This letter was written by William Buford Ayers (1820-1892), the son of John Wesley Ayers (1787-1848) and Mary Power (1789-1859). He wrote the letter to his wife, Charlotte Morgan (Luken) Ayers (1839-1920). Their children were Laura Thomas Ayers (1858-1948) and Milton Clark Ayers (1860-1948). The family resided in Bedford county, Virginia, at the time of the Civil War.
William was a private in Co. B, 28th Virginia Infantry. He enlisted on 17 August 1863. He was with his regiment through the fighting in the summer of 1864, from Cold Harbor to Petersburg, until late November 1864 when he was sent to a hospital. It is not known if he was among the large number of those remaining in the regiment that surrendered at Sayler’s Creek in April 1865.
Camp Lee ¹
March 7th 1864
Dear Wife & Brother,
I again seat myself to drop you a few lines to let you know that I am still alive & quite well & Cap ² is also & have been ever since I return[ed] to camp though we have had a very hard time ever since I return[ed]. Our guard duty has been very heavy besides we were called out last Tuesday to the Battery to meet the Yankees raid & stay till Saturday though they did not come where we were but some of the men were into it. The Yankee[s] threw shells in about two hundred yards of our quarters at Camp Lee though they did no harm. We took some 460 prisoners & kill[ed] a number of them [including] one of their head generals—[Ulric] Dahlgren. ³ We had quite a stirring time about here but everything is quiet here now. But there is a great many men here now.
There is some 400 conscripts here now & there was about eight hundred paroled men landed here yesterday from Point Lookout [Maryland]. They look very well & are as gay as a lark. We sent the same quantity of their men off today. I expect they will all be swapped so far as our men will go. We have been relieved from guard down in Richmond at the hospital & now am in hopes our duty will not be as hard. Our [fare?] is a doing very well now. Mr. White landed yesterday with a very fat box from home.
James Preston was here yesterday but he did not stay long enough for me to make any enquiry of him though I am in hopes to get a letter today as I have not heard anything direct from home since I left. But I am in hopes all is well and doing well.
Herse, I expect you will have to come down here soon and if you do, you had better pack down the meat so it will be sure for Mr. Hance told me of several that have lost their meat. I think you had better put the corn in a more safer place—the good corn anyhow—and take care the best you can. I think we will have a hot time this summer & I hope we will give the Yankees jessee.
The parole[d] men are in good spirits, They said they were guarded by the Negro sentinels, There is not but one man from Bedford. It is Charles C. Andrews. He belongs to the 2nd Va. Cavalry. He said he left F. Borroughs & Mordred Ayers both well.
It has been a very rainy morning & I have taken 4 hours of it but I feel quite stout. Well, I believe I have nothing more that will interest you so I will bring these lines to a close hoping to hear from you soon. Tell Laura T. & Milton C. [that] Papa wants them to be smart & he will come to see them again soon& bring Laura T. & T some pretty books if they will be smart & learn how to read.
Cap with myself sends his respects to you all & to all enquiring friends. So no more for this but as ever remain your husband [&] brother till death. May God bless & spare you all is my prayer. — Wm. B. Ayers
To C. M. Ayers
Cap just received a letter from Coz. Sarah Powers. It stated that Baby and Edward were both well and all the rest of the family.
¹ Camp Lee was also known as New Fairgrounds, or Camp of Instruction. It was used as a training camp located west of Richmond.
² “Cap” probably refers to Captain Holt.
³ See the Dahlgren Affair.