The history of the Civil War is often best told through soldiers’ own words. Here at Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier we are fortunate to hold the Wiley Sword Collection of documents and artifacts. These primary sources provide invaluable information on different aspects of soldiers’ service.
One of the saddest duties for Civil War soldiers was the felt responsibility to inform a comrade’s relatives when a death occurred to their loved one while in the service. On September 24, 1863, Private John S. Brown, an illiterate soldier in Company F, 39th North Carolina Infantry, had fellow soldier, Pvt. Samuel W. Cooper—who was barely literate—write a letter to the family of Sgt. John Wiggins informing them of the sergeant’s death after his mortal wounding at the Battle of Chickamauga. This brief letter illustrates the respect soldiers had for one another, the effort they would expend, as well as the importance they placed on letting next of kin know the fate of their relative—something most soldiers likely hoped fellow comrades would do for them if struck down in battle.
Ringold, Ga. Sept. 24th 1863 Astemed friends, it is with sorrow that I right at the present from the fact that I have sad news to wright. Your son & bro. is dead. He was shot in the thigh & the ball broke his thigh & he was carried to the hospital where he remained tell Monday. He dies a Monday eavning & he ast me to wright home & tell you-a-wans that he was wounded. Jon’s bro. Jo came to him before he died, & he stayed with him until he died, and he had him buried. There is one consolation to wright, that is he was a good soldier & fought & died for the good of his country, & all of the boys in the regt. likes Sargt, Wiggins. He all ways done his duty & acted like a gentleman & was good to all the boys. I recking I had better bring this letter to a close, so no more. Your friend, John Brown Written by S.W. Cooper
Come learn more about the soldiers of the American Civil War at our feature permanent exhibit, “Duty Called Me Here.”
Image of the Battle of Chickamauga courtesy for the Library of Congress. ... See MoreSee Less