Category Archives: Desertion

1862-63: Hege Family Letters to Constantine Alexander Hege

The following letters were written by Solomon Hege (1813-1875) or his wife, Catharine Guenther (1813-1874) of Midway, Davidson County, North Carolina, during the Civil War. They were written to their son, Constantine Alexander Hege (1843-1914) who was in the Confederate service. Constantine was raised as a Moravian and was naturally opposed to the war, but he was never the less obliged to enlist in the summer of 1862 in Co. H, 48th North Carolina Infantry. He served for 14 months during which time he was captured at the Battle of Bristoe Station on 14 October 1863 and was confined in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington. While there he was visited by some North Carolina Moravians working in the capitol, and under their guidance, Hege decided to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. After his release, he went to Bethlehem, Pa., where he found employment in the iron works.

A few of the letters were written by Mary Louisa Hege (1848-1920). She married Samuel Alexander Burke (1848-1925) in 1871.

See also—1862-63: Constantine Alexander Hege to his Family below:

Letter 1

Midway [Davidson, North Carolina]
September 6th 1862

My dear son,

I avail myself of the present opportunity to write to you to let you know how we all are. We are all quite well and hope that when these few lines reach you it may find you enjoying the same blessing. Elisha Raper’s youngest child [William A. Raper] died with a brain fever and is to be buried at eleven o’clock today at Olivet and Mary is going and take Mary Chitty with her who is here on a visit.

We heard that Solomon Wilson 1 had run away from the army and his mother is troubled about it for she has not heard from him in some time. When you write again, you must tell us whether he is with you or not, and let us know if you ever see or hear anything of Daniel Wilson. 2 Mr. Joseph Delap was married to Daniel Wagoner’s daughter 3 on the 4th of this month and your father saw them at the Widow Vehrel’s sale.

Alec [David Alexander] Spaugh 4 run away from camp but he didn’t get home for the guard caught him and gave him 24 lashes and sent him back so it didn’t do him much good to runaway and I think they had better be contented and stay where they are. And I do hope that you may always be contented and put your trust in the Lord and He will protect you from all danger and harm.

We have a great many watermelons this year and whenever we eat one, we think of you and wish you had some of them and of the nice peaches and apples that are wasting here. Mary has returned from the burying and on the road home thy overtook Uncle Christian Spaugh and rode with him in the buggy. He heard that Theophilus 5 was sick in the hospital and he thinks he will go to see him next Wednesday with Mr. Jordan Ruminger.

We would be glad to send you a box of provisions if we were certain you would get it safely. Next time you write, let us know what you want and what you are in need of and if it is in our power to send it, you shall have it. I must stop writing for I have not anything more that would interest you.

[Your brother] Julius is in the meadow raking hay and we are all busy drying fruit for there is lots of it here and a wasting here too. How I wish you had some of it. Selene Faw said I should tell you howdy and sad she wished you well and hoped you would soon return.

Much love from all of us and write soon to your affectionate, — Mother

1 Solomon Wilson (b. 1842) was conscripted with Constantine Hege on 8 August 1862 in Co. H, 48th North Carolina. His military record indicates that he was taken prisoner at Sharpsburg, Maryland and paroled on 10 October 1862. He did not return to the regiment, however, until 6 August 1863 and then deserted to the enemy on 6 March 1865, after which he took the oath of allegiance.

2 Daniel Wilson (Solomon’s older brother) served as a private in Co. H, 15th North Carolina Infantry. He was conscripted in mid-July 1862, became sick almost immediately, but joined his regiment in time to participate in the Battle of South Mountain where he was taken prisoner on 14 September, sent to Fort Delaware, later paroled and then hospitalized at Richmond until his death of scurvy on 11 November 1862.

3 Joseph Franklin Delap (1837-1917) was married to Ann Elizabeth Wagoner on 3 September 1862 according to Davidson county Marriage Records. Joseph was commissioned (by election) a 2nd Lieutenant in Co. H, 48th North Carolina Infantry on 5 May 1862. He resigned his commission on 15 August 1862 claiming that he had been experiencing a “violent sickness” and returned home to marry Ann.

4 David Alexander (“Alec”) Spaugh (1837-1900) was the son of Christian Spaugh (1803-1885) and his first wife, Sarah Tesch (1772-1844). After Christian’s first wife died, he married Catherine Hege (1811-1862) who died on 25 November 1862. In June 1863, David joined Co. B of the 10th Virginia Cavalry. He may have initially served in Co. I, 33rd North Carolina Infantry.

5 Theophilus Thomas Spaugh (1843-1913) was the son of Christian Spaugh (1803-1885) and his second wife, Catherine Hege (1811-1862). Theophilus was conscripted in July 1862 into Co. F, 15th North Carolina Infantry and was hospitalized in Richmond on 25 August 1862 and was absent without leave quite a bit of his time.

Letter 2

Addressed to C. A. Hege, Richmond, Va., In care of Capt. Michael, 48th Regiment N. C. Troops, Company H

Davidson County, North Carolina
September 11, 1862

My dear son C. A. Hege,

Yours of the 30th of September [August] came to hand this evening. I am glad to hear you are well for many anxious care and thought crosses my mind concerning you & for all the rest of you, but with all my care, I lean upon the Lord who alone can support us through all the trials & troubles of life. I hope you have that confidence in God’s word & promises that you can under all circumstances with childlike confidence put your trust in the Lord, let what may befall. All things shall work together for good to them that love the Lord Jesus. Therefore, serve God and be cheerful though rough & stormy be the road. Still look to Jesus.

I am sorry to hear our letters do not all reach our conscript friends as they complain often that they get no letters from home. It appears from all letters I hear read [that] your provisions are shamefully scanty. Why is it so? I have often wished to send some peaches, &c., but there is no chance unless by Express. Then freight is so high. Yet if I knew that you would get them before rotting, I would send some to you.

Uncle Christian Miller & [Rev.] Jordan Rominger have put off going to Richmond because others could not get conveyance from Richmond on to their relations. As for my part, I could not hold up as I am not able to labor much. However, we are tugging along with our work on a small scale. Not a hand can be hired for mowing grass. Sam and Alec are making hay but half won’t be cut until I can get hands. Each man has more work than he can do to save hay for himself and Congress has passed a law demanding all men under 35 as conscripts—none exempt (suppose you know it) and not allowed to have substitutes—except carpenters are allowed substitutes so railcars can be built it is supposed—so the papers say.

If many more have to go into the army, man and beast will suffer for food. But I do hope & pray that the war will soon close. Oh! that all would plead with God to interpose & bring this war to a close in the best way possible to all involved in it. I heard yesterday with pleasure that there is a proposal being made in the North that may prove favorable to bring the war to a close. It is said it is proposed to have an assembly of delegates from every state of both North and South in order to deliberate and discuss plans and proposals for a better way of settling the war than fighting. Oh that the Lord would give them all a willing heart to close the war in the right way. How many sorrowing hearts at home & abroad would be lifted up with joy & praise to God.

Great God whose powerful hand can bind
The raging waves, the furious wind,
Oh bid the human tempest cease
And hush the warring realm to peace.

I have but little general news to write, however I will give a few items. Our wheat made 194 bushels. The weather is dry. We have plowed only 10 acres for wheat. We have harrowed oats in the 8 acre field towards Walks amidstern. I want to sow oats in both oat fields at Scott’s. Wheat is elling at 3 dollars and 25 cents per bushel. Confederate money scarcely can be passed anymore. I would like to know how many ran away of our acquaintances. None have yet been seen about home. What have you done with your medicine? Do you carry it along or what? How do you rest at night? Can you avoid exposure? Be careful in exposure in damp and chilling situations. I am tired and must bring my letter to a close. We are in common health hoping you enjoy the same. If you get unwell, make your apology. Now may the Lord’s goodness and mercies keep you under his kind guardian care. Give my best respects to all acquaintances. Tell them to cast their cares upon the Lord.

Yours, &c. — Solomon Hage

Letter 3

[Davidson county, North Carolina]
September 28, 1862

My dear Son,

I now have the opportunity of writing to you stating that we are all about in common health and hoping that you enjoy the same good blessing. We received no letter from you since that which was wrote August 30th. We wrote two since that but we don’t know whether you ever got them. Now I will tell you about home.

We are done drying fruit but we have a plenty apples and peaches yet. In making hay, we can’t get along for we have the whole upper meadow to cut yet but I don’t think it will get made for we have to make our molasses. Too much plowing has to be done for it was so dry, it could not be done in right time and no hands to so it and your father is hindered very much a riding about to see the sick.

Now, I [will] tell you something about Uncle Christian Spaugh’s boys. [Solomon] Augustus 1 died the 9th of September and Emanuel 2 came home on the 22 of this month very sick with the typhoid fever. He lays very low at this time. He come afoot nearly all the way. Craver’s boys 3 came home and several more.

Please excuse my bad spelling and writing for you know I am not in practice but I hope and pray that the good Lord may protect you from all danger if you humble yourself in prayer in Christ. Your affectionate mother, — C. Hege

I now take my pen in hand to inform you that I am tolerable well at present and hope that when these few lines reach you, may find you well. I was at Friedburg [N. C.] today and Sam Foltz, 4 Frank Foltz, Mike Swim was killed. Solomon Tesch and Frank Foltz 5 was wounded and Solomon Tesch 6 is on his way home.

We have made some of our molasses but we have a heap more to make. We want to make some this week. The peaches and apples are almost all gone. Me and Julius was always in hopes that you would get home before they was all gone. Julius gives his best respects and love to you and wishes that you could come home. So no more at present. Please write soon. If there is any killed and wounded that you know of, write to us.

Yours truly, sister M. L. Hege

1 Solomon “Augustus” Spaugh was the eldest of six children of Christian Spach (became Spaugh) (1803-1885) and Catharine Hege Spaugh (1811-1862), who married on 31 Oct 1833 at Davidson County, North Carolina. Augustus was a private in Co. B (Thomasville Rifles), 14th North Carolina Infantry.

2 Emanuel Jacob Spaugh was the third of six children of Christian Spach (became Spaugh) (1803-1885) and Catharine Hege Spaugh (1811-1862), who married on 31 Oct 1833 at Davidson County, North Carolina. Emanuel was conscripted into in Co. F, 15th North Carolina Infantry. He became sick soon after entering the service and was reported absent without leave since 29 August 1862. He eventually returned to the regiment but was taken prisoner in the Battle of Bristoe Station on 14 October 1863 and not exchanged until 3 May 1864.

3 Alexander Rowan Craver (1812-1901) had two sons (Nelson and Frank) conscripted into Co. D, 15th North Carolina Infantry. They both deserted on 21 August 1862.

4 Samuel A. Foltz (1841-1862) was the son of John Theophilus Foltz and Ann Melvina Hartel (1821-1882) of Davidson county, North Carolina. He might have been in the 33rd North Carolina?

5 Francis (“Frank”) M. Foltz was a brother of Samuel Foltz. He was conscripted into Co. D, 15th North Carolina Infantry in July 1862 and wounded two months later in the Battle of South Mountain on 14 September 1862. He was missing and assumed dead until later when it was learned he had been taken prisoner to Fort Delaware and exchanged on 10 November 1862.

6 Solomon Tesch was listed on the muster rolls of Co. H, 15th North Carolina as “Tesh.” He was wounded in the fighting at South Mountain on 14 September 1862 and furloughed for 60 days. He returned to his regiment and was present for duty until his death on 18 December 1864 in a Richmond hospital.

Letter 4

[Midway, Davidson county, North Carolina]
October 12, 1862

Dear Brother,

I now take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present and hope that when these few lines reach your hands, [they] may find you enjoying the same state of health. We have made some of our molasses but we haven’t made it all yet. Nelson Craver and Frank Craver, [and] Thomas Esie has run away from camp and they are at home now. And the officers are a hunting for them but they haven’t caught them yet. Thomas Cecil & Wesley Cecil 1 have run away from camp and they are at home now. Solomon Tesch—he came home September 30th with a furlough. He was wounded in the side but not bad. John Hanes died last Monday with the typhoid fever. Pappy doctored on him and they sent for Dr. Dosset last Sunday. He couldn’t do him any good for he died on Monday afternoon.

