Letter No. 37
Camp Price, Tuesday evening June 2nd 1863
We wrote a letter Sunday morning and started it to you by Mr. P. Y. Coleman but not knowing but what he may detained on his journey as traveling facilities are uncertain, we thought it proper to write one by mail also. We acknowledge in it the receipt of your letter by Lieut. Howell which was a satisfaction hardly describable.
We also gave you the news up to Friday from Vicksburg and enclosed $10.00 of Wm. Marrs’ which I collected without difficulty. We are both in very good health. John Samuel is steadily improving and I only lack strength of being what I was before I was taken sick. Health is moderately good. Jno. Davis can walk round a little. No other sickness in our company of any importance. Marion West is still quite weak. He is in town with his sister.
We have very cheering news from Vicksburg. The great battle is still progressing. 20,000 dead federals are said to be laying before the entrenchments and the Federal Commander asking for an armistice to bury them. Our Commander refused saying that fighting was the order of the day instead of burying. This is believed to be reliable in substance by our Officers. At least there seems to be no fear of the city being taken as our whole force of that part of the Confederacy is concentrated there.
Parsons’ and McRae’s Brigades have both started northward. Gen. Price also started yesterday the same way. All we know of the probable intensions is that they started north. Our Brigade is the only one here now as Gen. Tappan went toward Camden 10 days ago. How long we will stay we have not the slightest idea. Though it looks as if we would not stay long. Our brigade battery (Blocker’s) has reported to us and is now camped here. They are also supplying the deficiency of guns, cartridge boxes, knapsacks & buoyant spirit and good discipline generally prevails throught the brigade. It is said we will draw money up to the 1st of this month probably this week.
Capt. Pain is now gone without my seeing him and it may be some time before we are again together. John Samuel saw him twice while I was gone. He said nothing about the due bill you spoke of in your letter. If we have another opportunity we will make the Capt safe. We have had no word from Uncle William. We shall probably write a letter to him this evening. We do not know for certain whether they are below here on the river or not but have no news to the contrary, so that if our letter should reach him we will probably hear from him soon.
We are very pleasantly encamped here having good spring water in abundance which is rather remarkable for this country. Wheat is being cut here now, two or three of our went out to help this morning. I expect one day will probably do them as soldiers are proverbially lazy.
I asked John Samuel to write some but he is busy cleaning his musket and merely takes time to read over what I have written. I am thankful that I had the privilege of visiting you and spending my time so happily and then returning and finding my brother so much improved in health. God grant that the time be not far off when we both may return in peace. We must close for the present. Next time I will say something about the army church. Farewell.
W. H. H. & J. S. Shibley
(Postscript in margin)
John Samuel was offered $8.00 for his hat but it fit him as if it had been made for him. Prices are still very high. Eggs 2.00 Butter 1½ and 2$. Onions $1.½ per doz. Flour 40 cts and going down.
Letter No. 38
Little Rock Wednesday Noon June 17th / 63
We send you by Mr. M. West a hasty letter to let you know of our good health and spirits. Our Brigade is crossing the river today and will probably all cross before night as there is a Pontoon Bridge upon which we can cross rapidly. Our company has resumed its position in the regiment. We are going in the direction of Jacksonport and it is generally thought that a descent upon Helena is contemplated. Whether this be so or not we are undoubtedly going to cooperate with “Old Pap”.
We are taking with us two suits clothes, one blanket and one tent for every 15 men. So that it seems that it is not a regular campaign. Indeed I heard Col. King say this morning that we would be back here in two or three weeks if we had good luck. John Samuel and I are leaving our carpet together with an over an under-shirt a piece and my most worn pants. We left them with a gentlemen that Capt. Wallace left a lot of his baggage subject to our order in case we should not return to this place and we should need them. I sold my shoes this morning for $25. I would not have done it but I either had to carry or leave them.
We have no news further than from the papers which you will get as soon as you do this or before. Be of good cheer and fear not for our safety as we rely upon Him who has shielded us before. I am at Mrs. Waddles and will call and bid Elder Plattenburg goodbye as he lives just across the street from here. We heard him preach a very excellent sermon last Sunday. Give our respects to Mr. Gill and family, also Mr. Baileys folks. You can tell Mr. Turner that Mc is well and going with us.
