1861: Samuel Finley Harper to James Harper

This incredible letter was written by Samuel Finley Harper (1843-1929) who was born at Fairfield in the town of Lenoir, Caldwell county, North Carolina, on 10 July 1843. “Harper entered the Confederate service at seventeen years of age and fought during the entire four years of war. He was a member of Co. A, 22nd North Carolina Regiment, his company being first organized in Caldwell county by Thomas D. Jones. He was in all the battles of his company and was wounded at Seven Pines. After that, he served as clerk to Gen. Ambrose Powell Hill, and at the surrender was a courier for General Robert E. Lee.

“Just after the war, Harper engaged in the mercantile business, later going into the manufacture of tobacco, and in 1870, he helped to purchase a cotton factory at Patterson, with which he was connected until twelve years ago when he made his home in Charlotte.” [source: Confederate Veteran]

Several of Harper’s letters are housed at the State Library of North Carolina. See Samuel Finley Harper Papers, 1862-1865.

Harper’s Letter with Image of Unidentified Confederate Private

Addressed to Mr. James Harper, Esq., Lenoir, Cadwell county, North Carolina

Camp Bee near Aquia Creek
August 23rd 1861

My Dear Father,

I wrote to George a day or two ago but I suppose you are all anxious to know what we are all doing & I will write again today.

I guess you think we have been in a fight before now. I heard of what some of the boys were writing when we were ordered here that would keep you all uneasy. I thought we would all be in a fight very soon after we got there, but there seems to be a very poor prospect of one now.

Fourteen war steamers were sent down the river & it was thought were going to try to land & we were ordered immediately here. Some of our batteries fired into a boat a few days [ago but] did little injury. There are about 15,000 thousand men at the river & here under command of General [Theophilus] Holmes. Our regiment moved here yesterday about a mile from where we have been—a beautiful place on a high hill. It reminds me of our place on the Blue Ridge. The railroad runs close by here.

It has rained nearly every day since we came here. The soldiers that have been staying here says it has rained 20 days in succession.

I have been very well ever since I have been out except a few days toothache but it has quit aching now. Maj. Dickson came back last night from Raleigh. He will not go back again soon.

I saw William K. Waugh in Richmond. He says they have very exciting times over there. He came to get powder. I wish our regiment could be sent over there.

I haven’t received a letter from home since J. Miller come. It is pretty disagreeable times when it rains, but we have a breaker to all our tents now. We have to go on drill soon. We are not under very strict rules here—not near so much as I expected. We haven’t made a draw yet & I don’t expect will soon. North Carolina won’t pay us & I doubt whether the South Carolina will soon or not. I have plenty of money yet but the others haven’t any hardly. John Miller said he would let me have some if I wanted it. We get plenty to eat tho. We have some of the finest beef I ever saw.

Our camp is named after Col. [Barnard Elliott] Bee that was killed at [the Battle of First] Manassas. Tell Sis to send me Jim Beall’s address. I must quit now.

Much love to all. Your affectionate son, — S. F. Harper



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