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 MURPHREE TO WIFE, Columbia, Tennessee
November 29, 1864
My dear Ursula
I once more very unexpectly have an opportunity of letting you hear from me. Capt Stevens is the bearer of this to some point South where it can be mailed. I am as usual in good health. We left Tuscumbia the 20th ult. and arrived at this place yesterday. Our troops could have made the trip perhaps two days sooner but were impeded by the Artillery and Supply train. We encountered a few Yankees on the rout but Genl Forrest move them before him with but little loss not more than twenty. He captured about three hundred of the enemy. This place was evacuated by the Yanks last night and are now across the river about two miles distant supposed to number 25000. The prisoners say they are 40000 strong but we do not believe it. Our soldiers supply themselves today with a good many articles they were very much in need of but of course but few were furnished. I would liked very much to have had a hat and a pair of good Boots but I was busy this morning and had not the opportunity of going into Town and by 12 oclock the stores were striped of everything. The Merchants sold their good to our soldiers at low rates for Confederate money. The Citizens of this section are as loyal to the South as we are. They received our arrival with joy. White handkerchiefs are waved by the ladies in every house we pass that is inhabited. Some families have been vacated. This is the best country I ever saw notwithstanding the armies of both sides have more or less fed on the country. Yet there is an abundance our soldiers buy flour at 8 cents per pound our bread rations being hardest on account of the difficulty in getting grinding done. We have an abundance of meat Pork & Beef issued to us by the Commissary. Irish Potatoes are tolerably plentiful. We passed through Wayne County of this state first it is a very broken Country filled with Tories and diserters from both armies who buswack our men when they have an opportunity. Six of our men went out one day to buy some meal or flour and were arrested by them but were released upon the statement that they were not deserters. The bushwakers recommended them. Next day we sent out a Regiment to hunt them up and they succeeded in catching four bushwakers two diserters and one discharged soldier from the Federal army.
Ursula I expect we will have a fight at this place and if successful may go on to Nashville. I may be mistaken however as the movements of the army is never made known. All is conjecture. Sure enough Lincoln is elected so we may expect four years more of war. Sherman is advancing in the direction of Savannah and Charleston. If we can prevent his going through he will have a hard time getting back. We hear that Lee whipped Grant again on the 17th inst. Yankee loss 23000.1 presume you have hear all about it. All for now.
J. D. Murphree
JOEL DYER MURPHREE TO WIPE, Tuscumbia, Alabama, Dec. 28, 1864
My dear Ursula
I am once more on the South side of the Tennessee River, but in rather low spirits. Col Cunningham left us yesterday for home. I would have written to you by him but I could not do so for the reason we were on the march at the time of his departure. I requested him to visit you and let you know of my health etc. Our trip into Tennessee has been checkered with good and evil pleasure and trouble comfort and suffering. We met the enemy on our advances immediately after crossing the River at Florence and continued to find them in small numbers at several garrisons but Forrest drove them before him generally capturing some. Our infantry having no fighting to do until we reached Columbia. There being considerable force and the place fortified a portion of our infantry engaged them in front while the main Army flanked the place the enemy getting timely notice retreated fearing a few hundred prisoners in our hands. Our Army then gave the Yanks a race for Franklin and got ahead of them at Spring Hill but for some reason unknown to me the army was halted and the enemy suffered to passing hearing all night. This I regard as the greatest blunder of the Campaign. The Yanks were strongly fortified at Franklin and had the best natural position I have ever seen notwithstanding however our troops were forced to charge them. The results was we lost about 800 killed and 3000 wounded. The Yankees loss about half the number. I rode over the battle field after the fight and saw the dead myself. The wounded having been removed except a few wounded Yanks. At Franklin we captured perhaps two thousand. We lost but few captured. We remained at Franklin one day and continued our march to Nashville formed a line of battle around a portion of the City Dec 3d and remained there until the 15th when we were forced to commence a retreat which we have kept up until now. The enemy pursuing to Columbia. Our loss but few killed or wounded but at least 5000 captured. This was indeed a stampede. I saw Sgt. Kerr a few days since fresh from Johnsons Island left there the 17th Oct. Says he left Ed well was not acquainted with John. I learned through Butler Parks that Mollie had received a letter from Bailey. If so it is indeed glorious news and Sam has got back. So we are fortunate as well as unfortunate. I wish I had space to tell you of the kind treatment I received at the hands of the Tennesseans. I will tell you all in my next. Love to all.
