Mississippi: Civil War Letters Going Home

JACKSON, Miss. — Richard Bridges seemed like a typical college student in his letters home.

He tells family members he may need more money and clothes, talks about hanging out with friends and sounds a little homesick.

But while the issues sound familiar, they were written at during the Civil War, when state fought state.

Jennifer Ford, head of archives and special collections at the University of Mississippi, holds a letter from a University Greys member. The student company fought in the Civil War. / Robert Jordan/Special to The Clarion-Ledger

Jennifer Ford, head of archives and special collections at the University of Mississippi, holds a letter from a University Greys member. The student company fought in the Civil War. / Robert Jordan/Special to The Clarion-Ledger

Now, the letters of the University of Mississippi student are returning to the Oxford campus 150 years later.

Mike Martin of Madison, his sister Pat Owen of Rankin County other descendants of Bridges have donated to the university the 27 letters Bridges wrote when he served in the University Greys, the unit organized by students to fight against Union troops.

“We found out that it was significant in that these were only the second set of letters from one of the original 130 University Greys to ever find their way back to the university,” Martin said. “They were proud to receive them and we were proud to give them.”

The letters are housed in the university’s special collections and can be read online. Some of the letters are on display in a special exhibit that opened recently, “Preserving Our Past: Highlights from Archives & Special Collections.”

“These letters are indeed one of our treasures,” said Jennifer Ford, head of archives and special collections at Ole Miss.

Martin said the letters were handed down to his mother in the 1960s from his great aunt, Dot Batton, who lived in Crystal Springs where Bridges lived.

“I remember Aunt Dot mentioned Uncle Richard and then she pulled out this tin box. She told her (Martin’s mother), “Martha, I want you to have these,” Martin said. “Mama went home and transcribed all those letters. We knew they were special.”

Through the years, the letters were tucked away for safekeeping. After Martin’s mother died, the letters ended up in Owen’s possession. “We talked about how to keep them safe,” Martin said.

Eventually, the family decided to contact the university to see if they wanted them. “The letters needed to be back where he was,” Martin said.

Written in the graceful penmanship of the day, Bridges’ letters tell of his life from 1861 to 1863. He writes of camp life, asks for more pants and blankets, asks for money when he hasn’t received his military pay, tells briefly of battles and reports on his health, including not-so-serious and serious wounds.

There’s longing for home when he writes: “Wealth, honor and ease are but poor things to compare with the pleasure that it would afford me just to see you all once more.”

In the first letter, written Jan. 26, 1861, before he enlisted in his freshman year, he tells one of his sisters that he’s well despite a great deal of sickness, pneumonia and diptheria, in the college and how much he enjoyed the recent holidays at home. The last letter from Bridges is one he dictated in 1864 “thro’ the kindness of a Va. lady” after the amputation of his left leg when he was wounded during the Battle of the Wilderness.

-Lucy Weber, Clarion-Ledger.com


Virginia: Civil War Soldiers left mark at ‘Graffiti House’

CULPEPER — Nestled in Culpeper County, there’s a house where the walls talk.

Writings and drawings on the walls of the “Graffiti House,” built in 1858 at Brandy Station in Culpeper County, share the tales of soldiers from the North and South. / Rhonda Simmons

Writings and drawings on the walls of the “Graffiti House,” built in 1858 at Brandy Station in Culpeper County, share the tales of soldiers from the North and South. / Rhonda Simmons

Left from more than 150 years ago, writings and drawings cover the walls of the “Graffiti House” in Brandy Station, telling the tales of soldiers from the North and South.

Built in 1858, the Graffiti House sits adjacent to the Orange and Alexandria Railroad in Brandy Station, a perfect location for a hospital after the Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863.

Though it was a Confederate hospital, the Union and the Confederate armies occupied the house at various times. In the winter of 1863, Federal troops stayed at the home when the Army of the Potomac camped in Culpeper County.

Adorning the second-floor walls of the house is charcoal and pencil graffiti of men and women with inscriptions of names and units.

