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Letter to Mary Susan Brooks

William Brooks tells his sister that their brother, Andrew, is suffering after a difficult eleven mile march yesterday. He also describes a battle near Martinsburg, West Virginia, and expresses his confidence in General Joseph Johnston's leadership.

ALS .pp July 8, 1861 William Brooks to Mary Susan Brooks, July 8, 1861 Notes

July 8th -61

Camp Carter

Dear sister:

Knowing [deleted: illeg.] your anxiety
to hear from us at this time, after receiving
Andrews letter, I write to inform you that we
are both well, except that Andrew is somewhat
wearied & broken down from a march of about 11
miles on yesterday, under a broiling sun & some
dust & but a little water, we forming the rear of about
ten or twelve thousand soldiers & consequently were
crowded out from the wells, that being the prin-
cipal source, until the middle of the evening
when we fell back from the main body. [1]
We [added: that is Jackson's brigade, Johnston having gone to Winchester ] camped in the woods last night & this
morning marched to this place about 3 miles
below Winchester. At our last encampment we
were placed in an open field, under a burning
sun & orders to be at your posts & had to stay
there for four days. The enemy were all the while
stationed at Martinsburgh 6 miles off.

General Johnston sent [deleted: illeg.] to Gen. Patterson
who is in command of the enemies forces

[page 2]

to send away the women & children from Martins [added: burgh]
but he refused & sent back word that if he ([added: Johnston]) would
lay down his arms & return home the he (Patterson)
would forgive all past offences. Gen. Johnston offered him battle for four days, if he would
come out of Martinsburgh but he would not do
it and John [added: s]ton thinking his numbers too great
being at lea[added: st] twenty five & perhaps thirty thousand
& a reinforcement of 5 thousand at the Potomac
at some point between Harpers Ferry and Shepherds-
town and his position too strong, thought it
advisable to fall back & so we have had no
battle yet, but on Saturday evening[2] a dispatch
was brought to the General that our pickets
had been driven in & that the enemy were advan-
cing: we were soon drawn up in battle array
& advanced to a position, after having been
on the field about [deleted: illeg.] [added: two] hours, we were taken back
to quarters, it having turned out to be simply
a fight between the pickets; the enemy not coming.
Jackson on that morning received a letter
from Gen. Lee congratulating him upon his
promotion to brigadier General, the letter

[page 3]

came in advance of the official announcement.
While on the field the two Generals made
a review of the troops Johnston of all of the forces
& Jackson of the Virginia brigade.

I like Johnston's appearance very well; I think
he is a very prudent commander: indeed the same is
true of both: you know "prudence is the better part
of valor."[3] What is going to be done I don't know;
the soldiers never know the intentions of their com-
manders until it comes to execution; so we here in
camp have as little idea of an intended action
as you. I suppose the Yankee papers will glory over
our falling back as an inglorious [added: and precipitan] retreat; but
call it by what name you please I think that
Johnston knows what he is about & am very willing
to obey his orders, although it did pester me a good
deal for a while & does yet somewhat, to go at
things as it were blindfolded. [deleted: illeg.] Even suppo-
sing that we could have whipped them, it would
have been at too great a loss of life & consequently
it is more prudent to retire. How soon we
will have an engagement I can't tell you; but
there must be one at some time or another.

The result of the fight that took place on Tuesday
the 2nd I suppose Andrew gave you very correctly;
on our side [deleted: illeg.] three killed & four or five wounded.
The most reliable report we get [deleted: illeg.] in regard
to the loss of the Federal forces comes from
Mr. Boteler, a brother of Hon. Alex Boteler,
who says he had it from the quartermaster of
their army to this effect: that there were [deleted: illeg.]
from three to five hundred in killed & wounded
however true this is I think that there is no
doubt that their loss was considerable.[4]
The number engaged on our side was [deleted: illeg.] [added: the whole (except one company)]
[deleted: illeg/] of Harper's regiment [added: and one piece of canon]: on the enemies there
was supposed to be about 3000 a great many
of them being regulars.[5]

Since writing the above I [deleted: illeg.] hear through one
of our company who has been at Winchester, that
they are throwing up a breastwork about one mile
on this side of town; which looks very much like
making a stand here, I didn't suppose however
that we would retire beyond Winchester.

