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On the march to Gettysburg, General Paul Semmes writes to his wife

On the march to Gettysburg, General Paul Semmes writes to his wife

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Discusses his concerns about his possible death, the welfare of his family, and his diminished wealth. Mentions his life insurance policy and states that since his life is so uncertain, it might be best to renew it despite the cost. Sends love to the children. Stresses the need for her to be frugal. Talks of infighting in the high command and the opinion other officers hold of Semmes and his brigade.
Discusses his concerns about his possible death, the welfare of his family, and his diminished wealth. Mentions his life insurance policy and states that since his life is so uncertain, it might be best to renew it despite the cost. Sends love to the children. Stresses the need for her to be frugal. Talks of infighting in the high command and the opinion other officers hold of Semmes and his brigade.

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11/03/2011

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Paul Jones Semmes to Emily J. Semmes
Culpepper, Virginia, June 11, 1863.Autograph letter signed, 12 pages.Camp near Culpeper Cty V
a
11th June 1863.My Dearest WifeYour affectionate letter of the 1 inst. came to hand last night. When I read it, I wept likea child! I have read it several times since, & each time wept! When thinking over it, I cannotrestrain my tears! It does me good to retire alone in my Tent, unobserved, & Commune with myDear Loved ones who are so far away. On such occasions, tears invariably Come to my relief!The sweet flours & your Remarks accompanying them, touched me deeply & recalled by–gonedays – days lost in the past more than 20 years – not lost indeed; for they are recalled now mostvividly & touchingly – I never in all my life recd. a letter that more gratified [
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or] or thatso deeply touched my sensibilities! May God spare us yet a long time to each other & restore usin due time to each others embraces – & restore our worldly fortunes & smooth the path of our declining years – fit us for Heaven & receive us in Glory!! The Christians hope inspires me inBattle with invincible Courage. Religion, in our Holy Cause, imparts a [
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] Calm Courage &heroism that nothing else can. Oh! Day by day, I thank a good God more & more for turning mefrom sin & setting my face Heavenward! I shudder when I come to reflect what a great &depraved sinner I have been. And although I am still a very great sinner & far, far away fromGod, yet the Change wrought on me is almost miraculous! Every day seems to strengthen mydetermination to Love God! Nothing could induce me to give up the little Religion I feel that Ihave – But, Knowing the frailty & depravity of human nature, I pray Continually to be kept fromtemptation & sin – Without Gods help, we would all be undone – I do not rely on myself – onmy will, or determination but upon Gods strong right arm to sustain & uphold me – I do not feelthat my end is very immediate – still, before the [memories since] or indeed, one hour shall have past, I might be numbered with the dead – Oh! That I may be numbered with those who die inthe Lord – Although, as I remarked, death does not seem immediate, yet I fell [
 sic
] that it Cannot be long postponed – I do honestly trust & pray to be Carried safely through this wicked war &
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restored to my Dear family & to be permitted to spend many years in peace & quiet [
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] withthem. The [trials] of war are such [
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: however] that [it is] liable to be cut off at anymoment. In going into battle, I commit myself to God – Oh! How kind & merciful he has beento me thus far – & had all my energies toward the accomplishment of the defeat & overthrow of the enemy, & have always felt inspired with a feeling that would cause me to surmount alldifficulties possible to human nature – I feel that though I have thus far escaped, the next Battlefield may be the last to me – the last of me; & you may well imagine what reflections I have,under such circumstances, with reference to you Dearest Wife & the Dear family! I say you maywell imagine – I should say it is difficult to fully appreciate the feeling of solicitude for you allwhich such occasions always awaken! If I should be cut off, you all would be left in a mostdeplorable situation. Out of the property we have left, a comfortable fortune might be worked in peaceful times in a few years; but in its present shape & during the Continuance of the War, it isabsolutely almost nothing, & you would find it so – Our lands, though they may becomeultimately valuable, would not sustain you for a day – by supplying your daily wants – Taxationmust necessarily be so heavy on all descriptions of property, that you perhaps, could not possiblyfind the means of even [
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] paying those [
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taxes]. The few negroes we have wouldalmost be entirely absorbed by outstanding liabilities. Our plantation, quite valuable, during theContinuance of the War, will remain entirely valueless to us – The enemy Can damage thatfarther, to the extent of at least $5000 or more, by the destruction of the Gin, Mill, Engine,Fencing, Buildings, &c &c. Indeed, with the remaining stock, they could damage us,additionally, 6000 or $7,000! At the Conclusion of the War, I will have no means of starting a plantation – mules being worth $500 each & every thing in proportion, in our Currency. If mylife be spared, we will have to return & live humbly & economically – If not spared, Oh! MyLord! What will become of my Dear, very Dear Family? This thought almost maddens me. It isnot transient – but day by day – almost hour by hour, it is uppermost in my mind! Until we wereovertaken by adversity, I never knew how well & how much I loved my Dear Family! A GoodGod will help us if we put our trust in him & repent ourselves – [
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:This thought gives me Courage. Your resignation to our adversity has rendered you doubly dear to me – God is my witness that I love you tenderly!!] [
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] 5 I have for almost two years, prayedGod that, if I am taken from ere long, I may die on this Battle Field gloriously Contending for the rights your beloved Country with honor to myself & Dear Family & Relatives! No death, in
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a worldly point of view, would be more acceptable or more glorious! But whether I die in theBattle Field or not – no matter when I may die – I pray to die in the arms of Jesus!The beautiful verses you sent me reflect my own sentiments. They are touchingly beautiful – I return them to you to keep with the injunction of the Husband who wrote them tothe one he loved so well. I repeat, they Reflect my feelings & sentiments – & I trust you willtreasure them.I do not see how it would be possible for me to go to you if you are sick – PersonalConsiderations, now that we are in active Campaign, do not weigh a feather – Furloughs &Leaves are denied to persons, whose Father, or Mother, Brother, Sister, Wife, or Child, his [
 sic
]on deaths bed & necessarily too, for there is not one man to be spared from this army. Theenemy Confronts us with three (3) times our force, & we are [hath] to Come in Conflict any day – Indeed, a Battle I feel satisfied, will not be long postponed unless Hooker & his Army runaway, for I doubt not we are going to advance This is the general impression although Gen Leekeeps his own [
] Councils. I trust you will all keep well – You have all been much blessed withhealth – & I humbly trust you will Continue in the enjoyment of such an inestimable blessing.I dislike very much to give up my Life Insurance – It is for your benefit – not mine – The premium, as I remarked in a former letter, is over $360 for a year – nearly $370 – Had we better not try & pay the $370 & save it in something else? Do write soon – The present Policy expiresin July – the latter part; so if you are diligent in replying, there will be ample time to hear fromyou, & then for me to write to Columbus & have the Policy renewed. If I should be Cut off inthe next 12 months after July, the payment of this $370 would secure to you $5.000 My life is sovery uncertain, that I feel that I ought not to give up this Policy, especially in Case of my death,& you would be left without ready means for your daily wants. I feel satisfied that we had better  pay the $370 & save in some other way. What say you? If brought to deaths door with time toreflect, I would reproach myself for having failed to renew this Policy & making this provisionfor you. Do write soon about this matter.I do seriously hope you will recover your health entirely. I was sorry to hear that youwere somewhat complaining. I trust it is only temporary. [
] For the last few years, you haveenjoyed much better health than you did for a good many years.I am delighted to hear such a good report of the Dear little [Buds]. I trust they willContinue to improve – Do kiss them for Father & tell them Father thinks of them every night &
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