[Letter from Robert Hunter Peel to Julia Matthews]
Camp Lamar, Richmond June 23rd/61
I regret that circumstances have prevented me from writing you so long, as you were kind enough to send me the papers from Holly Springs and what was much more importance, your love, and your present success. This is the holy sabath day and I am up soon in order to write you before the noise and the duties of camp life disturb me. I have not received a line from any living soul since I left home, except a half dozen lines from you and Sis Martha, written upon the margin of some newspapers. Oh! Sis, if you could only know how a soldier appreciates a letter from home, when he scarcely expects to see the dear spot again, or to grasp once more the hands of kindred and friends, you would certainly find time to write me often if you could only know how deeply I feel the disappointment, when each eavening our post-boy returns to camp without a letter or a word for me, while all others around me are made glad with kind words from the dear ones, from home, You would write something, if twas only a line per weak.
I have been here two weaks, and have become pretty well used to camp-life. I am in only tolerable health, having had a severe cold and cough since leaving home, most of our men have suffered from the same affections since we left, and several are unable to do duty now, though none are seriously unwell.
We have to work without ceasing, to acquire our men, and when one of us is made officer-of-the-day, we have no time for sleep or rest for twenty-four-hours. Richmond is and old looking place, and remarkably quiet, considering the excitement that generally prevails in the neighbourhood of an invading enemy, and around a spot where thousands of soldiers have congregated. Nought is heard but the sound of the drum, and the shrill note of the fife accompanied by the regular tread of hundreds of soldiers, as they pass through, or leave this city for Manassas gap, Harpers ferry, Norfolk, or York-town and if yankee troops could only witness what I have for the last thirty days, they would never entertain a hope of conquering such a people, South Carolina & Mississippi are well represented in the old-dominion of this time, and virginians believe them the best fighters in the south, as indeed in the world.
Ere another month pases over our head, we will be called to face the enemy upon the bloody field of battle, and you may be assured that our boys will send back a tale to dear old Marshall, that will not disgrace her former reputation , as the home of the brave and the free. Give my love to all, and believe me ever, Your affectionate brother
Robt. H. Peel
[Letters from Robert Hunter Peel to Alice Maud Matthews]
Camp of the 19th Miss Regt.
Your last letter was received a few days since, but I have been too much engaged to reply until the present moment. Our Regt left the camp near Bristowes Station ten days ago, and as we had no regularly appointed Surgeon, I was left in charge of 223 sick & feeble, both as Surgeon & commander of the post. As fast as the men were ready for duty I sent them forward to the Regt at this place, and those who were very sick I sent to the Hospital at Warrenton. The general health of our men is improved but still bad, and I am sorry for it as we are expecting a fight in a few days. We received orders this morning to send all men who were not able to fight, back to Manassas, with all our heavy baggage &c, and to inspect our arms and ammunition, and in short to put ourselves in perfect fighting trim. All of your acquaintances in our company are well and ready for whatever may turn-up. My own health is fine and I have never lost an hour from duty since I joined the army. Dutch & Add are very well, and are always at their posts Dutch [a comment by another soldier in A. L. Peel's diary, appeared to refer to Albert Peel by the nickname Dutch]. I was in Richmond on the 3rd, but only for one day, as my services were needed here and I feared the fight might begin before I got back. I had gone to look after some of our sick in Hospitals, and also to ascertain what had become of a certain Petition sent up to the President, by the Colonel & All the Captains of our Regt, asking that I should be appointed Surgeon of the 19th. I found that the petition had been filed with a large number of papers, and had been overlooked but when the Secretary of War was informed of the circumstances, he said the appointment should be made at once, and I presume that my commission has been forwarded to the Col, though it has not yet reached us. Should I receive the appointment as promised, I will rank as Major, and all my aspirations will be gratified, in a military point of view, for I much prefer my profession, to Brass-Buttons & Epauletts. But be this as it may, I shall fight this war through, or die in the attempt.
