January 20, 1862
My own precious Child,
I may venture to write now, that it may be, you are stationary. It has not heretofore occurred to me that a letter upon my part was to be thought of. How I long to hear from you, how I long to see you, but I must wait, you are in the Path of duty, & may God grant it to be the path of safety for this world, as well as the next. I am a poor weak Christian, but I am greatly supported, I do try to rest upon my Heavenly Father, & look to him for that help that he alone can give, your great exposure to the cold & wet, the fatigue you undergo & sometimes hunger too, are calculated humanly speaking to injure your health extremely, but I know with the kind protection of Heaven you can escape all harm & I pray God to grant us such a mighty blessing…
Altho I am writing to Romney I feel no security that you are there altho you may have come back, I cannot help thinking that Gen Jackson may have marched you all in pursuit of the Yankees, I cannot hear what has been done, but I trust all is well with my dear ones, I am very anxious to hear from Ran & David & any relative I may have amongst the troops…
I cannot think of any thing worth talking about, this war is still most absorbing I sorrow over the sick soldiers, & the bad weather, & by the time it is ended, if I live to see the war closed, I shall well nigh be in my dotage – not so bad that either, but the mind declining. God Bless you my darling…
I am with the truest affection
Your devoted Mother
Ann Cary Randolph Jones to her son Frank B. Jones, January 20, 1862
Write To Romney?
When Mrs. Jones finally considered that maybe she should write to her son instead of waiting for him to have a chance to write to her, she decides to address her letter to the Confederate army in Romney, Virginia (modern West Virginia). A small town in the middle of snowy mountains seems like an odd place for an army to move during the winter months, so what’s the story?
On January 1, 1862, General “Stonewall” Jackson and his army left Winchester, Virginia. The weather was a spring-like day, and some of the troops discarded their winter gear; later in the campaign, they seriously regretted that choice. Winter storms came; the mountain roads became icy and treacherous. They pressed on, forcing the Union troops out of the town of Bath, destroying part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and entered Romney on January 14 as the Union forced retreated from that town. Continued bad weather and low morale among his soldiers prevented Jackson from continuing the campaign north toward Maryland. Jackson split his army, leaving General Loring in Romney. The Stonewall Brigade and a cavalry unit returned to Winchester with Jackson on January 24, 1862.
Technically, the Romney Campaign was successful since it removed Union forces from Jackson’s military district. However, the Confederate soldiers’ morale was negatively impacted by the difficulties. The campaign also set-up a leadership situation that would create trouble to Jackson and plant doubt in the Confederate government regarding Jackson’s wisdom and military choices. (More on this in a future blog post.)
An Era of Faith & Religion
One common feature in private correspondence and journals from the Civil War era is the subjects of faith and religion. Some writers revealed strong Christian faith, others confessed their religious doubts.
I’ve had folks share their perception that “all people in those good-old-days were good Christian people.” And I’m quick to make sure they rethink that opinion. There are good and bad people in every era; there are Christians and non-Christians in every era. However – unlike today – most people in the 19th Century had a fear of God and a belief that they would be judged for their actions.
It’s important to understand that there was respect for religion and going to church was the norm in 19th Century America. Accepting this historical fact is important for studying and understanding the people of the Civil War era. Yet – please – be realistic and don’t white-wash a society that was just as flawed as the modern era, though perhaps the evil was manifest in different ways.
The Civil War affected American society – north and south. All people. All ages.
I think we usually focus on the younger or middle-age people during the Civil War era, but it’s important to remember the older generation’s war-experiences too. Ann Cary Randolph Jones was born in 1794 (that’s during George Washington’s presidency!); she was sixty-eight in 1862. Her sons and other younger relatives were in the Confederate army. She was “absorbed” by the war and wondered if she would live to see the outcome.
Mrs. Jones’s perspective on the Civil War is far different than an eighteen-year-old’s, and it’s important to read and understand the primary sources left by the older generation. Then we begin to more fully comprehend the impact of the conflict on America and the citizens.
P.S. Have you read other primary sources by older men or women from the Civil War era?