Letter – William Moore, 23 July 1863


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Copy of letter written by Private William S. Moore of Company B, 40th TN Infantry, to his wife from Tuscumbia, AL. At the top of the letter is a note written by Moore’s granddaughter, Elsie Moore Guinn, stating that this is a copy of the original letter sent to her grandmother the day before Moore was executed after he was convicted of being a spy for the north.

Moore informs his wife that he is sentenced to be shot the next morning, and that this will be his last letter. He writes that he is not yet ready to meet his God, but will spend what few hours he has to live praying. He has requested the provost to leave his body where his friends may retrieve it, as he wants to be buried with his siblings. Moore vehemently declares his innocence and signs the emotional letter, “Wm. S. Moore, a condemned soldier.”

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Tuscumbia, Alabama

July 23rd, 1863

Mrs. W.S. Moore

Dear Alcy:

It is through a great tribulation and aching heart and trembling hand in order I take to write to you this evening and inform you of the condition I am in. Dearly and much beloved Alcy, how can I bear to pen down to you this evening that I am condemned to be shot. Dear Companion, this is the last letter I expect I shall ever have the chance to write to you in this world. You must do the best you can for yourself and our sweet little children. I shall never see them nor you any more, nut I want you to remember me when i am gone and not bring any one over our little children.

You can bring them up in the way they should go. Tell my blessed old Father and Mother to remember me when i am gone. This will be great terror to them I know, but there is no remedy for me. I must go. Farewell vain world, I am going to my long home in a few hours. Dear friends, it is impossible for me to describe my feelings at this dread and awful moment; as yet I am not satisfied to meet my God, but what few hours I have to live, I shall spend in praying and supplication to Almighty God. I feel like there is a change with me, but I want to feel more reconciled to my God, the Great I Am, of Heaven and earth. I want all my friends and relatives to live in the discharge of their duties that are enjoined upon them and try and make their way to Heaven. I am sorry to leave you all, I love you so well, I love you dearly, but I shall never see you again.

I requested the provost to have my body placed where my friends could get it. I want to be buried by my brother and sister. Oh, how I long to be with those in health is more than I can describe, but woe, woe is me.

Long before this you can see, I’ll be in eternity. Great God, can it be possible that a poor innocent man must be killed! O, God forbid that these things should be.

Dear loving Wife, I want you to try and take care of all those things that are left, and apply them to yours and the children’s benefit as best you can. I want you to love them and teach them to love one another, and educate them as well as you can. Oh; dear loving Wife, the great of great of my affections, how often I have

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thought of you since I left you last Thursday morning, and the tears I have shed since then is almost a fountain; and how often I have thought of my thoughts and feelings.

Dear Love, when I shook hands with you, I felt like it would be the last time, and now I am sure it is the last time. Farewell, Dear Wife, remember me when I am gone. Oh, if I could be with you a little while and commune with you, what satisfaction it would be to me, Alcy. I want you to move back to the old place, and tell Father I want him to see that my children do not suffer for anything to eat.

I must close my last words to you; it breaks my heart, children, farewell. Farewell, loving wife, farewell father and mother, farewell, brother and sister.

William S. Moore

Oh, how can I quite writing when this is the only way I can say anything to my blessed wife and sweet little children that are so near and so dear to me.

Oh, wife, tkae care of this letter, and read it often for my sweet children that have been so good to me, and so kind to me. Oh, dearest kindly Wife, I shall remember you to the last moment of my life. My heart is broken. I am sick and faint. My doom is nigh at hand.

Farewell, beloved wife and sweet little children that are so near my heart. Farewell, farewell, to Alcy Moore and Family.

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Wm. S. Moore

A Condemned Soldier

Tuscumbia, Ala.

July 23rd, 1863

Wm. S. Moore

Letter – Fletcher Webster, 30 August 1862


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The last letter of Col. Fletcher Webster, written just a few hours before his death at the Battle of Second Bull Run to his wife, Caroline. It describes the action at Thoroughfare Gap, VA on August 28th of 1862. Webster ominously speculates that this may be his last letter, as he “will not spare” himself if a large battle is fought. This is a copy of the original letter, made by William Dehon after the original was destroyed in fire at the Webster home in Marshfield, Massachusetts on February 14th, 1878.