JOEL D. MURPHREE TO WIFE, Columbus, Ga., Feb. 13, 1865
I arrived here Saturday 10 Oclock a.m. but did not find Capt Stephens as I expected, and has not got here yet. If he does not get here this evening I will start for my Command tomorrow. James was here a few days ago and drew clothing for one division, Our Lt. Col. and Lt. Walter Wiley are here in the Hospital. I have been staying with them. Hospital fare is very bad indeed. No war news of importance. I am well kiss the children for me, as I did not kiss them when I parted with them. I wanted to kess the little fellows but I feared the consequences.
Goodbye for the present, your devoted husband
Joel D. Murphree
JOEL D. MURPHREE TO WIFE, Mayfield Ga., Feb. 21, 1865
I am well, arrived here yesterday 12 Oclock, will leave here tomorrow at 11. I remained in Columbus until the 16th waiting for Capt. Sevens he did not arrive and not knowing his whereabouts at the time I concluded to start for my Command. I have since learned he was in Montgomery and in all probability arrived in Columbus the day before I left. How I would like to have stayed at home all the while in Coumbus. I have had a very hard time for the last three days having walked from Milledeville to this place. I have not heard of my Command yet I do not find them at Augusta I will in all probability have to walk 75 or a 100 miles and my right boot hurts my foot very painful to walk I will pay very dear for my short stay at home. Yet I do not regret it. I am willing to undergo any punishment that I can reasonably bear for the pleasure of being with you and the children though it be but for a short time. I have no blanket with me hence have to seek such shelter with the kind citizens on the road. I learn that Columbia S. C. has fallen.
Kiss the children for me goodbye
JOEL DYER MURPHREE TO WIFE, Augusta, Georgia, February 24, 1865
I wrote to you from Columbus and Mayfield. I presume you have received them ere this. I am in good health and have been since I left home. I remained at Columbus until the 16th. Capt Stephens failed to arrive. So I concluded to make my way to the Command the best I could. After leaving Columbus I learned he was in Montgomery and would be in Columbus the next day. I regret very much I did not wait longer for him for I have had a very hard time getting here and may have still harder time getting to my Command from here. I walked from Milledgeville to Carmack a distance of fifty two miles and a part of the way had to carry my baggage on my shoulders which weared me very much besides my boots hurt my feet giving me much pain. I arrived here last Tuesday evening and stoped at Fayside Home. Fare very bad though as good as I am accustomed to in this country. The rules of the Wayside Home precluded the night of remaining more than 24 hours but for reason of the fact of being a Mason I am allowed to remain five days and may be longer that being the time I have permission to remain in the City. If Capt Stephens does not get here by that time I shall make an effort to get my pass extended. The reason I have stoped here is that my Command is at best one hundred miles from here and when last heard from was on a force march in the direction of Charlotte N. C. and Shermans Army having distroyed the Railroad between here and there I would have to walk all the way a distance of in all probability one hundred and fifty miles which I am determined not to do if I can avoid it. My intention is to remain here until our wagon train arrives and proceed with it. I may be forced to report to Camp of direction one & half miles from here and go on foot from there with the other troops. I am anxiously looking for Col Cunningham and Mr. Bissing. I feel very lonely here among strangers. If I had known the state of affairs I would have remained at home six or eight days longer. A great many troops are arriving here daily and no way of getting through to their commands except to march on foot across the State of S. Carolina and may be N. C. Charleston is evacuated and it is rumored that Petersburg and Richmand also so you may expect to hear of a hard fought battle soon somewhere in North Carolina. Tell Bro Tom to remain at home if he can get his papers arranged to stay in safety. My love to all the Connections
Joel D. Murphree
JOEL DYER MURPHREE TO WIFE, Augusta, Ga., Feb. 26, 1865
This beautiful Sabbath day I do not know how I can employ my time better than in writing to you. Though I have nothing cheering to communicate, more than that I am well, and that the war is three days nearer its terminus than when I wrote you last. I have just returned from Church. I attended Catholic Services, but was not at all edified thereby not understanding but one word during the entire Service of about two hours.
