Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Elisha Franklin Paxton – Letters from camp and field while an officer in the Confederate Army

Camp Winder, February 20, 1863.

I have been improving since I got back to camp, and now begin to feel that I am quite well. I trust that it may continue, for during the last six months I have suffered much from the fact that I have seldom been very well.

Until this morning we had snow and rain continually since I returned. This is a bright, clear morning with a strong wind, which I think will soon dry the ground. As it is now, the roads are so muddy that it is next to impossible to get provisions for our men or feed for our horses. Since I reached camp I have been quite busy. The day before yesterday I wrote eight pages of foolscap paper, more than I have written in one day for the last two years. I sometimes think if my health were good my eyes would give me no trouble.

There is an impression that a large part of the force which was in front of us has moved. If so, it indicates that we, too, before many days may move, and that there will be no more fighting on the Rappahannock. In three or four weeks we will have spring weather, and then we may expect employment. Where we will be in a month hence, God alone knows. Some of our troops have already moved, but their destination is not known. It is a business of strange uncertainties which we follow. For my part, I have gotten used to it,—used to it as an affliction with which despair and necessity have made me contented. I used to look upon death as an event incident only to old age and the infirmities of disease. But in this business I have gotten used to it as an every-day occurrence to strong and healthy men, some upon the battlefield and others by the muskets of their comrades. Four of my brigade have been sentenced to be shot—three for desertion and one for cowardice. It is a sad spectacle, and I sincerely wish that their lives might have been spared. I trust that God in his mercy may soon grant us a safe deliverance from this bloody business. Such spectacles witnessed in the quiet of the camp are more shocking than the scenes of carnage upon the battle-field. I am sick of such horrors. If I am ever blessed with the peace and quiet of home again, oppression and wrong must be severe, indeed, if I am not in favor of submission rather than another appeal to arms. I came away from home without your miniature; send it to me.

Camp Winder, January 25, 1863.

I spent yesterday in bed, and feel to-day like getting back into it. Whilst I have not lost any time from sickness since I last left home, I have been often unwell and compelled to lie in bed for a day or two. A few days’ quiet generally relieves me, but exposure and irregular living generally bring it on again. I never was better than when I came to the army last summer; but about the time of the battle of Cedar Mountain it began, and has continued, making me often hardly fit for duty. It is in some measure owing to a want of vegetables and fruit, and to bad bread. The next opportunity I have, I will send to Richmond and get a stock of crackers, dried peaches, etc.

We have occasionally had an alarm, but generally everything has been quiet. Yesterday morning we had an order to send our extra baggage to the rear, but it arose, I believe, from the accidental bursting of a shell in Fredericksburg, which set the armies on both sides to beating the long roll. My brigade has been rapidly increasing in the last month by the return of sick and absentees. I hope by spring to bring it up to 2200 present, and to have it in a high state of efficiency. Then I expect some good service from it.

You say you have forty-eight barrels of flour at the lumber-house. After saving for your own use what you want, get Wm. White to send off the balance and sell it. Have the balance of the wheat ground, so that you may get the offal, and send off the flour. I wrote you in my last letter a good deal about the farm. Let me hear in your next letter all about them. I have but little time now to think of them, and trust it all to you. If my work here is well done, it will occupy my whole time. I should like to fill my place here, so as to leave it with some credit to myself. To do this will leave me but little time for matters on the farm. So you must be housekeeper, overseer, man of all business, and everything. You may as well learn now, and if you will devote your mind to it you will have no trouble. With such assistance as you can get from Matt and your father, you will be able to get along very well.

When I was lying in bed I half wished that I might get sick, so that I might get home for a little while; but I think my disease is destined to take an unfavorable turn so as to deprive me of that pleasure and keep me in camp.

Give my love to little Matthew and Galla, and tell them I say they must be good boys and do everything you tell them. How I wish that I could be with you again! I hope the day may not be far distant. This hope is the last thing with which I wish to part. Now, darling, good-bye. Write often.

