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  • Writer's pictureGordon Thorsby

Three Letters Cherished Forever, 1862

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

by Gordon Thorsby

Lt. Hugh Martin Childress to Miss Hester Ann Chandler

In 1861, America had “exploded” and the possibility of budding romance could not possibly survive. However, Hugh Martin (called Mart) Childress 29 had expressed his great love to Hester Ann (Hettie) Chandler 22 where they lived in Moontown, Alabama. Before he left to join up, Mart gave Hettie a locket to seal their love and to think of him often. It was a heart with two hands clasped together, meant as never to be separated.

The men of what would become the 49th Alabama Infantry Regiment were organized at Nashville, on January 15, 1862. They were immediately attached to several regiments under once Vice-President John C. Breckinridge as part of the Orphan Brigade. On April 6-7, the 49th took part in the battle of Shiloh and incurred 113 casualties. Following the battle, they officially became the 49th Alabama on May 8. The Confederate Army had fallen back to Corinth with the defeat Shiloh. Also on May 8, the 49th was sent with the Brigade to Vicksburg to build up the defense of the important city.

Hugh originally private, was commissioned 3rd Lieutenant. The 49th was still under Breckinridge when it was sent south to Vicksburg to build up the city’s defense.

Hugh wrote three letters beginning in June to a young woman Hester. They were of the sort to communicate that he was well and that others she knew were surviving. The letters when seen several years ago were “old & worn from being read & folded many times over the years & difficult to read.”

This is the oldest letter of knowledge.

State of Mississippi, Tishomingo County, June 3, 1862

Dear Miss,

It is with great pleasure that I take my seat to write you a few lines to try to let you know something about where I am and what I am doing if I can get a letter to you but I doubt whether you will ever get it or not. I fear you never will. O I would be so glad to hear from you. I don't expect that I know anymore about the condition of our army than you do. We have moved from Corinth about 40 miles and now we are cooking up three days provisions to start again but we don't know which way we will go. I would be very thankful if this war would end. If you see any chance you must write to me.

I hope the yankees will soon leave our country and then we can have a chance to write to each other.

I am tolerable well at this time and I thank God for it. I have been through hard times and hard marches since I saw you. I have hopes of getting home some day and seeing my friends again upon earth but if I don't get to see you in this world I hope to see you in heaven where parting, wars, and troubles be no more. Troubles have sorely tried me since I have been in the Army but it seems that I have overcome them all and still hold up my head in the dark and gloomy prospects of life and victory.

I received the letter you sent by Charles D Williams by the hand of my friend James Forester. I was very glad to hear from you. O it was with eagerness that I ran over the lines that you had written! It give my heart joy to hear that you was well. I could not keep from smiling when I heard of my sweetheart and then was made to feel soleum [sic] When I read that little tract Are You Ready. It was a good piece and a very appropriate one. It sounded exactly a good sermon for the boy. I have read it and the letter till I have got them nearly by heart. I have nothing of importance to write to you. I hope you will excuse bad writing and spelling and I will try to do better when I have more time. I send a letter to sister Martha in this and I want you to send it to her as quick as you get it. Don't wait a moment but start right straight with it. I heard from your brother [possibly John] a few days ago. He was well. I have saw him and Billy Moon two or three times since I left home. I have been close to them all the time. L. M. Peevy [Leroy M. Peevey, Captain Co. K] has resigned his office and left Lieutenant Taylor captain and J. A. Meadlin [Medlen] first lieutenant. W. P. McClung second, and myself third Lieutenant. Captain Taylor and Meadlin is sick and gone to the hospital and McClung has gone off on special business and left me in command of the company. I have enough to do. Hurry prevents me from writing any more. Please excuse bad writting [sic] and spelling. Give my love to all inquiring friends, receive a large portion for yourself .

from H. M. Childress to H. A. Chandler as ever your friend and lover.

When this you see remember me.

Billy Moon (1841-1903) was William F Moon, a Private in Company H, 49th AL and a cousin to Hettie. Billy would be taken prisoner on July 8, 1863 at Port Hudson. Paroled later, he served on through to Bennett Place, NC in 1865.

According to database sources, W. P. McClung enlisted as Private but had become 2nd Lieutenant in Co. K by June, 1862.

Thomas J Taylor, private upon enlistment and commissioned to Captain by June.

Much of the letter spoke of troubles that haunted every military camp life North and South; disease among soldiers, loneliness, missing home, and anxious to get letters from home. While he expressed affection for her, he worried that war might forever separate them. Shiloh demonstrated that the possibility was great. Another of Hester’s cousins, Jacob Wise Moon, Private, Co. E 37th TN was mortally wounded at Shiloh. He was transported to Corinth. He died of wounds 6/24/1862 and was buried in a mass grave in Corinth. Hester would have known. Hugh may have realized that Hester was his hope for life to return to normalcy,; that what he was witnessing was chaos and madness.

Link to Part Three


Special appreciation to Ginny Dunleavy Young. Two people who gave humanity to 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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