THE WAR (Nov.1861-Feb.1862)
At about the time William and Erasmus left for Texas, Confederate troops fired on the Federal installation at Fort Sumpter and the Civil War began (April 9, 1861). By the time William returned from Texas, the winds of war had intensified and it became clear that any plans to move to Texas would have to be postponed. In October 1861, William and Mary's fifth child (my grandfather) was born. By November, William had become a Captain in the Confederate army and was stationed in Morristown, Tennessee. Over the next four months, William and Mary corresponded frequently. Their letters speak for themselves in describing the tragedy that was upon them. William's last letter was written February 21, 1862. Within a few days he was stricken with typhoid and died on March 15, 1862.
Nov. 28, 1861
I take the opportunity of addressing you from this point. We are all well. Will consume our rations very easy. We were ordered to this point with instructions to guard some pork packing establishments. We or some other troops will have to stay here all winter. We are 40 miles from Knoxville. The road to Cumberland intersects the Va. r.r. here. There is always some Government property here which we have to Guard.
This is a good place to get supplies. There will be thousands upon thousands of hogs slaughtered here and we will have the back ribs and spare bones to pick. We will do well but how does Mary do? I am anxious to hear from you. I want to learn that those dark clouds that seemed to over hang you before my departure are dispelled. I assure you that you need not be uneasy about me. If you can only get along yourself with the children all will be well. I am sure that camp life will suit me in point of healthfulness. Jo's throat has hurt him a little. I hope he may be able to stand the campaign. We could scarcely get along without him. Will be better pleased when I get fixed to live and eat to ourselves. But Mr. Moore is wanting to go to the office and will not wait. Tell Ras. to be certain to press me a Darkie and meet at this place provided we are not ordered away before he gets away.
Love to all and especially to
yourself & children
Your loving husband
December 1, 1861
My dear husband,
Last night's mail brought me the expected letter but from a different point from what I expected. I am sorry you have been moved so soon. I fear you will be pulled from "post to pillar" so you will not have a chance at the ordinary comforts of camp life, if they may be call(ed) comforts. You are having very bad weather but we can't expect better at this season. The baby is awake and I must quit for a while.
We are getting along as well as we could expect now. My jaw rose and run considerably - almost well now. Mr. Derham came and cut up what wood we had; but Mr. Whittenburg has not any more ready to haul. Jasper Laurey brought us a load of corn yesturday; but the mountain hogs have gone back. I have not been able to get any more beef or anything else of the kind and we have nothing to eat but bread and frosted potatoes. Flin will go to the mountain Tuesday and bring down the potatoes and other things if he can find them. I told Mr. Derham to get Perry Carder to thaw him the shoots and bring them all down. Thomas Hall came in yesterday and lifted his note and payed a small account found on the books amounting in all to about $10.00. When you come down I want you to give me a little insight in to the books; for Cousin Sam makes such a blow about having so many women and so many men's families and so many men's business on his hands. I do not want to have to trouble him much. He has done nothing for us yet but puff around after corn and come in and eat dinner with us every day except two since you left.
Every thing is quiet, and since the Lincoln insurrection, the patrolls have given loose ranes to the darkies, as they have taken things for they are racing around at a greater rate than they have been for a long time. I hope you will be (home for) Christmas for I shall not like to stay unprotected as we are then unless they are checked. O, you have no idea how desolate I feel all these long - long nights without you. How I long for that strong arm and that faithful bosom on which I have so often rested in security. Now I feel that I am the stay and dependance. If any emergency should come all would look to me. This will be a long-long year to me. True we have spent seven seemingly short years together. This will seem as long as they all have seemed to me. I know you did not leave us because you did not love your home and those at it. I know it was a cross to you: I will for your sake try to do the best I can God helping me; but O it looks dark - so dark any way I consider it. And almost insupportable - when I think of the probability of your never returning. Sometimes I wish we were all in heaven now. Then we would be free from all these trials. The children are always talking about you. Dora says many times in a day "poor pa - poor pa". I do not believe the clothes will be done by the time appointed to start with them. Hayne has not done his duty cutting great may have come and sent for work and had to go without it because it was not cut. If you need anything else from home be sure to let me know so I can send it to you. I will do any thing in my power for your comfort. I hope you will be punctual in writing to your own
Ras. can tell you the rest of the news. I will have much to tell you when you come and many things to ask you about.
Major Bridgman is here and has been for several days - - he has never panic(?) camps any since Mr. Rogers was here.
Can you come Christmas? Let us know and I will try to get a turkey or a possum or something else for you. I had a letter from James Carnes last week. They had heard a startling account of our troubles and you may guess to what a pitch it wrought them. Jim said he would come dead or alive if needed and he wanted to know immediately. But I must quit for I never get done writing to you.
Morristown Dec. 4, 1861
I feel much relieved having just finished reading you letter written 1st inst. I was beginning to feel anxious about you. I have dreamed of you almost every night and although we hate to acknowledge that we believe in dreams yet we cannot help being influenced by them. Although there was nothing in my dreams calculated to make me uneasy about you, but contrarywise yet having expected a letter sooner I was beginning to feel impatient.