Antoinette Berriers’ oldest child died October 4th and was buried on Sunday at Shiloh [United Methodist Church Cemetery]. It died with the sore throat. 2

Catharine Weisner wrote one letter to you and she hasn’t received any answer yet. She don’t know whether you ever got it or not. A[nna] M[aria] Pickle 3 said that I should tell you howdy for her and that she would like to hear from you but she is in hopes that you will all come home before long.

We get along but slow with the work. We have not made the upper meadow of grass yet and are sowing wheat. They have sold one field. We can’t get nobody to work but we got Daniel Miller a couple days and Aleck and Sam. Aleck said that I should tell you howdy for him and he hopes that you will come back before long and hten you can tell us more about the things there.

Fanny Brinkley–she is here now and she said that I should tell you howdy for her and she wishes you well and hopes that you will soon return home again for she hasn’t forgotten you yet and she wants to know whether you know anything about Elijah Scott and Sandy Scott. And if you do, she wants you to write.

Do you know where Solomon Wilson is or not? And do you hear anything from Daniel Wilson or not? We haven’t heard anything from him in a long time. So I must bring my few lines to a close. Please write soon.

Your affectionate sister until death, — M. L. H.

1 Thomas and Wesley Cecil were conscripted into Co. K, 48th North Carolina Infantry. They both deserted on 14 August 1862 and did not return until 15 June 1863. They deserted to the enemy in September 1864.

2 Antoinette (“Atney”) Elizabeth Spaugh (1836-1882) was married to Henderson Charles Wesley Berrier (1833-1862) in 1857. Their eldest child was Wilson Franklin Berrier (1858-1862). Antoinette was the daughter of Daniel and Catherine (Fishel) Spaugh.

3 Anna Maria Pickle (b. 1845) was the daughter of Christian David Pickle (Beckel) and Louisa Lashmit of Davidson county, North Carolina. She was married to Theophilus Thomas Spaugh (1843-1913) in 1868.

Letter 5

[Midway, Davidson county, North Carolina]
Tuesday, October 14, 1862

My dear son C. A. Hege,

I took my pen in hand to inform you that we are all well at present and hoping that these few lines will find you likewise for we hear of so many sick ones that I am always afraid that you will get sick too for Wesley Mock is sick so long already and Henry Weaver. They are both at Richmond as far as we know and Jessie Knouse came home crippled with the rheumatism. He looks very bad and Emanuel Spaugh—he is at home sick with the typhoid fever, but he is on the mend.

Maria Spaugh and her mother have the typhoid fever. They are very low and a god many more. And the diphtheria is very bad for the Berrier’s family had it a most all and so many children died in Salem with it. Little Ellen Mining died with that compaint. The Mariad people’s festival was today, the 12th, and I was at meeting and I heard Brother Daniel Spaugh say that they haven’t heard nothing of Louis Spaugh since they crossed the Potomac. If you can hear anything of him. Please write to me and I will tell them. I am sorry to hear that you don’t get our letters for I have sent three already and I would send a heap more if you would get them for I lay many a hour sleepless and think about your condition. If we only could hear that there would be any hopes for peace before long for I am afraid it will kill you all to lay out all winter and fare like dogs.

Christian Spaugh sent a substitute for Theophilus if they will receive him—Old Mr. Shusky—but we are doubtful whether they will take him and they sent for Augustus’s body to be brought home and to be buried at Friedburg.

About the price of things, wheat sells at 4 and 5 dollars per bushel, hay at 1 dollar per hundred, molasses at 2 dollars per gallon, sugar at 75 cents per pound, and spun cotton at 5 dollars a ….and everything in proportion.

You want to know about the protracted meetings. There was a 2-days meeting at Olivet in September and at Hopewell, but Friedburg, I don’t know. They talk about having one but I don’t know when. Mr. Frye says that they had a great revival at Philadelphia at their protracted meeting. I hope and pray that you may have revivals among you out there too. Oh! if it only could peace be made and you all could return home again. Oh then we could have meetings for joy and gladness and thank the good Lord over and over. Oh, it pains my heart to hear of so much bloodshed.

I want you to write as soon as you get this letter to me what you need of clothing, stockings, or anything else. Mr. Wesner says as soon as you all get to Richmond, he is a going to come out there to see you all. then I hope I can send some things.

Please excuse my bad spelling and writing for you know I hab’t in practice at all but as to you, I thought I write a few lines. But I must bring my letter to a close.

Remain your dear Mother until death, — Catharine Hege

Just as I finished my letter come news to me that little William Berrier died yesterday (13th) and was buried at Shiloh [Cemetery[ today. He was sick nine days. They send for Pap a Sunday evening but in the morning he died.

Letter 6

[Midway, Davidson county, North Carolina]
October 25, 1862

Dear brother,

I now take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present and hope that when these few lines reach your hands, may find you enjoying the same state of health. I received a letter from you today which gave me much pleasure to hear from you. The commission officers caught Andrew Berrier 1 at his Father’s house day before yesterday evening. They [have] taken him to Lexington and Mr. Berrier gave his bond of two thousand dollars that Andrew should go back to his company next Friday again. Adam Spaugh’s child died day before yesterday and was buried yesterday and Mary Spaugh, his wife, is very low with the diphtheria. They do not think that she will ever get well again. 2

Rebecca Fishel died last Wednesday and was buried on Thursday at Friedburg. William Raper’s youngest child has the diphtheria yet and David Berrier’s family has the diphtheria yet and David Barrier has the fever. Eli Weaver came home. He was wounded in the leg and they think that the bullet is in his leg yet. 3 Little Henry Disher and little George Tesch came home last Saturday.

I haven’t dug you ground peas and grassnuts yet but I will next week and I will send you some if I can.

I am a going to preaching tomorrow. Mr. Leineback is to preach at Friedburg. We are a gathering the corn in the orchard to sow it in wheat. There are a heap of gourds in it. There are some large ones and some small ones.

We received a letter from Daniel Wilson last Saturday. He stated that he was taken as a prisoner on the Sunday fight and they was paroled and sent to Richmond. And his mother got one from Solomon and he said that he was a prisoner too but he expected to go to his company before long.

I must bring my letter to a close so no more at preset. Here I will send you some papers. We are not allowed to send more than one sheet or I would send more. So no more at present. Giving you my best love and respect, please write soon. Your sister, — M. L. Hege and brother J. A. Hege

October 26, 1862

My dear son,

I now take my pen in hand to write a few lines to you that we are all well at present and hoping that these few lines will find you likewise in health. Now I will tell of my [ ]. George Hege was at our our Tuesday the 21st and bought a lot of our chickens and ducks and guineas for we had to sell them nearly all because they sowed wheat all round the barn. I and Selena took them down to them the 24th and came back on the 25th and Selena was very sick with the headache and just as we came home Solomon Tesch brought your letter from the office. We was very glad to hear from you which was dated the 17th. If we only could make it that you would get our letters quicker for we write a good many for they are always old before you get them.

Alexander Hege and his daughter Fannie (ca. 1880). Alexander was blinded at the Battle of Antietam when a bullet grazed his eyes and nose.

Now I will tell you something about the sick that came home with a furlough. Wesley Mock came home very sick last Thursday and Alexander Hege came home wounded very bad for he was shot across his eyes and nose 4 and it is said that Henry Weaver 5 is very sick in the hospital but we think he will come home next week.

We heard Christian Disher is very sick at the hospital at Richmond and a good many more, but it is said that some good news came in the papers for some prospect of peace before long. I hope and pray that it may be so. I hope that the good Lord will decide it before long for He knows which side is right and that side will gain it for the big men will never settle this war if they don’t call on the almighty and all of us for Him to settle it and humble ourselves in prayer. Lord grant it that it may be so before long for there is so many precious lives lost.

“….some good news came in the papers for some prospect of peace before long. I hope and pray that it may be so. I hope that the good Lord will decide it before long for He knows which side is right and that side will gain it for the big men will never settle this war if they don’t call on the almighty and all of us for Him to settle it and humble ourselves in prayer.”

— Catherine (Guenther) Hege, 26 October 1862

We heard yesterday of 3 men had run away from the company three times and they caught them every time and now they are a going to shoot them next Friday. It is horrid to think about it. Don’t try to run away. Try to hold out faithful and pray to the good Lord that He shall be with you through all the troubles and difficulties and bring you safe home again and He will do so if it isHis will that we shall meet at home again. And if we don’t meet on earth, we hope and pray that we may meet in Heaven above where there is no parting no more. And I hope you remember your dear Mother in your prayers.

I want to send you pair of pants and a pair of stockings and a haversack and book sack and your gloves. I want you to answer this letter as quick as you get this letter for I want you to write whether you want your overcoat out there. I will send you a blanket. Write whether you need a shirt and drawers.

I must bring my letter to a close but remain your dear Mother until death. — C. Hege

A few words of [your brother] Julius. He is well at present and he pities you very much. Often he says, if only Constantine had some of it when he has got something good. He caught one rabbit in the [ ] last week. He plowed a couple rounds and he is helping out in the field right smart. Today we had a very cold rainy day. I hope it was not so bad with you for it was too bad to be out all day without shelter. I was a thinking about you many a time the day through. Your Father sent 20 dollars in a letter last Monday, the 20th. Cast yourself upon the Lord in prayer and avoid evil company is my wish. Please excuse my bad spelling and writing for you know I am not in practice. So no more but remain your dear Mother until death.

1 Andrew Berrier (1836-1894) was the son of Charles Berrier (1810-1873) and Susanna Shoaf (1814-1886) of Lexington, Davidson county, North Carolina. Andrew was married in March 1859 to Sarah Ann Waitman and their first-born child was named Laura Ann, born in the spring of 1860. Andrew was conscripted into Co. B, 49th North Carolina Infantry in July 1862. He deserted from a hospital and did not return to the regiment until late February 1863. He was taken prisoner in the Battle of Sand Ridge (N. C.) on 20 April 1863 and deserted parole camp at Petersburg, Va., in late May 1863. He was arrested and thrown in the guard house at Weldon, N. C. in December 1863 and finally discharged from the service.

2 The child’s name was Beatus “Baby Boy” Spaugh (18 Sept 1862-23 Oct 1862), the son of James “Adam” Spaugh (1838-1863) and Mary Elizabeth Berrier (1841-1908). As you can see from the birth-death dates, Mary did not die of the diphtheria but lived until 1908. Her husband Adam, however, died of typhoid fever on 10 May 1863 in Richmond while in the Confederate service. After Adam’s death, Mary remarried to William Franklin Vogler (1843-1901).

3 Elias (or “Eli”) Weaver (1833-1916) was the son of John Weaver and Ann Hoffman. He was conscripted into Co. H, 48th North Carolina Infantry in early August 1862 and was wounded five weeks later in the Battle at Sharpsburg, Maryland on 17 September 1862. He did not return to the regiment until April 1863. He was wounded again in December 1864.

4 Alexander J. Hege was conscripted into Co. K, 15th North Carolina Infantry in July 1862 and was wounded in the Battle at Sharpsburg, Maryland, on 17 September 1862. He was sent home to North Carolina on furlough with the annotation “both eyes out” in the muster rolls. He was illiterate and signed company rolls with an “x.” He never returned to the service. His obituary notice in the Winston-Salem Journal of 2 October 1920 claimed that the wound he received at Sharpsburg “made him totally blind” and that he bore this affliction “bravely and patiently fr fifty-eight years.”

5 Henry F. Weaver served in Co. B of the 5th North Carolina Infantry.

Letter 7

[Midway,] Davidson county, North Carolina
Sunday afternoon, November 2, 1862

My Dear Son C. A. Hege,

On yesterday I expected to hear from you but received no letter at the office and now have a few minute’s leisure so I will drop a few lines to you. We received yours dated October 17th—one sheet for Mary and one for Julius. They sent you a letter by Charles Fishel a few days ago.