“They were marking their territory,” said Bob Luddy, a Brandy Station Foundation member. “And I think a lot of the soldiers, when they came to the Graffiti House, used the opportunity to have a writing surface and essentially to make note that they were there.”

So far, researchers have identified about 60 names on the walls and 12 partial names, Luddy said.

In the years after the Civil War, nine families painted and plastered over the sketches, hiding the home’s history for 135 years. In 1992, David Guinn discovered the graffiti after pulling paneling from the walls when the decaying house was set to be demolished.

In 1995, Construction Services Inc. owner Greg Hebler bought and restored the house. He sold it to the Brandy Station Foundation in 2002.

Today, the Graffiti House has been approved for recognition by the National Register of Historic Places and as a Virginia Historic Site.

In addition to common soldiers, some noted leaders left their marks on the walls, including Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, who signed his name.

Some of the noted graffiti includes a well-dressed woman with a tiny waist wearing a lace necklace and puffy sleeves as she holds up her skirt to reveal her legs while dancing.

Barry Atchison, another foundation board member, said, “Every time we find the true story of a soldier, it’s more exciting than the speculation. … The more you stare at the wall, the more you find.”

For more information, visit www.brandystationfoundation.com/ or call Joseph McKinney at (540) 727-7718.


Mississippi: Tupelo Marks Civil War History

TUPELO, Ms. – A new marker unveiled Friday at King’s Creek is the first installment in the Civil War driving tour around the city.

Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and local historian Dick Hill unveiled the Civil War historical marker on Spring Street.

CVB Director Neal McCoy thanks Dick Hill, right, for speaking during the unvieling of the new Battle of King’s Creek marker on Spring Street Friday. (Thomas Wells)

CVB Director Neal McCoy thanks Dick Hill, right, for speaking during the unvieling of the new Battle of King’s Creek marker on Spring Street Friday. (Thomas Wells

The location was the site of the Battle of King’s Creek on May 5, 1863. There were 43 killed in the battle, 40 wounded and 81 were taken prisoner.

“It’s the beginning of the telling of the story,” Hill said. “It’s more than just King’s Creek.”

The Civil War driving tour is part of the Heritage Trails enrichment program.

About 40 people attended the ceremony, including members of the Tupelo City Council, officials from the police department and members of the Heritage Trails advisory board.

Hill said the battle at King’s Creek was part of Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s larger effort to ensure Confederate troops were unable to send supplies to a then-besieged Vicksburg, a critical victory for the Union army.

The Heritage Trails program is an effort to educate visitors and residents about Tupelo’s history.

Neal McCoy, director of the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is responsible for the program, said it was the first time he had heard some of the stories about an area of the city usually recognized for its post-war industrial development.

Hill said Tupelo, though not yet incorporated, was an important area during the war, serving as a campground and a supply center.

“Sixty thousand troops were camped here after Shiloh and again after the Franklin (Tenn.) battle,” he said. Tupelo’s geography gave it a strong defensive position.

Locations for the historical markers were decided by an advisory board of local experts. The heritage enrichment trail will explore three components of the city’s past – the Civil War, civil rights and the Chickasaw Nation.

A civil rights marker was unveiled last week in front of Reed’s Book Store, formerly the location of a Woolworth’s store where a lunch-counter “sit-in” took place.

Other markers will be installed at historically significant locations around Tupelo over the next year.

-Sarah Robinson, NEMS Daily Journal


Virginia: Civil War Veterans Honored

LEESBURG, Va. — What began as an Eagle Scout project to repair a few grave markers at the Arnold Grove Cemetery in Hillsboro culminated Saturday in a community commemoration of the service of veterans from America’s three earliest wars.

An Eagle Scout project led to the honoring of Confederate veterans at Arnold Cemetery.

An Eagle Scout project led to the honoring of Confederate veterans at Arnold Cemetery.

Dozens of re-enactors representing troops from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War joined historians, Boy Scouts, veterans groups and area residents to unveil new veterans markers at the graves of 22 war veterans buried in the cemetery.

Potomac Falls Eagle Scout candidate Jack Craig of Troop 572 led the gravestone restoration project, which expanded with the assistance of gravestone conservator Ken Fleming.