I have full condidence in your ability to take care of yourself and our children, but of course I cannot feel indifferent about you. I know you will often meet with difficulties that you would not if I was there. You must be prepared for it. I want you to determine to take things easy. Don't let trifiling circumstances make you unhappy. While I think of it, you might have one of those hogs in the pen killed. You will have enough meat to do you if you are not spunged upon too much. I know with the blessings of God you can get along. As for myself I don't think you need have any uneasiness. I have been uniformly well. I have stayed in camp and took the same fare with the boys, and have not even had a bad cold which has been very common among the soldiers. Jo has been affected with cold but is getting better. Will seems to be standing it finely. We have had a very heavy labor thrown upon us since we came up here. There is two pork packing establishments here which we have to guard.
There has been great excitement in this part of the state owing to some Tory encampments, one in Cocke county about 12 miles from here, another in Hancock county. Gen.Carroll started from this point last night about 8 o'clock P.M. 1000 soldiers with one piece of artillery. TheTories are making a stand 12 miles from here in the river hills of Chucky river. They fired into a company of cavalry soldiers last sunday and killed the capt. and one of his men and wounded two others. Several other southern men have been shot since. We hear cannon firing in the direction of the Tory encampment and from what I can learn they will fare worse if anything than the followers of Cliff. If they find them they will make way with them. Capt. Gorman whom they killed is said to be an excellent man and every body is outraged at the deed. There are forces sent from Greeneville and from N.C. so as to surround them. It is thought that Brownlow is among them. We will hear soon what will be done with them. We were not honored with taking a part because we were poorly armed and not drilled. Many of my boys begged to get to go, but were not permitted as there was more than a sufficient number without us.
We are now drilling regularly. We have no drill master and therefore have to look to the books. I think most of my company will be very easy to teach the drill to. We are very pleasantly situated here and surrounded by very kind and loyal citizens. Jo Goodbar is here sick. His mother and sister, Tiny Goodbar, are here. Jo seems very loved. He is the leanest man I ever saw. I don't see how he can live. His mother is very low spirited. Jo is perfectly childish. He almost went into spasms when I went to see him. He spoke about you. Said he wished he could see you and get a bait of honey. You remember he was at our house when we sold bees. I am sorrow for them. Jo has been here sick 4 months. He was Major in Savages' regiment and was on his way to Va. and fell sick here. It is bad to be sick at home but to be from home is of course worse. I have been so busy I could not call and see them often.
With regard to my visiting you at Christmas I will say this - that unless something comes up more than I now know of I will. I had thought of going home at that time before you suggested it. I think I will be with you. I (will) write to you again before the time - - that you can send me a horse to Athens . I will close now. God bless you.
Dec. 15, 1861
My dear husband,
It seems scarcely worth while for me to write to you tonight asErasmus left this morning, but I feel that it will be a relief to my feeling of loneliness. Your letter almost gave to me the "blues". We were making large calculations for Christmas enjoyments; but if you do not come mine will all fall to the ground. I still hope father will come but no one can fill the void in our house that your absence makes. I feel a restless indescribable - - - I do not know what to call it. Perhaps you have felt it in my absence. This does not signify that my love for my father and brothers has in the least abated; "I do not love them any less; but you more". The children are looking forward to your return with the expectation of much pleasure. I still hope you may get off.
I do not much like to stay here during the Christmas holidays without some protection. I know your business is requiring some attention. I will not make any large engagement for wood till you come as I think perhaps you can do better than I can. I have so much running round and looking after to do I do not get much done. I have not suceeded in having the hogs brought down. I have Rush employed to do it now. He and Erasmus killed one of the hogs. Mrs. Pankey's waggon was going to Fosters and I got Steve to bring our flour - - he brought it for .30. Our oats is almost all gone. Some one is taking them nightly. We mark them so that we know; they are moved and then we could miss them any how. I will try to have the stable fixed so as to be more secure. Call Pankey comes sometimes two or three times a week and now he has a horse here. I am afraid to make any of them mad as we are so much alone. Cal Norwood said he would look after our premises but he is always gone.
We have no water in the sistern and have to carry for the hogs and ash hopper, too. I have put all my cloth out to be woven; but can't get any money changed to pay for any thing. It takes a great deal of money to get along the way we are going now. I cannot get any one to do any good cutting wood and it keeps me always on the road. I want you to bring me some small change if you come. Also 1/2 a pound of soda as we are nearly out. I have sent by Cal Norwood for some; but it will not be here for some time. I must have four dozen of six hundred thread if I can get it for my lincy and there is none here. Can you bring me some from Washington? I heard there was some there. It is late now and I sat up till 12 o'clock last night sewing - - it is all the chance I have to get any work done. The children want me to tell you they will have plenty of milk now as Old Cherry is giving milk. I wish you could eat with us. You should have as much milk and mush as you could eat. Do you ever get any milk? Or have you learned to drink coffy.
We will live well when we get to making butter again. Our irish potatoes are a little injured by the frost, but eat very well. Erasmus will tell you all the news and it is not worth while for me to write any more now. Give my love to Jo. and Will and tell them to write. You do not write the particulars as I would like to have them. I (have) hopes of seeing you soon. I am
Your affectionate wife
I have some things ready for you, but have had no chance to send your trunk. I knew nothing of the hacks going over to the river till it was started and they could not wait for me to get your things ready. I know you need it. Our boy is one of the cross ones - -almost up to Lu, but grows very well, I think. He sleeps well after I go to bed but gets up when I do most of the time. You have not sent me any news but you have been away from ____ . I do not hear much news now. O, do be shure to come Christmas. I can't give it up if I can help it. I want the boys to come when they can. I wish I could go and see you.
