This letter was written by an as yet unidentified Confederate soldier to his cousin Mollie. It was datelined “Camp Withers” that was undoubtedly named after Col. [Jones M.] Withers who had six regiments under his command during the winter of 1861-62 east of the Elizabeth River at Norfolk, Virginia. The Newark Daily Advertiser of 20 December 1861 reported that “the rebels had six thousand troops at Norfolk, seven thousand at Craney Island, and six hundred at Sewall’s Point.” The six thousand troops were most likely those of Withers’ command which included the 3rd Alabama, the 2nd Georgia, the 2nd, 6th, 12th, 16th, and 41st Virginia Infantry regiments. My hunch is that the author of this letter was from one of the Virginia regiments.
November 14, 1861
Dear Cousin Mollie
You must excuse me for not writing soon as I have been busy at work ever since my arrival at camp repairing for old winter. We have had some very cold weather in the past two weeks but I hope we will soon be in our winter quarters where we will be most comfortably situated, I hope. Our houses are sixteen by twenty and there are seven in our mess so we will have plenty of room. The houses are built of logs and when completed will be quite warm.
I took a walk down to ocean view last Sunday and had a pleasant time. It is a pleasant walk and one is amply repaid for it. I took a spyglass and could plainly see the old fort [Fortress Monroe] with the Stars and Stripes a floating in the breeze. Everything seems to be very quiet about the fort. The [Union] fleet [of 42 vessels] has left. It is not known where they have gone but it is supposed they have gone somewhere South [Port Royal]. The paper states the Yankees have taken two of our batteries but I don’t believe it although it may be true but the press is not responsible for what they say and therefore it makes but little difference whether it be true or not so the columns are filled. It states and is confirmed, I believe, that Old Fuss and Feathers [Major Gen. Winfield Scott] has resigned his post. I hope it may be so.
There has been a heavy firing going on in the direction of Old Point [Comfort] but I have not ascertained the cause as yet, but don’t reckon anybody hurt.
We had a general inspection today — the first time I have made my appearance since my arrival. I had to take my old stand. It appeared quite awkward at first [but] I reckon I will get used to it soon. The regiment is nearly all uniformed alike and made a handsome appearance. Old General [Benjamin] Huger says we beat anything in the Norfolk harbor. So you see we are pumkins.
I will try and visit Craney Island the next time [I] go to Norfolk and I reckon you would like to go too as there will be some possible chance of seeing camp. But as you will hardly be ready in time, I shall try and see him for you.
Nothing more. Accept my respects. As ever I remain your friend and cousin. Dolly, give my respect to Mr. Peirce and Miss Betsy. My love to Mother and Jennie. Write soon.