The following is the only letter that Susanna received from her 50-year-old husband James Rutledge during the war.
Camp Narrows March 27, 1863
I take my pen in hand to let you hear that I am well and hoping these lines will find you likewise. I have not seen Henderson, but he is at Wytheville. I am trying to get to his company. I have not drawn any money, but we are expected to draw soon. I will come home as soon as I can. I have had as good health here as at home. I hope to see the war end and get home and live at home. I feel myself in God’s hands, and God be my keeper, He will deliver me from all evil. I see this as a chastisement upon the people. We must pray for one another, putting our trust in God for all blessings we enjoy here on this earth. Remember my love to all the brethren. Remember my love to Mr. Matony. My paper is so bad I can’t write, or I would more. I remain your affectionate husband.
Postscript: I sent you four needles. I got six and send you four of them.
The following letter is the final letter from James and Susanna’s son, Henderson Rutledge.
Camp Corbin’s Neck, VA
April 11, 1863
I again take occasion to write you a few lines which will inform you that father and myself are well. He has been transferred to our company and he’s getting on finely. When I got to my regiment last night, it was ready to start to Fredericksburg Virginia. We started about dark and arrived at Lynchburg next morning. About 12 o’clock, we left there and come and kept coming until we got to Hambleton’s Crossing, 4 miles from Fredericksburg, day before yesterday. We stay there all night the night before last and while we were there, I saw several soldiers I have been acquainted with. Cousins Leon Ziglar, Martin and Gray Rutledge, Peter Dalton, Billy Shelton, and Billy Frazier and others. They are all well. The soldiers are looking finely in the Grand Army. They have been lying in camp, doing nothing for a long time. These are, however, expecting to go to work soon. Now our Grand Army is in camp up and down one side of the Rappahannock and the enemy on the other, their pickets and ours, talk with each other across the river, they are friendly towards each other. A great many of them know each other’s names, they trade a little with one another. Some of our company have been at the river and seen them. I expect the 50th regiment is permanently assigned to this division of the army. I have no idea any of us will come before the war ends. Your neighbor boys are all well. You must all do the best you can. Make all the grain you can, and you must write soon and often.
Your affectionate son,
J Henderson Rutledge
Company K, 50th Virginia Regiment, Second Brigade, Trimble’s Division, Jackson’s Corp.
Only twenty-two days later, Henderson Rutledge, age 23, was killed at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863. While Chancellorsville was a huge Confederate victory, I am sure it did not feel that way for James Rutledge, losing his oldest son in battle. Lee was emboldened by the victory and moved the 50th Virginia and the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia towards Gettysburg, where James Rutledge was killed on July 2, 1863.
Two of Henderson’s cousins, who he was so happy to see shortly before his death, met similar fates. William Henderson “Billy” Shelton, 1st Lt., 58th VA Infantry, Co. H, was killed at the Third Battle of Winchester in September 1864. Martin Rutledge, 21st NC Infantry, later merged with 23rd VA, Company H, was captured on the 5th of June 1864 and died in a POW camp on 14th of August 1864.
Leon Ziglar, 3rd CPL., 58th VA Infantry, Company H, was wounded on the 19th of October 1864 at Cedar Creek, Virginia and lost his right arm. He was a prisoner of war at Old Capitol Prison in Washington, DC and Fort Delaware before he was exchanged in 1865. He lived to be 70 years old and is buried in Buffalo Cemetery in Stokes County, N.C.
Gray Rutledge, 21st NC Infantry, survived the war and lived in Stokes County, N.C. until 1901. We have been unable to find what happened to James William “Billy” Frazier, 2nd Lt., 58th VA Infantry, after the war.
Peter Washington Dalton, 1st Lt., Co. H, 42nd Virginia Infantry, was captured at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, on 12 May 1864. He became part of the “Immortal 600” a group of Confederate officers in captivity who were held as human shields in the line of friendly fire in Charleston Harbor. They were subjected to some of the most inhumane treatment of POWs that was ever documented in the Civil War. He returned to Virginia and lived to be 92 years old!
From October 1862 to July 1863 (9 months), Susannah Ziglar Rutledge lost eight children to diphtheria and her oldest son and husband to the war. Next week, we will find out what happens to Susannah and her remaining four children.
Thank you so much to Joanne Lang Shirley for sharing these amazing letters of her ancestors. Woody may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org