28th Letter: Fathers Visit Wounded Sons (October 8, 1862)


October 8, 1862: page 1

Camp near Winchester Va, Oct 8th- 62

Dear Sister- Again I will avail myself of the present opportunity to send you a few lines- I am enjoying good health and hope this may find you all likewise-

I have no news of interest to communicate- I have never heard from Rufe Shaw yet, nor have I any chance. Old Man Houston came here two days ago to see his son- they are both together at Shephardstown just this side of the River- I expect to hear some thing from him when Houston returns-

Photo is of Walter Scott Buford.

Click image of Walter Scott Buford to view source.

Uncle Newton is with Walter at Warrenton or Richmond, and most all the boys rcd letters by him except me, I was sure you would send a letter- I rcd one from Aunt Polly last week, they were all well, but did not have much to eat, as well as myself.

We have been here two weeks and have not eaten any thing, but beef and bread, and hardly enough of that and haven’t draw did drawn bacon but once- nor can we forage any, for they won’t let us out of the lines- and it won’t pay to buy any thing that is brought in to sell- apples 50 cts pr dozen, honey 1$ per lb- and so on

Our Rgt had just 100 men on drill this morning and this time last year, we had 800- We have now just about 150 for duty- the result of 6 fights that we have been in- I suppose you have heard all the particulars of our last fight by this time, if not let me know in your next & I will particularize-

You may rest assured that I never want be in another battle, such as the last- I could tell you things I saw that would sicken you, but I refrain-  I have myself become some what used to such sights, which I thought I never could do-


October 8, 1862: pages 2 and 3

Some think that there will be another big fight soon, but there is no telling- I believe the Yankees here are as willing to rest awhile as we are- If they don’t fight in less than a month I don’t believe they will fight anymore this winter- You may rest assured that I never want be in another battle, such as the last- I could tell you things I saw that would sicken you, but I refrain- I have myself become some what used to such sights, which I thought I never could do-

I must close for the present, having nothing to interest you- Write me a long-long letter as soon as this is rcd. Give my love to all the family & servants – & to all enquiring friends- Wishing an immediate reply I remain your affectionate and ever faithful Brother

PM Buford

Blogger’s Notes:

  • A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A. documents information about comrades mentioned in this letter by Parham.
    • Rees A. Houston present at Sharpsburg, where he was severely wounded.  Although this letter does not specifically mention Rees by name, we know it is him that Parham writes of because he is the son of  Old Man Houston.
    • Rufus A. Shaw, Parham’s cousin, 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.  Parham described the wound in a previous letter as being a ball which entered the left shoulder and came lodged just under the skin and under the shoulder blade.  Although eventually retiring almost two years later, Rufus is not cited as having served in any battles following Sharspburg.
    • Walter S. Buford, Parham’s cousin, 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.]  
  • Thomas Newton Buford, referred to as Uncle Newton by Parham, is mentioned in this letter as visiting with his son, Walter, in either Richmond or Warrenton.  What Parham does not yet know when writing this letter on October 8th is that Walter passed away 23 days earlier on September 15th.  Parham will soon learn of this tragic turn of events and write of it in his next letter.
  • It is assumed that both Old Man Houston and Uncle Newton have traveled from Mississippi to Virginia to visit their wounded sons.
  • Mary Polly Buford, referred to as Aunt Polly by Parham, is indicated to have written a letter about her side of the family not having much food to eat.  Aunt Polly and Parham’s biological father, though not siblings, share a grandfather who was an American Revolutionary War veteran.
  • Parham mentioned there is a shortage of food provisions and that he and his comrades are not permitted to forage for food.  Why was this?  Could it be that the army could not afford to have its dwindling numbers picketed off?  In one year’s time, their numbers dropped from about 800 to 15o as a result of six engagements with the Yankees.
  • Parham referred to the last battle at Sharpsburg, known as Antietam by the Federals, indicating that he never wants to be in such a battle again and that he will refrain from mentioning the horrors he has grown accustomed to witnessing.

Knitting in the Civil War South

In many of the letters Parham wrote home from the war front, frequent requests are made for articles of clothing such as a woolen jacket, warm pair of drawers, flannel and linsey-woolsey shirts, and yarn socks. It is common for modern 21st century readers to gloss-over such requests, assuming family members could easily purchase articles of clothing at a local department store and then pay a visit to the nearby post office to send the care package along with brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Instead, such requested items were often hand delivered by extended family members and neighbors returning back to camp after recovering at home from wounds or following a furlough. Furthermore, many such articles of clothing would have been hand made by Southern women as an act of patriotism. See Hannah McClearnen’s article about “Knitting in the Civil War South.”

Emerging Civil War

Today, we are pleased to welcome guest author Hannah McClearnen. 

“Weren’t they just at home knitting?”

When people think about the Southern home front, the first image that comes to mind is often the dutiful wife and mother, left at home knitting for their loved ones fighting in the Civil War. This seems to be a benign image, a relatively simple domestic scene that illustrates a small contribution to the war effort.

The tranquil image of Southern ladies knitting for soldiers is not as simple as it seems. “Just knitting” was actually quite difficult.

View original post 1,034 more words

Learning Through Primary Sources

Primary sources are an excellent means to learn about the context in which historical events occurred and the perspectives of people directly affected.  The Library of Congress website documents that examining primary sources gives students a powerful sense of history and the complexity of the past.  Letters penned by Parham provide insight on day-to-day life through the eyes of a Mississippi Volunteer Confederate infantryman. Another primary source with respect to this epic within American history is The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government by Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederate States of America.  Davis, according to the preface, authored the work with the view that the South was justified by the Constitution and the equal rights of the people of all the states.  Like many primary sources which require a significant undertaking to dissect, the effort is worthwhile in the lifelong pursuit of learning.  Click on the image of the LibriVox logo below to listen to the audiobook recording of Davis’ historical account.


