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In Their Own Words

August 13, 1863

Letter from Discouraged Georgia Soldier

From Fredericksburg, Va., William Stillwell wrote a poignant but discouraging letter to his wife back in Georgia:

“… Oh, Mollie, how dark! This indeed is a dark day for the Confederacy. Hundreds of our men are deserting and those that remain are discouraged and disheartened and people at home are whipped and want us to give up. To give up is but subjugation, to fight on is but dissolution, to submit is awful, to fight on is death! Oh, what shall we do? To submit, God forbid. To fight on, God deliver. Oh, Mollie, when I think of the thousand[s] of mangled forms of human beings crippled, torn in pieces, the thousands of widows and fatherless children all over our land, the weeping and mourning and anguish throughout the land, I am compelled to cry out, “Oh, God, how long will Thou afflict us, how long shall the horrors of war desolate our once happy country?” … I tell you, dear Mollie, unless the great God help us we are gone, and how can we expect Him to bless such a people as we are. I once believed in the justice of our cause, but we have made it a curse and not a blessing. I believe that the next six months will decide our fate, and I fear it will be against us. All that I can say is, God forbid.

“The men from North Carolina held [a] meeting yesterday. I believe they will go back to the Union. The men from Georgia say that if the [Union] army invades Georgia they are going home. I don’t believe our army will fight much longer. I know that many will or would say that I am whipped. I would say to them if they would come and see and feel what I have would feel as I do… .”

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. 260-261.