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Date Original

1861 August 21


In his letter, Woodruff describes the march from Fort Pillow to Benton, Missouri, the ongoing argument between Generals Leonidas Polk and Gideon Pillow, and false alarms about the enemy's whereabouts. Woodruff also complains of the lack of support for the Confederacy in Scott County, Missouri, where he is currently camped.

Biographical/Historical Note

During the Civil War, troops often camped at unexpected locations in poor conditions, and they could not be sure whether the citizens of that area would be sympathetic to their side's cause. In this letter, William H's Woodruff's regiment (21st Tennessee Cavalry) is moving through Missouri, and remarks that he might as well be in New York, as so many of the local people support the North.


[Page 1] 4
Benton Scott County Missouri
August 21st 1861
My Dear Mother
I seat myself to let you
know that I am well at this time I thought
I would be sick I waded in mud and water
all day long shoe mouth deep we left Fort Pillow
last Saturday 2 weeks ago G. Polks orders was for
us to go up to Island No 10 but when we got to
New Madrid Pillow ordered us to come here and
it made Polk mad and when we got settled
Polk sent an order to Colonel Neely to come
back but Pillow told Neely not to go that
he would take the responsibility on himself
I heard today that Polk had sent Pillow to
Virginia to be court marshalled I expect we will
have to go back to Fort Pillow I hope we will for I dont
like to stay here I had allmost [sic] as soon be in New -
York for they are all yankees here I dont think that
there is a secssion [sic] man in the state if there is they
are afraid to own it. they are all scared to death verry [sic]
near we have had two false alarms since we have
been here we had one before we got here one day we
had stoped to rest and to get a snack when the alarm
come I was lying down resting I had pulled off
my boots I did not have time to put them on[Page 2] and I had to go it bear footed and we had to go in
double quick time 2 miles 1/2 when we got there
there was two cavelry companys there one was
Captain [James Jackson] Neelys Company standing in readiness
fore the Black hearted villions but they did not
come and I reason it was well they did not - for I beleave [sic]
we would of licked them. Dr Neely's Company is with
us I went up to see Cousin Jim the other day he has
been having chills and the looks worse than I ever
saw him. I saw James [ ] he looks as savage
as a lion with his gotee and mustache. Well I will
tell you something about Missouri and then I will
bring my badly writen letter it is levelest country
I every [sic] seen in my life we walked 40 miles I never saw
but one hill and that one is the one that we are
encamped on now I dont beleave [sic] we got out of
a lane the whole rout [sic] and the finest corn on
each side of the lane I ever saw I seen one poor
little cotton patch that looked right sick. I
must go and get something to eat good by [sic]
excuse this badly writen [sic] letter as I have
such a bad chance to write I have to ly flat
of my chest on the ground to write
give my love to all so nothing
more from your affectionate son
W. H. Woodruff

Physical Description

2 pages handwritten, 9.75" x 7.75"


Civil War; Military mobilizations; military camps; Military service


Woodruff, William H.

Geographical Area

Benton, Scott County (Mo.)






Small manuscript collection


Arkansas State Archives

Contributing Entity

Arkansas State Archives

Recommended Citation

William H. Woodruff, Benton, Scott County, Missouri, to "My Dear Mother", Small manuscript collection, Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.


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William H. Woodruff, Benton, Scott County, Missouri, to