Upon entering the Church the Members (I presume) diped their fingers into a bowl of water and sprinkled their faces, and then took their seats, and immediately kneeled and I presume prayed, (mentally) about five minutes after a while the Priest appeared from behind the Sanctum, dressed in the appropriate paraphanalia with a large cross extending down his back nearly to the floor. The Services commenced by the Priest proceeding from the Sanctum up the aisle accompanied by two little boys (appropriately dressed) sprinkling the congregation indiscriminately with the holy water. We then had very nice vocal music assisted by church organ. The Priest read from a large book something after the style of Singing Geography for a few minutes and then by a certain signal of raising above his head a Silver Cup or goblet the music would commence again. During this performance the Priest stood with his back to the Congregation facing Six burning tapers and the Holy Bible The Congregation then all prayed (that desired too) but not aloud about five minutes, when the same performance by the Priest was reacted. He then made his appearance in the pulpit and read from a paper for half an hour. I was too far off to hear any thing he said After which we had music and were dismissed. I expect to attend Church again this evening but of some other denomination.
Ursula I am very unpleasantly situated here. My five days City pass expires today and I have no idea I can have it renewed. My Command is in North Carolina I expect, and no way of getting to them but to walk and lug my baggage through on my back. My friend Mr. Young very kindly offers me bed room but cannot furnish me rations. I met up with one Capt. Martin who is camped in the City in charge of the bagage of Stewarts Corp. He is of the mystic tie and generously offered to feed me if I could be allowed to remain in the City. So you now see how I am situated all from Capt Stephens failing to meet me at Columbus. I have hear from him, he was at Macon three days age. I am nearly out of Money and everything very high indeed. Single meals from 10 to 15$ Potatoes 40$ bushel, biscuit retail for one dollar each. Bacon is worth 9$ lb. Pork 5$ Ib and everything else in proportion. So you see it is impossible for me to live except I draw rations from the Government. If you can safely send me $300. do so. I will write again in a few days. Goodbye for the present your devoted husband
JOEL DYER MURPHREE TO WIFE, Hamburg S. C., March 4, 1865
My dear Ursula
This is the fourth letter I have written to you since I left home and I have brought by Col Cunningham he reached here last Sunday evening and Capt Stephens got here last Wednesday. I was really vexed with him for treating me so badly. I should have remained at home ten or twelve days if he had taken the trouble to have written me from Montgomery. As it was I had to remain in Columbus five days which cost me half the money I had waiting for him. I got here about ten days ago and with much difficulty got a pass to remain in the City of Augusta five days at the expiration of which time Col Cunningham arrived. He was immediately assigned to the Command of all troops of Gen Loring Division arriving at this place on their way to their Commands. There is now about four hundred of our Division here and arriving daily. How long we will remain here I of course do not know and I regard it exceedingly doubtful where we will be sent in all probability back to Mississippi. It will be next thing to an impossibility to reach our Command in North Carolina. We are now encamped in a very nice Pine grove on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River about one & half miles from Augusta. We have but little to do only Cook and eat. I am having a very good time now and my very kind Brother has his hand full for the first time since my connection with him. He did me a very great favor in getting me off home notwithstanding I only could remain four days with my affectionate wife and darling little ones. Had I continued on with the Command I now would be out of hearing of dear home. But should I have to foot it from here I will then suffer in the flesh but I hope for better things. Tell Mother I today met up with Mr. Stephens Jones formerly of Rome Tenn. He is one of the proprietors of the Augusta Hotel. He invited me to his wifes room. She of course did not know me until introduced. She seemed very glad to see me and immediately ordered something for me to eat consisting of genuine Coffee and Sugar & Cream hot Biscuits & fried Ham. Dont you wish you had been there with me. I did enjoy the Coffee so much. I am invited to call on them often and I am very certain to avail myself of the invitation. I wrote to Bro Edwin today. I send you some Pumpkin squash seed plant them the first of May and not before said to be very fine. Ursula send me $300 the first safe opportunity.
