The Transylvania Times -

Civil War Letters Were Written To Loved Ones

Picturing The Past  


Last updated 10/21/2019 at 3pm

James Adolphus Bagwell was buried at Chicago City Cemetery. After the war, his remains were exhumed and reinterred in the Confederate Mound (mass grave) at Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. (Courtesy photo)

The Local History Collection at the Transylvania County Library includes several letters written during the Civil War that express the struggles and fears of people trying to make a living and raise a family in troubled times.

On the day before the newly created Transylvania County was to hold its first official meeting and elect county leaders, Amanda Lankford wrote to her brother, "This week is to be court and it is raining now. I think they will hold court at the camp ground. It is said there is to be a flag hoisted and a cannon fired on Tuesday next and a speech by Jordan to make up a company in this part of the state as hard times are here and worse coming I fear."

The following day, May 20, 1861, North Carolina declared its secession from the U.S.

In March 1862, Addie Duckworth wrote, "You say my dear cousin for me to give Mr. Duckworth up. Cousin Mollie, I never can. He is so ill able to endure hardships that I can never bear to say farewell. God help me if he is ever called off, for I will despair of ever seeing him alive again. No I cannot give him up. I love my country but I love my own dear husband better."

Joseph Duckworth did serve for the Confederacy and survived the Civil War. However, Addie died in April 1863, leaving seven young children. Duckworth married Addie's cousin, Mollie, in December 1863 and they had 13 more children.

Before leaving for duty, James Bagwell addressed a letter to his children: "There are dangers abroad and dangers at home and life is uncertain and death is sure. It seems as if the time has come for me to leave home. It seems necessary that I should leave on record some remarks for instruction to my family. They will need my labor, but will need my instruction worse. I want you all to live uprightly if you die by it. I want you to live with your heads up, be ashamed of nothing but sin and consider yourselves as good as anybody if you behave yourselves as well. Never pass an insult without just provocation. Never make sport of anybody. Don't tell a lie, don't swear, don't steal. Pay all your just contracts. Take no advantage of anybody and keep them from taking advantage of you...Be faithful and industrious...get all the education you can. Get all the religious instruction you can. Remember that all these things are my desire and will and prayer to Almighty God."

Bagwell served in the 62nd NC Infantry for less than six months before being captured. He died at Camp Douglas Prisoner Camp in Chicago on Dec. 20, 1864. Three of Bagwell's seven children died of illness in late 1864, as well.

On a lighter note, 19-year-old Martin Orr wrote to his cousin, Julia Mackey, on Oct. 10, 1861, describing his first visit to the "Atlantick Ocian." Orr continued with a plea, "I want you to write to me soon and let me know how the girls are coming on in Transylvania. I have not heard from any of them since I left Asheville." He concludes by filling the back page with a variation of an old English folk song "To the Girls I Left Behind Me" that was popular among Confederate soldiers.

(Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions, contact Marcy at or call (828) 884-1820.)


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019