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In Their Own Words

October 26, 1861

Letter from Civil War Camp Near Savannah

After the death of his wife and first daughter in July 1861, lawyer and Savannah mayor Charles C. Jones Jr. decided not to run for reelection. Instead, he left his surviving daughter with his parents and joined the an artillery battery defending Savannah. After the Civil War, Jones gained fame for his historical writings - especially his History of Georgia (1883). Some historians would later suggest that Jones’ writings were sometimes nostalgic - a charge that his Oct. 26, 1861, letter to his parents might give evidence:

“I left the city [of Savannah] on yesterday morning and found our entire command in good health and fine spirits… .There is, I can assure you a [great] deal of hard labor in the efficient drill of men and horses and in the careful conduct of all the details which appertain to a mounted battery. The men, however, who compose our company are unusually efficient. They are gentlemen all and bring to the discharge of the duties incumbent upon them a degree of intelligence, industry and cheerfulness quite remarkable. I trust that our shores may never know the pollution of the enemy’s presence. But if he does come, I sincerely hope that our battery may be detailed to resist his first attempted landing and to dispute every inch of ground in his contemplated march of desolation. I am beginning to appreciate the practical entertainment of the ‘Dolce et decorum et pro atria more.’

“Our camp is advantageously located nine miles from Savannah on the Isle of Hope, upon a bluff overshadowed with some of the noble live oaks which impart such dignity to the forests of our local region. We occupy the site of the old Bulloch house, a few years since passing from the possession of the former owners and becoming by purchase the property of our present worthy and efficient Captain. You would be pleased with the appearance of our encampment. Our pure white tents contrast beautifully with the dark overhanging foliage of these attractive trees, and our burnished battery gleams brightly in the morning sun. Our garrison flag is floating freely in the quick air, and within a stone’s throw of the guard tent a bold river moves onward between its low-lying shores toward the far-off sound.

“Our reveille is answered by no less than three encampments at distances of several miles above and below us along the coast. As I write, the campfires are all dead, save that which burns brightly still in front of the guard tent, where the ‘watchers keep their vigils sharp,’ and the stillness is unbroken, save by the lazy flap of the tent curtains, the soft ripple of the tide as it gently chafes with the shore, and the occasional note of some waking song-bird among the overshadowing branches. All else is hushed, not a sound from the stables, no challenge from the sentinels. They are keeping their posts, however, for every now and then I can detect the clank of the scabbard against the slings as they come to the about. Even the quiet breathing of the Captain, whom I can touch with my hand as he lies sleeping behind me on his camp cot, I cannot hear.

“And I am hold silent converse with you, my dear parents, and my heart is going forth in warmest love towards you and my sweet little Daughter. May a kind Providence prove ever near you, to bless and keep you from every harm. George is with me and attends well to his duties, and to my horse, ‘Trick,’ who I think will make a very fine parade horse.”

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. 80.