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In Their Own Words

October 13, 1862

Civil War Soldier Wrote Wife Describing Being in Battle

A Georgia soldier in Virginia wrote home to his wife, telling her some of what it was like to be in a battle.

“…We do not see the leaden messengers of death. In battle evryone avails himself of such protection as circumstances and nature present. In maneuvering large masses this is generalship; with individuals it is prudence and the first law of nature self protection. But to protect ones self to the neglect of duty is cowardice. In the battle of Cross Keys when the anemy opened a battery on our regiment the colonel commanded, ‘lie down men.’ (Half were already down.) Since that time the phrase has become a byword with the men when ever they hear an unusual noise. Thare is another phrase that some mischevious fellows use when they hear a shot or shell: ‘hide out children, your dad is coming home drunk.’ This is when no danger is brewing. The study of human nature about the time of a battle presents many strange and interesting features. I hope to come home and tell you many things. …”

Source: Randall Allen and Keith S. Bohannon (eds.), “Campaigning with ‘Old Stonewall’: Confederate Captain Ujanirtus Allen’s Letters to his Wife (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998), pp. 172-173.