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W[illiam] H[ayne] Perry Papers

Thirty-three manuscripts, 14 May 1860-29 June 1864, of W[illiam] H[ayne] Perry (1839-1902) consist chiefly of Civil War letters penned by Perry from various Confederate camps in South Carolina and Virginia to his parents, Benjamin Franklin and Elizabeth Hext McCall Perry, of Greenville. The earliest letter, 14 May 1860, was written from Washington, D.C., where young Perry had stopped en route home from Annapolis with his brother Frank.

The bulk of the letters date between 5 May and 22 December 1861 and are representative of Perry's experiences in such places as Columbia's Camp Hampton and a number of Virginia encampments, including Camp Griffin, Camp Butler, and Camp Wigfall. Those written from Camp Hampton are revelatory of Perry's early days in Confederate service as a member of Hampton Legion. Writing on 5 May 1861, shortly after arriving at Columbia, Perry hinted at the anticipated deployment of various units—"The Butler Guards leave here tomorrow afternoon. The 4th Regiment will probably be stationed at Aiken very soon, & perhaps Williams' Regiment also."

Perry remained at Camp Hampton throughout May and June 1861. A letter dated 11 June 1861 thanks his mother for a box of food, then continues—"The mess arrangements and the tent arrangements of the captain were broken up. We now mess together, the whole company at one table. As to tenting we tent as we choose and not according to size, as the captain wanted....The feeding both of men & horses has improved to what it was formerly but it is still very poor. Coffee, bread & bacon are the principal things we have. Some times we have Irish potatoes." Other letters penned from Camp Hampton discuss the assembly of various units forming Hampton Legion, uncertainty over when they would leave for Virginia, the distribution of arms, and his desire to visit home before leaving for Virginia, and complain of the scarcity of feed for the cavalry's horses.

"This is the last letter which I expect to write you from this place," Perry announced to his father, 28 June 1861. "We leave here in the morning for Richmond....We will go to Petersburg by Rail-Road and then we will go by horseback the rest of the way to Richmond. We will make a stop of 4 or 5 hours in Charlotte to rest our horses before putting them on the other train, and we will stop at least a night, perhaps longer in Petersburg." The letter explains that Perry had decided not to take a second horse to Virginia as a mount for his servant—"I found out that I would not only have to pay transportation for him, but would have to find feed for him outside of the company corn, which would put me to a great deal of trouble and sometimes be impossible. So I concluded to send him home. None of the other men who have servants have any horses for them except the Captain....If there is any actual necessity, I might b[u]y a cheap horse in Va., though I think we can do very well without horses for the servants."

Perry's letter from Petersburg, Va., 30 June 1861, gives a humorous account of having been left behind when Hampton Legion troops removed from Columbia. "The Captain did not call the roll before starting, as he should have done....Finding that we were left, we determined to get ahead of the company, so we saw Col. Hampton who gave us a passport, and we took the 2 o'clock train on the S.C. R. Road and came by Wilmington to this place, which we reached at 4 o'clock this morning and found ourselves ahead of the Company, which has not yet come on. It is expected sometime during the course of to-day. In the meantime we are doing very well, and are willing to wait."

By 11 July 1861, he was at Ashland, Va., where the men were billeted at a former race track in one large room. "Besides the three companies of Hampton's Legion," Perry reported, "there are four Virginia Cavalry Companies camped at this place, making 7 Cavalry Companies....This is a sort of school of instruction for Cavalry." The letter indicates that young Perry had been engaged in some legal business while in camp, including writing a will for Capt. Bozeman.

Perry's letters often mention a "servant," Wiley, who appears to have been with him throughout the war. His 14 July 1861 letter conveys a request that his father procure and send on Negro slaves for fellow Confederate officers in Virginia.

