“I have seene sights . . . ” Letters 5 and 6 of James DICKERSON

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Letters 5 and 6 were written 7 days apart.  On May 27 the Battle of Hanover Courthouse (also known as the Battle of Slash Church) was fought. It is noted that about 200 Confederates died on the field and 730 captured. The Union lost about 375 with 70 captured (James says 60 were captured).

In letter 5, James had already seen death in the Regiment due to sickness and was still experiencing illness himself.  He obviously misses the female companionship of his wife and keeps count of how many letters they have (or have not) written to each other.  James wants to make changes and it appears there are many uncertainties at home.

In the 6th letter, James describes the hardship of the last few days. He has ‘seene sights’ of battle and death.  Make sure to read note #4 that more fully describes the situation of the Regiment in a letter written by a young man also of the regiment.  It’s incredible that so much information can be gleaned on the internet.

Letter 5

Virginia       Caroliner County       May 24      1862

Dier wife      I take my seet this morning to drop you a few lines that I am well at this time and I hope these few lines will find you all well     I reseve youre leter dated the 16 of May whitch gave mee great plesir to her from you      wee have a great deal of sickness in the ridgment and deths [1]      when i first came her I had the yerake [2] so bad that I was dif      and when I was at golesborough I had the _______ and the rumatisam in the hip and nee so that I could not walk but I am as well as before at this time      wee have tite laws in this rigment no man can go a mile from the rigment without a pas      there is a few peple lives in this county and tha ar rich      I see some few wimin when I go on dres parrad [3] and tha ar as ugley as tha Devil      I would be glad to be at home to go with you a fishing      I have not dremp about you but wons sins I left you      I have have rote 6 leters to you and I have got 3 from you      I will send you som money for you to pay for your leters and paper   I have plenty      You wont at home when you rote youre last leter to mee     I want you to rite to mee wether you live at home or among your nabors or not       I have not draw no money yet      tha say the first of June we will git pay      I am a going to try for a transfer to Mobleys Company      I am asking you to find out the nomber the ridgment and rite to mee soon as you can and if I sucseed I would come by home      tel Monroe [4] that I have got him a litle wach chane that I found in richmond     I want you to rite to me about your wheet and hogs and evrything els and when youre acoming to see mee Clary      I have not seene but one purty woman and shee was in agusta      I have nothing to rite to you at presant so I will close      my pensel is pale      my love to you shal never fale      until Deth   J. H. Dickerson to Mrs. Clary Dickerson

[1]  From Civilwar.com we read, “Sickness and disease were the scourge of both armies and more men died of disease than in battle. Sanitation in the camps was very poor. Germs and the existence of bacteria had not yet been discovered, and medical science was quite primitive by today’s standards. Morning sick call was played in camp and ailing soldiers trudged to the surgeon’s tent where the “sawbones” examined the sick. Quinine or other stimulants were administered, including an elixir called “Blue Mass”. Whiskey was universally given for most ailments as was brandy and other stimulants. Extremely ill soldiers were sent to brigade hospitals where most were further affected by disease. Thousands of men in both armies died without ever firing a shot in battle.”

[2] “yerake [ear ache] so bad that I was dif [deaf]”

[3] The Confederate Regulations required for one daily dress parade either at midmorning or sunset.  Part of the purpose of the dress parade was to be seen by the public.  It  also served as a roll call and inspection.  Music was present at all parades provided by the military band.

[4] George Monroe, is James and Clary’s son and only child together.  He is about 2 years old.

Letter 6

Virginia   Richmond   May the 31   1862

Dier wife      I take this operunity of droping you a few lines to informe you that I am not well at this time      I have seene sights sins Wash [1]  left      We left Ginia [2]  we went down the pertomac [3] and thar goined another arma and the yankes wer thar and on Sunday wee forme a line of batle and tha ded not give [4]     we had some 8 thousand men       tha had 60 thousnad      we lost about 30 kild and wounded and the los on the other side we dont no      wee got 60 prisners and a good meney horses       wee ar in the woods star naked      all of the things that we had burnt up       Sum has close and some has non       I have mi close onley one par of briches I throwed away some of the ones at our camps last night [5]      you wrote to mee about that Wash sed he was not able to do family duty and did not think ye was able to do milatory duty      direct vouleteers to richmond and rite soon       I will come to close by saing I am your afectunate husban until deth       J. H.  Dickerson to Mrs. C. Dickerson

[1] ‘Wash’ may refer to Stephen Washington PROCTOR or William W. PROCTOR.  Proctor’s store was the post office in Monroe County GA for James’ and Clary’s letters.

[2] ‘Ginia’ [Virginia]

[3] Potomac River.  A river 383 miles long extending from the Appalachian Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay.  The river divided the Confederacy from the Union.

[4] Interpreted from the phonetic, the whole sentence reads, ‘We left Virginia, we went down the Potomac and there joined another army and the yankees were there and on Sunday we formed a line of battle and they did not give.’

[5] From a letter written by Matthew Morton to his parents on the exact same day of James’ letter, we learn more about the battle and retreat the 45th regiment  experienced:

‘. . . I find the Regiment in pretty bad condition having lost and destroyed together all their tents Baggage &e in a retreat they had to make last Tuesday also nearly all their cooking utensils.  There is hardly a man in our company who has a change of clothes left, and many of them are sick and have been sent to Richmond . . . I have permission from the Colonel to go to Richmond tomorrow – for the purpose of getting my clothing I was not able to get anything brought with me today     It is not unlikely the Regiment will be in a Battle tomorrow – as heavy and rapid canonading (sic.) is now going on a short distance from us.

The Regiment is now under marching orders with their rashions (sic.) already cooked. . .

I would state that what little I saw of the Carolinas it is last place in the world – and Virginia little if any better from the way things sell – look at it – 80¢ for Eggs per dozen . . . There was a crowd of soldiers traveling along with me who made it a business to ridicule & abuse those who they took to be conscrips . . . ‘

Matthew Morton died 21 July 1862 of exposure.  His brother was with him.


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