P.S. After closing and sealing up my letter, I break it open to say that I received yours of the 17th inst. It is sad, Love; but still I am glad to know that I am prized at home even by the baby. God bless him, and—a more fervent prayer still—may he teach me my duty! Just here the Chaplain comes to say that the two of my poor soldiers condemned to die desire that their remains may be sent home, and my answer was that all in my power should be done to further their wishes. How I wish that I had some place where less responsibility was thrown upon me! May God give me strength to meet it in the spirit of mercy and justice. How sad it is to think of the distress which this punishment must bring upon others! It makes me shudder to think of such a fate being brought upon the wife and children of my own household. I feel in no humor, Love; I am too sad to write anything which would please you. Again good-bye.


General Paxton’s illness took the “favorable turn” which he hoped for, and his condition became such that a brief leave of absence became necessary, and he spent a few weeks with his family.

Camp Winder, January 17, 1863.

We returned yesterday from a week’s tour of duty on picket, and the men are now camping in their old camp. We had very good weather, with the exception of one day’s rain; and it was cloudy and seemed every day as if bad weather was coming upon us. Whilst there I got an order to cook one day’s rations and be prepared to move at any time. But several days have elapsed and no order yet to move. I think it is very improbable that such an order will come before spring. The Yankees, I doubt not, are having a quiet time in winter quarters, and, I think, have seen enough of us to last them until spring. Appearances indicate an engagement in North Carolina. It is probable they will make an effort to take possession of the railroad and of Wilmington. If so, we will have, I doubt not, a severe battle there. I expect, too, we shall hear of another attack on Vicksburg before long. So far as we are concerned here, I feel, perhaps, too confident. We have whipped the army in front of us very often, and I feel sure that we can do it any time. We repulsed their attack at Sharpsburg, where, I am sure, we did not have more than half of our present strength. I do not think their army can ever be increased, but the symptoms of dissatisfaction at the North must tend largely to diminish it. Our independence was secured in the last campaign when we proved our capacity to beat the finest army they could bring in the field. The war may be protracted, there is no telling how long; but we have shown our capacity to beat them, and we are better able to do it now than ever before. But many of us may never live to see the end; it may last long enough to see the end of more of us than will be blessed in living to see the end of it. If it be God’s will that my life shall be lost in it, I feel that I should await my fate contented, if not with cheerful satisfaction. The next world we must all see sooner or later, and in this business one must make up his mind to look upon the change with composure. Every sense of fear and alarm must be controlled in such a way that he may act free from the influence in the midst of dangers which at other times would have made him shudder. It is well that we cannot know to-day the events of to-morrow; that upon the eve of our pain and death we may be made happy by the anticipation of pleasure which we are destined never to enjoy. So, darling, I live upon the hope that this war may some day end, that I may survive it, and that you and I may spend many a happy day together. God grant that it may be so!

I had hoped to have gotten home this winter, but I think there is no chance of it. My only hope for a furlough is to get shot or get sick. This is the misfortune of my promotion. Before I could go and come when I pleased, but now I am fixed while the war lasts. Now, Love, I will bid you good-bye. Write often.

Camp Winder, Caroline Co., Va., January 1, 1863.

I have not heard from you since the battle. Since then we have had a quiet time and everything looks like rest for some time to come. The men are fixing up their shanties for the winter. They seem happy and contented. It is sad to look back on the year just closed. We have suffered much; many good men have gone to their long home. Our loss has been 1220 in killed and wounded— more men than we could turn out for a fight to-day. Out of the fifteen field officers elected last spring, five have been killed and six others wounded, leaving only four that have escaped unhurt. In these losses are many whom we were always accustomed to regard as our best men. I published to-day an order naming our camp, which gives some facts of our history, and I send you a copy of it.

How are the matters at home? In the excitement of active work, I have too much to do to harass myself with idle dreams of home; but now since we are at rest I cannot keep my mind from it. I feel there is nothing which I would not give to be with you for an hour or a day. I could have gone home and have spent a couple of weeks when I received my appointment, before taking command; but I really thought the brigade was sadly in need of a commander, and that it was my duty to stay. Now I am fixed and must apply for leave just as any private in the ranks. I know it would not improve my standing with my superior officers to ask for a leave, but still I feel very much tempted to do it. If the snow falls deep, and we have such severe weather as to preclude the possibility of active work, my homesick malady may get the better of me. I would like to see you, Matthew, Galla and the baby. Have the children forgotten me? It seems so long since I saw them.

