1864: William John Hunnicutt to James Earle Hagood

This letter was written by William John Hunnicutt (1832-1882) of Co. K, Hampton’s Legion. He initially served in Co. E, 1st South Carolina Infantry, enlisting in July 1861 at the age of 28 but was discharged for disability after seven months in the field. He was later May 1863) conscripted into Hampton’s Legion at Greenville and remained in the service until December 1864 when he exited as a corporal.

From the letter we learn that Hunnicutt was not engaged in the fighting at Tilghman’s Gate of the 27th of July 1864 as his mare “was not able to do duty.” This tells us that Hunnicutt was, at the time, part of Hampton Legion’s mounted cavalry. Hampton’s mounted men along with the 7th South Carolina and the 24th Virginia Cavalry played a support role in this engagement primarily fought between Kershaw’s Brigades and Hancock’ II Corps on that day.

Hunnicutt was the son of James Madison Hunnicutt (1810-1886) and Ellen Swafford (1809-1886) of Oconee county, South Carolina. He married Martha Elmina Perry (1842-1909) about 1860; his first-born child having been born in 1861. After the war, Hunnicut returned to farming near Seneca, Oconee county. Tragically, he was murdered on 2 December 1882 near West Union, SC, on his way home from Walhalla, leaving a wife and eleven children. He was buried in New Hope Baptist Cemetery near Seneca, Oconee county, SC.  A local black man named Frazier Copeland was accused of the crime and subsequently convicted on circumstantial evidence; his motive argued to be one of robbery. To his death by hanging in April 1883, Copeland maintained his innocence.

Hunnicutt wrote the letter to James Earle Hagood (1828-1904), the son of Col. Benjamin Hagood (1788-1865) and Adaline Ambler Hagood (1808-1877). Hagood was at the time serving as clerk of the court in Perkins county and was seeking re-election in 1864.

William John Hunnicutt & wife Martha Elmina (Perry) Hunnicutt (1860)

Addressed to J. E. Hagood, Esq., Pickens Court House, South Carolina

Camp near Deep Bottom
Henrico county, Virginia
[Sunday] July 31st 1864

J. E. Hagood, Esq,.,

After my best respects to you, I will inform you that I am well at this time & doing tolerable well. I have no very good news to write to you, We have had some fighting here in the past week. My regiment was engaged with the enemy last Wednesday [27 July 1864]. We lost 18 or 20 men in all killed, wounded & missing—only 6 killed.

Orr’s Regiment was in the fight on Thursday [28 July 1864] & they got pretty badly cut up. Lt. Col. [William Mathew] Hadden was killed and several others was killed & wounded. L. C. Craig ¹ & John Craig ² & Warren Ross was wounded.

I was not in the fight for the first time that I have ever missed. My mare is not able to do duty & I am in the rear. I think she will be able in a few days.

I received your letter & was glad to hear from you. We had an election yesterday. The men was scattered & the vote was small. For Clerk: William Bowen 17, J. E. Hagood 13, F. A. Garvin 2. For Sheriff: L. C. Craig 30, J. M. Moody 1. For Collector: W. A. Craig 13, Herridon 12, Chasteen 1, Lester 2.

Nothing more—only remain yours with respect. — W. J. Hunnicutt

¹ Lawrence C. Craig (1827-1864) was a sergeant in Co. A, 1st South Carolina Infantry (“Orr’s Rifles”). He died on 3 October 1864 from wounded received in the fighting at Deep Bottom, Virginia, on 28 July 1864.

² John Craig (1843-1907) served as a private in Co. A, 1st South Carolina Infantry (“Orr’s Rifles”). He survived his wounds from the fighting at Deep Bottom on 28 July 1864.


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