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In Their Own Words

July 18, 1864

Civil War Soldier Informed Mother of Death of Her Sons

A Georgia soldier had the sad task of writing to a mother, telling her of the death of two of her sons at the Battle of the Wilderness two months earlier.

“…I, being the last one of Company H to visit the battlefield of May 6th, by request of Mr. M.O. Young take pleasure in responding to a letter received of him by you soliciting information relative to the death of your beloved sons John and Thomas. Having received a painful wound myself in the knee, I did not see either of them when struck but have received full particulars of the sad events from reliable men who witnessed them. Lieutenant was kneeling down giving instructions to some of the company about firing, when he was struck in the forehead by a minie ball, it passing through his brain. He died instantly without even speaking. This [was] some 75 yards from the enemy’s breastworks. Thomas, I do not suppose, was aware of it at the time, for, after reaching the Yankee breastwork and remaining behind them for minutes, he was struck himself by a minie ball, it passing through the right side of his neck cutting the jugular vein. He turned to Lieutenant Culp and, pointing with his finger to his wound from which his life’s blood was fast gushing forth, asked him where John was. This was the only word he spoke. … Noble, noble youths, their untimely fate is deeply lamented by the entire company. No more heroic soldiers have fallen since this war began than they. None more gallant have ever graced the ranks of the Confederate army. In courage and valor they were surpassed by none. … I am wholly inadequate to describe with pen the grief I have felt at your irreparable loss. …”

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. 315-316.