Letters between James and Alexander Campbell after the Battle of Secessionville (brothers on opposing sides of the war), June 1862

 

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Document Description:

James and Alexander Campbell were brothers from a Scottish family that immigrated to the United States in the 1850s.  Alexander settled in New York City with most of the family, including two sons named James and Matthew; James went on to Charleston.  Both achieved a degree of success in becoming respectable members of their communities.  During the sectional crisis that led to the Civil War, each brother took the viewpoint of his adopted section of the United States.  During the war, the two brothers fought on opposite sides during the Battle of Secessionville, which was the first major attempt by federal troops to regain Charleston.  They were within yards of each other, but were unaware of that fact until near the end of the battle.  These three letters were written right after the battle, and comment upon what occurred at the battle and how they still interact with each other, despite being on opposing sides of the war.  The experience of the Campbell brothers illustrates the many families and friends that were split by the Civil War.  In a sense, they represent the two sections of the United States that split apart.  Furthermore, their letters reveal details about soldier life.

Citation:

Campbell Family Papers, 1860-1886.  P 900150.  South Carolina Department Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Transcription:

Campbell Letter One:

James Island
June  1862

Dear Brother

            I was astonished to hear from the prisoners that you was colour Bearer of the Regmt that assalted the Battrey at this point the other day.  When I first heard it I looked over the field for you where I met one of the wounded of your Regt and he told me that he believed you was safe.  I was in the Brest work during the whole engagement doing my Best to Beat you but I hope that you and I will never again meet face to face Bitter enemies in the Battle field.  But if such should be the case You have but to discharge your deauty to Your caus for I can assure you I will strive to discharge my deauty to my country & my cause.

            In the late Battle the killed on your side was verry heavy in proportion to the wounded and for the forses engaged the slaughter terrable.  Most of your wounded is doing well.  Col Morison I know nothing of.  He must be killed.

            When you write north you will please Let Sister ann know that I am Still alive and in good health.  I am verry anxious to hear from her but surcimstances does not afford a chance.  I will send this (open) by a flag of truce.  Give Leut Walker My compliments.

I Am Your Brother

James Campbell

Brother John Left here about Two years ago.  I have not hard from him since.

Campbell Letter Two:

James Island S.C.
June 16  1862

Dear Wife

            We have had a fight.  I am all right.  James & Matthew is all safe.  It was a verry severe fight and we have Lost a good many.  We had to fall back to our former position.  We charged there fort and would have held it if we had been properly supported.  Theres only two wounded in the sixth company.  One was Left on the field and its thought hes dead and the other is Daniel Larrance him that served his time with Mcmister.  You have seen him in our house in 33rd st.  He has got Badly wounded in the right arm.  The ball went through the bone.  He acted bravely.  He was in the fort when the order was given to retreat and it was then he got wounded.  I can’t see how Jammie Matthew & me got off without a scratch.  Some of the 79th pulled two or three of the rebels out of the fort by the hair of the head.  Our regiment behaved well.  The enemy is strongly fortified on this island.

            Brother James was in the fort.  I asked one of the rebels that was wounded and taken prisoner and he told me so.  Perhaps he is Killed for our guns shelled them terribly.

            Jane I only write to Let you Know that I am all safe and James & mat is all safe.  James is writing beside me.  We are verry tired.  We Left camp about one oclock this morning and we commenced the fight at day brake and now we are back in camp and its getting Late so I will come to a close hopping to hear from you soon.  Good night.

And I remain your afficonate Husband

Alexander Campbell

Campbell Letter Three:

James Island S.C.
June 25th, 1862

Dear Wife

            I received your Letter of the 15th in dew time and I was happy to hear that you all was well.  You say you have not got a Letter from me in four weeks.  I am surprised at that for I have wrote four since we Left Beaufort but I hope you have received them by this time.  We got payed the other day and I will send my money to you the first opportunity.  I know you must be in want of money.  If we would get payed regular it would not be so bad.  In a few days there will be other two months dew us but we will not get it.  I wish this war was over for I am sick of it.  The weather here is getting verry warm but we are all verry healthy so farr.  Our wounded has been all sent to Hilton Head.  From there they will be sent home as soon as possible.  It was an unfortunate affair and I beleive General Benham is under arreast for it.  I hope he will be sent home.  General Steavens the night after the battle cryed Like a child about the Loss of so many brave men.

