Love Letters & War Record
of Private W. L. Perkins, Co I, 19th Regiment of Kentucky Infantry Volunteers
This exerpt is from a 36-page document available for purchase from our Historical Society. The original letters and documents copied here are in the possession of Mrs. W. O. Wilham, DeFuniak Springs, Florida. Typscript was in the collection of Alma Ray Sanders Ison at the Harrodsburg Historical Society. Transcribed by Lauren Hayslett, 2021.
(Note: Spelling and punctuation of the original typescript have been retained. Spacing has been regularized.)
April 20, 1864
Your kind letter came to hand and it gave me much pleasure to learn that you are well. You ask me to give Nim your love. He is at the hospital but not very poorly. I was with him last night, and I expect him to be sent to some Northern hospital today, for he is not able to march, and we are under marchin orders. It is supposed that we are going to move on the enemy again, but I cannot tell for certain. Our army is in a bad fix to fight. We are now on Red River and have thrown up some very strong fortifications. The rebels are reported to be in a short distance. If we go to the front, we will not go before we find them and perhaps get another whippin. If we do the rest of the 18th will be taken prisoners, for I hear a heap of the boys wishing that they had been taken, for they would rather be with the regiment. If we get in another fight, they say they will not try to get away. It is supposed that most of our regiment is prisoners, while a great many were killed. Marion Poulter was the last one that got out from it and he said when he left them they had all gathered in a small squad around Col. Cowan and William J. Simes were holding up the old stars and stripes as high as he could and the rebels were all around them. Our boys had no more ammunition and the rebels were firing from all sides, and it was a sight to see how fast they were killing them. Col. Cowan told them if any wanted to get out they could try and 6 or 8 started, but only two of them made it. The regiment had then surrendered but had no white flag so the rebels, still kept shooting and killing them. We cannot tell who was killed and who is prisonors.
Tell Surridly not to marry while I’m down here in Dixie fighting these rebels. Nearly every letter tells me of some wedding, and I fear that when the soldiers get home there will be no one left to marry. There are many of us that I fear will never get home to old Ky. again, to tell of the hard time we have seen in Dixie.
I will now close. I remain your affectionate friend.
W. L. Perkins
May 25, 1863
I have not been where we could send out letters for better than a month. I have done four days of fighting since I rote, and I’m thankful that I did not get the first wound, yet I can’t say how long that will be the case, for our men have been fighting seven days and continue to keep it up. Our reg. has lost, killed or wounded since we crost the Miss. River, 124 men. Among them were our Colonel wounded, our Captain wounded, our Major killed. On May 22nd, we charged the Rebels fort and sixty seven were wounded and killed. Our Co. had five wounded. Perhops you would like their names. James H. Brown, John G. Montgomery, Paul Frent, James Courghlin, F. R. Benaid, none seriously. Capt. Cummins the day before. We are lying in gun shot of the rebel fort, and expect to stay here until we get possission of the city. I supose you have heard of our fight at fort Gibson, on May 1.
I thought that was a hard place but it were nothing in compassion to what I have witnessed since, and I never wish to see the likes again. It renders a man very unhappy to here the roar of cannons and bullets flying all directions and to see men falling on the right and left, and to here the mournful groans of the wounded, while I was expecting my time to come evert minute, but I am among those who is capul thank God. Nim escaped also. If you can not understand this, my mind is very much bewildered. The balls are passing over, and not knowing what moment we will be called to battle, but I think we will not have to change their works no more.
This is my first letter in some time and I judge myself that you have begun to want to hear from me. I will make up last time if the mail continues to go out. I love you as I love my life but I can hardly write for dodging rebel bullets.
W. L. Perkins
Oct. 23, 1864
Miss Mary E,
Your very kind letter came to hand, and I was glad to hear from you.
This leaves me well. I have no news of interest, though I suppose the remainder of our prisoners will be here this evening. They will be received with many cheers. We had a letter from A. C. Wright which stated that they were all well, and that they had not lost the first man since they were captured.
You say that you have heard that some of the boys will marry down here. This may be true, for some seem to think a great deal of the ladies, but there has been no weddings yet.
As for myself. I expect to marry some rosy cheek Ky. lady. The ladies down south are as white as snow, except the native born Louisana. They look some what like a negro or creole. There is scarcelly any of them that look like our Ky. ladies.
Nim is well and joins with me in much love to you and Mandy.
The boys is all well except J. B. Donavon is dead. He died the 18th.
From what I have lately learned, you need not expect us at home before in Jan. As I have learned we will not leave here until the 12th of Dec., and perhaps not until Jan. 2. We will then go to Harrodsburg to be discharged. I will now close and subscribe myself Your friend as ever with much respect.
W. L. Perkins
Know ye that William L. Perkins, Private of Captain W.D. Cummins, Co. I, 19th Regiment of Kentucky Infantry Volunteers who was enrolled on the 11th day of November 1861 to serve three years, or during the war, is hereby discharged from the service of the United States this 26th day of January 1865, at Louisville, Kentucky by reason of expiration of term of service. Said William L. Perkins was born in Madison Co. in the state of Kentucky Fair. Is 20 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches high, and by occupation, when enrolled, a farmer.
Given at Louisville, Kentucky, this 26th day of January, 1865.