Letters from a Wilson County "Rebble Girl"
Comments and Annotation by Allen Sullivant
As members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, we all share the feeling of being a part of an extended "family" -- compatriots related by our common desire to preserve our Confederate Heritage and the memory of the men who sacrificed so much in their attempt to establish a Southern nation. But for some members of the Sam Davis Camp of Brentwood, Tennessee, the meaning of the term "extended family" has a much more literal definition, as you will discover below.
Anyone who is among the growing numbers of folk who have gone "on line" -- made use of the vast communication system known as The Internet -- are aware of the remarkable resources available via computer for use in historical and genealogical research. One such resource is a database known as "The Civil War Units File". Maintained by Carol Botteron, a faculty member at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, the Civil War Units File is a comprehensive list of military organizations, Union and Confederate, listed by state of origin. Along with each company or regiment you can find an address for a web site containing information on the unit, as well as the e-mail addresses of those individuals who have information to share. My e-mail address has been listed for several years now in connection with about a dozen regiments in which I (or my wife's family) had kin. In those years I have made an amazing number of contacts, have gained much knowledge, and "met" cousins and other kin I never would have known of otherwise, all because of a common interest in our Confederate ancestors.
One of the units for which I had listed my address was the Freeman / Huggins Battery of Tennessee Light Artillery, a unit in which one of my wife's great-great-grandfathers and one of her uncles had served. Many members of Freeman's Battery were Wilson County men, and sprinkled through the roster were the names Curd, Lanius, and Wallace, all old families of Wilson County whose people were some of Carol's direct ancestors. To make a long story short, I was contacted by Charles H. (Chuck) Murphy of Portland, Oregon, whose great-grandfather Edward Curd was a member of the battery. We soon determined that Chuck and my bride were kin, and a beneficial exchange of information was made, phone calls exchanged, and a genuine friendship established. Shortly thereafter another contact was made with Mr. Wade McMahan of Lexington, Tennessee, whose ancestor James McCulloch was also a member of battery. It was quickly determined that Wade and Chuck were also kin through the Curd line, and before long all three of us were corresponding and talking together. One of the end results was that Chuck and Wade's son Sean joined the Sam Davis Camp.
Among the treasures of the McMahan family archives are some letters written to James McCulloch by his (and Wade's, Sean's, Chuck's and my wife's) young cousin Eliza Curd. These letters detail life back home in the Gladeville / Silver Springs area of Wilson County while all the "boys" were off in the army and the hated Yankee made their lives miserable. I don't know exactly where in the family tree Eliza Curd belongs -- families had many children in those days, many with similar names -- but I do know that she was born on Christmas Day in 1845, which would have made her a teenager when these letters were written. Wade McMahan deserves most of the credit in transcribing these letters, my only real contribution being help with place names and phonetic spellings. Even with study from several sets of eyes, some words are illegible after 14 decades, and I have added some punctuation and occasional corrections in spelling for the benefit of the modern reader. I have also footnoted some references to persons and places mentioned.
In a letter to me enclosed with copies of Eliza's letters, Wade McMahan stated "... I have grown very fond of Eliza. After you read her letters I believe you may understand why." Wade was right in his judgement. Eliza's letters sparkle with a girlish wit, as well as the firey spirit that filled so many Southern women during those times of tribulation. I trust you will agree.
The First Letter
Silver Springs December the 13th, 1861
Mr. J. P. McCulloch,
My cousin your kind communication came to hand last Friday evening and I can assure you it was very welcome indeed. I had begun to think the time long before I should hear from you. I just thought you had found someone that you thought to write to to first. You cannot realize how much plesure it affords one in their lonesome hours to receive letters from their friends in (the) camps. Cousin Jim, I am sorry to say to you that my last sweetheart has gone in the army and one (of) them that is in Virginia (is) very sick and they are expecting him to die every hour. I have just received the news and you know that I am somewhat troubled about him. Cousin there is no news to write more (other) than we are going to have a wedding in this neighborhood next week so reports say. I am in hopes it is true so I can say I have been to one wedding these hard times. I have been very lonesome since all of the boys have left. Brother Harvey has joined (illegible) Company and they left last Monday was a week ago. They are in Camp Trousadale and expect to stay there all winter. I received a letter from him. He was well and well pleased with a camp life so far.