Hd. Qrts. 12th Light

                             Bull Run, Aug. 30th, 62

Dear Wife

     Since I wrote you last we marched to Thoroughfare Gap, where the enemy was expected to try and pop through. We got there after a hard march, Wednesday about 3 P.M. Our brigade in advance. On getting near the gap, our brigade was sent forward skirmishing, and as support to Matthew’s battery. The coast was reported clear.

     On each side the gap, which is just wide enough for a carriage road, rise high, steep, thickly wooded hills. Just at the mouth of the gap on the eastern side there is a small space for [a] building, and there are some stone houses and a large stone mill. We approached the gap from the East, so these buildings were on our right. [Col. Richard] Coulter, with the 11th Pa., supported by the N.Y. 9th ,

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had the right. The 12th and 13th [MA Infantries] the left of the advance. No sooner had we got within a short distance than the enemy, concealed in the woods and stone buildings, opened. On the right, Coulter had a sharp fight; the buildings were too strong for him. He fought like a hero, but was obliged to fall back, and with the 9th, retired up the road to the rear. He lost 2 officers and 60 men. We sent our skirmishers into the woods in front of us, and for a short time cleared them. But shortly they were reinforced.

     I drew up “ours” well under cover and listened to the balls as they whizzed over our heads. We saw the other regts. retiring. The battery on our side retired, and I felt uncomfortable. At last an order came for us to retire, which we did across a plain, and when the enemy saw us crossing, they opened pretty well. It was nasty business, but the 12th marched as if on parade. Capt. [Richard H.] Kimball [acted] as if all the girls in Boston were looking

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at him. [1st Lt. Thomas P.] Haviland, the brave, rode smoking a cigarette; the major was glorious; Arthur [Dehon] a young hero. I thought he was hit; a ball passed between us, and I saw him throw up his hand, but it was nothing. Officers and men were all good. [Lt. Col. Timothy M.] Bryan was sick and not in the action at all.

   We got here last night. Today a great and decisive battle is expected. Forrester Devereux [Arthur F., col. 19th Mass. Inf.] has just called and here sits by me on the grass under a tree, while I write. He was again in action the day before yesterday, and has lost nearly all his company. He is unhurt

     If a fight comes off, it will be today or tomorrow, and will be a most dreadful and decisive one. Both sides are  preparing; some three hundred thousand men are on the eve of a conflict, and Washington depends on the issue. This may be my last letter, dear love; for I shall not spare myself. God bless and protect you and the dear darling children.

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We are all under his protection.

     Love to Don and Charlie. I have not means to write more. You must show this letter to the girls, with my love. Good bye dear wife, darling Carrie.

     Love to Bertie and dear Rose. I hope to have many a good gallop with them on nice horses.    

Bye, bye, dearest.        

Yrs. Fletcher           

Fletcher Webster was the only surviving child of the famous Massachusetts Senator and orator, Daniel Webster. He organized the “Webster Regiment,” the 12th MA Infantry in 1861 at the age of 47. He was killed in action on the afternoon of August 30, 1862 at the Battle of 2nd Bull Run. Lt. Arthur Dehon, obtained a special pass from the C.S. authorities to recover the body of his dead colonel.

Webster’s knapsack, containing his last letter, was captured by members of the 11th VA Infantry, but was subsequently recaptured at Leesburg, VA about September 2nd. A quote from the letter was read at Webster’s state funeral in Boston on September 9th.

This letter is a copy, made by William Dehon ca. 1862, from the original in the possession of Caroline White Webster, Fletcher’s widow. Because the Marshfield home  of Mrs. Webster was destroyed by fire on Feb. 14, 1878 with the loss of her valuable papers, Dehon’s copy is believed to be the only surviving document.

For more information, see Blue & Gray Magazine, Vol. XIII No. 1, Fall 1995, pp. 20-27, for “Col. Fletcher’s Last Letter,” by Wiley Sword.