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.
The next letter is the shortest of the collection. In it, James discusses the high cost of living the Confederacy was experiencing since the beginning of the war two years previously. He had not been at home for some length of time because he did not realize how difficult it had become to get salt or leather. As the war progressed, the Confederate forces experienced more and more difficulty in obtaining leather and salt. This letter did not have an address. It is assumed that James is still at the hospital in Georgia. The Union invasion of Middle Tennessee was a mere two weeks away.
June 9, 1863
Mrs. Mahala Ann Parrott
I have the opportunity of writing you a few more lines. I am well today. I hope that you are too. I render you $14 dollars in this letter. You must write to me if you get it and write soon. I would send you some money before now but I had no chance by telling it. I have spent write smart. I have drawn 62 dollars in all. I spent it for something to eat and it was high. If you need more money than this write to me and I will send you some more. I want you to lay in salt if you can, and leather. Write how your are doing for salt. I must close by saying I want to kiss you.
This letter was written after James Parrott had returned to his 28th Infantry Regiment near Shelbyville, Tennessee. General Bragg is trying to instill discipline into his troops before the coming Union invasion. You will read of an execution for desertion. General Braxton Bragg required all of the 28th Regiment watch the execution in order to leave a strong impression on the soldiers' minds. In less than two weeks the impending invasion would come. This time the Union troops had a surprise for the 28th Regiment. The repeating rifle would be used for the first time in a battle. The Southern troops would say the Yankees "had a gun they could load on Sunday and shoot all week." Letter #5 also includes the names of several men who served with James Parrott.
June 15, 1863
I take the opportunity to drop you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along. I am well and hearty with the infection of a cold that I have taken. I got back to my regiment. I truly hope that this will find you in good health and doing well. I want to see you and the children awful bad. I think of you every hour in the day and dream of you more often when I sleep. I have nothing very important to write to you. Only a few nights ago we had a tolerable good camp meeting. 13 mourners and 1 profession [took place]. I will tell you of a sight that I saw the 12th day of this month. I saw a man shot to death with muskets. He was charged with desertion. The brigade was all ordered to the field where he was shot and then the prisoner was brought. They sung and prayed for him. He said that he was prepared to meet his God in peace. After the prade they then took him and led him to a stake and tied him and 12 guns was discharged at him. Six was loaded with ball and six with blank loads. He would not let them blind his eyes. General Marcus Wright said that he never saw as gallant a fellow as he was. General Wright shed tears when he shook hands with him after he had tied him. The man's name was Wright, who lived in Jackson County. He belonged to the 8th Tennessee Volunteers. Eenough of that. Hala Ann, I sent you 15 dollars in money by Mr. Hampmiller, and a letter. I trust you will get it. I have been working in the breastworks today. We are building breastworks here. Our breastworks is about 15 miles long. Some think that we will fight here and some thinks that we will not. I heard good preaching yesterday. We have tolerable plenty to each such as it is. Myself and my mess went out yesterday and picked us a big mess of wild salad and it was not bad to take. I eat a big [helping] of it and today I eat a big mess of bread soup. I am a good hand to make it and I can cook tolerable well but nearly everty time I go to wipe the skillet out I burn my littler finger. I have just as good a mess as in the 28th Ridgment. I mess with Nathan Callahan, Thurstan Qualls, John Ford, M. T. Ray, Bailey Copeland, John Jackson, and Jerry Holloway. They all seem like brothers to me. We have moved from below Shelbyville. We moved about 5 miles north of Shelbyville. Well, you must write to me soon and direct your letter down and see me. If I dont get to come home, which I see no chance now, if you could make the [arrangements] so you could leave home, you could come down and see me and get back in 10 or 12 days and two or three with you would be more satisfaction to me than everything that I have saw since I left home. Tell Nancy that Jerry is well. He is gone out in the country to buy some milk now. My mess is all well. Give my best remarks to all my friends and keep a reasonable portion to yourself. I have nothing important to write to you about the war. You must write every chance you have as you promise to do, for I would like to read a letter from you every day. Write all about our affairs, how corn looks, potatoes, and wheat. I always love to read as kind letters as you send me that lets me know that you are living a christian. I must bring my letter to a close by saying I love you and my children better than everything else in the world. You must kiss the boys for me and hug the baby. Bless his heart. I want to kiss him. I know that he is sweet by his being so fit. No more - I remain your husband until death. Good by for this time.
This letter was written one week before the Union attack on the Duck River line. Unlike the Union Army, the Confederates are required to grow their own food. James wrote of having to sow wheat with the other men of his company. The lack of money at home required a barter system. James also tells his wife how to settle old debts back home.
June the 18, 1863
Sate of Tennessee, Bedford County
I have another opportunity to send you another letter as I have promised to write every chance I have. I intend to do so and I believe you will too. The best news I have to write to you is that I am well and I do truly hope that this letter will find you and the children all well and doing as well as could be expected. I want to see you as bad as ever but it did not fall to my lot to get to come home this time. As I had no wheat sowed I did not get to draw straws with the boys. The detail was so scattering, only five men from our company, but I hope that I will get a furlough before long. If anything should happen that I should not get a furlough and I stay here, you must come and see me if you can. I have drawed a short coat and I have sent my coat home by John Hancock. He is to leave it at Mrs. Timler and I wrote you a letter and sent it by mail that I put a paper of five needles in it. I want you to write if you have got them are not. I want you to be contented and dont grieve for me. Grief don't stop this war nor does it cook you breakfast nor your supper. I feel confident that I will see you again. I want you to weigh all my boys and tell me how much they weigh. I want you to have some of my old sows spade if they are not with pigs. Have the Adkins sow spade and the Kiner sow spade and the sow that I bought of Nancy Their big sow and their two gilts will be enough to keep til I get home. I want you to save all the hogs you can. Write to me how all the stock looks and how many hogs you have alive. Let nothing run in the clover but the hogs and mare. Let the cattle all run outside but your milk cow. You have no harvest pasture and your clover is all your chance for your hogs. I want to know how your corn in holding out and your bacon, and how you are making out for salt and write who is your best neighbor. If anybody mistreats you, I want to know it. I want you to write how our corn looks and how much ground is lying out. If old Barney West can be got in to work, I want the floor put in the new house. That house must be fixed before winter if any probable chance. He owes me the putting in the sleepers and stocking my briar scythe, and the building of my chimney. Tell him if he will put down the floor and stock the scythe that we will be even. I must close by saying I want to hug and kiss you my lovely wife and my sweet baby and hug my big boys. Goodbye for this time.
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