Hauntingly Graphic Civil War Letter
written by: Mrs. Edmonia Jaquelin Smith Ware
Clarke County, Va.
© Judy C. Ware 2002
Original letter owned by James & Judy C. Ware
This letter was written by Edmonia J. Ware (wife of Col. Josiah Ware) to her stepdaughter, Elizabeth Alexander Ware Britton on July 31, 1864. It gives fascinating insight into life in Virginia during the Civil War. This particular letter was written after the Yankees camped on Springfield, and there are several poignant paragraphs that illustrate beautifully the sentiment of the times. ** One of Elizabeth’s nicknames was “Key”
July 31, 1864
My dear Key,
Your letters to your Pa and myself (written in March) were received about ten days since, but as I had just written, I waited a few days to reply. Indeed, I have had neither time or thoughts under my control for these weeks. You have doubtlessly heard through the papers of General Early’s raid into Maryland. When he fell back, it was by way of “Snicker’s Gap” and (he) camped as usual on Springfield. He was here several days, went back beyond Winchester and was (of course) followed by the Yankees, the 6thCorps under Wright and the command of the infamous Hunter (through he was not with it, having been ordered to Washington.)
Well, to make my story as short as possible, the 6th Corps camped on this place and I trust I may be spared a repetition of the scene which ensued. They poured down on the place like 40,000 thieves, broke into the meat house, poultry houses and cellars in a moment’s time, carried off the horses which were left, killed hogs, sheep and calves, destroyed the garden, cut up the harnesses, cut the curtains from the small carriage which is the only one I have had since the war (Banks’ men having ruined the large one at their first invasion). So you may imagine we are not far from starving. I have had three pieces of bacon sent me which even as much as 300 used to be.
I am today alone with the children, and as I sat in the vestibule this morning and listened to the church bell, the tears would flow in spite of all determination to bear up under my trials. Charley was at home for a few hours yesterday and your Pa has gone to his camp today. It was with much difficulty I kept them out of the house (the Yankees) but I locked the doors and defied them to break the locks – telling them I knew the penalty for house breaking. They shook the doors and I expected every moment the house would be sacked and everything in it broken to pieces or stolen. They cut up or carried off the clothes in the wash, which lessens considerably our meager wardrobes. The dresses your Pa bought for you (with some which had been sent me by my sister, together with articles forfamily use) I have put away in a trunk and will do my best to save them should the house be fired, but they refused to allow the families of Mr. Hunter, Botelers and Lee of Jefferson to remove any furniture and the ladies only a change of clothing.
You see that the malignity of the present campaign is without a parallel in history. I heard that Miss Lee pled hard for her piano but the heartless wretch refused, and she took her seat after the torch had been applied and played “Thy will be done”. Oh, may that God, whose eyes are in every place, enable me from my heart to re-echo that truly Christian sentiment and though I may yet be a homeless wanderer, still to trust His unchanging purposes of love and mercy.
Your Pa bears his losses without a murmur but, to be candid, I think his long confinement in (a Yankee) prison and his efforts at home to make and save something have told considerably on his appearance and you must expect to see him looking older than when you left. Your cousin C. Hall has nothing left but her house and furniture. They got in her house and carried flour, honey, preserves, indeed, all that could be eaten. They caught up her spoons and forks, but she forced them out of their hands except about five pieces. How proudly she stands this day.
I desire no better birthright than to be a daughter of Virginia. I decked the body of a young Col. with flowers and he was buried near the parlor window until his friends can come on. He was only 22, killed at the Battle of Snicker’s Ferry. His band played funeral dirges and we had our burial service. Oh, though what I had hoped I wish you could have been here to help me. May God, in mercy, spare us too much beneath this war is my constant prayer.
Your devoted Mother
Love to Dr. Britton
For more information on this family line, you can go to www.waregenealogy.com