Letters from Soldiers

Thomas Hoskins Letter

The Battle of Brandy station was an intense, desperate struggle as this recruit’s letter indicates:

 Letter of Thomas Talliaferro Hoskins, age 18, of Essex Co. Virginia, member of Co. F, 9th Virginia Cavalry, to his father:

Camp on Hazel River, Culpeper, June 10, 1863

 Dear Papa

     We reached here this morning after spending a very trying day yesterday, said to be the biggest Cavalry fight since the war.  On yesterday morning, we were ordered to march.  The impression among the men was that we were going up into Rappk. Co., but on marching two or three miles we were attracted by the Roar of Artillery near Brandy station, 5 miles below Culpeper C.H., which taught every man to know where he was going.

       On approaching the scene of conflict, our Squadron, having recently been converted to Sharp Shooters, was ordered with the rest of the sharp shooters, about a thousand in number, to drive the enemy S.S. about 2000 strong,  consisting of two Regt. Of Infantry, from a large body of woods in front of our lines.  Every man on foot, we advanced toward under a heavy fire of canister  & shell.  The officers being mounted, Lieut. Latane’s horse was killed by a shell,  Capt. Harris’ and half doz. others.

        After advancing in the woods about 1/2 mile the fire became general & for  about 3 miles along the line there was an incessant roar of small arms which lasted all day.  During the fight Charles Ward of our Company was struck in the head by a Minnie ball & killed instantly.  Emmett Lipscomb & Pilkinton were wounded, the latter mortally and the former slightly.  In all there were about 50 killed in the woods.  We finally succeeded in driving the enemy out of the woods with great loss on their side.  It being the first fight of the kind we were engaged in Capt. Harris said we deserved great credit.  It reminded me more of Bird hunting than any business I was ever engaged in, both parties hiding behind three stumps & cover, (any) place suited & firing on each other whenever a head was left uncovered.  I am almost certain I killed one & probably more.  Poor Chas Warde killed one and started to him when he was killed.  When a Yank would show himself someone would draw a bead on him and he would fall dead as a wedge.

         Genl. Lee was badly wounded in legs, when Col. Williams of (2 NC) took command of Brigade & he was killed in 15 min. after taking command.  Others Cols, Capts & c were killed &  many privates who were in the charge.  The 11th Va Cavalry captured a battery of 3 guns with great loss.  We drove them across The River & are now safe in camp. Write soon, give all news.  I have not gotten But one letter from home since latter part of May.  Much love to all in haste

        Your devoted son

        T.T. Hoskins

        Direct Culpeper C.H.   As soon as that horse gets in good order please send him up as my horse is too small.

        In great haste TTH

Credit: June 8, 2002 Washington Times article entitled The Great Cavalry Clash at Brandy Station written by Richard E. Crouch

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Thomas Marshall Letter

This letter was written By Lt. Thomas Marshall, Co. E, 12th Virginia Cavalry to his wife Bettie, and speaks to a proposed Grand Review of Confederate troops to be held by General JEB Stuart June 5th, 1863.  This review was held and attended by Confederate Secretary of War, James A. Seddon.  Since General Lee was unable to attend due to the press of affairs at Headquarters, three days later, General Stuart held the review again – this time with General Lee in attendance.  The day following the second review, June 9th, 1863, the Battle of Brandy Station occurred.

Culpepper Courthouse
June 4th, 1863

My dear Bettie – I have just gotten your letter and sit down to write a short answer -  Our cavalry had a skirmish yesterday with the Yankees as they attempted to cross the Rappahannock at Waterloo, I believe, and drove them back.  We are having a grand review tomorrow at Brandy Station of all of Stewart’s Cavalry.  I reckon it will be an imposing sight. We are to have a sham fight and charge artillery loaded with blank cartridges.  Divisions of infantry are making their appearance in these parts.  We know nothing in reality but the general impression is that there will be a forward move.

