The Rebels

This will be the last of the Civil War posts I'll share - there are many more letters, but I'll save them for another time. Quick warning - today's letter has some strong language.

Carlisle PA July 7th 1864

My Dear Wife:

The rebels are coming. They are now at Greencastle, with a force of a thousand men, and it is said that they have 40 thousand behind them. In all probability, we shall have them here. We ...?... union force to oppose them. Our men from the Barracks and the Rebels had a big fight in the streets of Hagerstown. At first our men drove them back, but they got reinforcements  and drove our men to Greencastle. You ought to have been here last night to witness the boxing up of our merchants and others. The niggers and whites are flying in every direction, and everybody is intent on saving their things.

Don't be alarmed about me. I will take care of myself. I don't intend to leave Carlisle for any infernal Rebel south. I shall stay at the Parsonage and if that Doctor I met with at Gettysburg comes here and fulfills his promise to see me "about our affair of honor" he will not get beyond our threshold. I have my revolver prepared, and will blow his brains out the moment he enters.

It is said they are conscripting our men as they go and preparing them into their arm service from 16 to 50 years of age. We have all resolved not to be conscripted  - to die first. The 12,000 militia for 100 days are responding fast, and I hope we shall be able to give them a sound thrashing before they got back to the Potomac.

I believe they take all they want from private houses. Oh my poor pigs! We have concluded to put them in the ??ary while the rebels are here, and feed them on funds of deposit. And as for our blankets, we shall take good care of them. Now don't be alarmed, if we should not meet again on earth we certainly shall in heaven. It will be for better for me to say here than to leave: and it may be that the Rebels will not be so harsh as ...?.

I am very glad you and the children are away. I hope to see you at the time we appointed. There will be no doubt a great battle in our valley. What our government is doing is a matter of secrecy, but I have no doubt plans are being laid to defeat the enemy. Several men from the barracks have been brought in wounded, and several rebel prisoners ..? through here. Love to all. Write immediately. God bless you all, if we never meet again on earth, we shall meet in Heaven.

Your devoted,

-Click to enlarge photos-


  1. " may be that the Rebels will not be so harsh as apprehended."

    Couldn't get the others though. =/ Amazing letters, thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Oh, and I think it may read that the prisoners were 'loped' through.

  3. I agree with Lindsi on her readings. Also, I see:

    "We know of no Union force to oppose them."

  4. Awesome letters!

    "We have concluded to put [the pigs] in the NECESSARY while the rebels are here, and feed them on funds of deposit."

    In other words, they stashed the pigs in the outhouse, and the pigs are eating what is "deposited" therein...


  5. I think it might be 7 thousand, and with 40,000 behind.

  6. I can never read these letters without wondering "how it ended".

  7. The space in the first paragraph reads: We "know of no" union force to oppose them.

  8. Okay, let's look at history for some context.
    Carlisle is the county seat of Cumberland County, about 30 miles north of the little hamlet called Gettysburg, which in 1863 hosted one of the largest land battles in the Western Hemisphere, and Lee's army was broken but not decisively defeated. Afterward, the Confederate armies didn't get into major actions north of the Potomac, and Phillips doesn't mention the massive battle at Gettysburg a year before, so in haste he may have misdated the letter, or it could be a fake of some kind. I also call issue to the dating of July 7th - there was a Battle of Carlisle on July 1st, but by the 7th Union forces were pursuing the damaged Confederates southward, and I doubt Carlisle was in any danger by this point.
    With that, let's look at the Battle of Carlisle. 3 brigades of rebel cavalry under JEB Stuart, were raiding deep into Pennsylvania ahead of Lee's Army, trying to stir things up and create confusion, but the raid on Carlisle delayed Stuart from returning to Lee's Army, forcing Lee to advance cautiously without the reconnaissance functions typically performed by cavalry during the War. Stuart shelled the town of Carlisle (according to Wikipedia, there's still a dent on the front of the county courthouse) and then retreated just after midnight July 2 when he heard that fighting had started near Gettysburg.
    If this is authentic - and I have my doubts, though the date could be an error of haste - you have a very interesting piece of history here.