I must close for fear I get behind the command.
Yours most truly
W. H. H. & J. S. Shibley
P. S. We have had no letter from you since
yours of the 5th. We will write again soon if opportunity is afforded.
God bless you all.
WHH & JSS
Letter No. 39
Camp Bayou Metre No. 2
13 miles N. E. Little Rock
Sunday evening June 21st 1863
Dear Parents and family.
We are again permitted to address you another letter and it is our happy lot to be able to say that we are both enjoying usual good health. We have but little to write as we wrote a letter the day before leaving Little Rock and gave it to Marion West to deliver to you; and there has but little occurred since then worth your attention. We moved from Little Rock the day after we wrote, but before we moved we received Yours of the 10th ult. which we were right glad to get as it spoke of your health and quietude. Health is excellent in the brigade at present and the soldiers generally seem to be in good spirits.
Some cowardly villains have deserted the regiment lately, about 40 in numbers I believe. None from our company as yet and I hope there may not be. The men went from companies generally in which the Captains were not well beliked.
The Stevenson boys and John West have not arrived as yet. In your letter you spoke of sending by them a little extract. If it reaches us we will be prepared to make ink, as we bought enough of the other ingredients to make two gallons ink. The material cost but 50 cts. We have been at this place since day before yesterday noon. We will start on in the morning calculating to get to Brownsville tomorrow. The place of our destination is unknown to us and our Company officers; though it is generally thought that we are going to Jacksonport port on White River.
There was a meeting this morning by the Chaplains of ours and Brooks’ Regt. A very good sermon was delivered from 25th Chap. Isaiah commencing at the 6 verse. He construed the mountains to mean the church and the feast the gift of the Gospel. The drum has just beat for meeting this evening. I just now looked for John Samuel to get him to finish this but he has done gone to meeting. So I will have to write it all again.
We had a very fine rain commencing last night about midnight and continuing until after daylight. Crops that we passed in coming here generally looked very well. However, there is not many farms laying on the road that we traveled as it runs through a low swampy country.
We have no further news from Vicksburg since last week and in fact nothing then of consequence. So we infer that the city is neither taken nor the siege raised. If our gallant army can sustain itself there we are safe so far as our independence is concerned. It Seems now that we are going to make an active campaign. If we do I hope it may not be long before you may hear some good account of us.
There is a slight revival of religion in progress in the brigade, which is certainly very opportune as the wickedness of our army is alarmingly great. Our army was greatly contaminated by our stay at Little Rock, particularly the Officers giving themselves to licentiousness and drunkenness, which has a demoralizing effect upon the men.
We are very well furnished with transportation,
having our blankets and knapsacks hauled. We have but little else
to write this time. Look over the errors I have made as I have written
hurriedly on my knee. John Samuel has read this over and says it
will do for this time. So with our love and best wishes for your
safety, we subscribe ourselves
W. H. H. & J. S. Shibley
Letter No. 40
In Camps in Monroe County Ark. June 28th
We embrace the present opportunity of writing you a few lines to inform you that we are both well, despite the hardships we have lately underwent. We are encamped on Robins farm 40 miles west of Helena. We left Little Rock last Friday a week ago. But before leaving we separated our baggage and left all that we could well spare. At Brownsville we left all our remaining baggage except one blanket with two suits of clothing and one pair of pants to the man, and two tents to the company. Our company has 75 men so you see some of us have to take the weather as it comes. From Brownsville which is 25 miles from Little Rock we commenced a rapid march toward Helena. On the next 4 days we have come over sixty miles and crossed two streams that had to be ferried viz. White River and Rocky Roe Bayou. And all this through an almost incessant rain. Still I believe I am as well as when we started.
William got the Captain’s fly to stretch for our mess so we have generally kept dry of a night. All the boys from our neighborhood are well. I think that hardships do not kill half so many men as imprudence in living. If a man gets wet he need not necessarily take cold if he but know how to take care of himself. The object of reducing our baggage was to enable the waggons to carry it for us. So that we have nothing to carry but our arms and accouterments. I forgot to say that each man is allowed one coat. I will now give way to William.
