26th Letter: “Pure Southern Air of Virginia” (September 22, 1862)

Near Martinsburg. Va

Sep. 22nd 1862.

Dear Mother-

Once more I am permitted to breath the pure Southern air of Va and to write you that I am have made the trip to Mary Land and am now well, though many from our Regt are lying under the sod of Mary Land cold in death.

September 33, 1862: page 1 of 5

I suppose you have ere this heard of the fight we had over the River, in my opinion one of the hardest fought battles that we have had in this army.  We had 8 wounded in our company, One mortally wounded H. Turner now dead, and only two dangerously Reese Houston and Rufe Shaw-I imagine with what sorrow the news will reach uncle Wms family- just after losing one son.  Rufe is badly wounded, but I do not think his wound is mortal, and the doctor thinks with the proper attention he will recover, the ball entered the left shoulder and came lodged just under the skin and under the shoulder blade.  I am in hopes he will soon get home, where he will be properly attended to.

Confederate troops marching West in Frederick, Maryland on East Patrick Street, September 12, 1862.  Click image to view source.

To learn more about Civil War history in Frederick County, click image of Confederate troops marching West on East Patrick Street, September 12, 1862.

I wrote to you the day before we crossed the Potomac, which letter I hope you rcd.  I will now give you a brief sketch of our trip into Mary Land. We crossed the River and went near Leesburg and went about 25 miles to Frederick city on the Baltimore and Ohio River Rail Road.  There we rested two days, to blow up the Rail Road Bridge at that Point, one of the finest I ever saw, made of Rock and iron.  It certainly cost millions of dollars.

We came through one or two more little towns rather bearing around towards the River again untill we came to Hagerstown where we halted a day + 1/2, wh were then in 6 miles of the Pensylvania line just as far north as I wanted to go.  We met with a few friends and plenty of enemies.  I think we got two Regiments of infantry- We got there a a few days before Lincolns draft was to take effect.  We left Hagerstown If we had had any gold and silver we could have bought any thing we wanted, things sold as cheap as dirt.  Our Quarter Masters got what shoes and clothing they could.

Sept 22 1862 2:3

September 22, 1862: pages 5 and 2 respectively of 5

At Hagerstown we learned that the enemy was after un us with a large force, so we turned back to meet them at the Mountain.  When our Division got there they were fighting in the mountain We had two Brigades there to hold it, but the Yankees flanked them on both sides driving them back and killing a great many. taking some prisoners.  They carried us up on the mountain and formed a line of batteries in the roughest kind of a place, it was then late in the evening.  Our Brigade had a skirmish with them after nights.  The 4th Ala + 2nd Miss fired several rounds, and the balls flew all as and bombs flew all around us, but hurt no one.  There was a few killed in the other Regiment. We lay in line of balls under 12 O clock when we fell back about 4 miles to a better position where we had the big fight.

The Yankees followed us next morning untill they came in sight, and then both sides lay there all day grinning at one another, preparing to fight next day.  

We had a little skirmish late in the evening. in which Lt Nelms was wounded and Graham of our company.  Col Liddell was mortally wounded with a piece of shell.  The ball that wounded Nelms did not miss me 3 in- We were lying down in the open ground exposed to a battery of the enemy.  We had been in front all day and after the skirmish was over we we were relieved by other troops.

September 22, 1862:  pages 3 and 4 respectively of 5

September 22, 1862: pages 3 and 4 respectively of 5

We drew some flour and salt that night and Lub Buford and Rufe Mitchel were detailed to coock it,- so they did not get into the fight next day. As soon as day dawned the enemy made the attack.  We were then in the rear in a skirt of woods, but still in mack of the enemys cannon- The bombs and Grape shot fell around us and in our ranks.  There were two or three wounded and one killed in Our Regt.  I was lying behind a a tree and a piece of shell came whizzing along and cut off a limb as big as my arm which fell at my feet, the battle had been raging then for two hours or more when we were ordered up- and away we went amid a showers of balls and bombs- We were ordered to charge, which we did.  We got in 150 yds of the enemys battery, had driven the infantry behind it and they were just fixing to leave when the enemy came in such force that we had to fall back.

Click image to learn more about Antietam.

Click image to view animated map of the Battle of Antietam.