Much as I love you all Sis, and happy as I should be to see you again, nothing but Providential interfearance shall ever drive me from my post. Sis, I have been wondering where your gay, happy – little heart can be since you declared in your last letter that it was in the Old Dominion, is it possible that you would suffer it to stay so far from home, perhaps to dwell in the tent of a poor rough soldier. I imagine that you would call it back again, could you see us in our rude, dirty garb, with our unshaven faces, cooking and washing around our tents. I think that you should have no secret from me, and I would like for you to let me know, in your next letter, where the dear little heart is, for you must remember that I have an interest in its affection, and a right to enquire its whereabouts.
Give my love to all and tell Mother I will write to her soon. I will write to Sis Martha soon – Heaven Bless her, and to my dear good sister Julia. Bob shall hear from me soon, would that he was with us now. Tell the Doctor that I will give him a long letter soon, with All the war news in this part of the world. If you see any one from home send Thom and sis Olivia word to write us how all are at home, as their letters are few and far between. If the expected fight comes on soon, and I survive it, you shall have all particulars at once. If I am kilt-enthirely you will excuse me. Write soon and direct your letters to Manassas Junction.
Believe me ever your
Dec the 24th 1862
From Sis Julias letter received and answered a few days since, I learned that you were refugees from home and sojourning for a time near Carrollton, Miss; and while it pained me to think of you being driven from the natural root[?], I can but rejoice that you are within our lines, and that you will at least escape the taunts & insults of an unscrupilous foe. Amongst the many trials & troubles a rebel soldier has to bear, there is none so bitter & humilliating as the thought that his mother, sister, wife or sweetheart must feel the blow & suffer the horrors of this cruel war. God bless our women; their hearts are always in the right places, and if the men only prove as true to our cause as the ladies have themselves, all will be well in the end. You, who are now a refugee, can appreciate the feelings of our Miss Soldiers whose homes have fallen into the enemies hands, and who are yet compelled to remain on this far-off field where they can only indirectly assist their friends.
Our army has just achieved a glorious victory over Burnsides "Grand Army" at this place & we are very anxious to have him make another advance toward Richmond from this quarter. The dead yankeys lay in heaps upon the fields, actualy piled upon each other where they attempted to force our boys from their position on the sides of the hills commanding the town & river. The health of our army is very good, and never were our men in a better humour for a fight. Albert & Add went through this battle untouched & indeed our loss was remarkably small, as our boys worked all night long with spades & picks to cover their positions from the enemies fire. None of your acquaintances were injured. The town of Fredericksburg is "played-out" completely torn to pieces & destroyed by fire balls & shells. The place was given up to pilledge & well did the vandals do their work, every house in the place was broken open and all distructable property, public & private was completely mined. The iron & stone fence that enclosed the cemetery was torn down and the graves of the dead trampled under their unhallowed feet. The grave of the Mother of Washington is in this place & it looks like sacrelidge to have that sacred plot thus desecrated. This army of ours has a most heartless & [?] set to contend with, but we have [whipped?] them on every field where we have met & the thought of defeat has never entered the heads of our brave boys in this "Army to the Potomoc". Would to Heaven our [southern?] army had so bright a page to adorn the future history of this bloody [strugle?] Now that we have sent you one of our very best generals [Joseph?] Johnson and [?] has gone in person to look after the welfare of the South, I expect to hear of great battles and glorious victories won by our arms in Miss.
Tomorrow will be Christmas, but it brings no rejoicing to the hearts of Mississippians. God grant our month will be a happy one. Give my love to Julia, Bob & Billie & write me soon & often. Farewell my dear Sister & believe me ever your affectionate brother.
Field Hospital - Posey's Brigade
My dear Sister,
Imagine my delight on the reception of your dear, kind letter, situated as I am at this moment - in a field hospital - temporarily erected for the accomodation of the wounded whom we are hourly expecting. The enemy have crossed to our side of the Rappahannoc and our army is now drawn up in line of battle to meet them. We feel no aprehension for the result, for we always whip them, and our soldiers here, go in with no other calculation than to win. I am sitting on a sack of corn from which I have just fed my handsome pony (Alice Maud) and am writing on a book with my lead pencil- the only substitute I have for a pen at present.