I believe John Samuel has written nearly all that we have to say at present, as in such a march as we have been undergoing for the last 4 or 5 days there is little occurs that a soldier cares about relating. Col. King received a dispatch this morning concerning the meditated attack on Helena. Gen. Price with his Brigades forms the first column. Gen. Walker the 2nd and Gen Fagan the third. We are all moving on simultaneously; Price on the left, Fagan in the center, and Walker on the right. I do not know how far the other columns are from us as they are going in on other roads.
If the Federals do not soon get heavy reinforcements it will all be over with them. The news that we have is that there is a garrison there of about 4000 men, some say less. It is thought to be our intention to try and divert the attention of the Federals from Vicksburg. How the affair may terminate the Lord only knows; but I think the matter will probably be decided in another week. Have no uneasyness for our safety. We rely upon God who has preserved us through other dangers as great as this will probably be. Give our regards and respects to Mr. Gill and family and also James Bushong. Remember us often in your prayers.
W. H. H. & J. S. Shibley
Letter No. 41
Camp near Jacksonport Ark
Thursday July 16th 1863
Dear Parents and family.
Opportunity is again presented to write you another short letter. Yours of the 4th was received a few minutes ago, which is three we have received since we left Little Rock. Now a few words as to our situation. We marched from the Rock toward Helena quite rapidly through nearly an incessant rain wet days together. John Samuel was not able to stand the great fatigue consequent upon such a march. And at Trenton 18 miles west of Helena he had a chill. He took quinine and missed having any more chills although he was weak and worn out.
The night before the battle Captain Wallace recommended that he should stay at a house until we should go in and take the city. I went and obtained a house for him to stay at. He turned over his gun and ammunition and went to the house, stayed a few hours, came back with another gun and cartridge box, said that he believed he was able to go forward to the fight and did not feel willing to stay under those considerations.
We started at eleven oclock that night and were before the rifle pits by the time it was light enough to shoot. Through the mercies of God (as I wrote in a few lines of the 5th) we were both preserved. Then commenced the retreat of a whipped, exhausted and slightly demoralized army. John Samuel walked for several days, finally was obliged to ride on the waggon. When we arrived at Augusta on the river 40 miles below here, the wounded, sick and worn out were put on a boat and brought up here and will be sent in a few days down to Duvall’s Bluffs by boat and from there by railroad through to Little Rock.
John Samuel, Capt. Wallace, Till West and all the rest of our sick and wounded are going through that way. I was over in town late yesterday evening when I was with them all. John Samuel is able to knock about town but would not be able to march through on what we have to eat as we get nothing but corn bread and beef. West’s arm is thought to be doing very well. Capt. Wallace’s wound is somewhat worse than it was, it is very painful. The bone is thought to be fractured. Joseph Houck, Kuykendall, Higgins were taken by the enemy. Whitfield Thomas was either killed or taken prisoner. I fear he was killed. J. B. Jackson missing, supposed to have been taken prisoner. The case of Thomas is lamented by the whole company. I will write to Mr. Thomas as soon as we stop long enough for us to have sufficient time. We are all trying to wash a little today, the first for about three weeks. We start on it is said in the morning in the direction of Searcy. It is generally thought that we are going back to Little Rock or vicinity.
I have stood the hardships of the march better than I would have thought I possibly could. I have a great deal to write when opportunity is afforded. I was truly glad to receive your letter of this morning. I will send it over to John Samuel this evening or go and take it myself. We crossed the river yesterday about noon. McRae is crossing his brigade and waggons this morning. We are camped a mile this side of town. The river running between us and town so that it is difficult for us to go over. White River is a very beautiful stream. The confluence of White and Black Rivers is immediately opposite our Camp. The River is very high which was the cause of our coming up the river so far before crossing. Gen. Parsons crossed his brigade at Des Arc by ferrying 15 miles; we then came up to Augusta and found that we would have to ferry 8 miles. We then came here and crossed without great difficulty.
R. W. Stevenson desires me to say for you to tell his Parents that he and Cambell are both well and will write as soon as a chance is afforded. The news with us is that Vicksburg has been taken. Yesterday the report was that Vicksburg was not taken. So we have it. I will have to stop writing for lack of time as I have engaged to write for John McCurdy. Write soon and a little longer letters and it will be a source of great consolation to Your Son
W. H. H. Shibley
Letter No. 42
Camp near Searcy White County Ark
Wednesday July 23rd 1863
Opportunity is again afforded of writing you another letter. We have been stopped here since Monday morning. This is not known to be a permanent camp although it is thought we will stay here several days if not for some considerable time.
