In four more days one month will have elapsed since …

Joseph Culver Letter, January 4, 1863, Page 1

Mitchellsville, Tenn., January 4th 1863

My Dear Wife

In four more days one month will have elapsed since the date of your last letter. We have no communication with the North yet. I notice by late papers from Nashville that this R. Road has refused to carry the mail, &, if the mail from the distributing office at Cairo has been sent by water as I presume it has, we have no prospect of mail for some time to come.1 I did not anticipate so long a delay & especially at a time when I should feel unusually anxious to hear from you.

I sent a couple of letters by persons going North to be mailed. I hope they have reached you. I am happy to say I enjoy excellent health. If I could only know that you were all well, I should be fully satisfied. But it is ordered otherwise, & without murmering it is our duty to submit.

We were ordered back to this place on Friday, Jan 2nd, & are in good comfortable Quarters. There is none but our Company.2 The men are in a large Shed and have beds & straw. We [the officers] have a Harness shop which with our stove makes it very comfortable. It is the best accommodation we have had since we left home.

Lieut. Smith has wholly recovered from the measles & is looking well. We are all doing quite well. I wrote to Mr. Taylor concerning the death of his son the same time I wrote to you. I also wrote quite a lengthy letter to you on New Year’s Eve, all of which I hope you have received. I sent them by some gentlemen from Scott County. I cannot account for Maples’ delay unless he has taken the Small-Pox. Earl Kenyon is getting better slowly, & I hope with care will soon recover.

After writing to you on New Year’s Eve, I sat down & read all your letters recd. since I left home. They gave me much pleasure, so many evidences of your love and affection cheer my heart. I am not so sure but that this Separation will give us an opportunity of learning much of each other, which amid prosperity we might never have learned. I feel that I never appreciated your worth so fully as now, & I never realized how very dear you were to me as now, amid fears of the dangers that surround you.3 Oh, if I only knew all, anything would be preferable to this suspense. Yet I shall hope for the best. “God rules all things well.” He will not try us above what we are able to bear. We are not alone; alas! very many others suffer with us, some bereft of all in this world most dear. I feel thankful for the hope of good tidings, when so many live on without any hope of meeting their loved ones in this life.

The battle is still raging at Murfreesboro. The News are meagre but sufficient to inform us that thousands of our brave men are cold in death & many thousands more are lying on the battle field wounded & uncared for. We cannot determine the result yet, but it looks rather favorable. Our men are driving the rebels slowly yet surely before them.4 It is the most hotly contested battle ever fought on the Continent, & more lives lost than ever was dreamed of in one battle. This is the Sixth day. These are about all the reports that we have received.5

Just now we received news from Cave City. Col. Duke is killed & Morgan badly wounded & his troops dispersed.6 This is good news for us, as we have no other force to fear at this point. I hope we will be ordered to move forward.

I shall try & send my letter by some one going North, if the train will stop long enough. I shall not close my letter until to-morrow. As I am on duty all night, I may write more before morning, & I wish to devote part of the night if possible to reading. I got a bible of Henry Fisher, &, as I but seldom have one, I wish to improve the opportunity. Hoping that God will bless & keep you & our babe from harm & bestow the riches of his grace upon us, I bid you

Good Night

Your Husband in affection & love
J. F. Culver

  1. With no traffic over the railroad north of Munfordville, mail was loaded on steamboats at Cairo, Illinois, and sent up the Ohio, Green, and Barren Rivers to Bowling Green. From Bowling Green, it came south to Mitchellville and Nashville by rail. []
  2. Morgan and his raiders, having accomplished their mission, were en route back to their base in Middle Tennessee, and Colonel Smith had redeployed his command. Captain Hoskins was ordered on the 2d to take post at Mitchellville with Company A. His duties were to guard the railroad and the countryside around Mitchellville. Supplies, except forage which was to be requisitioned from disloyal citizens, were to be drawn from Fountain Head, where Colonel Smith had established regimental headquarters. Smith to Hoskins, Jan. 2 & 3, 1863, Regimental Papers, 129th Illinois, NA. []
  3. This refers to the smallpox epidemic at Pontiac. []
  4. General Rosecrans had advanced from Nashville on Dec. 26, 1862, with eight divisions of his Army of the Cumberland. General Bragg had massed his Army of Tennessee and had taken position three miles northwest of Murfreesboro, covering the bridges across Stones River. On the 30th there had been heavy skirmishing, as the bluecoats drove in Confederate outposts. At daybreak, on the 31st, Bragg attacked and routed the Union right. There was savage fighting, as Rosecrans’ troops retired through the cedars and re-formed covering the Nashville Pike. Here they held. On New Year’s Day, the armies regrouped, and on the 2d Bragg assailed Rosecrans’ left and was repulsed with terrible casualties.
    On the night of the 3d, Bragg’s Army of Tennessee abandoned its position in front of Murfreesboro and retired about 30 miles to Tullahoma and Shelbyville. The Federals occupied Murfreesboro but were too exhausted to press the pursuit. []
  5. Union casualties at Stones River (Murfreesboro) were 1,730 killed, 7,802 wounded, and 3,717 captured or missing. General Bragg listed Confederate losses at 1,236 killed, 7,766 wounded, and 868 missing. Stones River, for the numbers engaged, was the bloodiest battle between white armies yet fought on the North American continent. O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XX, pt. I, pp. 215, 681. []
  6. There was no truth to the report that Col. Basil Duke had been killed, General Morgan wounded, and Morgan’s division dispersed. On New Year’s Day, Morgan had started his withdrawal from Kentucky by way of Columbia and Burkesville, and on the 5th he reached Smithville, Tenn., within the Confederate lines. Morgan’s Christmas Raid was one of the Civil War’s most successful cavalry operations. Ibid., pp. 157-158. []
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