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2nd Virginia Infantry - Stonewall's Brigade & Describes Battle of 1st Manassas

Item CON-58
July 27, 1861 Samuel J. C. Moore


Original Civil War dated, 4 page Confederate letter written in period ink from Samuel J. C. Moore of Company I, 2nd Virginia Infantry. National Archive, Confederate Veteran Magazine and online sources show Moore was wounded at 2nd Manassas, Kernstown, Wilderness and captured at Cedar Creek (from which he escaped and returned to Richmond.) Moore also served as Adjutant to Confederate General Jubal Early.

Letter Reads:

Camp near Manassas July 27, 1861

My Dearest Ellen,

It is so difficult the way I am now situated to write a letter that I have it not in my power to let you hear from me as often as I wish, or as I would under other circumstances. The difficulty consists in the want of pen, ink and paper and of any convenient way of writing. To illustrate, I am now sitting flat on the ground with a board on my knees, upon which rests a sheet of paper I begged of a friend, on which I am writing with a borrowed pen, with ink out of a borrowed inkstand. Had I paper, I could at least write with a pencil but I have none and all my efforts to purchase one have proved unavailing. Never was a poor bounty so completely stripped of everything as this is. No stores, no houses of entertainment, houses all deserted of their inhabitants and occupied by troops, very many since the battle as hospitals for the wounded of both our men and the Federal armies fences destroyed, fields laid waste, crops, such as they had, very poor at best destroyed and trampled. All their present, but a portion of the dreadful effects of war. The enemy, with less humanity, than ordinarily is found with savage tribes, ran away from the battlefield on Sunday last, leaving many of their wounded and the dead upon the ground, to whom they have since paid no attention. Their wounded have been gathered up by our men and have been cared for like our own. Our soldiers too buried many of their killed until their bodies became so offensive as to sicken all who approached them. Since which they have left them alone and many bodies now lie on the field where they fell. A sad spectacle of mortality. It is usual to send a flag of truce to the battlefield after the fight is over, for the purpose of taking care of the wounded and the bodies of the dead, but the Yankees either from excessive fight or from want of regard for the fallen, have failed to conform to this custom hence the state of affairs of which I have spoken.

The whole condition of affairs has completely changed since we came here. At first no man dared to put his nose outside of our own lines for fear of being shot or captured by the federal pickets. Now our men can roam at large over the country without the danger of meeting a Yankee, unless it be a dead corpse in the fence corner or a half starved refugee begging for quarter or a mouthful to eat. There last they take prisoners and send them to Richmond to swell the trophies of our glorious victory.

You can form no idea of the terrific grandeur of the affair of Sunday last. Cannons booming, muskets rattling, shells bursting around us in every direction. Troops marching and at last gallant bayonet charges from our brave southern troops, all tended to excite, stir up our men to brave deeds. Our regiment for nearly, if not quite three hours, stood under a raking fire of shots and shells without a falter, animated by the promise that at the proper time they should fire upon the enemy and follow the fire with the bayonet. But when the time came for this to be done, instead of ordering us to fire in advance, the Colonel gave the order to fall back.

I regret to say that Colonel Allen did not display courage or self profession on the battlefield, whether he possesses those qualities or not, and also that in his official report of the battle, which I have read, he does to my certain knowledge make an erroneous statement to screen himself from censure for his course on the field. These facts, of course, destroy all confidence in him with every true man in his regiment who knows them, and there is subsequently great disaffection in the regiment amounting almost to disorganization. I doubt not too, that many trifling men among us, who are not actuated by principle in the war, are taking advantage of the present state of affairs hoping to get out of service entirely so that all together we are in an indifferent state. What will be the result of all this I know not, but it may end in my throwing up my commission and shouldering a musket as a private in the ranks of some other regiment. After our regiment retired on Sunday, I went into the battle with another regiment, the 18th Virginia Regiment, and flattered myself. I did some pretty good fighting. But I was amongst strangers and had I shown the courage of Julius Caesar it would not have advanced the object I had in view. My intention has always been, at the first battle, if I found I could stand it, to endeavor to do something which would give me an honorable mention of my name in the Colonel’s official report, so that I could make it the basis of an application for a commission in the Confederate States Army. Circumstances, which I have related have prevented this and although I have proof from several individuals that I did not play the coward in the fight yet I am no nearer my commission than I was before. There matters personal to myself I mentioned to you, because I know that what interests me is not uninteresting to you. Have you forgiven me for fooling you about my destination when I saw you on my way here? Although I knew it was for your good, yet I felt badly at practicing a deception upon you. How are all my dear little children? Kiss them for Papa. Tell Scolley if he had been here on Sunday last and heard the guns firing and the balls whistling he would no longer want to be a soldier. What is to be the little daughter’s name? I want you to make your own choice about it. I hope it may not be long before I get up to see you. The enemy were so completely routed on Sunday that we now have no fears of an attack from them, and our troops are every day drawing their lines nearer and nearer to Alexandria, without molestation. Soon will come the storming of Arlington Heights and then I think we will pause unless Maryland joins us when we will ship the Yankees from her borders. Some parts of our army I think will before long go to the Valley to drive the enemy from there. My paper is gone. Send me some. Love to all. Kiss the dear little children.

Yours fondly,

Samuel J. C. Moore