I have been very sick with the camp measles for two weeks and never sat up any until yesterday. John Gambrell started to the camps about two weeks ago. He did not get there in time for the fight. They did not fight much but was expecting a battle in a few days. They were building boats to cross over the river and soon as they cross they were going to fight. I received a letter from Captain Barker's Company yesterday and that was the news that it gave.
George Lanius (1) was brought home last Saturday night dead. He died Saturday morning at Livingston with the hemerige of the loungs (lungs). Everybody seemed to take his death very hard so I was told. I was not able to go to the burying.
Your sweetheart(s) are all well as far as I know of. Nothing more but write soon and excuse ill writing and spelling. I hardly knowed whether to answer your letter or not from the fact that it had been so long and I was afraid that you had gone to some other camp. I await your answer and hope that you will reply.
Eliza E. Curd
(P.S.) You spoke of coming home. If you can, come home Christmas. I am expecting a lonesome time then. Be sure to come to see me if you come home. Nothing more as I have no more news to write but war news and tidings that you are tired of hearing. That is all that is talked about here. Be shure to write. Eliza E. Curd
The Second Letter
Silver Springs June 9, 1863
Mr. James P. McCulloch
It is with sure pleasure that I take my pen in hand to ink you a few lines to let you know that I am still numbered with the living of Old Wilson, although I don't think that you care about hearing from any of the girls in this neighborhood as you have not written something to any of us. You promist me when I saw you last to write to me, but I have not received a line from you yet. I have nothing to write that would interest you.
I recon (reckon) you have heard that Nannie Lanius and James Davis was married. I was at their wedding and injoyed myself very well. You aught to have been there and seen the two children standing on the flowers. They did not join right hands, they joined left hands. Miss Love Lenard and Mr. John Clemons married last week. She asked me to wait on her but the yankees taken the young man that was to wait with me so I did not have the pleasure of ever waiting on her. I am oppose(d) to wedding now because my sweetheart is in the army and I want every man to go and help him to fight for his country so he can come home and we can have peace and injoy ourselves as we once did.
We have not had any peace here in Wilson since last summer. The yankee has been coming in this neighborhood every two or three days stealing every thing they could find. They came to the Silver Springs yesterday but did not come over to see us and I was glad they did not. I never did think I could hate any people as bad as I do the yankee. They (had) taken my horse when they were here last fall and every one that could come I would ask them about my horse and one day one came and rode him and I talked to him and begged him to give me my horse. He told me if I would come to (his) camp he would let me have him and I started and when I got there they had gone and never have heard anything more from him.
Cousin Jim, I thought I was gone up. They came here to me as a Morgan spy because I know some of Morgan's men and they saw me (talking with them). They talked about taking several girls in this neighborhood and sending them to Camp Chase. One of the yankees asked who my rebble sweetheart was. I told him I would see him dead before I would tell hem who he was. He said he would like to see him dead before. I told him if he would go to LaVergne he could see him. I told him that if he did go he would never have the pleasure of coming away!
There is Southern soldiers pass here every day. They all say they are afeared to stop, all except one and he said he would go through an army of yankees to go to Jamie(?) Curd. You aught to be here to see us, how we take on sometime. I recon you will want to know who he is. It is Lt. Harris, he is from Kentucky (and) he is very good looking and smart. He will leave in the morning and go to his camp but will not be gone long. He has been in this neighborhood for three weeks ~ anybody now to pass some of the time with. I about intend to get me another sweetheart. The one in the army forsakens me and if he does I will try and get me another. Mr. J. Hurt called on me a few days ago, him and Mr. Jim (illegible) . The yankees taken Jim a prisoner and exchanged him and he came home on a furlough. I never spent such lonesome times in my life.
We have no preaching to go to now, the preachers are afraid to come and preach for us so we stay at home every Sunday and some times a young man comes in and stayes a while. We all girls visit each other and stay to pass the time the best we can and look forward to the time when the boys can come home and stay in peace.
I went down to Hadley's Bends about two weeks ago on bissness (business) for Pa. Bettie Lanius went with me. We was gone about fore (four) days. I met up with (illegible) Lanius and had quite a nice time. I expected to see the yankee at any minit but did not see any. We weren't in half a mile of their camp.
Cousin Jim you aught to be in Wilson when there is talk of the yankee coming to see the old men hiding their horses or a getting out of the way themselves to keep from taking the Oath. There is several men south of us that has (illegible) and taken the Oath. I want some Southern Soldiers to come and take every one one of their horses and (their) corn and everything they need. Uncle Price Curd has went and taken the Oath. I want them to come and visit him. You can tell Ed Curd (2) that if he wanted to come home his (illegible) father would not let him. He would have to report him.