JOEL D. MURPHREE TO WIFE, Hamburg, S. C., March 12, 1865
Parson Van Hoose leaves here tomorrow morning for Eufaula, and as the mail facilities are very much deranged at present I have concluded to send this by him. I wrote to you a few days since and nothing worthy of note has transpired since, but fearing you will not get that letter soon I write again, and also for changing instructions concerning some money, etc., which I wrote to you to send me by Brother Tom or any other safe chance You will now pay the money $300 to Mrs. Cunningham and the Col will let me have the money here, which is a better arrangement for me and an accommodation to the Col. I have had to use more money since I have been here than at any time before, for the reason of rations being uncomonly short. We only get 1/3 lb fresh port per day and it very poor. We have bread a plenty, but bread alone is bard living, but fortunately I found an old lady that furnishes Col & myself milk and butter every other day, but at the extravegant rates of two dollars a quart for milk and about ten dollars pr Ib for butter. A portion of our waggon train arrived yesterday and the remainder will get here to day and tomorrow. We will then start for the front, perhaps Tuesday or Wednesday One of Bro. James horses arrided with the train yesterday which I shall appropriate, notwithstanding the objection of one Maj Suggs who had charge of him. I think I had as well ride and some one else of his selection.
Well Ursula the Consolidation bill has passed, and in such a shape as to render it all most certain to put me into the ranks for the reason that we have not the required strength in our regiment to retain our present organization, hence will have to be consolidated with at least two and may be three other regiments. The colonel of each ranking Col C. which will give either of them the command if they should desire it. And the Consolidation of the regiments necessarily bring about a consoliation of Brigades which may displace Jim. If such is the case and I fail to get an exemption as Mail Contractor I will have to shoulder a Musket and play webfoot. I hope for better things however. Tell Wm to be sure to retain plenty of salt for our own use. Tell your Pa to keep a look out for Yankees and secure my cotton if possible. Say to him not to burn it, as has been the practice where the enemy had facilities of appropriating to their own use.
The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 01, Spring Issue 1957.
JOEL DYER MURPHREE TO WIFE, In the Woods, N. C., April 17, 1865
I wrote you yesterday by Maj Wiley. Col Cunningham leaves us this morning for home so I write again not because I have anything of interest to communicate more than he can tell you but because I have a good opportunity of sending the letter and also for the reason that you had rather have a letter from me than to hear the same statements from him Such however is my feelings. I feel rather gloomy and in low spirits this morning. I feel very much the separation of Col C from our Command and many others with whom I have established friendly relations; that have and will leave us in a few days having been dr—ed from the Service. How glad I would be if I could go home with the Col but I am so situated that I will have to remain but not as a private in the ranks or at least I have been informed that Col Mc Alexander intends continuing me in my old position. I am under many and lasting obligations to Col C and other officers of the 57th Ala for the interest they have manifested in my welfare. The having recommended and insisted on my retention. All for now.
Freemasons contributed to America and the state of Alabama through their patriotic service and philanthropic work since 1811, but little is known about their backgrounds. Utilizing the bonds of their fraternity, but without fanfare, the freemasons built schools, orphanages, nursing homes, provided for the sick and elderly, fought wars, and were an integral part in building the state of Alabama and our country. They were, simply put, ‘the epitome of good patriots and citizens.’
As wife of one of the Grand Masters, Donna R. Causey, had the unique opportunity to work with Alabama’s Grand Lodge to provide biographical data into the lives and backgrounds of all the Grand Masters of Freemasonry in Alabama from 1811 to 2011. Many early photographs of the Grand Masters are included in this work.