This letter was written by Edward S. Hawkins (1835-1862), 3rd Corporal, of Co. G, 23rd Georgia Infantry. Edward died at a hospital in Lynchburg, Virginia, on 23 November 1862 and was buried there in the Confederate Cemetery. The 23rd Georgia Infantry entered their first engagement at Seven Pines in May 1862 where the regiment lost 80 men in killed and wounded. They then took part in the Seven Days Battle but from Hawkin’s letter, we learn that Co. G suffered very little loss, if any.
At the time Hawkins wrote this letter, the 23rd Georgia Infantry was brigaded with the 13th Alabama and the 6th, 27th, and 28th Georgia under the command of Col. Alfred H. Colquitt in Major General D. H. Hill’s Division of Stonewall Jackson’s army. Readers will recall that Jackson was anxious to return to the Valley and resume the offensive by taking the war into the North. Indeed, Hawkins writes in his letter, “We are under marching orders this morning… [and] I guess we will go towards Yankeedom.”
Hawkins addressed the letter to his mother-in-law, Sarah L. (Strickland) Shelton (1815-1899) who was married to Ephraim Thomas Shelton (1803-1862) about 1839 and lived for a time in Gilmer county, Georgia, before relocating to Cherokee county, North Carolina. In his letter, Hawkins mentions “Marthy” who was his wife, Martha Ann Shelton (1837-1915). The couple were married in Fannin county, Georgia, in June 1856 and had two children before Edward enlisted; Edward Paul Hawkins (1859-1944) and John Edward Hawkins (1862-1943).
Addressed to Mrs. Sarah L. Shelton, Prince Edwards, Gillmore [Gilmer] County, Ga.
From Corp. Hawkins, a member in Co. G, 23rd Regt. Ga. Vol.
Camps 15 miles below Richmond, Va.
July the 9th 1862
I take this chance to let you know how I am. I am tolerable well at this time. I hope this will reach you and find you and family well and doing well.
I am apprised you have heard of the 7 days fight before now. Our regiment was in two close engagements in time of it and suffered considerable. We had two wounded in our company, none killed. Hensen ¹ and Wilson ² was wounded but not dangerous, I hope. I have seen more dead men for the last 15 or 20 days [than] I ever saw. I noticed where the 44h Georgia charged a Battery and lost a heap of brave men. The poor fellows lay in files dead on the field. ³
We have driven the enemy under cover of his gunboats [on the James River]. Jackson is preparing to give them battle, I suppose. We are under marching orders this morning but I can’t tell where we are going but I guess we will go towards Yankeedom.
I want you to write me as soon as you get this. I have wrote and wrote to Marthy but get no answer. I want to know what is the matter. When you write, direct your letter to Richmond in care [of] Capt. [John James Augustus] Sharp’s Company G, 23rd Regt. Ga. Vol.
Well, as I have no news, I will close this time. Please write me soon and let me hear from home. You will hear from me every chance I have so farewell this time.
— E. S. Hawkins to Mrs. Sarah Shelton
P.S. I will frank this as I have no chance to get stamps at this place. We are 15 miles from Richmond in the woods and no chance to purchase anything at this place. — E. S. Hawkins
¹ There were three soldiers by the name of Henson in Co. G, two of whom were wounded at Ocean Pond, Florida in February 1864, and one accidentally killed at Kinston, North Carolina in June 1863. None of their brief bio’s in the State Division of Confederate Pensions & Records mention being wounded during the Seven Days Battles.
² There were four soldiers by the name of Wilson in Co. G but none of them are mentioned as having been wounded during the Seven Days Battle in 1862.
³ Hawkins is probably referring to the fighting on 26 June 1862 near Ellerson’s Mill (See Battle of Mechanicsville or Beaver Dam Creek) on the banks of Beaver Dam Creek where the 44th Georgia fought for two hours in the face of the entrenched Federals before running out of ammunition. The regiment lost 361 men killed or wounded out of the 514 it sent into the fight. This engagement was the first of the Seven Days Battle.