In Their Own Words
June 10, 1864
Civil War Letter Told of Desertions
From near Marietta in the midst of the Confederate defense of Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, a demoralized Bolton Thurmond wrote to his sweetheart Frances Porterfield not only of increasing Confederate desertions but indeed of his own thoughts about abandoning his unit:
“… Frances, I haven’t any good news to write to you. But, oh, the dreadful news. War and fighting forever! The fight is still raging, but thank God I am yet alive and unhurt. I written [sic] you a letter the other day. We were some eight miles from Marietta. We have moved further up on our right. The enemy are moving their forces to our right all the time. They haven’t been able to press us on very much, only skirmishing but trying to flank around us and get in our rear. they are bent for Atlanta… . I can walk home from here in two days and nights. It is only 75 miles from here. We are drawing nearer and nearer every day to our homes and are [passing] a heap of the Georgians’ homes and the most of them stops as they get home and goes the other way. That is what will end this struggle if nothing else, the men quitting. I have come to the conclusion to not be driven much further. I had rather go North the remainder of my days than to be treated any such a way and never know what minute I may be shot down and after all can’t see as it [further prolonged war] will be any benefit to us, only ruining our country and killing our good men… . If I had you in Kentucky I would be glad… . A great many of our brother soldiers has left us on this retreat, and a heap more says if they fall back from here they will not go any further a-past their homes. I can’t blame them. We will have no army after [a] while, alas! Frances, you must keep this letter concealed. Don’t let anyone see it. But remember me forever is my wish.”
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. 299-300.