We’ve recently published a reprint of the Mary Alice Hancock book, Four Brothers in Gray. Ms. Hancock wrote her intriguing narrative of the Civil War using excerpts from the Proffit Family letters, now in the Southern Historical Collection of the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Working with Wilkes Community College, who holds copyright to Ms. Hancock’s work, Imaging Specialists has added complete transcripts of over a hundred letters written by the boys and their “connection” (or extended family) home to Lewis Fork in Wilkes County.
Below is an excellent example of one of the letters written by William Harrison Proffit who volunteered to serve in the Army of Northern Virginia just a week after North Carolina seceded from the Union. Harrison Proffit was a school teacher and arguably the most eloquent of the four boys in describing his opinions of the war and his personal observations.
The correspondences, written throughout the conflict, from 1860 t0 1865, report the changing mood of the boys, from their initial optimism, the struggles of the war and the gloom of their inevitable fates.
Camp of the 1st N.C. Troops,
Near Port Royal, Va.,
Monday Morning, February 23d. 1863
I write you another short letter to let you know that I am enjoying good health and getting along very well. Our Regiment has just performed another hard task of picket duty. We started from camp on Saturday evening and returned yesterday evening. On Saturday night and Sunday morning, we encountered the worst snow storm that has fallen this winter. Our Co. was stationed at a house near the bank of the River, therefore we fared tolerably well. The snow was about 12 inches deep.
We have comfortable quarters and are well supplied with clothing, blankets, &c. Our rations have been considerably reduced- we draw only half as much bacon as we did in the first part of the winter, but our wages have been raised $5.00 more per month, which make privates pay $16.00 per month. I have very little war news to write you at present. All operations on land are necessarily suspended on account of the inclemency of the weather.
I believe no attack is now expected in the vicinity of Fredericksburg; some think that most of the Yankees are leaving here. I should not be surprised if it were true. I suppose that Charleston, Savannah and Mobile, will be attacked bery soon. It is also very probable that another attack will be made on Vicksburg. I think if ithey are unsuccessful in these attempts, that active operations will cease, and our independence soon after acknowledged, but if the enemy should be successful, I have no doubt that it would tend grately to the prolongation of the war. Grate disaffection exists in the North Western States, and a North Western Confederacy is strongly spoken of. It is said that Gen’l Longstreet’s Corps of this army is going South. I think part of it has already gone. We belong to Jackson’s corps, therefore it is probable we will remain in Virginia.
I have not seen the other boys since I wrote you before, but heard from Andrew and Alfred a few days ago, they were well. I hope you received the letter I wrote you some time ago. I directed it to Lewis Fork P.O. Would it be more convenient for you to get letters from Lewis Fork? Write me as often as you conveniently can. Fearing that your letters are not backed correctly, I will send you an envelope properly directed.
My love to Mother and Sis, with all who may enquire for one.
Yours, as ever,
Wlm. H. Proffit