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In Their Own Words

October 15, 1861

Personal View of Battle Expressed in Letter

From Camp Bartow, Va., Georgia Confederate soldier Shephard Pryor wrote his wife a very personal view of what he thought about during battle:

“I take the opportunity this morning to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and getting along as well as could be expected under the circumstances. Time appears to be somewhat dull about the camp but immediately around it is kept up a pretty lively time by the sound of axes and the falling of trees, cleaning out the way all around us, so we can have fair plan on the enemy if they do advance… .

“But, dear, times rolls off very fast in time of a battle. When we had been in that the third [of] 3 1/2 hours, it appeared to me that it hadn’t been two. At such a time, times passes off unnoticed and unthought of. Men think of but one thing and that is to whip the fight. I have been told that at such a time that men did not care for anything. But it is different with me. I thought of more things in a short space of time than ever I did before. A man to go out with the expectation of being shot every minute, he has but a short time to think a heap in. The thought of you and those dear little ones hurt me worse than anything else, but I put myself in the hands of Him who created me, determined to do my whole duty and prayed to Him for protection that I am spared yet to serve my country and Him in my feeble way. This is the place that tries men’s souls, this the place to find out the true man… .

“Dear, you must work to keep you feelings right in these things. I am here fighting for my country, liable to be killed in any battle we may have. I ask you now to think of this, and prepare yourself for any news that you may hear if I fall in this war. There will be thousands of widows and orphans made that will perhaps be in a worse fix than you would be if I should fall. You know that life is uncertain and death is sure, and let us be at all times prepared to meet it… .

“…Don[t be uneasy about me, dear, no more than you can help. Pray for me. Be sure to take care of yourself. Give my love to all my friends. Accept my truest love for yourself and children. Tell the children howdy for me. Good by.”

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. 76-78.