Joseph Milton Elkins:

Confederate Letters



Joseph Milton Elkins was a private in Company E, 49th Virginia Infantry Regiment, C.S.A. He enlisted at Culpeper, Virginia around June 1861. After standing guard duty at a field hospital following the First Battle of Manassas, Joseph, along with the remainder of the Confederate Army, bivouacked at Centreville and Manassas during the fall and winter of 1861. Joseph was stationed at Fort Pickens. The following letters cover that period of time from July to December 1861 and describe camp life in the Confederate Army. Joseph frequently wrote home to his wife for supplies including buckwheat, whiskey and blankets. In April 1862, Joseph was sent to Chamboranzo Hospital No. 5 in Richmond, Virginia to convalesce from a bad case of rheumatism. Subsequently, he was then returned to his regiment. During his absence the 49th Virginia Regiment suffered severe casualties during the famous Seven Days battles around Richmond. Henry Elkins, Joseph's brother-in-law, was killed at the Battle of Seven Pines. Because of his illness, Joseph Milton escaped this carnage. He later accompanied the 49th Virginia Regiment to Antietam in September 1862 when General Robert E. Lee made his first invasion of the north. In the bloodiest battle of the war, Joseph was shot in the leg in action around the famous Dunkard (Dunker) Church. He was evacuated to Virginia where he died November 10, 1862, of gangrene. His widow, Sarah Ann Elkins, raised three children after the war: Edward, James William and George Robert Elkins. The Elkins family resided at Fiery Run near Linden, Virginia.

Submitted by Michael Miller from the private collection of T. Michael Miller, Alexandria, Virginia.


July 21, 1861 (Camp Pickens) (References First Battle of Manassas)

September 26, 1861 (Camp Pickens)

October 3, 1861 (Camp Pickens)



July 21, 1861

Camp Pickens

Dear Wife,

I take this opportunity of writing you these few lines to inform you that I am well at this present time and when these few lines come to hand they may find you enjoying the same health. We had another great battle Sunday, it commenced at 6 o'clock and ended at 6 o'clock, it was the hardest battle that was ever fought in America. They had 10 to our one--we conquered them, we lost about 800 in killed and wounded. The Yankees lost about 5,000 and we took 1,300 prisoners and 125 horses, baggage wagons and 64 pieces of cannon besides a great many things. I was not in the battle but could hear the report of the cannons which was in very plain view and we was in site of the battlefield, it was a sad and dreary day. I never had spent such a sabbath in my life before I have seen the horror of war. I had to stand sentinel [duty] at the hospital door were I could see all the wounded soldiers. I stood from Sunday 12 o'clock till Monday night. -- I had to be up all night to guard the wounded--it was the saddest thing I ever saw to hear the moans of the wounded and dying. I saw the surgeons operating on them, it made me shed tears to see how they suffered, some had to have both of their arms cut off and some their legs. I saw all the surgeons operations, it was a distressing sight to see them how they suffered--we like to got old Scott, [General Winfield Scott] they got his coat. We have completely routed them. I expect we will attack Washington City next. President (Jefferson ) Davis] came here Sunday. He went out on the battlefield, he came round and looked at all the wounded soldiers and shed tears over them, he is pleasant and graceful in his manner --it seemed to put new vigor in his army to see him in their presence.

    I have heard and read a good deal about war but I have seen the horror at last. I never want to look into another hospital if I can help myself again. I have nothing more to say about the war. If it should be the will of the almighty for me to go into battle -I trust to be in his care --he has the power to save. I will put my trust in him. I want you to write to me as soon as I can direct it in the care of Captain Williams and how are you getting along and if they have sent you provisions yet. I don't know when I can come up but I will come as soon as I can. I am always thinking of you and the children. I hope I will return to you all again. I want you to raise them right if I should not get back. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate husband until death parts us.

Joseph M. Elkins

To: Sarah Elkins

Flint Hill, Virginia

Camp Pickens [near Manassas Junction)

September 26, 1861

Dear Wife,

I seat myself again to write to you once more to inform you of my health. I am still unwell and taking medicine but it don't seem to do much good. We had orders to march this morning but to what place I don't know --it is thought to Aquia Creek or somewhere down on the Potomac. We are not certain we will go, we are under the command of General Clarke. I have seen him, he was out on the field to inspect the regiment, he seems to be a very nice man. You need not send me a quilt or anything until you hear from me. I want to see you and my children very bad and mother before I go but it is out of my power. It may be that we won't have to go but I think that is doubtful as everything begins to look like it now. My dearest wife I will that the Lord will smile on me in this time of peril and spare me to return to you all again, as he is the only one on whom we can call upon to spare us. Give my love to all my children and mother and tell them to be good little boys and kiss them for me. Give my love to all inquiring friends and keep the best portion. I want you to send to Weatherage and get what you want. The old man told me that he would go down there for you. I will send you my wages as soon as I draw it which they say will be the last of this month. I will look and see if I can get you and mother a pair of shoes if we don't have to go away. I would go and see today but I am standing on duty. I am sorry to say to you that they have got Henry in the guardhouse for coming away without leave but they will let him out in a few days.

[Henry Elkins was Joseph M. Elkins' brother-in-law. He left camp to go home and was arrested for desertion. He served in the 49th Virginia Regiment and was killed in the Seven Days Battles around Richmond in the spring of 1862]

    I want you to write to me, my thoughts are on you all both by day and night. Nothing more at present but ever remain your sincere and affectionate husband until death parts us to part, but I hope we will meet in heaven to part us no more. If you write direct your letter to Manassas Junction, 49th Regiment Virginia Volunteers in the care of Captain Williams.

Joseph M. Elkins

To: Mrs. Sarah Elkins

Camp Pickens

October 3rd 1861

Dearest Wife,

I seat myself down again to write you a few lines to inform you of my health. I feel better at present than I have since I came back. I was fearful that I was going to have another spell but thank God if I feel as I do now, I cannot complain and when these few lines come to hand they will find you enjoying the same good blessing of health dear wife. I have written to you twice and have not received no answer yet. You must write to me and let me hear from you and the children. I had almost thought that you had forgotten me by your not answering my letters. I sent one by mail and one by Col. Eastham --it would give me great satisfaction to hear from you. I sent one jar and two jugs up by Henry Yates to Flint Hill. You can send and get them, he had not room to bring the balance. There is nothing of importance. Both sides seem to be preparing for battle. President Davis has arrived here. I saw him myself. The railroad was thronged with soldiers to see him. You must write to me if they are furnishing you anything or not. We expect to get pay in a day or two then I will send it to you. Give my love to mother and all the children and tell them to be good boys. Captain Williams has resigned. I will say nothing about coming for I don't (know) when I can come. You must not fail to write. You can send me an old quilt if you have a chance. I have nothing more at present but remain your husband til death.

Joseph M. Elkins


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