Petersburg, Virginia: 1864”. Envelope or Cover. This four-page letter from Joseph “Wyatt” Wilson is datelined “Camp 60th Alabama Regt. Gr’s Brig. [Gracie’s Brigade] / Petersburg Va Dec 23rd 1864”. The letter was written in pencil but is easy to read except for two blurred lines that can be read using image enhancement software like. No mailing envelope. In nice shape with several tape repairs.
The 60th Alabama Infantry was formed at Charleston, Tennessee, in November, 1863, from companies of Colonel Henry Washington Hilliard’s Alabama Legion. Its soldiers were from the counties of Coosa, Montgomery, Chambers, Lowndes, Butler, Pike, and Henry. The regiment was placed under the command of General Archibald Gracie III during the Knoxville campaign. In 1864, it relocated to the Virginia theater and fought at the Battles Bean's Station, Dandridge, Chester Station, and Drewry's Bluff before taking up positions in the trenches defending Petersburg. It was at this time Wilson penned this letter home hoping for a leave, reporting rampant desertions during the winter, and predicting he would receive a wound in the spring that would result in his discharge.
It reads in part:
“Col Troy also has one and will leave in a few days. There is about half of the officers in this Regt on furlough & they have commenced furloughing the men at this rate 2 men to every 100 arms bearing men & an additional one to every compy that has 50 men for duty. At that rate it would take just ten years to furlough the men that have never been home let a lone the married men that are obliged to go home this Winter to make arrangements for their familys for another year. I don’t expect a furlough this Winter But I do expect to get a discharge next spring when the campaign opens up here. by a Yankee Bullet. “
There has been a good deal of deserting in our Regt during the last month or too. About 2 weeks ago 6 went one night & 7 the next and that night the Yanks hallowed for Johney Reb to tell Col Troy to come over & take command of his Regt. A night or two ago two of our company tried to make their way to Yankeedom. One of them, Thomas Pendleton started about 5 minutes before the other one John Shaw & So Tom P. got over but as Shaw was about half way our Pickets saw him and commenced shooting at him and calling him to halt but he kept on to the yanks as he thought but soon come back to our own lines & was caught & is now in jail in Petersburg & I expect will be shot. . ..”. Very good. Item #009940
Wilson’s wounding premonition came true. The following April, he was shot in the shoulder while serving in the frontlines during the Battle of the Crater. At about the same time his commander, Colonel Gracie was killed by an artillery explosion while observing Union lines with a telescope. Wilson survived the war after receiving medical treatment was granted his sought-after furlough from the Confederate General Hospital at Danville, Virginia on April 9, 1865, the same day that his unit surrendered along with General Robert E. Lee and the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. (For more information see Shaver’s A History of the Sixtieth Alabama Regiment: Gracie’s Alabama Brigade available online at the Library of Congress and the American Civil War Database.)
An uncommon letter addressing desertions from the Confederate Army as it became increasingly clear that the war would soon be lost.