Confederate Soldiers Letter – Randolph C. Fairfax, Rockbridge, Va. Light Artillery – (A FAMOUS VIRGINIA FAMILY) – Killed at Fredericksburg 12/13/62. This letter was written 3 months earlier from Martinsburg – “WHEN THE YANKEE BRIGADE WAS BEING DRIVEN BACK BY OUR ARTILLERY FIRE, JACKSON RODE UP TO WITHIN ABOUT 200 YARDS OF THEM AND WAVING HIS HANDKERCHIEF CALLED ON THEM TO SURRENDER.”
This letter 3 ½ pages in ink features a beautiful “Due 10, Winchester, Va. Sep. 17” cancelled cover. On the left side is the return address: “Pt. R. Fairfax Rockbridge Arty., 1st Va. Brig. Gen. Jackson’s Division”. This letter was purchased by us from the Richard C. Frajola Auction 30 years ago in 1992. In that auction there was a letter by Genl. R. E. Lee to Mrs. Fairfax, wife of Dr. Orlando Fairfax. It sold for $39,000. There was also a separate cover addressed to Dr. Orlando Fairfax from Lee which had contained Lee’s condolence on the death of our letter writer Randolph Fairfax!
Randolph Cary Fairfax enlisted on August 31st, 1861 at Centreville, Va. and served in the 1st Co. of the Virginia Rockbridge Light Artillery. At Fredericksburg he was hit in the head by a shell fragment and killed. Prior to that he had been wounded at Malvern Hill on July 1st, 1862. He attended the University of Virginia from 1860-1861 and was a member of the Southern Guard at the University until they disbanded and enlisted.
Here is the content:
- Martinsburg Sept. 14th, 1862. Dear Mama, Here I am in old Virginia again, at the house of Mrs. Conrad in Martinsburg. I suppose you have by this time heard of Jackson’s movement back across the Potomac to capture or clear out the Yankees in our rear at Martinsburg and Harper’s Ferry.
- WE HAVE DRIVEN THEM OUT OF MARTINSBURG WHERE THEY WERE IN FORCE OF ABOUT 2 OR 3,000, AND NOW I UNDERSTAND HAVE THEM PENNED UP IN HARPER’S FERRY TOGETHER WITH ABOUT 7,000 WHO WERE THERE BEFORE AND WE HOPE SOON TO CAPTURE THE WHOLE LOT. [Harper’s Ferry surrendered the next day to Jackson’s forces with 11,000 prisoners, 13,000 stands of arms, sixty field guns, and many horses and wagons together with a great amount of stores.]
- In passing though Martinsburg yesterday, my piece [cannon] with two Regiments of Infantry was left as provost guard, and this accounts for my being here at present.
- As the first exercise of our duties in the capacity of provost guard, we were yesterday sent with the 10th Va. Regt., numbering about 250 men, to burn a railroad bridge about 10 miles from town near North Mountain Station.
- UPON NEARING THE STATION, WE WERE TOLD THAT THERE WERE A NUMBER OF YANKEES IN THE VICINITY, WHO WERE TOTALLY UNCONSCIOUS OF OUR APPROACH. ACCORDINGLY, OUR GUN WAS ADVANCED AND BROUGHT TO BEAR UPON THE DEPOT, AT WHICH AND AT THE SURROUNDING WOODS, WE FIRED SOME 20 ROUNDS, AS WE SUPPOSED DEALING DESTRUCTION AMONG THE TERRIFIED YANKEES.
- What was our surprise when we afterwards advanced to the depot and found that there were no Yankees within two miles of the place, and that the only harm done by our firing was to strike an old woman on the foot, though fortunately without injuring her.
- We then set to work and tore up the track at the same time, sending a reconnoitering party towards the bridge who reported the Yankees in too great force, and we accordingly returned to M. without having accomplished our object.
- I expect we will in a few days make another attempt with greater force. The prospect of a little rest here is truly delightful, though knowing from experience the uncertainty of all our calculations in regard to our movements, we scarcely dare to hope for more than two or three days stay.
- WE HAVE NOW BEEN FOR MORE THAN A MONTH WITHOUT A CHANGE OF CLOTHES, EITHER MARCHING OR FIGHTING, FOR NEARLY THE WHOLE TIME AND SLEEPING AT NIGHT WITHOUT THE LEAST SHELTER OF ANY KIND.
- YOU MAY IMAGINE THAT WE HAVE BEEN REDUCED TO A STATE OF RAGGEDNESS AND DIRT THAT IS SCARCELY TOLERABLE. AND THE WORST OF IT IS THAT WE AS YET SEE NO CHANCE OF EVER GETTING OUR BAGGAGE AGAIN, AS IT WAS LEFT AT THE RAPPAHANNOCK, WHERE IT WILL PROBABLY REMAIN UNTIL THE CLOSE OF THE CAMPAIGN, IF NOT UNTIL THE CLOSE OF THE WAR.
- Several were able to supply themselves at Frederick City with new clothes, but I was unable to do so as I had no money. Did you receive my letter from Frederick City?
- SINCE THEN I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ASCERTAIN MORE ABOUT THE SENTIMENT OF THE PEOPLE IN MARYLAND. I BELIEVE THAT MARYLAND IS COMPLETELY CRUSHED, THAT THERE ARE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE WHO WOULD RECEIVE US GLADLY AND AVOW THEIR SOUTHERN SENTIMENTS, WERE THEY ASSURED THAT WE WOULD RETAIN POSSESSION OF THE STATE.
- I hope that we will soon give them evidence of our strength. The behavior of our troops while in Maryland was remarkably good. The strictest discipline was maintained, and while in Va., the men had been allowed to help themselves from the orchards and corn fields; no thing of the sort was permitted there. EVEN THE UNION PEOPLE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THOUGH WE ARE DIRTY AND RAGGED & ROUGH IN EXTERIOR, WE BEHAVED BETTER THAN THEIR OWN TROOPS.
- I FORGOT TO TELL YOU IN MY LAST AN INCIDENT IN REGARD TO GEN. JACKSON THAT OCCURRED THE MORNING WE REACHED MANASSAS JUNCTION. WHEN THAT YANKEE BRIGADE WAS BEING DRIVEN BACK BY OUR ARTILLERY FIRE, JACKSON RODE UP TO WITHIN ABOUT 200 YDS. OF THEM AND WAVING HIS HANDKERCHIEF, CALLED UPON THEM TO “SURRENDER.” FORTUNATELY, ONLY ONE MAN REPLIED WITH A SHOT AND THE GEN. ESCAPED UNHARMED.
- As I have no envelope, [thus the addressing on the folded letter] I must now close my letter. I am enjoying excellent health. I have seen Cousin Arthur [In Mosby’s 43rd Virginia Cavalry] only once since the battle of Groveton. I suppose you have heard that Col. Marye was wounded in that battle, and Willie [William Fairfax, 15th Virginia Cavalry] was also shot in the leg. I have been unable to learn anything further about either. Where is Ned Hyde [Edward H. Hyde, Color bearer for the Rockbridge Light Artillery] and what is the matter with him? Write often and maybe some of your letters may reach me. I do so long to see you all. Good bye. Your devoted Son, R. Fairfax
The letter has been professionally de-acidified and has had folds strengthened. A wonderful historic, Virginia letter.
#L9-14-62 VA – Price $1,950