1864: “To Continue Our Journey”

Hd. Qr. 1st Divis. D.K.

Prestonburg KY

Friday 23d Sept/64

My dear

We arrived here all in good shape and fine spirits at 10 O.C. a.m. to day and will probably stay here during to morrow and start for Pound Gap Sunday distants 46 miles. We are 95 miles from Mt. Sterling over mountains and very picturesque valleys. Scouts report but a small force at the gap where we expected the fierce resistance. We have no suffered any for a good living. Water and forage and I never was in better health than I am now and improve upon it every day and thus far am pleased with the trip. The road from here to the gap I am told is no worse than that which we have come over. There are very few inhabitants in the mountains and they are a different people from any you ever saw. Many of them go 40-50 miles to get their groceries and necessaries of life. There is seldom more than 15 or 20 acres of level land to be found that can be tilled and that is on some small stream or creek.

This place is on the big Sandy River which is a very large stream at high water being fed by ten thousand small streams from the mountains. Every thing we have got to continue our journey come to Louisa 45 mi below here on the river by steam boat and was brought from this in flat boats pushed with polls and pulled over the shallow places with oxen and hauled from the river up into town on a sled drawn by 4 yokes of oxen.

There is no mail that comes this far up and I send this by a currier that leave here in the morning. If you have written here I probably will not get your letter.

My only anxiety is about you and the way you will get along until you hear from me again.

We have very good accommodations at a private house and strange as it may seem we have not layed out either night yet. Four of our party is in the parlor with me playing whist while I am enjoying a greater pleasure writing to my precious wife & companion. All I have to do is give general directions about the camping, the issuing of grain & the movements of the pack mules. I am almost as familiar with the Gen. as I am with Col. Garrard and am treated with all of the consideration I could expect and a general good feeling seems to prevail with the officers of the whole command.

Gen. Burbridge is expected here to morrow with another Brigade making 4 Brigades in the Division. We are also told that there is only about 800 old men and boys guarding the salt works in Virginia… Our animals are all in good condition yet. We have only left 5 mules out of 700 and not more than 6 or 8 horses. I have not seen a slave since I left Mt. Sterling.

I must close expecting I can write to you again in a day or two. Remember [me] to the children and kiss all of them. A real good one for you.

Your affectionate,

Wm. R.

William R. Jackson to his wife, Julia Jackson, September 23, 1864.

(Source: Affectionately Yours: The Civil War Letters of William R. Jackson and His Wife Julia; Cheryl Jackson Baker, editor; 2014, Pages 188)

Heading For Saltville…Again

Saltville, Virginia—located in the southwest part of the state—was known as the Confederacy’s Salt Capital, producing the necessary mineral for the southern states. Its valuable supply made it a prime target for the Union armies, especially in 1864 when supply sources were particularly eyed for capture or destruction.

Remains of a rifle trench from the First Battle of Saltville. (2019)

Stephen G. Burbridge, a Union general in Kentucky with a controversial reputation, headed through east Kentucky and toward Saltville at the end of September. The result of the movement, the First Battle of Saltville, would take place on October 2, 1864, and result in a Union withdrawal.

William R. Jackson, serving as the quartermaster for the Third Ohio Cavalry, worked closely with the officers of the regiment and gathered units for this march and attempted raid.

Kentucky & The Civil War

Kentucky was a key border state during the American Civil War. Ultimately, the state stayed in the Union and did not join the Confederacy, but mixed feelings reigned. An estimated 35,000 men from the state joined the Confederate military while approximately 125,000 joined the Union armies.

The state experienced invasions and raids and several large battles were fought within the state’s borders. Guerrilla warfare created military and social tension and other divisive feelings. The state had a unique relationship with the federal government during the Civil War, especially since slavery still existed there.

William Jackson mentions the town of Prestonburg. Two years earlier, this town had been the site of the largest battle fought in the eastern part of the state.

Historical Musings

Interestingly, William Jackson seems most concerned that his wife will worry at the delay in letters. He promised to write frequently whether he received letters or not.

Mail on the march could prove challenging. Though not a unique problem to east Kentucky, the mountainous areas had additional difficulties for community. Looking at Civil War letters, many soldiers and their civilian correspondents tracked the slow-moving missives. Sometimes, there are accounts of getting a stack of letters that had been delayed by the postal service unable to catch up with a regiment.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

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