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

Post image for “It is sad to look back on the year just closed. We have suffered much; many good men have gone to their long home.”–Letters from Elisha Franklin Paxton.

“It is sad to look back on the year just closed. We have suffered much; many good men have gone to their long home.”–Letters from Elisha Franklin Paxton.

January 1, 2013

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

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.

Previous post:

Next post: