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February 8, 2014

Civil War anniversary: Letters from Dalton

During the Confederate Army of Tennessee’s winter encampment at Dalton in 1863-64, many soldiers wrote letters home to loved ones or scribbled journal entries in their diaries about their experiences in and around Dalton.

One such soldier was Benjamin F. Jackson, of Covington County, Ala. He had been married for just two years to Martha Matilda Stubbs Jackson who gave him a son, James Thomas Jackson, before hostilities took him away from his family. They would have a second child during the war.

During the course of the war, he wrote 125 letters, most of them to his loving wife.

Jackson would be mortally wounded during the fighting at Pickett’s Mil north of Atlanta in May 1864, but before then he would write of his experiences during his six months’ stay in Dalton. His letters showed both a strong resolve to serve his country and to bring honor to his family, but they also reveal a sense of despair. Here are a few of them:

Letter from Benjamin F. Jackson, 33rd Alabama Infantry, to wife M. M. Jackson and son J. T. Jackson, Camp near Tunnel Hill, Dec. 3, 1863:

Dear Companion and Child,

I seat myself this evening while on picket duty to drop you a few lines which will inform you that I am in tolerable good health and hope these few lines will find you and all the family in good health…

Mat [Matilda] I will now tell you something of our fighting, since I wrote you before we left Missionary Ridge on the twenty-second of last month for Knoxville, and got to Chickamauga. Stayed about twelve hours and ordered back to the Ridge where they were fighting. We marched back that night which was the twenty-third, and on the twenty-fourth we were ordered on the right of our line where the Yankees were trying to flank us. We moved to the right that night. On the morning of the twenty-fifth we moved about one mile further to the right where there was skirmishing going on. We built some breast work and I lay there behind our works and saw the men on our left fight nearly all day. We fired at them some but there were too far from us. They did not come in front of us only through skirmishes. They charged our men five times and were repulsed though they whipped our men on the Lookout Mountain and caused us to have to leave Missionary Ridge. We left there the 25th in the night. Our division had to go in the rear to keep the Yankees off our wagons, and we have had a very hard time. We had to run a piece and then stop and fight them till the wagons could get on a-piece and then run again. We had a right smart little fight at Ringgold, Georgia. We did not lose many men killed though several wounded, but nobody that you know. We gave them a good whipping there and they turned back. Our Division [Cleburne’s] got great praise for bringing up the rear of our army. I will now bring my letter to a close…

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