The Curtain Closes – What Happened to James & Clary DICKERSON?

Portrait of James H DICKERSON

James H DICKERSON

James probably never considered that his 12 letters written in 1862 would be shared and read by his descendants.  They were not meant for us but we have gleaned so much from his correspondence to his wife.

About 16 days after his injury, Continue reading

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The Last Two Letters of James DICKERSON

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Understanding and forgiveness appear in Letter 11.  The realities of war are described and as ever, James has a keen sensitivity to crops and prices of goods in the area.   He still has no money and is concerned about his family having shoes.

The last letter, number 12 is penned by someone other than James due to his injury.  He is in a Confederate Hospital in Richmond, VA.

Letter 11

Virginia  richmond      June the 20th

Dier wife      I take the plesier of droping you a few lines to informe you that I am well at this time and I hope this will find you all well      I reseved youre leter dated the 11 witch please me vary mutch to her that you was all well and you have become reconsiled about your spyses       I a sorra to think you had that opinion of mee       Wright pritchet died last night and his brother cant carry him home       it cost $40-$50 dolers to barry ethring so ther is no chance for the pore       I int to git my tipe to you for there is no chances        there is one hundred men in this company and about thirty four duty tha ar qurd of them that —- it gives them the brake         tha ar fiting every day in  – ———the ole gineral burnt everything up the tents and everything        we have only what we had on our backs        tell my farther [father] [1] that tome [Tommy] [2] is her and looks as well as I ever seen him       his ridgment is in our brigade       Corne is three dolars a bushel her      sirup is five dolars a galon       are you making aney corne       I reseved youre leter that tha ole mail in one day the 17       Yall rote to mee wether I got pleanty to eat or not       I doo sutch as it is       Bread and meat       wheat bread at that         wee git som beef ons a week       I have got a bunch of wheet      Crops is vary good her       you don’t no how glad I would be to see you all       I doo dreame about you aften times        I think if I doo ever git out of this I will stay at home the balans of my dayes     I don’t hav eny idea that tha war will last mutch longer Continue reading

What Else Happened in 1862?

1862

James DICKERSON’s letters to his wife Clary were written in the year 1862.  Of interest are other events that happened the same year:

  • The first income tax was implemented;  3% of incomes less than $600.
  • Paper money called ‘greenbacks’ were issued to the United States by President Abraham Lincoln.
  • The United States Mint was established by Congress in Denver CO.
  • Bucharest was proclaimed the capitol of Romania.
  • Julia Howe published “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.
  • The U.S. Navy’s first ironclad ship was launched and in the same year their ironclad ship ‘Monitor’ sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C.
  • Congress outlaws polygamy.
  • Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Abraham Lincoln, freeing slaves in the U.S.
  • The Battle of Antietam was fought and was the single most deadly day of the Civil War with 23,110 casualties.
  • 1st pasteuriztion test completed by Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard.
  • The bowling ball was invented.

Unhappy and Upset – Letters 9 and 10 of James DICKERSON

Civil War Balloon 'Intrepid'

In Letter 9, James wants information from Clary to change his situation in the military stating that he ‘can’t live this life’.  His possesions include a blanket, napsack and discarded knife.

In Letter 10 the strain of separation from his wife is manifest.  It would be so interesting to know what Clary said in her letter dated June 4th.  We can only imagine  it expressed displeasure and some distrust after Letter 5 where James wrote about the women he had seen and his desire to go fishing with Clary.  James ends letter 10 rather cold and business like.

The National Park Service website astutely describes the average soldier of the civil war;  ‘They would face diseases they had never known and wounds they had never imagined. And through it all, these common-folk-turned-soldiers would endure homesickness to a degree none of them had ever envisioned.’

Letter 9

Richmond Virginia    June the 10 1862

Dier wife      I take the plesier of droping you a few lines to informe you that I am well at this time and I hope this will find you injoing the blesing      I want you to rite to mee as soon as you git this leter      I want you to rite to mee what ridment Wiley [1] is in Va and all about it for I don’t aime to sta her      I can get a transfer to my brother anewher you can fine out from J. Grant [2] and from Any Brown [3] the life I live      I cant live this life      I have got one blanket and my napsack and the knife that lutie give to Brown the time of the retreat he throde it away and I pick it up and I am a going to fetch it home if I cane      Nothing more at present only I remane youre husban until death

by D.J. Proctor to Mrs. C. Dickerson

J.H. DICKERSON

[1] Wiley is James’ younger brother born 8 Oct 1835.  He enlisted in the 32nd Confederate Infantry Regiment, Company H.

[2] J. Grant is probably J.L. Grant found living in Proctor, Monroe County, GA at the time of the 1860 census.  He was born about 1825, was married and had 5 children.

[3] Any Brown is most likely Andrew J. Brown who enlisted in Company H of the 32nd GA Infantry Regiment on 6 May 1862 just as Wiley DICKERSON.

