Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    Civil War Archive of William J. H. McBeath, 5th Mississippi Infantry, CSA.
    An archive of 23 letters, 22 of which were written during the Civil War, from McBeath to his future wife, Sarah (Sally) Lewis in Philadelphia, Mississippi, dating from November 4, 1861 to November 9, 1864. In addition to the Civil War letters, there is one letter and three other documents relating to post-Civil War activities. The letters vary in size and length, though most are four pages.

    McBeath's first letter to Sarah Lewis, whom he calls "Sallie," is dated November 4, 1861, two months after the 5th Mississippi Infantry was organized, and contains, like many in the archive, descriptions of camp activities, military news, descriptions of engagements with the enemy, and his abiding love for her. By the time of his next letter, December 6, McBeath's regiment is in Warrenton, Florida. He writes to Sallie that he is not well, "I am in a bad fix for fighting; I am scarcely able to sit up to write to you; it fatigues me very much to write. Sallie you cannot imagine how bad it is for one to be sick in the army, and where you cannot get Medicine, our Regt. is about out and it seems that one cannot get supplies." McBeath's regiment left Florida in March 1862 and went from there to Mobile, Alabama to Corinth, Mississippi, and then to Iuka, Mississippi. From there they ended up in Tuscumbia, Alabama, near Corinth, where Union soldiers were trying to land a large force. A camp near Tuscumbia us where McBeath writes to Sallie on March 18, 1862. "There is a battle expected here every day, though I don't hardly think it will come off it at all, under three or four weeks. There are more soldiers here than I have ever seen in my life and yet we will have to have more....I think the hardest Battle that has yet been fought, will be between here and Corinth. Soldiers are coming from all parts of the Southern Confederacy." McBeath's next four letters in the archive are written from Camp Bridgeport, Alabama. One letter, dated January 9, 1863, was written days after the Battle of Stones River (or Second Battle of Murfreesboro), which resulted in a Union victory in that it prevented the Confederate Army from controlling middle Tennessee. McBeath writes to Sally, "The battle commenced heavy in the morning of 31st of Dec. 1862, and continued so until the evening of the first of Jan, 1863. We succeeded in taking a number of prisoners, the details of which, you will doubtless see in the papers before this letter can reach you. I therefore deem it unnecessary to say much about the fight this time. We lost about half of the Regt. (engaged) killed and wounded, but a great many, were slightly wounded....Though I was struck with a couple of spent balls...neither one of them entered [my] body, but had it not been for the breast fold of my India rubber over Coat, my haversack and Sword Belt, I would have got pretty badly hurt....Our Regtr. and Brig. suffered greatly, we had to fight the enemy in their breastworks. We lost many a good and Brave man." On June 11, 1863, McBeath wrote a letter to Sallie from a camp near Shelbyville, Tennessee, on the back of a manuscript Roll of non-commissioned officers and privates for the 5th and 8th Mississippi Infantry during the month of February and March 1863, possibly in the hand of McBeath, who served as captain of Company K of the 5th Mississippi Infantry. In this letter, he tells Sallie that he met up with her brother Thomas of the 4th Texas Regiment. By mid-July, McBeath's regiment was camped outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. In a July 17, 1863 letter to Sallie, McBeath writes, "The report is that the Yankees are taking and burning everything as they go [in Tennessee]. I do not know what will become of the poor women and children. There are Refugees all through this Country. They left their homes on account of Yankees. Number of Citizens on the other side of the River have been burned out of house and home. We have had a great deal of reverse fortune, but I trust that the tide will soon change in our favor again." In an August 22 letter to Sallie written days before the Union siege of Chattanooga began, McBeath describes a surprise shelling that occurred while he and his fellow soldiers attended church in the town the day before. "Suddenly we were aroused by the roar of the Cannon and the bursting of shells from the other side of the River. We could hardly believe our ears, hence for a moment no person moved and not a word was spoken, and we saw with our eyes, we saw the smoke of the Cannon, and the balls came head long tearing up everything in their course...a time of distress with the Citizens....All eyes seemed to be looking to the Soldiers for protection, and I had hastily to repair to my post of duty...the balls flew thick and close...the bombardment lasted until late yesterday evening. The Enemy are reported in considerable force on the other side of the River....I saw a dreadful sight yesterday. A woman was running across the Street and a bomb shell exploded as it passed near her left side, tearing nearly all the flesh off her arm and wounding her dreadfully in the hip and side." On September 23, 1863, McBeath writes to Sally from outside of Chattanooga about the recent Confederate victory at the Battle of Chickamauga. "Skirmishing, as a prelude to the great battle commenced, on Friday the 18th, the regular engagement commenced the morning of the 19th and continued until Saturday night after dark at which time the enemy was routed from their last position and pursued them to Chattanooga Tenn....We taken six or seven thousand prisoners, the rise of 50 pieces cannon and it is said that we captured about 15000 Stands of Small arms. It was a desperate battle and a glorious Victory."

