Josiah Ware – First Hand Account of the Civil War from a Letter written by Josiah Ware in 1863 by: Judy C. Ware

Josiah Ware –



 Original letter owned by James & Judy Ware

© Judy Ware 2008


Josiah William Ware

Josiah William Ware – photo taken after the war


Original 1-7-1863 Josiah LTR to James (1)

Original 1863 letter from Josiah Ware to his son James Alexander Ware (page 1)


This letter was written on January 7, 1863 from Josiah William Ware to his oldest son, James Alexander Ware. James was, at that time, a Captain in the Texas Rangers; serving in Corpus Christi, Texas. The letter gives a wonderful account of the war, several battles that were fought in the local area, one brief experience of Josiah as a prisoner of the Yankee army, (he was later imprisoned again and put in Old Capital Prison) and his personal experiences as a result of the war. It also gives a unique insight into the historical figures of officers like McClellan, Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Ewell, Banks, McDowell, Milroy, Ashby, Pope, Perkins, A.P.Hill, Archer, Stahel, Jones, and many more. Of particular interest are Josiah’s firsthand observations on the plight of the average Confederate soldier – with some of them actually strapping spurs around naked feet and painting their feet black so it would look like they had shoes on.  

** The word “quoit” (used in the 1st paragraph) means “a flattened ring-shaped piece of iron thrown at a peg in the ground. Hence, “pitching quoits” is like a game of horseshoes.

**Kee is the one of the nicknames for Josiah’s daughter, Elizabeth Alexander Ware.  The “Charles” mentioned in the first paragraph is his other son by Frances, and the “Robert” mentioned at the end of the letter is in reference to his youngest son, Robert Macky Ware.

You can find more information on this line of the family at


Springfield (Farm) January 7, 1863

My Dear Son,

Yours of October 9th has reached me and I was surprised at your saying the last letter you received from me was from W. (William) Smith, near Staunton. Kee acknowledged letters later than that. Charles has not been a prisoner and I do not know who Lt. Ware was. Jackson made a dash down the Valley; the Yankees are at Strasburg and Front Royal. Jackson came first to Front Royal; not being expected. General Ewell was in the advance and captured their pickets and the Yankees amusing themselves pitching quoits–when to their utter dismay they found the much dreaded New Orleans Tigers in their midst. Havoc, of course, ensued. Gen. Banks, hearing of their descent at Strasburg, mounted his horse – said to his landlord he had not time to settle his bill and dashed off at full speed. In Winchester his horse fell. He remounted and never stopped until in Martinsburg – leaving his army behind. Jackson pursued them out of Virginia capturing many prisoners, many wagons, horses, stores and medicines. Banks had the impudence to report to his government of his orderly, successful and masterly retreat; losing very few wagons, stores or horses. General Turner Ashby had requested me to take one of his regiments; he would assist in organizing it. He was a fine horseman, a brave man, but no drill officer and wished me with him, but while Jackson was about cannonading Harper’s Ferry, I was at home.  Lee telegraphed to Jackson to fall back as quick as possible; that General McDowell from Fredricksburg and Milroy from western Virginia were on their march to meet at Strasburg and cut off his retreat. Jackson made forced marches and as his rear reached and crossed the Cedar Creek this side of Strasburg, the enemy’s advance united on the banks north of the creek. Jackson left 300 stragglers to the enemy – worn out by the previous days’ hard work. I knew nothing of the move, was cut off, and made prisoner. I was taken prisoner and carried to Strasburg – where the Provost Marshall, Capt Brown of Massachusetts, stole my horse (Cymon), saddle and bridle. All the prisoners were taken to Strasburg to make a show in marching them to Winchester, and started me on foot. We had not gone far before a rough looking young man (a cavalry private), came to me, got off his horse, and insisted on my riding his horse. I thanked him but declined. He insisted and held the bridle and stirrup for me to mount and said he would not ride if I did not – then he left the horse after I mounted and mingled and conversed freely with our men. I had been offered bundles of cigars and matches by privates on the route. When I arrived in Winchester they offered me a parole to report myself next morning at nine o’clock. I declined on the ground that it required me not to take up arms against the US but said I was willing to sign one not to take up arms while I held the parole. This was agreed to. I reported every day – then they extended it two weeks to stay home. While at home they sent their prisoners away to forts, inquired for me but my time was not out, and I escaped. It was afterwards extended to me to report at pleasure and after that, the army under General Pope moved on towards Gordonsville. In this time, Gen. Turner Ashby was killed and my scheme was broken up. The government then, instead of permitting the regiments to organize under the law and elect their officers, appointed Jones (who had been rejected by a regiment after trying him) Colonel of one of them – and Hannan (of Augusta) Colonel of the other – who was no officer at all and never will be – all this in violation of law and the regiment’s rights.  Before Jackson came down, in going out of the line, I took Toledo, The Don (not broke), and Cymon, and Dr. Ganahl’s black stallion over in the mountains to Hanson Elliott’s and hid them there. When I had to leave, neither The Don or the black would lead or ride and let me lead. The Don would not ride, and I had to leave them. They were well hid but a Negro, who about that time had run off for a fee (no doubt counterfeit) showed some members of the Carter’s Indiana Cavalry where they were and they stole them.

