Sunday, September 18, 2005

This Dreadful War

After the Southern victory at Chancellorsville, Confederate General Robert E. Lee decided to again take the war to the north. In June, his columns moved north through the Shenandoah Valley using the ridges to their east, and Major General Stuart's Cavalry, to screen their movements from the pursuing Union Army of the Potomac.

Colonel David Wyatt Aiken commanded the 7th South Carolina of Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw's famous South Carolina Brigade during the movement. As they progressed through the Valley, he took the time to write his wife a letter that briefly encapsulates much of the experience of the civil war soldier while on the move.

"Shenandoah River June 22nd

I wrote to you a few days ago my darling wife from my tent then on the top of a mountain and beyond the river. I told you some little of the beautiful scenery which should have been seen to have been appreciated. That night, there came up a very hard rain and the next morning until noon we were enveloped in the clouds though we heard that the view was clearing in the valley.

The next morning we were proceeding on our march when a courier arrived from the rear saying Stuart's cavalry was heavily pressed by the enemy. We were put under arms and by 3pm ordered hurriedly back across this river, marched 3 miles, drew up in line of battle across the turnpike, each flank reaching upon the mountain. Here we allowed the cavalry to pass to our rear and we waited for the enemy. The fight progressed all day and was very severe. Our men stood there trembling, wet up to their arms and the wind blowing from the mountains as cold as October. Poor fellows. I sympathized with them. After all, we could see the thousands of Yankee campfires in the valley about three miles in our front. We watched them until morning and then advanced upon them when lo they had gone. As soon as they discovered we had infantry, they turned towards Manassas.

It is now after 10pm and we have not yet received any orders about moving tomorrow so I can tell you nothing of our future movements. Where we go, none of us knows, but must certainly meet the foe before many more days and when we do we intend to whup certain regardless of what he intends to do with us. I may be among the number to be sacrificed. God grant I may not be. But if I should I believe I'll die with the full assurance of someday meeting you in heaven. I will have fought too in a noble cause and leave to my beloved wife and dear little children the future consolation that I fell battling for the liberty they may live to enjoy. Kiss our dear little pets for me. Oh for a short sojourn with you and them. But for this dreadful war, how happy would we be.

Colonel David W. Aiken"



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The text above was transcribed from the Time-Life "Voices of the Civil War: Gettysburg" Audio Book. If new to the Civil War, this series serves as an excellent introduction, offering items of interest even to those who consider themselves seasoned enthusiasts. Any errors in the transcription are entirely my own although, after several reviews, I believe this to be accurate. The format is obviously my own.

All original material Copyright © 2005. All Rights Reserved
Text of the letter is copyright TIme Warner Audiobooks © 1997

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