George saw your Uncle and Aunt ___________  , they are staying at the house where I took breakfast (a Dr. Hills).  We traveled all one day without eating anything and about night Tom and myself walked about a mile & a quarter to a very nice looking house but did not get anything to eat so we had our walk for nothing.  You may reckon, that we abuse eastern Va., but if we stay here long, I think that we will do better.  I have no doubt but that there is more to eat in the commissary department here than we have been accustomed to in the valley since the bulk of the army is here and they are obliged to feed them.  The Yankee papers are jubilant over the taking of Vicksburg, but our papers tell a different story – in fact Vicksburg has held and nobly, and I trust will continue to do so – there are as a matter of concern various rumors as to the intended movement of Gen. Lee but I will not mention them as they are most probably untrue – I do believe that  Sam was sorry to see me go - and was the first time that he showed any concern about my leaving …………..

Lt. Marshall was mortally wounded at Brandy Station on October 11, 1863 and died the next day in an outbuilding located on the Bott’s farm.

This letter was generously provided by Mr. William Catlin, Jr, grandson of Lt. Thomas Marshall.

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John Way Letter

Many soldiers passed through Brandy Station during the War Between the States.  The following letter is a testimony of one such soldier -- Capt. John C. Way.  It is copied from a typewritten transcription that bears this note:  "This is the war Record of the late Capt. John C. Way.  Written by him for Josephine Way.  Copied from the original record Aug. - 1933."

I enlisted in June 1861, as a private in Co. C, 7th Regiment West Virginia Volunteer Infantry, for three years or during the war and was sworn into the U.S. Service August 7th 1861 at Wheeling, West Va. and served until Jan. 4 1864, when I reenlisted in the same company and Regiment as 1st or orderly Sergeant for three years longer or during the war.  I was promoted to Corporal Act (should be Oct?) 1861 for being the best drilled man in the company in the Manuel of Arms, was promoted to 2nd Sergeant in Sept. 1862, by Col. Kelley for prompt and meritorious service as a Soldier.  Was promoted to 1st Orderly Sergeant March 1863, Vice W. S. Scott discharged, promoted to 2nd Lieutenant Sept. 22nd 1864.  Vice Capt. Henthorn killed, and was honorably discharged at Petersburg, Va. March 17th 1865 on Surgeon Certificate of Disability, on account of Gunshot wounds received in action.  I was engaged in the following battles:

Romney, W.VA., Bloomery Gap, Va., Winchester, Va., part--, Republic Va., Front Royal, Va., Harrison's Landing, Va., Malvern Hill, Va., 2nd Bull Run, Va., Antietam, M. D., Fredericksburg, Va., Chancellorsville, Va., Gettysburg, Pa., 3 days, Wilderness, Va., 5 days.  Poe River, Va., Hatcher Run, Va., 2 days, Bristo Station, Va., Brandy Station, Va., Robinson River, Va., Mine Run, Va., Robinson's Cross Roads, Va., Raccoon Ford, Va., and Spottsylvania Court House, Va., and in the ditches at Petersburg from Nov. 1864 to 31st of March, 1865 under fire day and night continually.

I was wounded in the right arm at Antietam, M. D. in the left arm at Gettysburg, in the left leg at Raccoon Ford, Va., and shot through the right hip at Spottsylvania Court House, Va., may 12th, 1864.

My Company C. was the Center or Color Company of the Regiment, there is 10 Companies in a Regiment and my company occupied the center of the Regt. and carried the colors (the flags) which caused us to always draw the Enemy's fire.

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Lt. Colonel Will Delony Letter June 10, 1863

The following two letters from Will Delony were identified by Ed Rowe of Florida and come from the Hargrett Library at the University of Georgia. The letters detail the role of the Cobb Georgia Legion Cavalry at the Battle of Brandy Station.  The legion was in the thick of the fighting, both to repulse the main Federal advance as well as the battle for Fleetwood Hill.

Lt. Col. Delony, a prominent Athens, GA attorney before the war, was second in command of Cobb's Legion Cavalry Battalion at the Battle of Brandy Station (Col. Pierce Manning Butler Young was first in command).  Delony would later be promoted to colonel and become the commanding officer of the battalion.

