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Lt. Alonzo A. Vanderford of the 21st S.C. Infantry – His Last 5 Letters Home Before Being Mortally Wounded + the Last Letter His Wife Sent Him (Probably never read by him) + the Letter to His Wife Telling Her of Her Husband’s Amputation… He Died 4 Days Later

 



At one time we owned all of Vanderford’s letters.  We kept these 7 letters together because they tell the very sad story of family loss in our Civil War. 

The 21st South Carolina had spent the first part of the war in the defense of Charleston.  In the Spring of 1864, the regiment moved up into Virginia.  Our 5 letters begin with May 7th, 1864 and end with his last letter home near Petersburg on June 10th, 1864.  The letter informing his wife is dated June 24th, 1864, the morning he was wounded.  His wife’s last letter to him is dated June 20th, 1864, so he may or may not have ever read it. 

Here is the content of these 7 letters:

  • Letter #1) Dun’s Farm Walthall Junction, Va. May 7, 1864. 
    • My Dear Cynthia, Again I write you a few lines to let you know that we have just been in a fight and have come out all right. We had only one man wounded and it was very slight.
    • Capt. Davis’ company lost 2 killed and several wounded. The fight lasted about one hour.
    • THERE WERE ABOUT 500 OF US AND THREE THOUSAND YANKEES AND WE WHIPPED THEM AND THEY HAVE GONE BACK TOWARD THE JAMES RIVER.
    • We may have to fight them again today and feel as we will give them the same thing today. The most of our brigade are here now and we have a good position to fight. I want you to keep cheerful. Things are working all right.
    • I hope that we won’t get into another fight today. I will write again in a day or two.  Kiss Sallie for me.  I am afraid that I will lose some of my baggage. I have it strewn all along the railroad but we have men with them. Capt. Tarth got a small wound again but nothing to keep him away from the company. Again, I say, keep cheerful. Love to all at home. If I can’t hear from you, you shall hear from me. Nothing more at this time.  Your loving husband, A. A. Vanderford.  This place is called the Big Oak at Dun’s Farm. You will see it in the Charleston paper of the ninth.
  • Letter #2) Camp in the Woods near Bermuda Hundred May 18, 1864  [The Battle of Drewry’s Bluff has just taken place]
    • My Dear Wife, Again I take the time to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well. WE HAVE BEEN IN 4 FIGHTS AND I HAVE BEEN SPARED AND I THANK GOD FOR IT.
    • I am now in command of the company. Lt. Sanders is sick in Petersburg and Captain Tarth was wounded on the 16th and ten of the company and two were killed. You will see a list in the paper.
    •  IT WAS A TERRIBLE FIGHT, BUT THANK GOD I PULLED THROUGH SAFE. I SAW MY MEN FALLING ALL AROUND ME AND THAT MADE ME FEEL SICK.
    • Cynthia, pray for my safety. Give my love to all at home. Kiss Sallie for me. I will write again as soon as I get a chance. Your loving husband, A. A. Vanderford.  Caleb Coker was wounded but is doing well. His brother asked me to say so, so that his mother might hear from him.  Note on outside: Direct your letter to Petersburg, Va.
  • Letter #3) Camp near Petersburg May 25, 1864 
    • My Dear Cynthia, Again I take the time to write you a few lines. On yesterday we moved about 2 miles up or down the line, I don’t know which, but anyway we have moved and I am well.
    • The Yanks have kept still this week but Monday, only a little skirmishing along the lines. Genl. Beauregard thinks they will have to give up soon or leave this place.
    •  THEY ARE HEMMED IN AND CAN’T GET OUT WITHOUT THE AID OF THEIR GUNBOATS, and the supposition is that they will soon quit us and I think that when they leave us we will stay about Petersburg or go back to North Carolina.
    • Cynthia, I know that you are troubled in mind but keep cheerful. I think the bright side will soon turn up, FOR GOD IS WITH US, AND IF HE IS ON OUR SIDE, WE WILL COME OUT ALL RIGHT.
    • Just keep cheerful, my dear Cynthia, and keep up your prayers for my safety. Kiss little Sallie for her Pa. Give my love to all at home. Write to me often at Petersburg, Va. and I will get them quick. Dr. Sanders is well, and all our company that is with us now, in all 41 men. I understand that they have taken all of Lynches hands off. Is that so? Keep cheerful, Cynthia. Nothing more at this time. Your loving husband, A. A. Vanderford
  • Letter #4) Camp in the woods near Bermuda Hundred, May 22, 1864
