Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    Archive of 26 Confederate letters written by 2nd Lieut. Alonzo A. Vanderford, 21st S.C. Infantry. Excellent content pertaining to Morris and James Islands and defending Battery Wagner.
    This archive includes a total of 26 letters from Alonzo A. Vanderford, Co. D of the S. C. Infantry (the "Cheraw Guards"). The dates range from May 28, 1863 to December 29, 1863. Sixteen letters are written from Morris Island, and eight are written from Camp DuBoise on James Island. Two letters are written from Roper Hospital in Charleston.

    Nineteen of the letters are in ink and seven are in pencil. Conditions vary with some ink bleed-through, but all are readable and come fully transcribed. One of the ink letters is cross-written and provides an excellent example of the creative use of the soldier having paper shortage. Six of the letters are written on dark yellow C & D RAILROAD CO. stationery.

    Checking the internet gives us a fine history of Vanderford from his birth in Cheraw, S. C. to his severe wounding on June 24th, 1864 during the Siege of Petersburg when his leg was amputated and he died of his wounds four days later. Much of the letters concern camp life and requests that Vanderford had to his wife regarding items that he needed. Family business including the price of zinc, sending home lead, and paying the Confederate War Tax were issues commonly mentioned. The following are some quotes to show the content of the letters.

    Morris Island
    May 28/63

    ..."have just returned from the city. Have been there to attend a trial of 14 Negroes that were caught trying to go to the enemy."

    "Tell Sallie I will come home soon if the Yankees don't try and take Charleston again. I see that flour has gone up again. I wonder what do the people mean, they are going crazy about making money."

    "I am now having a Palmetto hat made to keep the sun from turning me black. You would hardly know me now I am so dark. I tell you, Cynthia, this war must close soon for the Yankees are now very tired of it and I am sure we are. If it don't close this year, it may not make it until Lincoln's time is out."

    Morris Island
    July 9th, 1863

    "...the Iron Monsters has again made their appearance at the bay. They came there last night. I was on picket and this morning at daylight I saw four of them sail in from the south. Our whole Regt. is on picket tonight. They may attack us tomorrow or next. day."

    "I hope the Clads will leave soon and then things will go right again."

    "I see that Vicksburg has fallen. That is a bad thing but maybe we can take it back."

    Charleston
    July 12, 1863

    "I hasten to write you a few lines to let you know that I went through two battles all safe on Friday and on Saturday morning. The Yankees charged our battery and we killed and taken over 150 Yankees, and I was sent with our company to the Boomproof and about 11 a.m. I was shocked and am now in the Roper Hospital and getting better. Don't be alarmed about me. I am in God's hands and I hope that I will pull through it alright. If I don't get to come home, I may be sent to Columbia. You will see a list in the paper of the killed, wounded and missing. Again I say don't be alarmed about me. Cheer up. The siege won't last long I hope. I think that my trunk and all my clothes are lost. That is a bad loss on me I tell you. But I must put up with it."

    Charleston, S. C. in Roper Hospital
    July 15, 1863

    "I am better at this time. Dr. Burns has just told me that I will go to Columbia tomorrow evening and if I do, I will telegraph you from Kingsville and if I don't get off home in a day or two, I will want you come on to see me and bring me some clothes. That is when I get to Columbia. The Yanks got everything I had, only what I had on."

    Fort Johnson
    Aug. 3, 1863

    "I am well at this time and I have just come off of picket. The Yanks shelled all night but done no damage as we have heard of yet. We are here at Fort Johnson all in a pile like hay. I expect to get Lousy and have that itch. Arg! Most everything else that is in the camp."

    "I have more hopes of Charleston now that I had when I left here, though there will be some hard fighting yet. I expect there are a great many troops here and I hope if the Yanks try again that we may come off victorious."

    "It is now after dinner and all of our batteries have opened on the Yanks on Morris Island. Battery Gregg and Fort Sumter throw their shells very near or in their batteries and they just take revenge out of Battery Wagner. We have not heard from there today."