Jan. 7, 1862
My dear husband,
It is now late to begin to write and I will only send you a few lines this time. First we all have dreadful colds now. The warm damp weather last week was very unfavorable to us. I am so hoarse I can scarcely speak above a whisper and the children are all barking and sneezing by turns. Jo has been taking some medicine to act on his liver and is better than he was.
Erasmus started to Nashville Sunday. Will is doing nothing, as usual. We had a wedding in our town Sunday evening and a Shivarie (I don't know how to spell it) last night. Bob Thompson and Miss Lillyann Panter were married. Uncle Greeley went home last Saturday. Cousin Sam has bought him a mountain place on Walden's Ridge about six miles from here and he will move over in a month or two. I was in hopes I would get a letter from you to day; but was disappointed. I would have written to you by last mail but John Greer was here. He was on his way back from James'. He expects to move over in a month from now.
I am anxious for father to come and do something with these boys for they are doing nothing for themselves or any one else. I felt almost like taking the "horrors" after you left. They tease the children so much and make Nat. a great deal harder to manage. I long for the time when you can come home and we can get our family to ourselves again. I hope I am not selfish in my feelings, but I could govern the children so much better. Sometimes I act to studying about the probabilities of your not returning and it almost drives me mad. How could I live without you now? I see no way for me to ever be happy again in this life. I love to think there is a home for us, if we do right, where there will never be any more separation. Let us constantly pray that we and all our children may inherit that home. That is the home I crave for my children. Let what else come. O that they may be saved at last. I hope to hear from you soon in haste.
Your loving wife
Camp Key Jan 12, 1862
As this is a day of rest (Sunday) I am permitted to think of Home. I have wanted to write to you frequently last week but when I returned to camp I found a majority of my company sick. I have been unusually busy. We have a drill master and I have been very anxious to attend drill. The officers drill from 8 A.M. to 11 and company drills from 1:30 to 4 P.M. making 5 hours each day. We have not more than a dozen privates at drill. The rest (except for (those) that stand guard) are unable for duty. We are furloughing all who are able to get home and get certificates from the surgeon that they can go home with safety. There are but about two cases in our company except measels. Monroe Upchurch has been quite sick but is getting about well. D.W. Hale is the only one now that I think is dangerous. He is bad got fever. We sent him to day to the General Hospital (the deaf and dumb assylum).
Lieut. Hashew has just returned from home but brought no news from home. I am anxious to hear from Jo. I suppose he must be sick or he would have been back before now. He had better get a certificate from Dr. Funily and have his furlough extended if he is unable to return soon.
I am getting along very well now in regard to my eating. Ivy is a pretty good cook. No one is staying in my tent with me. I have had a chimney built to my tent which adds to the comforts of camp life more than anything that I have tried. I am as comfortable as I would desire. If I knew that you were getting along all right at home I could enjoy myself very well. I have got entirely well of my cold and cough. I am of the belief that I can stand it through the winter since I have tried a chimney to my tent. I had some doubts before. You can't tell how much advantage it is. I hope you have written to me before now. I want to hear from home very much. Has father visited you? I want to hear from him. Will he remain at Pikeville any length of time? Mr. Rogers may return home soon to remain all winter, say nothing about this. How are the hogs doing? The weather has been favorable except for watering them? How does your gutters operate?
We have not drawn money yet. If we knew the cost of those clothes made at Pikeville we would get money soon. We have had our company inspected and all who were present will get their money as soon as we can make out the pay-bill. I wish Jo had been here so he could have drawn his pay.
I think there is a probability of our regiment leaving here soon. Troops are needed in Western Va. and the troops that are stationed on the railroad at the bridges drilled and armed will be ordered to Western Va. and we will take their places. If we can go to Calhoun I shall not care. Many of our regiment are anxious to leave here. They think the place has something to do with their sickness. I have no idea it does. There is no sickness scarcely except measels. When they get well I think we will have good health. The companies that first came have got over the worst and now they are most all ready and able for duty.
I have not got my trunk yet. I understand that the Johnsons have arrived and they have probably got it. Now please write to me as I feel more anxious than usual to hear from you. What has been done with the Spears notes? How much more have you collected since I left? What about your negro trade? I want to know where your father is as soon as you learn as I want to write to him. I suppose I have written enough for this time. I will try to write again soon. I know you have a bad chance to write but you must try to write as often as you can as it affords me so much pleasure or rather relieves me of anxiety.
I am your loving husband
Camp Key Jan. 15, 1862.
I have just received you letter of Jan. 8th. I saw it advertised in this mornings Register. It was directed to "Capt. W.J. Hill". You should add Gillespies Reg. Then it will be brought to camp to me. I was very glad it get your letter although it had been written just a week ago. I wish you had a copy of the letter. I want to call your attention to one thought expressed. I will quote as you may have forgotten. "Sometimes I get to studying about the probabilities of your never returning and it almost drives me mad. How could I live without you now? I see no way for me to ever be happy again in this life".