Just here an officer calls who says he comes upon the disagreeable duty of placing me in arrest by order of Gen. Taliaferro, who regards a communication which I sent him to-day as very disrespectful. Very good; there is a small chunk of a row to be settled, which I shall do in that calm spirit which becomes the man who means to vindicate himself and his conduct. He says my communication was disrespectful. I say it was not, and cannot possibly be so construed by any intelligent and disinterested officer. I feel sure that I have done nothing at which my worst enemy could find cause for complaint. An arrest for some causes would be a serious affair, but in a matter such as this it is trifling to me. The offence of Genl. Taliaferro, in abusing his power as my superior officer, I think he will find, in the opinion of all disinterested gentlemen, is a much graver offence than any I have committed. I wish him no harm, however; and I shall do nothing more in the matter than what I may think, after calm and mature reflection, ought to be done. Do not give yourself any anxiety about it, as there is nothing in it to involve either my character as an officer or a gentleman. The difficulty arose about a sealed communication from St. Pritchard, Judge-Advocate of the court martial in session in my brigade, which was addressed to Gen. Chilton, Adjutant to Genl. Lee, and sent by me to Genl. Taliaferro to be forwarded to its destination. It was returned to me, opened, with an endorsement that it did not comply with the army regulations as to endorsing and forwarding it. I replied that as St . Pritchard was on detached service, I did not think his communication to Genl. Lee was in any way under my control or that of Genl. Taliaferro, and that as he had taken the liberty of breaking the seal and returning the paper, it would be sent to its destination through some other channel. Perhaps he differs with me upon the point, and thinks I meant to be offensive. So much for this piece of news. Now, darling, I will bid you good-night.


General Orders No. 1

Headquarters Paxton’s Brigade,

Camp Winder, January 1,1863.

In memory of the gallant officer who led the brigade at the battles of Winchester, Port Republic and Richmond, and whose valuable life was lost at Cedar Mountain, the present encampment is called Camp Winder. In the losses of the year just closed, twelve hundred and twenty killed and wounded, you have much to mourn. The eye moistens with an unbidden tear to find that many of the officers whom your free choice had appointed to lead you, of the messmates and comrades you loved, are missing now. On Richmond, Manassas, or on some other field of carnage, they have met a soldier’s fate and found a soldier’s grave. In its achievements you have much cause for pride. You have marched fifteen hundred miles, encountering the snows and ice of winter in the mountains of Morgan and Hampshire; the heat and miasma of summer in the swamps of Henrico and Hanover. You have met the enemy in nine severe battles, and in all, save one, God has blessed your arms with victory. You have the proud satisfaction of knowing that you have participated in the campaign which has given your country a brilliant name in history, and that you have contributed with your blood to its success. To-day you begin another year in the service of your country, and in the achievement of its independence. God speed you in your glorious work! You begin the campaign with but twelve hundred muskets —a small number, it is true, but borne by men inured alike to the dangers and the hardships of the service, who will make up in hardy courage what they lack in numbers. Imitate the valor of Winder, Allen, Baylor and Neff, and you have a brilliant future before you.

(Signed) E. F. Paxton,




Friend C. Cox, A. D. C.

The following extracts were taken from the official records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. XXI,—Fredericksburg:


Report Of Brig.-Gen. E. F. Paxton, C. S. Army,

Commanding First Brigade


Hdqrs. Paxton’s Brigade, Jackson’s Division,
Camp near Corbin’s Farm, December 24,1862.

Captain: In pursuance of the order from division commander to report the participation of my brigade in the battle near Fredericksburg, I have the honor to state that my brigade, consisting of Second, Fourth, Fifth, Twenty-seventh, and Thirty-third Virginia Regiments and Joseph Carpenter’s battery, numbering in all about 123 officers and 1100 men, marched from its encampment, near Guiney’s Depot, on Friday morning, the 12th inst., at daybreak. After reaching the battle-field and making frequent changes of position, when the engagement commenced my brigade occupied a position near the crest of the hill some four hundred yards in the rear of General Gregg’s brigade of A. P. Hill’s division, my right resting on the left of Ewell’s division. My orders were to support General Gregg, and be governed in my actions by his movements. Upon a report from my orderly, Mr. F. C. Cox, whom I had sent forward to obtain information, that Gregg’s battery was moving, I ordered my brigade to the front in line of battle. About the time of reaching General Gregg’s position, the Second Virginia Regiment, occupying the right of my line, came in view of the enemy, and under the order of Capt. J. Q. A. Nadenbusch, commanding the regiment, filed obliquely to the right and rear, but scarcely effected its change of position when it was fired upon by the enemy. Expecting, from the indications, that my troops would be engaged in this position, I proceeded to bring forward the Fifth and Fourth Regiments at double-quick and post them upon the right of the Second, and to put the Twenty-seventh and the Thirty-third Regiments in position upon its left. These dispositions, however, were not accomplished until the firing ceased, the enemy having been gallantly repulsed by the Second Regiment. Soon after I changed my position and occupied the military road. While there I found that troops were falling back in disorder past the right of my line, when I deemed it prudent to move some three hundred yards to the right upon the road, to guard against an advance of the enemy in that direction. Again I changed position and occupied the line of the fence in front.