    "I am in command of our company today and there was a great deal of trouble I tell you. Everyone wants to know something of me."


    Fort Johnson
    Aug. 9th, 1863

    "I have just got back from the Battery all safe. We had a very still time until Saturday evening when the Yanks commenced shelling and shelled all night. Don't know the damage done yet, but will find out in the morning."

    "The old Battery holds out well and I hope that she will still hold out. I am very glad to get back to Fort Johnson. There now is on the island about 5,000 Yanks and our men. We can see the Monitors and the Wooden Gunboats out just opposite our old quarters."

    "When we go back to Battery Wagner you can't hear from me under six days. I will write and tell you when we have to go, but I don't much think we will have to go back soon."

    "Tell your Pa that we all have hopes now of Charleston."

    "We get very dirty at the Battery lying down in the Boomproof. It is a very hot place under about 15 feet of sand bags."

    Fort Johnson
    Aug. 16, 1863

    "...we have just got orders to start for old Battery Wagner tonight and I hope that we will come back safe."

    "We will have to stay six days from tonight until Saturday night next. You must not be uneasy about me but pray that I may come back safe."

    "I wish this trouble was over. We have to live in such a way down here that it is very troublesome to us. But we will have to put up with it and make the best of it that we can. I hope that it will soon close as it has lasted a long time. Nearly as long as the siege of Vicksburg."

    Fort Johnson
    Aug. 25th, 1863

    "We were at Battery Wagner 8 days this time, and in the most terrible fight that I ever witnessed, but thank God we had a very good time. No fighting with small arms. We lost one man and a good soldier, E. Braddock. He was killed in the rifle pits while looking at the gun boats while they were firing on Wagner."

    "I don't think that Wagner can be held long now, but that you must not mention that I said so. I think that we will have to quit it soon."

    "You have seen by the paper the number killed at the Battery. Mostly artillery. They have had a hard time of it. They have to stand by the guns and are more exposed than any other of the troops."

    "Cynthia, God only knows when this war will close but I hope soon. I think that if we could only hold the city of Charleston and drive them back from here, that it would have a great deal to do with the close of the war."

    "But if we have to leave the city, we will have to burn it and fall back into the County and fight them in the woods and that will be bad on both sides."

    "Tell your Ma to remember me in her prayers that I may come out safe and be returned home to you and my darling little child."

    Fort Johnson
    Aug. 31, 1863

    "We have to camp out in the woods, and it has been raining almost ever since and I have caught cold and it made me right sick. It will keep me from going to Wagner."

    "There was a bad thing happened to one of our boats last night. The steamer Sumter carried over one Regt. to Morris Island and started back with two more and the garrison at Fort Moultrie thought she was a Yankee steamer and they fired into her and struck her and killed and wounded a great many soldiers belonging to the 20th S. C. V. and 32nd Georgia. There were seven hundred men on board and they think one hundred were killed and wounded. I hope Wagner will hold out a few days longer until we get our whopper mounted anyhow."

    "Maybe I will come home sometime soon if this siege would only stop the Yanks. Think that we are a hard set. Don't know what to do with us. It may be six months before they will attempt to venture in. By the ruins of Sumter, she still floats her flag and Col. Rhett will not quit it. It has cost them now more than the city is worth, and they will now take the city as it is. If they do get in to it, they will not have to fight over the ruins of it to hold the ground."

    "I want you to tell your Pa to make for me, if he can, a griddle to bake a wheat hoe cake on. We can't get no spider here and a griddle I think will do."

    "I had to sell the potatoes because they were spoiling and on yesterday Capt. Tarth and me decided from our old mess and now we want some potatoes and if you will send me some, I will kiss Sallie and you a dozen times to pay for them....Lt. A. Vanderford, Co. D, 21st S. C. Vol., Care of Col. Graham, Charleston."

