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    Description

    Archive of three Confederate letters from the famous 1st Virginia Cavalry written by Thomas W. Colley, who was wounded four times during the war. He writes of the Battle of Manassas and about the graphic death of a friend in November 1861 and also from Jackson Hospital in 1864 describing his foot being amputated.
    Thomas W. Colley, a resident of Washington County, Virginia, joined Co. D of the 1st Virginia Cavalry on May 14th, 1861. After the war Colley had his picture holding the flag of the 1st Virginia Cavalry published in Confederate Veteran Magazine (Provided). His most severe wound occurred on March 17th, 1863 when, according to the article in the Confederate Veteran Magazine: "...a ball passed through his abdomen and he was left for dead upon the field." Colley had the honor of fighting alongside Colonels J. E. B. Stuart, Fitzhugh Lee, and John Mosby.

    The first letter is headed Manassas Junction, July 22nd, 1861. Colley, writing his father, in part:

    "I know that you will all be uneasy after hearing of the battle that was fought here yesterday. There was a great many men killed on both sides. Our loss is supposed to be about 1,000. That of the Federals about three times as many. Our troops entirely routed them. We will pursue them on to Alexandria and on to Washington City. We have about 1,500 prisoners besides what was killed. I was in the thickest of the fight where the bombs were flying as thick as hail. We did not lose a single man out of our company. Ryfe (his horse) was right smartly frightened, right when the bombs were falling about us. I have not time to tell you any more about the fight now. It lasted about five hours. I would like to see you all right well. Tell Mother not to be uneasy about me. I have not had much to eat for six days till this morning and never had the saddle off our horses. The enemy ran us from our camp near Winchester. I will write to you as soon as I can...I do not know where to tell you to direct your letters...Nothing more
    at present but remain your affectionate son Thomas W. Colley.

    As a P. S., Colley writes: "It is raining so I can't write anymore." One wonders how
    writing in pencil on wet paper any letters could survive. This one is all readable but has many faults and aging, still a remarkable letter from this hard-fought soldier.

    The second letter is headed Camp Cooper, Fairfax County, Va., Nov. 4th, 1861. This letter is four pages in length, written on blue paper with blue ink. In this letter Colley describes "a fatal accident which happened to one of my best friends and messmates, Mr. William T. F. Clark". The 1st Virginia Cavalry was known for the deadly weapons they carried - double-barreled shot guns loaded with buck shot. Colley tells the horrible results of being shot with one of these guns:

    "He was accidentally shot by one of Capt. Yancey's about 8 o'clock on the 1st inst. whilst we were turning out to roll call. Capt. Yancey's Company is next to ours, only 60 feet apart. Will Clark had just came out of our tent and advanced some 5 paces from it when Mr. Anderson started out of his tent right opposite where Will was when the hammer of his gun caught against the side of the tent door and instantly discharged his piece, which was a double-barreled shot gun charged with 8 buck shot, all of them entering Mr. Clark from the left side. Two lodged in his Testament which was in the side pocket of his jacket, immediately over his heart, which saved him from immediate death. One entered his abdomen just below the navel passing through, one just above the hip bone, passing through the lower part of his stomach and coming out the opposite side, causing severe vomiting which lasted until within a half hour of his death. Three struck him in the left arm, one in the elbow, one between the elbow and hand grazing the bone and passing through a tent in the next Company of Capt. Smithers, doing no other
    damage, unless making a hole in the tent. Fortunately they were all out at roll call. One passed through his little finger on the left hand breaking the bone and very near taking the next one to it off. One passed through Gilbert Greenway's pants and entering Mr. Clark in the thigh and hip joint. It did not come out. All the rest passed through except the one that struck in the elbow. I was with him all the time after he was shot till he died which was about half past 3 o'clock on the 2nd inst., living only about 8 hours. He was sensible to the last. He thought he would die all the time. He suffered a great deal of pain from the wound in the stomach and thigh. He would say to me when I would have to raise him up, "Tom raise me this time. You will not have to raise me many more times." Billy Morell raised him up the last time, and he smiled and he said, "I am gone, Billy. I am gone," is the last words he said. I had to wash him the morning he died. I did get two of the company to help me dress him. It rained all night he was shot and all the next day. I had to be in it all through the day, fixing to send him home. Billy Morell had to go to the Junction to get a coffin which he fortunately found already made. We put him in an ambulance and carried him to the Junction and there put him in his coffin. I was sorry that I could do no more for him. We got a very nice coffin and case which cost $25.00. I feel very sorry for his parents. They will take it so hard. Our mess...wrote offering deep regret for the loss, both to them and ourselves and begging them to submit calmly to the will of God for depriving them of a son and brother and us of a kind and confident friend."

    Colley closes the letter asking his family to send various clothing items to him. He signs it "My love be with you all and God bless you from your son and brother, Thomas W. Colley. Address: Manassas Junction, Care of Capt. Wm. W. Blackford, 1st Regt. Va. Cavalry." Condition: The letter is in rough condition with many faults, however all is readable and written in clear story-like form.

    The third letter is headed Jackson Hospital, June 5th, 1864. In this letter Colley describes the wound he received on May 28th, 1864 at Hawes' Shop, Va. This was Colley's fourth wound. In writing his sister, he describes his amputation.

    "I wrote you a few lines the other day. I feel so much better today. I thought I write to you again. I know that you are all anxious to hear every day, if it was so you could. I am doing very well, a great deal better than I expected at first. My foot or stump rather will not be a nice as I expected. The Doctor that performed the operation left the sole of the foot as a flap when he got all the bones out. He turned that up over the ankle and fastened it with strips of adhesive plaster. He cut all the arteries off and there being no blood to support that flap. It is nothing more than a dead piece of flesh. Consequently, it will all have to rot off. In fact it is very near all off at this time. That won't hurt it
    materially. It will only hurt the looks a little."

    Colley would survive the amputation and after the war, helped build Emory and Washington College. Written in pencil, this letter is in very good condition. From the Calvin Packard Civil War Battlefield Letter Collection.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2020
    6th Sunday
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