Pvt. William J. Hubbard, Co. H, 18th Virginia Infantry, Before, During, and After the Battle (3 Letters)

20 10 2020

Fairfax Ct. House July 11th [or 14th] 1861

Dear Tom,

I have a chance to send you a letter by Mr. Brow, and tell you how I am getting along here. I wrote to you the last of June while we were at Centerville and again on 4 of July while at Georgetown and have not received no answer. I was afraid my letters was not sent to you. I have been sick four times since I left home by cooking and was washing too much. I have at present a very bad cold with a slite [slight] headache and have a very sore lip that seems to be a blood bile. We have a wet time of it at present, and our tents is so damp that a sick Man can’t improve at present much. We had an alarm last week and our regiment was out with less excitement than before, but it was all nothing, some of the boys said the Picket shot at a lightening bug for the enemy, they say that they saw a man strike a match and so the tale goes. Our Pickets hear the drum and fife of the enemy frequently indeed that Wally Wootson [William Woodson Co. H*] was and I was really surprised [surprised] to hear it[.] I little thought when we went to gather [together] to the degarian room to have our likeness taken that he would soon be done with earth. I know it goes hard with the old folks our people begin to feel the scourge of war, though we are in the right. I had my likeness taken for Sue, and gave it to G.H. Gilliam to send it to you the first opportunity, write me word if you have received it yet.

I received a letter from [unknown name] dated the 2 and it was a treat indeed to hear from home. She inquired about our flys whether we received them or not they all came safe to hand.

Sunday night it was raining again and we will be made sick, if the wet weather continues, we have 80 men out every night standing guard and taking the weather with out any shelter and they come in of mornings complaining they were nerly [nearly] Frozen.

We have Preaching twice on sunday [Sunday] in good weather and in the week. Dr. Dabny reads a portion of scripture [Scriptures] and comments on it some four times a week. It dose [does] me good to hear songs of zion, and hear the earnest prayer on our behalf.

Tom you see from the position we occupy we stand a chance to have a brush with the enemy at any time. The citizens of Fairfax have been moving off and I see furniture passing every day for the last 4 or 5 days. Fairfax is a place about as large as Pr. E. C. House with regular streets and some nice private residences. This is a grass and wheat country and quite level. The timber is the same as ours with a good deal of undergrowth and makes it impossible for our army to march through it. We have to guard the roads and wach [watch] the open fields.

We can by [buy] mutton and eggs[,] chickens and butter most every time we need it We have orders to keep 3 days provisions cooked on hand, and to be ready to march at a moments warning we know not where.

I wish you all could come and see what a soldier was to go through in camp, I told our boys if we were spared to reach home again we could camp out to show the ladies how the soldiers cooked and how they fiked [fixed] their beds, it would amuse you to see them fixing after they have arrived at a new place you see them striking every piece of plank they can lay hands on, some rakeing [raking] up leaves like an old sow. Some round a tree that has been cut down like you have seen cows in spring pulling of the bows to keep them off the ground and make their beds soft such is a soldiers[‘] life. As the drum will tap for lites [lights] to be put out soon I must my letter to a close. If you have a chance to send, let me have some more of the McLanes Pills and Jamaca [Jamaica] ginger. Write me the news, give my love to I.P.G and Winston and Mr. Matthews and Sady [Sadie?] Misses Fanny Evelin and Betty and tell them I will never forget the pleasant hours we spent together. I have not heard from Ned Gilliam for a long time write me how he is getting along. I been sorry I did not stay home when I was their until [until] I got well. I am afraid it will be some time before I am prepared to stand guard with safty [safety], but if we are called out to night I will shoulder my musket and do the best I can, the drum has taped for lites [lights] to be put out.

So Tom

PS I hope none of the Family will think of [illegible word] by themselves slighted because I do not call them by name. I write to all in the same letter and wish all to read.

Wm. H.

*William J. Woodson, a 22-year-old farmer that enlisted at Pamplin Depot, died July 8, 1861, of typhoid fever.