Fleming, a past commander of the Clinton Hatcher Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, organized Saturday’s elaborate service to mark the completion of Craig’s work and to highlight the role these Loudoun residents played on America’s battlegrounds—fighting for independence, turning back the British four decades later, and enlisting in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

During the ceremony, metal veteran of war markers were placed at the graves. Additionally, the gravesites of two men, War of 1812 veteran William Butts and Ira Follin, who rode with Elijah V. White’s Comanches during the Civil War, now are marked by new headstones provided by the Veteran’s Administration.

While 22 veterans were recognized, only 21 gravesites were marked. Brothers Thomas Leslie and William A. Leslie share a grave. Thomas was injured at Bull Run and died of typhoid while recuperating at home; William was died of injuries sustained during Pickett’s Charge in Gettysburg.

The program included salutes by mounted cavalry troops and infantry re-enactors plus a thundering cannon salute by the 1st Regiment Continental Line Infantry.




Georgia:  Civil War Anniversary for Henry Bowman, Blacksmith, Tunnel Hill

DALTON, Ga. — Before the advent of the automobile, one of the most sought-after individuals was the village blacksmith. He was a valued member of any community, his trade was much needed and most appreciated.

Since it was the blacksmith who made the horseshoes and the nails to attach them, it was to him that everyone took their horses, mules and oxen when they needed shoeing. One such man in Tunnel Hill in 1863 was Henry Bowman.

He was born in North Carolina on Dec. 25, 1804. As a young man he married Mary Elizabeth Cameron and moved to Georgia before the Cherokee Removal of 1838. He eventually settled in Tunnel Hill. He and Mary Elizabeth raised five children, three sons and two daughters. He farmed a little but primarily followed the trade of blacksmith. Shortly after the war broke out his three sons joined the Confederate States Army.

The eldest son, James A. Bowman, joined as a private in Company B, 6th Georgia Volunteer Infantry, on July1, 1861. He died of a gunshot wound Sept. 16, 1862, received during the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam). Sarah, his young widow, came to live for a while with her father-in-law in Tunnel Hill. Later in life she drew a widow’s pension until her death on March 8, 1905.

The second son, Vincent Frank Bowman, married Mary R.J. Coker and moved to Franklin County, Ala., in 1859. He joined as a private in Company E, 5th Alabama Calvary, and rose to the rank of corporal while serving under the commands of Gens. Philip Roddy and Nathan Bedford Forrest. Like his father, he was a blacksmith and worked as a government blacksmith from Dec. 15, 1862, through June 1, 1863, in Cherokee County, Ala.

On Jan. 28, 1864, he was paid $40 by Capt. C.C. Swoops, quartermaster, for making and putting on 15 mule shoes, putting on two wagon boxes and repairing several ambulances near Dalton. He served through the entire war without being wounded or captured. After the war he moved to Comanche County, Texas, where he operated a blacksmith shop and a cotton gin. He and his wife Mary raised 10 children there.

The third son, Thadius Clinton Bowman, joined as a private in Company I, 12th Georgia Cavalry, under Capt. Avery at Dalton on Jan. 10, 1862. He attained the rank of corporal and was taken prisoner in Whitfield County on Nov. 25,1863, probably while visiting his ailing mother in Tunnel Hill. He was sent to Louisville, Ky., as a prisoner of war. On June 24, 1864, he took the oath of allegiance to the United States and remained north of the Ohio River during the war.

Henry Bowman and one of his sons-in-law, Isaac A. Whitten, enlisted in the Tunnel Guards of the 1st Georgia State Guards for six months.Whitten married Elizabeth Bowman in Tunnel Hill on Sept. 1, 1861. After the war, he farmed in the Red Clay and Varnell areas.

On Sept. 9, 1863, Bowman was detailed as a blacksmith by Special Order No. 24 and probably never left Tunnel Hill. He not only served the citizens of Tunnel Hill but was called on many times to do repair work for surgeon B.M. Wible and the quartermasters of various cavalry regiments camped around Tunnel Hill. Wible was in charge of the Confederate hospital complex situated in and around Tunnel Hill.

