you cannot do it & I shall want something to cheer me up. I do not know when we can go to the office. We cannot send any servants there. Mr. Farley says perhaps he may go Saturday but I expect the people are afraid of him. Don’t you feel sorry for us? I guess you will get tired reading this uninteresting scrawl so will close. Give my best love to your Mamma, Sis Nannie, Sis Mary and accept as much for yourself. If you are afraid for me to write to you now, say so & I will not be at all offended at it. Write very soon another long  letter to your true friend, —Mollie

Burn this if you please.

Letter 14

[This letter was written by James (Jimmie”) Jefferson Overton (1845-1924) of Capt. Paris’ Company, Virginia Artillery (Staunton Hill Artillery— formerly Capt. Charles Bruce’s Company, Virginia Artillery). Jimmie enlisted on 11 September 1863. James was the son of John Motley Overton (1796-1869) and Loiosa Walthall (1807-@1863]. Louisa was the daughter of Branch Hall. After Louisa’s death, John took Nancy (“Nannie”) White Overton Childress, widow of James Childress as his 2nd wife. Jimmie married Sallie Jean Atkins (1849-1911) in 1870.]

Camp Bruce near Wilmington, North Carolina
February 10th 1864

Dear Cousin,

I have the privilege to answer your kind letter that came to hand yesterday. I had just arrived at camp from on a long march & have had a very hard time of it. Since I wrote to you, we have had to march for ten days without any rest and nearly all night but I did the trip very well. I never enjoyed better health in my life and I hope these few lines may find you all enjoying the same great blessing.

Cousin, I have been in a small fight with the Yankees and by the kindness of Providence came out unhurt and all the rest of our company came out unhurt . The Yankees did not make much of a fight before they began to run. We chased them about ten miles. We captured around eighty prisoners. We lost in the whole engagement about five men killed and about twenty wounded and that of the enemy was double ours. The Yankees had very fine living in their encampment and everything that heart could wish for. We got some nice eatables. I captured a very nice overcoat and some other things.

Well cousin, I will stop telling you the Yankees as I know it will not be nice reading to you. You must excuse a short letter from me as I haven’t gotten over my trip yet and I cannot get a chance to write in the daytime as the boys make so much fuss so you must excuse a badly written letter and all the mistakes.

Cousin, you wanted to know how Maggie Brassnow and myself are getting along. There is nothing between me and her no more than a friend. I have not got any sweetheart. I want you to pick me out one by the time I come home on a furlough. You must be sure to do it. Cousin, you must tell me who is your sweetheart and if you love s____ and I will tell you mine….

Cousin, I am glad that you enjoyed your Christmas so much. I am sorry to say that I had a very lonesome time of it. I went to see some young ladies the last Christmas night but I did not enjoy myself much. I am glad that you enjoyed yourself. You must not give Miss Mollie Vaughan away to no one else. You must [ ] for me. I wish it was in my power so I could come home to call on her and to have a nice time with you all.

Cousin, we are expecting to be ordered to Old Virginia. I wish we were ordered there as I am certainly tired of North Carolina and I want to get back to Virginia.

Well, cousin, I must close. Excuse bad writing and all mistakes. You must give my love to all of your Mam’s family and to all of the young ladies around there. Well, cousin, goodbye. Henry Madison joins me in love to you. Write soon. Your beloved cousin, — Jimmie [Overton]

You must not let anyone see this…

Letter 15

Woodlawn [Carroll County, VA]
October 7th 1864

Dear Susie,

I have been so busy ever since I received your letter that really I have not had time to answer it and tonight I do not think I can interest you at all for I haven’t scarcely an idea in my head and I do not think it right [for] me to be so punctual in answering [your] letters when you always wait [so] long to answer mine. I am afraid this time you have left Mr. Vaughan but hope not as I shall direct this in his care. I think you were really mean  to ride down here and not stay long enough for me to get a good look at you. I want to see you worse than ever and I am exceedingly sorry to inform you that I cannot come next week as I expect something has again prevented. I will tell you when I see you what it is and you cannot blame me. I assure you, I will be very much disappointed not coming, but I will try to come in a few weeks. I cannot set any time.

You were unusually still the evening you were here. Why so? I was indeed sorry to see you so. You and Alice both were looking very well but still I have just heard that you have gone home. I hope you did not go because I told you I was coming. Ida will leave for home next Wednesday. I am really sorry. I will miss her so much. She is so very lively. Miss Lucy Gills’ funeral was preached yesterday at Sandy Creek. Did you all go to  Providence the first Sunday? We concluded not to go as it was so far. We stayed at home all day—we three girls did. Aunt Duss and Uncle Charlie went to see Armistead. He is quite sick yet. There is a great deal of sickness in the neighborhood.

How I wish you were here tonight. We have the greatest romps sometimes you ever heard of and I think I could have one longer and I wish you and Alice were here to help us. Pattie McGehee stayed with us a week not long since. She is a very sweet girl indeed. I hope you enjoyed your visit at Mr. Vaughan very much. I expect you all had several rides. We had not had any recently but have had some delightful rides. I have to ride as much  as ever. What has become of Mollie and Mr. Childress? You never said a word about them. Give them both my very best love. Tell Mollie I certainly do want to see her so much.

Well, enough of my nonsense. I know you will be perfectly disgusted at my writing such a letter. For mercy sake, do not let anyone see it. My best love to all and accept a part for yourself. Write soon and a long letter to your friend forever, — Nellie

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