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In Their Own Words

August 02, 1864

Confederate Soldier Described Death of Friend

From north of Atlanta, Confederate soldier W.K. Thompson wrote to his friend John MacMurphy about the continuous danger a soldier faced. Thompson, whose term of enlistment was about to end, also revealed what he planned to do:

“Thinking perhaps the boys would like to hear from the volunteers from the front, I take the opportunity while it is quiet enough to let you know that there is but one of us that is now in the land of the living, as Culpepper was shot through the head on Sunday morning about 8 o’clock and died 6 o’clock in the evening… . We had been working on the ditches, and he asked me if I did not want some water, and I told him I would go and get my canteen and go to the well with him. And when I went to get it, he and another man started ahead of me and got near the well, when he was shot on a little ridge. One of the sharpshooters of the Yankees must have seen him from some point at least half a mile and shot him… . The doctor could do nothing for him. He said he would die in a little while, but he struggled all day. His skull was broke in three places, and his brain was running out of all the holes. I wrote to his wife yesterday that I had his things and money and would send them to her the first chance I got, and if I don’t get killed myself I would be home after the term of my enlistment is out … . The times are pretty dangerous up here, as they are shelling one another all the time and you have to keep close in your holes. There are thousands of balls whizzing along all the time over your head.”

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. 324-326.