As you said you had orders to march next morning, I have wished to hear from you so I could arrange to send your blanket and other things for your comfort against exposure. on last Sunday night we had a cold, rainy, stormy night. We could rest but little because of the thought how is Constantine sheltered in this dreary night. With heart uplifted in prayer to God, we remembered you. On Tuesday morning I saw ice half an inch thick in a trough. This sudden cold effected me with much lameness and pain through my body as it formerly has, however I am tugging along part of the time after hte plow sowing wheat. It is uphill business to get along with our work, No hand to hire (and my little Aleck says Mike gets 9 dollars per month and I must have that if you must have me still to work for you0. You may imagine the work and the trouble is bearing heavy upon us all at home as well as in the army.

Oh, the moaning, sighs and mourning and weeping and sad lamentation that meets my sight almost wherever I go. But I trust and hope still in a prayer hearing & answering God who has permitted this calamity to come, ad only who in His own good time will restrain the wrath of men in answer to the fervent effectual long continued prayers of His people in behalf of the distress & perplexity of our once far-famed country. Then let us earnestly cry and never faint in prayer. He sees, He hears, and from on high will make our cares His care.

While war and woe prevail, and desolation wide
in God the sovereign Lord of all, the righteous will confide.

To thee oh Lord, to thee alone. We look for help while drowned in tears. Send down salvation from the throne. Subdue our hearts and remove our fears. Many are the promises of God to those who put their trust in God. I admonish you therefore to cast your care upon the Lord. Turn your back to evil. Hold fast that which is good. be kind to all. Avoid getting into battles if possible. Pray God to direct you.

“Avoid getting into battles if possible….Perhaps you can get into some other employ so you may not have to bear arms. It is so painful to me to think you must be compelled to try to kill a fellow mortal. May God in mercy keep you from doing evil and direct you in the way you should go.”

—Solomon Hege, 2 November 1862

Perhaps you can get into some other employ so you may not have to bear arms. It is so painful to me to think you must be compelled to try to kill a fellow mortal. May God in mercy keep you from doing evil and direct you in the way you should go.

Theophilus Spaugh, I am told, is still about the hospital near Culpeper. His Father has sent a substitute but they would not receive him. I am told he had paid about two hundred dollars to Old Shurkey who was to be the substitute. The balance was to be left at the Bank in Salem for him.

I sent enclosed 20 dollars in a letter to you on the 20th of October. I hope you will get it to spend for what is most needed till I can send things necessary for you. I would by all means have you comfortable in body and cheerful in God, let what may be His purpose and will. I believe all things shall work together for good to them that love the Lord.

Henry Meser is still in the hospital lame in one knee with rheumatism but helping to wait on table for the sick there at Leesburg. Henry Mock is at Petersburg. His fare is cornbread and beef. Aleck Mock and Andrew Berrier are going to their company again. The rest of them have not been seen in public yet. The officers frequently are searching for runaways but get few of them. Poor fellows. God have mercy on all of us & them. By your Father, — Solomon Hege

Letter 8

[Midway, Davidson county, North Carolina]
December 7, 1862

My dear brother C. A. Hege,

We was anxiously from one Saturday till the other looking for a letter from you but we didn’t receive any. Father sent one with Mr. Weisner three weeks ago and he sent one with Mr. C. Peramon November the 26th in hopes that he would get to see you so that you could tell him all about whether you received your money and box of clothing and provisions which was sent by Mr. Weisner.

Father was taken very severe last Sunday morning the 30th with chills and typhoid fever. He is very weak but I hope it will soon make a change that he will get better. The rest of us are all well at present and hoping that when these few lines reach your hands may find you enjoying good health. It is a very serious time for so many of our neighbors are sick. Uncle Christian [Spaugh] is not much better yet and Mr. Berrier is very low withthe typhoid fever. Pheba Tesch and one of her girls is a lingering very low with the same fever for several weeks already.

Now I would like o know whether you have to lie out all winter without tents like brutes. There are so many a coming home and I think you would better all gone home. We heard that Ransom Sink and William Bike and several more come home last week and Hill’s boys and a good many more. But now they say Colonel Clinerd received orders to call the men out from 18 to 40. The Lord only knows what will become of us all if this war keeps on much longer.

Julius said that I should write that he caught a possum in his rabbit gum and 12 rabbits. He is offered 50 cents per dozen for the skins. He has 4 gums a setting. He says a many a time if only Constantine would be here to help me set the gums, I could catch more. Julius always says that he hopes that you will come home before Christmas.

And if Sunday morning comes, I feel sorry that you can’t go with me to Friedburg to meeting like we used to. Oh, I hope and pray that the good Lord will soon stop this war and let you all come home again. Please excuse my bad writing. Please write soon. your sister, — Mary L. Hege

Letter 9

Davidson county, North Carolina
Monday, December 15, 1862

My dear son C. A. Hege,

I was pleased on Saturday last to receive a letter from you dated November the 29th in which you state that you received 20 dollars in one letter and also 25 dollars in another from Lieutenant Smith. I am glad you received it so you can have the good of it But I am sorry from what you write & from what C. M. Periman told me you told him that your box of clothes and eatables had not yet been received by you. I do hope you have it by now. If Mr. Periman would only carried your box but I sent it without delay by the first opportunity but Mr. David Weisner could not get to you—you being on a march to Hanover Junction, I think, and he was told by some of the leading men to leave your box at Gordonsville & you could easily get permission to come to Gordonsville and get your box of goods, &c., and convey it to your camp. You ought to begged permission forthwith to go to Gordonsville & search at every depot till you got the box by all means. You will know the box if you see it. It is planly directed to you as your letters are that I have been sending. It is the same box with raw hide hadles at each end which I had brought from Macon, Georgia, with medicine which you helped to carry from C. Berrier’s one evening last winter. Br. Weisner also wrote to you in a letter containing the 25 dollars where he left the box so you could go to Gordonsville & get it.

Surely if you appeal to your officers, they will assist you in getting your box of clothing &c. Surely they will not suffer it to be lost. It is of course their duty to assist you to procure the box with its contents for your use. It contains 1 blanket, 1 hat, 1 pair of the best made shoes, 1 pair pants, 1 pair drawers, 1 cotton shirt, 1 woolen shirt, 1 vest, pair socks, 1 pair gloves, 4 pocket handkerchiefs, 1 book and haversack, some medicine, some paper, some envelopes, and postage stamps and ink and every corner of the box was crammed tight with eatables such as dried peaches, apples, potatoes, sweet bread, pies, butter tin bucket, coffee pot with coffee, chestnuts, grassnuts, ground peas, peach cobbler, &c. onions, garlic, *c. and now if you have not yet got your box, I urge upon you to attend to it with the most pathetic appeals to your officers to assist you in getting it without delay. It is of too great value to be lost.

I was pleased to hear that the 15th Regiment is placed in your brigade so you have the pleasure of being with many of the neighboring friends to console each other & cheer up amidst hardships. Tell the dear acquaintances you named in your letter I wish and pray that the good Lord may keep you all under His kind protection.

As to Daniel Wilson, I have not heard from him since October the 14th. He wrote to me from Camp Lee near Richmond where he was kept guarded like many others that were paroled prisoners.

As to your box of wonders, caps, &c. set by William Swaim, it came to hand and was carefully examined by Julius over and ver again. Henry Messer is come home having a full discharge, it is said. Next Saturday they will enroll conscripts up to 40 [years old- to take into the army, it is said. It is doubtful whether they will be driven from their homes into the camps. It is said many have left the camps and gone home & keep concealed. The officers seldom catch any though frequently hunting and searching for them. I must close as I am very weak. I have been severely sick several weeks with fever. Your Mother nursed me with tender care till se was taken down sick with the same disease but thank God, she is some on the mend again. We are both able to be up part of the time. I still have sticking pains in my right side of my chest when I draw breath. Trouble and grief has caused much oppression on my breast in common.

Your affectionate Father, — Solomon Hage

Letter 10

Davison county, North Carolina
Sunday evebing, January 4, 1863

My dear son C. A. Hege,

On yesterday your Mother, being at Salem, received two letters which were eagerly read. We were pleased to hear that you had again nearly recovered your health. One letter was of date December 18th. The other 25th but I had still entertained some hopes of you yet getting your box of clothing. Hoever, on the night before New Year (as I have already informed you), we packed up in haste all we could to send next morning to you by Bro. Jordan Rominger. Also your Mother was sewing all day on New Year to make one pair of pants for you to send to you with Bro. Solomon Tesch next morning. We were grieved exceedingly on hearing in your letter received on the evening before New Year (after sorrowing four weeks for a letter from you) to hear that you had not received your valuable box of goods. But pause and reflect, it was the kind Providence of God no doubt which out of the loss or delay of the box caused good results thereby on your behalf although you may have suffered much for the want of the contents of the box, yet still let us trust in the promises of God’s word to those who love, serve, and trust in Him, let what may befall. Behind a frowning Providence, He hides a smiling face. Temptations, trials, troubles and suffering is the common lot of all in this world but let us the more steadfastly by humble prayer i faith and hope cleave to God.

We with you regret very much that you are deprived of enjoying the Christmas Holidays and religious services in our Friedberg Church with your associates & friends and in singing as formerly Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will to men. But Oh, how changed the scene that now surrounds you in te midst of a multitude, yet no doubt you have some good Christians in your camp who enjoy that peace of God in their hearts by faith in Christ the Lord. Oh how often is my heart’s desire and prayer raised to our merciful Father in Heaven that you, my dear son, may enjoy that peace and love of God in your heart by Faith in Christ Jesus though many unpleasant scenes may be exhibited before your eyes. But God’s promises is cheering. The Angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him and delivereth the (Psalms 37:7)

…I would ask what is your common fare & how prepared. How do you manage to keep warm in cold nights> Have you huts with chimneys like some othrs or have you brutish provisions and lodgings of night. Many a sleepless hour have I passed of nights in sorrowful reflection fearing you was suffering cold. I hear so much of the hardships and suffering of poor soldiers. I am surprised that they do not all leave and go home as many have done although they have to keep concealed. The officers catch one once in awhile & the other conscripts that were to leave on New Year’s Day, only a few went. Many say they will die at home before they will go in the army.

Oh what a deplorable condition our country is in. What woes and suffering are entailed upon the community. Oh my God, come to our help and cause the war to cease. Forbid it Lord, that my son should ever have to go in a battle any more. It seems wrong.

I must close my letter by saying we are well as common except myself. I am still suffering with pain in my breast and unable to stand cold or work. Your letters are always eagerly enquired for. Write often. Oh may the goodness & mercy of god keep you from all harm. By your Father, — Solomon Hege

January 4, 1863

My dear brother,

I received your very welcome letter yesterday evening when Mother came from Salem where she had gone to bring Mary Chilly down to teach school for Mary and myself and then I will learn to write my own letters. But I hope you will come home soon that we all may enjoy your pleasant company once more.

I spent a right happy Christmas. We all went to church except Father where I recited two verses that we sang last year and after meeting we went to Uncle Christian Spaugh’s and was vaccinated [for small pox]. But it did not have any affect ad today Father went with Mary, Selena, and me over to Mr. David Mock’s and we all tried it again. I will try not to rub the scab off again. I did not go to church at New Year but stayed at home with Sam and begged him to fix my partridge traps, but he wouldn’t and so I haven’t caught any yet.

I am sorry to hear that you are barefooted but glad that you escaped the awful battle [at Fredericksburg] and I do hope and trust that you can come home before there is another fight & if there is, may God protect you from all harm is the wish of your affectionate brother, — Julius Hege

Letter 11

Davidson county, North Carolina
Saturday the 23 January 1863

My dear son C. A. Hege,

Your letter of January 17th came to hand last evening. I am always glad to hear from you. I am glad to hear that you are in North Carolina again but it would be the greatest pleasure to me if you could return home again. I am glad to hear you are well. It often surprises me that you are not sick from the exposure you have to bear [though] tis true you are in the vigor of youth. As you are now at Goldsborough, you entertain strong hopes of your neighbors & your Father coming to see you. Indeed, if my health would admit of my turning out, I would come to see you and bring you what you wish, but my health is not yet sufficient to turnout only a few miles from home and the least exposure to cold will again and again affect my breast with severe pain and mercurial lameness as you often heard me say, “Mercury will ruin the best constitution.” Therefore, beware of mercurial medicines. Yet I hope I shall be able to send you what you want shortly as I’ve no doubt some of the neighbors will come out to you if I cannot come to see you.