In my last letter written from Jacksonport I said that John Samuel calculated to go with the sick and wounded from there to Little Rock via of Duvalls Bluff. I had mailed my letter scarcely an hour before he and four others of our Company that had also been left came up saying that the Surgeon there had ordered all the sick that could walk to report to their companies immediately. He also drove some of the wounded on to their commands. This was done I suppose that they might have less to transport to the Rock. As hard as it seemed at the time, we are both now very glad that the matter has turned out as it has. John Samuel is now in improving health, has rode a good part of the way from Jacksonport and the rest we have had lately has tended greatly to restore his strength. Our sick and wounded have great and just cause to complain as they have not had the attention they could have had by proper management. This has been a time indeed when a sick or wounded man could not justly expect to receive the attention due him owing to the rapidity of our marching and the very meagre supplies at command. But I am sorry that I know that the sick have been shamefully mistreated by our Doctors.
Whether it would be interesting to you for us to write the particulars concerning our marchings and the battle we hardly know as we can not think of any pleasure or enjoyment connected with the trip from beginning to the present time. As you have heard from our other letters we crossed the river at Little Rock on the 18th June, the main army having crossed the day before. We then marched through nearly an incessant rain from then until after we crossed White river at Clarendon. Which made it very hard traveling, to say nothing of uncomfortableness of being wet.
At Trenton 18 miles this side Helena we halted for a day or two and made preparations for the battle. Such as appointing infirmary corps; cooking two days rations; leaving all our clothing and blankets even our coats we deemed prudent to leave and go on in our over shirt-sleeves. Here we had a sort of Review and Gov. Flanagin made a short speech to each Regt. telling us of the hoped for success that awaited our arms. I must ever denounce the course of a great many of our leading Officers for unmitigated lieing and misrepresentation. We were told that the Federals were entirely ignorant as to our approach; that the city would be very easily taken and every thing in like manner until some almost thought we would take the city with but little fighting or probably find the city evacuated. Now therefore when we came to the battle-field and saw the true state of affairs, men saw that the affair had been grossly misrepresented, their courage failed and no small part of our Regt and I expect of others also failed to go in to the battle to any extent.
Our advance from Trenton to Helena was very cautious, occupying a space of three days and nights. Most of our marching was done of nights. Friday the 3rd we stopped most of the day 7 miles from what we deemed the doomed city. Price with his Division formed a junction with us today, also Gen. Walker with a 1000 men. Ammunition was issued to the amt. of 40 rounds to the man and every thing put in readiness for the action of the next day. At eleven at night we started expecting to commence the action at daylight. The march was what is called a dead march. Which gave great time for reflection. After marching to within about 4 miles of the city we halted and loaded our guns and then proceeded on our different way, nothing heard but the heavy tramp of the heavy columns of infantry and the rumbling of the artillery carriages.
The night was a beautiful one. The moon and stars shone beautifully and all nature seemed unconscious of the awful deeds we soon expected to execute. We passed on crossing a muffled bridge and arrived as close to the field Officers deemed prudent to go on horseback. They accordingly dismounted and their horses were taken to the rear. At grey day our skirmishers and theirs opened up on each other.
We were then started on double quick and run with all our might for a mile or more when we found ourselves upon the field of action. The city is surrounded with very steep hills and deep hollows. The fortifications consist of three principal forts, “Prentice”, “Grave Yard Hill” and Fort Hindman. Our Brigade was led against Ft. Hindman with the exception of Brooks’ Regiment was reserved to support the battery.
The Fort was arranged somewhat after this manner. The defences faced the west and S. W. The fort was square, built of sand bags of sufficient height to make a good protection for the riflemen; it also was defended by a battery of very large guns. Then in front of this was the hills and hollows running parallel to works which compelled us to charge over the hills exposed to a deliberate and murderous fire. Then to make the matter worse the timber had been felled in such a manner as to make it next to impossible to pass over this ground at all.
We found the enemy posted in his rifle pits and we were ordered to dislodge him at all hazards. Our part of the great fight then commenced. After fighting for over two hours we at length charged and drove them from the pits to the fort. The battle then continued for several hours from the pits which we occupied to the fort, but we were unable to dislodge them without it could have been done by storm and our forces were not sufficient for such a measure.
