1863: William Davis Ewing to Margaret Ann (Sellers) Ewing

These two letters were written by William Davis Ewing (1828-1902), the son of William Ewing (17xx-1857) and Elizabeth Bryan (17xx-1830). Ewing earned a medical degree from the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1854. Five years later he married Margaret Ann Sellers (1833-1915) and was practicing medicine in Augusta county, Virginia, when the Civil War began.

Ewing was a 30 year-old doctor when he enlisted in August 1861, at Staunton, Va., as a private soldier, mustering into Co. G, 52nd Virginia Infantry—this despite being a doctor, and having attended Washington College, the University of Virginia and Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. According to the records he served as an infantry private until April 1862, when he was detailed as a hospital steward, and then returned to his regiment in August 1862. In the fall of 1862, he was detailed as Assistant Surgeon, and later served as Acting Hospital Steward, from Jan. 1863 to Jan. 1864. He then returned to his regiment again, and was captured on Sept. 19, 1864, at the Battle of Winchester, Va. He was sent to the West Building Hospital, at Baltimore, Md., where he served as Assistant Surgeon, until his exchange on Feb. 2, 1865. After the war, he returned to his doctor’s practice in Augusta county and engaged in farming.

See letter by Dr. Ewing written on 15 April 1863 from Lynchburg, Va.


Winchester [Virginia]
June 24th, 1863

My Dear Wife,

I have so nearly recovered as to be able to walk about. My appetite is good & if I had my horse here, I would report for duty in two or three days but I cannot walk on account of one of my knees which was attacked with rheumatism after getting very wet on the march from Fredericksburg. I could not walk ½ a mile in anything like a brisk gate. Sometimes I have to take my hand to straighten my leg. I haven’t felt any pain in any other point. Dr. [John] Gibson left me here & told me to remain here until I got my horse. I wish if you could meet with an opportunity you would send her to me. I will report to Dr. Black at Jordon’s Springs ¹ for duty in three or four days where I will remain until I get my horse.

Screen Shot 2019-05-27 at 5.26.07 AM
CDV of Gen. Robert Huston Milroy

Mr. & Mrs. Singleton ² have been very kind to me. I don’t think I would have lived had I been left in that stinking old hospital for I was too sick to help myself when Mr. Singleton came & took me away. The Yankees treated Mr. Singleton very badly. They put him in the guard house & kept him on bread & water for a week because he wouldn’t take the oath. The people of Winchester are glad to be free from Yankee tyranny once more. They had some of the best houses in town & among them Mr. Singleton’s at one time filled with contraband negroes by order of Old [Robert Huston] Milroy. We did not catch the old villain but we got most all his men. There is about 400 prisoners in quarters here yet, principally sick & wounded.

Our cavalry had a fight near Snicker’s Gap yesterday. About 50 cavalry were brought in late yesterday evening taken in that fight. We lost considerably but I haven’t learned the extent—but our boys whipped them.

Write me by return mail if you have time. I will only be three or 4 miles from town when at the Springs & can get your letter. I am afraid I will run out of funds. My love to all. Your affectionate husband, — W. D. E.

I would be glad if you would enclose me $50. I am not charged here but they are so kind to me I can’t think of staying on them for nothing. I have every comfort I could desire & they have taken great pains to get me such food as is suitable for me to eat. In fact, I never was kinder treated in my life. I have some little money yet but I am afraid I will run out before my next pay day come around. I think I would have been commissioned before now if the Examining Board could have gotten a quorum. But probably it is all for the best. I am content & willing to submit. I have been doing very little duty since I left Lynchburg. Dr. [John] Gibson has been very kind to me & even told me himself that I ought to have been full surgeon of the regiment instead of himself. But I do not desire the responsibility of a full surgeon. He is anxious for me to get the assistant’s place. I will continue as apothecary until such time as I can do better. But Dr. Black told me he would assign me to duty at Jordan Springs if I wished. I expect to go there is a few days & will remain there until I can get my horse sent to me. Perhaps I may have an opportunity to be transferred to Staunton for duty. If I do, I will write you & let you know.

You can see all the news in the papers. It is not worth my while to write about the battles. I saw a letter from Thomas to Mr. Shirey. I am sorry my poor little brats trouble him but I will be obliged to impose upon his good nature until this troublesome mess is over. I want to see you all very much but I can’t expect to be at home any time shortly. I have great reason to be thankful to a kind Providence for his many blessings & mercies towards me.

Your affectionate husband, — W. D. Ewing

¹ Jordan’s Springs is located about four miles from Winchester along Lick Creek in Frederick county, Virginia. The best known hotel built in the area was the White Sulphur Springs Resort.

² Most likely Washington G. Singleton and his wife Maria Antoinette Waite of Winchester, Virginia. The Singleton’s were slaveholders. In the 1860 census, they had nine slaves enumerated as their property. Admitted to the practice of law in 1828, Singleton was appointed Attorney for the U.S. for the Western District of Virginia by President Andrew Jackson in 1834. He served in that office until 1842. In 1858, Singleton became Clerk of the Superior Court of the Chancery in 1858. After the court adjourned on September 5, 1864, the court met at Singleton’s home on Cork Street, between Washington and Stewart Streets. He and Maria had eight children, all born in Winchester. He continued to practice law until his death in 1866.


Camp near Brandy Station
November 8th [1863]

My Dear Wife,

Your letter dated 2d was just handed to me when a courier rode up with news that the Yankees were coming & orders to form the regiment. My horse was out grazing & I started after it. When I found her, our brigade had gone & as I had orders to remain in camp until morning & attend the sick call, I am spending the evening answering your letter as I have an opportunity to send it directly up by Mr. Huffman or Mr. [William D.] Shirey who are both in camp today. They got here night before last & will return tomorrow morning. If you send my box without putting it under the care of anyone, you had better direct it Dr. W. D. Ewing, 52d Virginia Regt., Pegram’s Brigade, Early’s Division, Ewell’s Corps.

Brandy Station,

There are men from the Valley & from Staunton coming down every day. It would have been no trouble atall for Mr. Huffman or Mr. Shirey either to have seen the box put on the same car with their boxes & to have told me that it was at the depot with their boxes & I could have gone over & brought it along with theirs. I loaned his son my mare in the summer to go up after their box & I think he might have looked after my box. I would have done that much for them any time.

I will send two little bundles of tobacco home—one for Mother & one for Peggy. I will have no chance to get you my calf skin to make you shoes but I will try to get you some buttons. Mr. Shirey has got a good many. The soldiers cut them off whenever they find them & sell them. I think I can buy you & Mary some. I will write you the news tomorrow if there is any but I don’t think there will be a fight.

We are busily engaged building & the Yankees know all about that. That is the reason they made the advance.

I am glad you got your leather. I wonder if they think Va. money is any better than Confederate money. I think it is 6 of one & half dozen of the other. Dr. [John] Gibson is still absent on a sick furlough. He has been gone more than a month. We are looking for him back. I think it would be better for me to have my vegetables in a barrel. If you have any molasses for the government, you need not send it to the hospital. Send it to me. We need it as much as anybody else.

I would like very much to see you & the children this winter but I don’t expect to get a furlough & Old Early will not let me go to the Examining Board. If I did, I would likely get home. My love to all when you write. Let me know whether you got Mother’s tobacco. I will write when I get the box.

Your affectionate husband, — W. D. Ewing

Since I wrote the above, we have had a good deal of hard fighting & have lost 1300 men killed, wounded, & prisoners & fallen back to where the east side of the Rapidan. The enemy are advancing.

9th — We are well. Send my box by Joby Maupin. He will be down on the 19th.

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