The following letters were written by members of the Tew family of Sampson county, North Carolina, during the American Civil War. Both home front letters were addressed to Joel John Tew (1836-1914) who enlisted as a sergeant in Co. K, 51st North Carolina Infantry when he was 25 years old. He was promoted to a 2nd Lieutenant on 17 September 1862 and was wounded in the left arm on 31 May 1864 in the fighting at Cold Harbor. He returned to his regiment in January 1865. [It should be noted that Joel’s first and middle name appear interchangeably in various records and he is often referred to as “J. J.” I have used Joel as his first name as that it is the way it appears on his headstone.]
The first letter was written by Sylvania (Godwin) Tew (1811-1875), the wife of John “Lewis” Tew, Jr. (1807-1882), and the mother of J. J.—the recipient of the letter. The second letter was written by Frances Matilda Elizabeth Tew (1838-1916), the younger sister of J. J.
Lewis and Sylvania Tew sent two other sons to the Confederate service. The eldest son, William Robertson Tew (1833-1862) enlisted as a private in Co. E, 20th North Carolina Infantry in June 1861 and was killed in the fighting at Malvern Hill on 1 July 1862. The other son, Sampson Millard Tew (1841-1864) was a private in Co. H, 20th North Carolina Infantry (Iverson’s Brigade) during the Civil War. Sampson survived the Seven Days Battle and Chancellorsville but was taken prisoner at the Battle of Gettysburg on 1 July 1863 and died of diarrhea and small pox while in captivity at Hammond Hospital at Point Lookout, Maryland on 15 January 1864. From these letters we learn that the Tew family was not yet aware of Sampson’s death two months after he expired.
The letters contain great local history of Sampson county during the war, the hunting down of deserters and of extreme efforts to avoid military service.
See also 1863: Joel John Tew to Francis Matilda Elizabeth Tew
[Sampson county, North Carolina]
January 27, 1864
I once more write you a few lines which will inform you that we are all well, hoping these few lines may reach and find you well and enjoying all the comforts that camp life can afford. We have a sad time here now. We have not heard from Samson yet. There came a letter to the office last mail to Henry Jackson informing him of the death of his son Josiah 1 which we were very much grieved to hear—his mother and sisters in particular. The letter was written by a Mr. Randal. He said he belonged to the Texas Cavalry and fell near Morristown, Tennessee on the 30th of December while gallantly fighting in his country’s defense and survived until the following day, and that his dying request was for Susan and Raiford to have his effects. He said his horse and gun and other equipment had been sold for near $1,000 and that he had a deposit of gold in Houston, Texas. 2
Your sister received a letter from Hezekiah Jackson last mail which informed her that he was in Richmond sick. He was in the Winder Hospital, first division ward D. He says he has been in the State of Virginia 18 months and has never seen one of his old friends yet and I should be glad if you could get two days leave of absence and go and see him. 3
The Cumberland Militia keeps very busy now looking up deserters. They have catched D[avid] J. Godwin 4, Blackmon and Branch. They dug them out of a cave under old Blackmon’s Stable and they are all lodged in Fayetteville jail at this time. They said David come out and told them he was glad to see them and was glad they had found him as he wanted to go to his company. A little while before that, they were out looking [for] deserters and about the time they were going to start home, they saw Harris and Jones. Harris had his gun to his face. One of the militia halted them when Harris shot Daniel Colvin in the face and he fell dead upon the spot. 5 They say they shall hunt continuously now until they find them.
J. W. Godwin came here last Monday after your double barreled gun. We let him have her but he requested we would write to you about it and if you were not willing he should have her, he would bring her back. He said if she was injured, he would be responsible.
They have also catched Willis Lee. They shot him in the hand and back but the doctor says he is not hurt much but he pretends he is about to die.
I can inform you that I have been after your coat and pants. I brought them home last Saturday. The time is too short to get them done by the first of February but you need not let that keep you from coming home as you will not come to stay less than fifteen days. We can make them before you will have to go back.
You spoke of coming home to get married and I think this is a bad time to think about it, let alone talking about, but I do not think you are in earnest or at least I hope you are not. 6 But if you are, you can marry in your long tail blue. You wanted to know if it had any trimming on it. It has got a little bars about as wide as the trimming you sent home to go on the sleeves of your other and none at all on the sleeves. I will now bring my long letter to a close. Come if you can. If not, write soon.