That night my brigade slept on their arms on the military road, and the next morning, before daylight, in pursuance of an order from the division commander, took position on the railroad, my right resting opposite the position which my left had occupied on the military road. Here the day passed off quietly, with the exception of occasional firing between the pickets.

Carpenter’s battery was detached from my brigade on the 12th inst. and was not under my orders during the engagement. A report of its participation in the engagement, by Lieutenant (George) McKendree, commanding, is transmitted herewith.

I am much indebted to my regimental officers—Captain Nadenbusch and (R. T.) Colston, acting field officers of the Second Virginia Regiment; Lieutenant-Colonel (R. D.) Gardner, and Major (William) Terry, Fourth Virginia Regiment; Lieutenant-Colonel (H. J.) Williams and Captain J. W. Newton, Fifth Virginia Regiment; Lieutenant-Colonel (James K.) Edmondson and Major (D. M.) Shriver, Twenty-seventh Virginia Regiment; and Colonel (Edwin G.) Lee, Thirty-third Virginia Regiment —for the exhibition of great gallantry, skill and coolness in the discharge of their duties.

Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner, after having passed unhurt and distinguished for his gallantry through all the battles of the campaign,—Port Republic, Richmond, Cedar Mountain, Manassas, and Sharpsburg,—fell, at the head of his regiment, severely, if not fatally, wounded.

To Adjt. C. S. Arnall, Fifth Virginia Regiment, acting as my assistant adjutant-general, the highest praise is due for his gallant and energetic discharge of the duties incident to the position.

To the rank and file of my command I am especially grateful for the courage, fidelity and promptness exhibited in obeying my orders. My brigade sustained a loss of killed, 4; wounded, 69; missing, 1. Total, 74.

The reports of regimental and battery commanders, with list of casualties, are transmitted herewith.


No. 327, P. 675. Report Op Brig.-Gen. Wm. B. Taliaferro, C. S. Army, Commanding Jackson’s Division


Headquarters Jackson’s Division,
Camp near Moss Neck, Va., December 24,1862

Captain: In conformity with the order of Lieutenant-General commanding, I have the honor to report the operations of this division on the 13th and 14th instant, before Fredericksburg. On the morning of the 12th … I posted Paxton’s and Starke’s (Pendleton’s) brigades in rear of Gregg’s and Thomas’ of Hill’s division, and held Taliaferro’s and Jones’ brigades in reserve. . . . Early on the morning of the 13th . . . General Paxton, finding that our troops were giving back to the right of Gregg’s brigade, and the enemy advancing beyond the front line through a gap which fronted a boggy wood supposed to be inaccessible to the enemy, moved his brigade to the right and engaged with two of his regiments the enemy, who had penetrated to the military road, but who were retiring by the time he reached that point. He then pushed forward to the front, and occupied for the rest of the day the front line at that place. … I take pleasure in stating that officers and men behaved admirably, displaying coolness and courage under fire, and changing positions without any disorder or confusion. I would particularly mention Brigadier-Generals Jones and Paxton. … I enclose a list of killed and wounded, amounting to 190.


No. 321, P. 663. Report Of Brig.-Gen. Jubal A. Early,
Commanding Ewell’s Division


Headquarters Ewell’s Division,

December 27, 1862.

Captain: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this division in the action of the 13th instant, near Fredericksburg. . . .