Now dear wife, I rejoice that I have your confidence, and pray that I may be permitted to labor for your enjoyment. But is there not a danger of your putting your trust in the wrong one? Only think what a poor weak mortal I am! Then contemplate the greatness and power of Him who rules! Remember that it is only as He blesses us that I can add to your enjoyment. O can we not trust Him when He has been so good to us? I join you in the following sentiment "I love to think there is a home for us, if we do right where there will never be any more separation". I am glad to believe that you pray for this end. It matters but little, really, how we get along in this life if we but attain this such as the apostle expresses it. "For our light affliction which is for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory". Then let us reverently submit to whatever is His will. I believe He will bless us - -Bless us in this life if we look to him aright and act right. May He help us to live in his favor.
I suppose you are not deprived of more pleasure by my absence than I am. I often think that I enjoy the pleasures of home more than anyone else. I think too that I have more to make home pleasant than most men. I feel that with the blessings of Heaven you will do well. I am doing as well as could be expected under the circumstances. I am enjoying good health and although the weather for the last 3 days has been very bad yet I have been comfortable. Will cuts my wood and I keep a good fire, sleep warm, and my eating is as good as can be expected in camp.
I dined with Lieut. Ewing to-day. He had just come from home and brought a baked turkey - - pies, cake & etc. - - a nice dinner. All the officers of the Regiment were present. If you could I would ask you to have a dinner prepared so that I could return the compliment. But there is no conveyance!
I think we will leave this place within a week from this time. I do not know where we will go but think we will go to Cleveland. There is great dissatisfaction in camp about this place. The water is bad and so many are sick with measels which makes it taste bad if it ever was good that it has almost created a panic. It is a muddy place now but I suppose almost any other place would be under the same circumstances.
I suppose half of my company are absent on sick furlough. Thirteen started down the river on the boat yesterday. I am afraid that some of them will relapse. The doctors thought they ought to go home. The hospital would not hold all of the sick and many would have to stay in their tents which would be attended with danger. I hope they may all get home safe.
Write to me as often as convenient.
Your affectionate husband
Jan 19, 1862
My beloved husband,
This lonely Sunday night I will spend in writing. All the children are asleep but Eddie. He sits up latest and rises earliest. I have been nursing nearly all day. The baby is nearly as cross as ever. I have read a little with him in my arms and have thought of you a great deal. I know you would like to be here to night. Three months of your time has nearly drawn out its weary length; leaving nine long ones to come ere you can again return to us to go no more, as I hope. We certainly will have peace before then. At least I hope so.
Part of last week we have had some disturbance in our town. I never wanted you at home more in my life. Flin moved to town last friday - - friday night. The boys gave the most uncouth "Shivaree" I ever heard. It was realy annoying. They went round and round town several times always stopping and increasing their energies at Flins. They bursted open his door - - he was holding it - - this enraged him and he came out to drive them off. They caught him, held him and wrung their bells and blowed their horns all around his head and in his wife's face. He was running and swearing in a most frightful manner. I was out in the yard with Will and Nat listening. I never heard or saw such outrageous proceedings. I felt like going and helping Flin. When they left there they came running up this way. Sam Frazier poked his bell over the fence and wrung it in my face, then they opened the gate and black and white marched round the house waking and alarming the children. If I had been a man I would have fought, but they would not have come here if you had been here. This is what made me so mad. Panters and such low mugginses with a parcil of nigers to come and insult defenseless women, and cause such a general fuss in our usualy quiet village is too much. Is there no way to make them quit it? They have "run the thing into the ground' since Bob Thompson was married, and the way they are going will come in and blow and wring over our beds soon. I wish you not to fail to give me some advise on the subject for I can't put up with it any longer. I addressed a note to Mr. Frazier telling him I wanted him to take some measures to keep his sons and negroes out of my yard with their instruments of noise - - that I hoped parental authority and publick opinion would have sufficient bearing on this affair to put it down. The citizens generaly are disgusted and provoked. Flin says he will indict them; but he can get no one to do it for him. I guess I wish they could be made to repent of it. They did it with such an air. I understand they have another one in contemplation. But I will write no more about that.
Thos. Brown has never done anything more about those notes. I have never seen Major Terry since you left. The cholera has made wild havoc among the hogs around here, but none of ours have as yet had it. Some boys said two of Mr. Roger's pigs had it but that was friday and they still continue to come up and eat. They all look very bad, but I do not believe they have cholera. I have fed them nearly a half a keg of tar, as it is said to be the best preventative. I give all of them some every day. I have the Sow with the young pigs in the shed between Mr. Rogers' stable and crib and will not let her out to prevent her having an oportunity of taking it. I do the best I can in these things. If I err it is through ignorance.
The children are all well and learning some. Ida is complaining of rheumatism again this winter. If I had time to devote to the children they would learn fast now.