    McBeath's regiment was in Georgia by early 1864 and would participate in the Atlanta campaign that lasted from May to September 1864. Several of his letters from camp near Dalton, Georgia, mention preparations for a great battle. By July the regiment was camped outside of Atlanta. The Battle of Atlanta occurred on July 22, 1864, resulting in a decisive victory for General William Tecumseh Sherman's Union Army. McBeath was wounded during the battle, but does not mention it in any of his letters from Georgia. In an August 21 letter from camp near East Point, Georgia, about a month after the battle, McBeath writes Sallie of his optimism regarding the outcome of the war, asserting that his fellow troops "are in good spirits and in great hopes of peace. It is my candid opinion that hostilities will cease between now and the 4th of March 1865, and Oh! what a time of rejoicing then will be; a considerable peace party has risen up in the North and it is the opinion of many that a peace Candidate will be nominated and elected president of the U.S. The prisoners we capture are very tired of war, have despaired of subjugating us, and are anxious for peace as we are." McBeath's optimism had faded significantly by November (it is not clear if he had heard of President's Lincoln's reelection). In his final Civil War letter, dated November 9, 1864, McBeath describes his world as marked by "sorrow, distress and disappointment....We are now undergoing a tremendous hard time. We are having rain in abundance. The Roads are nearly impassible and our Rations are very short indeed....I have almost and might say quite despaired of living to see the close of this cruel war, for it does appear that the tide of war is raging more furiously than ever." On November 30, McBeath regiment participated in the disastrous Confederate defeat at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee.

    William J. H. McBeath (1836-1928) served as captain of Company K, known as the "Scotland Guards," in the 5th Mississippi Infantry. Company K was mustered into state service on July 23, 1861. He was wounded at the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864. He married Sarah E. Lewis (184?-1914) sometime after the war. He later moved to Texas where he taught school for a time in Somerville County.

    The Fifth Regiment was part of the Fourth Brigade, of Mississippi Volunteers, known as the Army of Mississippi, and the organization of the regiment was completed by September 5, 1861, at Enterprise, Mississippi. The Fifth Mississippi Infantry was finally organized in September 1861 at Enterprise. The Fifth Mississippi participated in a number of important battles and campaigns, including Shiloh, Corinth, Murfreesboro (Stones River), Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Peach Tree Creek, and Franklin.

    Each letter, except one, is accompanied by a transcription.

    Condition: Letters have the usual folds; many of the letters show weakening and tearing along intersections of folds, a few have paper loss, toning, and stains, with little effect on text; overall fair to good.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2019
    26th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 295

    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 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    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 2021 May 19 Manuscripts Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    The department director has the heart of a true and highly knowledgeable collector with the business acumen of someone who has been not only successful but has decades of an impeccable track record
    David Greenburg,
    Chicago, IL
    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