1864: James J. Peck to George Gose

The following letter was written by J. J. Peck (1832-1864 or after) to George G. Gose (1822-1889), the son of David Philip Gose (1774-1832) and Anna Maria Spangler (1775-1845) of Burkes Garden, Tazewell county, Virginia. George was married to Catharine Sluss Groseclose (1823-1901) in September 1846. George was in the Confederate service during the war; his military record indicates he was in both the 45th Virginia Infantry for a time as well as the 22nd Virginia Cavalry.

I could not find an image of a trooper from the 22nd Virginia Cavalry, let alone one of James Peck, but here is a colorized tintype of Vt. Archibald Magill Smith of the 6th Virginia Cavalry.

The relationship between the correspondents is uncertain though Peck addressed George as “dear friend.” It appears that when Peck was 18 years old at the time of the 1850 US Census, he was boarding with and probably employed by George Gose who was eleven years his senior. I could not find any Peck family living in the same county as George in 1850 so it may be that Peck was an orphan or came from a neighboring county to live with the Gose’s.

Drilling down into census records, I’ve come to the conclusion that the author of this letter was James J. Peck (1832-1864), the son of Jacob Peck, Jr. (1765-1843) and Julia Ann Litz (1792-1845)—both deceased by the time of the 1850 Census in which James appears living with the Gose family. A note in the family record states that after his parents died, James and his brother went to live with their’s brother, Peter Gose Litz “who lived on the old Litz family farm in Burke’s Garden, Tazewell county, Va. By 1850, however, James boarded with George Gose.

The family record (duplicated in Find-A-Grave) goes on to state that James married Christina Clementine Harman (1828-1901) and the couple had five children before James enlisted in Co. C, 23rd Battalion Virginia Infantry in the Civil War. That unit was commanded by Capt. George Gose (the brother of Sarah Gose who raised James). He enlisted in January 1862.

Curiously, the family history records that James J. Peck died on 15 August 1864—four months before he wrote this letter! The aforementioned history states that, “In August 1864, the unit was in Warren County, Virginia, just north of the town of Front Royal, near the Shenandoah River. They were preparing for what would become the Battle of Cedarville. But James died there, on 15 August 1864, which was the day before the battle officially began. He had probably been out scouting the enemy, when he was killed. The next day, about 480 Confederate soldiers died there, and they were buried on the battlefield.”

James’ widow, Christina Peck, did not apply for a widow’s pension until 1889 for which she was awarded $30 per year. In that application, she wrote that James was a member of the 22nd Virginia Cavalry, in Capt. Gose’s company (he was, see Roster) and that he had died at the Battle of Cedarville which occurred on 16 August 1864. Could it be that the following letter was never received by the family in Tazewell county? or that his widow never learned at least by word of mouth that he had survived a wound until at least four months after the battle?

[Note: This letter is from the personal archive of Greg Herr and was transcribed, researched, and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Addressed to Mr. George Gose, Co. F. 22nd Va. Regiment Cavalry, McCauslin Brigade

General Hospital, Ward H
Staunton, Virginia
December 18, 1864

Mr. Gose, dear friend,

I this morning seat myself to pen you a few lines. These lines [leave] me some on the mend to what I have been. I taken the fever a short time after I came to this place but have got so that I can sit up some every day. But as for my arm, I can’t say that it is mending very fast, though I think it is mending slowly.

On the 28th of November I had the ball cut out of my arm. The ball ranged down towards the elbow some two or three inches from the place it went in. The surgeon-in-charge said the bone was badly broken. There was an abscess rise rather behind my arm in my shoulder. I had it lanced and it runs a great deal but where the ball went in has nearly cured up.

There was a man here by the name of Finney belonging to the 16th Regiment 1 promised me to see you and tell you how I was getting [on] and promised to write to me but I have never heard from him yet. I don’t think that I will be able to get home under two months. As for the treatment, I am attended to very well. They all appear very kind to me. There is a lady here than brings me anything that I can eat.

Since I commenced writing, the doctors has split my arm and taken out four pieces of bone and I feel quite feeble at this time. Nothing more but remain yours as ever. Write soon, — J. J. Peck

1 The 16th Virginia Cavalry was raised in Tazewell county, Virginia, so there were undoubtedly many members of that regiment who were friends of both Peck and Gose. A search of the roster in the 16th Virginia Cavalry revealed that there was a Pvt. James M. Finney in Co. A. He enlisted at Lebanon, Virginia, on 10 March 1864. Likewise, his brother William Finney served in the same company and enlisted at the same time.

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