Bowman’s earliest involvement with the medical department for which records exist is dated March 1, 1863, when he rented out a four-room house at Tunnel Hill for a hospital. Capt. A.J. Barry, quartermaster for the Army of Tennessee at Ringgold, paid $8 rent for the month of March, 1863. On March 2 he charged Barry 75 cents for steeling one ax and on April 13 was paid 25 cents for making a door latch, 75 cents for steeling another ax and 50 cents for putting two shoes on a mule. The same day he was paid a whopping $44.25 for four horseshoes, five staples, one hook, one pick ax, one pair of small gate hinges and one pair of large gate hinges, all for the quartermaster department.

In the latter part of 1863, Sgt.James Parrett of Company H, 28th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry, became ill while stationed near Tullahoma, Tenn., and was sent to the hospital at Tunnel Hill. He was married to Mahala Ann Bowman, a second cousin to Henry Bowman. In a letter to her he wrote, “Dear Wife, I have nothing important to write to you about the war. I learned about ten minutes ago that the Yankees had Vicksburg surrounded — I must tell you about your kinfolk. I have found your father’s one cousin. He lives in Tunnel Hill in Whitfield County Georgia. I stayed with him some and he did not charge me anything. His name is Henry Bowman. He is doing well and is the master worker. He is a blacksmith.”

He finished this rather lengthy letter by writing, “That knot of love that is tied to my heart will never die. Good by, James.”

On June 4, 1863, Bowman sharpened two plows for Surgeon Wible, which seems to indicate the medical department personnel were growing their own vegetables. On June 9, he also made two pot bails for the Catoosa Springs Hospitals.

Records indicate that on Sept. 8,1863, Bowman was paid $147.67 by Capt. C.W. Kennedy, quartermaster, Army of Tennessee, for 51 assorted jobs covering the summer of 1863 from June 5 through Sept. 8. Likewise, Wible had a similar list covering an assortment of 26 jobs performed for the medical department for that time frame, totaling $51.35.

From these two lists, one can pretty much follow what was going on in Tunnel Hill during that time. They seem to indicate that Henry Bowman was never out of Tunnel Hill for any length of time during his enlistment in the Tunnel Guards. In September, he made two wheels and put six shoes on a mule and horse. On Sept. 30 Bowman sold a complete set of blacksmith tools to a quartermaster for $113.49 including bellows and an anvil. He also sold him 11 bushels of corn for $16.50.

There are no records of government work for November of 1863. Perhaps it was because he was caring for his ailing wife. On Nov. 28, 1863, tragedy struck the Bowman family again. His wife of 43 years, Mary Elizabeth, passed away. Except for his widowed daughter-in-law, Henry Bowman was left alone in the middle of a gruesome war.

By Dec. 11, he was back at work mending wagons attached to Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s Cavalry Division Headquarters and shoeing as many as 32 horses for the couriers of Gen. John Kelly’s Division and 12 mules belonging to division headquarters. He also sold to the quartermaster 84 horseshoes at 40 cents per shoe. This activity rounded out the year of 1863 for Henry Bowman. He continued to follow his trade up to Feb. 6, 1864. After that date there are no further war period records available for him.

After the war Henry Bowman, now 66 years old, was still running a blacksmith shop in Tunnel Hill in 1870 along with a 16-year-old apprentice, John Teasker. Bowman passed away Nov. 5, 1875, and was buried beside his wife in Foster Cemetery in Tunnel Hill.

An appropriate C.S.A. headstone was placed at his grave in 1997 by the Tunnel Hill Historical Foundation. May he rest in peace.

– By Marvin Sowder, Dalton 150th Civil War Commission. This article is part of a series of stories about Dalton and life in Dalton during the Civil War. The stories run on Sunday and are provided by the Dalton 150th Civil War Commission. To find out more about the committee, go to www.dalton150th.com. If you have material that you would like to contribute for a future article contact Robert Jenkins at (706) 259-4626 or robert.jenkins@ robertdjenkins.com.