1862: William George Perry to Parents

This letter was written by Sgt. William George Perry (1839–1918) of Co. A, 36th Battalion Virginia Cavalry. William served initially as a private in Co. A, 14th Virginia Cavalry. He stood 5 feet 11 inches tall, had hazel eyes and dark hair. He enlisted at Union, Virginia [now West Virginia] and transferred into the 36th Battalion Virginia Cavalry on 20 November 1862. He survived the war, married Caroline P. Edgar in Greenbrier, West Virginia in October 1866, and died in Ronceverte, West Virginia.

Co. A, 36th Battalion Virginia Cavalry, commanded by Capt. Cornelius Timothy Smith, formerly 1st Lt C. T. Smith’s Company, Virginia Cavalry; formed in Oct 1862 by the division of Co A, 14th Regt Va Cav [formerly Co L, 8th Regt Va Cav] into two companies; company completed organization with election of officers on 20 November 1862.


Camp Johnston
[Craig County, Virginia]
November 26, 1862

Dear Parents,

I take pleasure in informing you of my whereabouts. We are encamped in Craig County about 26 miles from the Narrows. We have good quarters with enough to eat. I have a good stable for Bonner—plenty of hay and corn. The people in this country are kind when you visit them, but when you wish to buy, they ask it nearly all for what they have to sell. One dollar for a pound of butter, for example, 2½ for molasses, 20 cents for chicken & so on.

It is very cold here now. I have no news of interest to write. I have been turned over to the company. I wrote to you something about promotions. That was all [exaggerated] stuff. I am nothing but a private in the company and do not expect to be anything else.

The company is organized. B. F. Straith is captain. Coleman Alderson is First Lieutenant ¹, D. B. Strauhn 2nd, & Jackson Burdette third. The non-commissioned officers are not elected. Bob Hines is acting Orderly Sergeant. I am as tired of the service as can be but will try and put her through as long as I can.

I wanted a furlough but cannot get it now. I doubt if ever things don’t wash so smart as it might but let it go for what it will bring. I hope there is a better day coming for me. I would be willing to sacrifice considerable to be at home in peace once more but enough. I heard the other day that W. E. Williams was at home and preaching. Well I hope he will be faithful and successful in the Master’s cause. I heard from Tom the other day through George Wright. He said he was going to join his regiment in a few days. I have not heard from Bettie since I saw you.

I send this by Mr. Hay. He is going to Lewisburg. Direct as now to care of Capt. C[ornelius] T[imothy] Smith, commanding escort, New River Narrows, & if you have anything particular to write to me you had better send it by someone who is sure to see me and not by the mail. If you [.  ] get any at a fair price or anything in that line. If any of our boys  comes out there, you can send it by them. Lieut. Alderson send his respects to you all. I will close. I remain your son, — Wm. Geo. Perry

P. S. I would like to have some flannel drawers and shirts provided that I can get them conveniently if I remain in service. My socks are quite well worn.

¹ “Lieutenant Joseph Coleman Alderson, of Wheeling, W. Va., distinguished among the Confederate soldiers of Greenbrier county for faithful and devoted service, was born at Locust Grove, Amherst county, Va., October 19, 1839, the home of his maternal grandfather, John Coleman. His father, Rev. L. A. Alderson, a few years later removed to the old stone mansion opposite the town of Alderson, on the Greenbrier river, where young Alderson was reared. He was educated at the Lewisburg academy and
Alleghany college, at Blue Sulphur Springs, an institution which was destroyed by the war. In his senior year at this college he enlisted on April 15, 1861, in the Greenbrier cavalry, a company which served in the West Virginia campaign of 1861 as bodyguard for General Garnett until his death, and afterward as bodyguard to Gen. R. E. Lee, and as his couriers until he left that department. In December following the company was disbanded. Alderson was a young man of remarkable physical development and a famous athlete, qualities which, added to great personal daring, made him a natural leader among his fellows. He devoted his talents to the Confederate cause by raising a new cavalry company, of which he was elected second lieutenant. This company was assigned to the Fourteenth cavalry regiment, and Lieutenant Alderson a few months later organized another company, of which he was made first lieutenant, declining, as in the previous instance, the rank of captain. This became Company A, of the
Thirty-sixth Virginia battalion of cavalry, distinguished in the commands of General Jenkins and W. E. Jones. Lieutenant Alderson commanded this company from June 12, 1863, to the close of the war, and was frequently in command of the battalion, acting as major. During his four years’ service he never had but eight days’ leave of absence from his command. He commanded his company at the fight at Buchanan, Upshur county, was in the fights at Weston, W. Va.; Ravenswood and Racine, on the Ohio
river; Charleston and Buffalo, W. Va., and in the winter of 1862 was sent on detailed service to Roanoke, Va. Returning in the early summer of 1863, he passed through Lexington, Va., on the day of the interment of the body of Stonewall Jackson, and his company fired the military salute over the dead hero’s grave. He next fought at Opequon, captured and brought in eight Yankees at North Mountain Gap, and then participating in the Pennsylvania campaign skirmished every day and night as far as Carlisle, Pa., whence he was sent with an escort of five men to carry important dispatches to General Early, near York, seventy miles away, through the enemy’s country, one of his most daring exploits. He was with his command at Gettysburg, carried the first order on the first day from General Ewell to General Rhodes, and at night gave General Lee the first news of the Federal reinforcements. In the cavalry fight which followed from Hagerstown to Williamsport he was wounded by a fragment of shell and disabled two months. In 1864 he was in battle at Jonesville, W. Va. ; Cumberland Gap, Rogersville, Tenn.; Waynesboro, Va., and Pettit’s Mill. In the last encounter he was captured by the enemy. His conduct while a prisoner strikingly displayed his unconquerable spirit. He had hardly well started on the road north before he secured the escape of twenty-seven of his Confederate comrades, and while confined at Camp Chase, Ohio, he made three ineffectual attempts to escape by tunneling. He refused alike to take the oath or to give his parole on condition of remaining North. Finally,in February, 1865, he was sent to Fort McHenry and Point Lookout, and in the following month was exchanged at City Point. While on his way to rejoin the army he was informed of the end of the war. He took part, in all, in over two hundred engagements, and his service was frequently of the most arduous character, as in the winter of 1863-64, when he was in daily fighting, and in the Tennessee campaign, under General Jones, when he was on the march every night.

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