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In Their Own Words

June 21, 1863

Civil War Soldiers Wrote of March Through Shenandoah Valley

A Georgia soldier writing home to his wife gave her some details on the march of the Army of Northern Virginia.

“…in my last letter I indicated a change of programme in our advance. It seems that Hooker…had begun to concentrate his forces…to fortify gaps of the mountains through which we passed last year. Ewell’s Corps was therefore rapidly thrown into the Valley and to the rear of Winchester, where was the notorious Milroy… Ewell made short work with Milroy, capturing more than half his command and all his artillery, ordance stores, et cet. … Instead of following Ewell’s footsteps, our Corps divered to the right of Front Royal, passed through one gap near Piedmont, through Piedmont, … across the mountains at Ashby’s Gap, across the Shenandoah at the foot of the mountains…”

Source: Anita B. Sams (ed.), With Unabated Trust: Major Henry McDaniel’s Love Letters from Confederate Battlefields as Treasured in Hester McDaniel’s Bonnet Box (The Historical Society of Walton County, Inc., 1977), pp. 174-175.

Another Georgia soldier writing to his parents told them of his part in the march as well, contrasting the beautiful country through which they were passing with the hard conditions under which they were living.

“…we have experienced most of the ills of a soldier’s life. We have suffered from heat, cold, fatigue, hunger and rain. Our first day’s march was over a dusty road, during some of the hottest weather I ever saw. There were a number of cases of sunstroke in our division… Our route that day was through the most beautiful part of Virginia. The country is thickly dotted with fine residences and splendid farms. … That afternoon we passed through a little village called Upperville. You can hardly imagine anything more beautiful than that little village nestled among the mountains. … The houses are clean and neat and the people look happy. Oh, how ashamed I felt passing among such nice people! I was do dirty and shabby, and my face and hands were browned by the sun and weather. That night we camped in the woods. It was the most sultry night I ever experienced in Virginia. The men were sitting on the fences to try to get a breath of fresh air. Next morning we were on the march again. …”

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), p. 245.