1862: Alexander McGhee Wallace to Frances (Singleton) Wallace

This letter was written by Alexander (“Alex”) McGhee Wallace (1822-1901) while serving as Lt. Col. of the 36th Georgia Infantry. He wrote the letter to his second wife, Frances (“Frannie”) Garland Wallace (1834-1907), the daughter of Joseph James Singleton (1788-1854) and Mary Ann Terrell (1799-1872). Wallace’s first wife and the mother of his first four children was Octavia Adelaide Cox (1825-1852).

Alex McGhee Wallace was a bank agent in Atlanta with a residence in the city’s 4th Ward when the state seceded from the Union. He became captain of the 1st Georgia Volunteers and later served as the Colonel of the 36th Georgia Infantry. He was severely wounded and permanently disabled on 25 November 1863 in the Battle of Missionary Ridge.

Alex’s son Charlie Wallace (1843-1869)—a son by his first marriage—served in Ramsey’s 1st Georgia Infantry. Charlie was murdered by Dr. G. W. Darden in 1869 while serving as the editor of the Warrenton Clipper.

[Note: Emory University has a collection of letters exchanged between Frances and Alex although the number is not stated. See Manuscript Collection No. 1007.]



Headquarters 4th Brigade, 1st Division
August 28th 1862

My Darling,

We reached here today by a circuitous route through the mountains after six days and part of two nights march. Our troops are still fresh and we have orders to push on toward Lexington. Every mile in that direction will increase the difficulty of communication between us. Your letters are certain to reach me sooner or later. Mine you may never see.

We are now emphatically in the enemy’s country, worse—two-fold worse—than East Tennessee. But I am told that the interior of the state is divided in feeling and that we will meet with sympathetic friends and perhaps armed reinforcements as we advance out of this miserable God forsaken region. Be this as it may, I am satisfied that if Kentucky is retained, it must be by the sword for the large majority if it be a minority is wholly unfriendly to the Confederate Government.

The country from East Tennessee through to this place and for sixty miles beyond is mountainous and what few inhabitants there are scattered through it are the poorest lot of desperadoes & bushwhackers there is in the two states. Traveling alone or in small parties is impossible. And [   ] hand has cut off many of our men who straggle behind the army or regiment and our routes of communication will be infected by them until we overrun the state and establish posts along the line of travel.

Charles writes me that his papers were incorrectly made out in the first instance and now I do not know when I can perfect them and forward them to him. His Captain and Col. Cable both consent to his transfer but it cannot be procured until the papers are properly made out and f___. This is not the only difficulty in the way.  He cannot join us unless he comes through the mountain with an escort from Knoxville by way of Clinton, Jacksboro, and Big Creek Gap. The route by Cumberland Gap is yet in the hands of the enemy and will be for some time to come and he cannot come that way. But I am still anxious for his transfer even if he has to remain at home for some weeks before he is able to join the regiment. He needs rest and ought to stay at home until a good and safe opportunity is afforded for him to join us. The march on foot will use him up as badly as his campaign in West Virginia did and there is nothing to eat to be had on this route from the citizens. He cannot act as commissary of the regiment on account of his age and the difficulty of making a band, but I can secure for him a position that will protect him to some extent from the hardship of camp life and as he is compelled to remain in the army and has already rendered important service to the cause, I think he ought to be satisfied to accept any position that would relieve him of the drudgery of camp life as a private. I do not know that I can communicate with him at all but will have his papers made out and send them through you if possible.

Now Darling, let me say to you that you must make up your mind to a long separation. I cannot come to you (even if I was permitted a furlough) without great risk. There is no safety for us but in a vigorous advance. The fall of Lexington and the redemption of Kentucky will reward our efforts and again open a safe and speedy route home through Nashville. Until then we must expect hard service and privation.

I am much troubled to know how to procure and send you funds to live on but hope to meet with some mode of conveyance.

My precious, you must not fail to write me every week or as often in the week as you can. Your letters are now my only consolation. Kiss the children for me and talk to them often about Father,

Your devoted husband

I have not seen George or Taylor for two days, They are rear of the column and I am in front and we are separated at night nearly seven miles. I hear from them and they are getting on well. I have a horse for George and Taylor stays with the wagons so neither of them are subjected to much fatigue. We have no tents or shelter but the weather is fine and we do well in the open air.


Mount Sterling, Kentucky
September 26th 1862

My Darling,

An opportunity presents for the first time since I left East Tennessee to write you a hasty note. The chances are that it may not reach you. We hope soon to have communication open with home when I will write often and fully.

I am recovering from an attack of bilious intermittent fever. Able to be on horseback all day & everyday so don’t be uneasy. Geary is well & so is Taylor. I am distressed deeply for fear you are embarrassed for funds to live on. I will send you $300 by first safe opportunity. In meantime, don’t hesitate to inform Father promptly and unreservedly as to your wants. He will supply you fully and cheerfully.

I do not know our destination but think we will go back to Ohio. At Covington, a little band of us set down and defied Lincoln hosts for days with impunity & then retired without loss.

God bless & protect you my beloved & helpless one. — Husband

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