Letter 10

Virginia Richmond    June the 14 1862

Dier wife      I seat my self to informe you that I am well at this time      I reseved yore leter dated the 4 witch I was sorry to her that you was displeise with the one I sent you [1]     I ment no harme of it      you did not understand it about not being at home when you rote      I had no blank look nor the old man and wher did you git it and william Brown [2] told me that he heard your brother Henry say  that he was going to move you closer to his hous and I rote to you I would be glad to be at home so mee and you could go afishing witch was no harme      I have no spise ther [spies there] and I dont want you to rite to mee about none of youre Dam spise and if cant [d]o so I dont want you to rite at all you can use youre one plesier about it      I think that the war will come to a close      I am as hapy as if were soner      I see yankes every Day tha have berloones [3]      you dont rite whether you ar making any corne or not       So good evening      Nothing more at presant

J. H. DICKERSON

[1] Letter 5 dated May 24

[2] William Brown was from Monroe County GA and enlisted in Jame’s regiment on th 4 Mar 1862

[3] Union army balloons were a common site in the Richmond area.  The ‘Gazelle’ and ‘Intrepid’ were two balloons used at this time.

From ‘Seven Days War Ballooning in the Civil War’ by James Green we learn:

” . . nearly daily balloon ascensions at Yorktown attracted much attention from the Confederates with the balloon being a constant target for their guns. Lowe stated, “the enemy opened upon it with their heavy siege guns or rifled field pieces, until it had attained an altitude to be out of reach, and repeated this fire when the balloon descended, until it was concealed by the woods.”

An 1862 Easter

Happy Easter.  Thoughts and hopes of restoration are hard to resist when learning about our kindred ancestors who’ve moved on, especially the many who suffered and died in war.  I found an Easter sermon written in 1862 at Civilwar.com that sheds light on concerns and challenges of the day.

In addition, I’ve included a couple of videos about Aimee Copeland, a young woman who recently suffered the challenges of amputation.  She is an inspiration as are many others in our own family.

The sermon does not lack for words, thought or content.  Death is likened to sleep.  Just as the body requires sleep and rest for restoration, so does the soul require death to be restored, calling it “tired nature’s sweet restorer . . . ”
screenshot12

“Now, such is the effect of the body’s visit to its grave . . .  all weary and worn . . . They go there with the furrowed brow, the hollowed cheek, the wrinkled skin—they shall wake up in beauty and glory. The old man totters there, leaning on his staff. The palsied comes there, trembling all the way. The halt, the lame, the withered, the blind journey in doleful pilgrimage to the common dormitory. But they shall not rise decrepit, deformed, or diseased, but strong, vigorous, active, glorious, immortal!

Out of the 3 million men who fought in the Civil War on both sides, most of them had a rural, agrarian background like James DICKERSON.  They had a keen understanding of the growing seasons and the importance of seeds with their renewal or germinating power.

“The shriveled seed, so destitute of form and comeliness, shall rise from the dust a beauteous flower. A green blade all fresh and young shall spring up where before there was the dried decayed grain . . . “

The casualties of war included not only loss of life, but amputations and disfigurement as well.   The reference to ‘the holy martyrs’ who suffered similar trials gives way to hope of restoration.  Back then in 1862, most relied on faith in God to make sense of death.  But today we have . . . uh, well. . . let’s see . . . about the same thing.

“Well said the holy martyrs, when their limbs were being torn away—’We cheerfully resign these members to the God who gave them to us.’ Our members are not ours to hold or lose, no torment can rob us of them in reality. For when we wake up in Christ’s likeness it will not be as halt or lame, but full of strength and vigor—more comely than earthly sons of men . . . The winter of the grave shall soon give way to the spring of resurrection and the summer of glory. Blessed is death, since it answers all the ends of medicine to this mortal frame and through the Divine power disrobes us of the leprous rags of flesh, to clothe us with the wedding garment of incorruption!”

A modern story of inspiration and bravery in the face of bodily trials is found in Aimee Copeland, a young University of GA student who suffered a gash to her leg from a river rock when she fell from a faulty home made zip line.  An infection in her leg gave way to a flesh eating necrosis that led to amputations and organ failure.  Not only did she beat the odds and survive but Continue reading

‘We have some hard fiting . . . ‘ Letters 7 and 8 of James DICKERSON

James sounds very low in letter 7.   He’s ill and homesick.  His living conditions are poor and he’s seen casualties of battle, one of them being the death of a friend.  His request is for a momento of hair and the written word from Clary.  Letter 8 appears to be written 3 days after letter 7.  He is in better health but describes the cold, hunger, and anticipation of battle they are living with.  Sickness is amongst the Regiment. He wants to know about home life and remains an ‘affectionate husban.”

Letter 7

Richmond Virginina       June the 5 1862

Dier wife      I take my seet this morning to let you now that I am not well at presant      I not got none leters from you in along time      I think sometimes that you have stop riting      I ly down in a hole of water and get up out a hole of water       wee have some hard fiting everyday      Mose Suten got kiled and great many was wounded      I her that all men that is over thirty five [1] can go home after the 16 of June and if it is so you may look for mee      I have nothing to rite to you of importans      I want you to make mee a brade of your hair and send it to mee      I want you to rite to mee      I have rote ten or twelve leters and reseced foure      tha balans gits leters evry week      I will come to a close saing I am your beloved husband until Deth       J. H. Dickerson to Mrs. C. Dickerson.

