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In Their Own Words

April 23, 1865

Letter Told of Soldier Desertions

Just days before Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender becomes official, Georgian Joseph Cumming wrote to his wife from near Greensboro, N.C. Though he did not mention the massive desertion of soldiers then underway, Cumming’s letter does mention two cases of fellow soldiers leaving for home:

“I am not yet in any proper frame of mind for letter writing. The events of the last ten days, with all my talk about the suddenness with which this war would end, have taken me so much by surprise that I have not been in a normal state of mind for some days. Time hangs very heavily upon my hands. We have nothing to do, yet I feel no inclination for letter writing. I sent you a short letter by Henry day before yesterday. The departure of Henry Meyers today for Augusta presents another opportunity for sending you tidings of my welfare. It is impossible for me to say as yet when I shall start home. I ought to do so in a few days, if the terms agreed upon between Sherman and Johnston are adopted promptly by the United States Government. We are doing nothing in the meantime but awaiting listlessly for tidings from Washington. A rumor reaches us today that the assassination of Lincoln, announced in orders to Sherman’s army, never took place but the whole affair was a hoax perpetrated by some of our cavalry which tapped the telegraph lines in [the] rear of Sherman’s army. I hope the rumor proves true! Give my love to all at home. Kisses to the little ones. Yours.”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), “Dear Mother: don’t grieve about me. If I get killed, I’ll only be dead.”: Letters from Georgia Soldiers in the Civil War (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), pp. 351-352.