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Rated: E · Fiction · Military · #1202129
Letter written during the Civil war in the Andersonville stockade
Winning entry on 01/22/07 in the 'Short Fiction Contest.
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Prompt: Write a letter from a soldier fighting far from home.

A Private’s Letter

This is an unfinished letter written by Private Emery Mills to his mother while imprisoned at Camp Sumter, Georgia, also known as the infamous Andersonville.

Unfortunately Private Mills died of wounds he received during The Battle of Franklin before he finished the letter. Captain William Christy (8th Iowa Cavalry) took the letter from the dying soldier’s hands in December, 1864, and in late 1865 personally delivered it to Ester Mills, living in Muscatine, Iowa at the time.

Deare Mother

I hope this leter finds you well. Capt Christy lent me pin & paper fore this. Some twenty or few of us from the 8th Iowa with Capt Christy arrive here in this terrble place on Sunday last. I took a reb bullet in my knee & not getting round lik I shood. Capt says I show a lot of pluck & he thinks I will be movin round with the rest of the men fore long. I thank God fore spare my life to date. It wood brake your hart if you could see the tears run down the cheks of some those boys I am obliged to holed up with. What I wood give fore a fresh blouse or a chunk of your apple pie…I cant say.

Night fore last Corporal Newton was shot & kilt by reb gards all because he reached over the deadline for a tin of water. A cup of cold water from the farm with the pie wood be a treet. Capt says most of the men are dieing because the water is not fit fore animals.

The Capt & Lt. Sims dug out a hole in a rise & covered it with blangets. The boys calls it our shebang. We cant all fit at once but the boys leave me be. They swap places daily & sleep outside when need be. Soon…I will be taking my turn at swapping…….

Captain Christy, although emaciated and suffering from scurvy, walked out of the stockade in May, 1865 after the Union Army arrived.


Of course the above correspondence is totally fictitious, but similar letters could have been written by any of the 13,000 Union Soldiers that died at Andersonville. During its 14 months of existence, 49,485 prisoners were held at Andersonville.

Captain Henry Wirz, Commandant of the prison camp was hanged for “war crimes” in Washington D.C. on the 10th of November, 1865.

Deadline: A space about 19 feet wide from the inside walls of the stockade that prisoners were not allowed to enter. A simple gesture such as reaching a hand into the deadline space could mean death for the violater.

Shebang: Temporary shelters made from tents, tarps and blankets. Even holes dug in the side of a hill and covered with rags were used as shelter from the burning sun and chilly nights.
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