“Two battles would not have done us as much injury as hard weather and exposure have effected.”–Letters from Elisha Franklin Paxton.

Romney, January 19, 1862.

We left Unger’s Monday morning and reached here on Wednesday, after three days’ hard march on roads as bad as rain, sleet and snow could make them. For some time since we reached here it has been raining, and the whole country is flooded with water. Since we left Winchester three weeks ago, we have indeed been making war upon the elements, and our men have stood an amount of hardship and exposure which I would not have thought was possible had I not witnessed it. In passing through it all, I have suffered but little, and my health is now as good as it ever was. Whilst this is true of myself, our ranks had been made thinner by disease since we left Winchester. Two battles would not have done us as much injury as hard weather and exposure have effected. After writing to you last Sunday, I concluded to write to the Governor to consider my resignation as withdrawn and I would trust to the chance of getting a furlough to go home. I am promised it as soon as Echols returns, and his furlough is out sixteen days from this time. I hope Jackson will have concluded by that time that a winter campaign is fruitful of disaster only, as it has been, and will put us at rest until spring. Then I may expect to see you.


Now, darling, just here the mail has come to hand, bringing your letter of the 15th inst. and the gratifying news that all are well at home. You say the sleet and snow were falling whilst you wrote, and you felt some anxiety lest I might be exposed to it. You were just about right. I left that morning at daybreak and marched in sleet and snow some fifteen miles to this place. When I got here the cape of my overcoat was a sheet of ice. If you have hard times, you may console yourself by knowing that I have hard times, too. I am amused with your fears of an inroad of the Yankees into Rockbridge. Their nearest force is about eighty miles from you, and if the roads in that section have not improved very much, they will have a hard road to travel. You all are easily scared. By the time you had been near the Yankees as long as I have, you would not be so easily frightened.

You must come to the conclusion which has forced itself upon me some time since. Bear the present in patience, and hope for the best. If it turns out bad, console ourselves with the reflection that it is no worse. We can see nothing of the future, and it is well for us we don’t. I have but little idea to-day where I will sleep to-night, or what shall be doing to-morrow. Our business is all uncertainties. I have been in great danger only once since I have been in the service, yet I suppose I have thought a hundred times that we were on the eve of a battle which might terminate my life. Now, after all, Love, I think it best to trouble myself little with fears of danger, and to find happiness in the hope that you and I and our dear children will one day live together again happily and in peace. It may be, dearest, this hope will never be realized, yet I will cherish it as my greatest source of happiness, to be abandoned only when my flowing blood and failing breath shall teach me that I have seen the last of earth. All may yet be well with us.

Elisha Franklin Paxton – Letters from camp and field while an officer in the Confederate Army

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