1862: “The People Are All Very Kind”

November 2, 1862

I am in most magnificent health, growing fatter every day. I went today with the Gen. & rest to the Episcopal Church in Berryville. Mr. Luter preached a very good sermon and the girls all were dressed in their best and looked pretty, the music was good and altogether I enjoyed it highly. And then there was such a glorious dinner for us here [in camp] when we got back, thanks to the good people of Clarke & Jefferson [counties], that I passed really a delightful day, “at charity with myself and all mankind,” which frame of mind I find a good dinner conducive to. I saw Ned Lee at church, and his health seems to be much better now.

I enjoy this neighborhood. The people are all very kind and attentive to our creature comforts. We live high barring sugar, coffee, & candles, and then I can go to Uncle Hugh’s, Uncle Guerdon’s, or Dr. Blackburn’s and get a meal. [At the latter place] I find Miss Jane quite pretty, very agreeable, & evidently not objecting to singing sentimental songs & etc, to a young captain in a new uniform…

Captain Alexander Pendleton; excerpts from a letter to his mother, November 2, 1862.

Alexander S. Pendleton

Local – Benefits & Disadvantages

According to other letters and accounts, young Captain Pendleton made an excellent tour guide across the state of Virginia. Why? Because he knew all the best homes for hospitality and wholesome entertainment. That was an advantage to having an army in your “relatively local” area.

The disadvantages, though, were just as great. You might end up fighting in your uncle’s backyard or watching his crops destroyed by enemy raid because your own army was in the vicinity.

I think it’s easy to forget that for some soldiers – particularly in the Confederacy – the army stomping grounds, campaign roads, and battlefields were on or close to their relative and friends’ property. As Captain Pendleton informed his mother, this created a great opportunity to get a good dinner, but it would also make added stress to both the military and the civilians were “less pleasant” days of war came.

The General

Captain Pendleton reports that he went to the church with “the general.” Which general? Well, Pendleton served on General Thomas J. Jackson’s staff, so it’s safe to assume that “Stonewall” is the general he’s referring to in this excerpt.

General Jackson, 1862

When opportunity allowed, Jackson attended church services, and he was grateful to be accompanied by the religious junior officers. Why? The general was more than happy to let his staff entertain the civilians and converse with the ladies after church services, allowing the commander to slip away from the busy social scene.

Historical Musings

Want to hear a story? It’s completely true.

Captain Pendleton had been rather unlucky with the ladies thus far in 1862. He’d fallen in love (or thought he fell in love) with Miss Laura Burwell who lived in Winchester, Virginia. His parents weren’t particularly thrilled since Laura had some questionable family relations, but let him make his own choice. In the end, Laura made the choice, breaking off the engagement. At first, Pendleton seemed relieved, then got reflectively moody about the rejection, then started a more carefree, careless tone about girls when writing home. Whether that was an accurate account of his attitude or a cover-up, remains a question at this point in research.

Although he didn’t know it on November 2, 1862, Captain Pendleton would meet the love of his life before the year had ended. Miss Kate Corbin. The following year on December 29, 1863, they were married. Tragically, Pendleton would die from wounds after the Battle of Fisher’s Hill (September 1864). Find more details about Kate Corbin Pendleton here and a little of my research here.

The moral of the story? Hmm… Don’t despair if you haven’t met “the one” yet. Or whatever conclusion you’d like to draw from this perfectly happy and perfectly tragic account.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Any details we didn’t discuss that stand out to you from the letter excerpt? Any questions? Let’s chat in the comments…

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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