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Author: Christian M. Epperly
The four days between July 1 and July 4, 1863 marked a major turning point of the Civil War. Beginning in mid-May, Ulysses S. Grant’s troops had begun a siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi, Vicksburg allowed the Confederacy to control river traffic between Memphis and New Orleans. The day after the defeat of Lee’s army at Gettysburg, Vicksburg surrendered. Five days later, Union forces captured Port Hudson, Louisiana. These victories gave the North complete control of the Mississippi River and isolated confederate territory west of the Mississippi from areas east of the river.
After the defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, southern morale began to sag, as the following soldier’s letter reveals. Yet despite military defeats, inflation, shortages, desertions, the flight of thousands of slaves, and flagging resolve, the Confederacy continued to fight for another 22 months. The following letter, written by a private in the 54th Virginia Volunteers, gives a poignant expression of flagging Confederate morale.
My Most Dear Companion
I am happy to say to you that I am well and have another opportunity of answering your kind letter which came to hand last evening which gave me great pleasure to hear from you and to hear that you and the Children was well you don’t know how glad I am when I hear you are so favorable blest with health. I hope God will still bless us with such grate blessing while we happen to be apart. and I hope the Time not far distant when we will have the pleasure of meeting in person again. You don’t no how glad I would be if I was just there with you. This morning to see the sun rise over the hills in Virginia again for everything seems so sad and desolate here this morning. It seems like the ashes of dear friends and the present conflictions of things has brought deep reflection and sadness upon every heart….but I hope this is a sign God has provided to bring this time of sorrow to an end and to give us peace in our land again. Though I believe the South first started on a just course but our wickedness and disobedience has brought to what we are: I firmly believe we will be bound to give up to subjugation. I don’t think the South will stand much longer and I am sorry to say it, for we will be a ruined people…. But we ought to submit to every thing to have this awful war ended and I pray to God it will end yet….
Dear Mary you wrote in your letter that I should write whether we got plenty to eat or not: we can make out on what we get by buying things at a very high price: we draw a pound of meal a day without being sifted and a pound of bean and 1/3 of a pound of bacon. That is all…. The meal…makes very bad bread. Potatoes cost us six dollars a bushel and beans a dollar a peck only you cant by many at that price. as to other things they are so high we cant by at all.<
Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute
Additional information: Christian M. Epperly to Mary Epperly, his wife