Billy Wilson received a letter from home, a day or
two ago, which brought the news that Edgar Wilson,
whilst capping his pistol, shot himself in the foot, shooting off
one toe & another almost off.[6] I heard from Gam Dalhouse
a day or two ago, he was then improving with a prospect
of getting well. John D. Brooks[7] & all my acquaintances
are very well. We have just perused yours and aunt Martha's [8]
letters. On their way down McComb and Baskins [9] heard at
Bunkers hill, a village between Winchester & our camp, that
we had sent back all the baggage, except so much as we
could carry & accordingly left their knapsacks there & our letters
with them & did not get them again until this evening.
Aunt Martha wrote that Mr. Lee was taken prisoner by
the Georgians, our own troops. I didn't understand
it at all; he has not turned traitor has he? [10]

We heard yesterday that Lincoln message recommends
calling for 400,000 more men & 400,000,000 of dollars.
I don't [deleted: illeg.] know where he will get the
money from. Andrew joins in sending love to all
at home and Uncle Ben's [11]. Remember us both very
especially to Mr. & Mrs. Murkland; we would like to
be there to see them, but more especially the folks
at home. I was sorry to hear of Father's sickness
but I hope ere this shall have reached you he will be
restored to his wonted health. I regretted very much
[added: not] seeing Willie and Elick Murkland. [deleted: illeg]
To night Andrew is pretty well again.

I have nothing more to write. Your brother


Tuesday morning
We got our bag
gage last night
& will get a clean
suit & send it
off again. Excuse the dirt
Can't keep Clean
hands on all
Tell Emmett
that it is im
possible to get
a likeness taken
Good bye


[1] On July 2, 1861, Federal troops under the command of General Robert Patterson crossed the Potomac and moved toward Martinsburg, West Virginia, prompting General Johnston to order Jackson to have his troops advance and meet the enemy. The advance guard of Patterson's forces skirmished with Jackson's forces at Falling Waters, a village on the south side of the Potomac. Ultimately Jackson's brigade, outnumbered, withdrew to a camp below Martinsburg (Wallace 15; Bean 33; Robertson, The Stonewall Brigade, 29-33). Although the Liberty Hall Volunteers acted in support of the Fifth Virginia rather than participating directly in the battle, Captain James J. White was pleased with their performance, bragging that "[t]he boys were cool as you please, with shells bursting around them and bullets whistling around their ears" (quoted by Turner, 57). After Patterson took control of Martinsburg on July 3, Johnston's forces remained encamped at Camp Stephens, awaiting an attack. But on July 7, as William Brooks reports, Johnston, fearing that Patterson had greater numbers, ordered his troops to fall back to Winchester (Bean 34).

[2] Saturday was July 6, the day before the troops were ordered back to Winchester.

[3] General Joseph E. Johnston (1807-1891) received his diploma from the U. S. Miltary Academy in 1829 along with his friend Robert E. Lee. He received praise for his service in both the Mexican War and in the wars against the Seminole Indians. In April of 1861, he resigned from his position as a brigadier general in the U. S. Army, and in May of 1861 accepted a commission as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He commanded the Army of the Shenandoah at Harper's Ferry and led Confederate forces at First Manassas, August 1861 (McMurry, 859-61).

[4] Hon. Alex R. Boteler (1815-1892) was a congressman from Virginia. Initially he opposed secession and gave an eloquent address in the House arguing for the preservation of the Union, but when Virginia seceded he supported its actions and left with it. During the war, he served in the Confederate legislature and also worked a a volunteer aide on the staff of his friend Stonewall Jackson (Lankford, 197-8).

