”Dier Wife. . . I her canons ” Letters 3 and 4 of James DICKERSON

In the first two letters we find James reporting on his health and the status of the trees in Virginia.  He is concerned about affairs at home and probably in need of clothing for himself.  It seems as though he is anxious to receive a letter from his wife.  He is almost despondent sounding, reminding his wife to make arrangements should he die.

By the third letter he has heard from his wife.  Her letter took about 13 days to get to him. Again, he reports on his health and farming conditions but has probably seen something of battle and is looking for a little comfort or relief from his anxious circumstances.  Letters 3 and 4 are written in two consecutive days.  Again, the numbers in brackets are notes and are not in the original letters.

Number 3

Virginia Carliner County   May the 11, 1862

Dier wife      I reseved youre leter dated April the 29 witch gave me great plesier to read it      I am well at present      We expect to have a big fight here every minit      Tha is no corne planted her yet       I had a bad spell in Golesborro but I have got well     I want you to rite every weeke to mee and have your leter back right    tha last I reseved came to the ridment      I want it too come to Company D  45  Ga. Ridgment [1]      You wrote to me that you had some whiskey      I want it if you please      I want you to rite to mee every week and I will do the same       I  will sent this by hand to forsyth [2]      I will come to a close by saing I am youre afetionnate husban until deth      J.H. Dickerson to Mrs. C. Dickerson

[1] 45th Georgia Regiment a volunteer infantry division of the Confederate Army. Organized by Colonel T. Hardeman Jr. during the winter of 1861 – 1862.  Also referred to as ‘McCowan Guards’.

[2] Forsyth is the county seat of Monroe County, GA where the DICKERSONs lived.

Number 4

May the 12 1862

Dier wife      I take this opertunity of droping you a few lines to informe you that I ame not well at presant      I got that gill [1] of whiskey you sent mee      I can get whiskey her for $1 Doler a Drink [2]      I her canons a firing at this time      tha yanks [3] is taken 30 of the pickets last night [4]      I want you to rite to mee every week and not fale      I have seene a heep sins I left you      it is too mutch to rite      when I com home I will take a plesier in telling you      be certin you direct youre leters to the 45 Ga ridgment Company D.     I will come to a close by saing I am your beloved husband until Deth           J. H. Dickerson      Mrs. C. Dickerson

[1] A ‘gill’ also spelled ‘jill’ is a measurement of liquid volume.  In the United States it’s about 1/2 cup or 4 ounces.  The measurement is believed to have originated in the 14th century and stems from English King Charles attempting to tax whiskey and wine by volume in 1625. By law, Charles was unable to tax on a ‘Jack’ or ‘Jackpot’ so he taxed on the ‘gill’ which was half the volume.  The nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill” is thought to be based on this experience.

[2]  Alcohol use and abuse in military culture has a historical past.  Some reasons for its popularity include: a de-stressor during active war time, a peer bonding experience and a time filler.  Read more about this topic from a news article.

[3] ‘Yank’ is a shortened form of ‘Yankee’ which was (and occasionally still is) a term used to identify a person of  the Northern States of America.

[4] A ‘picket’ was a group of about 40 men from the infantry that served as a guard or outpost in advance of and for the rest of their regiment.  The duty was rotated amongst the men and was considered the most dangerous work in the infantry.  They were the first to see the frontline and could be wounded, killed or captured.  In this case 3/4 of the picket was captured.

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