1862: Howard McCutchan to James Buchanan McCutchan

Howard’s brother, James B. McCutchan of the 5th Virginia Infantry (Find-A-Grave)

The following letter was written by Howard McCutchan (1837-1864), the son of Addison, McCutchan (1805-1880) and Ann Kirkpatrick Buchanan (1811-1880) of Augusta county, Virginia, who enlisted as a private in mid-April 1861 in Co. D (the “Spalding Greys”), 2nd Georgia Infantry Battalion. He was soon elected 2nd Lieutenant of his company and was eventually promoted to 1st Lieutenant. He was apparently made an offer to reenlist that he couldn’t refuse for he was still with the regiment at Gettysburg where he was wounded in the second day’s action near the Codori House. A year later, at Staunton, he died of disease. His gravestone in Shemariah Church Cemetery in Middlebrook, Augusta County, Virginia, bears the inscription, “Died in defence of Southern rights, July 29, 1864, 28 years, 9 months, 22 days.”

Howard wrote the letter to his brother but does not identify him by name. It was most likely addressed to James Buchanan McCutchan (1839-1920) who was closest in age to Howard among the McCutchan children. James served as a sergeant in Co. D, 5th Virginia Infantry during the war.


Camp Mason, Goldsboro, N. C.
April 12th, 1862

Dear Brother,

I suppose this will be the last letter I will write home before I get back to  Georgia. We expect to deliver up our muskets & cartridge boxes &c. tomorrow morning. We will start for Georgia on Monday evening at three o’clock if nothing happens to prevent and I don’t suppose they will be able to fix up a fight before that time. There is nothing at all said about an engagement at this place now. Three new regiments from Georgia have come in this week. Major Hardeman is colonel of one of them—the 45th, and Capt. [Robert A.] Smith (one  of our captains) is colonel of the 44th. Colonel Hardeman’s regiment arrived on Wednesday evening. He took us to town yesterday evening to drill us once more before we were disbanded.  The Major General [Theophilus] Holmes tried again to get us to re-enlist but our boys would not listen to  him. He is trying to get some of us to stay and drill his new regiments. Five or six of us sent up our names and asked him what pay he would give and what chance there was for promotion. If he makes a good offer, I will stay here & not, so to Georgia.

I suppose you have heard all about the great fight at Corinth.1 The last reports say General Buell of the Feds is killed and about 5,000 of them captured. We have not heard the particulars yet but will perhaps hear by this evening’s mail. It is said the Virginia 2 went out a few days since & captured 3 boats and schooners without firing a gun.

We have had bad weather this week and it has made a good many of our boys sick. I have been taking salts all week in broken doses to clean my blood. I have had boils coming out on my face and they have been very painful. They are well now but they have left very ugly scars. I am very sorry of it for I expected to court a Georgia lassie while at home. I intend either to marry or make acquaintance & marry before the war is over. I will try to write later a few lines in case there is any news this evening.

Sunday morning. Nothing new this morning. I was looking for a letter by yesterday evening’s mail but did not get any. There  was a report in camp last night stating that the Yankees were advancing on Kinston with 30,000 men and that the general had telegraphed to this place not to let a single man leave. It was only started I suppose to tease some of the boys who are very anxious to get home. Write soon. Direct to Griffin, Georgia. Remember me. Your affectionate brother — H. M.

1 Howard is referring to the Battle of Shiloh that took place on April 6-7, 1862.

2 The “Virginia” was the refurbished USS Merrimack turned into the ironclad CSS Virginia by the Confederates. Howard is referring to the following event: On April 11, the Confederate Navy sent Lieutenant Joseph Nicholson Barney, in command of the paddle side-wheeler CSS Jamestown, along with Virginia and five other ships in full view of the Union squadron, enticing them to fight. When it became clear that Union Navy ships were unwilling to fight, the CS Navy squadron moved in and captured three merchant ships, the brigs Marcus and Sabout and the schooner Catherine T. Dix. Their ensigns were then hoisted “Union-side down” to further taunt the Union Navy into a fight, as they were towed back to Norfolk, with the help of CSS Raleigh.

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