1861: “Come And Keep House For Me?”

Gazette665 Blog Series 1861: In Their Words

October 1, 1861, Camp near Fairfax Courthouse

Yesterday I rode on to the station, and while there President Davis, very unexpectedly to me, arrived in a single car; the remaining part of the train, I suppose, stopped at the Junction to unload. He looked quite thin. His reception was hearty cheer from the troops He took his seat in an ambulance-like carriage, and as he passed on his way to the Court-House the air rang with the soldiers’ welcoming cheers. He was soon met by a troop of horses, and a horse for himself. Leaving his carriage and mounting his horse, he proceeded on his way, escorted by the cavalry, about four thousand of the First Corps (General Beauregard). The troops belonged to Generals Longstreet, D.R. Jones, and Philip St. George Cocke. It was quite an imposing pageant.

Yesterday I saw President Davis review. He took up his quarters with General Beauregard, where in company with Colonels Preston, Harmon, and Echols, I called upon him this morning about half-past ten o’clock… The President introduced the subject of the condition of my section of the State, but did not even so much as intimate that he designed sending me there. I told him, when he spoke of my native region, that I felt a very deep interest in it. He spoke hopefully of that section, and highly of General Lee.

October 14, 1861

I am going to write a letter to the very sweetest little woman I know, the only sweetheart I have; can you guess who she is? I tell you, I would like to see my sunshine, even this brightest of days…

If I get into winter-quarters, will little ex-Anna Morrison come and keep house for me, and stay with me till the opening of the campaign of 1862? Now, remember, I don’t want to change housekeepers. I want the same one all the time. I am very thankful to [too] that God who withholds no good thing from me (though I am so utterly unworthy and ungrateful) for making me a major-general in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States. The commission dates from the 7th of October.

Thomas J. Jackson to his wife Mary Anna Morrison Jackson, October 1861, Virginia

General Jackson

General Jackson

Confederate Leadership

Excerpts from these two letters by General “Stonewall” Jackson reveal some details about Confederate army commanders and the situation in the autumn of 1861. A situation that was setting precedent for the rest of the war.

  1. Future “key players” were becoming acquainted. Generals Beauregard, Jackson, Longstreet, and Lee would all take important roles in the coming war years.
  2. President Jefferson Davis was keenly interested and controlling in Confederate military affairs. This trend would continue through the conflict – sometimes with positive results, other times with disaster.
  3. The troops were encamped and not doing much. To keep up the morale, the president came to review the troops. The commanders needed to keep the armies together and continue with training to be ready for the next year’s campaigns; they had to keep morale high to avoid desertion.
Mary Anna Morrison Jackson

Mary Anna Morrison Jackson

Thinking of Winter

As the weather turned cooler, General Jackson – and other officers and soldiers – starting thinking about the coming winter. Would they be able to go home? Where would they build winter camps (or establish headquarters)?

During the duration of his military service General Jackson did not take a leave absence; thus, he did not leave the army to visit his home or family. He made plans for his wife to travel and visit him. Beginning with this letter in October and continuing through his correspondence for several months, Jackson sends details of his lodgings, assuring his Anna that she will be welcome and comfortable when she arrived.

Historical Musings

Jackson mentions Lee! It’s a passing comment about General Lee who was trying to coordinate a campaign in West Virginia (where Jackson was originally from.) But it’s exciting when looking back on the event when we already know what will happen.

Robert E. Lee was the general that Davis praised. Lee’s West Virginia adventure would fail dismally, and Lee would spend some weeks in the Carolinas working on coastal defenses before receiving an assignment to work with Davis. That would put him in direct communication with General Jackson and officially begin a military comradeship and trust that would almost win the war on the battlefields.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. I wonder what Mrs. Jackson must have thought about how casually her husband mentioned his promotion? Your thoughts?

Civil War Quote

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, historian, living history enthusiast, and historical fiction writer. When sharing history, I try to keep the facts interesting and understandable. History is about real people, real actions, real effects and it should inspire us today.
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One Response to 1861: “Come And Keep House For Me?”

  1. dillytant says:

    I wish I were “keeping house” in Fairfax now…at least in the Fairfax I knew 1969-1974, part of which time I worked in a bank a few blocks from the courthouse.

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