I have been thinking considerably of the admonition you gave me in your letter I received last night in regard to any affection for you. I acknowledge I fear I do sometimes think more of the creature than the Creator. This is true in reference both to you and the children. I try to guard against it for I know that the Lord sometimes afflicts us by taking the dearest objects in life from us and I believe He does this to admonish us that where our treasure is there our hearts should be also. It seems to me that an affliction of this kind would almost be greater than I could bear but the Lord would temper the wind to the sharn lumb. I pray that I may not be thus afflicted. We have been so happy in the past, we shurely have been blessed, and we will continue to be if we look to the right source. If we do have idols they are each other and our children. It was no Eden or Utopia in which we placed ourselves. We have never talked of vine trellised cottages or of bliss unalloyed. Yet we have always had a bright and happy future, the star of which was love: and when this shines steadily though there are storms beneath and clouds above, it is not all darkness. If a mysterious Providence has in store for our chastening any bitter cup, I pray that he may prepare us and enable us to say "Whame the Lord loveth he chasteneth" and "scourgeth every ean whame he receiveth." I could chose affliction in this life for me and my family if it is the only road to a purer abode where we may ever live together. Let us make it the great object of our life to prepare ourselves and our children for eternity. I know you pray for us often. Be punctual in writing to your
Camp Key Jan. 21, 1862
As I have nothing especially pressing I will write to you to-night. You seemed to think we would not remain here long when you wrote to me last, and I thought on hearing of our defeat at fishing Creek we would likely be sent off. But the excitement is dying out here, and I hear nothing of our being ordered away. Since I wrote last my company have received better arms. We have the Mississippi rifle but without bayonet. I think they are fine shooting guns and if we had bayonets, in case a charge should be made on us we could defend ourselves and not have to run.
I think it is the purpose of our commanders to adopt a rigid system of drilling. There seems to be a disposition among the informed to attribute our defeat at fishing creek to a want of being drilled. My boys have all been sick so that we have not drilled as much as we would have otherwise done. But they are coming back occasionally. We report 30 privates able for duty. Jo. Haskew is sick with the fever. He went to his relatives who live near Lenoirs about 2 weeks ago and we never heard from him till today. He is thought to be better but very low. I suppose his family knows of it before now. The health of the regiment is improving fast.
I heard that Mr. Rogers had arrived home but was sick. I hope he is only fatigued. I learned also that he met with the misfortune of losing horses and muls & wagon. I hope to get a letter from some of you giving me the news from Sequatchie. I want to know the effect the news of the battle at Somerset will have on those tories around there. I don't think they can be induced to make any demonstrations. But if they do there is still force here to put them through. And if the army at Somerset should come across the mountain it will be ours. But they will not attempt to cross.
Are you becoming reconciled to remain at Pikeville? I want to hear from you again. I know you have a bad chance to write but I think you will be willing to write occasionally. I am enjoying good health and am getting along as well I could desire under the circumstances. The worst is the itch. I have commenced taking sulphur to-day and I intend to stop it if there is any chance. Jo is still scratching. I don't see that he is much better. He thinks his healment persisted in will certainly cure it. I am going to try it by using sulphurs inwardly and then annoint with curee mixed with sulphur and be using soap and water freely. Have you or the children taken the itch yet? Jo said you spoke of giving the children sulphur. It would be a good thing. I should hate for them to have it very much.
You will perceive that I did not have much to write to you but I thought you would be anxious to hear whether we were ordered from this place. I feel much more inclined to go into active service since we are armed. Most of our regiment are armed. I will close.
Your loving husband
W. J. Hill
Jan. 22, 1862
My beloved husband,
You perhaps will think I am writing very frequently. I scarcely know where to think you will be when this note reaches you; for I have no doubt that the defeat of our troops at Mill Springs will cause many changes and you may be moved to some other point. I am sorry you are not better armed for I fear you would stand a poor chance if you were to be attacked. We have direct news from the scene of conflict. Several of the citizens were there. They began to come in this morning. To-night Col. Norwood and Peter came in. Mr. Rogers lost his horse and was retreating on foot. They past him beyond chambecella very much fatigued. He said he would not be surprised if they had him a prisoner. Several were in the same condition. I feel very bad to-night. This defeat and loss will have such a bad influence on our troops. I fear the panic will spread. And then I know you are under the command of these same drunken Generals who are to blame for this affair.Critenden and Carrol too should be "Cashiered" or disposed of in some way. Is there no way for you to have them disposed of? If there is do try to avail yourselves of it. I know your main dependance is and ought to be in a higher power than any human general; but still caution is necessary.
O, when will this all have an end! Shall we ever be quiet at home again? I tremble to ask the last question. But all will work right if we trust in our Heavenly father. I fear this is a great fault in our Southern people - - they trust too much in themselves and not enough to a higher power. The war I fear will not end till the South is humbled as Nineva was. They ought to be clothed in sackcloth and ashes and engaged in fasting and prayer. Then they could not have so much time for speculation and fortune making.
Father wants to see you and is talking of going up to Knoxville but as he thinks it uncertain about find(ing) you there he will not go now. He wants us all to move out to Spencer or over to Rocky River so that we can be safe from the Linconites if they come in here. He and Will can go in withCampbell bartering. Campbell is making money at it, and as father is out of employment he thinks this the best thing he can do. He wants us all to be together. Some think the Yankees will come right in on us now as the force is scatered everywhere - - every man for himself and getting home.