Your affectionate mother, — Sylvania Tew
To J. J. Tew
1 Josiah Jackson served as a private in Co. A, 8th Texas Cavalry (Terry’s Regiment or 8th Texas Rangers). Josiah enlisted in Bosque county, Texas, in September 1861 and was mortally wounded in the Battle of Mossy Creek Station which occurred on 29 December 1873. The letter informing the Jackson family of Josiah’s death was probably written by Sergt. Jack Randall who is the only member of the company by that name.
2 William Henry Jackson (1802-1877) and his wife Anna Godwin (1805-1882) of Mingo, Sampson county, North Carolina, were the parents of Susan Jackson (1845-1916) and Raiford Jackson (1847-1911)—the beneficiaries mentioned in the letter.
3 Hezekiah Jackson served in Co. I, 11th Georgia Infantry and was admitted to Winder Hospital in December 1863. He had been taken a prisoner at Antietam early in the war but exchanged. His descriptive list identifies him as having been born in Sampson county, North Carolina, but was residing in Georgia at the time of his enlistment in July 1862.
4 David J. Godwin served as a private in Co. F, 24th North Carolina Infantry. He enlisted in 1861 but reported as deserted on 31 July 1862 from the encampment near Petersburg, Va. Muster rolls indicate he deserted again on 5 August 1864.
5 Daniel James (“D. J.”) Colvin (1818-1864) was 45 years old when he was killed on 20 January 1864, leaving a wife and two young children. They lived in Linden, Cumberland county, North Carolina. According to this letter, his murderer was Harris of the Cumberland Militia.
6 J. J. did not marry until 19 December 1865. He married Mary Jane Draughton (1843-1915) who bore him at least nine children between 1867 and 1888.
[Sampson county, North Carolina]
March the 16th 1864
I again take my pen in hand for the purpose of writing you a few lines which will inform you that we are all well, hoping these few lines may early reach and find you in good health and fine spirits. Papa is gone after Wiley. He is very sick if he is not dead. Dawson’s Gabriel sent his master a letter dated the 28th of February stating that Wiley [Dawson] 1 was very sick and had been since the middle of February and his feet and legs was swelled & he had not had on his shoes in a week. We got the news on Sunday at the funeral and he started and he started the same night. I do not know where he is. The letter said they were talking of discharging him and if they did and his master went after him, to stop in Wilmington and look in the hospital for him.
I received a letter from J. R. Godwin last Sunday and he said there had come a letter to the company from Point Lookout dated the 14th of February which said Sampson was still in the hospital and also W. H. Dawson [Co. D, 57th N. C.] but did not say how sick they were nor whether they were mending.
I am very sorry to tell you that he wrote that W. B. Johnson was dead. B was a good soldier and his company all liked him and I was very sorry to hear of his death. Please tell George of it if his people does not write this week. W. W. Hood is also dead. He belonged to the same company but I do not know where he lived nor whose son he was. I am afraid they will keep them there until they kill them all but I suppose they have paroled 800 of them and that they are going to parole the balance as soon as they can. But I am afraid they will stop before Samson is sent over—if he is living.
There has nothing new taken place since you left—only they caught the Wades last Saturday. The militia all went to muster except a detail left for the purpose. They watched the house until Susan went to carry their breakfast and then followed her to them. L. H. Godwin and Levit and S. W. Taylor was the detail. Deal was not with them and so he is out yet.
Last Thursday was the day for the substitute men to be conscripted and they all have to go that had substitutes and the old militia officers has to stay at home. They did not take none of the exempts in this settlement except John W. Smith and there is lots of men about here as well able to go as he is and I wish that everyone had to go for one is no better than another.
Ben Wellons, Esqr. is out with another petition for the doctor. He passed here this morning but did not call. I guess he thought it was not worthwhile. He says the doctor does not wish to get out of service—that he is well satisfied with his station, but the men in the company wanted him to come home and attend to their families.
Ed sent you a letter which come after you left. He did not talk very complimentary about your staying until the funeral. I would tell him if I had 20 days like he had, I should not be behind time. Excuse bad writing for it is very cold. It snowed a little last night. Affectionately, — F. M. E. [Frances Matilda Elizabeth] Tew
To J. J. Tew
1 Possibly Wiley Dawson who served as a private in Co. E, 66th North Carolina Infantry.