Click image to listen to Jefferson Davis’ “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.”

27th Letter: Barefoot and Ragged (October 1, 1862)

In camp near Winchester Va

Oct 1st 62


Click image to learn about the history of Winchester, Virginia.

Dear Sir

I will write you a few lines, though I just wrote to Ma a few days since- + I rcd her letter of the 12wlt yesterday- This leaves me in good health- as also those of our company that are present-

I suppose ere this you have heard all of the particulars about our trip into Mary Land- I gave some account of it in my letter to Ma- so I will say nothing of it now- I think our Gens accomplished their purpose -vis – the 11000 Yankees at Harper’s Ferry –

Click image to read

Click image to learn about Shephardstown during the Civil War.

Since I last wrote I have heard that Rufe Shaw + Rese Houston were left at or near Shepardstown- and I would not be at all surprised if the Yankees got them- though one of our company – John Brown was left with them- I thought all the time that they were carried off with the rest of our boys, but they were not able to be moved at the time – I think if Rufe gets the proper attention he will get well-

October 1, 1862: page 1

October 1, 1862: page 1

We had a mint of men wounded in that fight, but never lost 1/3 as many killed as the Yankees- That was certainly one of the hardest contested battles that has ever been fought in this part of the army- I think we got the best of it- They were driven back on the left and we held our ground on the Right-

We have now about 200 men in the Regt and nearly 1/3 of them bare footed and all pretty ragged + I among the number.

October 1, 1862: pages 2 and 3

October 1, 1862: pages 2 and 3

We are in camp about 5 miles from Winchester, living on beef and bread, have not drawn any bacon in two weeks- We have now about 200 men in the Regt and nearly 1/3 of them bare footed and all pretty ragged + I among the number- I reckon we will draw shoes soon- I got a tolerably good pair of pants from Tubby that will do me untill I get those from home- You must write soon and give me all the news about that western army you can- for Ma and Mary never does in their letters – Wishing to hear from you soon I remain your devoted son PM Buford

P.S. Since writing I have heard that Rufe is in Winchester which I hope is so- he will receive proper attention there-

Blogger’s Notes:

  • Parham writes of his cousin, Rufus (Rufe) A. Shaw, and Rees (Rese) A. Houston again.  In the previous posted letter, it is explained that both were severely wounded at the Battle of Sharpsburg.
  • A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A. documents information about another comrade, John F. Brown, mentioned by Parham as staying behind at or near Shepardstown with Rufus Shaw and Rees Houston.  No mention is made in the before mentioned reference about John being present at Sharpsburg; it does indicate he was present two days at Second Manassas which occurred just prior to crossing into Maryland.  John was wounded and captured at Falling Waters, when after an exchange and furlough he was present again at Weldon Railroad two days, Dobbs Ferry, Davis Farm, Jones Farm, Hatcher’s Run, and Hawkes Farm, March 25, 1865.
  • Tubby” is Parham’s cousin, Goodloe Warren Buford, Jr.


Captured 152 Years Ago This Day

Click image to hear American historian and novelist Shelby Foote speak about the Confederate battle flag.

Click image to hear American historian and novelist Shelby Foote (1916-2005) give his thoughts about the Confederate battle flag.

This is the flag which guided Parham and his fellow 11th Mississippians through battle until captured 152 years ago on July 3, 1863 during Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg by Sergeant Ferdinando Maggi of the Garibaldi Guards, 39th New York Infantry.  The flag is on display at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia.

There has been much debate by media and special interest groups with respect to the meaning of this flag.  Below lyrics to The Cross of the South written in 1861 by St. George Tucker were sung to the familiar tune The Star Spangled Banner.  These words may provide insight on what original users of the flag on battle fields thought it meant.  Did Parham sing this song?                   

  1. Oh! say can you see, through the gloom and the storm,
    More bright for the darkness that pure Constellation!
    Like the symbol of love and redemption its form,
    As it points to the heaven of hope for the nation.
    How radiant each star, as the beacon afar,
    Giving promise of peace or assurance in war;
    ‘Tis the Cross of the South which shall ever remain
    To light us to Freedom and glory again.
  2. How peaceful and blest was America’s soil.
    Till betrayed by the guile of the Puritan demon,
    Which lurks under virtue and springs from its coil,
    To fasten its fangs in the life-blood of freemen.
    Then boldly appeal to each heart that can feel,
    And crush the foul viper ‘neath liberty’s heel,
    And the Cross of the South shall in triumph remain
    To light us to freedom and glory again.
  3. ‘Tis the emblem of peace, ’tis the day star of hope,
    Like the sacred Labarum that guided the Roman
    From the shores of the Gulf to the Delaware’s slope;
    ‘Tis the trust of the free and the terror of foeman.
    Fling its folds to the air while we boldly declare
    The rights we demand or the deeds that we dare,
    While the Cross of the South shall in triumph remain
    To light us to Freedom and Glory again.
  4. And if peace should be hopeless, and justice denied,
    And war’s bloody vulture should flap its black pinions.
    Then gladly to arms, while we hurl in our pride
    Defiance to tyrants and death to their minions,
    With our front in the field, swearing never to yield,
    Or return, like the Spartan, in death on our Shield,
    And the Cross of the South shall triumphantly wave
    As the flag of the free and the pall of the brave.

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 Tub 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, Parham’s cousin, 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 (Tub) W. Buford, Parham’s cousin, 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.