This mid-June 1863 letter was written by Lt. William Wilcox Hulbert (1838-1911) of Co. D, 4th Georgia while passing near Williamsport, Maryland, on the Gettysburg Campaign. The letter, which is signed “your affectionate but rebel nephew,” represents a communication between Hulbert, who was originally from Connecticut, and his Northern relatives. Flush from their victory in May at the Battle of Chancellorsville (at which Hulbert was promoted to 1st Lieutenant), Lee’s Confederate forces were on the move northward. Williamsport, which is just south of the Pennsylvania border, offered Hulbert yet another chance to send a letter without having to mail it across enemy lines. This campaign would culminate two weeks later at the Battle of Gettysburg, in which Hulbert’s unit fought.
The 4th Georgia Infantry had one of the most illustrious records of any Confederate unit, fighting at 24 battles from Seven Pines all the way to Appomattox Court House (see History of the Doles-Cook Brigade by Henry Thomas). Lieutenant Hulbert himself had a particularly distinctive war history. After being captured at Spotsylvania while in command of the sharpshooters of his 4th Georgia Infantry, he became one of “The Immortal Six Hundred.” These 600 Confederate officers refused to sign a loyalty oath to the North so that they could be paroled and consequently languished in prison. On 20 August 1864, angered by Southern treatment of Union prisoners, the North deliberately chose the 600 to be taken to Morris Island, at the mouth of Charleston harbor, where they served as a human shield to the Union forces of Gen. John Foster who were under attack by Confederate forces. After suffering through 45 days on Morris Island, the weakened survivors were sent to Ft. Pulaski where they continued to be mistreated and starved. Hulbert was paroled on 15 December 1864. The Immortal 600 continue to be honored for their adherence to principle under the most adverse circumstances (see The Immortal 600, Surviving Civil War Charleston and Savannah by Karen Stokes, or The Immortal Six Hundred, A Story of Cruelty to Confederate Prisoners of War by Maj. John Ogden Murray.
William was the son of Abijah and Maria Wilcox Hulbert. The family moved from Berlin, Connecticut, to Atlanta, Georgia, when William was a young man. Before the war, he began his career with the Express Company where he remained throughout his entire life except for the four years he passed in the Confederate Army. When the began, Hulbert was running messenger into West Point on the Atlanta and West Point Railroad. The West Point Guards was one of the crack military companies of the state before the war, and when Georgia cast her lot with the seceded states, the West Point Company tendered its services. Within a short time that company found itself in the Fourth Georgia Regiment, which was attached to the Doles-Cook Brigade, one of the first bodies of Georgia Troops to go to the front in Virginia.
[Note: This letter is from the personal archives of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]
Bivouac near Williamsport, Maryland
June 15, 1863
Dear Uncle Alfred,
You doubtless will be surprised at receiving a letter from your rebellious nephew—especially at this time, but having an opportunity, I could not help writing you a few lines to let you know how we are getting along. Father, mother, and Clara are well and still living in Augusta. Edgar is at work for the Southern Express Co. at Atlanta. Uncle Edward is the express superintendent. His family are well. We have not heard one word from you or any of the rest of our relatives since war broke out. I have sent messages to you by prisoners that are paroled. Mother is very anxious to hear from you and Aunt Mary.
I have been in service now for over two years. Enlisted as private and now I hold a commission as 1st lieutenant, Co. D, 4th Georgia—Dole’s Brigade. I have been in several battles commencing at the battles around Richmond, ending in Chancellorsville. Was wounded through the left arm at Antietam, which disables me in one arm. This my 2nd visit to Maryland.
Now uncle, please let our relatives in Buffalo and Greenwich know what you do about us. Give my love to Aunt Mary, Katie, Frank, and our East Berlin relatives, Grandmother, Cousin Laura, &c.
Your affectionate, but rebel nephew, — W. W. Hulbert.