Culpepper C. H. June 10, 1863

My Dear Rosa,

I telegraphed you this morning that I was unhurt and Capt. Ritch was captured - We yesterday had the severest and most extensive cavalry action of the war - All the Yankee cavalry crossed the Rhappahannoch supported by Infantry and Artillery - The main body crossing at Beverly ford and the adjacent fords opposite Brandy Station on the Orange and Alexandria R. Road, at which point our Legion was encamped - The enemy drove in our pickets at daylight - They were immediately supported by Gen. Jones' Brigade and our Brigade was ordered up & went into action soon after sunrise - Capts Ritch's & King's companies, with companies from other Regts of the Brigade were dismounted and put in as skirmishers and behaved with distinguished gallantry - They charged the Yankees and drove them through the woods for 300 or 400 yards into a point where our men were very much exposed both to the fire of their Infantry and a cavalry charge - By this time our men had expended nearly all their ammunition and many of them were completely exhausted - Capts King and Ritch then ordered their men to fall back - Ritch telling them that he was too much exhausted to go with them - King led them back & the enemy advanced slowly on them until our ammunition was entirely gone and the enemy captured five of Ritch's men and two of King's were captured - three of Ritch's men were killed, Nick Ware, Carter and young Hardy of Jackson County - M. S. Simmons, Oshields and Harrington were slightly wounded - All concur in saying that Ritch refused to surrender, but fought single handed to the last until every barrel of both pistols was empty and then was taken fortunately unhurt = His gallantry was conspicuous to the entire brigade - as it was done in our sight, but we could not get up in time to relieve them = Young is convinced and I think Hampton will be that sharpshooters ought always be supported promptly by a cavalry force = Soon after this the report came that we were completely surrounded - another body of the enemy having crossed lower down - and Hampton's Brigade was ordered up to prevent the capture of our Batteries - We moved up at a gallop our Regt in the advance and the enemy ran up two guns on our left flank & we were ordered to charge - I was in the head of the Regt and recd the order Col Young having left us for about 100 yds to communicate with Gen Hampton or rather with one of Stuarts aids - I immediately wheeled the Regt to the left and increased the gait of the horses and the Artillerists did not unlimber their guns Another courier had by this time come to Young saying that Stuarts Hdqtrs were in possession of the Yankees and our guns at that point would soon be captured - Young then ordered us to the right again and off we went in fine style, Young and myself leading - The Yankees thought we were in full retreat and the 10th N. York and part of the 2nd Maine were sent to charge us in flank - We had then only about 100 or 120 men at the most - Young led in the first two companies & I the last two in what we call an "En Echelon" movement = the balance of our men being dismounted as sharpshooters in another part of the field - When Young ordered the charge – our men went in with a rousing cheer - I had the old Ga. Troopers and the old Richmond Hussars with me and as Young met the head of their column I struck them on their left flank and the day was ours in less time than I can tell it - We killed their Major – captured their Lt. Col., ten captains and about 40 Lts & privates & strewn the ground with dead & wounded men and horses – Sabres, pistols & carbines were lying around loose - We pursued them until called off & with the Jeff Davis Legion & one Squadron of the 1st S. C. Regt we drove off the support of their guns which were taken by the 11th Va. which also did good fighting - Our entire loss during the day is - two officers wounded & one captured – 3 men killed & 24 wounded and twenty missing – some of them we know were taken - the others we do not know whether they are killed, captured, wounded or skulking - One horse killed – 15 wounded – 20 missing - We captured a good many of them in return = In the midst of the charge Church’s horse was wounded and quicker than thought he was mounted on a Yankee’s horse and in the charge again – He behaved very gallantly and came out with a bloody sabre = I and old Marmion came out safely once more thanks to a kind Providence, my travelling blanket strapped on my saddle caught a carbine ball, which I now have in my pocket & which but for my blanket would probably have hurt me seriously – Besides what I have related our Regt did a good deal of other service & some of our men did good service – Young Landrum - McCroan & others you do not know distinguished themselves – Young Clanton of Augusta who came up to my relief at little Washington was struck from his horse and trampled – He is walking about today but in considerable pain not dangerously hurt I hope - He is a man of undaunted courage = Gen Hampton’s brother Lt. Col. Frank Hampton of the 2nd S. Carolina was killed – Col. Butler of the same lost a leg – another Regt suffered very seriously – The whole Brigade behaved splendidly – We finally drove the enemy across the Rhappahannoch just before sunset – We had a large Infantry force at Culpepper 6 miles off but they did not come up to our support until the fight was over – I suspect Stuart did not want divided honors and would not send for them – God bless you all Darling – Kiss our dear little ones for me and think kindly and sweetly of me – Write when you can – We were on horseback until 12 o’clock & the hard work of yesterday makes me feel tired, tho' I was never in better health." – Write often – Everything is again quiet

