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In Their Own Words

October 17, 1864

Letter Showed What Civil War Wives Did at Home

From near Macon, Madison Kilpatrick of the 5th Georgia Infantry wrote his wife. His letter is interesting - not for the little he said about the war effort but rather for what the wives of soldiers had to do in their husbands’ absence:

“I drop you a few lines to let you know where I am. We are in about four miles of Macon, camped in the piney woods. I am well at present. I do not know where we will be sent. The men come in slowly. You must be reconciled to my absence, for I expect nothing to be a soldier for the balance of the war. But there is a Providence that shapes our destinies, and we should submit to His decrees with humility. You know I had rather be at home, but it is impossible for me to get there. So I must think of it as little as possible. When John finishes the orchard fence, let him gather the house field of corn. Let the hogs in when they eat out the river field. Put the cows, horses and sheep in the river field. Join the fence to the river at each end. Let the sheep go in and out by the slip gap. Let John have all the Negroes four days to pick peas. Pick before gathering corn in head field and bluff bottom. Put peas in school, hasp lock or nail [it] up. sow barley and rye first rain. Kiss the children 500 times for me. You must do the best you can. Make slip gaps and let the hogs run in the fields after you gather corn. Put the potatoes up with open shelters over them. Direct your letters to Company H, 5th Regiment, Army of Tennessee, but no place on it. Write me all about the business, what is done, &c.”

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. 333.