By early 1863, Henderson Rutledge had moved up the ranks to First Sergeant with Co K, 50th Virginia Regiment, and was serving in the eastern part of Virginia. “Letter from camp, January 6, 1863.
“Our regiment now belongs to Pryor’s Brigade, Jackson’s Division, Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia and is stationed near Franklin, near the Roanoke railroad in Blackwater in Southampton County, Virginia. Four miles from Norfolk, I received the clothes you sent me by ST Scott. I assure you; I am a thousand times obliged to you for them and I’m very thankful to Mary (Henderson’s sister) for the covers. She sent me my coat and pants that fitted me finely, was highly pleased with everything you sent me. I got everything you sent me, save the chestnuts. I did not get them, but the clothing was what I needed worst. I do not need any more clothing this winter that I know of. I would like to get a pair of boots, if I was near enough to home, but I am so far, there is no chance to get them. It is therefore unnecessary to prepare them. I have no idea when I will come up to the country. Southeast Virginia is the poorest country I ever saw. The forest is almost entirely pine, little, old, sorry fields of pine. People who live in this country seem to be pretty wealthy, but I cannot account for how they get so, unless it is by hereditary estate, or a by stint of hard labor at cultivating their sand for the production of goober peas, and sweet potatoes. They raise large crops of those two kinds of vegetables. You will please inform Mr. Shelor and family that John received everything they sent him and was much pleased with his clothing, for it was splendid. John and myself are well and in as good spirits, as could be expected under the circumstances with our bodies, still unfalteringly assigned to the sacrificial altar of our country, for the redemption of peace, and the security of freedom, due us and you. I will close by assuring you that I hope for you all the fortunes of health, blessings of Providence, and the happiness that old age ought to secure to us all.
Your affectionate son, J.H. (Henderson) Rutledge”
Henderson’s next letter is written to his sister, Mary Rutledge.
“Camp near Franklin, Southampton County, Virginia February 4, 1863
I am well this morning and do hope you are well. I got a letter from home last week, but it had been on the way nearly three weeks. I sent an answer to it and thought I would write you again that you might hear from me, in case my other should fail to get home. To my astonishment and extreme regret, I heard that father had substituted for Taylor. I would not have had that to have taken place for any amount. All the money in the Confederacy would not have been any inducement to me to have come into the army. I do greatly sympathize with you all and hope you may be blessed with health, that providence and fortune may favor you. I will do all I can for you. You now can do what little work you are able to do to your own notion, but I am afraid your ground is in such fix that you can’t do anything. The mill field is a good chance for corn, if it was not for the logs on it, but they are there, and you can’t get them off. You must make all you can and do the best you can. I will come home at the earliest opportunity, but I can’t tell when that will be. Tell Mr. Shelor that Jonathan and John are well. Write me soon and often.
Your affectionate brother,
J.H. (Henderson) Rutledge.”
Mr. Shelor is Randolph Tuggle Shelor. John is the son of Randolph Tuggle Shelor and Mary “Polly” Harris. John Shelor enlisted in the 50th Virginia, Company K on June 22, 1861. John was promoted to Sergeant on April 15, 1864, and was captured at Spotsylvania Courthouse on May 12, 1864. He was sent to the prisoner of war camp in Elmira, New York where he perished on January 28, 1865. He was 25 years old. John Shelor is buried in Cemetery Plot 1810 in Woodlawn National Cemetery in Elmira, New York.
Jonathan, in the above-mentioned letter, is Jonathan Elgin DeHart, the son of Stephen Hubbard DeHart and Susannah Elgin and the son-in-law of Randolph and Polly Shelor. Jonathan married John Shelor’s sister, Mahalia. 21-year-old Jonathan was killed at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse on May 16, 1864. His wife Mahalia Shelor DeHart was left with two young sons to raise alone, three-year-old Charles and one-year-old John.
We have been unable to determine the identity of S T Scott. There were three Scotts from Patrick County in the 50th Virginia Infantry; Asa G. Scott, Boston Scott, and Greenville B. Scott.
Thank you so much to Henderson Rutledge’s 2x great niece, Joanne Lang Shirley for sharing these historical, heart-wrenching letters. Next week, in our final installment, we will find out what happens to Henderson and his 50-year-old father, James, who joined the 50th Virginia, Company K, on February 1, 1863.
Woody may be reached at email@example.com