The battle at Manassas is first mentioned on 19 July 1861. After explaining that the cavalry would probably be sent there soon, the remainder of Perry's letter is given over to details of their daily regimen—"We drill twice a day, at 7 in the morning, and at 4 in the evening, for 2 hours at each time. While we are not on drill we can spend our time as we please. We can go out into the town or anywhere not over a mile from Camp. We get up and attend roll call at half-past 4 in the morning: from then until 7 we have to get breakfast, feed, water, and curry our horses, though Wiley has done all the currying of my horse. At 7, as I said before, we go on drill for 2 hours. Yesterday we began taking lessons in the sword exercise instead of drilling on horseback, which lessons I suppose we will continue for some time....We have to attend roll-call at 7 in the evening, and also at 9—at a quarter past lights have to be put out, and we have to go to sleep. Such is our daily life in Camp." "Wiley is getting on very well," the letter continues, "and says he wants you to write to his wife for him. I find him a great convenience." Perry also commented on the unpopular Capt. Lanneau—"I cant say he is unkind to his men, for he does not seem to care much how his men get on, so that he gets on well himself." A subsequent letter, 29 July 1861, written from Camp Pickens, near Manassas, Va., gives particulars of the fight, including Perry's visit to the battlefield, where he had picked up several buttons and bullets as souvenirs.

A number of letters give instructions for the purchase or tailoring of uniforms and articles of clothing. That of 1 Aug. [1861] directs that a pair of cavalry boots be made to order. Another, 20 August 1861, reports—"A Tailor from Richmond...took the measures of the whole Legion for a new uniform to be made for us by the ladies of South Carolina—I suppose it is to be made by the Society, or whatever it is, Miss Hampton was writing to you about. Our new uniforms will be made in a few days—we will have more uniforms than we will be able to carry. These latter as I wrote you before are to be made by the Ladies of Petersburg, so Miss Nellie Orr can have a chance at them."

News of the Federal incursion into South Carolina is first alluded to in a 10 November 1861 letter. "Col. Hampton has gone up to see Gen. Beauregard—some say to get him to send the whole Legion back to South Carolina in consequence of this news—others say it is only to get permission to send the Beaufort Troop of Cavalry back, as they are more directly concerned. I hope they will send us all back....I would rather fight there than here."

Concern over the plight of his home state again dominates Perry's letter of 20 November 1861. "South Carolina seems to be in a very bad situation at present, on account of the Yankee invasion. We look with anxiety for news from Port Royal. The Yankees according to last accounts do not seem to have begun any active measures against Charleston or the interior of the country, though I suppose it will not be long before they do." Complaining, as he often did, of the lack of feed for cavalry horses, Perry noted—"I think they had better send us...to South Carolina, for I dont think our horses can stand the winter here, particularly with the short allowance of corn we frequently get. Every now and then we have to go a day without any corn, and we have not had a particle of Hay in several weeks. We have eat out the whole country around and all our supplies have to be hauled from Manassas." Six days later, when he wrote again, Perry was sick and confined to a private home.

Back in Camp Butler on 7 December 1861, Perry tried to alleviate his mother's concerns over the possible interception of letters. "I have burnt up all your letters, when you first wrote me to burn your letters I burnt up all that I had received, and have burnt up all of [the letters] after reading them, which I think is much the best plan, for besides the danger of the Yankee's reading them there is danger of their being lost about camp, and being read by our own men, so all things considered I believe I shall continue to destroy them as soon as received."

There are no letters between 22 December 1861 and 7 June 1863. An 11 July 1863 letter, written from Hagerstown, Md., speaks of the fight at Gettysburg. "We all thought we were going to go back into Virginia a few days ago, but now I expect we will remain, and there will in all probability be another great battle in a day or two....Our loss in the Gettysburg battle was heavy, but the men are in good spirits and ready to meet the enemy again. Our Regiment has had over a dozen fights and skirmishes in the last 4 weeks, and for the past 34 days not a day has passed without some portion of the Cavalry having a fight....If I had time I would give you a detailed account of our experience for the past month, how we went within 10 miles of Washington and captured over two hundred six mule teams with the wagons, and about a thousand Yankees and negroes together....We fared first rate in Pennsylvania. The Citizens gave us plenty of Bread and milk, and we took all the horses we could lay hands on. Our Cavalry so far as I saw behaved very well, but the Infantry they say plundered a good deal." Taking up his pen again on 19 July 1863, Perry advised that the Confederate cavalry had recrossed into Virginia, unable to stir up another fight in Maryland.

Following another gap in correspondence—between 30 October 1863 and 29 June 1864—the final letter in the collection, written from the coastal South Carolina village of Chisolmville, reports sickness in camp and a need for mosquito netting.

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