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Theodore Augustus Honour Papers

One hundred ten letters of Confederate soldier Theodore A. Honour (1831-1913), a private with the Washington Light Infantry, 25th (Eutaw) Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers, are addressed to his wife, Rebecca "Beckie" Caroline Seignious Honour. Honour's regiment was stationed at various camps on James Island but twice went to Wilmington, N.C., and once to Petersburg, Va. Beckie left their home in Charleston and refugeed first in Spartanburg, then in Newberry, but returned briefly to Charleston several times during the war. The letters describe both social and military aspects of camp life, wartime operations around Charleston and Wilmington, "running the blockade" to visit his wife and family, and Honour's constant faith in God and desire to "yet see many happy days in our little home in Doughty Street."

Honour, who had worked for the Bank of Charleston before enlisting, complained little of army life other than the meager rations and eager pests. A typical dinner, he indicated, might consist of dry hominy, fatty bacon, and "floating Batteries," so the soldiers had to supplement their own mess by purchase or forage. Beckie and other family members sent occasional packages of food which were always welcomed by Honour and his brother Fred, his tent and mess mate. During the spring and summer, fleas proved a nuisance, as did rattlesnakes and water moccasins. There were sporadic outbreaks of typhoid, dysentery, and yellow fever, but diahrrea and stomach complaints were more common. While stationed on James Island in June 1862, Honour was taken ill and sent to Charleston for treatment. He spent two months with his family until ordered back to camp.

Honour prayed continually that God would spare his beloved Charleston and was outraged by the atrocious treatment accorded the women of the city by "Country troops" in 1862. He deemed them worse than the Yankees, no better than lowly scoundrels. Other letters describe the fortification of Morris Island, the progress of the "Iron gun boats" under construction, and the reinforcement of the Charleston waterfront (21 September 1862). When Honour related the defection of the steamer Planter to the Yankee fleet, 14 May 1862, little did he know that the pilot, Robert Smalls, was to become a leader of South Carolina's African-American community during Reconstruction. The worst part of loss, in Honour's opinion, was that the "negro Pilot" knew all the channels and the condition of Confederate defenses in the area. Honour's regiment was placed on the ready for an attack, but the Yankees did not take advantage of the situation.

Honour's letters do not indicate that he fought in any battle, yet he witnessed and described the ravages of war. Coming upon a battlefield near the Stono River after a fight, Honour did not spare his wife the details. "Death in various shapes rendered hideous from the fact that the bodies of the slain were stripped perfectly naked", he wrote, 24 October 1862. He described a body whose head was gone but the face and inside of the skull "was as clean as a cocoanut shell" (25 October 1862). After witnessing such spectacles, Honour considered hiring a substitute and discussed the subject with his wife, but the idea was eventually dropped from their correspondence.

Theodore A. Honour's letters are particularly useful for their descriptions of Confederate encampments. One such depiction, 14 January 1863, indicates that the "Camp on Race Course 3 miles from Wilmington" was located in a large field ringed by trees, then describes leisure-time activities in the camp--"in circular form one hundred fires burning brightly--with groups of soldiers gathered around in every attitude; each with his pipe in his mouth laughing; singing; or telling stories--in the centre of the circle is our Brass band playing for a crowd of dancers, each vieing with the other in some fantastic extravagance." The vividness of these descriptions and the flowing composition of Honour's letters provide the reader an insightful glimpse into the life of a private during the Civil War.

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