Your Will

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Lt. Colonel Will Delony Letter June 12, 1863

Brandy Station
Culpepper Co

June 12th 1863

My Dear Rosa

I have received your letter of the 4th inst since I wrote you last and am sorry to learn that you were indisposed – I hope sincerely that you received my telegram and letter in time to correct the misrepresentations of the Richmond Mess – and to relieve your anxiety about our recent fight – Our loss is not so great as we at first supposed – Some of the missing have come in and others are only slightly wounded that we feared were seriously wounded – I do not know the loss of the Division – Our Brigade lost in killed wounded and missing 99 men, our Legion losing 44 of them nearly one half – 16 taken prisoner 6 killed the rest wounded so as to render them for the present unfit for service – others slightly wounded and counted in the above as they are still on duty = Our Regt has been very highly complimented for the part taken in the fight – We were fortunate in retaking Gen. Stuart's Hdqtrs, a very important position at a very critical time when all eyes were turned upon us & our men behaved with gallantry and spirit – I would not be surprised if our charge made Young a Brigadier – It is the first time we have ever met the enemy in an open field in a charge – Heretofore it has been in byways & roads & we succeeded as I have always told you we would succeed – with such a set of men to follow = I never have seen, nor do I ever again expect to see a field swept in such splendid style, as was that battle field by Hampton's Brigade assisted by one or two Virginia Regts = But for Hampton I think the day would have been lost, He acted promptly boldly and just in time to turn the tide of battle and every one here is loud in his praise – but as usual I presume he will not get credit for it with Stuart – He is too good an officer & too popular with the Army for that – The highest compliment we have received I think came from Lt. Col. Gordon of the 1st N. C. Regt – He met me soon after our charge with the greeting – "Well Delony, Cobbs Legion have done as usual" – The work has worn us all out – I have been half sick ever since the excitement wore off & every one else is in about the same fix – Everything is very quiet though at present and I hope another days rest will bring us all right again – I think we will move forward in a few days tho’ I know nothing – Gen Lee may keep us all here for some time yet and certain indications looks that way – He keeps his own counsel = I hope your wheat crop will turn out well – I presume you have cut it by this time – How comes on your corn – potatoes & c____ - Just think our little chickens are sweeter & better behaved than Jerrys ewe lamb – Of course you do – God bless you all Darling – Kiss the little Darlings for me – Keep up a cheerful spirit & write me often – Tell little Rosa Papa is looking for a letter from her – Tell Tom his horse behaved elegantly in the fight and is beginning to look well again – My love to Jennie & a large handful for yourself

Your Will

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Corporal Austin Fenn Letter, December 5,1863


Austin Fenn enlisted in Company H, 10th Vermont Infantry Regiment on July 22 1862, but had to wait until September when he was finally mustered into federal service. Promoted to Corporal in August 1864, Austin survived to go home to his wife, Julia. In this letter, Austin tells her about preparing winter quarters and specifics on what foods Julia is to ship to him, giving her the reminder “this Box is for the Benefit of my Belly now get it ready just as I quick as you possibly can, pack snug and send it right along.”


