1863: Joseph Edmund Wallis to Sarah Catherine (Landis) Wallis

The following letters were written by 37 year-old Sergt. James Edmund Wallis of Co. B, 20th Texas Infantry—often referred to as “Elmore’s Regiment.” The regiment wsa composed of mainly middle-aged men commanded by Col. Henry M. Elmore. It was part of the District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, also known as the Third Corps under Gen. John B. Magruder. The main purpose was to guard the Sabine River and to protect the city of Galveston, Texas. They saw little action until the Battle of Galveston in January 1863 in which they served with distinction.

In the 1850 US Census, 13 year-old J. E. Wallis was enumerated in his father’s residence in Washington county, Texas. His parents were J. Wallis (1801-1865) and Elizabeth Crockett (1790-1866). He was born in Alabama in 1835. In the 1860 Slave Schedules, J. E. Wallis is listed among the slave holders in Chappell Hill, Washington county, Texas, with 13 slaves. He was married in 1860 to Sarah Catherine “Kate”) Landis.

See also—1865: John Crockett Wallis to Joseph Edmund Wallis.

Confederate defenses at Galveston, Texas

Letter 1

Addressed to Mrs. Kate Wallis, Chappel Hill, Texas

Eagle Grove, [Fort Moore]
February 8, 1863
Sunday, 11 o’clock a.m.

Dear Kate,

I drop you a note again this morning by a Mr. Burditt who goes up this evening. I don’t know what to write you. I hain’t any news at all. I wrote you a note on yesterday evening which you will get by mail at the same time you will this, though nothing in it. Everything goes on here as usual—the same old monotony of camp life.

Today we are moving our camp a few hundred yards up on higher ground just in the grove. We went up yesterday & fixed off the ground. We will be about 2 or 3 hundred yards from the railroad but a little higher ground. I hope (that if the war continues) that we may be allowed to stay here & not to move away, as I had rather be in Texas than anywhere else & had rather be on the railroads than elsewhere.The health of the company is pretty good. Some two or three cases of mumps is about all. John has not got down yet. We looked for him on yesterday but did not come, & therefore look for him on today. The Dr. L[ockheart] tells me that he intends boarding his Kate at Capt. Whitaker’s in Houston. They came down to Houston on Wednesday, had to stay over one day at Hempstead on account of missing connection cars. The Dr. came down here on day before yesterday & says that his little boy turned out to be a little girl before he got there. He told me that he saw you at Father’s but could not tell me anything that you said or any word that you sent me.

I have not received any letter from you in a good while—not since you wrote by your Father. I thought probably that you had written but that they were lost on the way. I wrote you on yesterday that there was some talk of putting a stop to our writing letters home. I don’t know whether there is anything of it or not. I merely heard it; so if my letters was to get scarce coming, you will know the cause. Some one give the reason of such a thing was that they was writing too much about what was going on here.

I am making you some presents in the way of jewelry out of some of the sea beans which I will send up to you when I get a safe opportunity. I sent you a lot of beach “pretties” by Mr. Baker who went up a few days ago. Also sent you a letter by him with a couple of rings in it, all of which I reckon you have received before now.

I have not received any letters from Father lately. I hear through the Doctor that the government has pressed my oxen to haul for the government & I hear that the government is pressing corn in Chappell Hill neighborhood.

Well, I must close. No more time to write. Please excuse my hasty manner of writing as i did not know that Mr. B was going until a few minutes ago.

So goodbye. While remain your affectionate husband, — J. E. Wallis

Letter 2

Galveston [Texas]
May 6, 1863
Wednesday morning, 8 o’clock a.m.

Dear Kate,

Although not having one of your interesting favors before me to reply, I thought I would write you a line or two this morning though nothing of interest to mention. I look for a letter from you this evening. I received a letter from Father yesterday written on Sunday evening in which he stated that everything was getting along very well in the way of getting me a substitute—that either your Father, him, or Glenn would come down on Wednesday with him. That is, start on that day, and arrive here on Thursday (tomorrow). So I shall be on the lookout for them. But here lately I have been disappointed so often that I will not build my calculations too high for fear of too great a fall.

It is with a great deal of anxiety of mind that I have spent the last few weeks, all the time thinking of home and how soon I would get there & all these sort of things, &c. such as calculated to make a man restless and uneasy and now to be disappointed would be too bad. Don’t you think it would? But such is the fortune of man sometimes.

I don’t know how I will come out getting “Arnold” in, in my place, but as I said before, I have got one or two places in view, & if I fail these two places, I don’t know what I shall do. I have some doubts whether he will ever get here for the reason that someone may offer him $3,000 or $4,000 and then he will of course back out of the present trade. But time will tell the secret yet unfolded to me.

We hain’t any news of importance here. The Great Ball that was set for tomorrow night here comes off tonight. I reckon it will be a grand affair. I learn from John and “Cane” that the supper alone costs $2,000. It is a military affair for the benefit of the General Hospital at the place. Mamie spoke yesterday evening as though she was not going to attend. John and “Cane” were yesterday eve assisting to decorate the ballrooms. I shall not go unless someone would be liberal enough to make me a present of a ticket ($10 or $15, I believe). Then it would be to see—not to be seen—with the clothing that I would have on, as it is a fancy dress ball.

No late war news any further than what you have heard. John Samon’s—Porter King’s substitute in our company, died yesterday morning after a few days sickness. Some say congestion of the brain, some say pneumonia, some say inflammation of the bowels. I have a little of all! I wrote to Porter to tell (on yesterday) Mrs. Samons.

A schooner arrived here a few days ago run in at mouth of Brazos loaded with assorted cargo of hides, 5 days from Yucatan, 6 or 7 weeks since she left the Brazos loaded with cattle. No more this time. Goodbye. While I remain your affectionate husband, – J. E. Wallis

Example of an adversity envelope.

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