Letter to Rufus Painter - part one

Letter to Rufus Painter - part one

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William Archibald Edwards letter to Rufus Painter concerning Company E, 15th Alabama Infantry during the Civil War.

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Letter to Rufus Painter - part one

  • Dale County, Alabama

Published in Southern Star, Ozark, Alabama Jan. 5, 1916

Letter from William Archibald Edwards to Rufus Painter


Dallas, Tex., Nov. 11, 1915.

Dear Ruf:

I wrote you for a list of my dear old Co. E. 15th Alabama Regiment who

are now living, and as you were sick Bro. Charley Edwards sent me the

following list vis.-W.R. Painter, W.C. Mizell Ozark; J.R. Edwards, Mat

Williams, Artion; C. V. Atkinson, Newton; Newt Curenton, Haw Ridge; Albert

Austin, Daleville; W.D. Byrd, B.W. Fleming, Enterprise; Dorse Fleming,

Geneva; C.G. Dillard, Ozark Route 1. To this I add the Texas list---Capt.

Wm. A. Edwards, 4019 Bowser St. Dallas Texas; A.N. Edwards, Gordon,

Tex.;Y.M. Edwards, Alvin, Tex.; J.P. Martin, Italy, Tex.; Ben Martin,

Waxahachie, Tex.; Wm. Mobly Crandal Dallas County, Tex. The above

constitute the list of survivors as I have it. If you know of any others

please add them to this.

The Company left home with 84 men enlisted all told 200. Returned home

after surrender 100. So you see 100 brave and as good men as Dale or any

other county ever raised sleep in some Northern or Southern cemetery or in

shallow crude graves on some battle field, or possibly some were buried

under the winter snow or to decay on some bloody hard fought battle ground

and their bones to bleach under a burning sun, and to their dust and memory

we say farewell dear comrades, and we hope some day to meet you beyond the

flash and roar of artillery and rattle of musketry.

It will probably be some interest to the friends and survivors of Co. E. to

read a short write up of the Company which I hope you will have the Star to

publish and send a copy to all living members. I t will likely be the last

message they will ever get from me as I am now past eighty and they are not

in their teens. I want each to take this as a personal letter and I would

be glad to have a letter from all of them.

No better Co. of citizens soldiers ever left any community than left

Westville on the 18th day of July 1861, 54 years ago the past July. No more

sumptuous feast was ever spread for departing patriots than was spread under

the shade of the beautiful oaks that stood around old Darian church. The

loving hands that prepared it have long since been wafted beyond the curse

of war and rage of battles by the angels of God. In all my life I have

never seen deeper and purer emotions or heard so tender farewells as

followed that sumptuous feast. Husbands and wives embraced in tender love

and with many it was the last embrace---fathers kissed their only

babes---mothers threw a mothers arm around her son and with a mothers deep

prayer sent her soldier boy to the conflict of battle and perils of war. And

some of the boys felt the tender touch of the bride-to-be as they clasped

hands that day. It thrilled their souls and nerved their arm for deeds of

daring until they either perished in the campaign or returned home under the

furled banner of the stars and bars. I have often been anxious to know if

any of them that got back got left.

"That day many parted,

Where few shall meet."

That night we camped at Fraziers mill on Pea river and almost the entire

company took a bath, and if there were either snakes, alligators or varmints

for miles around they took to the hills and swamps never to return. Such a

babel of voices and splashing of water I have never heard. The next night

we camped in the open streets of Perote, and its bests families welcomed us

with royal favors, and our third night out we stopped at Union Springs and

spent the Sabbath there, which stay will always be kindly remembered by

Co.E. That was the day of the first Manassas battle and Bull Run episode.

Many thought the war was ended and some kind hearted mothers hoped their

boys might see Richmond before they were disbanded. Well the boys saw

Richmond and beyond. How little we knew of war and the bitter cup before

the south.

We next find ourselves organized as Co. E. in the 15th Alabama Regiment.

