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21st Kentucky Infantry - Surgeon

Item LTR-227
September 7, 1863 Claiborne J. Walton
Price: $250.00


8 page original Civil War soldier's letter, war dated.

Marion County Tennessee
September 7, 1863
Whiteside Coal Mine – 16 miles from Chattanooga

My Very Dear Nannie

It is now late and I have just ascertained that I can start a letter to you in the morning. So I will gather an “Old Grey Goose I will and spatter away”. We are still in the mountains though we have crossed over the Great Tennessee River on the south side. We crossed about eight miles above Bridgeport and are now about seven miles above the place where we crossed the River among the mountains just at the foot of Whiteside Mountain. A mountain with a coal mine in it. You must explain this to Mary Liz and Prissie of course you will. Our Division is now gone ahead of us in the direction of Chattanooga and our Regiment is left to guard the forks of the Road until further ordered. I have spent the day running around and getting fruit among the miners upon the mountain. I was astonished to find a settlement of neat but poor Irish and one of poor neat English ladies whose husbands are all gone away from home to save themselves from the Rebel Army. They are very poor but seem honest and some don’t. They have a terrible epidemic of scarlet fever. I had to visit several sick in that settlement. Though poor of this region are in a very disturbing condition. You never can know the misery of the people of East Tennessee. There is hardly an able-bodied man left in the region of the state. They are forced into the Rebel Service.

I now think we will have a pretty hard Battle at Chattanooga . Our forces constantly picket fighting with the enemy. We expect to take Lookout Mountain, three miles this side of Chattanooga tomorrow. It is a high and hard place to take but Old Rosy says we must have it to place our Signal Corps upon. So look out. I will be out of danger if we remain here and will if we go forward and get into a heavy battle. I shall stay back in my place in the rear. You may feel assured that I shall make no unnecessary risks. I will try to do my whole duty as a Christian – a patriot and a Surgeon. I must quit for tonight. I received a letter from dated Aug 28th just as I started on a march. I need not tell you how it delighted me. I will enclose in this a copy of my diary as it was penciled down on a scrap of paper embracing some three days. It is dim but you can make it out I guess. You will find a great many incidents referred to of but little importance for the purpose of calling more vividly to mind a great many little circumstances that will to say the least of it be of great interest in after life to myself and you. I am happy to hear you say that Mary Sis can spell. Tell her I will get her some nice books when she gets so she can read them. She shall have nice stories, good moral books but none others. You know the estimate I set upon good moral training and the books we read exercise a greater influence upon us than the friends we appreciate with.

The reason I like the Vicar of Wakefield is because it is of such a high moral tone and you remember that it is really the history of the Goldsmith family. Oliver Goldsmith family. I wish you recommend it to Amelia Mercilla and Susie and explain the family that it is the history of. It is one of the classical works. The language and moral of the work are of the very first order. Amelia ought to read the account of (I believe it is) Matilda standing on the Bridge over the River Vulga when suddenly her little boy slipping out of her arms into the River. Now what I want is for Amelia to feel that good may result from the most hopeless situation in life. Do you remember the beautiful verses repeated and played by the Vicar’s unfortunate daughter one lovely evening.

“When lovely woman stoops to folly.
And learns too late that men betray.
What charm can soothe her melancholy
What art can wash her stain away?
The only art her quite too soon,
And hide her shame from every eye
To teach importance to her soon,
And wring his bosom – is to die.”

Now these verses are so fine and chaste and beautiful that I know you could not help memorizing them. I may not repeat them accurately. When Prissie reads it, get her to tell you the story to you and assist her in it. Tell her always to recall the names of the parties. I was glad to hear you say that you were drying peaches but I know you will over work yourself. You must put tomatoes and green beans. We need vegetables so much in the service that I feel like I would spend a great deal of time gardening when I get home. I wish you could see Mags Letter. She always tells me how she loves you and how kind you are to her. I have written on until the mail is gone. So I cannot send it this morning. Well it would not reach before the next Tuesday anyhow. We will not have regular mails until we get the Rail Road repaired which will be some weeks. As I shall perhaps be at this place for a day or two I shall write to you again before we leave here. I interrupted at most any minute by first one thing then another. Now comes a Rebel Prisoner. Now are two sick soldiers from the Telegraph Company. No here comes Newt Brooks for some Eye Salve. John Stewill has been very sick but he is nearly able for duty. We have kept him with us all the way through. Our boys are all well. My men do better when I keep them with the Regiment. My health is good. I got a good mess of apples and peaches yesterday. Fruits always help me. I guess I feel like talking as much as you do. I think we can talk all the remainder of our lives. We will never get done telling all we have seen. Give yourself no missgivings about our Kentucky money. It is all safe. I wrote to Phil immediately also to yourself about our matters. You have got my letters before this. I hope you are talking enough to Mr. And Mrs. Mosely for you and me both. As to whipping the Rebels soon, I cannot tell but I am confident that sooner or later we will give them just what they deserve. I am now confident that they will give us battle at Chattanooga. I have no idea of them evacuating the place. Their force is estimated at forty to seventy thousand and will be fortified. So you can see that we have a Herculean task before us and they have a Herculean task to defend themselves. Nannie, I fully sympathize with you in your loneliness. You say you hope we will not always be separated as at present. Yes I shall not be compelled to stay away from my dearest objects always. Every fond hope and bright anticipation is connected with my wife and children. When the time comes for me to come home to your arms, to your swelling bosom I shall be happy. Can you love me as you once did? Can you feel all that devotion that you always displayed to me? If your Love and devotion can be the same why fear that I shall stay away until home will lose its charms? As time wears away I only love you the better. I feel like I should not practice medicine when I get home but stay about home and aid you in training our little pledges of plighted love. Truly it is really necessary I shall not engage in any business that demands my attention from home. That is the center of our interests and affections and I shall only have it as our dearest interests demand. Sometimes my prospects look rather promising, at others rather gloomy. If the war should terminate speedy all will be well with us. If it should continue for a long time our prospects are gloomy. I fear that if it goes on we will change our form of Government into a Military Despotism.

