For decades, members of my family have passed along a box of letters from one generation to the next.
My father, David A. Hilliard, received these letters from his grandmother, Alice (McCormick) Armstrong, daughter of John Bechtel McCormick. He opened a few of the letters and found them very hard to decipher. Knowing that I might appreciate them, he brought them to my home and with a lot of concentration I was able to read them.
Ever since then, I have been haunted by the stories I read, real experiences of soldiers, not Generals, but of common men and women who are my own kin.
(In honor of those who shaped me, and in conjunction with the 2012 Republican National Convention which I am fortunate enough to be able to attend, each evening I will post a blog about my convention experiences, and each morning I will post a personal family document or historical story which will help you understand what makes me tick. If you read all the historical posts, the last day, I promise you, you will feel the gratitude I do for our patriots who sacrificed their lives and fortunes for our freedoms.)
Camp Cumberland Ford – March 13, 1862
Dear Wife (to Lottie),
It is with pleasure that I am laying here in my tent writing to you on this the day of our anniversary of marriage. This day six years ago we were married and for me to look over my life in that period and think of how I have used you, it makes my heart bleed and for me to be away from home now and in a distant state and not to be at home so that we might have the pleasure of spending our marriage day together – but I hope and expect it will be the last anniversary of our marriage that I will be absent from you and the children.
Day before yesterday we were marched to within sight of the Rebel Brest works at Cumberland Gap. While on the way, our battalion got word that the Enemy, one thousand strong, was after us and we were halted and under much excitement.
Col. Bailey ordered us to load, load, load. Our boys took it very cool and loaded. The officers were more excited than the men. One Battalion of Regiment had been sent on in advance and we supposed the Enemy had cut them off and we were ordered forward at the double quick. We went three miles in a short time which brought us within a mile of the Enemy Entrenchments.
We had a very plain view in and around the Gap of the Enemy’s works. Our advance Battalion under the Col. DeCourcey and Maj. Kershner were all right. We were brought up the line of battle and after standing fifteen minutes we were ordered to lay on blankets (which we had in rolls round our shoulders) and take a rest which we relished very much after marching so much.
After our rest we were ordered back to camp. We got into camp at 8 o’clock at night after a march of twenty eight miles. We intend to attack the Enemy soon and I think we will have to charge on their fortifications at the point of the bayonet. If we do, there will be a great loss on both sides as they are very strongly fortified. If they were not cowards, they would have attacked us when we were within a half mile of them and fourteen miles from the balance of our forces. But they did not through fear. Nothing more at present, I am well and hearty. My love to you and the children.
P.S. Johny and Clary must not forget their Pa, and Pa will bring them something nice when he comes home. Send postage stamps. I have received no answer to my three last letters – write