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  • Writer's pictureGordon Thorsby

A Word in Case I am No More, 1862

by Gordon Thorsby

Link to Part One

Link to Part Two

It was just two days later that Mart sent the next letter. What worried him so much turned out to be unnecessary.

Mississippi Vicksburg

July 20th, 1862

Dear Miss,

It is with gratitude to you that this morning I take my seat to write you an answer to your kind letter. It was Saturday and darkness had fell upon the earth and I had said a short prayer and raised a song of praise to God. I had thrown myself upon my blankets in my tent for another nights repose. It was near nine, yes I recon [sic] then when I was suddenly aroused by a footstep and then a voice calling me said here's a letter for you. You can't imagine how I felt knowing it was from you as I had just received a letter from home. I arose, gathered the letter, lighted a candle and read it and you can't imagine how happy I was to hear from you and hear that you was well but I was very sorry to hear of the family. I hope that they all be well long before this reaches you if not well before now. I recon you want to know what sort of a place I live in. We are encamped five or six miles from Vicksburg in a flat low hollow of a place with high round green hills all round. We have to walk out to town every two or three days to guard the place to keep the yanks from landing their forces here. We go to the river and stay all night and then fall back three or four hundred yards among the hills. We can see the yankey gun boats from town. They bombard us every day. One shell killed one lieutenant in the company next to me last Monday night and knocked several other men down. I hope we leave this place before long. I don't like this place.

Uncle Samuel L. Moon is well and S. W. is here sound and looks better than I ever saw him. Jackson Moon went to the hospital from Tupalo [sic]. He looked like a skeleton and fear he will never get well if he is not dead before now. I have not heard from him in nearly a month. Brother George left us at the same place. He had a very hard spell of the fever but I heard that he was getting well again. He is at Columbus, Mississippi. I heard from your brother since I wrote the other letter. Robert Boyde told me he saw him a few days ago and that he looked better than he ever saw him. I hope you will excuse bad writing and spelling for I am in a hurry this morning. I have to go to take some letters to Cousin Bob Peevy. I suppose he is going to start today.

Hettie, you must write to me as often as you can get the chance to send a letter for I love to hear from you and my country. Don't think that I am so bad dissatisfied about the conscript act for I am getting willing to do anything that I can for my country although I would be glad to see you and be at home with you. Still I am willing to do my part of anything to obtain peace again. You must write to me as soon as you get this. Send your letter by Robert W. Peevy when he comes back. Give my love to you all, recieve [sic] a portion for yourself. Excuse my scolding in the other letter for I wanted to hear from you so bad. So nothing more only I remain your ever faithful friend til death.

H. M. Childress to Hester Ann Chandler Your lover.

Of the men in this letter:

Uncle Samuel Moon was Private in Co K. He was discharged in Oct. 1862 for disability. Buried Madison Cty.

(A.J.W) Jackson Moon in this letter did die of an unstated illness in July, 1862. He was Private in Co. H and 27. His burial is unknown, somewhere in Tupelo, MS.

Apparently, Hester conveyed some of the family tragedies; possibly two other cousins (see second post). Another would die five days after the writing of this third letter. Hugh’s twin brother, George, would die 21/2 months after this letter.

A letter from Hester had reached him. Hugh was on “top of the world.” Hugh wanted to tell her as much as possible. He also regretted the pleading to receive her letter. The full contents of Hester’s letter are unknown. As in the other letters, Hugh’s fear of death nagged continued to nag him.

Breckinridge’s units boarded trains seven days later on the 27th and headed to Louisiana. There was a plan that included the 49th.

The battle of Baton Rouge was a short but deadly little fight. Breckinridge had 4,000 troops but 1,400 were sick with fever. At 4:30 A.M. in darkness, the shadowy lines of 2,600 men from Breckinridge’s force advanced on seven green Federal regiments (about 2,500 men). Most of the fight centered around Magnolia Cemetery. Heavy house-to-house fighting took place. Union troops were routed, running through the town until the heavy artillery from gunboats and ironclads sent shells screaming into concentrated Confederate groups. The ships' guns forced a Southern withdrawal. Their fire continued until much of the town was made rubble. By 10:00 AM, the fight was over. Confederate forces suffered 478 total casualties. The 49th Alabama suffered 45 in killed and wounded. It was acknowledged by many that it was a futile fight that could not have hoped to accomplish anything.

From Texas Christian Advocate, 1862

"Lt. Hugh M. Childress, the brave gallant and patriotic [soldier] fell mortally wounded at the Battle of Baton Rouge, August 5th, 1862 and died within a few hours.

On August 6th, the townspeople turned out to bury the Confederate dead on the streets and in the cemetery. It is believed that the mass grave dug for the dead became Hugh’s resting place where he is still. It is believed that the mass grave is Hugh's final resting place. The Confederate marker in the family plot in Moontown, AL, east of Huntsville may be a cenotaph. There is no information how the news was presented to Hester and how she reacted to his death. What Hugh expressed in every letter, what Hugh dreaded might happen, came true. They could only unite in the afterlife.

Hester went on to marry Thomas Carpenter 37, and widowed, eight months later in April 1863. The circumstances of their agreement to marry are unknown. Thomas knew Hugh but we do not know how well. Tom was the overseer of the Childress farm prior to the war. With the war’s progress, an overseer was not required.

Hester saved the three letters in the family bible. It is believed by her daughter that Hester pulled them out and reread them over the years. Hester Carpenter Vann knew of the contents for she had become the guardian of the letters, cherished forever.

It is for us that we benefit from the words that Hugh expressed to someone he loved so very much; a love fulfilled only in death.

Born 5/16/1840, Hester passed away at 69 on February 24, 1910 and is buried in the Chandler Family Cemetery in Madison County, AL. Some say her heart never mended.

Note: The Childress farm is located near present day Guntersville Dam, Madison County (Huntsville area). Moontown is a small crossroads east of Huntsville. Twin brother, George’s first child was named Hugh Martin. He also had a child named Hugh Martin.

Note 2: The twins were described as “heroes of Shiloh.” The information was passed on by one of Hettie’s children.


Special appreciation to Ginny Dunleavy Young. She rediscovered two people who gave back humanity to this world in the middle of a civil war.

Transcription of three letters Ginny Dunleavy Young.

Brewer, William Brief Historical Sketches of Military Organizations Raised in Alabama During the Civil War. . Cartersville, GA. Eastern Digital Resources.

Rigdon, John C. A Guide to Alabama Civil War Research, Cartersville, GA: Eastern Digital Resources, 2011.

Fold 3,

Confederate Military History, vol. VIII, p. 207

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