Thus romantically situated my dear Sister, you will of course expect nothing particularly interesting from your affectionate Bud, but my anxiety to communicate with you, and the uncertainty of my future movements induces me to make use of this opportunity bad as it is. I did not consult you about naming my pony, but am sure if you were to see her you would not wish it changed. I called it after you because it is a little beauty, because it is kind and gentle, and because I love it. It is my pet and follows me about camp and begs for biscuit and ginger bread of which it is very fond, thus resembling my dear little Sister in another point. I had some lady friends in town last winter, who used to ride the pony sometimes and frequently called on me at my little tent in the green wood near by, to drink egg-nog and eat peanuts with me. One black eyed beauty (Susie) was so much pleased with the pony, that she even agreed to take the owner to get possession of it and had she not been a Pensylvania girl by birth I fear I should have given-up pony rides and all, for Susie was a sweet little flower from the valey of wyoming, and used to sing songs to me, and call me her dear Brother. She favored you some and for that reason I called her Sister, and became quite attached to her while I was near town and could visit her at home. I have one other lady friend in this state, in whom I feel deep interest because of her peculiar circumstances, and because she has ever shown such a disposition to confide in me though I have not met her since she left Manassas for school more than sixteen months ago. She was cut-off from home by the yankees and now refuses to return to her fathers house because he has taken the oath to the Lincoln Despotism. Knowing the regiment to which I was attached, she wrote to me last fall, telling me how she was situated and asking my advice. I told her to remain at school until her education was completed, and sent her means to pay her board and tuition, which she indignantly refused at first but finaly accepted as a loan until she can communicate with her unfortunate father. She writes to me frequently now and calls me her brother & protector, and I am quite fond of my little friend.
You see Sister, I have friends everywhere and should I get sick again in Virginia these new sisters of mine have promised to nurse me until I am "all right" and ready for duty. Sister; do not imagine for a moment that any one can supplant you in my affections, for your every looks remind one of brighter days, and I love you more than others, because I am happier when you are near, and because I feel that no other being can ever influence me or control my destiny so much as yourself. Write me soon and often my dear Sister, and tell me all the news from Home for you & Sis Julia & Sis Martha, are my only correspondents in Miss" now , and I feel as much isolated while cut-off from home, as you do cut-off from the confederate army.
Give my love to our dear Mother, to the Doctor, Aunt June, Sister Martha, Sis Julia, and all the rest. Do not fall in love with any of these rebels, until I tell you whom I have selected for you, and if you are not satisfied with him, then try your hand, and exercise your own taste & judgement in the selections, for I am persuaded you will make the best soldiers wife in the world, if you find a rebel with Sense & Soul enough to appreciate your good qualities.
Excuse the pencil, and believe me my sweet Sister, you are more than
all the world to me.
Your brother Robt"
Field Hospital, Harris's Brigd.
My dear Alice,
Hunter reached Richmond a week ago but in consequience of a demonstration made on that city at the time, Lt. Bowen, who accompanied him, was pressed into service for the time and did not come on to the Army as we anticipated he would. Hunter and his companion – Ron Austin, were left at the Miss Depot in Richmond, where Ron was taken with Measles, and they are still there. Hunter sent the letters &c to us for distribution on yesterday, and I have just sent up an application for a leave of absence, in order that I may go with him and Ron to Col Austins in Cumberland, Co, where I expect to put them at school untill Hunter is old enough o be put into the Army. I am greatly relieved by your dear letter, for in it you tell me to be happy, and aprise me of your constant devotion to your unhappy brother. There is but one [?] in your letter at all ambiguous. You say that you will unburden your heart when I come to see you and hope to make all right, when certain obsticles are removed. I had hoped dear Alice, that there was no longer any impediments to the consumation of our happiness, and that your ? and resolutions were irrevocably fixed. You say also, that you will make no other arrangements untill I come; what these other arrangements are I am at a loss to concieve, since I cannot believe you capable of acting in bad faith with any one, but of all, myself. I regret that all of my letters have not reach you before Hunter left home, as I had written freely and fully to you, and had, I hoped, made sufficient explanations and appologies for my past course. Please do not mention that unfortunate letter of mine any more, as I have suffered enough from it already. You know the motive which actuated me, and must confess, twas a just and pure one. But, enough of that! You have forgiven me, and have promised to love me always; This is enough for my happiness in this world and I shall be content untill I can come to Mississippi & claim you for my own. Oh! Alice, you can never know how entirely my life, my hopes, my destiny, my all are in your hands, to be cherished and encouraged, or blighted forever. You will say tis undignified and childish in me, to write this, but tis true, and to you, I may speak plainly and comfidentially, well knowing, that if you cannot appreciate you will at least respect my feelings. I have seen all the woes of men – pain, death, remorse and worldly ruin; they are little, weighed with the woe of man, forsaken by one he has loved and trusted. May kind Heaven protect us, My Alice, from every thought or action which may bring regret in after years. With your love to inspire and encourage me, I feel that I can make music from the common strings with which this world is strung, and from life, clear and sweet, and harmless as spring water welling its way through flowers. This feeling is involuntary; we do not make our thoughts dear Alice; the grow in us like grain in wood: the growth is of the skies, which are of nature, nature is of God.
