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    Civil War Archive of Thomas B. Booth, 3rd Virginia Cavalry Regiment. A collection of seventeen letters from Thomas Boisseau Booth (1840-1923), a Virginia Military Institute graduate from Dinwiddle County. He enlisted in Company I of the 3rd Virginia Cavalry on May 29, 1861 as a private. The letters date from June 20, 1861 to April 20, 1862 and range in length from three to fifteen pages. In late spring 1862, Booth was wounded and spent several months convalescing before he was dropped from company rolls on August 15, 1862 as unfit for duty, although he never received a formal discharge. He participated in the Battles of Rich Mountain and Lee's Mill and numerous skirmishes, which he describes in his letters back home to his sweetheart, Agnes S. Lyon. A transcription accompanies each letter and most of the original mailing envelopes are included.

    His first letter home on June 20, 1861 describes secondhand the Battle of Big Bethel, "eight thousand Yankees were marching down the Warwick Road either to attack Yorktown or to attempt to cut us off from the forces at Yorktown (I mean to cut off the forces at Bethel) about 2,000 or 2,500 strong...a gentleman told us Bethel had been evacuated. I immediately turned my eyes in that direction and saw a very large smoke rising. Upon getting there I found all the tents burning and all the baggage the poor soldiers could not carry on their horses left upon the ground...As soon as the news came, the Zouaves were ordered to double quick about three miles to the road...When they got there they found no enemy had passed were then ordered to march to York as quick as possible. The whole road was now alive with men and horses for miles...I am sorry to say our 3rd Lieutenant was shot last Tuesday just above the knee by a party of stragglers from the Georgia regiment. Each thought the other enemy..." He ends his July 10th letter by mentioning President Lincoln's message to Congress on July 4, 1861, "Our captain has just finished reading the President's message to us. I must think Old Abe is deranged."

    On July 13, 1861, Booth describes the Battle of Rich Mountain two days prior, "...The Mecklenburg company being armed with carbines & four Lousianans who were down here scouting on their own hook were thrown on the front & the companies armed with shotguns were ordered to mount & hold themselves in readiness for a charge as soon as all of the enemy's guns had been discharged. By this time the enemy had concealed themselves in the thick woods on each side of the road. Our noble officer with his little hand full of men pressed bravely onward keeping in the edge of the thicket until in shooting distance of the enemy, when they were fired upon. But as in the battle of Bethel, the Yankee's balls passed far above their noble heads. In spite of the fast flying balls & the many commands given by the Yankee officers to make our men believe they had a large force behind, pressed forward. A few fires from our side was all that was needed to put the unprincipled hirelings to flight. Away they went through the woods, some of them almost forgetting they had a gun. I am happy to say our men stood to their posts nobly & manly. I never saw a cooler & more determined set of men in all my life...

    When they began to retreat the reserve companies were ordered to charge. But owing to the thickness of the woods in which the Yankees fled for protection it was thought imprudent to venture in although some few of the Mecklenburg troopers heedless of the danger they were rushed madly in & succeeded in taking some two or three prisoners after they had reached this large body of woods. We charged down the road to an open field & saw three passing across at double quick time. The fence was immediately thrown down & away went the horsemen in pursuit of the fast retreating Yankees. As soon as they were overtaken they threw up their hands & begged for quarters...We had eleven prisoners. ...I had no idea I could keep as cool in an engagement as I did yesterday...

    In a letter dated August 29, 1861, Booth writes that a fellow soldier fired at a Yankee, when "they could have taken him prisoner with all ease. I am truly glad they did not kill him as I would have been ashamed of them." He then writes about his disgust with individuals trying to play both sides of the war, "I think General Magruder ought to compel them to take some position for there are quite a number of them who pretend to be friendly to both parties by wearing a white band around their hats to pass themselves by us & raising a white flag in front of their houses to keep the Yankees from destroying their property. This is no time for neutrals. Every man should respond to his country's call & free their soil from threat of degraded Lincolnites who have come to invade & destroy our once beautiful & happy country, murder devoted husbands & turn the widow with her fatherless children out upon the world to mourn & to suffer..."

    In his letter dated November 6, 1861, Booth describes an encounter with two Yankees who commandeered a house where they were "shooting hogs". Booth relates that the captured prisoners "say their chief dread is the Virginia horsemen." On November11, Booth describes an ambush by the Yankees on a group of their men, who "immediately wheeled & started back to us at full speed. None of us expected to see a single man return but fortunately all five came up the hill & the balls flying at them at a fearful rate. Only one was struck & he was the very man who was sent down to shoot the man who concealed himself. One ball entered the left side, glanced around the ribs, & came out of his back so I am told. I only saw the hole in his jacket as he passed me. But I am truly glad to say it is merely a flesh wound & the ball did not make a long wound...we were ordered back to the place of artillery & formed a line right behind it. A shell was then thrown where the Yankees were concealed or rather they tried to throw it there, but it burst in the air & I suppose right over them as they were seen running towards Newport News...We then remained there some time waiting for them to come over the creek but they did not show themselves except when running towards Newport News. After seeing they had no idea of giving us a fight we returned to camp. Never mind, we will pay them for this yet. Oh how my blood boils when I think of them..."

    In his letter dated November 17, Booth describes a freak accident with a man accidentally shooting himself in the forehead, "another very sad accident has happened to one of the Halifax Black Walnut Troopers. Yesterday he was sent to a post called Messex. After getting there he went to a fodder stack to get feed his horse and, stooping over to pick up the fodder, his pistol fell from his holster striking the ground in such a manner as to cause it to fire the ball entering his forehead just above the eye. When I heard from him last night he was in very critical condition. The name of the unfortunate man is Poindexter. It seems as if misfortunes are coming upon us thick & fast, but we have no cause to complain. We have been very very fortunate up to the first of last week & I am really thankful for the protection that has been extended over us..."

    In his last letter, dated April 20, 1862, Booth describes the Battle of Lee's Mill, where McClellan attempted to assault General Magruder's fortifications along the Warwick River. Booth writes, "...the 5th North Carolina & 7th Georgia & 2nd Louisiana were engaged. The first named suffered most as I before stated. The official report states 21 killed, 61 wounded. Quite heavy, but small in comparison to the loss of the enemy as stated by the prisoners. They say their loss in killed & wounded must be at least 1000. General Magruder sent over a flag of truce yesterday for them to came & bury their dead as they had not taken any steps towards paying the last tribute of respect to their unfortunate comrades. They complied with the request of General Magruder but were not allowed to cross over on our side. Their dead were carried over to them but they did not get all of them as a great many fell & died in the pond of water while in the act of crossing. Last night about 9 o'clock (although the rain was coming down in torrents) the Yankees tried to get across the pond & surprise our camp but they were met with a warm reception & were compelled to retire..."

    He would however, become seriously wounded about two weeks later, ending his service in the Confederate Army. He returned to Virginia, where he married Agnes in November of 1862.

    Condition: Lightly rubbed and soiled. Overall, very good.


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    6th Saturday
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