I wish you would try to get a furlough to come to see us as you are acquainted with traveling about and being near to home now. Tell your officers your Father cannot come to bring you things to wear, having been sick and still in feeble health, & you wish to go home to get them and you have been out about six months. They formerly allowed [soldiers] to go home before being out so long. I am at this time hardly able to write because of a fresh attack on my breast and being scarce able to be about out of doors as warm as it is.

I had been to Lexington some days ago expecting to get the box Jordan Rominger found at Gordonsville but it was not yet come to Lexington so I was only exposed to a fresh attack of disease. I could not have went myself but for paying the freight as I was doubtful I could not bear it, my hear being feeble, so I was disappointed about the box again. The agent at the depot told me it was very doubtful of the box ever being brought to Lexington. Only the man ordering it sits a straddle of it and carries it along with him as he goes along. Otherwise it will be neglected as every depot is crowded and half of the boxes are not transported so I fear it will be lost or partly rotten by the potatoes & fruit in it rotting before I ever get it. But I must see Mr. Rominger about it as I paid him ten dollars for his trouble in bringing your pack to you & finding & bringing your box to you or home as I had directed him. I am going to the office today and will try to find out if any of the neighbors are going out shortly to your regiment.

I am told Mr. Trougut Chitty is going before long to bring his son a box of provisions, &c. I understood a few moments ago the 48th Regiment is gone to Wilmington. If so, it appears you are almost constantly going so it is difficult to know where to find your regiment. However, I will try to buy another hat and send you what is wanted as soon as I can. I wish to do all I can for you temporally & spiritually. If my coming out to your regiment to see you would be of great blessing to you, I would soon be with you if I knew I would not be taken sick but I know I would be taken down sick which would only make matters worse & cause sorrow to you. We are all on foot but I am not well. I want to go to Mr. Beards to buy a hat for you. I fear it will make me worse. I must close by saying you know my advice to you—to serve God and be cheerful, shun all evil, follow that which is good, and may the Lord’s kind Providence keep you always under His care and protection.

By your affectionate Father, — Solomon Hage

Letter 12

[Davidson county, North Carolina]
February 3, 1863

My dear son,

I take my pen in hand to answer your letter to inform you that we are all in common health except Selena Faw. She has been vaccinated [for small pox] a week ago this morning. She took a chill and is very sick. Your Father took Miss Mary Chitty home yesterday. She wants to stay one week at home because her brother came home from the army on a visit. He was at our house yesterday a few minutes but I did not see him for I was not at home in the afternoon. I went to see Phebe Tesch and her family. Two of her children has the typhoid fever but I think they are not very dangerous. But Henry Chitty said he will come next Sunday to our house and bring Mary again and talk with us. He says he is to hunt those runaways and talk with them to go back again to the army. The talk is now that all them that has furloughs shall be out there till the 10th or 15 in this month but I don’t think that many of them will go for Uncle Christian [Spaugh] was at our house last Saturday [and] he said he don’t know if his boys will go or not for they can’t stand it.

Old Mr. Miller went out to Lynchburg three weeks ago to bring Jacob Sink, 1 son of Dan Sink, home on furlough but day before yesterday he brought him home a corpse and so we can hear a’most every day of deaths in the army of the poor soldiers.

Oh what distressing news came to us when we read your letter dated the 24th of January our our poor Daniel Wilson’s death. 2 We all felt sorry for his death and lament that he had to suffer so much and be punished to death. But I hope and trust that his precious soul is at rest if his body was punished to death. It will be all clear at the day of judgement. His sister Ellen came to our house that afternoon and heard your letter read. It almost broke her poor heart to think how he had to suffer and to be punished. Now I want you to try and find out when he died and whether he was sick or staved to death if you can see that steward that brought the news to you about him. Oh, it pains my very heart to think that you all have to stay till you die. Why not make peace and let them all come home and die at home. Oh, I do hope the good Lord will say before long, stop this war. It is enough. Live in peace.

We have a deep snow. It fell last night. About a week ago it snowed a while day but it melted off as fast as it came down.

I will tell you a little about home concerns. we sold 20 bushels of turnips at 1 dollar per bushel, a couple hundred weight of pork at 30 dollars per hundred [weight], 5 loads of hay at one dollar per hundred. 1 load of hay was divided to Sam, Aleck, Julius and Mary. It amounted to 21 dollars. Mr. Raper said last week that the wheat sold at 7 dollars per bushel. Corn at 4 dollars, and two sheep sold at 22 dollars. It was Lawyer Paine’s sale. Now they want to thrash the clover seed but it is always too damp and there is much cry for seed everywhere. Philip Hege—he is lost. His mother says she don’t know nothing of him at all. And Levi Fishel—he is gone the same way, They say they don’t know nothing of him—where he is. Julius sold his rabbit skins for 50 dozen. Henry Shoafs two boys came home and now are taken very sick. They think that they may die. About your provision box, we’ll send it the first opportunity we have. I would be glad if you had everything you mentioned and a heap more if I could make it so. Please write as often as you can. But remain your dear Mother until death, — Catherine Hege

1 Jacob Sink (1842-1863) was the son of Daniel Sink (1814-1883) and Mary Belinda Leonard (1819-1895) of Davidson county, North Carolina. Jacob was a private in Co. C, 33rd North Carolina Infantry. He died on 28 January 1863 at the age of 20.

2 Daniel Wilson served as a private in Co. H, 15th North Carolina Infantry. He was conscripted in mid-July 1862, became sick almost immediately, but joined his regiment in time to participate in the Battle of South Mountain where he was taken prisoner on 14 September, sent to Fort Delaware, later paroled and then hospitalized at Richmond until his death of scurvy on 11 November 1862.

Letter 13

Davidson county, North Carolina
Sunday, March 1st 1863

My dear son C. A. Hege,

I today received a letter from you dated February 23rd near Pocataligo Station, South Carolina. It gave us much pleasure to hear that you was well and kind Providence still protected you from har,. We also had received a letter on Wednesday last (bearing date Thursday the 19th February, Wilmington, N. C.) in which you seemed to write with a sorrowful heart because you had to be ordered to leave North Carolina to go to Charleston where fighting was expected & would likely be a disappointment to us and you in our coming to see you at Wilmington and bring you the box of provisions and clothing. And sure enough we were disappointing. When we got to Goldsboro, we were told by General French to a certainty that Cook’s Brigade was gone to Charleston, S. C. and with a sad heart we turned our oars toward home again, praying God’s mercy and kind Providence to go with you and bless, cheer and comfort you wherever you have to go.

We are subject to troubles and disappointments in this world but blessed by God for the consolations in the promises of His holy word where I trust, as I have already informed you by a letter or two, of our trip to Goldsboro, the difficulty and exposure in getting along with our boxes, and my sending to you, on my way home the more valuable part of my box by a stranger who told me he was going to Charleston and proffered to take it to you. He told me his name was Lt. H. Purdew [Pardue?], 22nd Regiment S. C. troops (from Edgefield District, S. C.). I want you to write to me if Perdew did deliver it to you or not. Perhaps it may be never brought to you. I am anxious to know if he is true to his promise. If not, it is a warning for the future.

I on yesterday before went to Salem to see Henry N. Chitty expecting to send you some nick nack eatables by him but he was just on the point of starting to his regiment again so I missed my aim again. However, I bought paper, envelopes, and postage stamps and sent them to you by him (1 dollar paper, 1 dollar postage stamps, and 30 cents envelopes). I wrote to you what I sent to you by Lt. Perdew in the other last letter. If you ge the articles sent by Mr. Perdew, tell me what you received from him. Mt. Lt. Perdew promised faithfully to bring it to you. If he deceives me, I will never trust anything in another man’s hand again.

Mary and Julius were greatly amused with the little string of palm leaf you sent them. Julius and Aleck sometimes get the cymbal you gave to Julius to turnoff some music wishing you was here again to help fix it in tune. I myself often which I could arrange to get you out of the army but it appears our big heads are going to have everybody in the army and but few to raise food for man or beast.

Deserters are nearly all gone to the army again but some have scattered fences for Captain Roper and [ ]. Levi Fishel also was taken to Raleigh and is unable to walk, I am told. It is said they must all go from the shoe shops, iron works, and other government contracts into the army but who will raise breadstuffs? I di think many are already suffering for food at home and abroad. Corn is not to be had even at 5 dollars per bushel, oats at 3 dollars, wheat at 6 and 7 dollars per bushel for Confederate money. There is a famine coming if the war does not cease. There are some movements in the western states favorable for peace. May God aid ever effort for a speedy settlement of this unhuman war.

In conclusion, I will only say to you, my dear son, let us pursue our race and work and strive and pray, still growing more in grace and knowledge day by day. By your Father, — Solomon Hege

Letter 14

Davidson county, North Carolina
March 11, 1863

Dear brother,

I now take my pen in hand to inform you that we are all well at present and hope when these few lines reach your hands may find you enjoying the same state of health. I am sorry that you can’t be at home when your birthday is. Last year you was here and Daniel Wilson and Aunt Caty Spaugh was here too and now they are both dead. There has been a heap of deaths and births and marriages since then. Your grape stalks and service trees are growing.

The balance of the conscripts will have to go off the second of April but there won’t be many to go for the most of them are in some government business. Mr. John Burk and Louis Hardman and several more are making saltpetre at Mr. Hardman’s. They make it out of ashes.

The deserters are almost all gone to their companies again. The officers caught June Albarty last week on a pine tree. He was breaking some pine bushes to lay on. They also found Christian Fishel hiding place under the hog stable. Mr. Weisner says that as soon as you are stationed at a place, he will try again to come to see you.

I will tell you about our work. We planted our potatoes last and Sam and Aleck and Mike Craver went up to Uncle John Fishel’s Monday to sow oats and it rained yesterday and it was too wet to plough and they came home. We haven’t made garden yet. It is always too wet.

Now I will tell you about the prices. Corn $5 per bushel. Wheat 68 per bushel. Flour #30 per barrel. Bacon $1 per bb. Clover seed $40 per [ ]. Pappy has taken your watch to Esqr. Riley in Lexington to fix it. He hasn’t fixed it yet. Jesse Mock went after his boys. They are both sick in the hospital. He has been gone two weeks and han’t come with them yet. They hadn’t their furlough yet last Sunday. I must stop writing. Requesting you to write to your affectionate sister, — Mary

Letter 15

[Davidson county, North Carolina]
8 April 1863

My dear son,

I now take my pen in hand to drop a few lines to answer your letter which gave us great satisfaction to hear once more from you for we send to the office last Saturday and it was for nothing. This morning we received your kind letter which gave us great satisfaction.

Now I will tell you something about Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I and Pappy and Miss Mary went on Friday. We had a very interesting meeting and on Sunday Brother Bonson preached and the church was plum full but our thoughts was with you poor soldiers in what way you have to spend Easter. You was all remembered in our prayers in Friday’s meeting—especially in communion. On Saturday evening, Black Lucy, Sam’s sister, came to our house and was much rejoiced to see us and the old place but Mary—she went to Uncle Christian’s on Saturday evening and stayed until Sunday morning [so] she didn’t see her. She asked about you and how you are and how you are a getting along.

And now the talk is that the [ ] that they are going to take the negroes to throw up breastworks and when they are done throwing them up, send them home again until they need them again and then call them out again.

We will try and send a box of things with Mr. Troy and a good many of our neighbors will do the same. I send you a little pack with Mr. Chitty on Sunday which i hope you got it before now. I thought it would do you a little good if you get nothing but [ ] corn and beef and not too plenty of that.