I hope you will not be taken into active service till you are better armed and drilled. It is now late and all are gone to bed but me. I hope you will not get off so we cannot hear from you often. This would be intolerable. I am uneasy about Jo as he has been using Sulphur and may be injured by cold. Mr. Moore will give you the general news. It is not worthwhile to think of your coming home soon I suppose now. Write soon and say what you think of our move. Father told me to mention it. If there is any danger of the north coming in here I want out; if not I do not want to go. Give my love to Jo and tell him to write. May God bless and spare you to us is the prayer of your loving wife.
Camp Key Jan. 26, 1862
I will take time to write you a few lines. I wrote to your father a few days since but there were some things in your letter that I have been thinking about since and will write to you what I think about them.
You want to know what about moving out of the valley. I feel confident that you are in no danger there. The late defeat at fishing creek will not hurt us much I hope. I mean it will have the effect to make the government officers look into the capabilities of our commanders in this division and perhaps in others to remove all the drunkards. I have no doubt but you hear news from the direction of that army as soon as I do. I heard but I do not know whether true or not, that Gen. Floyd was going up Cumberland river with reinforcements, that Gen. Hardee was coming behind the Yankee army and thatCritenden had been ordered back to Beach Grove. A number of the boys who were in the fight are here at Knoxville now. They are collecting them and sending them to Nashville and then up the river to Carthage so that they can again join their companies. They are worn out having walked all the way from the battlefield.
But I have diverged - - you know I have thought that you are better fixed where you are than you would be elsewhere. Of course if the country should be invaded you would have to do the best you could, but would you (find) a place near where you would be safer than at Pikeville. I don't think there is any danger of their trying to cross Cumberland mountain soon. They could not if they wanted to. But I feel satisfied that before this reaches you, you will be satisfied that you are in no danger and you say you do not want to move if there is no danger.
I think you had better study to get up as much of our effects in as permanent condition as possible. I would like very much for father to stay with you and assist you. I don't think it would do for you and your father's family andCampbell's to try to live to gether. I know you would soon wish you were alone. It is unnatural. I think, from observation, that families are happiest to themselves, but circumstances make exceptions. I know you are anxious to stay with your father while I am absent but it will not do for your family and Campbell's to try to live to gether. He nor you would be satisfied long. I don't want you to understand that I have more objections to Campbell's family than others of the same size. I would not be willing for you to try to live with a family precisely such as ours is. The objection is general and not particular. You understand me for we have often talked about these things. I know you want to do the best you can for yourself and our children. We are so distant and circumstances are changing so fast that you will have to do as you think best under the circumstances.
I hope you are doing well as you are and will not allow questions of difficult solution to disturb you. You must be satisfied to do pretty well. Have as little care outside of your family as you can. We are troubled more about difficulties that are imaginary than those that are real. Franklin said "Happiness is happiness whether real or imaginary" and I suppose the same is true of trouble. I hope you may get along pleasantly. I know you are naturally bouyant and happily disposed.
Lieut. Moore told me that father talked of coming to Knoxville but was afraid we would be ordered away. I do not think he need have any fears of that now. I would be glad (if) he would (come). I want to talk with him about many things. It would be pleasant for him to visit his old friends at Knoxville any how. And he wants to see Jo. Can't you persuade him to come? Furloughs are stoped and I know not when I could come and see him.
I feel anxious to talk with him particularly about our business. I mean our mony matters. There many things I want to say that I can't think to write about. I hope he may conclude to come up soon. If not I want him to write . Jo is very well and the boys that are here are doing well. I mean the sickness. Several have been very sick but we have none now that are thought dangerous. I (am) making my letter longer than expected to when I commenced. Write when you can and do the best you can till I come home.
Camp Key Feb. 2, 1862
This is sunday evening and I will take a portion to write to you as it is raining and I am confined to my tent and nothing especially to engage my attention. I have nothing especially that I want to write to you but it will perhaps be some satisfaction to you if I only were to write that Jo. and I are well. This is the best news I have to write to you. I will send also some stamps and then you can write to me often. I am glad to learn that you will have more time since (you) can use a sewing machine.
I have also to inform you that I bought you a rocking chair that will be shiped to Bell's landing the first time a boat comes up to Knoxville. I thought you could get it hauled over from there as goods are shiped there entirely at this season of the year. I expect it will be difficult to get it but if it never arrives it will only be $10.00 lost. It is a new chair walnut low. I thought it would suit you. It is what he said was called a serving chair. I wish you had it now. I don't know whether I ought to have bought it as the arrangement is for us to move somewhere when the war is over. But this is your Christmas present that I promised, and I know it is uncertain what we may do. It is worth what it cost any how. If it gets home uninjured it will give you some comfort and that will soon be worth ten dollars to me. It may be some time before a boat comes. I will let you know.
I had the satisfaction of seeing Gen.Beauregard to day at 1 o'clock. He is en route to Columbus to take command of the army on the Mississippi. There was a vast assemblage of people at the depot to witness his arrival. I wish you could have seen the excited multitudes. I think not a few crinolines suffered in the pressure to see him. It was some time before he could get off the cars. Finally he was conducted by Hon. L.C. Haynes to a platform where all could see him. After the crowd became quiet, Haynes introduced him by a few very stirring remarks. Gen. B. replied, modestly, that he felt grateful for the unexpected compliment paid him by the demonstration for him - - that he was sensible of the fact that it was not so much on account of his personal merit as the cause he represented that called forth its expression. That as Col. Haynes had said he had the honor of firing the first gun in this revolution - - he gave himself to the cause - - he hoped to fire the last gun in the revolution. Gen. B. is a small man. Reminds me of John Eich-bowen. Just such temperament - - a little larger - - hair now gray - - has more hair than Bro. E. and has been darker. Gen. B. seemed rather pleasingly affected by the unexpected demonstration. He was lighted up with a smile but when he had spoken a few words he became serious and looked stern and unaffected. He alluded to the fact of having left his home for a few days but had not returned yet, now more than 12 months and did not expect to look homeward till he was done with these Yankees (pointing north). I hope he may meet with as good success as he has in Virginia.