Original 1-7-1863 Josiah LTR to James (2)

Original 1863 Letter from Josiah Ware to his son, James Alexander Ware (page 2)

About this time (while I was out) they were about to cross over the river General Blenker’s (a Dutch lager beer saloon) Brigade of Dutch, into the Valley. The river was high and they were kept a long time in the mountains as there were no boats. They tried an old boat at Berry’s Ferry and 75 of them were drowned. While in the mountains they ate every cat and dog that had any flesh on them – killed cows and sheep and sows to get their young out of them to eat, and were particularly fond of unhatched chickens and ate soap grease and kitchen slop for cows and hogs. Finally they got over; killed all my hogs, took all my oats, nearly all my corn – not leaving half enough corn to bread me. Henry had hid some oats, but Old Jim Bell found them & showed them where they were. Old Jim and young Jim left with the Yankees, and Book stole my two-horse sheepwagon & my wife’s carriage mare & another, and took them and his family off with him. All this happened before Gen. Banks went out and I came home – after I was a prisoner. I went to Gen. Banks and told him of his Provost Marshall at Strasburg taking my horse, saddle, and bridle to his own use, and Banks said it was a theft, he had no right to do so, and he would have him given up. While reporting myself in Winchester, the 1st Maryland Cavalry Regiment (stationed at Snicker’s Ferry and composed almost entirely of Pennsylvanians) were ordered from there, & as they passed us, two of their men called in and stole Decca & Maygo. Henry brought me word to Winchester & I followed them on to Banks’ headquarters at Middletown with a letter from General John P. Hatch, Chief of Cavalry – to Major Perkins, chief of Banks’ staff – who ordered the officer in command (when my mares were stolen) to report himself to him at once. He told me he wanted no evidence from me – they should furnish it. The officer he asked said he knew nothing about it. I never heard any man receive such a cursing. Perkins called him a damned liar, a damned horse thief (all of them were so) and damned cowards. When fighting was to be done, they were all off and if the mares were not brought to him the next morning by 9 o’clock, he would have him branded as a horse thief and drummed out of camp. They were there by 8 o’clock and Perkins gave me a statement that they were stolen from me and restored by General Banks’ orders and were not to be disturbed again – & I brought them home. I found my wagon (that Book stole) in the streets of Winchester in the Yankee army & went to Col. Batchelder of Massachusetts (Banks’ Chief Provost Marshall in Winchester) about it, and he had it delivered up to me. I did not find the mares and supposed Jackson got them in his rush. He captured 300 horses. I suppose they were broken down. I never could find them in either army. Batchelder also gave me an order to go through the army and wherever I found my horses, to take them – but about this time the army moved off towards Gordonsville under Pope’s command and I was advised not to follow it up under Pope’s proclamation which superseded Banks’ orders.

Original 1-7-1863 Josiah LTR to james (3)

Original 1863 letter from Josiah Ware to his son James A. Ware (page 3)