Reese Houston was then wounded and I carried him off the field.  Lt Col Butler was wounded and left the field.  Major Ivans was killed and our Adjutant was wounded.  I could We held our ground, neither side gained any thing.  We lay in line of battle of all next day but the Yankees would not attack us and that night we crossed the River and it is said the Yankees fell back to the mountain that night also-

I must close for want of paper.  We are now lying in the woods resting and washing ourselves and and clothes.  I will send you a list of the killed and wounded in our comp.  I rcd yours and Marys letters yesterday- Send things by Newt that you spoke of.  Give my love to all the family and tell them to write.  I will write soon again and give particulars. Your devoted Son P.M. Buford

Blogger’s Notes:

  • This letter was written near Martinsburg, Virginia.  Little did Parham know that by year’s end, efforts would be made to snuff-out the “pure Southern air of Virginia” from Martinsburg.  An application would be made to Congress on December 31, 1862 for the admission of the Western region of Virginia to the Union.  Martinsburg would soon lie within the new state of West Virginia, the only state formed through secession from the Confederacy.
  • Parham was engaged in the following two battles during the Maryland Campaign since the previous posted letter:  Boonsborogh, Sharspburg (also known as Antietam).
  • A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A. documents information about comrades mentioned by Parham.
    • Hezekiah (H) Turner present at Boonsborough, where he was killed on the last day of the battle of Sharpsburg.
    • Rees A. Houston present at Sharpsburg, where he was severely wounded.
    • Rufus A. Shaw present at Boonsborough, Sharpsburg, where he was severely wounded and brought back to Shepherdstown, Va.  He was retired July, 1864 by reason of wound through left lung.  Is the wound described by Parham (i.e. ball entered the left shoulder and came lodged just under the skin and under the shoulder blade) also what resulted in damage to the lung? Although eventually retiring almost two years later, Rufus is not cited as having served in any battles following Sharspburg.
    • William G. Nelms, a 2nd Lt. whom Parham wrote of as being hit by a ball which narrowly missed him, was present at Seven Pines, where he was wounded; at Gaines’s Farm, where he was again severely wounded.  He was at Boonsborough and at Sharpsburg, when he was again wounded.  The second day at Sharpsburg he was more severely wounded.  He was present again at Gettysburg, when he was again severely wounded.  First day on Weldon Railroad he was wounded and on the second day he was again severely wounded; at Hawkes Farm he was again severely wounded on 25th of March, 1865, and was sent to hospital at Richmond, where he suffered for several months.  Finally he recovered and returned to Mississippi…He made a fine soldier, always ready for duty when not disabled…His record speaks more eloquently than any other words of ours, his devotion and service to the cause so dear to every true Southron, for it tells of the many scars which he bore upon his person, relics of the noble struggle he made for his country.  We trust that his brave spirit now rests in the peace which is eternal, and that he will meet his comrades in that reunion which shall have no end.
    • James H. Graham present at Boonsborough, Sharpsburg, where he was wounded on the second day of that battle…battle of the Wilderness, where he was again wounded on the second day…at Bethsaida Church, two days, and was no more with the company because of sickness.
    • Goodloe (Lub) W. Buford whom Parham wrote of as being on cooking duty was at Boonsborough, Wilderness, where he was wounded in the head…Hatcher’s Run, where he was again severely wounded in the hip.
    • Rufus N. Mitchell. whom Parham wrote of as being on cooking duty was previously wounded at Seven Pines, and was absent on wounded furlough until the Battle of Boonsborough, and was present in every battle thereafter till close of the war except Hatcher’s Run, where he was on furlough.
  • Other individuals from the Regimental Staff mentioned by Parham are as follows.
    • Phillip Franklin Liddell, Lt. Col. died from wounds received at Sharpsburg.
    • Samuel F. Butler, Lt. Col. died from wounds received at Sharpsburg.
    • Taliaferro Sidney Evans, Major was killed at Sharpsburg.

The Battle of Antietam

Click image to learn about the Battle of Antietam.

Click image to learn about the Battle of Antietam.

Parham wrote in the previous posted letter that he, along with the Army of Northern Virginia, received orders to march North into MarylandConfederates and Federals converged at the Battle of Sharpsburg, also known as Antietam, and Parham lived to write of the bloodiest single day battle in all of American history.

Click the image of the National Park Service emblem to learn about the political context, both domestic and international, which revolved around the Maryland Campaign.  Antietam National Battlefield rangers describe how 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862. The Battle of Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led to Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

25th Letter: “Shot in Both Legs” (September 5, 1862)

Photo is of Walter Scott Buford.

Click image of Walter Scott Buford to view source of photo.

Sept 5th 1862

Dear Mother.

For once I have an opportunity of sending you a letter, which I hope you will find you all enjoying good health- Since I last wrote we have been engaged in two conflicts with the enemy, the last battle was fought near the old battle ground of Manassas. and was I think one of the bloodiest battles that has ever been fought in Va. though I h have sad news to relate-

Walter I think is crippled for life.


September 5, 1862

though we had only one man killed in both engagements – vis – A T Porter. Sanford Bodon was slightly wounded and Esom Dooley severely in the the Breast. Walter has gone to Warrenton where I know he will be kindly treated. He was shot in both legs.  I have had a bad cold for several days but am getting well of it now-

We have just now rcd. orders to march and I must close. We are now on our way to Mary Land, will cross to m the River to night or in the morning.