But stop! I did not wander away off here in the pine woods to write
a sermon, save will I bore you with my vagaires. Let me tell you
something of my everyday life in the Army My Hospital for sick and
wounded is about one mile from the City of Petersburg, on the opposite
bank of the river (Appomattox). I have but few sick at this time,
and have had no wounded for several days. There is a constant skirmish
on our front, and Grant is doing every thing that his yankee ingenuity
can suggest, to take this place. I do not think he will be indulged
in his earnest desire to come to town, as Genl". Lee requires all the room
just now for the use of his own boys. We expect Genl". Forrest to
cut the communications in Shermans rear, and believe it will be done soon,
when that army will be ruined if not destroyed entirely. But! come
back, I commenced telling you of my own little affairs, and now I'll go
on – I am sitting with my black book for a desk, and my knee for a table.
The ground is my chair and a fine tree is the back to it. The Autumn
sun shines warm through the open boughs above me, and far below, amongst
the huge rocks the angry river dashes its broken stream along. All
is still save the occassional sound of canon in the distance, where our
batteries on James River are shelling the enemy at their work in Dutch
gap. I have tied little Nellie to a bush close by, and lefr her to
amuse herself with the leaves, of which she seems quite fond. I sent
little Alice-Maud down town last eavening to a friend of mine, Mss Maggie
Russell Who has fallen in love with the little beauty and wished to have
a ride to day. Miss Maggie has promised to send me some chincupins
when she returns, and says she will take good care of dear little Alice-Maud.
She is very curious to know why I named the pony Alice-Maud – and declares
tis the sweetest name in the world. I told her I had given the pony
to a lady friend of that name, and intended to take it home with me this
winter or when the war is over, and deliver it to its propper owner.
I have but three lady acquaintances in the City, and see but little of
them since I moved to this side of the river, We will have musical
concerts, given by the musicians of the army, every week, for the benefit
of the poor of this city, and I anticipate a good time, as I have
an engagement to go with Maggie Russell to the next one which is given.
How I wish you were with me dear Alice, instead of being shut-out from
the world in the dear old town of H. S. where you can neither see nor hear
what is going on. I should be so proud of my dear pretty litle wife,
and so happy in making you so. I expect to be in Mississippi in January
or Febury at least, and I look forward with the deepest interest &
anxiety to that important moment. I cannot tell if I will be able
to get a longer furlough than 30 days, but will go to Jeff-Davis in person,
and try to have it extended to 60, as my business in Miss" is of so much
importance to myself and my country. Adjt" McKie was with me on yesterday
& he is looking well and was of course delighted to receive a letter
from Miss". M. which came with your letter to me. I hope we may return
together next winter, and, and, well never mind; I'll tell you when
we come. Dr. Sharpe is as well as usual, and has just sent in for
his good cloths to go and visit some fair one he has found on the front
line, somewhere. Sam, Pryor & Lou Alexander are well and jolly.
We expect to have a rough time this winter, unless we get sufficient reinforcements
to drive Grant away, and we fear furloughs will be few and far between.
