The Civil War Letter of Pvt. William D. Littleton

Company I, 34th Arkansas Infantry, CSA

At the outbreak of the Civil War, William D. Littleton was enjoying a quiet, comfortable life in Franklin County, Arkansas.  He had gotten married the year before to Sarah Eichenberger, a native of Ozark, Arkansas.  A skilled blacksmith, his future seemed secure.  A photograph taken at the time shows a handsome young man, wearing a black suit, vest and bowtie, somewhat dapper in appearance, but with the somber expression common to mid-nineteenth century photographs.

The lives of William and Sarah were altered forever when the great tragedy of the Civil War began.  Following Arkansas’ secession from the Union, William, like most of the young men in his neighborhood, enrolled in Company A, 7th Regiment Arkansas Militia, the purpose of which was to defend Franklin County from “Northern aggression.”  As the war dragged on into its second year, and Arkansas was increasingly besieged by Federal troops, the members of William’s militia company were organized into a regular Confederate infantry company.  On July 2, 1862, William and his comrades were sworn into service as Company I, 34th Regiment Arkansas Infantry, CSA, for “three years or during the war.”

A decidedly agrarian society, the South desperately needed mechanics, blacksmiths and other skilled artisans to manufacture and repair the machinery and weapons necessary to fight the industrial North.  William’s skill as a blacksmith was just what the army needed, and he soon found himself on detached duty as an army blacksmith at Camden, Arkansas.  The muster rolls of the 34th Arkansas indicate that William was detached from the regiment on February 12, 1863, by orders of General Fagan, and remained on detached duty until he died at Camden in October 1864.  Nothing is known about the details of William’s death.  It is presumed that he died of illness or disease.  It is believed that he is buried in an unmarked soldier’s grave in the old Oakland Cemetery at Camden.

Sarah, now a 22-year-old widow, never remarried.  She applied for and received a Confederate widow’s pension from the State of Arkansas in 1907.

William Littleton left three legacies.  The first was a son, William Eli, born on July 17, 1863.  The second was the record of a young American who nobly gave his life in the defense of his country.  The third was a letter, written to his bride, and lovingly preserved and handed down through the generations to the present day.

There is nothing earth-shaking in this letter—no discussion of grand strategies, or the political and social causes of the war.  This is a letter written by a simple, unassuming soldier to his family.  It expresses the hope for peace and asks for the prayers of his wife.  It puts a human face on events of nearly 140 years ago that now are only seen as “history.”  The letter was written from the camp of the 34th Arkansas Regiment near Little Rock.  The spelling and lack of punctuation are left as is.  The only change made is that assumed sentence breaks are separated into paragraphs, though the original is written in one paragraph.  The letter is addressed to Sarah Littleton, Ozark, Arkansas.

[Note:  William Littleton’s letter is being posted on the Civil War Page on February 8, 1999, the 136th anniversary of the date of the letter.]

The letter
February 8 [1863]
Camp Littlerock

Dear wife and parents

i take my pencil in hand to inform you that i am well at present
hoping when theis few lines come to hand that they may find you all
injoying  the same blessins

i have nothing of importens to wright to you at pressint

i have droad sixty eight dollars yesterday and i will send you fifty
five dollurs by L.W.Stone [?] in confederate money

i have got me a pare of sous so i am all right for clothes

now i must tell you what i know about the news
we are ordered to march but i dont know where we are a goin
but i think that we will go down to pointbluff if we go a tall
i beleve that we will have peece in three months
they is lots of men down blo here that will bett the last dollar ther
worth on peece in three monts

Dear wife i wount you to do the best you can and try to take the world
as easy as posable put all of your trust in the lorde and he will gide
thrue this world and he will be with you in the worald to com

o pray for me Dear Sarah and pray in faith so if we donte meete on this
urth God will call us and our little famly together in the world to com

a few words to paugh [Pa?] you had better by all the pork that you can for
if you cant gitet know i am afraid that you cant gitet it a tall

i must bring my few lins to a close by saying that you Dear wife still
remain my dear love untill deth

Wm Littleton To my dear wife fare a way good by

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