    Camp near Fort Johnson
    Sept. 10, 1863

    "We have moved to another camp and it is right on the beach where we get the breeze all the time and the health of the Regt. is better now and is still improving. Has been getting better ever since the evacuation of Wagner, that kept a good many sick."

    "The Yanks made an attack on old Fort Sumter and we took 121 prisoners, 102 privates and 19 officers. So you see that old Sumter is not dead yet. She will send a great many of them home or to some other place. I think now that Charleston is safe yet and I think it will be long time before it will fall."

    Camp near Fort Johnson
    Sept. 12

    "The duty is very heavy now and the Yanks keep throwing shells over amongst us but do no damage."

    "We expect in a few days to have a lively time in a few days or a week, but there will soon be about 20,000 men here and that will keep back the Yanks. "

    "Although they have the whole of Morris Island, they are still four miles from the city, and they have made so many trials to get into Charleston by water and have failed, so I think the next will be a land attack."

    "We are now encamped about 1 1/2 miles from the city on the beach on James Island. A very nice camp but we have no tents. We have torn down houses and built us shelters which does us very well."

    "I see no chance to get off home until the Yanks make another demonstration and fail, which I hope they will do and get bucked."

    "Tell your Pa to try and sell the old place if he can. I can put the money out at interest if nothing else, and the house will not do me any good. I will have the war tax to pay and I will write to you again next week about it."

    "The big gun is busted. Ain't that bad? It busted the 3rd charge."

    "I wish that I had my blue pants now, but will wait with patience for them. I know that when the cloth is made, you will let me know..." ??Camp near Fort Johnson?
    Sept. 20?
    "We are looking for a fight every day now but I think it will come off on Sullivan's Island and if they don't do anything there, they may attack us on this island or they may attack both places at once."

    "We have been building houses for our Regt. and have very comfortable winter quarters, thought I slept very cold last night."

    "Capt. Tarth and myself have built together and we have quite a nice little house with two beds in it."??Camp near Fort Johnson ?
    Sept. 22, 1863?
    "Today is a very cold and windy day. It's raining and very disagreeable outdoors, but we have a shanty to stay in. I wrote to you to send me some things. I wish I had a coarse shirt or some colored cloth."

    "I want you to tell you Pa to attend to the paying of my war tax. Tell him that I have in bonds that are taxable, $1,400.00. The interest is not collected. Also $600.00 in Bonds out of my wages since I have been in service that are not taxable I don't think..."

    "We have most finished our mess house. Just built a chimney to it yesterday and it ?is quite a comfortable place."??
    Camp near Fort Johnson
    Sept. 27 /63

    "Capt. Tarth and we have gone into a mess and we need a kettle and a pan of some kind to bake in."

    "...I thought that I would send you a pair of pants as they have begun to get holes in the wrong places. You can fix them, I know. I have not been to the city but once since I left home and if I had my sword fixed, I wouldn't care to go there for the balance of the year."

    "The Yanks are very still now on Morris Island, we think building a large battery where we built Battery Gregg, so they can shell the city. But then they will have to stop for they can't get any further without taking hard hits and that they are afraid of."

    "I expect that you are getting ready to go to church, and I am here sitting on my board bed, writing a few lines to my Dear Cynthia. There are a great many soldiers here on this island, most gorgeous, all fine hearty fellows waiting to meet the Yanks. ...Keep everything together as well as you can."??
    Fort Johnson
    Oct. 4 1863

    "I was in the city on Friday and could have stayed until today, but it is too expensive to do so, from 5 to 8 dollars per day."

    "We have a beautiful camp on a high bluff on the sea side or at least on the side of the bay and have nice houses to live in where we have a full view of the city all the time."

    "Tell Cousin William that the war will soon close, I think, and times will be better again."
    ??Camp of the 21st SCV near

    Fort Johnson
    Oct. 7, 1863

    "We are now under Gen. Hagood on this island. He is a very good man for letting one off when it is necessary, and I will try and make myself content until I get a chance to get off."

    "Now if they will only let us stay here this winter in peace I will like it very much."
    "The Yanks lay very still over on our old place but they may wake up before long and let us hear from them."

