Letters from James, a inside on the homefront.
This was taken from a journal of a 17 year old boy in NC who was deciding on what to do because when he turned 18 he was going to be drafted in the Confederate Army, all his brothers were in CS service already. He ended up joining the Union Army and so did all his bothers. It is a great insight on how it was at the home front and what went on in the south. I know the date is a year early but read it and see if you can understand why I posted it. It does sound all Cold Mountain like but this is all from a real person. It was a interesting read, it goes from April 1863 to March 1864.
© Copyright 2000 James David Pearce
Petty Shore, Letters from James
Petty Shore July 4,1863
To: Isaac Pierce, Co. &, 31st Infty:
My dear brother:
O, the sadness here. The sun is bright, warm and soft and the fields are fertile and full, but the sadness! I know it's terrible to be away from home in a war, but I have to tell you, brother, it also can be bad to be at home in a war. When the poets gather to write again about woe and sadness and the inhumanity of man, they'll never have to look further than our own homeland.
I know you remember the Mars Hill farmer, Mathew Pardue, the man with the little farm on the Colerain road. Well, Mathew is dead. Shot dead in his own field by a squad of Georgia militia following a secessionist sheriff on a conscript chase. He was 38 years old, and he left a wife and four younguns.
It is a sad thing to say, but I am fast coming to think that you and Cit and Mr. Askew are marching with the wrong army, and I know that the day is fast coming when I have to decide which way I am going to march.
Not only do we live here under a government that allows buying, selling and breeding of dark-skinned human beings just the same as it allows the same of mules, cows and hogs, but we have a government of men who think it is right to shoot dead a poor 38-year-old farmer with a wife and four children - and no darkies - just because he doesn't want to go to Virginia and kill Yankees to protect the property of the sinful multitudes with money.
Think about this, brother. Hinnant Edwards owns more than a thousand acres out from Colerain, and almost that many slaves. The CS government says that under the 20-Darky Law he doesn't have to fight the Union because he is needed on his farm to keep his
slaves in line and working. But Hinnant Edwards doesn't even stay on his farm. He and his family split their time between houses in Tarboro and Raleigh, leaving those thousand slaves to work those thousand acres under one white overseer, who also doesn't have to march with the army. The CS government says Hinnant's boy Cornelius doesn't have to fight the Union, either, because he has the $300 it takes to hire a "substitute soldier" to take his place in the lines. So Cornelius rides a buggy back and forth between Tarboro and Raleigh, along with his daddy and their ladies.
Mathew Pardue had a little 10-acre patch and a four-room shanty off the Colerain road at Mars Hill. He didn't own anybody, and not too many hogs. He had a hard-working wife and four younguns, and they had to work the fields all the sunny days and moonlit nights to get in enough crops and vegetables to keep them all alive. But Mr. Davis's great CS government said Mathew had to go fight the Yankees so Hinnant Edwards and Cornelius could keep their darkies in the fields. They didn't say that last year. They only said it this year when they said that all the poor white men up to age 45, even with four children, had to answer the conscript call.
Well, Mathew thought the CS government was all right last year, but this year he changed his mind. Mathew decided he wasn't going anywhere to fight anybody to help Hinnant and Cornelius while his own wife and children scrounged to eat. So when the conscript call came, he ran to the woods and they couldn't find him. He'd stay in the back fields and work while the sun was up, but he could just about always see his house and when his wife hung a certain bed-sheet on the clothesline, it was a signal to Mathew that there were no strangers around and he could come home for a little while.
But the secesh Bertie sheriff with the conscript order staked him out, hiding some of the Georgia Confederates in the woods near Mathew's fields, and when his wife put out the bedsheet that one last time it was a mistake, and they saw him crossing the near fields to his house. They let loose their dogs and chased him, and he ran, and they shot him dead less than 300 yards from his front porch. Mathew's wife and all his younguns were standing there when they dragged him home by the heels and threw him on the porch.
The sheriff told Mathew's wife that she could tell all her Yankee-loving friends and neighbors that that was what was going to happen to every man that decided not to obey the rightfully enacted laws of their county, state and country, and then he went back to the
courthouse in Windsor and bragged about what he and his Georgia boys had done. That was the way the word got around Bertie and Hertford counties, and when Mathew's friends heard about it, they took buggies and wagons and went to see Miss Pardue to see what they could do to help her. But she and her children had already dug a hole and buried Mathew, under a little wooden cross, and there was nothing else to be done.
The sadness! The depths to which we are sunk! My brother, we still go to Sunday prayer meeting, but we have sunk to a place that even the preacher can't find anything to say that makes sense. I am afraid that I am getting close to deciding what I have to do and say - I'll be 18 in October. I am becoming mighty afraid, brother, that I am not going to march with you and Cit. I think that when I take up my sword and shield, I am going to have to find another road.
Mama and Abigail, Job, Priscilla and Milly and all of Cit's are doing as well as can be expected. I sometimes think that maybe I would like to have me a family of my own, and Lord knows, I know that there are a lot of lonesome women around here now - young and old - that look at me sometimes like I was a prime side of beef hung out for display, but my mind is in such torment that I don't know what to do or how to act with them. I feel for certain that if this war doesn't end sometime soon, I won't be able to stay here, and I wouldn't want to have to go and leave any others behind.
I wonder sometimes about /Abigail, too. I think she is beginning to feel like she's going to be an old maid and wants to have some children of her own, and there are precious few around here for her to pick or choose for a life mate. It's worrisome, too, that she may be getting too friendly with some of the Union men that come around from time to time. Especially that Sgt. Brown. She even invited him and the Yankee lieutenant to go to prayer-meeting with her and mama and me last week, and she never asked permission from the preacher first. The preacher put up with it in good stead, making no issue of it, but I know he was feeling untoward about having members of an occupying army sitting in his congregation.
Some of the neighbors are beginning to take note of Abigail and her friends, but most of them are in no position themselves to call brimstone down on anyone else's head for having truck with the northerners, and I don't think anything much will come of it all. Personally, I kind of admire Sgt. Brown and the lieutenant both.
Thomas J. Alleman
"If the choice be mine, I chose to march." LOR