But I have written enough. Let me hear from you when convenient. Love to all and kisses to the children.
Camp Key Feb. 6, 1862
I rec'd yours & Mr. Rogers letter to-night and will answer them to-night by writing you and him jointly & severally. First I will inform you that your rocking chair was shiped per Steamer Tenn. 2 days since. When a wagon goes to Bell's landing send for it and try to get them to be careful and not injure it. You speak of the pigs not doing well. Do they have water regularly and enough? Let Mr. Rogers do with them what he thinks best under the circumstances. I am afraid, if they are at all next fall they will have eaten their heads off. I think corn will be high but it is a small matter any way.
Mr. Rogers wrote that he had collected the Plumlee judgment. One half that money is going to Mr. Frazier. We got it for defending Rody Lewis. If Mr. Frazier is owing us on acct. for last year cr. him with 1/2 the amt. and let you have the rest and I will charge it to Mrs. Neill. Mr. Frazier ought to be told about it. Mr. Rogers wrote about a cr. on the Amos Simmons debt of $12. He halled the iner. from Rody's and then I think there was a credit filling w buggy wheel for cousin Sam which amt he ought to pay. See him. I don't know what advice to give Mr. Rogers about our business except close it up as much as possible. I had some bills struck which no doubt has reached you before now. I wrote to father on the subject of getting to close up our business. I think it ought to be done and don't know any one else that could do it better. Will not the Skillern boys pay the ballance of that acct? I think they have wheat. They certainly will pay the acct. with out a suit. See the boys and try them.
I was sorry to hear of Mr. Rogers' loss of his horses and mules but as old Matthew Pendegrass (says) "Since its no better, I'm glad its no worse". It is probable that I will get to Cumberland river before Mr. Rogers will. Our regiment has been ordered to join Gen.Crittendon and as soon as our boys on furlough can get in we will go. Many of our Reg. will go reluctantly not having confidence in him. I have confidence that if its best he will be removed. I don't think that there will be any more fighting with that division this winter. I am tired of Knoxville. If our Reg. were paid off I would be willing to go. Many of our boys need money to leave with their friends, families. I want to leave some with you to buy your coffee and sugar.
Some of our companies have only the pressed rifles but generally have tolerably good guns. I think we could, at least, do some pretty good running.
It is the opinion of some that the yankees will certainly try to come to E. Tennessee. I think it will be a bold stroke. I don't think it at all probable that they will make an effort. In fact an army of any size could not be supported any size unless they could get this railroad. We will not be uneasy about their coming in soon unless it is in small guerilla squads. I think the valley people ought to be vigilant and report if any should make their appearance there so they can be cut off. I think there is as much danger of them coming in there as any portion of E. Tenn. There is a considerable cavalry force in Morgan & Scott counties that would cut off any small force. Still it would be a reckless thing in anyone to come. I don't believe any will be so fool hardy.
My sheet is full. Show this to Mr. Rogers. Let me hear from you or he.
Feb. 12, 1862
My dear husband,
I hardly know whether to send another letter to you at Knoxville or not as you may be gone from there before it reaches you. I will write some to night and perhaps I may learn by tomorrow night's mail. I feel very sorry to have you go so far away. I can not hear from you so often and the circumstances will make me more anxious. I have felt a kind of depression and sadness ever since I heard you were going to Mill Springs. If you were going to a good sober valient general I would feel better; but I have no confidence in any drunken man in any position. If you go into an engagement I hope it will not be under his command.
I wish you could have come home once more before you went off so far. God forgive me for saying so but I feel as if I cannot bear for you never to come back again. Our children would make me exert myself. I would do all I could for them but if it were not for them I would want to go with you and die with you if you died. If I had not the care of so many children I would like to always be near so I could take care of you if you were to be wounded. I hope you will meet with none of these misfortunes, tho' I am glad you are a christian. My feelings about you are not near so horrible as they would be if you were wicked. I think every soldier should be prepared to die before he goes in to battle. Our war news is more startling during the last week than it has been for some time.
I am glad to get the Register and will receive the rocking chair with many thanks till you are better payed if I ever should have the oportunity to pay you.
Our children continue to be in fine health - - none of us have had the mea-sels or the itch yet. Ras., Will, and Mr. Rogers all have been anointing vehemently. Mr. Rogers worked his secretly till the boys found it out on him; then he said he did it as a preventative but he scratched frequently. He is now gone over to Danburey a while to get him a horse. He could not get one he liked on terms to suit him.
Brother James Hill and Sanderson stayed all night here night before last. Sanderson will move down to Jameses next month. Father has gone to Nashville; will be at home in a few days. Ras is in a great fever. He had not heard from his Aberdeen man about his school and does not know what to do.
