36th Letter: “God Only Knows When This War Will End” (May 24, 1863)

                                                                                         Bivouac on Blackwater

May 24th, 63

Dear Sister-                       


Click image of Parham’s church in College Hill, Mississippi to learn about his home community behind Yankee lines.

Not knowing whether you are in the Yankees lines or not, I will write for I know you are all anxious to hear from me. I am in good health, as also the company with the (page torn, word appears to be consumption) of one or two that never are well enough to do duty-

We have been running about quite briskly for the last week- up and down our line, for you must recollect our two Brigades has a line at least 60 miles long to guard- We crossed the River yesterday and had a skirmish with the enemy about 4 miles beyond, but without the loss of a man- They threw a few shells at us, but they passed harmlessly over our heads- We lay in line of battle untill night, when we recrossed the River, with our whole force- This makes the second time lately that our Gens have offered them battle on that side of the River, and I hope now that they will wait for them to try to cross-


Click image to watch Vicksburg Animated Map by American Battlefield Trust.

We have splendid fortifications at every ford and will give them a warm reception whenever they attempt to cross I (words unknown, page torn) to think the Yankees have come as far into Va as they will ever get- but alas, the bad news reached us yesterday that Pemberton had been whipped, with the loss of 38 Pieces of Artillery and had fell back to Vicksburg. I am inclined to disbelieve it if it is so it will be an awful slam on us-, but I am still in hopes Jonston will strengthen that army out down there and make them do something yet- Vicksburg is one the principal objects of the Yankees, and if they get it,

God only knows when this war will end. May an honorable and speedy peace soon…



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Blogger’s Notes:

  • John Pemberton

    Click image of CSA Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton to learn about his defeat.

    Parham’s sister in College Hill, Mississippi was behind Yankee lines, and Parham previously wrote on January 17, 1863 of learning about the burning of a home within the community by occupying forces. Assuming family food provisions had been taken by the enemy, he also mentioned sending money home in the same letter and again on March 18, 1863.

  • Parham wrote of two individuals in this letter.
    • John C. Pemberton (CSA Lt. Gen.) is stated to have been whipped, showing how quickly, just seven days, news of the disastrous blow to the Confederacy at the Battle of Champion’s Hill traveled from the Mississippi River to the 11th Mississippi located in Southeast Virginia.
    • Joseph E. Johnston (CSA Gen.) had been mentioned before by Parham (November 23, 1861 and January 21, 1862) as he was the original commander of the Army of Northern Virginia and replaced by Robert E. Lee when wounded at Seven Pines.  Upon recovering from his wounds, Johnston commanded the Western theater where Parham wrote he hoped to see him strengthen that army out down there and make them do something yet.
  • The remaining sheet(s) of this letter appear to have been lost to time; hence, the reason for the abrupt end.

22nd Letter: “They Fell Like Pigeons” (June 30, 1862)

Hanover Cty Va

June 30th


Dear Mother,

Again I have been spared by an overruling Providence to pass through another engagement with the enemy of a desperate character, the result of which was a glorious victory of the Confederates, but alas, sad thought, it was accompanied with the killing of two of our company and wounding 18.  Sargt Duncan was killed and the ever faithful and Christian solider, D B Paine – my mess mate, and the wounding of Newt Shaw in the shoulder and Charley Gaston, though neither of them are dangerous, Newts was slightly in the shoulder.

I tried twice to write to you all after we left Staunton but they marched us so fast, that I could not get time to finish it, though I would like to give you the details of our sojourn at Staunton, but the Great Battle before Richmond is now the subject of conversation.

Click image of CSA Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan

Click image of CSA Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson to learn more.

Gen Johnson attacked the Yankees in front while Gen Jackson went to their rear. Gen Whitings division joined Jackson at Staunton and from there we took the cars and came with in ten miles of Ashland, and marched there that night where Gen Whiting told us we would draw 3 days rations of beef and crackers and crack crackers coock our beef without utensils and be ready to march at daylight, and that we were going right into the enemy enemies lines.

June 30, 1862: page 1

June 30, 1862: page 1

Sure enough we commenced the march in the rear of the evening led by the renowned Stonewall Jackson. Our Division was in front but the Texas Brigade was the advance Guard. After going about 5 miles – we came upon some of the enemy, the Texas scouts capturing several of them, They burned a bridge after them and tried to plant a battery on the other side from us, but we pressed them too close, bringing up our artillery, fired one or two rounds at them, killing two and wounding several, when they put out in Bull Run style, they had also cut trees in the road, but we soon had another one cut out and a bridge made, and kept pushing on.

Click image of Confederate Lieutenant John Bell Hood to learn more.

Click image of CSA Lieutenant John Bell Hood to learn more.

Late in the evening the Texas Brigade had a skirmish with them, which resulted in their rout again, we were quickly drawn up in line of battle, but the Texans met them again and did not give us a chance. We started much marching and marched slowly along feeling our way, for we were there in the enemys lines, and of course had to go slow. We crept along until about 4 O clock in the evening, (Friday) when we heard the artillery open to our right – and after awhile the rattle of musketing which got faster and heavier.  We moved off at quick time.

