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    Civil War Archive of Letters of Confederate Prisoner of War Chancellor Alexander Nelson, 49th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. An extensive archive of 34 letters in ink, all but one written to his wife Jane Nelson in Alexandria, Virginia, dating from October 26, 1863 to March 9, 1865, days before he was released from prison. There is one canceled postal cover in the archive.

    Nelson's letters from prison discuss his health, the weather, news from home, how much he misses Jane and his family, and the dull and dreary life as a prisoner of war. The first letter in the archive, dated October 26, 1863 from Johnson's Island, Ohio, where he spent his entire time as a prisoner, was written over three months after he was captured by Union soldiers on the previous July 5, where he recovered from a slight wound at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1.

    In a November 14 letter from Johnson's Island, Nelson wrote to Jane that "As for exchange of Prisoners I can see no indication whatsoever. Consequently I have made up my mind to stand it, hard as it is. This state of things cannot last always." In a letter, dated March 10, 1864, Nelson thanks his wife for the locks of hair she sent, stating that "I would like to see the heads from which they were taken, but at present that is impossible." A week later, on March 17, Nelson wrote of his disappointment of learning that expected prisoner exchanges were not going to happen, that he was "in fine spirits, thinking soon to leave this prison for Dixie. But Alas, to day's paper brings us sad intelligence, that the exchange, which had commenced, is again stopped. This is sad news indeed." In a May 4 letter to Jane, Nelson wrote about the dreary existence as prisoner of war. "We are isolated from all outside civilization, and one wonders how he gets along, through all the weary dreary days." Nelson did have access to newspapers, since he reported to his wife what he read about the war in Virginia in a May 13 letter. "We have news from the Battles in Virginia, as late as yesterday morning, from what the papers say, Lee is gradually falling back on Richmond. The latest news is not very flattering to us, yet my confidence in Lee's ability remains unshaken."

    Prisoners at Johnson Island could not send or receive letters of more than one page in length. As Nelson informed his wife in a June 12 letter, he had received a letter from her "simply an envelope marked Contraband in length; according to a late order, issued by the authorities, prisoners of war are not permitted to receive letters of more than one page." Writing on September 11, 1864, Nelson noted that he was "unusually sad to day...[and] ...it may be owing to the rather gloomy news from the South, for the last few days. The fall of Atlanta and other rumors, of a like character, are not at all pleasing to a 'Rebel Prisoner'.... I hope the Federal Government will soon become tired of feeding 'Rebel Prisoners' and that Abraham the great will order us South." As one can imagine, Nelson had his share of depressed days. As he wrote on November 16, "I feel unusually sad & low spirited today. It may be, that I have been thinking a great deal of home. The prospects of an early Exchange etc. all gloomy.... Give my love to Mama, tell her I am not permitted to wrote often or much at a time, which accounts for my not writing often to her." Almost a month later, on December 11, Nelson poured out his heart to Jane about his long imprisonment. "For seventeen months I have lived a dull, monotonous life, filled with hopeless anxiety. And while I sit and lay upon my berth on this cold and cheerless island, my thoughts wander far away, to the dear ones at home, and wish so often it could be so.... I am often told by correspondents that it is better for me to be here, but I cannot think so, no that cannot be, any where else, free from prison."

    In a December 18, 1864 letter to Jane, Nelson wrote that he didn't expect to have much of a Christmas. "I don't expect to live as well this Christmas, as I did last. We are deprived of many privileges, now that were allowed us a year ago. Our prison is quite full, numbering I believe about twenty eight-hundred. The Confederacy is very well represented here, in the way of Officers." After spending a dreary and lonely Christmas, Nelson wrote to Jane of December 27 that "over 300 Officers from Hood's Army have been brought here for Winter. Sorry to see so many Rebs coming North. News generally bad. However I am exceedingly anxious to be exchanged, though Mr. Secretary Stanton's decision, to the contrary notwithstanding."

    In almost all of his letters home, Nelson spoke of his hopes for a prisoner exchange. On February 14, 1865, he wrote to Jane that a "general exchange has been agreed upon, and preparations are being made to send off 500 Officers from this place tomorrow. I fear I will not be included, as the latest news is they will take those by states, and not according to date of capture. If so 'Virginia, poor old Virginia' will be one of the last states. Consequently, I as one of her Officers, will perhaps have yet to remain here probably two months. However I am much elated over even this prospect. Yesterday I mended up all my clothes, today I packed up, and am now ready to leave at a minutes warning." By the time of his next letter, dated February 28, Nelson's hopes had been realized. He told Jane that "When you again hear from me I hope to be released from prison walls, 'yes' thank God, I shall soon leave for exchange. I have been paroled, have packed all my little tricks, and now only awaiting orders to leave the prison. Words cannot express the joy I feel at the prospect of again visiting the sunny south - the land of my birth."

    Chancellor Alexander Nelson (1834-1915) of Company C, 49th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, was wounded at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, and captured at Jack's Mountain on July 5, 1863. He was released from Johnson's Island, Ohio, on March 14, 1865, and paroled at Ashland, Virginia, on April 28, 1865. He died at Fort Scott, Kansas.

    The 49th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment was raised in Virginia for service in the Confederate States Army. It fought mostly with the Army of Northern Virginia. The 49th Virginia completed its organization in July 1861. Its members were from the counties of Prince William, Warren, Fauquier, Rappahannock, Amherst, and Shenandoah. Three companies fought at First Manassas and these companies formed the nucleus of the regiment. The regiment participated in many battles from Williamsburg to Cold Harbor, was active in General Jubal Early's Shenandoah Valley operations, and took part in the final campaign at Appomattox.

    Condition: Each letter bears a stamp "Library of Paul Eberle Nelson", most of which appear on the recto side, with minimal affect on text. Letters have the usual folds; some have tears at the intersections of folds, which have been unprofessionally repaired with tape. Some of the letters show discoloration, some of it as a result of tape on the verso. Overall, letters are in good condition.


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    Auction Dates
    May, 2021
    19th Wednesday
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