    "Be careful about her catching the whooping cough. I have heard that it is very bad in Cheraw now at this time."

    "The shoes do very well but the price was very high I tell you."??
    Camp near Fort Johnson
    Oct. 9, 1863

    "I also wrote to you about my taxes and I wish I had not of said so much about them. I don't think that I ought to pay so much taxes on bonds that I bought out of my wages."

    "This is a big day with our Brigade. We will have to go about 4 miles to a review. Don't know what it means but some think we are gong to move, but I don't think so."

    "I need some Quinine you will put up in some safe place."??
    Camp of the 21st SCV near Fort Johnson
    Oct. 11, 1863

    "Have just now eaten a few oysters but they are not so plentiful as they were on Morris Island."

    "We are now in Hagood's Brigade. We were reviewed last Friday and I think that furloughs will start soon now. The Yanks are still, yet they sometimes throw a shell over on James Island but it don't come near our camp."

    "If the Yanks don't do anything soon, they will have to quit and go somewhere so as to make the folks at home keep still."??
    Camp DuBoise James Island
    Oct. 26th 1863

    "We have just finished our house which is made out of split pine logs and old fence rails and the cracks are stopped with moss which makes a very comfortable hut."

    "Capt. and myself sleep together on a table and a plank put up on four boards and they make a very good bed and we have straw under our blankets which makes the bed soft and so we get along right well except our cooking arrangement which is poor yet."

    "I will send you in this letter fourteen dollars which you will pay to Mrs. Crowley, wife of W. H. Crowley, a member of our Company who died in the Hospital some time ago. I will write a receipt and send it with the money. You will make her sign it when you pay her the $14. It is a balance of his two month's wages. There is more coming to him but that will have to be paid in Richmond."

    "I have been over to the Presbyterian Church some 1/2 mile from us."
    "Col. Graham is now in command of the Regt. again and I tell you the men are in better spirits than they have been in some time."

    "The camp talk now is that furloughs are to be started now soon, and I hope that the Yanks will keep still until
    we get around and maybe my time will come in two or three months."

    "I have just heard that the Yanks opened on Fort Moultrie from three of their Batteries a while ago but don't know what they have done."

    "Gen. Ripley thinks that he can hold old Sumter a long time yet and so on."

    "It would make you laugh to see our camp now. Instead of tents we have houses built like potato houses. They are covered with dirt and look like the pictures in the old geography."

    "Learn Sallie to talk as fast as you can so as she can tell me where I have been and how bad she has been since I left. My love to all at home."

    "Capt. Tarth has just told me to get a small tin box to put salt in on the order. If you have a empty mustard box it will do. Also a gourd to drink water out of. Not too long a one."??
    Camp DuBoise ?
    Nov. 9 1863

    "I am sorry to tell you that furloughs have stopped again as there has been some new movement made by the Yanks. But we hope it will not stop long."

    "We will have to work a little on our house this evening as the wind is very cold and the moss is getting out of the cracks, so we will have to get sticks and punch it in better."??
    Camp DuBoise
    Nov. 24, 1863

    "The reason I have not written to you before now is the Regt. has been on picket and we have been putting a new roof on our house which took the biggest part of three days."

    "I can't write you anything about my coming home for we only get one officer off at a time now and it will be some time before I can get off as there are seven ahead of me."??
    Camp DuBoise
    James Island
    Nov. 29, 1863

    "...I can't tell you when I can get off. Major McIver is at home now and I expect he will go again before I do. There is a great deal of talk in the Regt. about his getting off when it has not been long since he was at home. You see it takes one from the line to fill up the quota, and his getting off stops someone that ought to go instead of him. But that is the way with the world. Some go just when they please and others go when they can. But I must not make too much noise about that."

    "I am well pleased with the place we are now at. The duty is light and two drills a day."