Nothing of special interest to the Co. E until our regiment camped at Camp

Toombs between Centerville and Manassas. There Dick Neil died. This is

worthy of mentioning because he was the first member of Co. E that died and

the first one that had died in a regimental camp. He was honored as but few

soldiers are ever honored. The Regiment was drawn up to witness the solemn

burial, and Co. E with reversed arms and muffled drum followed the corpse to

the road that leads from Centerville to Manassas; and there in plain coffin

with a soldiers blanket for a winding sheet we buried him and a platoon of

Co. E fired a soldier salute about the lonely grave, and there on the lonely

spot unmarked by human hands and unknown to the busy world that passes that

way to-day sleeps the dust of Corporal Neil without a stain on his name or

character at home or in the army. It was the first crude shock that came to

Co. E and it threw a gloom over the folks at home as nothing had done. All

began to realize that war was on, and I remember at that camp Col. Canty

told me it would be a terrible struggle. We spent the winter at Manassas

and the only thing of special interest to Co. E was the task of getting

boards for winter quarters, a task I never heard a single member complain

of.

I was sent with my Company across Bull Run to the east of Centerville in

the hilly and wooded country that had been but little occupied by soldiers

up to that time, to get boards to cover huts for winter quarters. And old

federal sympathizer lived about half a mile from our camp and killed hogs

one day, it would have been better had he killed all he had. I went up to

his house and wanted to buy a hasslet. He asked 50 cents for it and at that

time we thought ten or fifteen cents good pay. I went back where the boys

were at work and related what had occurred and I saw one of them give a

significant wink and asked "Do you love hasslet Captain and I told him yes."

Well to make a long story short, next morning when I woke up there was a ham

of a 250 pound hog slipped under my tent and a large hasslet hanging in

front and John Trawick, my cook, singing, whistling and frying liver and ham

just as happy as he could get and you remember John could get very happy. I

ate it and asked no questions for conscience sake, and as well as I remember

it was the first and last stolen meat I ate during the war.

1862 was the fighting year of the war. Before the ground had thawed and

the buds had burst into leaves we were taken from our pleasant quarters and

transferred to the valley and received a formal introduction to Stonewall

Jackson. There are two incidents in this campaign I wish to relate, not

battles the historian does that, but unnoticed and unknown to the historian

yet of interest to the Co. E. I allude to the death of Jno. Trawick and

Lieut. Mills. John Trawick was killed almost under the guns of Harper

Ferry, when we halted in our pursuit of Banks. We were resting on the

turn-pike when a gun accidentally discharged and shattered poor Johns heel

to pieces. He was carried to a Winchester Hospital, and in a few days I

received notice he was dead.

I want to say this for John Trawick, I detailed him to cook for me, and

he did more for my comfort than any one else has ever done. He carried my

luggage on marches. (He was big and strong.) When the Regiment halted if

it was mid-night. He spread my bedding and cooked my supper no matter how

tired he was, and I have often wondered if Israels chariot was sent down to

take that rough, rugged yet noble son of nature to a bright and better

world.

Lieut. Mills was killed at Cross Keys, when an unexpected retreat was

ordered our regiment. He was a hightoned, brave christian gentlemen

confided in at home and honored and loved in the army. He was devoted to

his mess and his mess to him quiet, intelligent, refined and dignified a

high type of a christian gentleman yet he always impressed me that a cloud

was over his spirits an I have never thought he expected to survive the war,

and I thought and still think that terrible spectre of presentment was ever

before his eyes.

At night after the terrible battle of Gains Mills at Richmond after

night fall had covered the field of carnage and death which was strowed with

dead and dying, I fell on Billy Robinson, a fine speciman of manhood, tall,

angular swarthy, hair as black as a crow and fearless as a lion. He told me

he was mortally wounded and could live but a little while. He asked me who

held the field I told him we held it. Then he said I am willing to die.

Tell father I died fighting for my home and country, that I died brave and I

feel I am prepared for a better world. His father was a Methodist preacher.

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