On November 27, 1862, James Parrett enlisted in the Civil War. He joined Company H of the 28th Tennessee Infantry at McMinnville and achieved the rank of Sargent. A collection of letters that James wrote to his wife, Mahala, during the war were handed down over the years and eventually became the property of Doris Parrett Williford, James and Mahala's great-granddaughter. The letters chronicle the inner struggles James experiences while being away from his wife and children during the war, and how he uses his faith to see him through the ordeal.
This letter finds James sick. He had left the Confederate main lines near Tullahoma and Shelbyville, Tennessee to a hospital at Tunnel Hill, Georgia. The sargeant was later transferred to another hospital at Catoosa Springs, Georgia. His was most likely suffering from dysentery or chronic diarrhea. This was the most common sickness during the entire war. Also, it was the most common cause of death. The Confederates still hold a line along the Duck River in Middle Tennessee. They are supplied by a railroad from Chattanooga. The Union forces are supplied from Nashville and the Cumberland River. Should the Confederates lose Middle Tennessee they will have given up the best horse farms in the South. The Union forces aim to take Chattanooga and then seize Atlanta. This move would virtually cut the Confederacy in half and paralyze the transportation so vital to the Southern armies. Letter #4 was not dated, but most likely came from the last two weeks in May 1863.
I now seat myself to write you again to let you now that I am well and hearty but my wind is not good. I have a shortiness of breath. I weigh one hundred and 55 with my clothes all on and a pair of socks in my pocket. I am as fat as you ever saw me. I have not got fat on a satisfied mind, nor something good to eat. It is a good stomach. I hope when this letter reaches you it will find you and my little boys all well. I received your letters that was dated April 22. I was glad to hear from you but sorrow to hear that my little boys were sick and that you was in so much trouble and that you had worked so hard. I dont want you to work so hard as to hurt yourself. You must take good care of yourself. If you was to get sick and I was to hear of it, it would trouble me almost to death. I will settle with Billy when I come home. The low places in my face is filled out. If you could see me you would say that I was a round face man. If I can I will get my likeness at Chattanooga as I go to my regiment and send it to you. I will tell you my dream the [14th] night of May. I dreamt that little John was dead. It seemed so plain that it troubled me so that I could not keep still and on the [15th] day of May, I received your letters that bare [the] date April 22. I shuddered to read them, but glad tidings that he was alive and on the mend. But I am uneasy yet about you all. You must write to me as soon as you get this [turn the page over]. I have wrote to you time and again and I have never got but four letters from you. I have now thought that you have received all of my letters. I wrote you four in Rome and I got no answer. I have wrote you a letter [that] since I have come to Tunnel Hill the doctor has sent me about eight miles off to a place named Catoosa Springs Hospital. I am in ward number three with about 100 hundred others. This is as pretty a place as you ever saw. They is 50 springs here all of different kinds of water. They are all close together. They are not more than 100-150 yards apart. I do not expect to stay here more than two weeks more till I will go to my regiment. I am expecting a letter from you every mail. If you don't have the chance to send letters by hand to me, send them by mail. Make them at Gillilands and you can get Mr. Goodbar to take them. I expect he goes there once a week to get letters and papers. I want to hear from you once a month anyhow. Direct the answer to this to Shelbyville and be sure to put on the back of your letter to James Parrott, Wright's Brigade, 28 Regiment so that it will be sure to come if the mail is alright. If we leave Shelveyville the letter will follow me. Write to me if you have got my clothes that I sent home and write what all you got with them.
(Possibly written around the second half of May 1863)
State of Georgia
I have nothing important to write to you about the war. I learn about ten minutes ago that the Yankees had Vicksburg surrounded. I don't now what will become of us. I expect that we will have to fight before long. Bragg is advancing. If they do not come out I believe that Bragg will attack them in their brestworks. If we do fight, it will be awful. Time I must come to a close. I must tell you about your kinfolks I have found your father's cousin. He lives at Tunnel Hill in Whitfeld County, Georgia. I stayed with him some and he did not charge me anything. His name is Henry Bowman. He is doing well and the master worker. He is a blacksmith I will tell you [my dream] I dreamed that I came home and you and Lety was spining. Lety laughed and shook hands with me and ask me in. I went to you and you shuck hands with me. I thought that I would hug and kiss you [but] you would not let me. I thought you both was so fat that you did not look natural. I can't write half enough now. Do the best you can till I see you, if ever the fear of battle has all left me. Le us trust in God for his kind blessing. I will close by saying I remain your true husband until death. Lety, I received your kind letter. It pleased me much. Lety, I want to see you. I was glad to hear that you was in good health. Part of my dream is so, in the way you weigh 160.
After resting I will write on this side. I want to know if Calvin Bowman is in the service. Write how George Speck and family is and give my best respect to all of my friends. Hala Ann, I have learned more since I left home than I would in ten years there. We live in the worst country to make a living than any place. The people is hid bound, no navigation there. I think if I ever get home in peace that I will sell my land and go where I can make a living easier than I can there. Would like to know how ou are doing for salt. You must raise all the pigs you can. They will be needed and will bear a good price. I am glad that you get milk. I want you to raise all the chickens you can. I want to sit by you and eat fried chicken, and you may raise geese too. I have found out that they are good to eat. I have helped to eat a many a gander since I saw you. Wheat crops look well here. I want you to write how Nancy Holloway and Joseph is getting along farming. I want you to engage twenty bushel of wheat when it gets ripe. Get it off J. M. Goodbar if he has it to sell. I want to sow all the field that Nancy is tending. Look for a letter once a month. I will try to rite once a month. I love you and my sweet children. That knot of love that is tied in my heart will [n]ever die. Goodbye.
(Here is how James wrote that last sentence: That not of love that is tide in my hart will ever dy.)
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