The ladies say it is nothing for them to curse the yankee. There was several cursed them when they were in this neighborhood the last time. I never have cursed one yet and never will. I am afraid they will take me to Camp Chase (3). They say they inten(d) to stop the women from talking. They have been making the ladies down in (illegible) take the Oath. I don't think I will ever take it. I will go south before I will take the Oath. They will ruin the people in Tennessee if you all don't make haste and drive them from here soon!
I recon you would like to hear from Miss Mollie Lanius. She spent the day with me last Sunday. She is as pretty as ever. She did not like it because you did not call and see her when you past last fall. She said I was the cause of you not calling. I told her that I was not the cause of you not stopping for I thought that you was going to stop and spend the day with her. I heard from (illegible) this week. (Illegible) told me he saw you and you was well. I was glad to hear that you was well but I thought you might write a few lines to let a body know that you was not dead. I wish a few of you boys would be detailed to come in this neighborhood to get horses. I heard that three or four of your company was about to get married in (illegible). I recon that you are one of the members. I believe that it is so by not one of you not writing. I think that the girls of Old Wilson is forsaken by that company. We would like to hear from if all you do marry that means not keeping you from writing to your old friends. I had better quit with out (asking) if this was most interesting to you. This leaves me well. Excuse the bad writing and do not let this be seen if you can pleas. E.E.C.
(P.S.) Burn this as soon as you read it and write to your friend if you pleas. EEC
The Third Letter
Silver Springs August the 31, 1864
Mr. James P. McCulloch (4)
My Soldier Friend,
I am once more spared to write you a short episal (epistle) to let you know that I am yet alive and not married yet. I have nothing interesting to write although it has been a long time since you have heard anything from this neighborhood. We are all yet living and trying to do the best we can. Cousin, we have seen hard times since you left and I recon you have seen hard time your-self. The
yankees have imposed on us. They have taken all of our stock but they have not got any of our niggros (negroes) and I am in hopes they will not get any of them. Most everyone has gone from this neighborhood. Cousing I never was as glad in my life as when I saw Frank W. (5) yesterday evening and he told me that you all had once more come back to your old native land. I would give anything to see you. I could take a week with you. I am in hopes that I will see Rebbles from this time and forever for I am tired of seeing the yankee. It will kill me if you all leave the country again. I want to go when you all go back.
Cousin I recon you would like to hear from all of your old sweet~hearts. I don't know but one of them and that is Miss Mollie L. and she is going to marry soon to Mr. John D. and Miss Sallie Averitt is going to marry Mr. Creal. There has been several weddings since you left. Billie Lanius and I are waiting for the Rebbles to come back. We are not married and we don't expect to marry soon.
Cousin the yankee don't allow me to speak to a rebble but I will speak or die. They came here to take me a prisoner one day but I was not at home. They talk about sending me south but I recon they have given that out. You ought to hear me play all the rebble's pieces for them when they ask me to play. I am strong a rebble as ever, but I have been afraid to talk.
Cousin I have had a nice time going to protracted meetings (revival services). There was three young men came here to go with me last night as cooks but I did not go. I heard that you was (several illegible words) are not if you stay any time in this country come down and see us. Rebbles are not allowed to come here but you can come any hour. Bettie Lanius send you her love. Cousin write to me if you have the chance. I could write more but it is getting late. Please excuse all mistakes and bad writing for this is wrote in hast(e). Your friend,
(1) George Lanius was a 1st Lt. in Co. F, 28th Tenn. Infantry, and an uncle of the author's wife. Click here to continue reading where you left off.
(2) Ed Curd was Edward Curd of Freeman's Battery, and the great grandfather of Sam Davis Camp member Chuck Murphy. "Uncle" Price Curd, who took the Oath, was Edward's father. continue...
(3) Camp Chase, Ohio, was a yankee prison camp that was the destination for many political prisoners and Confederate sympathizers in the Middle Tennessee area. continue...
(4) James P. McCulloch of Freeman's Battery is the Confederate ancestor of record for Sam Davis Camp member Sean McMahan. continue...
(5) Frank W. was James Franklin Wallace, a member of Freeman's Battery and a great-great grandfather of the author's wife. Frank Wallace was married to Catherine Lanius, sister of George Lanius (1). Another of her brothers, Richard, was a member of Freeman's Battery. continue...