I will write every opportunity and I want you all the do the same. Love to all the family- Your devoted son PM Buford

Blogger’s Notes:

  • Parham has been engaged in the following three battles since the last posted letter:  Freeman’s Ford, Thoroughfare Gap, and Second Manassas.
  • A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A. documents information about comrades mentioned by Parham.
    • Walter S. Buford, present at Second Manassas, where on the second day he was mortally wounded, August 30, 1862; was taken to the hospital, where he died on the 15th of September.  […as gallant a soldier as ever stood before an enemy.  The record the Company shows that he was present at every battle in which the Company was engaged until he was mortally wounded.  Such records made the imperishable names of Lee and Jackson.  Our independence would have been assured could we have recruited our army with such material.  We would have been invincible. – A COMRAD.]  
    • Alexander T. (A T) Porter, present at Second Manassas, where he was killed on  the second day.
    • Warren S. (Sanford) Bodon, present at Second Manassas, he was severely wounded the last day…June 1, 1864, was shot through the thigh by a sharpshooter.
    • Esom B. Dooleysixteen years of age…present at…Second Manassas, where he was mortally wounded and died at Gainesville, Va., September, 1862. […a mere youth, modest and gentle as a girl, but every inch a soldier who neglected no duties and always ready to obey orders.]
  • Parham wrote of the Maryland Campaign by stating we are now on our way to Mary Land, will cross the River (i.e. Potomac) to night or in the morning.

24th Letter: King Cotton and Slaves (July 12, 1862)

July 12th 1862.

Camp near Richmond Va

Dear Mother.

July 12, 1862:  page 1 of 2

July 12, 1862: page 1 of 2

I will avail myself of the present opportunity of sending you a letter by one of our boys that has been discharged and is going direct to Oxford, though I have written very frequently since I have been here m which I hope you have rcd. I rcd one from you all last week, one from Mary yesterday and another one, so you need not think that I have rcd no letters from you, The last from Mary + [words, probably “the old man,” are cut out of the letter] was dated July 12, stating that you had all heard from our big fight with all particulars.

This leaves me in the enjoyment of good health, though I can not, say that for all. Tubby and Tom Buford has [has corrected to have with pencil by different hand] been quite sick for a week, not well yet, they are going off to the country to stay awhile. There is not much sickness among the troops here now, some cases of fever.

We are still trying on our own here, waiting for something else to turn up. We are doing fine generally with the exception of eating nothing but beef and flour, occasionally sugar and rice and peas. We get just about enough to bacon to put in our bread. I would think I was living like a Prince if I could get some vegetables to eat. We cant to get to town to by buy any, and if we could it would take all the of our money, what we do get is from Huxsters. They charge 25cts for 3 Onions hardly enough to make beef stake smell good, 40cts quart milk, 25 to 50cts for a plate of Apple dumplings or chicken stew; so you see it does not pay to throw away money in that style. At least I will I will be penurious enough not to do it.

Click image of Civil War era sewing kit or

Click image of Civil War era sewing kit or “housewife” to learn about the living history of Civil War reenactors.

We drew 25$ two weeks ago, and with that in Richmond you could not buy much more than a common hat and pants, the former of which I am necessarily bound to have, for I have been wearing an old cap that Dick Shaw made last [words, probably “winter at,” are cut out of letter] Camp Fisher for nearly 3 months. I have a good Jacket and pr Kersey pants that I got from the Government, but could not get any shirts so I will have to get one in the city. (two allowed to go from each company a day). You can send me a shirt and pr yarn socks by Newt Shaw, also a needle case and thread.

Click image to read

Click image to read “Cotton in a Global Economy: Mississippi (1800-1860)” by Eugene R. Dattel.

I see that foreign nations are very anxious for this war to close, they are needing our cotton badly, I am very anxious for it to close, for I assure you I never want to witness such scenes as I have passed through lately again, I saw sights that would make you sick, nothing to be compared to it, but I will not mention them. I must close for want of more paper.

Give my love to all the family, white and black. 

resd Reserve a due share for your self write soon and often to your devoted and affectionate son. PM Buford

July 12, 1862: page 2 of 2

July 12, 1862: page 2 of 2

P.S. P.S. Give me all the news you can about that army in that country, and tell me whether you have heard from Uncle Anderson or not. Burn this when you read it. you can let any of the family read it if they want to.

Blogger’s Notes:

  • Several words, probably the old man, have been cut out of the letter.  The same words on previous letters have been seen either cut-out, rubbed-out, or scribbled-out.  Was this informal term considered to be a dysphemism by the original recipient or someone else as the letters passed down through the generations?
  • ”Tubby” is Goodloe Warren Buford, Jr.
  • Parham referenced the economic impact the War was having upon cotton exports.
  • Click image of 1860 US Federal Census Schedule 2 for

    Click image to view 1860 US Federal Census Schedule 2 of “slave inhabitants.”

