Confederate Surgeon Caspar C. Henkel, 37th Virginia Infantry Writes to His Father Dr. L. G. Henkel – The Valley was “WAITING THE APPROACH OF THE VILE INVADERS OF OUR COUNTRY” – “THEY MAY TAKE OUR PROPERTY, OUR HOMES, OUR LIVES, BUT THEY CANNOT DEPRIVE US OF THAT INHERITANCE PREPARED FOR US ABOVE.” – “YOU WILL PLEASE DESTROY THIS LETTER FOR FEAR IT MAY FALL INTO IMPROPER HANDS.”
Offered is a 2-long page letter written in nice dark ink along with a perfect envelope with 5 cent green Jeff Davis stamp having “WINCHESTER, VA. MAR. 10” postmark. It is addressed to Dr. L. G. Henkel Newmarket, Va.
Casper C. Henkel joined the 2nd Regiment, 7th Brigade of the Virginia Militia as Assistant Surgeon in July of 1861. Our letter finds him waiting for an assignment serving under Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in the Army of Northern Virginia. Just after writing this letter, he received clothing on March 15th and was ushered into the 37th Virginia Infantry as Regimental Surgeon. A NUMBER OF HIS LETTERS ARE IN THE U.S. NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE IN BETHESDA, MARYLAND. (https://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/digicolls/henkel/narrative.html). HIS HOUSE IS AN HISTORIC HOME IN NEWMARKET AND CAN BE SEEN ON THE INTERNET.
- Winchester, Va., March 10th, 1862 Monday morning 8:00 o’clock. Dear Father: I will write to you again this gloomy, rainy morning to let you know as much of the movements here as I can. I have not heard anything from home since I left, have written 4 or 5 letters.
- We are encamped here at the old Fair Grounds with our squad (not regiment) of men. We send all the sick up the valley, so I have not much to do & cannot help of thinking a great deal about the perilous condition of our country & homes.
- We fully expected an engagement here last Friday, were all in battle line WAITING THE APPROACH OF THE VILE INVADERS OF OUR COUNTRY.
- The pickets had a considerable fight, but the enemy did not advance in large numbers. We have since learned that they have fallen back & are concentrating their forces, some 25 or 30,000 strong.
- JACKSON IS FELLING TREES, THROWING UP EARTH WORKS, PULLING DOWN STONE FENCES, ETC., APPARENTLY PREPARING FOR AN ENGAGEMENT.
- I do not think so. I think he is just keeping up appearances until he can get all the big guns away & all the stores, etc., and then if the enemy come in too large numbers, he will fall back to Strasburg. He may have skirmishing with them all the way to keep them in check.
- I yesterday learned that Manassas was evacuated by our forces & of course we cannot remain at this point & if we cannot remain here, where can we remain in this valley?
- I learned yesterday in strict confidence from one of the officers in Jackson’s Brigade who you know very well & esteem highly (he remarked that I might give you a hint of it) that Jackson’s orders from the War Department are to fall back, back, back, perhaps as far as Harrisonburg & he thinks that will be pretty soon.
- There will be a strong effort made to hold Staunton in order to keep possession of the Central R. R. so we may be reinforced or supplied.
- My opinion is if we give up this point, we give up all west of the Blue Ridge. I would advise you to dispose of all the surplus flour, send it to Staunton & the farmer ought to take their flour from the mills. If it is distributed in small parcels, they are not so apt to get it all.
- All those that have been in the Army will have to go with the current. The others had better remain & take what comes.
- THE YANKEES IN THIS LOWER COUNTRY ARE APPROPRIATING THE FLOUR, GRAIN, HAY, BEEF & HORSES TO THEIR OWN USE WITHOUT ANY RENUMERATION.
- THE POLICY OF THE WAR DEPARTMENT SEEMS TO BE TO DIMINISH OUR LINE OF OPERATIONS & CONCENTRATE OUR FORCES, PERHAPS TO MAKE THE LAST DEATH STRUGGLE.
- The picture I represent is the gloomiest side, but the facts stare me in the face & I cannot help but see it as it is. We must make the best of it. THEY MAY TAKE OUR PROPERTY, OUR HOMES, OUR LIVES, BUT THEY CANNOT DEPRIVE US OF THAT INHERITANCE PREPARED FOR US ABOVE.
- I FEEL THAT THIS GREAT CALAMITY WHICH HAS BEFALLEN US & HAS BEEN BROUGHT UPON US FOR AN ALL WISE PURPOSE TO MAKE ONE AND ALL OF US DEEPLY SENSIBLE OF OUR GREAT WICKEDNESS & OF OUR GREAT DEPENDENCE UPON HIM WHO GAVE US LIFE & ALL WE HAVE.
- Our Army seems to be in fine spirits & will do good fighting when they are called on by their officers. Shul, Len, and all of the boys from town are well. I get to see the Coiner boys every few days. Absalom is quite well. I have not heard anything said about the draft being made yet, perhaps it will be made at Richmond.
- YOU WILL PLEASE DESTROY THIS LETTER FOR FEAR IT MAY FALL INTO IMPROPER HANDS. I think the militia will all be home soon. I do not see how I can remain out of the Army. I have not made any arrangements yet to go into any particular branch of the service. I suppose the board has not yet decided who of the Drs. is to remain at home. I will be pleased to hear from you soon. Your son, Caspar. P. S. PLEASE DO NOT NEGLECT DESTROYING THIS LETTER.
Note in The Confederate Philatelist, May 1966 there was an excellent article on the Post Office in Winchester, Virginia. Shortly after our March 10th cover was postmarked the Union Army came in and the Post Office was occupied by General Bank’s Division. Stonewall Jackson would return at the end of May and operated it briefly!
A great, great Confederate Doctor’s letter purchased by us over 50 years ago and a favorite in our collection.
#L3-10-62VA – Price $1,950