    "The Yanks are very still today. There are a great many of them around here, but they will have to fight hard before they can get to the city by this route." ??
    Camp DuBoise James Island?
    Dec. 20, 1863

    "On yesterday there was a soldier shot to death with musketry for desertion. I did not go to it, but they that went told me it was a solemn sight to see a man, a good looking man, to walk out before ten thousand soldiers with his coffin in front of him and after a few words are said to him by a preacher to bid all goodby and stand and look right straight in the face of his brother soldiers with their guns all loaded. Then the command is given; Ready, Aim, Fire and he falls back dead."

    "Such was the case on yesterday and on Saturday, two more. One to be shot and I am afraid that one in our company will face the same fate. Jno. D. Polk has been a fair soldier until lately and he run away from the hospital and has been gone three months. I think that he will be shot."

    "There are 5 officers to go before I do and maybe 6, but I will try to work in some time next month. But you must not look for me until you hear me coming in at the gate. Cynthia, I want to come home, but duty keeps me here and I will have to submit to it."??
    Camp DuBoise, James Island
    Dec. 29, 1863

    "I rec'd the box by Mr. Porter and we were glad to get it. I now have on the pants. They don't fit very well but they will do. Almost too small around the waist so you must not cut out the others yet a while. The round jacket I can't spare just at this time as it is part of our summer uniform and we are compelled to keep them."

    "You must if you hire a Negro woman get a good one and get as cheap as you can. Get one without children. A young girl will work best. There is no chance for me to get home in some time yet and so you must do the best you can for yourself in hiring a girl."

    "We had a very dull Christmas here. There was a small fight not far from us on Friday (Christmas) morning in which we lost 2 pieces of artillery and 2 men and 11 horses which turned out bad for a Christmas frolic."

    "The Yankees keep very still here now. Just at this time, some think they have gone to Pasotaligo, but I think they are about here yet, and I hope that they will stay here awhile as it will keep us here."

    Letters describing the fighting around Battery Wagner, made so famous in the movie "Glory," are rare, especially Confederate letters. From the Calvin Packard Civil War Battlefield Letter Collection.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2020
    6th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 389

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    Sold on Dec 6, 2020 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item
    Coming soon:

    Luxury Real Estate
    Opens about 07/23/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 09/27/2021

    Luxury Real Estate
    Opens about 08/06/2021

    Jewelry & Timepieces
    Opens about 09/24/2021

    Photography
    Opens about 09/22/2021

    Decorative Art
    Opens about 09/23/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 09/28/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 09/28/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 09/29/2021

    Currency
    Opens about 10/04/2021

    Western & Texas Art
    Opens about 10/01/2021

    Sports Collectibles
    Opens about 10/01/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 09/24/2021

    World & Ancient Coins
    Opens about 10/04/2021

    Decorative Art
    Opens about 10/07/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 09/30/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 10/11/2021

    Decorative Art
    Opens about 10/08/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 10/01/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 10/13/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 10/07/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 10/04/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 10/15/2021

    Entertainment
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Jewelry & Timepieces
    Opens about 10/22/2021

    Entertainment
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Manuscripts
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Entertainment
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Musical Instruments
    Opens about 10/12/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 10/19/2021

    Photography
    Opens about 10/20/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 10/22/2021

    Decorative Art
    Opens about 10/21/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 10/14/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 10/11/2021

    Space
    Opens about 10/25/2021

    World & Ancient Coins
    Opens about 10/17/2021

    Currency
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Silver
    Opens about 10/26/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 10/26/2021

    Jewelry & Timepieces
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 10/27/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 10/27/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 10/29/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    VIEW BENEFITS
    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
      winnings 
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2022 February 12 - 13 Lincoln and His Times Americana & Political Signature® Auction .

    Learn about consigning with us

    You reach a customer base that is in many ways completely unknown to the major auction houses, and your marketing to this base is as professional as one could hope for. As I continue to wind down my holdings.
    Michael Z.,
    Hawthorne, NY
    View More Testimonials

    HA.com receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source: Similarweb.com)

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search