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    [Civil War]. Daniel S. Donelson Confederate Archive comprised of over forty letters, a lock of hair, and newspaper obituary spanning the years 1861 through 1864. Daniel Donelson enlisted in the Confederate army sometime after the war erupted in 1861. His earliest letter home indicates that his regiment was stationed at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, in August 1861 then moved for duty at Camp Beauregard by October 1861. By January 22, 1862 he was at Bowling Green, Kentucky, with the "...enemy gradually closing in upon us." Three weeks later, on February 16, he writes to his father that they have evacuated Bowling Green for Murfreesboro, Tennessee, having burned "...a great many stores before we left and the enemy captured a great many." Writing five days later, he laments that the retreat has left the men "...sadly demoralized." Two months later the regiment is disbanded and he is given a new assignment.

    In a letter to General Samuel Cooper, dated April 4, 1863, from Jackson, Mississippi, Donelson, defending the legality of his commission, gives a rundown of events which have transpired since his regiment was disbanded, giving a complete record of his service to date, in part: "I was appointed 1st Lt. & Adjt by the President by the 22nd of November 1861 and ordered to report to Col. Jno Martin...I served with this Regt. until the 30th of April 1862, at which time it was disbanded...The order disbanding the regiment, directed the Field and Staff officers to report to Genl. Beauregard...By Genl. Beauregard Col. Martin was assigned duty and Meridian Miss...And I was directed to report to him for duty. I remained at this post until the 16th of Augst/62...and I was assigned to duty...as A.A.G...I served until the battle of Corinth Oct. 3 in which Col. Martin was killed. Col. Witherspoon, his successor, placed me on duty...I remained until the 10th of Nov. 1862, when Col. Witherspoon was relieved from duty...by Brig. Genl. Herbert, who brought with him his staff. I was consequently relieved from duty and directed to report to my Genl. D. H. Maury. I was assigned various duties until January 6, when I was assigned duty as A.A.G. of Genl. Moore's Brigade during the absence of his Inspector...I remained until the 25th of March 63 when I was relieved (his staff officer having returned) and again ordered to report to Maj. Genl. Maury. Gen. Maury then directed me to report to Lt. Genl Pemberton...Pemberton considered the validity of my commission doubtful, and has declined to recognize me as an officer." He further states that "...Col. Martin was given a commission to raise a War Reg't. He had three companies enlisted for the War, the remainder for twelve months. The Field and Staff officers were nominated by Col. Martin and appointed by the Secty of War. Six states were represented...and after the passage of the Conscript Act it was illegal to obtain either recruits or conscripts...the regimental organization was broken up and the companies ordered to regts from their respective states. The Reg't was first known as the 1st Miss. Valley, afterwards at the 25th Miss. & then as the '2nd Confederate.'"

    Three months later, Donelson found himself under siege by General Ulysses S. Grant at Vicksburg, Mississippi. On July 4, 1863, he wrote home to his father regarding the surrender of the city:"To the surprise of Everyone it was announced this morning that this place was surrendered, Maj G. gave me no notice of it I should have tried to have escaped last night which however is a serious undertaking now. If the Enemy does not station guard on the Rise I will leave to night...I have given all the Boys passes to Jackson or Bolivar. I trust they may reach one or the other...A Federal General has passed the door since writing the above sentence." Two days later, still in Vicksburg, he asks his father to "Come to this place as soon as you can All your negroes have been taken here. They are all anxious to go with me but the Federal authorities say they cannot grant permission for them to go for several days yet. All of them are faithful. I have been paroled but do not know what privilege will be granted to me."

    Shortly after the surrender of Vicksburg, Donelson was paroled and allowed to go home. While at home he questions his future with the Confederate army, going so far as to writing a treatise of sorts on September 12, 1863, in which he weighs the advantages and disadvantages of staying exclaiming, "whatever others may have done, I did my duty." After leaving his parent's house, he writes from Rose Hill, Mississippi, on September 20, 1863, after making a decision to the question weighing on his mind: "I am not yet willing to acknowledge our defeat, at the same time I see no prospect for success. Under these circumstances I have decided that I will leave the army." Four days later, he was arrested as a deserter and taken to Okolona, Mississippi. The following day, September 25, he writes to his mother that "...Brother John was killed in the late battle near Chattanooga."

    By November 1, he is at Meridian, Mississippi, but he has "...not yet been exchanged...I am now on my way to Enterprise, the Camp for paroled prisoners." Later that month, on November 20, he writes again t his mother from Camp Enterprise describing the situation: "The moral condition of the country here is becoming truly alarming. There can scarcely be said to be any security for either person or property. And I fear if the war lasts...the bowie knife and pistol will be the order of the day." The letter appears to be prophetic as Donelson was found dead five months later. In a letter, dated April 27, 1864, to "...the friends of D. X. Donelson," W. W. Wilroy and T. J. Dunn write: "A dead man found today on Camp Creek in DeSoto County, Miss. Near the road leading from Olive Branch to Pleasant Hill From the appearance of the body we think that it has been several weeks since he was killed. There is a name on the hat that was found near him. D + Donelson the middle initial was so dimly written that we could not tell what it was. The remains will be uninterrupted until we can make further inquiries about his relatives or friends whereabouts." The sad news was confirmed five days later by Dr. G. W. Currey who writes that he was "...present at the time the remains of Daniel S. Donelson were found...and that I examined the body of said Donelson and found that he was killed by a gun shot wound... The ball from which struck him in the back of the head." Found at the top of the letter is a small, hand drawn map showing the location where the body was found. He was 21 years old.

    Also included is the touching obituary for Lt. Donelson clipped from a local newspaper and a lock of his brown hair with a short note reading: "Daniel S. Donelson hair 3 months after death, taken from the spot where he was assassinated on the 25th January his Father and Mother picked it up the 8th of May 1864. Gift of the dead."


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    April, 2013
    11th Thursday
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