Col. Bell with his regt passed the breastworks and the Col. and all of the field officers (except the Major), together with nearly half the men, were taken prisoners. Gen. Parsons succeeded in taking the fort of Grave Yard Hill but could not hold it for any length of time. During this time parts of the army were shelled terribly by the gunboats. Some shells were thrown as large as a water bucket which dealt death in every direction.
Unfortunately for us reinforcements arrived during the battle which may have turned the fortunes of the day against us. Our entire loss I can not tell for certain as we have had no official report; it was probably 1500. It is very mortifying to suffer defeat under any circumstances but when one has ground to believe that it might have been prevented by proper Generalship it makes it doubly hard. Gen. Holmes must certainly be answerable for the defeat at Helena.
John Heard who was reported as missing was taken prisoner and afterwards was released as a hospital nurse. He was in Helena until Monday or Tuesday after the fight. He says the Federals gave us credit for fighting with bravery. They anticipated another attack and had an alarm on Sunday evening. Heard saw the troops formed and put in the ditches. The negro troops were the first to get in to them. We have heard nothing lately from the wounded that fell into their hands. It is said that they treated the wounded with kindness. We suppose they buried our dead as they refused to let us do it.
We fell back from the city 3 or 4 miles that evening and stayed until morning when we started on the retreat. We were not pursued as the Federals seemed to have been satisfied to let us go without molestation. We must close for the present as this letter is all ready of some length. We are greatly in hopes that the time through the good providence of God may not be far off when this unholy war may end and we may return home in peace.
We have bought two books here, Upham’s Mental Philosophy and Butler’s Analogy which will make two valuable books in your library. Give our esteem and Christian regards to Mr. Gill and Family and Mr. Bailey’s. We have not heard from Till since leaving Jacksonport. Our purest love and affection to you all.
W. H. H. & J. S. Shibley
Letter No. 43
In Camps on Bayou Metre July 30th / 63
We are encamped at present on the Bayou Metre about 12 miles northwest of Little Rock. We arrived at this place day before yesterday and it is generally thought we will remain here some time. We are both in good health. My health is better now than it has been since last winter.
We received yours of the fourteenth instant yesterday evening which gave great satisfaction. Particularly to learn of your good health and prosperity. It always gives us pleasure to receive good news from home and more so this time than common for it has been some time since we had received a letter from you. I think that you and all the people of the South have the most abundant reason to thank the Lord for such a crop of wheat and such a prospect for corn. Wheat is good wherever we have been and in some places and indeed to take it generally there is the best prospect for corn that I ever saw.
We have had rather a hard march on this trip having marched more than three hundred miles since we left Little Rock. Yesterday we got our knapsacks which were left at Brownsville as we went down to Helena. We received all that we left and in good order.
Health is very good in the army considering the hardships we have underwent. Indeed to my opinion it is not the hardships of war that kills soldiers but the idleness of camps. In camps now men will eat as much or more than they have on this march and then lie around in camps and not take exercise enough to preserve their health. Of course the hardships must kill some but not so many as one would at first suppose. All the boys from our neighborhood are well except Mr. Day. He is at Little Rock and I think he has the Jaundice. Col. King has Rheumatism and started this morning for Hot Springs.
I very much regret the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson but still I believe it was best to defend them for as you say it has cost the enemy more to open the Mississippi river than it will profit them now that it is open. Reverses in war are what we may reasonably expect. Still I believe we will ultimately obtain our independence or rather a recognition of it. But however this war may terminate I am satisfied it will terminate according to the divine pleasure and that should satisfy us.
It is said that Gen. Holmes is sick or crazy or something else, at least Gen. Price is in command. We are now having some very warm weather.
I am glad to learn that your meetings are still kept up. Tell the little boys that I want them to apply them closely to their books and learn all that they can while they are small for when they are larger they may not have opportunity. We should like very much to be at home with you once more but for the present we cannot. I hope and pray that the time will be short until we can all return home in peace. Till then remember us in your prayers. Farewell.
W. H. H. & J. S. Shibley
Letter No. 44
(Envelope: Forwarded by W. H. H.
