Do you have an ancestor that fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War? Our Confederate Letters, 1861-1865, is a collection of letters received in the Office of the Confederate Adjutant and Inspector General from April 1861 – April 1865. The collection is organized first by date, and then by the last name. The letters are 150-year-old manuscripts, but a little digging can unearth historical gold!
For example, this letter dated May 23, 1862, is from Samuel Morgan of Spartanburg, South Carolina. He owned a tannery and was requesting that his employee, John Barry, be excused from the mandatory conscription law. At the time, male citizens between the ages of 18-35 were required to register. Said Morgan, “John Barry is a Tanner by trade and is in my Employ at the head of an extensive Tannery and cannot be sepperated from it without material Injury to the success.” He further argued, “The successful opperation of this yard is of great importance to the country and especially to the army as a great many soldiers are now being supplied.” The letter contained the signatures of nine additional men certifying the truth of Morgan’s argument.
In this letter from Tallahassee, Florida, dated June 20, 1862, Capt. E. C. Simpkins outlined charges against Maj. John G. Barnwell for abandoning his post at New Smyrna, Georgia. According to the charges, Barnwell sailed to New Smyrna aboard the steamers Kate and Cecile and ordered troops to leave their post. He then traveled towards Tallahassee inviting everyone he saw to “Take what they could carry off in their hands. That there were Splendid Guns, Swords, and Pistols, Shoes, Blankets, which could be had for the taking…” Interestingly, a newspaper clipping from 1861, noted that Maj. Barnwell had “Devoted much of his life to the artillery service, having commanded a volunteer corps in his native parish for twenty odd years; he is a planter of great experience, and enjoys the entire confidence of his section.” Barnwell must have been found innocent because in a subsequent newspaper clipping from 1864, Maj. Barnwell is working as an ordinance officer.
Braxton Bragg was a senior officer in the Confederate States Army. In June 1862, he wrote a letter to General Samuel Cooper expressing the urgent need to complete a rail line between Meridian, Mississippi and Selma, Alabama. “That connexion is one of such vital military necessity and so immediately affecting military operations, in the Department entrusted to me, that I feel it my duty to Communicate frankly my views, for the information and Consideration of the Department,” Braxton wrote.
About two months before the war came to an end, letters show the Confederate defense beginning to unravel. In this letter dated February 15, 1865, the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, wrote to the Secretary of War asking that a group of paroled Union soldiers be removed from their city. “We have now deposited here for safety some millions of specie*, the property of the Gov’t., and the specie and money of the Banks. A regt. of paroled Yankees called the Foreign Legion has been quartered here and have to day pillaged several houses and committed robbery in open day. Will you order them to be removed, or shall they destroy the public property,” wrote Mayor S. A. Harris.
This collection of Confederate Letters between 1861-1865 is a great way to research ancestors that served in the Confederacy and to document the history of the Civil War. Start searching the collection today on Fold3!
* Specie is money in the form of coins rather than notes.