[5] Out of Patterson's 3000 men, ten died and fifty were captured, while 10 of Jackson's men died out of the 350 soldiers who took part in the skirmish (Robertson, The Stonewall Brigade, 32.

[6] Billy Wilson is probably William N. Wilson, a member of Company I. Wilson was captured at Kernstown on March 23, 1862 and exchanged on August 5, 1862. He was listed as a deserter after November 27, 1862 (Robertson, 4th Virginia Infantry, 81)

[7] John D. Brooks, perhaps a cousin of the Brooks brothers, enlisted in Company H of the Fifth Virginia Infantry on April 19, 1861. After serving five months as regimental quartermaster clerk, Brooks was promoted to first sergeant in September of 1861. In April of 1862, he was transferred to Company E, and he was promoted to captain in 1864. He was paroled at Appomattox Court House in April of 1865 as Captain, Assistant Quartmaster. 2nd Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. After the war, he moved to Missouri and New York.

[8] Aunt Martha is most likely Martha Stuart, the sister of William Brooks' mother. According to the 1860 Census of Augusta County, Martha Stuart was 48 in 1860 and lived on a farm adjacent to the Brooks'.

[9] "Baskins" probably refers to James W. Baskins of the Fifth Virginia Infantry, Company H. He was born in Augusta County, Virginia in 1840 and enlisted in the the Fifth Virginia on April 19, 1861. He was killed on July 21, 1861 at Manassas (Wallace, 94). "McComb" is most likely Moses Andrew McComb, who enlisted with Baskins in Company H of the Fifth Virginia Infantry. Born in 1837, McComb was a a farmer in Augusta County until he enlisted as a second lieutenant. He was promoted to first lieutenant in 1861, was dropped on April 17, 1862, and re-enlisted on January 1, 1864 in Albemarle County as a private in the First Regiment Virginia Cavalry. McComb was paroled at Staunton on May 1, 1865, and died in Staunton on March 17, 1906.

[10] "Mr. Lee" may refer to Charles Lee, a minister who lived in Augusta County (Augusta County Census, 1860).

[11] Benjamin Stuart, William Brooks's maternal uncle, owned the farm next to the Brooks' farm. In the 1860 census of Augusta County, Stuart was listed as a forty-year old farmer.

[12] William wrote this post-script sideways across the top of page one.

Works Cited

Bean, W. G. The Liberty Hall Volunteers: Stonewall's College Boys. Charlottesville: The University of Virginia Press, 1964.

"The Civil War Artillery Page" Chuck Ten Brink. Visited April, 1998

Crenshaw, Ollinger. General Lee's College: The Rise and Growth of Washington and Lee University. NY: Random House, 1969.

Denney, Robert E. The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of the Life of a Nation. NY: Sterling Publishing Co, Inc., 1992.

Driver, Robert. J. 52nd Virginia Infantry. Lynchburg, Va: H. E. Howard, 1986.

Lankford, Nelson D. "Alexander Robinson Boteler." Encylopedia of the Confederacy. Ed. Richard N. Current. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1993. I: 197-8.

McMurry, Richard. M. "Joseph E. Johnston." Encylopedia of the Confederacy. Ed. Richard N. Current. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1993. II: 859-61.

McPherson, James M. The Atlas of the Civil War. New York: Macmillan, 1994.

Robertson, James. 4th Virginia Infantry. Lynchburg, Va.: H.E. Howard, 1982.

—. The Stonewall Brigade. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963.

Sublett, Charles W. 57th Virginia Infantry. Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, 1985.

Turner, Charles W. Old Zeus: Life and Letters (1860-'62) of James J. White (Professor of Greek at Washington College 1852-1893, Captain of the Liberty Hall Volunteers 1861-'62). Verona, VA: McClure Printing Company, Inc., 1983.

Wallace, Lee A. 5th Virginia Infantry. Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, 1988.

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