Shibley Co. G
King’s Regt., Fagan’s Brigade A. V. I.)
Camp on Bayou Metre Ark
Wednesday August 5th 1863
Yours of the 26th and 27th was received last Sunday morning and it was truly a great source of pleasure to hear such late and good news from home. Particularly as your letter was longer and consequently more interesting. It is nearly impossible for you in writing to us to write any thing that will not be interesting to us, as home is where all our hopes and affections are centered.
We are both in good health, first rate. John Samuel is in better health than he has been for probably nearly a year and I do hope it may continue. It is very hard to soldier but if we can have our health its hardships are very much mitigated. Health is very good among the troops at this place.
We have went into regular camps and the probability seems to be that we may stay here some time. I suppose we are going to fortify, though to what extent I do not know but think certainly not much as this is not a good situation for a fortification. The engineers are determining the lines at this time. We are very well situated as to camps. Water is good, though unhandy. We hope to have it nearer as we are digging a well for every regt.
There are 3 Brigades camped here now – Fagan, McRae and Parsons. Our Brigade is commanded by Col. Brooks as Gen. Fagan is in command of the Division. This I suppose is not a permanent arrangement. Gen. Holmes is reported very dangerously ill and some soldiers have been heard to say they were in hopes the disease would terminate his eventful life. Wicked wretches!
We have no news worth relating further than that Vicksburg and Port Hudson have been taken. I have seen men from both places that had been paroled. Vicksburg was taken on the 4th and Port Hudson on the 9th. The troops at both places were reduced to great extremity, being compelled to live on mule beef for some time. Gen. Lee is said to be falling back. Dispatches have been received this morning to the effect that he had turned and had recrossed the Potomac into Pennsylvania. We have some other reports but you will probably get the news more correctly than we. The fortunes of war seems to be against us but nevertheless we hope for more prosperous times.
But let it go as it may, it will certainly be according to the will of the Almighty. And as we are directed by that good book to be subject to the powers that be, so we will be faithful soldiers to the end.
Gen. Frost’s Brigade is said to be at the Rock. Whether Uncle William is there or not we can not say. We have written several times and received no answer. Dudly Onstot and Capt. Pain are here and both well. We have drawn no money yet and may not as I expect funds are scarce. We have lately drawn clothing. John Samuel drew a good pair brown jeans pants. I drew a first rate pair shoes. In addition to this we drew a uniform jacket for each. This we done for the sake of uniform. We get tolerably plenty to eat, such as it is. Beef, meal and some sugar, which in addition to the roasting ears and fruit we get makes us plenty. We have not received our carpet and some clothing that we left at the Rock on starting to Helena. We have sent for and will probably receive them tomorrow which will add some to our comfort as to bedding.
I think of writing to Mr. Thomas and give him what few particulars we have in relation to Whitfield. We have nor farther particulars as to his mournful end. We are perfectly satisfied in our own minds that he was wounded and died from the effects thereof. He was an upright honorable man, a faithful and steady friend and an agreeable messmate. His loss is mourned by our entire company.
Mr. Prophit was a strictly moral and I think religious man, an ornament to our company. He received a shot in his forehead and fell a lifeless corpse. As to James Kuykendall who is also on the dead list, I sincerely trust is not dead. He was shot after we got to the breastworks. He was struck in the left side with I suppose a glanced or spent ball or piece of bomb. I examined him myself and do not think the ball penetrated, indeed I am sure of it. If he is dead I certainly think he must have been shot again in attempting to get off the field. If you see Mr. Kuykendall you can tell him this.
My letter will be circumscribed to one sheet so I must close. Give our respects and Christian regard to Bro. Gill and family, James Bushong and reserve for yourselves our lasting love and esteem. May the good Lord prosper and protect you all.
H. & J. S. Shibley
Letter No. 45
Camps on Bayou Metre Aug 13th 1863
Dear Parents and family:
We received yours of the 5th instant last Sunday. It always gives us satisfaction and pleasure to receive a letter from you and the more so when the letters are lengthy. The longer the better. You cannot tell us too much about home and the things at home. For you must remember that home is the place where all our affections and all our hopes are centered. All that we hold nearest and dearest is there, however humble that home may be.
