Letters from Elisha Franklin Paxton.

Mount Jackson, March 19, 1862.

We left our encampment near Strasburg last Saturday, and reached this place on Monday, where appearances indicate that we are settled in peace and quiet for a while. There is some skirmishing between our pickets and those of the enemy about twenty miles from here, but I believe the enemy have not left Winchester in any force, and, I imagine, will not until the roads and weather will admit of an advance on the other side of the mountain on Johnston.

The time passes very dull with me, as I have nothing to do, the Colonel and Lieut.-Col. of the regiment both being here and doing what little there is to be done. Some days ago I met with your sister Martha, who had come down to the camp to see Mr. Williamson. She was much alarmed at the expected approach of the enemy, and in doubt what to do. My advice to her was to remain at home if they came, letting everything go on as usual. They would take such of her property as they needed, but, I believed, would do no further injury. Their policy, so far as I can learn, has been, in Winchester and the counties which they occupy, to conciliate the people. I doubt not it will be their principle everywhere. I am glad they indicate their purpose to carry on the war on the principles of civilized warfare, as it exempts the women and children left at home by our soldiers from the savage barbarities of their vengeance. If the fate of war brings my own home within their lines, it will be some consolation to know that you, my darling wife, and our dear little children are not subjected to insult and injury at the hands of the invaders. Whilst their occupancy may deprive me of the fond letters of a loving wife, giving the glad news that all are well at home, which is now my greatest source of happiness, I shall be comforted by the hope and belief that they are left to enjoy uninterrupted the necessary comforts of life. Whilst it is a sad thought to give up one’s home to the enemy, with many of us it is destined to be a necessity which will contribute more than all other causes to the ultimate achievement of our independence. It is utterly impossible to defend every section.


Just here, Love, I will change the subject to say that, whilst writing, I have received your letter of the 15th inst. We may never meet again, as you say, Love. We know nothing of the future, but I trust the day of our final separation is far distant. The obituaries which I find in the paper from home remind me that those who remain at home, as well as those who have joined the army, die. Of the thousand who have left our county for the army, I suppose not more than fifty have died from disease or in battle. Nearly as large a proportion of those at home, I expect, have died. Life is uncertain everywhere, Love, and you should not infer from my being in the army that you and I may not see much of life together yet. I am glad I can’t turn aside the dark veil which, covers the future and look at the good and evil in store for me.


I am sorry that Galla had the luck to break the likeness, but glad that I have a place in the dear little fellow’s memory and that he wanted to see his papa. I am glad, too, to learn that you have found in little Mary Fitzgerald a post-office messenger, and that you can get the papers and my letters without sending one of the hands and stopping work on the farm for the purpose. I have heretofore written so that my letters would reach you on Sunday when you went to church, but now I can write at any time. I felt gratified to learn that Fitz was exempt from the militia draft, although it was selfish and unpatriotic, as he would make a good soldier. I am very anxious that you should be comfortable and contented at home; and as he is so faithful and industrious, I am sure he will be of great service to you, and that you will feel much safer from his being there.

And now, Love, as I have some matters requiring my attention this evening, I will bid you good-bye and bring my letter to a close. Give a kiss to the dear little boys for me, and for yourself accept my best love.

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

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