I will write more tomorrow night. I want you to write to me often when you get away off so I will not know where to write. I feel like I am anxious enough about you and war news to make me get gray headed directly. We are getting along fine by now. Only the hogs are not doing well. We will make out tho'. You need give yourself no uneasiness about us. The sistern bottom has fallen out again. I suppose Ras and Mr. Rogers had fixed the filter and the spouts and cleaned up all the yard round it and the next day it was empty.
Ras has made me another very nice baby waggon.Walter likes to ride very much. He is still very cross. I must quit now. Good night.
Father has come and is writing to you. I wish you would write to us. I feel very uneasy about him. The Bowling Green news excites the people very much. I am always anxious to see the mail come yet dread to hear the news lately. Lawrence Spears is still trying to make his company but is not making much head way. Ras is anxious to be in the service if he could get a place to his liking.
Feb. 16, 1862
My beloved husband,
Mr. Rogers will leave early in the morning for Knoxville. I do not know that you will be there; but will send this note any how. We have heard that the Linconites intend coming in at Cumberland gap, so I thought perhaps your order to Gainsborough would be countermanded. I have no doubt now that you will have to fight some before the war is at an end. When you first enlisted I solaced myself with the belief that there would not be much more to do. I have now given that idea up. These truly are trying times. The struggle for liberty seems to be a hard one. If the southern people had arms they could do better. But I have no fears of their being conquered. Sometimes I feel confident you will spaired and returned to us. At other times I feel fearful you will not. O, I do want to see you so, I feel as if I cannot be deprived of the privalidge much longer.
This has seemed a long day to me. Father preached at the church but the day was so cold but few were there. I stayed at home with the children. Net wanted to stay; but Will was going to stay too and they fuss and tease the children. I was unwilling to leave them. I have thought often of you. I had your likeness down showing it to the children this evening. Lu said "Pa looks like he wants to see us"! They all looked very lovingly at it. Dora says "My pa", "man pa". She makes a funny out (of) talking - - calls her brother Walter Shropshire - "buber Hoga Hopash". Ras says it sounds (like) Jo's German verb.
I know you want to see your darlings. Walter is a bright boy and very much admired. If God spairs us till the war is over I know we will again be happy - - perhaps more so than we have been heretofore - - for we will be better able to appreciate home enjoyments. I am not undergoing hardships and privations as you are; yet I feel anxious about you and the general state of affairs and your absence from home prevents my enjoying the comforts we have. I never go to bed hardly without think(ing) of you and wishing you were as comfortably situated or you were here to enjoy our good warm fires which your own arrangements provided for us.
It is now after ten o'clock. Father has just started at this late hour of the night to baptise John Ranken. He is on the verge of the grave. Two black men came after father. I am very anxious to hear from you again. Do write often if you only write a little. Do not forget to pray for your loving wife and babes.
Morristown Feb. 21, 1862.
You doubtless have been expecting a letter from me. We were ordered to this point three days ago. Since I have been here I have been very busy being the commander of the post (Senior Captain). Today I have been relieved by the presence of Maj. Eakin. I have never passed through a period since I have been in camp so harrassing as for the last week. We have had to pay of(f) the boys and I drew the money for the whole company and had to settle with each one. Added to all this the boys, since they have been removed from the Regiment have been almost uncontrollable. I have had some of the most trying cases of discipline here I ever experienced. We are cursed with groceries and hours at every point. I am resolved that my company, while I command it, shall not be demoralized by them.
I rather expected to have seen you before now but the way the thing stands now I can not expect to go home. We are subject to be ordered to the scene of action at any time and I want to go with my company. Our political news had been very unfavorable lately. I have been thinking about you since the Federals have entered Middle Tennessee. I have pondered it day and night. I have finally come to the conclusion that you are in as good a place as you can get unless you were farther south than Tenn. There will be soon a large force in East Tenn.
There never will be a large army in Sequatchie. The only danger is in Guerillas. They are too busy now to permit any one who might desire to make such an expedition. I think you are safe. I have confidence in Him who notes the fall of a sparrow that He will regard you. I am sorrow that you write me letters having in them so much sadness. It is true your letters are welcome although they wring from me many a tear. Ought you not rather sustain me? Encourage to deeds of valor worthy the husband of such a woman and the father of our children. I would not have you understand that I am actuated by ambitious notions or seeking fame. God knows that such motives never enter my mind. I don't crave to be famous. All I desire is that I may do my duty - - that we may procure an honorable peace and be permitted to return home to live with my family in quiet. There is no happiness like that of home. But it sometimes becomes necessary to sacrifice our dearest interests, earthly.
O! it seems so cold to write. I want to see you. I want you to write to me at this place. Direct to me as Capt. I hope you may continue to earnestly pray for me. How are you getting on generally? I was disappointed at not seeing Mr. Rogers at Knoxville. How are our monied interests getting on? Has Brown fixed the Spears matter and how? I have no doubt that you have written letters that I have not got owing to our removal. It almost makes me sad.
I am Your husband truly
(Note: This letter, dated February 21, 1862, is the last letter that William J. Hill ever wrote. He became afflicted with typhoid fever and died March 15, 1862.)
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