We are both well and in good health as are all the boys from your neighborhood I believe with the exception of Abram Spoon. He has been puny for two days and we fear he has some symptoms of fever. Mr. Day and Mr. Norwood are still at the hospital in Little Rock. We hear from them that they are getting well. Most of our wounded are doing very well and some are already well. Indeed I think that wounds heal sooner and safer in warm weather than in cold. At least it seems that such is the experience of this army. The health of the army is very good and has been since we have been here. Since we have been connected with the army it has rarely had better health than since we have been here. I believe as I said once before that more sickness and death are caused by the idleness in camps than the fatigues of the campaign.
We see Dudley occasionally. He was well the last time we saw him. So also was Captain Payne. Their brigade is camped about one mile from us. John Treadway of Clarke’s regt paid us a visit the other day. He says his brother and Uncle William have deserted and gone home. We are very sorry to hear this but we cannot help it now. I wish that every Southern man would stand up and do his whole duty. Still I do not know anything of the motives that influenced him. A great many of the men here are in bad spirits and some desertions have taken place, probably a hundred in all from our brigade. There have also been some desertions from McRae’s brigade but I do not know how many.
I suppose that if you get your papers yet, you get the news better than we do. The [illegible] of the 11th is in camps and contains some very good news. At the battle of Jackson, Mississippi on the 12th of July, Johnson defeated Grant, killed and wounded ten thousands of the enemy, took three thousand prisoners and 30 pieces of artillery and a large quantity of small arms.
Gen Lee’s invasion of Federal territory has been imminently successful. He has defeated the enemy in every engagement and taken 15 or 18 thousand prisoners. This will in some degree counter-balance our losses at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Gen. Lee’s army is still on Federal soil and in excellent spirits and fine condition being stronger now than ever before. It seems to be that if the Confederate government is able to invade the north it certainly is entitled to a place among the nations. Looking at the subject in the light of your last letter and in the light of these facts it seems like it cannot be long before the South will be recognized as an independent nation. However we cannot tell and it is our duty to wait with patience, believing that all things will work out right and in due season under the guidance of Him whose will should be our pleasure.
It is rumored here that the Federals are preparing to make an advance from the direction of White River. Their Cavalry is already at Duvalls Bluff. It is said that Hawthorne’s regt. will start back toward White River this evening. Our men are erecting some fortifications at or near Little Rock, I think. I think if the Federals make an advance it is the intention of the generals to make a stand some place not far from here.
In your next letter I wish you would
say something of Aunt Malissa if you know any thing about her. When
we see Dudley he asks how long since we got a letter from home. “Well
we got a letter just the other day.” Then he asks what did it say
about George’s folks. “Nothing.” You see this leaves us in
rather an awkward position.
We have heard some rumors that the enemy are advancing on your country. And Gen. Price refuses to give any sick-furloughs to that part of the country, so I have been told. But if communication should be cut off do not suffer yourselves to be troubled about us. We know and you know that we cannot fall either by the disease of the camps or by the dangers of the battle-field except it be the Lord’s will. And if it should be His will we should be content. One thing remember, we are not afraid to die. Meanwhile we commend you to the protection of the Lord and trust we shall all come out safe. Tell the little boys to improve their time and to be good children. I can assure them that they are by no means forgotten for they are often present to our imagination. Give our best respects and Christian regard to Mr. Gill. Remember us in your prayers. “The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much.” Farewell.
W. H. H. & J. S. Shibley
We were very much rejoiced to learn that Whitfield is not dead. If you have any news from Kuykendall send it to us.
You must excuse my bad writing. I have almost forgot how to write.
Letter No. 46
Camp on Bayou Metre
Wednesday morning Aug 19th 1863
Yours of Tuesday the 11th was received last Sunday which makes the third letter we have received successively on Sunday. We are still the recipients of the great blessing of health and many other blessings for which we are thankful. Mr. Spoon has had a tolerably severe attack of the bilious intermittent type of Fever but is now convalescent and with proper care will probably be well again soon. With this exception health is quite good in our company and tolerably good throughout the army.
We were quite glad to hear the good news your letter contained concerning your health and your prosperity as to crops &c. But we were especially glad to hear of the confession of Tilghman West and the prosperity of the church and Sunday School.