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Centerville Fairfax July 26th

Dear Family,

I know you all have been looking for a letter from me, since our retreat from Fairfax. [O]our Regiment has been staying in the woods as a Picket[s] guarding a ford on Bullrun [Bull Run], without anything except a few blankets and our clothes, and there we stayed untill [until] Sunday evening, when we marched off to the field of Battle, we had a trying time of it, as soon as we left the low grounds and got on the hill where the enemy could see us they let fly the Bunbs [bombs] at us, they came hissing through the air, and fall and explode all around us tareing [tearing] up the ground like a thunder bolt, I tell you all we tried to be quite small, we soon reached to the top of the hill where we could hear the fireing [firing] as plain as if it was only a few hundred yards off, as soon as we reached that point the cannon balls and shell came thick and fast making the trees and ground crack again, I tell you I did not feel as comfortable as I would like to be behind a brest work [breastworks], we march on to the field of battle expecting every moment to be our last, and such a field I hope not to march through again the pruse [spruce] pine was so thick that you could not see a man ten steps, and we had to press throug[h] it several hundred yards before we could reach the field of battle as soon as we reach the opening we form in line of battle, and we were scarcely form[ed] when [Andrew] Leach was shot by my side and fell dead without a groan and the next moment Billy Grey [Gray] was struck by a ball on the neck which only bruised a little, and [Robert P.] Meadows was struck on the nose, which blined [blinded] him for a while and gave him a very sore nose

I tell you it was raining bullets jus[t] about that time we dropped on the ground until [until] the shower was over and as soon as it slacken we marche[d] to the top of the hill where we saw the enemy in full view, as soon as they saw us they sent another storm of lead at us, we fell on the ground the secon[d] time, as soon as the fire slacken we charged on the battery just as they were ready to send reinforcements to it, as soon as they saw it in our possession they gave up for good we let them have a few rounds and they retreated out of the way, soon we saw several Regiments comeing [coming] on the wright [right] of the enemy and fired in to them and soon they were all retreating, to our joy. Some of the boys proposed to wheel the cannon [a]round and give them a fire from their own guns. No sooner said the boys seized her and pulled her around, loaded and fired, and made an opening in their ranks. I tell you there was no order in retreating after that before they could load and fire again our Regiment was ordered to the stone Bridge where we expected some of them would try to cross under the fire of their guns over the river. We marched below the bridge in the bend of the river where we could rake them if they had crossed but they had higher up on a bridge they had made. We crossed the river with the expectation of pursuing them but Col. Withers had orders to wait for the rest of the brigade did not come up we halted to rest our selves [ourselves] on the grass and here Sergeant [Thomas H. B.] Durfrey [Durphy] got shot while sitting on the ground. We had not been long here before we were ordered to Manassas, as they heard that an attack would be made Sunday night but the defeat at stone Bridge broke it up. If we had pursued them with our forces we could have taken nearly all the army. We got a march?? about 9 o’clock at night and march 5 miles near Manassas and took a nap upon the cold ground with the blue heavens for our covering. We were wakeed [woke]up the next morning by the rain gently falling in our faces though with grateful hearts for the protection we had received on the battle field the day before. I can say without doubt, the Lord mighty in battle fout [fought] for us, and glory and praise be to his name for his goodness unto us. We march Monday through the rain wet as rats near the battle field and halted for the night. And the rain pouring down next morning I went to battle field to bury poor Leach hoo [who] had been overlooked on Monday, such a sight I never wish to see again[.] The enemy was lying over a field nearly a mile long in every direction with different uniforms it was sickening to behold. The mangled bodies as they lay on the field. The enemy was so frightened they never returned to bury their dead. Tuesday evening we came to this place, and we know not where next we go. As we came along the road[,] the road was srowed [strewed] provisions & every thing a soldier needs. I never expected to see such destruction. They throwed down their guns sourds [swords], shoes, hats, pants, socks that they might get along the faster. I found three guns two cartridge boxes pr [pair] of boots canten [canteen] and a pair of red pants. I am equipped with Yankee fixins now. I have seen several hundred prisoners. Col Withers has now a Col Wood in his tent that was wounded in the fight in the hip and will get well soon. Two of his men stuck to him. One was sent to the junction the other is here with the Col to wait on him. They looked like criminals when they were first brought in, when they were first taken. I understand that they pled for their life, but they now look quite cheerful. They are treated as the rest of us, the young man that waits on the Col is as lively as any of our boys and is fond of jokes. He says we are quite a different people from what he expected to see. He seems to be contented.

I heard an exhortation from H.B. Coles last night which the regiment was pleased with.

We as a regiment here are enjoying good health, though many has left sick sinc[e] we left Richmond. I have not been sick since the day before we retreated from Fairfax. I expect you all have herd more news about the battles then I have as I rarely se[e] a paper[.] Let me hear from you all soon. As Manassas is headquarters direct every thing [everything] to that place we get our provisions from there. Give my love to all my friends and pray for us while we are exposed to the perils of warfare. I am getting hungry and must go to cooking so Dear Friends good by for the present.