I really do sympathise with you dear Alice, now that you have been forcibly
promoted, but I am sure you become that long, white apron very much, and
no badge of honour a southern girl could wear, would make her so pleasing
in my sight. I have read the picture you have given me of yourself
after the days work was over, when with flushed cheeks and that sweet new
dress, you sat down to write to your far-off brother Robert. I feel
flattered, to be this remembered, and hope you will not let the irregularities
of the mails prevent you from writing often. McKie often gets letters
from H. S. by mail, while I as often look and hope in vain for me from
you. Continue to write me, and trust to lucks for the safe arrival
of your letters. A letter from Sis Olivia informs me of Add, The
only news I have had from him since July, She says he was well on
the 14th of August. I have written him by flag of truce, and have
sent him money, but do not know that my letters ever reached him.
I received a letter from Volney about ten days ago; he was in Montgomery
Ala", and had just recovered from a wound he had received in the head,
at the battle near Atlanta. I have heard nothing from Jimmie or Billie,
and would write them if I knew where to direct my letters, I will
endeavor to find out their address. I will send this as far as Brook-Haven
by a furloughed soldier, and hope it will reach you from that place by
mail. Give my love to all and believe me, my dear Alice
Field Hospital, Harris?s Brig
My Dear Alice,
I have written you so often since receiving your last, that I feel some dellicacy in troubling you again; how would I do so now, but that I fear most of my letters may have failed to reach you. If you have received them, however, you will understand why I wrote you the letter you complained of so much, and you will, I know, accept my applogies, as good and Sufficient ones. Untill I hear from you again I do not know what to say in regard to the affair nearest my heart, for since you choose to consider yourself rejected, you may determine to return the favor by discarding me. Be this as it may, my dear Alice, there can never be any change in my feelings for you. I have cherished the passion too long, and have learned to regard you as the only being on earth I can ever love again. I have been too generous, to seek my own happiness at the sacrifice of yours, and dearly as I love you, I would give you up this hour, if you think you would not be happy, perfectly as my wife. I believe I can and do love you with a stronger and purer devotion than another could feel, for the simple reason that I know you perfectly, and can see and appreciate the traits of your character, as well as the many virtues of your pure young heart. This, however, is for you to decide; and I hope e?re now, you have written me a letter, which will fire my destiny and secure my happiness as well as your own.How ofter, in my utter loneliness, have I wished you were here; And how sincerely have I tried to make myself worthy of your love; Alice! Some on earth will even know what it cost me to write that unfortunate letter, which made you free, and destroyed my last hope of enjoyment in this world; I do not know what has been your decision in regard to matter, after receiving my explanations, but from what I may infer from your subsiquent letters I am inclined to believer that all will yet be well. I wrote you about ten days ago, saying that I would come home upon certain specified conditions, but if you did not see proper ti comply with those conditions, I thought my presence in Mississippi, would only be uhnpleasant and embarrassing to both. Have you decided that I shall come or am I to stay away forever. This is a simple decision, and easily made, but upon it depends the fate of one who loves you Alice, and you must act deliberately. I know you are tired of such boyish-love-letters, as I write you but untill we understand each other perfectly I can write in no other syple. I do hope I shall get a long, good letter from you in a few days, by some one who is coming to this Army, for the suspense I have suffered for many months is intolerable. There is no news of interest here. Constant skirmishing still going on, but no general engagement. I have heard nothing from Add since the 15th of July. He was not well at that time, and I fear his health will suffer if he is confined in prison all the winter. There will be an exchange of prisoners in Richmond to day and tomorrow, and Add may possibly be amongst the fortunate number. I received a letter from Volney dated Montgomery, Ala? Sept 11th. He was in hospital, with a slight wound of the head, but was getting well, he said, and would soon be again on duty. I am looking for Hunter Peel to arrive here about the 25th. I understood he would leave home on the 15th, and I have made arrangements to send him to school. I believe your acquaintances here are all well. Write me by every opportunity, and believe me dear Alice,
Ever yours devotedly
Field-Hospital, Harris Brigd
My own Sweet Alice,
Your devoted & loving
Field Hospital, Harris's Brgd
My dear Alice,
[remainder of letter (second page) is missing]
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