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Matilda Hough Atwood

Civil War - Letter from Son to Mother

To Thomas & Matilda Atwood with Love

July 16, 1863

Dear Father and Mother,

It has been some time since I had the chance to write you but this has not been my wish. We have been in the defense of Vicksburg and after the city was encircled by Union troops no couriers or supplies could get in or out of the city. I suppose that all of you have heard by now that Vicksburg has fallen. We were simply overpowered and starved out after a gallant stand of 10 months. History has been made the past 4 weeks. Our was a hard task and there was much suffering and dying among the troops on both sides, but the civilian population of the city suffered even more from hunger and disease. It is said that there isn’t a scrap of food or dog left in the city of Vicksburg.

When the end came, what was left of my detachment managed to fight our way through the troops that surrounded the city and swam the river to the Louisiana side right through a river full of Yankee gunboats. We are camped about 40 miles west of the river in the flat delta lands and hope to stay here just enough to rest up, treat our sick and wounded and try to get new mounts. Over ¾ of the men are very sick and at least one dies every night, sometimes more than one man. We can get no medicine for them and only the healthiest of us can eat what little food we can manage to get holt of. Fever rages among us and the mosquitoes are very very bad. More men have died from disease than from bullets and bayonets.

Food is our big problem right now. Our horses although they are just skin and bones manage to get by as there is enough forage to feed them for the first time since last fall. With the men it is different. The people of the countryside are wonderful and give us all they can which is pitiful enough. They have so little themselves – a few ears of corn from one – a scrawny chicken from another – a head of cabbage or a handful of potatoes. This to feed all of us, and there is never half enough to go round. In the past and different times I have lived for days on parched field corn and acorns but the corn around here is already gone and there are no trees here therefore no acorns.

Our clothes are a mess. Many of the men are almost naked and over half of them do not have shoes. I am a little luckier than most of the others. My shoes are in fair shape and my clothes are holding together. I got two shirts and a tolerable fair coat from one of the men who was killed at Vicksburg and they will last me until we can get where some more can be issued. We look like anything but an army and would make a sorry sight on dress parade.

We will move out of here just as soon as we can commandeer some wagons to carry our sick and wounded. I hear that we will move toward the town on Monroe where we will join forces with another detachment. We cannot stay here for long as the Yankees may invade this part of Louisiana at any time and we have no supplies or ammunition to put up a fight. We hear all kinds of rumors about how things are going with Lee in the east but suppose that you folks at home know more about that than we ever do. May God grant that this terrible war ends very soon and I can get back with my beloved parents again.

Hope to get a chance to send this letter to you soon. Someone will surely be going west and will see that it is sent along to you. Don’t worry about me. I am luckier than most and will make it back alright. Will close for this time.

I remain your affectionate son, Wylie Pinnell

Note written by Sam Fleming)
The following is a letter written by Wiley Pinnell (you will not that he spelled his name Wylie in those days) to his mother and step father on July 16, 1863, shortly after the battle of Vicksburg. His Calvary detachment had take part in the defense of the city for many months. After it fell on July 4, 1863, company C , Baylor’s regiment, Texas Calvary managed to fight its way through the encircling Union forces, swam the Mississippi River and escaped to Louisiana.

(Note written by Sam Fleming): This letter, along with many old letters and documents came into my possession through the late May (Pinnell) Baker, one of Wiley’s daughters, and most accurately portrays the heart break and severe suffering of a ‘loosing cause’. Efforts were made to have this letter photographed and photostatted, but due to the poor condition of the paper and faded ink, it was not possible to do so.

Owner/SourceSam Fleming
Linked toMatilda Hough

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