In Their Own Words
May 31, 1864
Letter Informed of Civil War Death
From Virginia, Sandy Pendleton of the 12 Georgia Regiment had the sad duty to write F.J. Willis about the death of his son:
“[As] An intimate friend of your lamented son Ned Willis, late Colonel of the 12th Georgia Regiment, and having enjoyed the sad privilege of being with him a short time before his death, I take pleasure in doing the little that I can to assuage your grief. “Knowing that he had been dangerously, if not mortally, wounded yesterday, I went as soon as my duties permitted to the hospital where he lay. I found him evidently dying, but not suffering much pain and perfectly conscious. Dr. McGuire, medical director of this corps, was with him, and, as I came to the pallet where he lay, he said, ‘Willis, here’s Sandy Pendleton come to see you.’ Ned opened his eyes and grasped my hand with both of his and said, ‘Sandy, the doctors won’t tell me whether I am going to die. Am I mortally wounded?’ I replied, ‘Yes, Willis, I am afraid that you are mortally wounded.’ He said, ‘That’s right, old fellow, that’s the way I like to hear a man talk. I am not afraid to die any more than I was afraid to go into battle.’ I said, ‘Willis, I trust you have as good cause not to fear death as you had not to fear the enemy.’ To which he replied, ‘I rust so, Sandy. I believe I have.’
“… The doctor said he would probably die during the say and without much pain, which satisfied him… . I asked him if there was anyone else he wanted to see. He said, ‘Yes, Moxley Sorrel’s sister to whom I am betrothed. I am not afraid to die. I don’t mind it myself, but it will almost break her hear and my poor Father’s and Mother’s. Tell her not to be distressed. I die in the best cause a man could fall in.’ He said nothing more, but seem a good deal moved. After a few moments he asked me to see that all his debts were paid by Captain Reed, quartermaster of his regiment.
“The doctor here interfered to give him some brandy and said that some ice and strawberries would be good for him. I left and sent him some. On returning after a couple of hours, I found that he had died quietly a short time after I left.”
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. 293-295.