of the 23rd |
About Today's 23rd |
Recruiting | Event Calendar | Photo Gallery | Favorite Links | Welcome | Front Page
23rd Virginia Infantry
The William C. Shelton Letter
This letter appeared in the Cleveland Morning Leader, Aug. 6, 1861, page 3, column 3. Ohio newspapers occasionally printed captured letters. This letter was written by Private William C. Shelton of Co. E 23rd Virginia Infantry on July 11, 1861, during the fighting at Laurel Hill of the Western Virginia Campaign. The letter never reached its intended recipient. Instead, it was recovered from the battlefield as war booty and sent to Ohio where it reappeared, as printed below. Our thanks to Richard Osburn who came across this letter when researching his great-grandfather, Daniel W. McCoy, who served in the 24th and 175th Ohio Volunteer Infantry regiments.
Rebel Letter. — Among the "spoils" that
fell into the hands of our soldiers in Western Virginia, were numerous
daguerreotype portraits and quantities of letters written to secession
fathers, mothers, wives, sweethearts and friends, which were unluckily
prevented from reaching their destinations by the sudden departure of
the writers. We have seen several specimens of the picture kind, which
are not calculated to give favorable impressions of the personal charms
of the gentle rebels.
There is a sample of a conjugal epistle before us which contains some things, little calculated to adorn the pages of a newspaper, and others, from which we select the following:
Laurel Hill, Barbour Co.,
dear and affectionate wife,
seat myself this evening to write a few lines after 5 days hard
fighting. Darling I have never seen such times in my life. I have not
slept any since Saturday and this Friday the Yankees has advanced in 1
mile of us. It is thought we have killed and wounded 400 of them but
only 189 of them have been found and we have them to bury. We threw
them in Gulges and covered them. We have about 16000 and they 3000.
They killed 18 of our men and wounded 13. Darling the balls flew just
so thick that I could rake them just like hail. They threw Bomb shells
at us so you see God is in our side.
night the hardest of the fighting commenced. The Brooklyn Greys were in
advance and when the word was given they all fired. The word was given
to retreat back and every man ran about 100 yards and only 5 of the
Brooklyn Greys was left, that was myself Tom Barksdale W.R. Linton
Florin Daniel and C. Rains. I shot twice and killed 1 yankee. Col.
Toliver come up and commanded them to hault but it was no go. He come
up to us and says "Boys give them hell" and says "Boys you shall have
credit for that". Clate Collie and Dick Oackes run like Turks. Dick
Oackes lost his gun and his hat. Fallin lost his gun and blanket and
everything and run a mile to camp and when he got there he was arrested
and is now in prison and it is thought it will go very hard with him.
It was a scandulous affair. The Yankee I killed had a very fine minter
Rifle and I got it but the General will not let me keep it, all such
belongs to the State.
Darling if they will just let me have my health it is all I ask of them,
I can finally do the shooting I came here to shoot or to dye and defend
my wife. My business is such that I cannot fight but ½ the day and that
is at night. I am Compensary for the hole regiment.
There are about 33 in our company sick, and if the fighting continues I
think there will be a few more of them scared to death.
Write soon Puss and let them know about Davis death. Give her and tip my
best respects and Darling I eat some pies the other day the first I have
eat since I left home and what sort do you think they was? They was
dried pumpkin pies, the first I ever saw. Darling take care of the
children and raise them as like gentlemen and ladies, for you know God
has his eyes on you and I believe you will act like a lady.
intend to act like a gentleman and do nothing but what is gentlemanly.
God be with you all. Darling be on your guard about that old cow for
you know what a fool she is when she has a calf.
Tell Tommy and Willie pap will bring them a Yankee 6 shooter when he comes home.
The "5 days
hard fighting" mentioned by the soldier refer to being several days of
skirmishing near Laurel Hill that began on July 7th.
Pvt. Shelton writes of Pvt. Fallen that he “…lost his gun and blanket and everything and run a mile to camp..” As described in this article from the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine, this wasn’t the first time Pvt. Fallen and his weapon were separated.
Anderson Raine was either a private or a corporal at the time this
letter was written. He was elected an officer 4/26/62 and served with
distinction through his capture at Spotsylvania 5/12/64.
His story is