Seeing this brigade falling back, I halted it on the hill in the woods immediately in the rear of the place at which it had first met the enemy, and caused it to be reformed under the command of Col. C. A. Evans of the Thirty-first Georgia Regiment; and fearing that the enemy might follow through the same interval with a fresh column, I sent to General D. H. Hill for reenforcements, and he sent two brigades forward. Before, however, they arrived, Brigadier-General (E. F.) Paxton of General (W. B.) Taliaferro’s division had filled the interval left open by the falling back of this brigade by promptly moving his own brigade into it.

Camp near Port Royal, December 21,1862.

I wrote to you some days since, informing you that I had passed through the battle at Fredericksburg without damage. The loss in my brigade was seventy-six. We reached the battle-ground on Friday morning, the 12th inst., when everything indicated that we should have a battle that day. We took first one position and then another, all the while expecting the fight to open; but the day passed off quietly, excepting some artillery firing and some skirmishing. That night we slept in our places. The next morning all was quiet as on the day before for a while, but then the artillery and musketry became more rapid in firing, and continued to increase until for more than a mile along the line there seemed a continuous roar of musketry. We were soon ordered forward, and then I made sure we should be in the battle; but when we reached the position occupied by our second line, we were halted, and there one of my regiments became engaged with a body of the enemy which had advanced within our lines. It lasted a very little while, however. The enemy were driven back along our whole line, and not renewing it, the battle closed. That night we slept on the field, among the dead and wounded. The next morning we occupied our first line. We supposed, of course, that the battle would be renewed, but the day passed off quietly; the next day it was the same case, and the next morning it was found that the enemy had left the field and crossed over the river. We then moved down to our present camp some fifteen miles below Fredericksburg. I hear nothing from the enemy. Their pickets are on the other side of the river, and ours are on this. When do you think we will have another battle? Where will it be? Such questions puzzle the minds of a great many people, and yours too, I doubt not. It may be to-morrow; it may not be for months. I hope the Yankees, having practice enough for the year, will conclude to go into winter quarters and let us do the same. Next week will be Christmas, and I hope a happy one to the loved wife and children of my own home. To many, in summing up and looking over their bereavements for the year, it will be sad enough. We have been more blessed, and should feel grateful for it. To the future I look, not in gloom and despondency, but with the calmness and composure of one who feels that his own destiny in a sea of troubles like this is not in any way under his control. The cloud will pass away when God in his righteous judgment wills it, and it becomes us all to bear it in patience. May the prayers which ascend to heaven from so many supplicants, with such earnestness and fervor as they never knew before, soon be answered. They will be when we deserve it.



General Order. General, Orders No. 65

Head Qrs. Paxton’s Brigade,

December 18, 1862.

Regimental commanders will institute a close examination of the conduct of officers and men in the late battle. They will see that merited censure and punishment falls upon delinquencies; that fidelity and gallantry are rewarded with praise and promotion. If any remained behind in camp or fell to the rear without proper leave upon the march, which seemed to all to lead to the field of battle, or when brought to the enemy sought safety in flight, their officers will see that they are arrested and the proper steps taken for their punishment.

Your line, as it moved after long hours of weary suspense to the support of your comrades in front, exhibiting the spirit and determination of soldiers resolved to conquer or die, was witnessed by your brigade commander with a feeling of pride and gratification such as he had never known before. Such a result can never be achieved by men who harass themselves with alternating hope of safety and fear of danger; it is the work only of the soldier who habituates himself to the idea that he must stand to his colors so long as he has a cartridge or a bayonet to defend him; and if he fails in this he deserves to be despised and cast off even by the women and children of his own home. He who moves under such a resolution must of necessity do his duty, win the applause, and a still nobler reward in the conviction which it causes to his own heart that he is what the meanest feels he would like to be —a true man and a true soldier.

He who proves recreant to his country and his cause at such a time merits the just sentence of military law—to die under the colors he disgraced and by the muskets of the gallant comrades he deserted.

(Signed) B. F. Paxton,



Friend C. Cox, A. D. C.

Camp near Guiney’s Depot, December 7, 1862.

