CONFEDERATE SOLDIER JOHN WESLEY PITTS WROTE WIFE, VIN, FROM ENCAMPMENTS NEAR CUMBERLAND GAP
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
The writer's reasoning for inserting these letters is due directly to the vicinity in which the events take place. These correspondences are written by a Confederate soldier to his wife "Vin" back home in Alabama.
John Wesley Pitts was born August 5, 1836 in Dallas County, Alabama. In August 1861, he enlisted in Company "I" 18th Alabama Infantry. However, because he was involved in the state militia at the time, he was ordered back to that organization. In March 1862, he organized Company "K" 31st Alabama Infantry and served as Captain until his resignation in December 1862, due to developing a hernia (the result of a difficult march into Kentucky) preventing him from marching.
Then in 1863, following recovery from hernia surgery, he organized Company "C" 1st Alabama Reserves (later designated 62nd Alabama Infantry) and served as Captain until he was promoted to Major. He was captured on April 12th, 1865 at the Battle of Blakeley in Mobile and sent to Ship Island prison camp where he remained until the end of the war.
As it is thought we will commence an advance movement to-day, and as it may be some time before I get a chance to write again I have seated myself at the foot of an old oak tree to write you a few lines. We are now cooking up four days rations to go somewhere. It is thought we will go to the gap and from there to Kentucky as it is reported that the Yanks are evacuating the gap to prevent our troops from flanking them. The whole of East-Tenn is in commotion preparing for a forward movement into Kentucky. The western army has been swarming into this country for the last 10 days. We have 10 or 12,000 men at this place. It is thought that we will attack the gap in front and Gen Smith with 20 or 25,000 will cross the Cumberland Mountains at Big Creek Gap - 20 miles below here and attack them in their rear, while Bragg will advance from Chattanooga and Price from the West. If their plans can be carried out we will be in possession of the whole of Tenn and a part or the whole of Kentucky in a short time. If we start on that trip it may be some time before you will hear from me again. I will write however every chance I get and you must write me every few days. It may reach me and it would be a source of great pleasure to hear from home occasionally; and again if we get possession of the gap, it might fall to the lot of our Regiment to stay there and guard it.
The health of my company is improving some. I will start 12 more discharged men home in a few days. It looks like I will have to discharge half of my Company. I will try and send you some money by some of them. Say to old man Wallace that it is impossible to get any flour shipped from this country as Gen Smith has issued an order preventing the shipment of any flour from the state. I will send his money back by the first one passing.
How does the little President behave? Have you name him yet? I guess I will have to send him a Poney so that he can attend to the farm when Pa is abscent.. Did Gus Caldwell hand you the $40.00 I sent? There has nothing new or interesting occurred since my last. We have found some 10 or 12 dead yankees scattered about through the woods since I wrote and one of our men they were wounded I suppose and crawled out to the woods and died. They say the yankees did some pretty good running.
Kiss Lula for me. My Kindest regards to all. Write to me often.
I wrote you day before yesterday, but as Lt Wilder leaves this morning for home I thought I would drop you a few lines. Lt Wilder has resigned on account of sickness. I am very fearful I will have to do the same as I am reduced to the necessity of wearing a truss and I am afraid if I stay here I will injure myself for life. Many a man has gone home from here not half a bad off as I am, but the idea of going home and leaving my company has something about it I dont like. besides my health is so good or rather I look so healthy if I was to come home the people would say there was nothing the matter with me. So I shall stay as long as I am able to walk.
We are still here in front of the Gap and as I write I can hear the boom of the enemy's cannon throwing shell at our forces on the other side of the mountain. They have not shelled us but very liitle today. Their attention seems to be takin up on the other side. I am in hopes they will do something soon as I am getting very tired of laying here in the woods. We may have to stay here in our present position for a month yet. We cannot find out how much provisions the enemy have left and of course they will not surrender until that is exhausted. They have been coming down after corn, but I understand from a deserter that they have a good deal to go on yet and corn was to make it hold out as long a possible - deserters are coming in all the time.
All of the boys that are here are well. Though I have only 18. No other news of interest. Kiss the babies good bye.
Since mailing the letter I wrote you this morning our Regiment has received orders to go into camp until tomorrow morning. About diner time I received yours written at Columbiana on the 13th insh, and I assure it's perusal afforded me a great deal of pleasure to know that you were well and everything moving on so smoothly. Seperated as we are it is always a great pleasure to hear from you and if I sometimes complain of your not writing as often as I could wish you must overlook and attribute it to an over anxiety to hear from you & the little ones.
You ask me to come home. I would like very well to do so but for a healthy man like myself to resign and go home it would furnish gossip for years to come besides my company is so anxious for me to stay that it would look wrong in me to leave them as long as can possibly get along. They say that I will have to give it up and go home but as long as I can with out serious injury to myself they want me to stay. It makes me proud and mad at the same time to think they should object so strong to my leaving them. If I were a lieutenant or a private I should not hesitate one minute but apply for a discharge and go home, even if I were forced by the conscript to hire a substitute.
Since I got me a truss I have done pretty well while I was lying around here and not walking much, but as soon as I commenced marching this week I began to get worse & have geting worse all the time, and yesterday in the march from Baptist Gap 10 miles below this. I gave completely out and had to fall back behind the Regt. If I continue to get worse I will have to give it up, as I do not care to be left behind the Regt. in such a country as Kentucky. I am only affected on one side at present but the Dr. says I may get so on the other any day. Dr Reeves says if I were at home and would take the proper care of myself I would get over it directly, but that he is afraid I will get over it in the service. I would like exceedingly if some arrangement could be made by which I could get a Company in place of the one at the Bridge, as I would then be stationery - But enough of myself. ---
I have looking around all day at the sights in this Gap & vicinity and have not yet seen half. If I had time I could write you ten or fifteen pages. I have stood to-day in three different states at the same time - Kentucky, Tennessee & Virginia. They corner right in the Gap. It is the most magnificent view from the mountain I have ever beheld - but I have not the space to go into detail.
Such destruction of property I never expected to see as we witnessed here - arms, ammunition, Camp & garrison equipage or a large amount of coffee and salt were burnt. Our troops saved a good deal but an immense amount was lost. They destroyed all their tents, baggage, tools, ammunition & everything they had brought here for the purpose of arming the East - Tennessee Tory's. We captured 430 of them before they could get away. They all appear very anxious to get-out-of the army.
I will write again as soon as I get a chance. Write soon. Continue to direct your letters to Knoxville as we will have a regular mail to follow us as we advance - love to all.
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