Click image of Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill to learn more.

Click image of CSA Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill to learn more.

Gen Longstreet Hills Division had opened the ball, We formed a line of battle in an old field.  by this time, the enemys Guns Battery began to play on us and at least two miles. It was the third shot I think that blowed a Texans head off and wounded Sargt Goodwin. in three feet of me. We then started and went through a ravine 12 men deep and got into the open field in full view of the enemys battery with was at least a mile and half off, the grape shot, canisters and shell falling thick and fast in our devoted ranks. Two divisions had tried to dislodge the enemy, but failed, when Gen Whiting rode out in front of us and told us to charge the Yankees. We never stopped untill within 30 yds of the enemies first breastwork. There was a branch between us and the first one, which was 8 ft wide, the banks being 6 ft high and perfectly straight.  It had The first one was about 20 steps from the branch, made of logs about 4 ft high and the same width at the bottom and placed so closely that it seemed almost impossible for a ball to go through it without an accident, and beside that one they had another about 30 steps further up on the hillside. behind both of which the Yankees were thick as they could be, and where the breastworks were, the bushes and trees were so thick we could not see where the enemy was by the flash of their guns, and up on top of the hill they had 8 pieces of artillery. When we stopped and commenced firing on them, we were in plain open view and exposed to the fire of the Yankees from both redoubts and the Battery.

June 30, 1862: page 2

June 30, 1862: page 2

They gave the order to charge again and we darted down the hill with a yell, into the branch and by the time we got over the Yanks started. We fired at them and they fell like pigeons. We climbed the first one and before we got to the next one they were out of it and going at full tilt. They tried to rally at their guns, but it was no use, they had started and had no idea of stopping. They had messed up two pieces and started off with them, but our balls killed enough of the hordes to stop the Guns. We drove them on before us, beyond the batteries at least a mile into the swamp.

They never saved a single piece out of the battery that we took. They threw away guns knapsacks haversacks –  every thing that would impede their progress. They give our Rgt and 4th Ala the credit of taking 8 peices. The battle extended for 4 miles and we drove them back at all points – taking 30 or 40 pieces of artillery.

June 30, 1862: page 3

June 30, 1862: page 3

It is certain that we have routed them and have taken 15 or 20,000 prisoners. It is said that we have got them surrounded, but I don’t know what to believe about it. I was unwell the evening. we went into the fight, but, as soon as we were fairly into it the excitement drove it all away, that evening we piled our blankets and lost them all, and I was without any that night, and was perfectly wet to the knees, and tried to sleep and couldn’t,

I hope I may never live to witness such a sight again.

Our Lt Col said he wanted some men to help him with the wound wounded, so I went with him and was up all night, waiting on the wounded. untill day light. I hope I may never live to witness such a sight again, men groaning, shivering and weltering in their blood. This is monday and the fight was on Friday and there is are some of our wounded on the field and some have died from want of attention. I will drop this subject for this time. I know in this you will hear more than I can tell you now.

June 30, 1862: page 4

June 30, 1862: page 4

I left Rgt yesterday, I have cold from reposun and my bowels are deranged but I think I will be able to join the Rgt in a few days. I will give you a list of the ill and wounded. Jess Hardgrove and Pierce were the only ones that are dangerous and I think they will get well. I will write you again as soon as possible.

I took a capt prisoner and had a hole cut in my coat sleeve by a minie ball and I am quite certain I killed the Yankee that did it.  He shot at me as I was going over the first breast work. I shot at him as he ran and saw him fall. I must close for want of paper. Give my love to all the family and enquiring friends. Write as soon as possible to your devoted son P.M.B.

Blogger’s Notes:

  • This is the third letter in a row in which Parham began by acknowledging an overruling Providence as the reason he was spared in battle, the previous two describing the Battle of Seven Pines, this one the Battle of Gaines’ Mill.
  • Following the Battle of Seven Pines described in the previous letter, Parham was transported along with the 11th Mississippi by rail car from the Richmond area to Staunton, Virginia to join CSA Major General Stonewall Jackson’s (Shenandoah) Valley Army.  Shortly after arrival, the 11th Mississippi began the rapid march back toward Richmond.  Parham wrote that he tried twice to write to you all after we left Staunton but they marched us so fast, that I could not get time to finish it.  Stonewall Jackson had the unique ability to motivate his men to undergo sustained rapid marches, earning them the nom de guerre Jackson’s Foot Cavalry.
  • A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A. documents information about comrades mentioned by Parham.
    • William G. Duncan was promoted to Corporal August, 1861, and to Fifth Sergeant April 4, 1862.  He was killed at Gaines’s Farm.
    • 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 this letter.  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.
    • Charles (Charley) Gaston was wounded at Gaines’s Farm…wounded again at Spottsylvania; present at Hanover Junction, and was absent wounded until close of war.  Slightly wounded by sharpshooter June 5th, 1864.
    • Jesse (Jess) Hardgrove was present at Seven Pines, Gaines’s Farm, and White Oak Swamp, and died June 29, 1862, from the effects of wound.  Parham must not have been aware about Hardgrove’s passing at the time of writing the letter the following day.
    • William A. Pierce at Gaines’s Farm was wounded…then wounded at Bethsaida Church.
  • The Texas Brigade Parham wrote about was commanded by CSA Lieutenant General John Bell Hood whom US Army Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas is named after.
  • Click image to hear the rebel yell.