We have a quiet Sunday to-day. Everything in camp stopped except the axes, which run all night and all day, Sunday included. With the soldiers it is, “Keep the axes going or freeze.” They are the substitutes for tents, blankets, shoes, and everything once regarded as necessary for comfort. The misfortune is that even axes are scarce; the army is short of everything, and I fear soon to be destitute of everything. Yet the men are cheerful and seem to be contented. It seems strange, but, thanks to God for changing their natures, they bear in patience now what they once would have regarded as beyond human endurance. Whilst I write, I expect you are sitting in our pew at church, my place by your side filled by little Matthew,—bless the dear boy!—listening to a sermon from Parson White on covetousness, avarice and such kindred inventions of Satan. I wish him success, but I fear he will hardly be able to convince that leather can be too high, or that it is not the will of God for poor soldiers to go barefooted. God seems to have consigned one-half of our people to death at the hands of the enemy, and the other half to affluence and wealth realized by preying upon the necessities of those who are thus sacrificed. The extortioners at home are our worst enemies. If our soldiers had their sympathies, their assistance in providing the necessary means of sustaining the army, they might bear the hardships and do the work before them, feeling that it was a common undertaking for the benefit of us all and sustained by us all. But it seems like a revolution to make those rich who stay at home, and those poor who do their duty in the army.

I begin to like my new position. It occupies my whole mind and time. I begin to feel that my highest ambition is to make my brigade the best in the army, to merit and enjoy the affection of my men. I trust that both may be realized. When I came to it I knew that my appointment was unwelcome to some of the officers, but I have received nothing but kindness and respect from all. They all knew me, and knew that what I said would have to be done. I have had much better success thus far than I anticipated. We made a long march from Winchester— the longest the brigade has ever made without stopping. Usually on such marches the men fall behind, leave the road to get provisions at the farm-houses, etc. But on this march I came very near stopping such practices. Out of the five last days of the march, on three of them every man was present when we reached the camp in the evening; on the other two days but one was missing each day. I am sure that no other brigade in the army can show any such record. During this winter I shall spend my time in trying to make them comfortable and happy, in teaching them all the duties of soldiers, and in instilling into them the habit of obeying orders. I hope to gather in all absentees, and when the winter is over to turn out at least 2500 men for duty. So, you see, Love, I have laid out my work for the winter; and you, so far, as I have said, are to take no part of my care. I think I shall be able to devote a week to you at home. I wish that week were here now, but I can’t ask for it now. I must wait till the snow is deeper, the air colder. Then, I think, I will be allowed a short absence.

Spottsylvania C. H., December 4, 1862.

We have reached what I suppose to be our destination after eleven days’ march, stopping but once on the route. The roads were good; the troops were in good spirits, and with moderate marching reached here but little exhausted. I really don’t know what we came for, as everything here is in a most profound state of quiet. The enemy are on the other side of the Rappahannock, showing but little, if any, signs of an intention to cross.

I am getting used to my new position, and, whilst I prefer that which I left, I can be contented here. I have no reason now to complain of a want of employment, but feel that I have more than I can do. I have found much that I would like to remedy, but have not the means to do it. Our soldiers are not clothed or fed now as they used to be. We are short of everything. I hope this winter that much may be supplied, and next spring we may be able to begin the campaign in fine condition.

We have bright, clear weather now, but it is the season when we may expect it not to last. Soon we shall have snow, bad roads, cold weather and the usual attendants of the season. I wish now we had the order to prepare for it and build such cheap huts as would shelter. Now very few of them have tents and many are thinly clad; some are barefooted and a few without blankets. I wish that I had the power to supply their wants, but I can do but little. Have you made up your mind, Love, when the war will be over? I am heartily sick and tired of it. If any one had told me, when it began, that I should pass through two years of it and reach the rank of Brigadier, with pay of $300 per month, it would have been a flattering prospect; but I feel now as if no rank or pay could induce me to be a soldier—nothing but necessity and a feeling that I am not a true man if I leave our cause for the comforts of home? I sometimes have been severely tempted to follow the example which many whom I thought good men have set in staying at home. But other and better impulses have controlled my conduct. When we were separated in times past, I could feel with some certainty that we should soon be together again. Not so now. When will it be, if ever? This is the question shrouded in impenetrable gloom. I would like to see through it. I would like to know when I should be at home again to spend my life with loved wife and children. God in his mercy grant that hope so fondly cherished may some day be realized! It may never be. Yet it is a fond hope which I cherish while life lasts.

Winchester, Va., November 15, 1862.