I must bring my scribbling to a close for my head aches and I am very tired for they all went to bed but sam. He was a sitting on the chair asleep and so no more. you may know that you fel very nigh to me or I would not write a letter when I was so tired. But remain your dear Mother until death, — Catharine Hege

Letter 16

Davidson county, North Carolina
June 20, 1863

My dear son C. A Hege,

I drop a few lines to inform you that we are all well except myself. I have been affected with rheumatic pains in my shoulders and in my neck which I suffer very much pain—almost unable to do my work. I hope when these few lines come to hand, they may find you in good health. It is a great blessing to hear that you can enjoy that. May the good Lord be with you all times through all your hardships and suffering which you have to make through during this war. Be obedient and kind in every respect and pray daily and hourly to our good Savior to protect you from dangers and suffering during this war and bring you safe home again to your dear parents.

I have been told by some that come from the army that if you would go to your General Cook and would beg kindly, you could get a furlough to come home for a week or two and tell him that you would like to see your folks and you would be sure to come back again until the furlough is out. I received my ring which you sent me with much love and respect to you for it in remembrance of you and thank you kindly.

Now I tell you something about our work and what for girls I have to work this week for me. Catharine Weisner washed one day, spun wool one day, and then she had to go to Rapers to bind wheat. He had her a couple weeks ago to bind for him. And Annie Fishel came on Tuesday morning and spun wool all the week. And Tracy Weisner came on Thursday noon to bind wheat. She is going to bind all harvest here for us. And next week Mary Weaver will come to bind also. But Sam and Pappy has to do all the cradling all by themselves for we can’t hire nobody for they say all the officers has to leave—all but the Captains now—in a couple of weeks.

We heard today that they caught Henry Weere 1 in John Buck’s meadow. They told him to stop and he commenced to run and they shot at him. They didn’t hurt him. Mr. Raper took him by the hand and led him about. Henderson Canen got killed a guarding a bridge down below here. He sat on the track and the cars run over him and killed him quite unexpected.

Miss Fanny said you shall tell David Fry that she is at our house and she wants him to write a long letter to her. Direct it to Midway. So no more at present. Remain your dear Mother until death. — C. Hege

1 Henry Weere was a private in Co. H, 15th North Carolina Infantry.

Letter 17

Davidson county, North Carolina
July 15, 1863

My dear son C. A. Hege,

Today I received a letter by the hands of Solomon Tesche’s daughter sent by you by Mr. Livengood which of course was interesting to us all as we were expecting a letter from you on Saturday, more especially so as we heard there had been some fighting near Richmond and the 48th and 15th regiments had been in it but at the same time was told it was only driving back the Yankees [with] but one man was killed and a few wounded—bad enough, but thank God it was no worse. Em Spaugh wrote in his letter you run them nearly 40 miles. I hope they did not want to hurt you. If only they would always run from each other.

I was much grieved to hear that Gen. Lee went into Pennsylvania and soon hear they had a horrid battle in Pennsylvania and Lee took 40 thousand prisoners and many other lies which was soon contradicted. They had better not went into Pennsylvania. Next we’ll hear they are prisoners over there. If only the poor soldiers—both North and South—would lay down their arms and tell their officers they will no more fight as that is not the right way to settle the matter for it only makes bad worse.

The State Legislature has passed an act the other week to enroll all white men from the age of 18 to 50 years of age to call out as a Home Guard for State defense or a part of them if need be to serve only in the state of North Carolina only three months at a time. How it is going to operate is yet untried as there are but few left now to take care of the farms and procure bread for the people and with all the wearisome toiling, it appears as if for some wise purpose our gracious God intends to cause a part of the wheat and oats to rot in the fields before it is housed.

Men have been boasting there is a plenty of grain to feel the army two years but they have forgotten that there once was a great ruler boasting of his power and wealth (called) Nebuchadnezzar who was turned out to graze with the cattle till his nail had grown like birds claws. The season has been excessively wet for about four weeks so but little wheat or oats is yet under shelter. The corn is running away with grass. It would be more service for you all to come home and fight General crab so we could hope to raise corn and live like our Divine Savior designed we should live—in peace with all men—for it is certain the longer the war is prosecuted the worse it makes the matter as it is a public acknowledged fact (yet with reluctance) that a large portion of our Confederate States have been given up to be ruled by the Northern Government.

Vicksburg is taken & without it, the whole of country west of the Mississippi will be under the control of the North I am told. What then do we have of the Confederate States yet? Oh, what has secession brought us to? — waste, anguish and ruin. Oh that God in infinite mercy would speedily bring things right before all to ruin goes in our once far-famed country.

On yesterday we received your bundle of clothing & some tracts. Ephraim Fishel also brought some things yet at Lexington. I will go to see Mr. Elias Livengood & try to send what you wish if he goes back to camp again. You are getting many tracts to read it appears from what you send home. For the most part it is good reading—only the great principle seems to be wanting to a great extent—love to our fellow man in all places. Loves is always commendable but revenge is not. Oh how much better if all ministers of the gospel in the camp and elsewhere in writing tracts and preaching would have dwelt more on the true principle of the Savior—true charity. Ask your chaplain with all courtesy to preach from Matthew 5th Chapter, 43 to 47 verses. May God bless you and keep your heart and mind in Christ.

By your Father, — Solomon Hege

Letter 18

Davidson county, North Carolina
Tuesday, July 28, 1863

My dear son,

In haste I drop a few lines to inform you hat we are all in common health [though worn down] very much from exposure of hard labor. But I hope it will find you in good health. That is always some encouragement to hear—that you keep in good health [even] if you have to fare worse than our dog, for we can so often hear that you have nothing but a little cornbread and bacon day after day. Can’t you get nourish taters or nothing of that kind? If you would draw some flour and buy some apples if you can, you could make some apple dumplings. We had some for dinner and Aleck said he eat one desert and Sam not far behind. Julius thought he could eat 8 but he couldn’t finish 6. We had 1 dozen left. We all said if only Constantine had them. But all we can do is to trust in the good Lord to protect you from this horrid and miserable affair and perhaps bring [you] safe home again. You know it is nothing impossible for Him for I do believe and trust in the good Lord. If we all would pray from the bottom of our hearts to our heavenly father and call on Him to have mercy on both sides—North and South, it would soon come to a close, but so [far] they all have forgotten that they ought to call on the Almighty to decide it. But still I will pray in secret and in private to the Almightly to have mercy on his poor people and say to those big men, let them go home in peace and safety for their life can be taken from you also as well as them.

Last Saturday Papa had to tend at the old muster ground to the enrollment from forty-five to fifty for home guard and next Saturday they have to attend at Wash Wilson’s to elect officers. But your Pap says he can’t go unless they take the car___ for him to ride for he can’t run the Yankees, and if they take them all, what will become of the balance. The Lord only knows.

Now I will tell you something about the neighborhood. Catharine Weisner is a going to Salem in the dining room in the school house next and Sam Tesch’s wife has the erysipelas at her leg. Rosey Pealer was buried last Wednesday at Freidburg and July Disher was buried at Olivet, wife of Henry Disher. They had the typhoid fever. Miss Pealer was 4 weeks sick and Mrs. Disher 9 days and he is no better yet and their baby is sick too, All the rest of the neighbors are in common health as far as I know.

Next Saturday Mr. John White’s (father of John Henry White) funeral will be preached at Friedburg by Bro. Helsebeck. It was his request to get him to preach it and our next communion will be on the 15th of August and there will be but few if they keep on taking off like it is said they would, and there will be a quarterly meeting at Olivet. It commences on Saturday, August the 1st.

Aleck and Mike is a working here this week. Next week Aleck will stay at home and [ ] will come so they gang about the whole summer. They cleaned off the stockyard to stack the straw. The talk about thrashing wheat next week but I don’t know whether they get ready.

We had no letter from you since 19 July. It was dated the 13th. We wrote two or three times to you since that. Tell David Fry we received his letter but Fanny was not at our house but she shall have it next Saturday. She is well as far as I know. I have got her to answer Mother’s letter as quick as she can.

Dear brother, I will finish Mother’s letter. Andrew Berrier was here last Sunday and told us all about what he seen when he was taken prisoner. He said that he was in the mud above his knees and the Yankees came so fast that they just taken him. I was at preaching last Sunday and there we heard from your regiment. The quarterly metingwill be at Friendship next Sunday and at Midway on the second Sunday of August. There I would like to go but I can’t go by myself. Oh, if you would be at home, I would go to a heap of places where I don’t go to now.

Please write soon. Your dear Mother, — Catharine Hege

Letter 19

Davidson county, North Carolina
November 4, 1864

Dear brother Constantine A. Hege,

With pleasure we again receive a letter from you of date October 1st and were much pleased to hear that you are well and doing well. And your fellow school mates from Salem are also well and it is a great consolation to us to hear of the kindest care and attention on your part by the kind ministers you spoke of with such praise and honor. Surely you have good cause to adore and praise our Heavenly Father in causing it to be so well with you and your school mates since the war has caused such in surmountable difficulties in sending you means of assistance.

Father is about to hire a teacher to teach school for Julius and myself at home for the time being. Oh, may the good Lord give us peace—blessed peace–throughout a loud land so we may live a life of peace on earth in hope of everlasting peace in Heaven.

We are all well as usual though often surrounded with cares and sorrowful hearts. But again we cast our care upon the Lord and rejoice in His promises. May He be with you to bless you and sustain you. Still remaining your affectionate sister until death, — Mary L. Hege

We will send our [tin]type if we can.

1863: Jonathan W. Larabee to Lois King

I could not find an image of Jonathan but here is a CDV of Henry Carrier who served as a private in Co. F, 5th Vermont Infantry (Photo Sleuth)

The following bitter and heartrending letter was penned by Jonathan W. Larabee (1837-1914) about four weeks after the Battle of Fredericksburg to his aunt back home in Vermont. Jonathan was the son of Alexander Larabee and Sarah F. Williams of Addison county, Vermont. He was employed as a miller and farmer when he married Nellie Fogerty (1841-1909) sometime prior to his enlistment on 7 September 1861 as a private in Co. H, 5th Vermont Infantry. This Regiment was part of the Vermont Brigade, veterans of many battles and noted for its losses as well as for its heroism. In the Battle of Savage’s Station on 29 June 1862 (part of the Peninsular Campaign), the 5th Vermont lost 188 out of 400 troops in just one-half hour of fighting. Their most costly battle, in terms of overall losses, prior to when this letter was written, was Fredericksburg in mid-December 1862. This battle—in which Union casualties exceeded 12,000—was a humiliating defeat and further eroded the patriotic sensibilities and fighting spirit of the Union troops. In a letter written ten days after the Battle of Fredericksburg, one of Jonathan’s comrades in Co. H by the name of Robert Pratt captured the sentiments of the dispirited troops when he wrote, “Thousands after thousands of men being killed and made crippled for life —all for what? God only knows… This is not only what I think, but most every other soldier…A lot of them are deserting. Who knows who will be next.” 

Larrabee, responding to a letter from his aunt which may have disparaged his lack of patriotism, rales against the purpose and the carnage of “such an unjust and unholy” war, singling out emancipation as a cause not worth fighting for. He goes on to state that if he is not discharged, he will for sure desert to Canada, and that he doesn’t care what his Aunt or any other family member thinks, or, for that matter, whether he even lives or dies. We learn that his aunt has talked his wife Nell from sending him civilian clothes to make good his thoughts of desertion. There is also a statement of his “playing off” (feigning illness) to avoid caring out his duties as a soldier—particularly going into battle. This is a poignant story of an angry and alienated man who just doesn’t want to fight anymore and, in the process, seems to be about to turn his back on his fellow troops, his family, and his country. 

