AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND CIVIL WAR LETTERS OF
JOEL MURPHREE OF TROY, ALABAMA
H. E. STERKX
(Dr. Sterkx was a member of the history faculty, Troy State Teachers College)
JOEL DYER MHRPHREE TO WIFE, Jonesboro, Ga., August 13, 1864
I received three letters from you yesterday and you cant imagine how glad I was to hear from you and the little ones. I had not heard from home before in a month. I at the same time got one from Bet and one from your Pa and you may be assured I enjoyed myself while perusing them. Your letters were checkered with good and bad news but such is life and we must be content. I have written to you four times since Bailys misfortune and I presume you have received some or all of them before now. And now I have to chronicle the death of Shep and the Captain of Johns. Brother James will be at home perhaps before this reaches you and will tell you how we got the information. I presume it is correct our family and yours has until recently been very fortunate but now fate it appears has turned against us. And there is not telling when it will stop. I must admit I am a little suspicious in reference to the fate of families when they commence dying out or getting killed. I am sorry from the bottom of my heart for Molly, Nan, and in fact all the connections. I am now on my way to the front but as Jim is absent I suppose I will not be put into the ditches. Col. Cunningham sent for me to come up, wrote to you to direct your letters to the care of Mr. Leroy but as I will be at Atlanta for some time you may direct as heretofore. I wrote by Jim for the articles I am in need of. Our Cavalry are in the rear of Shermans Army. I hope they may do some good. Nothing more now.
JOEL DYER MURPHREE TO WIFE, Atlanta, Ga., August 15, 1864
I suppose you think I havt nothing to do but write to you. I think this is the fourth letter I have written in the last week. My letters are not very communicative yet I am never so well satisfied as when I am writing to you or reading a letter from you. You mention in your letters that they are not interesting and promise to do better from next time. Make no more such assertion your communications are very interesting to me, and would be if you only mentioned the fact that you and the children were well and signed your name. I have written two letters since I received my clothing, in neither of which I said any thing about them for the reason I had not tried them on. I am now wearing one of the shirts pants and Boots all of which fit me admirabley and I must admit I am foolishly proud of them, particularly the pants and Boots. I would have sent some things home by Bro. James but he could not carry them. As to the style of the pants I am well pleased and prefer you would made the others by the same pattern. Ursula I am under many and lasting obligations to you for your kindness and unceasing dilligence in looking after my welfare. I ought to be and am proud of my wife for has few men have such. I see men here in rags that have wifes at home why can they not get clothing from home as I do. I hope that I may survive this war to prove how much I do appreciate my kind and affectionate wife, Ursula you say you want me to make and effort to come home. I would have done so before now but I was fearful the militia would be called out and in that event I would prefer remaining where I am situated as I am. If we are successful in driving the enemy out of Georgia and Alabama I will try and get a discharg and come home I will make an effort for a furlough as soon as I think there is a probable chance of success. Your poor old Pa has had a continuation of of hard luck but like a good old Christian he bears it all without a mumur. I received a letter from him a few days since in which he never said a word about his losses. The only thing that seemed to grieve him was the troubles and trials of his family and connections here on this earth, and the fear that he would not all be prepared to meet Him in heaven.
Ursula you have a good Pa and Ma and I do dearly love them, not only so but I have agood old Mother that that thinks and prays for nothing but the welfare of her children in this world and the world to come. And then think of our kind and affectionate brothers and sisters. If they could only have survived this cruel war and returned home to their families and friends how happy we could have been. But poor Shep is gone and may be Baly too never to return and possibly more may go the same way ere long which will mar the happiness of us all even if every thing else goes well. Ursula you need not send me any more vegetables or Peaches. Those you sent all spoilt. I never saw them but Col. Cunningham opened the box. If you can send me a few apples off of my own trees I would be glad you would do so. Send me a Pant buttons I have needle and thread. I today bought a Blanket. If you can send me a quilt do so also a pillow. I never have received Sams letter. Tell Mother I have heard nothing from Tom since James saw him. He is now in the rear of Shermans Army with Wheeler for the purpose of tearing up the Railroad burning Commissary stores and trains of Cars & if we can only succeed in cuting off Shermans supplies he will have to fall back or immediately attack us in our fortifications. We have a very strong Calvery force said to number at least twenty thousand one half of which is now in the rear of the enemy and if commanded by Forrest or some other skillful General I would be almost confident of success in this undertaking but I have but little confidence in Wheelers ability to accomplish much. We heard yesterday that he had struck the road at Ressacca and had burned three trains ladened with supplies for Shermans Army. I think our only hope is cutting off supplies from the enemy. The enemy continues to shell the City doing a good deal of damage to the buildings and occasionally killing and cripling women and children. I must close as the mail boy is bout to leave give my respects to Gen. Wiley and other friends. My love to the connections generally and a God bless you and the children. Kiss the precious little babes for me tell Josey and Jenie to be good children and that their Pa will come home some times to see them.