    • My Dear Cynthia, Again I write you a few lines to tell you that I am well at this time. We have been resting today, but we are still in front of the Yankees. I think that they are going off, as there have been an unusual moving of their boats for the last 24 hours.
    • I will give you this time a list of our killed and wounded. 1st Sergt. E. F. White, killed on the field. James Atkinson, killed on the field, Corp. D. A. Campbell, wounded and died the next day. That was on the 7th of May, and on the 11th of May, Private Caleb Coker wounded, Jno Gulledge do, John L Huggins do, Jno F. Edwards do, Rilah Grant do, H. C. Ousley do, W(illiam) Winburn do, James Thomas do, James Eddins do, E(lijah) Rushing do.
    • A very heavy loss in one Company, but I hope but I hope we will not get into any more fights. My dear Cynthia, don’t make yourself uneasy about me. I hope to come out safe, and I hope that God is with me and you and Ma pray to God for my safety.
    • WE HAVE ABOUT 20,000 MEN HERE AT THIS TIME AND THE YANKS SEEM TO THINK THAT WE ARE BAD FELLOWS, AS WE HAVE FOUGHT AND WHIPPED THEM FOUR TIMES, THOUGH THEY CLAIM A VICTORY EVERY TIME.
    • We lost a Brigadier Genl. yesterday. Captured Genl. Walker, Mr. Black has been to see us and has just gone. He looks well. Cynthia, I have lost nearly all of my clothing but I think that we will get some from the government soon.
    • When you write to me direct to Petersburg, Va. care of Col. Graham, 21 SC Vol, Hagood’s Brigade. Write soon.
    • The railroad has been cut below Petersburg is the reason that my letters have been so long getting to you. I hope the next letter I write will let you know that the Yanks have all gone from this place and that there is some prospect of peace. I believe I told you that I saw Mr. Thompson a few days ago. He looks well. Kiss little Sallie for me. Tell her that I hope to come home soon.
    • IF OLD LINCOLN WILL ONLY QUIT THIS CRUEL WAR, WE WILL ALL COME HOME. I don’t know what to write. I am ordered on picket tonight for 12 hours, and as the Yanks have been keeping still today, I hope that they will do so tonight.
    • THEY WILL HAVE TO LEAVE HERE TONIGHT AS OUR LINES ARE CLOSING ALL AROUND THEM AND OUR GENL. BEAUREGARD IS HERE AND KNOWS WHAT TO DO AND THEY ARE AFRAID OF HIM.
    • Their men all say that they are sorely tired of this war and want to quit it. Their prisoners are easily taken. Don’t resist much, only when their officers are near them, and they all say that this is the last year of the war, and I hope that it is so.
    • The Baggage Wagon has just come and I hope that some of my things are safe yet. I must quit writing now as it is most sundown and I will have to quit writing and close my badly written letter. You must excuse this badly written letter as I am down on the ground writing on a knapsack. Do, my dear Cynthia, keep cheerful and give my love to all at home. Write soon. Your loving husband A. A. Vanderford
  • Letter #5)  Camp in the Woods in 12 miles of Richmond June 10, 1864 [Vanderford’s last letter home before being mortally wounded]
    • My Dear Cynthia, I have just received a letter from you dated the 6th, and I was glad to hear from you and glad to hear that you were well and all at home were well. I was on picket night before last and all day yesterday, and today I am with the Company in the rear of the Lines about one thousand yards.
    • Cynthia, I don’t think that there will be much more hard fighting out here. We are strongly entrenched and are waiting for Grant to advance on us and he is entrenching and looking for us to march on him.  So, I DON’T THINK THAT GENL. LEE WILL ADVANCE ON GRANT, BUT HOLD OUR LINES AND KEEP HIM BACK.
    • But I am afraid that they will send their raiding parties all over the state and ruin everything. THEY SEEM TO HAVE A GREAT WAY OF DESTROYING EVERYTHING THAT THEY GET HOLD OF. 
    • GENL. LEE SEEMS TO BE IN GOOD SPIRITS, AND THE TROOPS ALL HAVE THE GREATEST CONFIDENCE IN HIS JUDGMENT AND WILL GO WHERE HE SAYS GO.
    • I am well. I will write every time I get the chance. I ought to write to Capt. Tarth today but my time is limited so I will close this letter. Kiss Sallie for her Pa. Tell ma to pray to God for my safety. Give my love to all at home and respects to everyone else. I will write again in a day or so. Tell Capt. Tarth that Capt. Davis was killed, also Lt. Hudson, since he left, I think is all. But I will write again soon to him.  Your Ever Dear Husband, A. A. Vanderford
  • Letter #6)  Next, we have Cynthia’s last letter to her husband written from their home in Cherow, S.C. on June 20th, 1864:
    • My Dear Husband, Monday morning, all well at home. I have just got in from Pa’s. Ma was sending a box to Goyan by Mr. Rowe, something to eat. How I wish I could send you a shoulder of meat, some flour & honey. I know anything I could cook would spoil. I hear everybody else have written about the short rations but you. Do you fare better than the rest or do you think useless to complain? I am uneasy about your diarrhea for you have nothing to take or cure it. I got your last letter Friday written Sunday, a week ago yesterday. Hope to get one in morning. Mrs. Porter and Sarah Lyde have been to inquire if you wrote anything about their husbands. Letters are so long coming. We get out of patience waiting for them. News came that the Cavalry Company from here were in a fight. Jackie Eleby was killed. Great uneasiness. Mr. Craig got home with his son Saturday. He is improving, I believe. MR. DUVALNE IS ABOUT TO LOSE HIS LEG. THIS DR. SAYS HE WILL HAVE TO CUT IT OFF OR HE WILL DIE. HE SAYS HE PREFERS DEATH. He has been bad off some time. WELL, AT LAST HAVE MADE SOME SORT OF PROVISION FOR WOUNDED SOLDIERS HERE. HAVE FITTED UP MR. BRIGHT’S OLD STORE FOR A HOSPITAL WHERE THEY ARE SENT FOR AND TAKEN TO FROM DEPOT AND ATTENDED TO. YESTERDAY TWO POOR FELLOWS WERE THERE, BADLY WOUNDED. DR. AND OTHERS WERE ATTENTIVE TO THEM. THE LADIES OF THE SOCIETY HAVE ALSO MADE ARRANGEMENTS TO BUY A HORSE & WAGON TO SEND THEM HOME FROM HERE. YOU WILL BE GLAD TO HEAR OF THIS, I KNOW, FOR THERE HAS BEEN TOO MUCH NEGLIGENCE HERE ABOUT THE SOLDIERS. I see people passing today going to court. I don’t know what they will do at court when there are so few men. Pa did not come when we sent for him. His boss was away. He will come this week. I have a barrel and 1/2 of corn yet. When that is out, I can get from Pa. I did not exchange but one barrel of flour. I got such dry thin meat for the other. I am to get a nice pig. Will try to get two and will get along for meat, I hope. Sometimes I think we get along bad, but when I think how hard you fare, I am more reconciled to things. I am not strong. Have been troubled with weak back, not sick. I have weaned Sally. She gets along just as well as ever. Is hearty, well & lively. Can run & jump and talk with so much sense. YESTERDAY SHE SAID, “I WISH PA WOULD RUN AWAY FROM THEM OLD YANKEES & COME HOME.” She wanted me to kill a chicken and have it for a turkey. Write, write, that is all I think about is to hear from you.   Your own, Cynthia
  • Letter #7) The concluding 7th letter is from a woman, Mrs. I. Reid, who is a nurse attending to Vanderford, headed, “Petersburg Va. Jn 24 1864”:
    • MRS. A. A. VANDERFORD, MADAM, AT THE REQUEST OF YOUR HUSBAND, I HASTEN TO INFORM YOU THAT HE WAS SEVERELY WOUNDED THIS MORNING IN THE RIGHT LEG IN 2 PLACES. ONE ABOVE THE KNEE AND THE OTHER THRU CALF OF THE LEG. THE BONE SO MUCH INJURED THAT AMPUTATION WAS FOUND NECESSARY WHICH WAS DONE TODAY AT 2 O’CLOCK.
    • He is very comfortable or as much as could be expected and due to the circumstances, HE WAS UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF CHLOROFORM & WAS NOT CONSCIOUS WHEN IT WAS TAKEN OFF.
    • I was with him nearly all morning and will give him as much attention as I can spare from my business while I am near him.
    • IT WAS ALMOST ACCIDENT THAT I FOUND HIM. ALL THE BALANCE OF THE COMPANY WITH REDGRAVE IS SAID TO BE CAPTURED. ALSO, THE 11TH & 27TH REGTS. & CO. WE HAVE HAD HARD TIMES TODAY.
    • John Patrick was wounded in the foot but not severely. I hope the Lieutenant will be able to write you himself in a few days. I will keep you in advice how he is till he can write. IT WILL BE USELESS FOR YOU TO UNDERTAKE TO COME ON FOR THEY WILL NOT ALLOW ANY CIVILIANS TO TRAVEL ON THE RAILROADS NOW. IN FACT, THE YANKS HAVE ALL THE ROADS IN THEIR POSSESSION FROM HERE TO WELDON.
    • I must close with my sympathy for your distress, but I hope that your husband will soon be so he can be removed south.  Yours very truly, Mrs. I. Reid

Of Vanderford’s 5 letters, 2 are in pencil and 3 in ink.  Cynthia’s letter is in ink as is Mrs. Reid’s.  As you have seen the content, full of action is excellent.  Vanderford’s May 18th letter is a folded postally used one with Petersburg cancellation on the reverse.  It was written on “brown paper bag” type paper!  A truly historic set of letters.

#L5-7-64SC – Price $1,995

Letter #1





Letter #2







Letter #3











Letter #4







Letter # 5







Letter #6







Letter #7












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