Then came the flight and pursuit after the battle of Slaughter Mountain (in which they were awfully slaughtered) across to Washington City. Charles was actively in this, and after being in the saddle night and day for some time, they stopped in the streets of Warrenton and he dismounted to rest and Vista (his mare) laid down and went to sleep. He was in the raid at Catletts Station & while getting the good things there, they were fired on by Yankee infantry and narrowly escaped. They fed for some days on apples, peaches, & green corn – not allowed fire to cook it; the cavalry constantly being on close picket. They were near catching Pope – he had just time to get in the car & steam off. They got his military boots, hat, sword, coat, his baggage, shirt studs (his name in full on them) and his horses. In the secret drawer of his writing desk was found a pair of polished steel handcuffs – it was said he put them there thinking to catch Jackson but not having confidence in his ability to hold him, wished to use them on him. This is only talk. Some of our cavalry were barefooted with spurs buckled around their naked feet, some painted their feet black to represent boots & shoes, it was said. One was barefoot with spurs, on a mule, & the ladies cheered him so that he stopped to enquire if they cheered him or his mule. Many, very many, of our men were barefoot. They passed over the hotbed of unionism of Maryland – Frederick & Hagerstown – thence to Willamsport, Martinsburg – driving the Yankees and runaway Negroes from there into Harper’s Ferry. Then Jackson and A.P. Hill invested it & soon captured it – an immense number of prisoners (I believe 13,000), any amount of stores, ammunition, arms, & etc. – allowing them to take private property away with them. This, of course, they abused. Soldiers were permitted to go off with boots & shoes – extra strapped to their knapsacks, extra clothing, stolen horses. General Hill told me a French Colonel was riding a good looking horse which a farmer came to him and claimed. The Col. asked him how long since he lost his horse? “Six months since he was stolen from me.” “Gentleman, I have had this horse for 18 months & I can prove it.” He brought forward several Yankee officers who swore he had the horse 18 months. The farmer brought up his neighbors to prove his horse & General Hill told the officer his proof was not sufficient – – – give up the horse. But General Hill did wrong about the negroes in Harpers Ferry. The capture was on Monday & then no farmer was permitted to go in until Tuesday – by which time, no strictness of guard being established, numbers of negro men went out. AndGeneral Hill told me he gave papers to one squad of Yankees for 40 negroes – they proving they were their servants brought from the north with them. They lied of course, for citizens had taken some of them out of their lines as they were going off with them (with Hill’s papers on them) & took them to jail. Hill ought not to have regarded their evidence for if they brought them, Virginia law deprives every negro of his freedom who comes into her lines from a free state & the Yankees themselves made negroes contraband & had no business with slaves. Young Jim Bell was there Monday night & when I got there Tuesday morning, he was gone & I lost him. This was the case with many – the reason given was McClellan’s whole army was advancing on Lee and they were hurrying to join Lee. I said if they had let the farmers in Monday, they would have united under the General’s leave, searched every place, and taken every negro to Charlestown or Winchester and at leisure investigated every right and relieved the army of them altogether and thus saved time (and millions of money) to the South. We captured splendid cannon, small arms, wagons & horses – & our army are now operating almost entirely on the enemy’s means captured from them.

Original 1-7-1863 Josiah LTR to James (4)

Original 1863 Letter from Josiah Ware to his son James A. Ware (page 4)