If this should unfortunately be the case you will see my connection with the Army is a fortunate thing for us and our children. I always was opposed to anything but a republican form of Government but if our Government should be submitted, I should wish to be among the favored class. For us to be a family in a country where the Government recognizes classes and have our children among the lowest class is too much for me to bear but this is a gloomy subject and as there is no probability of such a thing I shall dismiss the subject. Our difficulties will be settled soon I think. I hope and believe that our Government will be placed upon a more sure and enduring basis, a provider and nobler government than was before. This is the great struggle for national independence which will favor our capacity to defend ourselves against foes from without as well as within but we will not recover from the shock for ages.

Nannie, I have written to you about our business in a former letter. Such as writing our “I am to Mrs. Ainsley and the Old House and Lot to Mr. L.S. Wathald and about sending Dawson money and going into the Goods business with Phil and now I believe you will attend to it all cheerfully and promptly. Now I wish you would go and see Mr. A. Edwards Deputy Sheriff at Three Springs and tell him that I paid him Ten dollars taxes in 1860 (when we were killing hogs) for Mr. Bunnell’s Estate, either for the year ’59 or ’60 which left a balance of about two dollars (I think). If he gave me a receipt it is lost. Ask him if he pleases to give you a receipt for it and if he will do that pay the remainder. When I settled with court I could not settle that for want of the receipt. See him soon. I forgot to mention it before. I shall lose it if I cannot get a receipt. Remind him that it was in the yard at Fannies when we were at work cutting up her meat. (I believe). Excuse me for placing so much upon. If I have an opportunity to send Jamison that money, must I do it and I am almost afraid of my shadow in money matters. I do not blame you for getting a little mad when you see the very people that borrowed our money riding around in their buggies at our expense. Don’t mind it. I will haunt him through life if he does not pay the money I will jump upon every piece of property I can get. I thought I was done my letter an hour ago but here I am yet sitting flat down upon a few weeds writing away upon my hospital knapsack. My Goose Quill pen gives my writing a peculiar appearance. Old style. I hope you think that I would be safe at home by this time. I will risk it as soon as possible any how. From any indication it will not be until after we have a battle at Chattanooga or surrender or perhaps an evacuation. If Marcella needs that money let her have it. I hope she may need it. What do you think about it? I want you to exercise a sort of advisory control over her. Keep her in check. Tell her “to go slow” and make it sure. I understand that a great many Soldiers have passed by your house. Have they damaged you any? Tell Marcella if she knew what remarks the Soldiers indulge in she would not say a word nor wave a handkerchief. It will do for children to show any signs of welcome they please but be careful “Young Ladies”. If you say so I will quit for the present. Are your tired reading? I am not tired talking to you. No, I could talk and kiss you until I made you ashamed. You would be so shamed that you would look “sleepy”. Now do not blush at that you sweet creature. Kiss our babies. Teach them to pray. Teach them to say “Our Father who art in heaven”. I find that I can send this off this evening so I will just close it and send it along and if you wish you may burn it but I will not burn yours. Simply because your hand was sore and you could not write it quite as well as usual. As to my letters, I do not write any of them as well as I ought. Now my Dear Child, imagine that you pray often for me. I hope it is so. Remember me in every prayer. We will pray for the mutual welfare of each action and for a long and happy life together. I can hardly keep from weeping when I think of you and our children. Five long months since we parted last. Is it so? How have we stood it. This is sealed with a Thousand Kisses by your Husband. Sincerely,

Claiborne J. Walton

Read the Song of Solomon in the Bible. See what he says of love. I have got that far in the Bible and nearly through the New Testament. My Goose Quill keeps on miserably bobbling about. I have bored you good with this letter I cannot believe I would write more than one sheet when I began. I have no time for correction. Make all the necessary allowance. I always make some mistakes. Pardon them. Did Mary Liz and Martin get my letter to them? Tell Marcella to write me all about it. Tell Prissie to give me a history my thing.

Will our mares have colts?

J. Walton