Camp at Brandy Station Virginia

                                                            December 5, 1863


Dear Wife

            I thought I would answer your letter I received last night. I am well and in Bully trim. I got 5 letters and 3 papers last night want that a pile to get at once. I had a letter from Mary she is in Weston how did it happen that you did not know it. She will probably come to see you as soon as she gets a chance. You will have a good visit when you get together. She wanted me to get a Furlow but their is not a chance for that. We have got ourselves all on the ground to fix up our winter quarters. It is going to rain if we should have a soaker we should likely to stay here all winter. We are pulling down rebel shanties they had built and using them ourselves. I have made up my mind to risk another Box so I will tell you what I want. Dont send quite as big a one as you did before. Send about 5 pounds of Butter 5 or 6 pounds of Sausage and a dozen good Mince pies put them in a round box like a sugar Box or in an old Peck measure so they will lay snug and they wont jam all up. I would like a few Pickles if you could get them if you cant handy get them go. 5 or 6 pounds of Cheese, 4 or 5 pounds of Maple sugar two bunches of envelopes two quiver of paper 5 or 5 pounds of dried apples get me a pair of large Number nine Chester Boots to the union have them tapped and send them. You need send me no clothing I can drum all I want here. Send me a Box of Pills, Herricks if you can get them if not Ayers will do. Make me a Molassas Ginger Bread, if there is any room left put in what you have a mind to this Box is for the Benefit of my Belly now get it ready just as I quick as you possibly can, pack snug and send it right along. Direct it the same as the other.

                                    Co. H 10th Regt Vermont Volunteers

                                    Washington DC

                                    Care of Capt Hunt

I have needles and thread enough this time. I havent much news to write to day. Give my Respects to your Father and the rest of the Family. Give Hiland my Respects and tell him I will write to him soon. I am glad to hear you are Fleshing up that is right. Look on the Bright side of everything and you are all right. No more to day this from the old Fowl.  

 (Michael Block collection)

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Corporal Austin Fenn Letter, February 26, 1864

Camp near Brandy Station VA

            February 26th 1864

Dear Wife

            I have a little time and I will improve it by writing a few lines to you. I am well and hope this may find you the same. I haint much news to write we have been on Picket since I wrote last. God has been good to us this Winter. It is brisk cold for this country. It is windy today we haint had but a little rain or snow for sometime. I guess we shall get enough in March. We had a Division Review yesterday it went off in good shape. General reviewed the Division he is a Bull Dog looking old fellow. There was quite a number of women with his staff. They followed up and down the line and made quite a show but I think they would be doing just as much good at home by Visiting in some Benevolent Society as to be out here putting on airs dont you. Today we had a Brigade Drill the wind, Blowed so we couldnt hear the orders and we would get all mixed up sometimes. I dont  know how long we should have drilled but as it happened it didnt last long. John M Botts house or out buildings caugt fire and so they broke ranks and told us all that wanted might go to the fire. Some went and some didn’t. I didn’t, for one, I thought I was as well off in my old tent writing as there so I come in and went at it. I just heard that it Burned up the Nigger’s House and they saved the rest. Tomorrow we are going to have a Corps Review. French will be there and General Meade. I hope the wind wont Blow quite as it has today. Loren Pease has been having the Measles he is some better. We have just got paid off for two months. There will be two months more due in a few days. I dont see why you dont get any pay sooner. I wish I had drawed it all here and sent it by letter but there is a little risk.

            I have just been reading a mighty long letter from my old woman the kind I send them along. I was glad to hear you are all well I guess you have been getting up a regular old dandy of a Box but I guess I shall know about what to do to it when it gets here when it comes I will write my opinion of the different Articles. You said you and Mary talked of coming out here. I am very glad you didnt there is no house within miles of camp but old Botts. I should like to see you both but I should have been bad off indeed if you had come out here at what will happen. I never want you to come while I am in the Army whare I am unless I send for you. It is no place for a woman unless she has a friend sick and then not always. You dont realize how things are here. I shall try to answer Iras[Ira Fenn] letter to night. I am sorry to hear it is sickly in Weston. I got Jacks letter tonight. I guess if you see him tell him I will answer it soon. Loren is quite a writer. I dont have much to write that would interest him. I would write to the children more but they hear what I write to you and I havent any interesting things for a child. I guess Loren  [ remainder of lines are too faded to read] but I have heard of it. It is growing dark and I cant hardly write.

