Monday, May 19, 2014

Amanuensis Monday: The Camp Letters* -- Thoughts on War

"Writing a Letter" By Petar Milošević (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0  (], via Wikimedia Commons
Raleigh Spinks Camp was a learned man, a teacher, and a Confederate officer.  Among the collection of Camp Family Papers were a number of letters written by Raleigh to his mother Penelope Willingham Camp (my third GreatGrandmother), to Thomas and Mary Ragsdale Camp (my second GreatGrandparents), and to other members of the Camp family.  In these excerpts of letters to family members, Raleigh did not hesitate to express his opinions and his emotions related to the possibility of war and later concerning the Civil War itself.*

Gilmer, Texas
January 1, 1861

My Dear Mother,

... I really have no news to write you.  Times are hard. money scarce and much talk about fighting, but even in the midst of all these, I hope for a more bright and better day in the future when money will be more plentiful, corn cheaper & peace either in or out of the Union.  These was considerable talk some time ago about Secession, but I now believe that Union sentiment will prevail ...


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Gilmer, Texas
March 25, 1861

My Dear Brother,

... Times are here like everywhere else, pretty hard.  We are sometimes excited about war and sometimes we are not.  You have doubtlessly heard that Texas is out of the Union, but we had to work [to] get it as there are in Northwestern Texas many Abolitionists, and then our Governor, Sam Houston, was a strong Union man, but the battle is fought, and the victory won thus far.  As to what Mr. Lincoln will do, I cannot tell, only that I feel certain that he will fail to coerce the southern states, should he try it.  I hope for the sake of peace, he will not ...


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On 2 Oct 1861, Raleigh Spinks Camp became a member of the Confederate troops being raised in Texas and was named Captain of Company B of the 7th Texas Infantry.  In less than a year, Capt. Camp was released from the 7th Texas Infantry when he transferred to the 40th Georgia Infantry.  Through his years with the 40th Georgia, Raleigh continued to write home to his family back in Georgia.

Camp near Big Creek Gap
45 miles from Knoxville, Tenn
1st June 1862

My Dear Sister,

... There are some Yanks on the other side of the mountain, and we sometimes hear that they are coming over to see us.  We are ready to give them a warm reception, I for one want them to try it.  I want to see a fight, not that I am reckless of life at all, but I want to bear my part in the bloody contest.  If tis my fate to fall, let me share it in common with thousands of my countrymen engaged in our great and glorious struggle for independence and the Rights of Man.

... We must meet the Enemy as he is strong and powerful, and it will require all our strength to do so.  Now is the time I am very anxious to hear from Richmond.  The battle there must be a great one, one upon which depends a great deal.  Should our Army stand and drive back the enemy there, then I think they [the Enemy] will begin to think the war a bad bargain, and it might lead to peace.  Should we be routed, then a long war will follow.  As to subjugation, I repel the charge.  I cannot think of such a thing.  I will go barefoot in these mountains, dress with a sheep shin, and eat parched corn for years before I will submit.

... O may God not forsake us in our deep distress and grant us grace sufficient for all our trials.

Yours truly and affectionately,

R S Camp

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Tazewell [Tenn], 10 Sept 1862

Dear Sisters,

… I am 10 miles from the [Confederate] Army which [is] lying before the [Cumberland] Gap.  Yet how long they will remain there, there is no telling.  The Yankees are not starved out yet, nor do I know when they will be.  I am of the opinion that they are a hard set to starve, but then some deserters from them say that they have but little to eat.  If this be so, they must run or fight us soon.  The last news from some days past is encouraging indeed, enough to convince any sensible man that the North will never whip the South.  It seems they ought to be satisfied that Virginia is a hot place for them.  I think that Kentucky is to be a great battleground, and I will be there as soon as the Gap is cleared.  

O, my dear sisters, these are trying times indeed, and when they will end, God only knows.  If they still wage it upon we, we will continue to fight with them.  Our soldiers are fighting for liberty, home, and our loved ones and never will they cease to fight …


One man's thoughts,  Expressed about one war.  Like those expressed by so many on both sides of the fighting in numerous wars.

* These letters are a part of the "Camp Family Papers, 1858-1877" which are housed in the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) of Emory University in Decatur, Georgia.  The letters was transcribed using Transcript freeware.  Some of the spelling, punctuation, and syntax were corrected in this post for ease in reading.  ... is used to indicate portions of the letter which were omitted in the post.  [ ] indicates a word or information I have inserted for clarity.

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