Friday, August 13, 2004

Civil War: Confederate. Liddy Berry, Charlestown, 1861


"[Monte] was taken before General Pope and he sat with his hat on all the time and with a most indifferent manner. The General asked him a great many questions. Monte replied he didn’t think it fair to question him so, [and] that General Pope had his [own] resources from which to get his information and that now he [Monte] would like to ask him a few…."

**Lee mentioned several times in letter. Possibly family members of Robert E. Lee
**General Pope’s Three-hour Interrogation of Confederate Soldier
**General Banks
**Harper’s Ferry
**Union troops search houses
**Fairfax Court House
**Oath of Allegiance and Agreement Refusing to Aid Confederate Army
**Many Negroes Have Gone
**Surrounded by Federal Troops

Confederate history—a 12-page letter written only seven days after the Battle of the first Bull Run.

The letter is written by Aunt Berry to her nephews, Charles James Berry and Lawrence Lee Gribbs Berry, both of Company "B", 2nd Virginia Infantry. The letter’s content is absolutely wonderful and gives one a sense of the early Confederate emotion as the war, in its infancy began to rage. The entire letter is filled with fantastic content. Because of its length it is quoted below in excerpts.

On July 21,1861, a bright, warm day, two armies of a divided nation clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking Bull Run. Their ranks were filled with enthusiastic young volunteers in colorful new uniforms, gathered together from every part of the country. Confident that their foes would run at the first shot, the raw recruits were thankful that they would not miss the only battle of what surely would be a short war. But any thought of colorful pageantry was suddenly lost in the smoke, din, dirt, and death of battle. Soldiers on both sides were stunned by the violence and destruction they encountered. At day's end nearly 900 young men lay lifeless on the fields of Matthews Hill, Henry Hill, and Chinn Ridge. Ten hours of heavy fighting swept away any notion the war's outcome would be decided quickly.

The two Berry brothers fought in the same Confederate Regiment, the same Company—but only one would survive the war. Lawrence Lee Gribbs Berry was killed at the age of 22 years while on picket duty at Falls Church, Virginia, only two months from the day of the first battle of Bull Run. His brother Charles James Berry would be discharged on October 14, 1862. He lived in Albany, Georgia, until his death in 1886. He is buried in Edge Hill Cemetery, Charlestown, West Virginia.

In the letter, other soldiers were also mentioned and a request was made by the Aunt for information on their fate. Richard Lewis Timberlake mustered into Company "B" of the 17th VA Infantry and later into Company "B", 12th VA Infantry was killed on September 16, 1864 at Sycamore Church and while on Hampton’s Cattle Raid. Francis H. Abbott, (Warren Rifle Company) also in the 17th VA Infantry, Company "A" would never see home again. He was killed on May 5, 1862 at Williamsburg, Va. He was described as 6’ 1" (tall for those days), fair complexion, blue eyes and light hair.


The battle of the First Manassas commenced on a Saturday, July 21, 1861. News of the bloody battle spread fast to the Berry family. Not knowing whether the Berry brothers were alive or dead, they anxiously awaited news from the front. Finally on Friday, July 26, 1861, Aunt F…received word. On Monday, she wrote to her nephews.

"Charlestown—July 29, 1861 (Monday morning)—

My Dear Nephews—

After a great anxiety, I received your welcome letters, chiefly welcome because they proved you both lived. Oh how thankful we ought to be that you were spared, and I am indeed so. I have been greatly distressed for those who have been killed and died. It was an awful loss of life and I wish it were sufficient to stop now. We could hear nothing of you boys until we got your letters. There were many letters received here, giving an account of the battle and of the dead and wounded among our acquaintances and as you were not mentioned we hoped for the best, but still feared the worst. We did not get your letter until Friday…."

…Charlie…has had his utmost ambition now gratified, I should think—as he was in the greatest fight that ever took place n this side of the globe--we have been surrounded by the Federal troops, but I am thankful to say we were not treated with any indignity by any of them—though I have been told that had they remained a day longer, our house was to have been searched as several others had been. I presume your Pa gave you a description of their stay and departure in and from our midst…."

…I was so sorry to her of Mr. Harrison & Conrad’s deaths. [The Harrison mentioned here is Major Carter Henry Harrison, VA 11th Infantry, killed on July 17, 1861 at Manassas. Conrad is identified either Henry T. Conrad or Holmes A. Conrad, both died at Manassas, both in Company "D",2nd VA Infantry.] Oh, what a loss! And to think ours is spared—to God be all the praise for ours…." George is in Col. Preston’s command, a waggoneer. [Col. Preston was wounded at Manassas on July 21, 1861 and died of his wounds in January, 1862, at the age of 50.] Have you seen or heard anything of Frank Abbott or Richard Timberlake wounded in your company. They were in Warren Rifle Company. Heard Seth was one, who was the other? [Seth Timberlake was severely wounded in both legs on July 21, at Manassas and later discharged. He survived the war and died in 1907.] We have heard from persons who have been over and returned from the battlefield, an account of the fight—and of many incidents after it….

I heard last evening that the Federal army was passing over the river at Ferry, but whether they will leave entirely or not, I do not know. The paper has stated that Harper’s Ferry is to be headquarters—a large party of their cavalry was up yesterday, in town, scouting. I have been told that some of them are here every night—he servants say they have the horses hoofs padded….

Cousin Betsy’s house was searched and M[onte’s] military coat and pants taken, and he afterwards was taken prisoner and made to sign a paper, refusing to aid our side. It is a great mortification to him. He was taken before General Pope and he sat with his hat on all the time and with a most indifferent manner. The General asked him a great many questions. Monte replied he didn’t think it fair to question him so, that General Pope had his resources from which to get his information and that now he would like to ask him a few…. Monte was kept for three hours…. Charlotte says it s a sore subject to him. When you write home…perhaps you best not mention about Monte unless you hear it spoken of. Still, I don’t know what harm it will do for it is true, he had to sign the paper. I understand General Pope has returned to Philadelphia and that Gen. Banks has his position.

I heard yesterday that your Uncle Lee was at Fairfax Court House. I wish you could hear positively how he is and let us hear—I fee anxious about him and hope he will not go into service until well. I hear this morning that there is none of the Federals at the ferry except the pickets, but understand they are fortifying the opposite side as they hear Johnson is going into Maryland….

Be sure to write and send the bag and burn or destroy this [letter]. If you see Lee, tell him I heard from his house a day or two ago—all were well. Lucky was out to persuade Jim not to go with the Federal army. She was so much afraid some older one might take him off. She don’t like the Northern men. Many Negroes have gone—among others….

Your Aunt Lidy Joe."

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