W. I. McNAMAR’s Letter. Written from Cheat Mountain Summit, VA. August 3rd, 1861.
(Note from editor: the following letter is included as an example of how many Clay County soldiers felt in August of 1861)
“Dear Father and Mother: Yours dated 26th July duly came to hand. I was very much pleased to hear that all was right at home; I sincerely hope that the health of our family may continue to be good. Mother must not allow herself to become troubled when meditating over the recent change in life, which Jehu (McNAMAR) and myself have chosen. No! She must feel proud that two of her sons have acted like thousands of others have who are as good as we are—like men, have gone in defense of the glorious old Union. Tell her to be cheerful, throw off all feelings of discontent, and be determined to resin herself to whatever might happen. We cannot tell what an hour may bring around: ‘Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die,’ is an old adage which will do to go by.
As yet, the position of the 14th Regiment is still in the advance on Cheate Mountain. Up to the present moment there has been nothing transpired of any very great importance, excepting some maneuvering between our scouts and those of the enemy. An encampment of the enemy is within twenty miles of us now, and they are reported as being very strong—ten or fifteen thousand. A deserter from their camp today reports that they are contemplating an attack upon our camp, and the project will be put in execution very soon; indeed, I, myself, smell a pretty ‘strong mice,’ from the fact that we were reinforced today by an Artillery Company—in fact, it has been looked for before now. Should they undertake it, they will do it with a heavy force—but our brave Indiana ‘boys’ are ‘good as ever done it,’ and stand ready at any moment to repel and body of the “sesh,” (as they are termed.) I have just learned that the enemy are marching upon us in three different ways—how true it is I am not able to say; one thing I know for certain, and that is they will have a good time when the experiment is ‘tried on’—the defeat of our troops at Manassas Junction has not discouraged them in the least, it only serves to make them more blood-thirsty.
Last week it was reported along the army lines that I was killed whilst riding out, but fortunately the report was false, as you are now aware of. I do not think that this war will end my career, no haven’t thought so since I have been in the army, but thinking so does not make it so. When you write, I wish you to send all the important news; it is a matter of impossibility to get anything here. We cannot get a paper unless it be an old one—my desire is to know what is going on among the leading men of the nation, what Congress is doing, and what kind of aspect war is presenting—whether the North entertain any feelings of compromise, or not. I would that the heavy storm, which has been hovering o’er our great nation, be driven away—I would that peace could be restored to our distracted people and that before it is forever too late. If the war continues, I now bid old “Union” farewell, for it will be destroyed. I can see it plainly. In entreat of you and Henry not be carried away by the excitement—be calm, cool and wise; do not volunteer, for sure as you live the war will not end at only crushing out the rebellion, but the ultimate designs, beyond all doubt is the abolition of slavery. I may be wrong; I hope I am; but I do not like the way some men are working about Washington. I am a Union-loving man; I am also a compromising man at this very moment. It is very true that the South has been doing some hard things, but, nevertheless, a compromise can now be effected and save the great Republic from decline and ultimate ruin. I want to know whether Congress has ratified the call for three years’ men; I mean the call, which we are in. I have heard very authentically that Congress has not ratified the call; if such be the case we will be home in six weeks. It is camp talk; please examine closely and give me the desired information. Of course, if the call is not legalized, we do not wish to stay here among the mountains exposed to cold weather, drenching rains, and the enemy.
I must now ‘hold my calves’ and give Jehu a chance to say ‘Jack Robinson’ for once, as I have been monopolizing the business of letter writing. You have a much better chance to get the news than we have, therefore we will expect the news from you; if anything of importance turns up in our vicinity and I am living, you shall be apprised of it. I want you to send me the Cincinnati Enquirer.
I could write many more items, but will now give away for Jay. The stamps are received—accept my thinks for them. I cannot write home unless you send me stamps; I cannot get them here.
Yours truly, W. I. McNAMAR