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

Post image for John C. West–A Texan in Search of a Fight.

John C. West–A Texan in Search of a Fight.

June 28, 2013

John C. West–A Texan in Search of a Fight.

Letter No. VII.

Chambersburg, Pa., June 9th, 1863. 1

My Precious Wife.

I had not intended to write until the 9th of July, or until a battle occurred, but the reception of your most welcome letter on yesterday, of date May 11th and 13th, together with the fact that I have a prospect of a day’s rest, have made me conclude to try the experiment of sending a few lines from the enemy’s country, 200 miles from Richmond. If I were certain this would reach you I could make it very interesting to you, for I have endured and passed through a great deal which no one can dream of, or picture, except those who have passed through the same trials.

Newspaper writers and correspondents cannot convey any idea of the hardships of a soldier’s life when on a march. I wrote to your sister, Decca, from Millwood, twenty miles west of Harper’s Ferry, and gave her quite a succinct account of my trials and marches for ten or twelve days previous, and since that time I have had a repetition of the same. I have told her to write to you every two or three weeks, and have written to Miss Nannie Norton, making the same request of her, so that if you do not hear from me, or one of them, you must take it for granted that the letters do not get through the lines, and not think that anything is wrong with me, for I will be preserved safe from all harm. Nothing but a special providence could have saved me in perfect health and strength thus far.

We have marched in heat until stalwart men, apparently much stronger than myself, have fallen dead by the roadside. We have crossed and recrossed streams, waist deep, with water cold and chilling. We have passed four or five nights and days without changing clothes, which were soaking wet during the entire time. Billy Dunklin, Billy Robinson and myself slept one night together on the very top of the Blue Ridge Mountains under a single blanket. It rained and blew furiously during the whole night, and we got up in the morning with our feet and hands shriveled just as you frequently see from remaining too long in the water. On several occasions we have waded streams just at sundown and slept in wet clothes, or sit up naked while our clothes were drying, with a prospect of being ordered to march between midnight and day. A soldier’s motto is to sleep at all hazards whenever he has a chance, for it never comes amiss. We crossed the Potomac, at Williamsport, on the 26th of June, and have since marched through Greencastle and on to this place, passing through the most beautiful country I ever beheld, increasing in its charms ever since we left Culpepper. We are now between the Blue Ridge and the Alleghany; the entire landscape covered with the most magnificent farms, orchards and gardens, for miles along the road. The most neat and elegant residences and barns; positively more tastily built than two-thirds of the houses in Waco, and as fine as the dwelling houses anywhere. I have not seen a barn in the last three days that was not more substantially and carefully build and fitted out than any house I have ever seen in the country in Texas.

Wheat is the staple product in this portion of Pennsylvania, and the crops are splendid; just ready to cut. The apple trees are loaded and the cherries delicious. I enclose two varieties of cherry seed, and will endeavor to bring some if I ever get back. The people here have quite a chagrined and subdued look as we march through these towns and villages. A lady encouraged some little girls to sing the “Red, White and Blue” as we passed through Chambersburg. She remarked as I passed, “Thank God, you will never come back alive.” I replied, “No, as we intend to go to Cincinnati by way of New York.”

My impression is, that we will have a desperate battle in a few days, but I cannot tell, as a soldier who minds his own business knows less than an outsider. I would not have missed this campaign for $500.00. I believe that if successful it will do a great deal towards bringing about a peace or our recognition by foreign powers. All of our company are doing well. Allen Killingsworth is below Richmond on a furlough. Burwell Aycock is nursing his wounds at Chattanooga. Jim Manahan is quite sick to-day, and has not been well for several days. I think he had a sunstroke on one of those fearfully hot days. John Harrington has not been with the company for three months. He is at Richmond. The rest are all well, Selman, Mullins et al. I am rejoiced at your progress in Latin, and in your music, and think that if anything could make me love you more, or cause us to live more happily together, if possible, it will be the consciousness of having the most accomplished wife, as well as the most charming in other respects, in the whole country. I am glad the little boys are with you, and trust they will give you no trouble. It strengthens and encourages me to know that you are cultivating and improving yourself, instead of sitting down listlessly, dipping snuff “for company,” or gossiping idly. Guard against the last especially. Tell Stark and Mary not to forget their lessons, or me, and that I will come back some of these days and hear them. You ought to have no difficulty about the war tax. If the tax collector is a man of sense he can give you all the assistance you require, except the money to pay the tax. As far as my salary is concerned, you will have nothing to do with that. You had better send Dr. Combs his money as soon as you can spare it. I have paid all the debts I contracted on the way here except $75.00 to Major Holman. I have $50.00 bounty and $30.00 pay due me in the course of a week, and as there may be a battle soon I will not draw it, but will leave it in the hands of somebody so that you can get it, as I do not wish a Yankee to make anything by rifling my pockets on the battlefield. I intended to finish this sheet but it has commenced to rain and I must bid you good bye and get under my blanket.

May God preserve you and our little darlings until we meet again—be it soon or late. Love to our friends. Your husband, faithfully ever,

John C. West.


1 West obviously got the date wrong on this letter or in the publication of the book.  Much of the Army of Northern Virginia passed through Chambersburg between June 24th and June 28th.

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