Julia Pendleton Allen Civil War Letter.
A Confederate Officer's Wife in Winchester, Virginia
Civil War Letters & Diaries top level
Biographical & context note:
Julia A. Pendleton, of Jefferson County, West Virginia, married James Walkenshaw Allen in February 1856. Allen, an 1849 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute (a wartime portrait is shown at right), taught at both VMI and elsewhere for several years following his graduation, but after his marriage he and his new wife settled on a farm near Summit Point, West Virginia, where they lived until the outbreak of the Civil War. The couple had one son, Hugh Pendleton Allen, born in 1858. During the Civil War, Allen left his farm to command the 2nd Virginia Infantry Regiment, which became part of the celebrated "Stonewall Brigade." He commanded the force that seized Harpers Ferry on April 18, 1861, and was wounded in action at First Manassas on July 21.
At the time Julia wrote this letter to her sister-in-law, the Stonewall Brigade was in winter quarters at Winchester, Virginia, and she had joined her husband until fighting resumed in the Spring. She writes of food shortages, army politics, and other aspects of life in wartime Winchester. These were to be her last months with James---her husband was killed in Battle at Gaines' Mill on June 27, 1862, a few days before his 33rd birthday. The widowed Julia survived her husband by only two years. The couple's orphaned son, Hugh, lived to adulthood. He eventually settled in Pittsburgh, PA, where he died in 1921 at age 63.
Full text transcription:
Winchester, Feb. 11th, 1862
My dearest Fanny,
The letter which you directed to Summit Point was sent me from home last week, and yesterday morning, yours to Mr. Allen was received. An answer from one will have to serve for both of us this time as your brother James is sick in bed! He was taken about ten days ago with a disorder of the stomach & bowels, which he neglected, & continued at the Court House every day through all the rain & mud until he was so weakened as to be forced to stay in and have a Doctor. He has now been in bed five days with more or less fever all the time, though the original disease is controlled, Nature seems to be slow in righting herself. He is kept on very light diet, Toast & Tea, Jelly and Oysters & by the way there is no Green Tea to be gotten in this place, and the Coffee, mostly or wholly Rye. I wish I could get at some of Mother's stores now. Mr. A. won't drink Black Tea which is Hobson's choice here. The Dr. said he had no fever this morning and thinks he will be up in a day or two! Mammy came up to me last Saturday and is a great help!
We had sent for Hugh two weeks ago, and after his Papa was sick, between the two- it was indispensable to have a servant! The Court Martial is still sitting- Major Lee presiding in Mr. Allen's place & had cases enough before it to keep it going several weeks longer! I shall be here with Mr. A. nearly all the time! It is a pleasant life enough if I could keep Mammy & Hugh, but they add to the expense so much, children & servants being half price, that we can't afford it! We pay $25 per month a piece, with the prospect of a rise, & furnish our own lights & fuel. Wood costs us nothing, as being on special duty Mr. A gets it from the Quarter Master- but it is a very heavy item to those who have to buy. Brown Sugar is plentiful here, & the Soldiers have Coffee & Molasses, but every thing is high, Butter 50 cts. Turkies 15 cts. per pound & everything in proportion, which makes Board so high, yet there is plenty of food of all sorts in the country & we live well with the single exception of Tea & Coffee.
The town is full of soldiers & their wives- Sue & Edwin Lee board very near here. Genl. & Mrs. Jackson not far off. I went to see Mrs. Jackson this morning. You were all shocked I suppose to hear of the General's resignation! It was very useless I think and arose from an over strained sense of right, although it was bad treatment & seemed to render his whole campaign absurd for them to order Loring's Division away from Romney immediately after getting possession of it. Jackson's resignation will not be accepted I suppose, but they will have to take Loring away for the two will never agree. Loring now says his is an independent division, that they were asked, not ordered to come here; and that they won't serve under Jackson. They also complain of their hard time in the summer & and say they ought to be put on easy work now, & let some other troops take to the mountains! As to the Tennesseeans, I am disgusted with them, their chief delight is in abusing Gen. Jackson, & the first Brigade which they look upon as a pet of his. There is a gentleman here that I quarrel with perpetually- but as he told me yesterday he had re-enlisted I shall think better of him.
Re-enlisting is going on briskly in the 1st Brigade, it will perhaps be kept together under its present organization. We hear of so much dissatisfaction in various quarters, & so many resignations for pique- that I have long since feared, we needed some reverses to unite us heart & soul in one common cause; & to awaken in us the strong resolve to conquer or die! To day's papers bring us the news of a disaster which ought to arouse and startle us. 3000 taken Prisoners at Roanoke Island. Mrs. Jackson who is from N.C. says the Island was perfectly untenable & the attempt to make a stand there at all, was very unfortunate! I wish they had saved the men. I hope Donald was rewarded for all his efforts by a sight of Gen. Beauregard, but doubt it.
I had a letter from Dudley to day. He has been detailed as one of Gen. Smith's Secretaries. Riely is the other. By the way, Sue hears through her Papa, that Dr. Randolph Page has gone to Lexington to court Ginnie Barton. Dr. Page is now the Surgeon to Uncle Wm's Reg. I hope she will marry him, or at least if she means to do it, that she will say so at once, and not interpose any prudish scruples! I hear that John & David Moore have both re-enlisted, tho' we have never laid our eyes on the boys since coming here. A great many of the Rockbridge Artillery have re-enlisted & gone home on furlough!
I asked Mr. Allen just now what he had to say to you, but having nothing to do but to lie in bed all day, he has not an idea above an Oyster, so all the answer I got was "If I was only at home now and could eat." He complained that I have made a false impression on you- "that he is not allowed to eat the Oysters- but only the Gravy!" I hope and trust he will be quite well again in a few days. Hugh is well and is much noticed by the gentlemen in the house. Mrs. Hopkins has a little grand daughter who is very kind to Hugh, and the old lady is quite a child spoiler herself! I shall send you in this letter a piece of a new & beautiful silk dress which Mr. Allen made me a present of some weeks ago. He got it here & gave $2.00 a yd.- too expensive I thought for the times, but he earns his money hardly enough & may be allowed to spend it as he pleases. It will last me the rest of my life doubtless, as there has been no occasion for me to wear it yet. The dressing here is generally plain this winter.
I hope you will write again soon and I promise to keep you informed of your Brother. I did not write when he was first taken because each day I hoped would be the last of his sickness. Give our best love to Mother- sisters- and all the household. Mammy desires to be remembered to you & all the servants and says she left Tom quite well. I have exhausted my subjects & made a very prosy letter after all.
Ever your attached sister,
Julia A. Allen
The original letter is privately owned. The owner provided the VMI Archives with a copy of the original and granted us permission to publish the letter on our website, so that its content could be made available to researchers.