Capt. Wallace arrived safely in camps Monday evening and was gladly received by his boys. We have but little news as but little has occurred during the last week of importance. We are still fortifying. Fortifications are being constructed here and at a rise of ground about 4 miles this side the Rock. Those at the last mentioned place are of a substantial earth works, being fronted by a ditch near ten feet deep and of about the same width, and calculated to withstand artillery or anything else. The works here are of less importance being merely rifle pits with stands for artillery.
No very late reliable news from the enemy. Marmaduke it is said has had a fight and taken some prisoners. It is also said that the Feds have captured two little boats on White River that run up there when we were crossing and failed to get out. If they are gone it is not much loss for they were small light affairs. It is probable that we may make a fight here if the Federals do not move on to us too soon nor in overwhelming numbers. It would be a source of great joy to us if we could give them an effectual repulse.
I reckon this army is without a parallel as to mismanagement. I attribute much to this as a cause for the many desertions that have occurred. You very well recollect, Father, that in the U. S. Government, that office was not given to the competent but to the favorites. This I am sorry to say is the case too often in the army. The ground cause of all our disasters is probably attributable to this one fault. I hope this may be corrected and our army thoroughly reorganized and its depleted ranks filled up that we may give some good account at last.
You spoke in your letter of the letter Mr. Thomas had received from Whitfield. It relieved us of great anxiety as to his fate. We were nearly sure he had been killed and when word was received that he was not slain expressions of joy were heard among his old companions in arms. There was a letter received by some of the boys from Mr. Thomas saying that they had also seen the name of James Kuykendall on a list of our wounded in the hands of the enemy. This I believed from the first. As I examined him after he was wounded and did not think his wound at all dangerous.
You said in your letter that you thought of coming to see us. It certainly would be a joyful occurrence to see you and Mr. Gill if you could come, but you know your afairs better than any one else and so we will not say come, but act according to your best judgement. As I returned to the army from home you remember I was detained at Dardanelle. While there Mr. Norwood and I went over to Norristown for the purpose of trying to buy cotton thread. We saw the proprietor and he half way promised us that in case we called again we could get thread. If you should go there for thread it may be an advantage to you as we gave him our names. If I forget not I gave your name instead of mine expecting to write to you about it but forgot it I believe until the present.
There are no furloughs being granted at present and probably will not be as long as we are in proximity to the enemy. I should be particularly glad if it was so that John Samuel could get a furlough. He says it is 8 months this morning since he and I left for the camp at Mazard. And the probabilities seem to be that the time will be lengthened yet before we are again at Home. We will try and exercise as much patience as possible and put our trust in Him who directeth all things.
Eld. Platenburgh preached a very able discourse on last Sunday morning to our Brigade and in the evening he delivered an address upon the justness of our cause. It went home to the heart of every patriot. But the despicable croakers were not pleased. The Eld appeared glad to see us, this being the first time we had saw him since we left the Rock. I shall close for the present hoping to receive as has been our luck another letter next Sunday morning. Give our regards to Mr. Gill. We should have written him a letter but supposing that he reads yours it seems sufficient as we always write all the news.
Remember us kindly in your prayers. God shield you all.
W. H. H. & J. S. Shibley
As mentioned in several of these letters, the brothers had written other letters during the period covered herein. It is not known whether the missing letters were lost in transit and never received, or simply lost over the ensuing years.
Although this is the last letter in the collection, there surely were more letters written to “Dear Parents” during the twenty-two months that followed before Lieutenant W. H. H. Shibley surrendered Company G at Fort Smith on June 9, 1865, three years after the brothers enlisted in the Confederate Army in June of 1862. A thoughtful reader can only regret the loss of the Shibley brothers’ accounts and commentaries of their trials and battles during the last twenty-two months of their service and of the events leading to the surrender of the army of the Confederate States of America, and the end of the Civil War.
It is with deep appreciation to others, such
as Harry Shibley, Sr. and Ruie Ann Smith Park, as well as the Washington
County Historical Society, that these letters were published and therefore
became available to me. My interest in reprinting them is not purely
historical, because the “Dear Parents” of these brave and loyal soldier
boys were my great-grandparents, and I am extremely proud to have come
from such sturdy stock.
Dell L. Nelson
Fort Smith, Arkansas
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Pension Records of the men who served in these Companies, contact Jeri Helms Fultz or Bryan Howerton
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