    Click image to hear the “Rebel Yell.”

    Parham stated they gave the order to charge again and we darted down the hill with a (Rebel) yell.  The Yankee’s retreat which followed was described as Bull Run style, meaning the Union soldiers dropped everything, turned around, and fled at full speed as they had at First Battle of Bull Run (also known as First Battle of Manassas).

11th Letter: Hessian Revolutionaries (November 23, 1861)

Nov 23d 61.

Camp Fisher

Dear Sister.

I rcd your letters from home by Meadows three days ago. As I have an opportunity of sending mail down the road in a day or two I will write. This leaves me in good health – the company also. There is but little sickness at present in our Brigade  One of Tom’s Buford’s mess mates (young Orr) is quite sick now with the pneumonia.

There is nothing new or exciting going on here. We have been expecting a fight here for two weeks – but I hardly think we will have it, though we may – and if it does come I think it will be a whale  Our Gen says our Regt and the 1st Tenn. will have to go in front of the Brigade.

Click image to listen to song about Hessians.

Click image to listen to song about Hessians.

I had the pleasure of seeing Gen Johnson last week, though under peculiar circumstances to me. Last Friday about 2 Oclock we were ordered to fall in immediately with our Guns and Cartridge boxes. I had a severe headache at the time, and did not feel much disposed to march far, but as I had never missed one I thought I would try it. Imagine my surprise when our Regt with two others were formed into a line in front of our tents to receive the aforesaid Gen-He rode along the line, we presenting arms to him. We then marched back or our dens. I thought we were once more going out to meet the Hessians.

One of the Hawkner’s men that was taken prisioner at the battle of Mannassa arrived here last week direct from Washington, being released on Parole of honor. I did not see him. but heard that he said – that all the Regulars there wanted to join our army – says he was well treated while there.

There has been at least 40 cabins erected in this Regt and it is still going on as if they knew we were going to stay here all winter. Some are covered with boards – but the majority with pine brush and dirt.  Peters house would be a palace compared to any of them.  Tom’s Tent is next to ours, and we are speaking of making one next week.  We might as well do that as to lay around here and do nothing between drills even if we do have to leave it in a few weeks. We can make it in two or three days. Some think that if we don’t have a fight here before 1st decemeber that the 12 mo. vols will go home but I can see no chance for that myself. I think we will go into Winter Quarters somewhere near here.

November 23, 1861: pages 1 and 4

November 23, 1861: pages 1 and 4

I will now acknowledge the rcpt of the last bundle of clothing sent to me from home which came in good time. My Boots came in Walters bundle- There is nearly enough room in them yet for Group. but that is all the better they will last longer. I have enough clothing for the present. One change suit is about as much as we can well manage here. I sold the first vest you sent me and also two pr socks – 35 cts each for socks. I have four pr left- It is no fun to carrying two or three suits of clothing beside Gun and blanket. I have rcd all the clothing that has been sent to me.

Walter got a nice ham- Tubby and Tom – potatoes – butter – jelly – and dried fruit. They are luxuries here certain. (Walter has not come in yet- is was better the last time we heard). I would like for you to send me a bottle or two of Pepper sauce or Tomatto Catsup – butter – Preserves – any thing that is good to eat. if you can get a chance. Any thing would be good besides our beeff and flour Bread.

November 23, 1861: pages 2 and 3

November 23, 1861: pages 2 and 3

I must  close for want of something to write. dont show this to any one. Give my best regards to all the family. Let me know if Ma rcd my letter. I will number this letter, and you all must do the same. so I can know if you get half my letters. If you get it number your reply the same. I wrote to Ma two weeks ago. Give my best respects to all enquiring friends and receive a due portion for yourself.  Send my respects to the Union Gal in Grane.

Blogger’s Notes:

Click image to learn about General Joseph E. Johnston.

Click image to learn about CSA General Joseph E. Johnston.

1.  Parham may have misspelled the name of the general he saw by leaving out a “t”.  It may be General Joseph E. Johnston he wrote about.

2.  Parham wrote of young Orr having pneumonia.  There were two individuals by the name of Orr in Company G of 11th Mississippi, both equally young at the age of 23 during enlistment in 1861.  Young Orr is either Charles W. Orr or Ira Baxter Orr.

Click image to learn about Hessians.

Click image to learn about Hessians.

3.  Parham refers to Hessians in this letter which is what many Confederates of the time called German immigrants volunteering for service in the Union army.  Many of the Hessians had previously fought or were sons of fathers who fought in the old country during the German Revolution of 1848-1849.  Some of the Hessians identified the Union cause as a continuation of the ideas held by the European revolutionaries.

4.  Parham mentions Hawkner and Peters by name and concludes the letter by sending his respects to the Union Gal in Grane.  Who are these people?

5.  ”Tubby” is Goodloe Warren Buford, Jr.