            Jane you will be surprised to hear about me getting a Letter from Brother James.  It came by a flag of truce.  There has been a flag of truce sent for to see about our wounded and get there names and it took tow or three days before they could get all our mens names and James had got word about me being in the 79th from our men that was taken prisoners and he wrote me a Letter.  I will send you a copy of it and you will see better what he says.  I cant send him one for there wont be any more flaggs of truce going over at present.  Its rather too bad to think that we should be fighting him on the one side and me on the other for he says he was in the fort during the whole engagement.  I hope to god that he and I will get safe through it all and he will have his story to tell about his side and I will have my story to tell about my side.

            Dear Jane I have not got much news this time only that James & mat is well and I am in verry good helth myself hopping this will find you all the same.  Little Jonney & Alexander I hope will soon have their pappa home to take them out with mamma to walk.  Theres something striks me that this war will be over verry soon and I am shure it can’t be too soon for me.  Theres a report that our regiment is going away from here coming farther north but theres so many Lies going all the time one cant beleive anything.  I will come to a close this time hopping to hear from you soon.  So good day and I am Your ever Afficonate Husband.

Alexander Campbell

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the events that led to the Civil War, the course of the War and Reconstruction, and South Carolina’s role in these events.

Indicators 3-4.5 Summarize the effects of the Civil War on the daily lives of people of different classes in South Carolina, including the lack of food, clothing, and living essentials and the continuing racial tensions.

Standard 4-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the Civil War and its impact on America.

Indicator 4-6.4 Summarize significant key battles, strategies, and turning points of the Civil War—including the battles of Fort Sumter and Gettysburg, the Emancipation Proclamation, the significance of the Gettysburg Address, and the surrender at Appomattox—and the role of African Americans in the War.

Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and events leading to, and the course of, the American Civil War.

Indicator 8-3.6 Compare the effects of the Civil War on daily life in South Carolina, including the experiences of plantation owners, women, Confederate and Union soldiers, African Americans, and children.

Standard USHC-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction in America.

Indicator USHC-4.3 Outline the course and outcome of the Civil War, including the role of African American military units; the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation; and the geographic, political, and economic factors involved in the defeat of the Confederacy.

Standard 3-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the events that led to the Civil War, the course of the War and Reconstruction, and South Carolina’s role in these events.

Indicator 3-4.4 Outline the course of the Civil War and South Carolina’s role in significant events, including the Secession Convention, the firing on Fort Sumter, the Union blockade of Charleston, and Sherman’s march through South Carolina.

Standard 4-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the Civil War and its impact on America.

Indicator 4-6.3 Explain how specific events and issues led to the Civil War, including the sectionalism fueled by issues of slavery in the territories, state’s rights, the election of 1860, and secession.

Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Civil War—its causes and effects and the major events that occurred during that time.

Indicator 8-3.4 Compare the attitudes of the unionists, cooperationists, and secessionists in South Carolina and summarize the reasons that the members of the South Carolina secession convention in 1860 voted unanimously to secede from the Union, including concerns about states’ rights and fears about abolition.

Standard USHC-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction in America.

Indicator USHC-4.2 Explain how the political events and issues that divided the nation led to civil war, including the compromises reached to maintain the balance of free and slave states, the successes and failures of the abolitionist movement, the conflicting views on states’ rights and federal authority, the emergence of the Republican Party and its win in 1860, and the formation of the Confederate States of America.

Additional Flash Versions:

Campbell Letter One
Campbell Letter Two - Page One Campbell Letter Two - Page Two Campbell Letter Three - Page One Campbell Letter Three - Page Two

 

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