Joel D. Murphree
P. S. Tell Jim I sold his mustang Pony for $125.
JOEL DYER MURPHREE TO WIFE, Atlanta, Ga., August 28, 1864
I today received a letter from Mr. Jones of the 20th and one from you of the 21st Inst. I also received one from you a few days before. The two weeks you failed to write appeared a long time to me. I must excuse you as you have been so good to write heretofore and for the other reason that you thought I had been captured by the enemy. I dont know when I was so much helped up in my feelings before as when I heard Sergeant Horn announce he had a letter for me. It was night and I had retired but I got up made a light and read it. It was short but the contents was precious to me, knowing your hand had pened it. Since the death of Shep and Bailey and capture of John I have felt very lonely particularly since Brother James left. It is true I was with the boys seldom yet as long as I knew they were in our ranks and well they were company for me whether I was with them or not but now Shep is gone forever and maybe Bailey too and John may die in Yankee prison. Yet I have strong hopes of seeing John again and some hopes of beholding Baileys face at some future time.
Ursula the Yankees have left the immediate vicinity of Atlanta where they have gone appears to be a mistery to all outsiders and I think Shermans move puzzles our high officials. The City has not been shelled in four days and no firing on our right or center for two days but there are some Yanks on our left yet but how many is the mistery. Some are of the opinion that Sherman is massing on our left. Some think he is moving towards Montgomery Selma and Mobile and others that he is retreating in the direction of Dalton, that he has been forced to leave in consequence of scarcity of provisions and ammunition. For certain reasons it is believed he left hurriedly having left several hundred barrels pickled Pork and Beef which has as a matter of course fell into our hands. He also abandoned several Canon and a great many other things too numerous to mention.
One Yankee was found asleep in a ditch said he went out to get some apples and when he returned his command was gone and he knew not where. The Canon and provisions must have been left for want of transportation. Gen Hood is still fortifying down the West Point Railroad. So it appears he must anticipate an attack in that quarter. I stayed all night with our Brigade last night having gone down there to issue clothing to our Regiment. They were on picket and of course near where the enemy were expected and when they had ben but I hard but few guns during my stay. Our Brigade is about 8 miles from Atlanta on the West Point Road. Our line of fortifications is said to be twenty miles long. Atlanta and the important points nearby are well protected. Hood has had a great deal of work done since he has been in Command. The change of Commanders no doubt caused the death or capture of those near and dear to us but I do believe it was the best for the success of our cause. It required hard fighting to check the enemy here after having pursued us so far and I have no idea Johnston would have made a stand at Atlanta. I am truly sorry to hear of so much sickness in Troy and vicinity. I had heard John Key is dead. I do sincerely hope he may recover yet. I know no one not related to me that I would regret the death of so much as his. I regard John as one of the noblest men I ever was acquainted with. He is strictly honest. In fact I know of no bad trait in his character. He is a gentleman in every particular. John feels very near to me almost as near as a Brother. I do pray that he may get well. Jones is gone to Mobile and I suppose nearly every body else. You must certainly have a lonely time in Troy now since the Militia has been called out. I think there will be hot times at Mobile soon and will probably last a good while. May be another Charleston Seige if so Jones will have a hard time. How does Sister Elizabeth take his departure for the service. Ursula you say you want me to come home to stay. You know how much I would like to do so but it would be bad policy for me to quit this army situated as I am and go home to be sent off again in the Militia service. I shall remain here until the present Campaign is over at least and then if the chances is favorable for me to remain at home I may make an effort for a discharge. I will come home on furlough as soon as I can. I cant write to you all seperately so you must show my letters to the family connections. Read all my letters to Mother tell her I have not forgotten her if I do neglect writing to her. My respects to all my friends and love to all my kin on both sides of the house. Kiss the children for me. Goodbye yours devotedly.
The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 01, Spring Issue 1957.