I left Gen. Jackson on yesterday for my new position with much reluctance. I had with him a very pleasant situation, with work enough to keep me employed, and the society of companions I liked. I go where there is much thankless work to be done and much responsibility to be incurred. I am free to admit that I don’t like the change. Yet there is no help for it. I must go, although I have changed quarters before in a happier state of mind, and with a more cheerful and refreshing prospect before me. Thirty-five hundred of my countrymen are placed under my command. If my duty be done to the best of my ability, it will not, I fear, be with such result as to give entire satisfaction. Yet if suffering or disaster spring from any act of mine, loud and deep will be the curses heaped upon my name.

How I wish that I was at home again with those who love me! It is the wish of many thousands around me who have left homes loved as well as mine. God grant it may soon be realized! But we must stay just where we are and do just what we are ordered to do. There is no use in having will or wish in the matter, for there is nothing we can do to accomplish it. We must wait in patience for the event when the war shall end, and those of us who survive will be at liberty to return again to our old associations and pursuits. Soon we shall have winter, and it will bring with it, I fear, much suffering to our troops, and to many, I fear, a still keener pang in the letter from home telling that wife and child that never knew want before are suffering from hunger and cold.

If ever a people on earth had cause upon bended knees to pray God to spare a further infliction of this terrible curse, it is ours. We have suffered much, yet the future seems to hold for us an inexhaustible store of suffering—the bloodshed of the battle, the diseases which the camp and exposure engender, and the want of food and clothing produced by laying waste the country. It seems dark enough.




General, Order No. 58.

Head Qrs. Paxton’s Brigade, Jackson’s Division, 2nd Corps,

Camp Baylor, Va., November 18, 1862.

The Brigadier commanding, assuming the position, embraces the opportunity to express his appreciation of the honor received in being assigned to a brigade which, by its valor, in the first conflict with the enemy won for its General a name which his virtues and the achievements of his troops have made immortal. Under the lead of Jackson, Garnet and Grigsby, who with you had shared and survived the perils of battle, under Winder and Baylor, who have fallen in front of your lines and are now mourned among your gallant dead, you have gathered laurels which he trusts may not hereafter be suffered to wither upon your standards.

He hopes to merit your good opinion by his efforts to provide for your comforts and promote your efficiency, and by his participation with you in all the dangers and all the hardships of the service.

He expects that such example as he may set, of attention to duty and obedience to orders, will be followed by the officers and men of his command.

(Signed) E. F. Paxton,


(Signed) B. Willis,
Capt. & A. A. A. Genl

Camp near Port Royal, November 9, 1862.

The day before yesterday we had a snow, and the weather is now quite cold. Winter seems to have set in, and it finds us sadly prepared for it. A large number of our soldiers are entirely barefooted, and very many without blankets. Living in the open air, without tents and with a very small supply of axes to cut wood for fires, there is much suffering. Those of our people who are living at home in comfort have no conception of the hardships which our soldiers are enduring. And I think they manifest very little interest in it. They are disposed to get rich from the troubles of the country, and exact from the Government the highest prices for everything needed for the army. I trust the Government will soon take the matter in hand, fix its own prices, and take what it wants for the army. Everything here indicates that we move to-morrow— where, there is no telling. But I trust we may soon find ourselves settled for the winter. If active operations were suspended for the winter, our men could soon build huts and make themselves comfortable. If, however, we have active operations, the sufferings of our men must be intense.

So you growl about Sunday letters. They are written on that day because all work in the army is suspended on that day and I always have leisure then. They are not interesting, you say. I am sorry for it. It is because I have but little to write about that would interest you. They always tell you I am alive and doing well. Isn’t that always interesting intelligence?

You never mentioned in your letter which company White Williamson is in. Let me know and I will go to see him. Give my love to Martha, and tell her I say she has good quarters in Lexington and she had better stay there. Our army is a moving concern, and there is no telling where it will be a month hence. Possibly we may be here, quite as likely at Richmond.

You speak of the army as my idol, but you never were more mistaken. I had a good deal rather live in a house than a tent, though I can bear the change, as there is no helping it. I had a good deal rather be with you and the children than with my idol, the army, your opinion to the contrary notwithstanding. And now, Growler, good-bye.

P. S. Since that was written, I have received an order conferring upon me the title of Brigadier-General and assigning me to the command of Jackson’s old brigade. I made no application for it, and if I had consulted my own inclination should have been disposed to remain in my present position.