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Collection Title: Walthall (Felix L.) Letter

Collection Number: M290

Dates: July 4, 1863

Volume: 1 letter

Provenance: The letter was donated by Dr. Claude E. Fike on September 24, 1990. The location of the original manuscript is unknown.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Felix L. Walthall, a Georgia native, was born in 1837. At the age of 23, he lived with his sister, Mary Louise Lyons and her husband, James R. Lyons, in Worthville, Georgia. Walthall was a farmer, but the beginning of the Civil War on April 12, 1861, with the skirmish between soldiers of the Confederate Army and the Union Army at Fort Sumter, disrupted his farming career. He joined the Confederate Army on September 25, 1861, as a first lieutenant in the Butts County Invincibles, a volunteer company in the 30th Regiment of Georgia, Wilson's Brigade, Walker's Division. The following May he was elected company captain. Walthall's company saw action as a rear guard unit during the final days of the siege of Vicksburg. He was wounded at the battle of Chickamauga, Georgia in 1863, and captured by Union forces at Nashville, Tennessee, on December 11, 1864. Walthall was released at Johnson's Island, Ohio, on June 17, 1865, two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. After the war, Walthall returned to Butts County, Georgia, where he lived with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children, Raymond and Estelle. He was elected as a Georgia state representative, 1882-1883, and as a member of the Butts County Public School Board in 1884.

Scope and Content:

This letter was written July 4, 1863, the day Vicksburg surrendered to the Union Army. Although Walthall was camped in Canton, Mississippi, about forty miles northeast of Vicksburg, he does not mention the city's surrender in this letter to his sister, Mary L. Lyons. Instead, he writes about the conditions under which soldiers struggled during this time, including the lack of fresh drinking water, the filth in which he was forced to live, the cruelty of his commanding officer, (General W.H.T. Walker), and the long marches from battle site to battle site. He mentions drinking water with scum on top of it "...thick enough to bear the weight of an ordinary hat and warmer than milk just milked from a cow." He tells his sister that if her husband, James R. Lyons, is drafted, he should pay a man to take his place, or failing that, he should seek a position that would allow him to ride rather than walk from campaign to campaign.

This letter graphically describes many of the environmental conditions endured by soldiers during the Civil War, and should be of interest to anyone researching that era, particularly from a soldier's point of view.

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