“Their purpose in crossing the river is probably to rebuild the railroad. When this is done we shall probably be attacked here.”–Letters from Elisha Franklin Paxton.

Winchester, March 6, 1862.

Your first letter since I left home reached me on yesterday, bringing the welcome intelligence that you were all well, and the intelligence, not less gratifying, that you would not have me stay at home whilst the country has such pressing need for the service of every citizen in the field. If such were the feeling and wish of every woman and child, the men would be moved by nobler impulses and we would have a brighter prospect before us. Our soldiers, impelled by influence from home, would all remain in the service, and those left behind would rally to their support, instead of remaining behind until compelled by force to join the army and fight for the liberties of the country. Whatever others may do, their delinquencies will not justify our faults; and you and I must act so that what we do in these times of peril and uncertainty shall hereafter have our own and the approval of those whose good opinion we value.

We came to our present encampment a week ago, and have made little preparation for comfort, not knowing how soon, but expecting every day, we might move again. I doubt not you have heard frequent rumors that a battle was imminent. You had best never alarm yourself with such. From this to the end of the war, I never expect to see the time when a battle may not occur in a few days. Hence I always try to be ready for it, expecting it as something through which I must pass, which is not to be avoided. The facts, so far as I can learn, are that the enemy is in Charlestown with considerable force, in Martinsburg with some 3000, and at Paw-paw tunnel in Morgan with some 12,000 or 15,000. I think it very uncertain whether an advance upon Winchester is intended at this time. Their purpose in crossing the river is probably to rebuild the railroad. When this is done we shall probably be attacked here. If the force of the enemy is far superior to our own,—and it probably will be, I think,—we shall retire from the place without making a defence. So don’t be alarmed at any rumors you may hear.


Since my return we have had a very idle time. My duty is to take charge of the regiment in the absence of the Colonel, and as he is here I have nothing at all to do. I am very anxious to get a job of some sort which will give me occupation.

The wish which lies nearest my heart is for your comfort and happiness in my absence. I will write regularly so that you will get my letters on Sunday morning when you go to church. As soon as you hear what was the fate of Brother’s two boys at Fort Donelson, write me about it.

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

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