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William Ross Stillwell Letters

William Ross Stillwell Letters

Richamond, Va. July 4, 1862

    Dearest Molly

    Thanks be to God I have been spared.. We pursued the ememy towards Yorktown.. God save me from seeing the awful sights I have seen for the past week. Bullets flying thick and fast and bomb-shells bursting all around me. We have ad one of the fierest battles ever fought on this continent. We have driven the Grand Army fo the North from every position and have taken over 10,000 prisoners. We lost a great number but that had to be. I am writing this on my knee and do not know when the old drum will commence the long roll and we hear, "Fall In". Off we go through mud and water knee and waist deep. Slept sound last night on wet ground and had breakfast of fat meat broiled in fire coals and ashes.

July 15th. Hdqts. Gen. P.J. Semmes, Richmond, Va.
    Gen. Semmes wanted me and eleven more from different regiments to guard his quarters in his brigade. Gen.Semmes is a nice gentleman from Columbus, Ga.. I fare much better with him than at regiment camps. We are still east of Richmond and no fighting. Many of the boys are sick and dying of measles and diarhea. Coffe and sugar is $1.00 a pound, butter $1.25, cabbage 50 cents a head, small chicken $1.25.
Aug. 18, 1862 East of Richmond, Va.
    I am thankfu to be permitted to write again. Am still at Gen.Semmes Hdqts. There is a lot of sickness in our regiment. About 125 men have died. I never pass a dead man without a prayer for his family. I try to keep in good spirets. I would give all of Va. to see my wife and two year old son.
Sept. 16th. 1862 Harpers Ferry
    We had a long, laborius march for 200 miles. Very mountainous and trough an enamy's country. Fought three hard battles and took Hapers Ferry with loss of one man killed and one wounded. Took 14,500 prisoners together with Artillery Wagons and Ambulances. When we crossed the Potamac at the Ferry I saw all the catured Yanks and their arms stacked all around them. We will leave here in a few minutes. Have been writing in Journal for past-time.

    The Battle bought at Gettysburg, Pa., was terrific. Our regiment lost heavy and many officers were killed. Gen. P.J. Semms was wounded through the thigh and I helped to carry him off the field. He said that I was a faithful man.

July 13th
    Gen.Semmes died of his wounds. Just before he died he called for his sword and his Testament. he placed his sword by his side and locked his hands around his Testament and crossed his breast. Thus he died. Gen. Semmes, in the agony of death said to a Mr. Aleander, a noted war correspondent, "I consider it a privilage to die for my country." I am now acting courier for Col. Bryan who is now in command of our brigate. One of the couriers was wonded and I was appointed to take his place..
Aug. 13, 1863 This is indeed a dark day for the Confederacy. Hundreds of our men are deserting and those who remain are discouraged and disheartened. To give up is but subjugation. To fight on is desolation.. Sept. 7, 1863
    All eyes are turned to Bragg's Army in Tennessee. From what I can hear a great battle will be fought near Chattanooga. Should his Army be defeated woe be to Georgia. We still continue to hold prayer meetings in our regiment every nite. I held this meeting in Co.Ga. G. Read the 3rd chapter of John and made some remarks from the 14th verse. I do not record this as an item of news but for the evidence that I am trying to live for eternity and for a home beyond this sin-smitten world.
Oct.2, 1863. Headquarters Bryans Brigade. Longstreet Corp. McLaws Division. Chattanooga, Tennassee.
    I think we will shell the city in a day or two. I long to see the Confederate flag wave over Chattanooga. The Yanks still hold the city but it is reported that we have their supplies cut off. We whipped them very badly last Saturday. I have had some narrow escapes from shells.
Nov. 17th, 1864. General Hospital No.1..Savannah, Georgia.
    Once more by the goodness and mercy of a kind providence I am in the land that gave me birth. I lost my foot in the battle of Cedar Creek on Oct. 19th at Strawsburg Valley of Virginia and was captured the same day. Arrived here in Savannah after being on water twenty days. Have suffered greatly as my wound is not doing well. I feel sure I owe my life to a Virginia lady, a Mrs. William A. Davis. She came to the place I was kept a prisoner and asked the authorities to allow her to take two or more prisioners that were in the most desperate condition to her home and care for them. As she passed throught she stopped by my side and inquired as to how I was getting on. I told her I would surely die unless something could be done for me. She had me placed in her carriage and I was carried to her home. She prepared food that I could eat and nursed me as she would her own son until I was able to travel. She also wrote my wife that I was wounded at battle of Cedar Creek and that I lost my foot and was taken prisoner. She lived at Newton, Virginia. God Bless her!

[Donated by the Mobley & Stilwell Families]