Tom I received yours and Sues letters the morning after the battle. It was a real treat. I received the nice little flag.

Yours,

W.J. Hubbard

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Camp Centerville Aug.11th 1861

Dear Family,

I take this opportunity of dropping you all a few lines. I have spent the Sabbath so fare [far] something like home. Dr. Dabney gave us a sermon this morning on swaring [swearing]. I thought it came in good time. It was the best on the subject I ever heard. It would astonish you if you were here at the wickedness of our men. They will swear on the field of battle where bumbs [bombs] and shot are flying around them. We have meeting every night when the weather is fair, and the Dr. is well.

Mr. Granberry was in camp this week to see us[,] he looks more like a soldier than a preacher, he is chaplain in a Regiment mad[e] up partly from Albemarl[e].

It has been quite a quiet time since the fight, and we feel as unconcern[ed], as if peace was about to be made. There will be a calm after a storm.

We drill in the morning and then have Dress Parade in the evening; our company is quite small and the Col. is complaining because so many is absent, he says he will deal with them as diserters [deserters] if they don’t return soon.

We have rain in the abundance, the ground has been too wet for camp life, and it has given our boys colds

I have been well ever since our retreat from Fairfax though exposed a gooddeal [good deal], I was glad to see Sam and Brown once more, and hear from home, they have been complaining ever since they been here, Sam was quite sick last night, but better to day [today], Billy Gilliam is complaining of the r[h]umatism a little, he got very wet in the coming here from Manassas. Julius Fore is been complaining for several days and I would not be surprised if he haves a spell of sickness.

I have received four letters since the battle and a great treat it was to hear from home once more, I can’t read a letter from home without sheding [shedding] tears.

I do hope the yankies [yankees] have their fill of us, and will make peace, and let us return to our homes, once more I met with Mr. Leach last Friday to the Battlefield to see the grave of his Brother, he is now on his way to Pamplins. There was quite a change since I were there last, the Yankies [Yankees] had a little dirt thrown on their boddies [bodies] jus[t] where they ly [lie], and by fall their bones will be s[t]rewed over the field, with the frames of the horses that was killed in battle

I would like to see som[e] one from the nieghborhood in our camp, I believe all the companys have been visited by some one [someone] from their neighborhoods since the fight, I would be glad to see you Tom, or Par [Pa] here and let you see a little of camp life, and try it a week or too [two] for yourselves.

We hear but little news that is true, you all can tell more about the fight than I can, because you have read all the points.

In this neighborhood there is I reccon [reckon] 100 wounded prisoners and most of them will get well, they say they will not, take up arms against us no more, they have been fooled by their officers they say, they only took up arms to protect Washington. We have re[a]d a great many letters that droped [dropped] in their retreat, I saw one written to a young lady in Main[e] stateing [stating]that Scott was with them at Bullrun [Bull Run] and he was a fine looking man, and he was in good spirits and would press the war on with vigor. We have no hint where we will go next. I would not be surpprised [surprised] if we were sent to Fairfax again

It is a b[ea]utiful sight to get on some high hill and look on our encampments in all directions, having the appearance of little towns, and at night like a citty [city] lit up with gass [gas].

The boys who lost their [k]napsacks have been in a bad fix, they have but one such and that is on their backs, some have divided with them, I thought all my clothes were gone for good but one of the boys saw my knapsack at Mannassas [Manassas] and brought it to me, I tell you I was glad to see it. I only lost my big blanket.

I wrote last week giving our movements in the fight I reckon you all have red [read] it before this time I want a pa[i]r of everyday yarn pants sent to me the last of this month so I may save my uniform pants. We have not received any pay yet, when I get it I would like for you to get it Tom, as I have a plenty for the present. I have received the medicine all in good order and they have been doing us good already

Tell Isham to write me soon,

Since you ask me what has become of my letter paper this is all I have seen I reckon this is the paper they sent Monday morning it is a beautiful morning, Col. W said dress on perraid [parade] yesterday evening, that he would arrest those who had staid [stayed] over there time and those who had gone without permition [permission]. good bye [Good bye]. One of your members

Wm. J. H.

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Letters contributed by reader Tim Smith of Joliet, Il. and Patrick Shroeder of Lynchburg, VA, and the National Park Service (with permission of NPS). Transcribed by NPS Volunteer Mike Hudson, [edits] by Patrick Schroeder, Appomattox National Historic Site.

William Hubbard is portrayed by living historians at Appomattox Court House National Historic Site

William J. Hubbard at Ancestry

William J. Hubbard at Fold3

William J. Hubbard at FindAGrave