    It was assumed Parham was not from a slave-holding household until preparing this post when it was observed the letter closed with give my love to all the family, white and black.  A previous post [see http://wp.me/p40u7G-nc] incorrectly stated otherwise because the blogger only viewed Schedule 1 of the 1860 US Federal Census.  Schedule 1 tracked the color of persons as white, black, or mulatto; recording all as white.  It was not realized previously that the schedule excluded persons in servitude until Schedule 2 was discovered which tracked slave inhabitants.  According to Schedule 2, it clear there were seven black slaves connected to the household.

  • Parham included slaves when referring to “family,” an unsuspected word choice for many 21st century readers.  Did Parham grow close to the slaves he interacted with since early childhood? Did he use the word “family” interchangeably with “household”?

23rd Letter: Run Away (July 11, 1862)

In camp two miles from Richmond Va

My Dear Parents-              July. 11th, 62-

July 11 1862 1/2

July 11, 1862: page 1

Again I am permitted to pen you a few lines, which I think you will surely get as it will be carried by Newt Shaw who was wounded in the ever memorable battle before Richmond in which we drove the enemy 25 miles, where they sought shelter under their Gun Boats- I will not give any particulars about the fight as he can tell you all you want to know about that fight and the one at Seven Pines

Parham describes the Yankees as fleeing

Parham describes the Yankees as fleeing “every man for himself” like a “gang of sheep.”

We drove the enemy out of two breastworks made of logs and supported by 10 pieces of artillery which we took I mean our Brigade. We had four killed in our company and 10 or 12 wounded. When we charged, we never stopped untill within 30 yards of the first breastwork, where we halted and commenced shooting, being there about 15 minutes during which time I think I shot 15 rounds, the minie ball and canister shot- falling as thick as hail in our devoted ranks. They give the order to charge again and down the hill we went with a yell. and before we got within 20 ft of the breast work the Yankees started, every man for himself throwing away every thing that impeded their progress- They went like a gang of sheep, then I wanted a double barreled Shot-Gun.  I shot 20 rounds altogether, took one prisoner and got one bullet hole through my coat sleeve. As I said before Newt can tell you all the particulars so I will close, for I know you can hardly read this.

July 11 1862 2/2

July 11, 1862: page 2

One of our best men, Mr Paine was killed- though I think he is in a better world than this-

You all must write every opportunity. I will do the same. for I believe we will get some rest now- Nothing more at present. I remain your devoted son

P M Buford

Blogger’s Notes:

  • This rushed letter is a brief recap of the previous two already posted.  Parham mentioned in the previous letter that his cousin, Newt Shaw, was wounded during the Battle of Gaines’ Mill.  Here we see that Newt returns home to recover and hand delivers this letter to Parham’s parents in College Hill, Mississippi.
  • A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A. documents information about comrades mentioned by Parham.
    • David B. (DB) Paine was during Gaines’s Mill mortally wounded and died at Field Hospital, June 27, 1862…He deserves more than a brief mention when speaking of faithful soldiers.  He was most methodical and conscientious in the discharge of every duty called upon to perform, and…that the Confederacy lost a hero who deserves to be held in loving memory in the person of David Brainerd Paine. This 21 year old man left quite an impression on survivors of the Lamar Rifles 40 years later and was held in high regard by Parham in letters.  What greater legacy is there for one to leave behind than to be described by comrades as ever faithful in carrying-out duties and Christian?
    • William N. (Newt) Shaw was present at…Gaines’s Farm and was absent wounded until he was present second day at Sharpsburg…at Weldon Railroad, where he was killed on first day.

Did Your Civil War Ancestor Turn to His Faith for Comfort?


Parham, like many others during the Civil War, reflected on eternal matters for comfort. Thus far, we have seen Parham refer to Divine Providence as the reason he and comrades survived through battle. He referred to a fallen mess mate as a Christian. In a letter not yet posted, we will see Parham write of his hope that, should he not survive the cruel war, he will one day be reunited with family in heaven where there are no wars nor rumors of wars.

Originally posted on Poore Boys In Gray:

Richmond, Va. St. John's Church. (Library of Congress photo) Richmond, Va., St. John’s Church. (Library of Congress photo)

The Union grip on Petersburg in early 1865 had made the men of the Army of Northern Virginia near captives behind their defenses. They were often exposed to the elements in severe weather. They did not have enough to eat. And death daily stalked them.

Brothers John and William Poore and their comrades might have found some comfort in the nightly prayer meetings that had been a feature of army life since the war began. As weary and hungry as they were, soldiers sought refuge in their faith at these meetings.

This aspect of the lives of soldiers, in both gray and blue, is too often overlooked by historians. Faith is important for understanding how John, William and the other men bore up under such privations and for understanding the actions they took after the war.

For hundreds of other brave…

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