Despite their travail, neither Larabee nor Pratt deserted (though over a hundred others in the regiment did before the war ended). Larabee remained a member of Co. H and went on to fight many more battles as a Union soldier, being wounded on 19 September 1864 in the Battle of Opequan in Virginia. He was discharged as a veteran on 29 June 1865 after nearly 4 years of service. He lived many more years thereafter before dying in approximately 1890 in Rutland, VT.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and was transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Mrs. W. W. King, Orwell, Addison county, Vermont

Camp in the field
January 11, 1863

Aunt Lois—if I may once more call you so, I seat myself to answer your letter received today. It found me not well but so as to be around and hope this may find you enjoying yourself better than I am.

Now Lois, I am agoing to talk plain with you. I am agoing to tell you just as I think speak my mind on the subject to a letter and if you don’t like it, why it is all just as well. Not that I wish to hurt the feelings of you or any other friends—if I may so call them—but that I wish to have you understand that there is not the least bit of honor in this unjust war. And more than that, it is a disgrace to the soldier that will fight in such an unjust and unholy cause. And there is no more signs of its being settled than there was a year ago. The thing of it is just here—there are men cooped up in cities perfectly out of danger that are making money. They are doing well. They cry, “Push on!” Well, we do and lose fifteen or twenty thousand men. [When] a dispatch is sent to Washington of our loss, it is looked over with a critic’s eye and then what do they say? “Why what is that? Twenty thousand men? That is nothing out of six or eight hundred thousand men. Oh, that is nothing.”

I suppose you had rather I would be murdered and cut up into pieces than see me get out of it any way only honorable. You don’t have to suffer the pain. You are alright. Go it down there in Virginia and you might as well say we are doing well enough here in Vermont. But I will ask you one question, what are we fighting for? It is impossible for you to answer that question unless you say to free niggers? That is all. There is no Union freed by it—no country saved. But there is an enormous amount of lives lost. But [that] is [apparently] of no account. That is what they enlisted for—to be shot. But never mind the soldiers. Save them cursed niggers, let it cost what it may in blood or treasure.

But there is one thing very certain—that is that it will not cost me much blood unless they catch me for I am bound to never go with them again near enough to the enemy to get shot. I had as leave they would catch me too as not. I don’t know as I have much to live for more than a wife. The rest seem to take up against me—some in one way and some in another. But it is all well enough. I can take care of myself without depending on Vermont. There is just as good people in Canada as there is in Vermont and they get as good living there as they do in the United States.

Nell said Mr. Catlin said he thought the war would be settled in three months. He made a sad mistake. He meant three years or longer perhaps. You may think I am rather hard on you but if I should write my mind, you would think this a very pliable letter. I am a full-blood Democrat myself and that is a rare thing in Vermont and it is not only me but all of the blue coat soldiers as you may call them (for you can’t call them Union—no, far from that, and every day on the decline).

“This murdering men for the fun of the thing don’t set on my stomach at all. But don’t never say any more about a man gaining any honor here I this unholy and unjust cause for there is none to be gained.”

–Jonathan W. Larabee, Co. H, 5th Vermont Infantry, 11 January 1863

Now you may take this letter as you will for I mean every word of it and more too. If I can’t play off and get my discharge, I shall go to Canada or start for there at least for I never can endure this long. This murdering men for the fun of the thing don’t set on my stomach at all. But don’t never say any more about a man gaining any honor here in this unholy and unjust cause for there is none to be gained. I can see it here but you only get the hearsay of the thing which probably sounds very well to you up there but here is where you can see it one day after another. If a man is sick and can’t go and falls out of the ranks, he is cashiered, his pay stopped, sent to Harper’s Ferry to perform so many weeks hard labor with ball and chain.

Well, I must close. Give my love to all the friends. This from, — J. W. Larabee

You have talked Nell out of sending clothes and it’s all right but I believe I can raise money enough to buy a suit of clothes when I get to some little town where they keep them.

1861: Ezra McConnell to his Brother

This letter was written by Ezra McConnell (1836-1902), the son of Michael McConnell (1801-1872) and Susan Gallagher (1795-1875) of Cadiz, Harrison county, Ohio. Ezra was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in Co. B, 30th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) in August 1861 and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant of Co. C on 25 October 1863. Ezra was not mustered out of the service until 10 January 1865. He was married in 1858 to Phebe Krim (1828-1894).

Ezra McConnell, Co. B, 30th Ohio Infantry

The majority of the content in this letter was devoted to a description of the desertion, arrest, court martial, and execution of Pvt. Richard Gatewood of Co. C, 1st Kentucky Infantry—the execution taking place on the date of letter, 20 December 1861. It was only the second Union soldier execution carried out by the military during the Civil War—the 7th of 267 recorded executions. From an article appearing in the Sunday Gazette-Mail of Charleston, West Virginia, written by Boyd B. Stutler and published on 4 February 1962, we learn that the 1st and 2nd Kentucky Infantry regiments attached to Gen. Cox’s command were “only nominally Kentuckians; the outfits were recruited along the waterfront at Cincinnati and were composed for a very large part of rivermen who had been idled by the suspension of steamboat traffic in the Southern waters. The men were rough and tough and did not take kindly to strict military discipline.”

Stutler’s article also informs us that the location of the execution was in the broad meadow just below the mouth of Elk River near the Kanawha river.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Greg Herr and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Charleston, Virginia
December 20th 1861

Dear Brother,

Here I have been detained for over a day waiting for a boat. We got to Gallipolis about 10 o’clock the night I wrote to Mother and stayed at the hotel until 6 o’clock the next morning. While there we heard that the Rebels were in Louisa near the Ohio River and that unless there was reinforcements soon, there might be trouble going down. We got in the Government boat Silver Lake and got here at 5:30 o’clock last night. The bat was hardly landed when an order came from Gen. [Jacob D.] Cox to take a company or two down to the Red House half way between here and Gallipolis as what troops were there were expecting an attack there by that lawless desperado Lt. Col. Jenkins of the Rebel army. I don’t know what they made of it.

I witnessed a solemn scene today. There was a soldier shot by a sentence of a General Court Martial. He was from Louisville, Kentucky, [and] belonged to the 1st Kentucky. He deserted and came back of his own accord. He was put under arrest and he behaved himself very badly—cursed and abused the Major, knocked down one of the guards, and today he suffered on account of it.

There was a hollow square formed consisting of the 1st and 2nd Kentucky, 12th Ohio, and a cavalry company. The ambulance containing the victim and three chaplains was driven into the center of the ground escorted by the Provost Marshal and his guards. They got out of the ambulance and took his coffin which he had been sitting on and laid it on the ground where the four knelt on it and each of the chaplains offered up a prayer for him. He seemed very penitent.

He ha his eyes bandaged. He then shook hands with the chaplains and surgeons and at the same time the guns were brought in. The Provost Marshal then went up to him and talked to him awhile 1 and the detail that was to shoot him came in. The Marshal got him to kneel on his coffin again and went forward apiece and motioned with his handkerchief and eight men came to an aim. Another wave of the handkerchief and the poor fellow fell back dead. He died without a struggle. They shot him through the heart. The surgeons went to him and took out his heart and saw that the balls had penetrated it, replaced it, put him in his coffin, and drove him off to the grave yard. 2

I hope the U. S. A. will never have occasion to do such another act. He deserved his fate. We must have discipline or we will have no success. He was a very bad man. His parents live near Louisville, Kentucky.

Farewell. Don’t forget to write. Love to all. — Ezra McConnell

Charleston, Va.

1 The article entitled “The Execution of Pvt. Gatewood,” by Boyd Stutler states that the Provost Marshal, “with merciful deception” told the prisoner he must wait a moment and he would return to him before the final order, but quickly stepping out of the range of the muskets, he gave the signal with his handkerchief and the man fell dead at the folley which sounded like a single discharge.”

2 Other accounts of the execution say nothing about the surgeons removing Gatewood’s heart from his body, examining it, and replacing it before placing the body in the coffin. If true, this seems to have been a highly unusual and unnecessary measure to establish Gatewood’s death and if it was actually done, must have been ordered only to instill greater order and discipline among the troops.

1863: Mary Elizabeth (Gardner) Van Nest to Joseph P. Van Nest

This letter was written by 20 year-old Mary Elizabeth (Gardner) Van Nest (1842-1928) to her husband, Joseph P. Van Nest (1841-1905) who enlisted as a private in Co. F, 120th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) in August 1862. Before his enlistment, Joseph worked with his father as a harness maker in Rowsburg, Ashland county, Ohio.

Joseph P. Van Nest when a lieutenant in the 114th OVI

In his book, “A visitation of God: Northern Civilians Interpret the War,” author Sean A. Scott wrote that Joseph was “raised in a family old dyed-in-the-wool Democrats…and that Joseph went to war to preserve the old Constitution.” A few months after enlisting, however, Joseph “felt betrayed by the Emancipation Proclamation and evidently his dissatisfaction became known throughout the community. One minister even claimed that Joseph, if given the opportunity, would be willing to shoot the President if he did not retracts the edict. As would be expected, Joseph’s father took offense at this slanderous statement for he had seen the letter in question and knew that his son had expressed no such sentiment.” When Joseph’s father confronted the minister, the “Abolition preacher” apparently withdrew the charge claiming that he must have “misunderstood his wife.”

Despite Joseph’s anger regarding his government’s prosecution of the war and his wife’s pleadings to desert, he remained steadfast in his duties, rising in rank to 1st Sergeant of his company, and then accepted a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 114th OVI.

To read letters previously transcribed and published on Spared & Shared that were written by Joseph P. Van Nest, see:

Joseph P. Van Nest, Co. F, 120th Ohio (6 letters)
Joseph P. Van Nest, Co. F, 120th Ohio (1 Letter)

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Addressed to J. P. Van Nest, in care of Capt. Buck, Co. F, 120th Regt. O/V. I., via Memphis, Tennessee

Rowsburg, [Ohio]
February 1, 1863

Dear Husband,

I again seat myself to try to write you a few lines to let you know we are all well at present and I hope you are getting along better than you were when you wrote. I was very sorry to hear you were sick, but still I was glad in one way, so that you had not to go in the battle. We heard that the sick was all sent to St. Louis and I think that is a good plan for they will be better taken care of than at Memphis. Uncle John started for there last Wednesday. I hope that you are sent there too so that you will not be in that battle at Vicksburg again for if you are in it, I have little hope of ever seeing you again. It will be an awful slaughter. I don’t believe our men will ever take it. I don’t believe the fighting will ever end this confounded war and no person thinks so anymore.

If I was you, I would not stay down there and fight for the negroes anymore for I would not have my blood spilt for them. This is not an honorable war anyhow. The men that lives to get home will not have any honor anyhow.

Joe, I don’t care how soon you desert and come home and your folks don’t care either. They said they wished you would come home.  I would not want you to start with those [military] clothes on, but send me word and I will send you some [civilian] clothes. I can  send them in a box and get them expressed to you and then you would  have no trouble to get home, and you might go to some other state and work until the war was over. I would stay where I am [just] so I know  where you were. I would not care.

Mother said she should write to [her brother] Al 1 and tell him to come home and start East. Oh! how I wish you would have taken my advice and stayed at home with me. Sometimes I think it can’t be that the one that I love best of all on earth must be so far from me. Oh, Joe, sometimes I sit down and cry when I think of  times past and gone forever and never to return again. It is a solemn thought indeed that I may have seen you for the last time. It is hard to tell. I think sometimes I must just start and come  and see you but the distance is too great. It seems awful hard to  think you can’t come home until the war is over. Oh Joe, desert and come home. If you knew how bad I want to see you, I think you  would.

Keifers feels very bad about  the war. They think he may have drowned himself. It will be an awful thing if he has done it. Some say there was another man missing with him and maybe they have deserted together. I have not  learned his name, but I glory in their spunk if they have deserted. I wrote in the other letter I sent you about so many things. Emerson wrote a letter in the Times that the sesech wanted things so bad and they were so mean that when they got to Ashland, they opened the barrels and distributed them. It was an awful mean trick after we went to so much trouble and getting it ready for our poor soldiers. If I hear anything about Keifers, I will send you word of it.

Dr. Cole’ wife had a son.