[1] James is age 40.

Letter 8

Richmond Virginia the 8   1862

Dier wife       I take this opertunity of droping you a few lines to informe you that I am well at presant and hopeing these few lines may fine you all well       I want to her from you all       any  how I am her in the woods with one blanket and napsack and hot [not] half enof to eat        we are looking evry minet for a fight       we can see plenty of yanks one the other side of the river       we are sheling each other every day       Dick Bias receve a leter from his wife that stated tha had bin a fight in youre settement       I want you to rite to mee if you plese that all git leter but mee      I would be glad to her from you       now is the time to rite       this makes twelve leters I have rote to you      we have a great deal of sickness       John Holwer left us at ginee and i dont no where he is tha loued he would die [1]       all the sickness is from the mesels [2]       I dont want to stay this part of the world      it is cold and too wet       it was cold last night       I want you to rite to mee wether your raking my wheet or not and how youre comin and how you came on rasing chickines and what your hogs is a doing      Jo gilping [3] is home sick and William B too and I am sorter soo my love is all I will to you       the reson I didant pay the potea tha [they] tole [told]  me that tha would go beter without       you must not think hard of it      escuse my hand rite for i had to rite it one my napsack by a fire so I will close       I shal not rite until I git a leter from you       nothing more at presant onley I remane youre afectionate husban until Deth   J. H. Dickerson to Mrs. C. Dickerson

[1] ‘tha loued he would die’ is probably ‘They [be]’lieved he would die’.

[2] A confederate soldier had a 1 in 8 chance of dying in battle and a 1 in 5 chance of dying of disease according to Eric Either (Dec 2003 Civil War Times).  Measles was only a part of the disease epidemic.  Dysentery was number 1 with typhoid, pneumonia, tuberculosis and malaria contributing.  It’s hard to imagine now,  but the folk of the day did not understand that contaminated water and poor sanitation were the major facilitators of so much disease.

[3] ‘Jo Gilping’ is Joseph M.Gilpin married to James’ sister Elizabeth Dickerson Gilpin.  His death on Sept 7th of that same year was communicated to his wife by a letter from W. J. Proctor, 1st SGT in company D.  He writes,

“I embrace the present opportunity to communicate to you the painful intellegiance of the death of your husband.  He died this morning about sunrise at the field hospital about one mile from the company.  He had been complainine for a day or two.  Yesterday mornin he seemed to be quite sick and only lived until this morning.  I am informed that he died from inflamation of the bowels (gun shot). . . I deem it the duty of some member of this company to tell you of the sad fact and take the task upon myself.  I’m not very well aquainted with you but am well acquainted with your father . . . “

5 Fashion Tips from 1862

Even though no picture of Clary DICKERSON has surfaced yet, we can imagine a little bit about how she looked.

Five fashion tips that were popular during her day:

1. Part your hair in the middle.

The popular hair style of the day was to part the hair in the middle with the long tresses rolled and/or  braided into a low bun at the nape of the neck.  In the evening, the pieces of hair could be curled and hung in ringlets.

2. Wear a hoop.

The modern ones made of steel or brass are best but if you can’t get your hands on one of these, your old whalebone or rattan hoop will do.

3. Purple is IN!

The first colorfast synthetic purple dye had just been developed.  Awesome.

4. Full Skirts are Back

Clary might have worn clothes similar to these Civil War re-enactors in the following video:

5. Sheer Elegance

For those warm summer evenings, sheer cotton organdy is the way to go.  You don’t want to miss the 1862 Fashion Show by Robin Stokes.  Live models wear remakes of dresses from the ‘Godeys Lady’s Book’, a catalog of dresses.  It’s fun.  Click here to see it:  1862 FASHION SHOW.

1862 Godey's  Dresses

Next post?  Watch for 2 more letters to Clary from her husband James. He likes her hair . . .

“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   Continue reading

”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   Continue reading

Waiting for Battle – Letters 1 and 2 of James DICKERSON

Rappahannock River and view of Fredericksburg VA 1862 photo by Timothy O'Sullivan

Rappahannock River and View of Fredericksburg VA 1862 photo by O’Sullivan

James H. DICKERSON served the C.S.A. (Confederate States of America) as a private for 6 months from March 4th to August 12 in 1862. Twelve letters written by him to his second wife Clary were donated to the United States Military Academy Library at West Point in 1983 by Ethel Dickerson McCOY.

We have not viewed any handwritten images, only transcriptions of the letters as written, with no grammatical corrections.  It may take a couple of readings to understand what is being communicated because of the spelling.  Just think phonetic or text speak and you should be able to figure it out.

My research notes are indicated by [1], [2] etc. and are not part of the original letter.  If you have trouble understanding the content or words, please contact me and we’ll try to figure it out together.

Letter Number 1

No date but apparently mailed sometime in April 1862

Golesburror     North Caroliner [1] 45 G. Ridgment [2]

Dear Wife      I drop you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along      I am not well at this time though I am up and about.   Continue reading