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Carson Family Papers, 1820-1990

Seventy-nine manuscripts, 1820-1865, 1877-1928, 1982-1990 and undated, of the Carson family of Spartanburg District center around Confederate soldier John Moore Carson (d. 1864), son of Jason Hazzard Carson (1814-1865) and Jane Moore Carson (b. 1825). John Carson enlisted first in Co. C, Holcombe Legion, Evans Brigade, and at the time of his death was serving in Co. B, 7th S.C. Cavalry. The collection also contains some family correspondence dating from before the Civil War. One of the letters, 26 January 1860, from Mary Anderson, Rutherfordton, N.C., to her son in South Carolina reports that she was taking in boarders and "miss you more than ever now" and relates that the local citizenry "are getting a little uneasy about an insurrection of the negroes & had a meeting today to appoint a vigilance committee."

John M. Carson was stationed along the South Carolina coast in the spring of 1861. In these early letters to his parents, Carson voiced concerns about matters other than combat. A letter of 24 March discusses his preference for Mrs. Kennedy's boy Lewis as a servant and thanks her for a box of provisions. Two weeks later, on 8 April, he complained-"The musquitoes & sand flies are getting pretty thick down here as also the fleas, so large that they resemble apple seed with legs stuck to them." Although his unit proceeded to Simonds Bluff for some anticipated action in June, Carson reported, "The gunboats turned tail...before they reached the battery and...we were deprived of our fun." He also was requesting that his father inquire about a transfer "to some active sphere of service."

Carson remained along the South Carolina coast in February 1862 and in a letter of 16 February explained that he had just joined a "new mess" and needed cooking utensils and a chest. While he considered that camp life improved the morale of the troops, even he resorted to the occasional use of "`camp slang'...& I'm afraid after the year is out very few young men will possess the conversational powers & ease of expression calculated to render them attractive members."

Carson was with his unit on an expedition to Jehossee Island in February. The island was a rice plantation owned by Gov. Aiken. The troops arrived at night, and the ensuing hours were characterized by confusion-"We got lost...in consequence of the numerous embankments & after marching until about one o'clock AM found ourselves again at the ferry. The tops of the dikes were only about a foot wide & slick as glass, every few steps some one would slip off in to the mud & water on either side." After all their efforts the enemy was not present when the troops arrived at their destination. In the same letter Carson discussed the possibility of joining another mess, and he expressed disappointment with Bomar's company whose officers "assumed a tone of manner toward the privates which is rendering them very distastefull to the men to say the least."

In March 1862 Carson and two other members of Holcombe Legion were cited for volunteering for a "hazardous reconnoisance" on Edisto Island which resulted in the capture of Lt. Col. F.P. Bennet of the 55th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lt. Kirby of the 47th New York Volunteers, "and a citizen of the enemy." Carson gave a detailed account of the expedition in a 17 March 1862 letter to his mother.

An important consideration facing the troops in March 1862 was the issue of enlisting for the war. Carson complained to his father in a letter of 25 March that the officers had persuaded them to enroll in order "to find out how many men...would reenlist." The men later discovered "that every man who enrolled or allowed his name to be enrolled is stuck hard & fast." He urged his father to inquire about his being commissioned in North Carolina. He explained that he did not object to the duty, "but what galls me is having to be under a set of officers who are not half as fit for their position as I am and forced to mingle with a set of contemptable pupies whom every feeling of gentillity & refinement sets at repugnance." If he received a commission in a North Carolina unit, he informed his mother, 28 March 1862, "it would afford me more room to extinguish myself."

By the summer of 1863, he was anticipating that his unit would be transferred to Virginia and that he might pass through Spartanburg on the way. He did go to Virginia briefly but returned to South Carolina in the fall and was stationed at Mt. Pleasant. Returning again to Virginia in the spring of 1864, Carson was severely wounded at Malvern Hill on 13 June. A letter the following day from a fellow soldier related the seriousness of his condition and provided details of the action in which he was wounded. The letter also contained a note dictated by Carson and a message from the attending physician. A letter of 15 June from F.S. Gillespie to Mrs. Carson tells of a visit with her son-John is cheerful & thinks he will be able to go home in three or four weeks." A week later on 23 June, John M. Carson died in Jackson Hospital, Richmond, Va. His nurse, Miss M.E. Capron, sent his mother a ten-page letter on 21 July 1864 recounting her son's final days.

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