There was several of the boys wrote home that [Capt. Henry] Buck 2 and [1st Lieutenant Robert M.] Zuver 3 run when the battle was at Arkansas Post. I wish you would write if it is true or not. Everybody says you ought to shoot them both. I will never pity Buck a bit if he don’t get home. He wrote home if the soldiers did not get something pretty soon to eat, you would have to starve. Before I would starve, I would start home. Joe, do come home. I can’t hardly live without you. It seems so long since we were together. If Buck would start home, you should just start too for he promised before you went that he would stay with you.

I guess I’ll stay on in the little house. It is so good a place as I can get. It is pretty lonesome—nobody but me and [our son] Johnny. All I want is for you to come home. I can put up with anything. Bill Strayer has gone East with a patent-wright to stay all winter.

I guess I have written all the news for this time. I’ll write again. I feel out of heart today and can’t write as I wished. These are dreary days and I suppose they are to you too. Johnny is well and will soon walk. Your father gave me a new dress. It is oil calico [and] is very pretty. Joe, I hope you will excuse this poorly composed letter. I send you some newspapers with this letter. I must close by bidding you good night. I remain your affectionate wife, — Mary E. Van Nest

Tell me all that is sick when you write. I forgot to state when I received [your] letter. It was the 29th. Write soon for I can’t wait.

1 Alpheus A. Hamilton, in the 42nd OVI

2 Capt. Henry Buck of Co. F, 120th OVI resigned on 15 February 1863.

3 1st Lieutenant Robert M. Zuver of Co. F, 120th OVI resigned on 14 June 1863.

1864: Benjamin Franklin Hoover to Zebulon Baird Vance

This 10 August 1864 Confederate stamped folded letter was written by 46 year-old Benjamin Franklin Hoover (1818-1884)—a circuit court clerk residing in Asheboro, Randolph county, North Carolina. His letter was addressed to North Carolina’s Governor, Zebulon Baird Vance, who did his best to uphold law and order in the state though it was populated by residents with sharply divided loyalties. Hoover’s purpose was to inform the Governor of the depredations being committed chiefly by Confederate deserters in his part of the state and pleading with the Gov. to do something about it though he could offer no suggestions.

Deaths were not confined to the battlefields

According to Hoover’s request for amnesty in July 1865, he claimed never to have been “a soldier nor officer at any time during the late rebellion nor participated in it in any way whatever.” He divulged that his only role during the war was to serve as a “Sub-Fitting Agent” in Randolph county under Capt. Lewis Hilliard which I believe were the Senior Reserves organized in 1864.

According to the US Army’s provost marshal general, it is estimated that 23,000 North Carolina troops deserted during the Civil War—nearly one quarter of the total for the entire Confederacy. This figure is disputed, however, and the causes for desertion in North Carolina are explored in a great little article published by NCPedia entitled “Civil War Desertion,” by Michael Thomas Smith. One of the reasons for desertion in the western counties of the state mentioned in this article was the breakdown of law and order in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

One of the best articles on the problems with deserters specifically in Randolph county can be found in a blog post by L. McKay Whatley (see Civilian Casualties of War, 1863) in which the author points out that since Asheboro had no local newspaper published during the war, “events were only known when residents wrote to other newspapers, in Fayetteville, Greensboro, or in Raleigh. Most events were never recorded in the news at the time they happened and many stories are virtually impossible to confirm. Such stories survived, if at all, as oral history.” This article contains a tale involving the Bray family who are also mentioned in the following letter.

The back of the stamped folded letter is powerfully initialed by Vance and the letter is franked by a Confederate 10 cent stamp (Scott #12) cancelled by an Asheboro handstamp.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Ashboro, North Carolina
August 10, 1864

To His Excellency, Z. B. Vance

The state of affairs in this county is assuming a most deplorable aspect, and to give you some of the reasons that induce me to come to this conclusion, it will mention a few of the unlawful and outrageous acts committed by the deserters within the last few days. We have had any amount of stealing going on all the time—but for the last month or six weeks, armed parties of deserters have been going about even in the daytime compelling citizens to give up their arms and ammunition, and such other articles as they the deserters might want. The sheriff, while collecting his taxes was threatened to be waylaid and robbed—many good and quiet citizens are this time in great fear, not only of being robbed, but of being murdered or burnt up with all they have in the still and dead hour of the night.

On the day of the Election, a squad of the Home Guard was sent to an election precinct to prevent the deserters from voting. The voting was prevented by the officer saying to the man at whose house the election was held that he—this man—would prevent the deserters from coming to the election, and if he did not prevent them from coming up, that the Home Guard, upon the deserters coming in sight, would burn his house, it being well known that this man at whose house this election was held had a son who is a deserter, in the party who contemplated the attack—this man being understood to be a most cruel, blood-thirsty and savage man. During the day, 30 or more deserters, armed, were seen not more than 300 yards from this election—and the Home Guard, by having a man or two in it who had friends among the deserters got information that that the Home Guard would be attacked if it returned home by the usual road, had to avoid this and come in a very different direction.

On the day of the Election, H. McCain, Senior, an aged and crippled man was attacked in his own home and most rudely and abusively treated by 3 armed deserters and compelled to give up his gun, &c. On the next day these same 3 men, it is supposed, went to the house of a militia officer, knocked his wife down, tore up some of the officer’s property, stole his leather, and said to this officer’s wife that in 90 days she should be begging bread.

We have also just heard here of the killing of three of the Reserve Force just below Carthage—one of the men killed being from this neighborhood. And on last Saturday a large number of armed deserters were at the home of Bray—a reserve now on duty. They tore his clock from the wall, threw it on the floor and stamped it to pieces.

On yesterday a squad of the Home Guard, coming to this place for commissary stores from Franklinsville, was fired on from the rear, one of the Guard mortally wounded and three others wounded, shot through the arms, shoulders, &c.

We need more men and better men to manage our military affairs. We can never hope for better times here until we have more energetic and braver men at the head of our home forces. I have no suggestions to make, but I am satisfied that 3/4ths of the men who are now liable for duty in this county are well convinced that nothing can be done unless a change is made.

If the Home Guard officers lower than the field officers would suggest men to command and take charge of them, then we may hope that some good may be done and not until then. This desertion has been palliated and temporized with until it has such a hold and influence here that all good men fear that much blood will have to be shed before things are quieted here.

Exempts, details, &c., as a general thing, connive at, and cause desertion. If it be possible, send our folks help and that too, soon, as it is badly needed. I am sir, your obedient servant, — B. F. Hoover

1863: Henry Lancaster to “Brother Byron”

Grave of William H. Jenkins, member of posse killed hunting down deserters who shot local police office in 1863

This letter was written by Henry Lancaster (1825-1865), a farmer in Detroit (Palmyra P. O.), Somerset county, Maine. He was married to Sarah Jane Crosby (1828-1898) in 1851. The letter was addressed to “Brother Byron” but I could not find any family record indicated that Henry had a brother by that name though the records could be incomplete, he may have been a brother in law, or Byron may have been member of the clergy or simply a fellow parishioner.

Henry’s letter describes the fracas caused by two local boys who were described as “deserters” from the army when they went on a spree in Belfast, Waldo county, Maine, stealing horses and robbing stores. A modern-day synopsis of the event appears on the Belfast (Maine) Police Department website which captures the most comprehensive record and I will not repeat it here.

The two deserters were Isaac N. Grant (1837-1863) of Co. G, 5th US Cavalry who deserted on 25 January 1862. He was born in Somerset county, Maine, and had been hiding out from the Provost Marshal for almost a year and a half. The other was Charles E. Knowles (1844-1863) and he deserted on 30 August 1862. Knowles is buried in Rogers Cemetery in Troy.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]


Detroit [Somerset county, Maine]
June the 26, 1863

Brother Byron,

We have been having a great fight here for a few days past—perhaps you may have heard of it before this time but I will write you the particulars. The case was this. There was two deserters from the army came here & commenced horse stealing & store breaking. They sold their horses in Belfast. The officers came up last Sunday & then the battle commenced. The thieves was well armed, having three revolvers apiece. They fought desperately. The result of that day’s fight was one of the officers [Chief of Police, Charles O. McKenney of Belfast] was mortally wounded & the thieves escaped to the woods.

Monday there was a great turnout to hunt them. Men could be seen marching in every direction with guns in their hands. The names of the thieves was [Isaac N.] Grant of Palmyra & [Charles E.] Knowles of Troy. We did not find them that day.

Tuesday three men from Detroit village went down to the [Sebasticook] river to the point & landed on the other side of the river & came upon them. The thieves rushed upon & fired & killed one of our men dead on the spot. They returned the fire & wounded Grant in the head—put a ball into one ear & out the other. But he then fought desperately. They came to close quarters and fought with the butts of their guns. They killed Grant & beat Knowles so [much] that he died yesterday. The names of the three men was William Jenkins, Lyman Hurd & Joseph Myrick. Jenkins was killed. He was buried yesterday. 1 Sarah and I attended the funeral. Heard is some relation to Mr. Hanscom’s folks. He fought like a tiger. There has been a great excitement here. They think there is more engaged with them. We are all well.

Yours, — H. Lancaster 

1 William H. Jenkins (1823-1863) was killed on 23 June 1863. He is buried in the Detroit Village Cemetery beneath a headstone that reads, “Sacred to the Memory of Wm. H. Jenkins who died in defense of Law and his life, June 23, 1863, aged 40 years.”

1863: Unidentified Deserter to Nelson Goodrich

This letter is unsigned and since there is no accompanying envelope to provide us with the location of its recipient—Nelson Goodrich—we can only speculate on their identity. We learn from the letter that the author is a Union deserter who has gone to London where he has found employment driving an omnibus in the city. He has left a wife and slipped a separate letter to her in the envelope with this letter. My hunch is that it was addressed to the Rev. Nelson Goodrich, A methodist clergyman in New London, Connecticut, who may have been a trusted friend that would assist him while keeping his location a secret.

The author implies that he was deceptively enticed into the service but deserted when he realized what was happening. He may have been a former sailor and had the means to readily sign onto a crew bound for London.

[Note: This letter come from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]

An omnibus in London, ca 1860


London [England]
March 8, 1863

Nelson Goodrich, Sir

I wrote you a few lines to inform you that I am well at present and I hope these few lines will find you and the rest of your family enjoying the same blessing. You must excuse me for not writing before. I suppose you heard that I deserted. I found out that we were going to be sold to another man and that Captain Whitmer never intended to go with the company and I saw no signs of any pay. In fact, there was a great deal of deception every way so I made up my mind to leave as I knew how to do it.

I have not time to write much this time but I will write again soon. I will enclose a letter in this envelope for my wife and I wish you would be so kind as to send it to her if you know where she is for I don’t know but she has moved.

I am in London driving bus for a hotel.

1864-65: Gideon Leander Miller to Sophia (Miller) Beckel

These five letters were written by Gideon Leander Miller (1845-1907) who was conscripted into Co. H, 33rd North Carolina, as a private on 1 July 1862. Sometime about the middle of July 1862, he was transferred to the regimental band of the 33rd. He surrendered with his regiment at Appomattox on 9 April 1865.

Gideon Leander Miller

Gideon was the son of John Sylvester Miller (1801-1878) and Elizabeth Holder (1808-1873) of Winston, Forsyth county, North Carolina. He wrote the letters to his older sister, Antonette Sophia (Miller) Beckel (1828-1891)—the widow of George Hiram Beckel (1829-1862) who died of pneumonia on 24 December 1862 while serving in Co. G, 33rd North Carolina Infantry. He frequently mentions Sarah who was Sophia’s daughter.

Gideon survived the war and returned to Winston, North Carolina, where he and an old brother named John Sylvester Miller formed a partnership and went into the production of windows, sashes, blinds, doors, and other woodwork (see Miller Brothers).