Our army then met General McClellan at Antietam where we whipped them back, under terrible slaughter, from all their positions to the mountain where their strong position was. General Jackson thought they could dislodge them from there but with their cannon raking the plain, General Lee thought the sacrifice of our troops necessary for it, would not pay for it, & fell back into Virginia. The Yankees then crossed at Shepherdstown, not knowing the force we had concealed there. After crossing the river, Jackson opened on them. After a little firing they hastened back. In their terror in wading (crossing) the river, many fell or pushed for the bluffs – fell over and were pushed over by the multitudes in their rear (not knowing the state of things in front) and broke their necks & lay there in immense heaps. The river and dams of the canals was blocked up with dead Yankees and were never taken out. The slaughter was immense – awful. Comparatively, but a small part of it, was done by our troops. Then they fell back again to Maryland. Lee then, I suppose, heard somehow or other that the enemy intended to march through Loudon to Richmond via Fredericksburg & moved the main body of our army to Fredericksburg – leaving Jackson here to watch the enemy’s movements, & A.P. Hill’s division encamped in the woods. I thought of Neill’s estate.  Here I became acquainted with Generals Hill, Gregg, Archer, Thomas, and many other officers – some of whom took meals with me every day – John & William Pollack also, and some of your college-mates – & they almost destroyed all that woods. When they moved off, the 12th regiment of Virginia cavalry was encamped opposite Tom McCormick’s on the Charlestown pike and commanded by one of the Hannan’s and White’s batallion of cavalry on Mr. Smith’s land opposite my Mill woods. While there, General Stahel (a Dutchman commanding Yankee cavalry) came up from Fairfax County to make a raid on them. They got into White’s camp completely by surprise (so loosely did they picket) and scattered them in every direction, & after that got the 12th on the run and scattered them. On returning, they opened my fences & drove off all my cattle consisting of 9 oxen & 13 milch cows – took all of William P. McCormick’s the same way – 13 fine colts from William Smith. My colts were in my field at the same time, but Henry got them out & they did not interrupt them. I was busy getting Toledo & some mares out of the way. On my return at night (finding my cattle gone) I went off next morning and followed them. William Smith and P. McCormick joined me on the road. But Stahel, much alarmed at an attack or pursuit (which was not thought of) traveled all night and after getting half way, McCormick thought it would be fruitless & might put us under arrest so he determined to come back, & give it up. Smith agreed to join him and I told them I could not go by myself but would return with them & take Jaqueline with me. On our way back, McCormick found 6 of his cattle that strayed out on the way – none of mine – & half way home, William again changed his mind & determined to go with me & we went to Stahel’s headquarters. I put our claim before him in writing – he replied he would refer the matter to General Siegel (another Dutchman in command of the post) and that we would be answered in 3 hours. We waited two days longer. Receiving no answer, we came on home – leaving the matter in a friend’s hands. On reaching home, we found General Geary had made a raid to Charlestown – thence to Berryville, to Winchester, & on to Smithfield & back to Harpers Ferry in much haste & alarm, fearing an attack. But General Jones, with a brigade of cavalry (Maryland line of infantry & artillery not inferior I am told to Geary’s), instead of attacking him, fell back to Newmarket; 50 miles or more and is there yet. Fortunately Geary’s command did not come below Berryville & Milroy’s force now occupies Winchester – a smaller force than Jones, I understand. Jones is called in Winchester the “flying General.” When Geary went through here, Jaqueline took Toledo out. He (Geary) is a bad man and was in command at Warrenton when some of his ruffians killed Robert E. Scott. Milroy is a bad man also, & has stuck placards in Winchester informing the negroes they are free & warning them to arm themselves and defend themselves if their masters attempt to exercise ownership. Rumor now says they have taken Mrs. Portia Baldwin and sent her to Alexandria – a prisoner. While cavalry General Stuart’s headquarters were at Dandridge’s in Berkely, he was dancing with the girls when the Yankees had planned a raid and would have caught him and his staff (only they missed the road) and in the pursuit & fighting the enemy from Gordonsville on to Washington, he was only saved from being caught by losing his hat & jumping with his horse a garden railing. On the other hand, below Richmond, General Lee had so laid his plans that if Generals Huger & Magruder had come up to orders, he would have captured General McClellan & his whole army. Upon their failure, he remarked “too late, as usual.” McClellan saw his danger & despaired; had prepared his papers to be burnt & his army to surrender. Then came our grand victory at Fredericksburg – you have seen that in the papers. The Yankee papers acknowledged a loss of from 60 to 80,000 but most of these by desertion. After the battle, the Yankees hollered across the river to our men to know if they had any sorry corporal – they wanted to swap Gen. Burnside for him; he was “such a damned fool”. They inquired, “Where was Jackson?” Answer- “He has resigned.”  “What for?” “They took his quartermaster away from him.” Yankee– “He must have been a good officer that caused the resignation, who was he?”  Confederate- “Gen’l Banks.” When General Lee returned into Virginia, Stuart (with his cavalry) made a raid into Pennsylvania through Maryland, destroyed much stores (army), and got a great many horses, but they were lubberly, overgrown, and of no use. Many gave out just leading them back. Nearly all the others died from exposure. While there, hearing a machine running, they sent to stop the machine and bring the horses. While taking the horses, the owner came out and said “Men, you is cutting up strong this morning- whose command is you of anyhow?”  Answer-“The so called Rebel General Jackson.” Dutch – “Shackson, mein Gott!” in great alarm. While Hill’s division was encamped here after being in Maryland, many of them were barefooted- many without hats – but few had blankets (they much worn and thin) and no tents. Yet these men had traveled and fought over those turnpikes and rugged mountains in high spirits and were thirsting for more fights, and would buy anything at any price. They offered $2.50 for a dozen of apples, any price for potatoes and honey, milk, butter, eggs, chickens, poultry. The citizens generally gave them everything they could spare and their meals. They did not like this and was anxious to pay. One man said he was very hungry but was no beggar, and if they would not take pay, he would not eat the meat and bread.  He put it down and went away. While here, they gave $100.00 for two canteens of apple brandy (fresh from the still) and one soldier, perfectly barefooted, gave $10.00 for a very small paper of candy. They would climb the tallest trees to catch squirrels, surround fields & run down partridges, rabbits, and in one instance, a fox. And if my children (particularly Robert ) went to camp, the greatest fuss would be made of them and they would give them anything. If I took Rob behind me, they would hollow out “put the boy down-let me have him.” They said it reminded them of their families at home they had not seen for so long, and asked to let them (the children) come to see them.

Yours affectionately,

J.W. Ware

To – Capt. JA Ware Texas Rangers, Corpus Christi


Josiah Ware – First Hand Account of the Civil War from a Letter written by Josiah Ware in 1863 by: Judy C. Ware — 2 Comments

  1. Thank you, Wayne, for your kind and appreciative comments. It makes it a joy to share these letters and documents with folks who care.
    Judy Ware

  2. Wow! Josiah’s letter to his son describing the brutal Civil War is a document to preserve for all time. From reading this, one can actually feel the anguish of those engaged in battle and the families who lived in the battle zones losing so much. Thank you for posting this extremely important document.

    C. Wayne Ware
    Cedar Falls, IA

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