                                                Good Bye A Fenn 

(Michael Block Collection)

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Samuel Sterns Letter, March 8, 1864

Samuel H. Sterns served in the regular army as an engineer.  His company, “C”, camped in the vicinity of present day Elkwood, Virginia.  While there, the engineers build a theater which had performances twice weekly.  A image of this theater (on the left of the photo) and the camp where Samuel wintered can be found at memory.loc.gov

Camp near Brandy Station, VA

Mar 8, 1864

Friend Jule,

As everything is quite around camp this evening and have nothing to amuse myself about I thought I shall improve the time in writing you a short note to inform you of what is a going on down here. I should have written to you before but there has been so much work to do since I got back and I have been in detail most every day. Also we have to go on guard most every day or so. I have not had a chance to write before so please excuse me for not writing before.

We have put up a large building built for the purpose of having a theater and the boys has got up a very good theater now. They play twice a weekly.

Well thare is not much news of importance I can write you this time. Nate has got back. He joined up about 6 weeks ago. He looked first rate when he first came back but he is clear down again now. He looks very bad. I got a letter from Amouy last week. He wrote me about Hank's and Matt's going a way. I guess it seems quiei lonesome there now to you also. I think there must be some broken hearts up a round Fayetteville. It is rather hard I know for the boys & all go to the war.

Well there is nothing more I can think of to write this time and I shall have to close for the want of something more to write. You will please excuse this short note. Please give my best respects to Tuella and all the rest of the girls also remember me to Amouy, Holland and Harris and all other friends if there is any. Nothing more at present. I hope to here from your pen soon. I remain ever the same your true friend and well wisher,

S. H. Sternes

P.S. Direct to "Co. C"

U.S. Engineers

Headquarters Army of the Potomac

Washington, D.C.

(Michael Block collection)

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Lieutenant Matthew S. Austin Letter, December 26, 1863

Enlisting as a private in the 5th New Jersey, Matthew S. Austin was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the same regiment on November 11, 1862.  The 5th NJ wintered in the fields very close to the Graffiti House.  What is interesting in this letter is Matthew discusses the arrival of Christmas dinner, which was shipped from northern New Jersey on December 21.  Considering the methods of transportation of the day, quite a feat!

 Camp 5th N.J. Vols.

                                                                                                            Brandy Station, Va.,

                                                                                                                        Dec. 26 – 63.

My Dear Father

                         The officers who were granted “leaves of absence” some days ago – have not returned – and are now absent without leave. Until they return, I cannot make application. It is hardly possible to get home by 1st January, as I had hoped to do, and may be delayed later than the 5th or 6th Jan.

                        Yesterday passed quietly enough so far as the 5th was concerned – a number of men received boxes from their homes enclosing good things for the season. I dined on chicken cooked in Orange, N.J. and sent on the 21st inst.

                         We had a very fair dinner – for the place and season. The day was cold & freezing – and we required good fires to keep warm in our tents.

                         We have so few officers present for “duty” that those here are on “duty” (as we turn it) 5 days out of 7. So I fear our turn for “Picket” (8 days) will come about Monday, & then there will be a further delay to my leave. Quite a number of the 5th have reenlisted today as Veteran Volunteers, and will soon go home for 35 days (on furlough.)

                         If this reenlistment business had been conducted in a business-like manner, a number large enough to have taken us home, would have been recruited. There has been much doubt as to the time the Veteran could go home; and many thought that after the Gov’t had secured their reenlistment, it would discover that the “Exigencies of the Service” would not permit their absence from the field - & so some 9 men of my Co. & hundreds other, determined to wait further developments. There are no Paymasters here that I know of or have heard of so the men are not paid promptly as they had hoped (are not paid at all.)

                         Prompt payment and prompt furloughs would get hundreds of men tomorrow.

                         I hope to see all soon.

                         Love to all.

                                     M.S. Austin

                                         2d Lt. 5th N.J.V.

(Michael Block collection)

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Last modified: August 27, 2008