What is most compelling about this correspondence is Gideon’s mentioning the execution of deserters in two of the five letters—scenes he could not avoid as the regimental band was always called upon to play the dead march as they escorted them men to the stakes where they were lashed and shot by a firing squad. In his article entitled “Confederate Dilemma: North Carolina Troops and the Deserter Problem,” author Richard Bardolph’s research resulted in an estimation of “between 180 to 200 of the many thousands of North Carolina runaway were executed and hundreds more were sentenced to death but eventually spared…”

Letter 1

Camp near Liberty Mills, Va.
January 1st 1864

Dear Sister,

I this evening take the pleasure of dropping you a few lines to let you know that I am well at present and hope these few lines will find you and Sarah both well and enjoying good health. I have nothing new to write at present. I received your letter last night by hands of George Flynt and I was very glad to hear from you now for I had not received a letter from any my folks in two weeks. I reckon they are looking for me at home yet, the reason they don’t write to me anymore.

I am about six or seven miles from Orange Court House and about the same distance from Gordonsville. I expect we will stay here this winter. We are a very nice camp now and I like to stay here better than any place I have ever been at since I [enlisted. I am] getting pretty well [acquainted with] the citizens in this country. We can go out in the country here every day and get a very good supper. I hope you all enjoyed Christmas and New Year but I am sorry to hear that you see such hard times and that you cannot enjoy life any better. It is true enough, this is a trying time and everybody has felt the effects of the war and a great many have been deprived of the pleasures and comforts that they would have enjoyed had it not been for the war—especially those who have lost their husbands as you have. But it will not do for to give up in despair but hope for a better day in the future.

I have thought too that I would as soon die as to live but that is folly and now I am determined to live in hopes if I am compelled to die in despair. I hope that I will be at home in a few days if nothing happens. Nothing more but remain your brother, — Gideon Miller

Letter 2

Camp 33rd Regt. N C. Troops
April 17th 1864

Dear Sister,

I am well and enjoying fine health and sincerely hope these few lines may find you and Sarah well and enjoying the same great blessing. I would have written to you sooner but I have not had the chance to write and I have so many to write to that I cannot write to all. Tell Sarah that I got that peach [ ] she sent to me by Mr. [ ]. I am much obliged to her for [illegible].

We are still in our winter quarters yet and everything is quiet on the front of the enemy but our army is making active preparations for the summer’s campaign. I don’t think it will be long before we will have a fight for we have got orders to have seven days rations on hand and be ready to move at any time.

There has been a good deal of rain here for two or three weeks and the ground is covered with snow yet and have been since before Easter. No doubt this is what has kept them from fighting this long. I expect we will have a hard fight before long and I am afraid we will have a great many men killed but I hope that this war will stop soon that we may all come home to stay at home for I don’t want to see anymore men killed on the battlefield. There were two men have been shot to death this week in our regiment for desertion with fifteen others [illegible] shot at the stake. I hope that I will not have to see another killed that way.

I must bring my short letter to a close for the present. Write to me soon. Give my love and best respects to all my friends if I have any. Tell sister Julia that I am sorry that I did not come to see her when I was at home but if I am ever so fortunate as to get home again, I will come to see her. Nothing more but remain your brother, — G. L. Miller

Letter 3

Chaffin’s Bluff below Richmond
July 26th 1864

Dear Sister,

I received your letter and was very glad to hear from you and to hear that you was all well at home. This leaves me well and enjoying good health and I sincerely hope it may find you enjoying the same great blessing. I have no news of interest to communicate at present as we are at a place where we cannot hear any news. We have been at Chaffin’s Bluff for nearly a month—our Brigade and two others—but we was reinforced last Saturday by one Division of Gen. Longstreet’s Corps. We have had no fighting to do since we came up here but we are expecting a fight every day for the Yankees have been crossing the river. They keep fighting at Petersburg yet everyday but they don’t do much for I reckon the Yankees are getting tired as well as we are. But we are all anxious to hear from Georgia to hear what they are doing there [before Atlanta]. We are certain that the Yankees cannot get Richmond or Petersburg so we are just waiting for something to turn up.

The weather has been very hot and dry out here for a month or two but now we have rain plenty and the weather is some colder. We get plenty of blackberries for we are back in rear of the line of battle and there is not so many men around us to eat up everything. I have to go down to the regiment as soon as I get this letter done and I am going through my berry patch on the way. We stay about three miles from the regiment at the hospital to wait upon the sick and wounded when there is any. We have got houses to stay in where soldiers was last winter. We had a nice place to stay at for two or three weeks but now there is a brigade came here in these houses and tearing up things around here so that it is not like it was before they came here.

We have got a teacher and we are taking music lessons. We are learning some very pretty music now. There is some men in the next house to ours that has got a note book and they are singing some of the old tunes that I used to sing before I left home. It almost makes me homesick to hear them sing. It makes me think about Benton and Tom Miller and the rest of the boys and the girls that I used to go with to singing school. They are all scattered about though now and I don’t know where they are. Benton & Tom I suppose is both dead from what I can find out. Some of our prisoners that has been exchanged say they was with Tom when he died—or they say they think it was him. He died in prison. There has been a good many of my old friends killed and wounded this summer already and a few more will take them all. I think I have been very fortunate to escape this long.

I was sorry that I did not get them things you all sent to me by Mr. Thomas but I hope somebody got them that needed the. I must close for this time for I have not got time to write any more. Please write to me again. Tell Sarah that she must hurry and get well of the toothache and write too.

I remain, your brother, — Gideon Miller

Letter 4

Petersburg, Virginia
September 18th 1864

Dear Sister Sophia,

I will drop you a few lines this evening to let you know that I am well at preset and hope these few lines may find you well and enjoying good health. I have no news of importance to communicate at present. I am at Petersburg yet and no prospect of getting away soon for they keep fighting here everyday. There has not been much fighting today till a few minutes ago [when] they commenced shelling again. They were fighting all night last night. Day before yesterday our skirmishers charged the Yankees skirmish line and it took about a hundred prisoners.

I have not heard from home in some time. I am sorry that they have got Cal and Wes out. I do wish the war would stop so that we could all come home for I am getting tired of the war. But I hope it won’t last much longer.

I must close for this time for I have not got time to write much more. Please write whenever you can for I am always glad to get letters.

I remain your brother, — G. L. Miller

P. S. Give my love and best respects to all inquiring friends if there be any.

Letter 5

Addressed to Mrs. Sophia Beckel, Winston, Forsyth county, N. C.

Petersburg. Virginia
March 28th 1865

Dear Sister,

Your welcome letter came duly to hand yesterday. I was glad to hear from you again for it had been a long time since I had heard from you. I have nothing new to write at present. I am well except a very bad cold.

There has been fighting going on for nearly a week. Last Friday night we went to Petersburg serenading and never got back to camp till after midnight and when we got back the regiment was gone and we didn’t know where they had gone to so we went to bed and when we waked up next morning we heard them fighting in front of Petersburg. Soon after we heard that our men had broke the Yankee’s line and took a great many prisoners. About noon our regiment came back to camp but they had not been here but a few minutes before the Yankees charged in front of our old camp where we have been all the winter and before our Brigade could get out they had took our whole skirmish line and a great many prisoners. They have been fighting there ever since. Our men drove them back again night before last so we hold nearly the same line we did before the fight commenced.

I hope the Yankees will go back now and let us stay in our camp a while longer for the weather is most too cold to leave our winter quarters.

You said you heard that I was coming home the reason you never write to me. I tried hard enough to come home but failed in every attempt, so I will not get to come home soon now for they have stopped giving furloughs.

I am sorry to hear that you have such hard times. I wish it was so that I could do something for you. I would freely but the way I am situated it is impossible. This is what troubles me more than anything else—to think that my folks at home is suffering where if I was at home I could work and keep them from suffering. But instead of that, I am here in the army—a man able to work hard everyday and have to spend all my life in the army. It will soon be three years since I first left home and it seems to me like it has been ten years for I was nothing but a boy then and I don’t think it will be long before I am an old man. I don’t reckon you will know me if you was to see me now. Me head is nearly as white as Father’s and I am not twenty years old yet. Did you ever hear tell of the like before?

I am sorry to hear that there has been so much sickness about home. There has not been much sickness in the army this winter but I fear there will be more this summer. I have had very good health and that is one great blessing.

I have nt had a letter from [brother] Harmon since a few days after he left home. I don’t see why he don’t write to me. I heard he was wounded but hope that it was only a false report. If he is, I hope he will get home. I was in hopes that he would be here to this regiment before now but I am afraid he will not get to come at all. I have not had but one letter from home in more than a month. I believe they all quit writing or it looks so to me.

You say them men don’t care anymore to kill a man than you do to kill a chicken. I don’t mind it much more to see a man killed now that I used to to see a chicken killed for I have seen so many killed that it is nothing new anymore. I have seen between twenty & twenty-five men shot at the stake since the Gettysburg fight and had to march in front of them to the stake and play the dead march. A great many of them were nice men and had families at home. It is a terrible thing to see and I hope I never will see another one killed in this manner.

Tell Sarah that I am glad to hear that she is so smart and that she has learned to weave and spin. I expect she has got to be a grown woman by this time adn that I would not know her anymore.

I must close my letter for we have to go down to the line of battle this evening. Give my love and best respects to all my friends and accept the same yourself. Tell Betty Miller if you see her that she has never answered my letter yet. Excuse bad writing for I have been in a hurry. No more but remain your affectionate brother, — Gideon

General Order No. 13 by Brig. Gen. Roger Atkinson Pryor

This Confederate order was written by Capt. William Henry Whitner who was appointed as the A. A. G. to Brig. Gen. Roger Atkinson Pryor on the Blackwater below Petersburg. Whitner began his Confederate service as a 2nd Lieutenant in Co. F, 1st Florida Infantry. He later suffered a gunshot wound to his little finger (resulting in its amputation) received during the Battle of the Wilderness on 6 May 1864. He finished the war in April 1865 serving as the A.A. G. Gen. B. R. Johnson’s Division, R. H. Anderson’s Corps.

Whitner wrote the order at the request and for the signature of his commander, Brig. Gen. Roger A. Pryor who filled a rank within the Confederate service far beyond his worth. The biographical sketch in Wikipedia is kinder than most in describing Pryor’s military performance:

He entered the Confederate army as colonel of the 3rd Virginia Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to brigadier general on April 16, 1862. His brigade fought in the Peninsula Campaign and at Second Manassas, where it became detached in the swirling fighting and temporarily operated under Stonewall Jackson. Pryor’s command initially consisted of the 2nd Florida, 14th Alabama, 3rd Virginia, and 14th Louisiana. During the Seven Days Battles, the 1st (Coppens’) Louisiana Zouave Battalion was temporarily attached to it. Afterwards, the Louisianans departed and Pryor received two brand-new regiments; the 5th and 8th Florida Infantry. As a consequence, it became known as “The Florida Brigade.” At Antietam on September 17, 1862, he assumed command of Anderson’s Division in Longstreet’s Corps when Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson was wounded. Pryor proved inept as a division commander, and Union troops flanked his position, causing them to fall back in disorder. As a result, he did not gain a permanent higher field command from the Confederate president. Following his adequate performance at the Battle of Deserted House, later in 1863 Pryor resigned his commission and his brigade was broken up, its regiments being reassigned to other commands. In August of that year, he enlisted as a private and scout in the 3rd Virginia Cavalry Regiment under General Fitzhugh Lee. Pryor was captured on November 28, 1864, and confined in Fort Lafayette in New York as a suspected spy. After several months, he was released on parole by order of President Lincoln and returned to Virginia. CSA War Clerk and diarist, John B. Jones, mentioned Pryor in his April 9, 1865 entry from Richmond, VA, “Roger A. Pryor is said to have remained voluntarily in Petersburg, and announces his abandonment of the Confederate States cause.” [Wikipedia]

Pryor in later years looking at a portrait of the man who paroled him, Abraham Lincoln.


Headquarters Forces on Black Water
December 21st 1862

General Order No. 13

The crime of desertion having become scandalously prevalent in this command, it is hereby ordered that any person of this command caught two miles from this camp without a proper pass and indicating a purpose to desert shall be shot at once without the formality of a trial. To this end, persons so caught will be immediately sent to these headquarters with the witnesses in the case.

By command of Brig. General Pryor
W. H. Witner, A. A. G.