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Letter From Private Thomas D. Newton,
8th Louisiana Infantry

Message from the letter's owner:
    This letter was written by my Great-Great-Great-Great-Uncle Thomas D. Newton, who was a Private in Co. H., 8th Regiment of Louisiana Infantry. He was Sumter Co. Alabama, but had been travelling in Louisiana when the war broke out. He enlisted June 8, 1861. He was present from the Battle of Secessionville, through the Mine Run Campaign. He was wounded at Antietam. He was evidently wounded around the time of the Mine Run Campaign, because he later died while on wounded furlough. The letter is to his sister Mary, my Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother.

Madison County, Va.
May 28th, 1862

Sister Mary,

    This evening, the 20th of May, affords me the delightful pleasure of writing to you all at home. Home. Home. How much pleasure there is in that word home? There is more than tongue can express. How oft have I thought of home. That place that I formerly so little appreciated. And to think of those that are there. The kind Father, the indulgent Mother to which I have been so disrespectful in days gone by. The fond sisters that I have so oft mistreated. Oh, that I could have my time over again how different I would live.
    One may imagine something as to the ties that home has. Though, it is nothing compared to realizing the true state of things. I will tell you how much I think of home. That delightful home I have so often thought of the greater portion of my day in quietude enjoying the pleasures and comforts of life, and those that are dear to me. I think just enough of home to spend the remnant of my days, though they may be long, or short, in difference. There is of home a delightful place where one can have peace, and just rights with it. But, without those two items death is far preferable. I will stay in the field forever before I will have my country invaded. I will submit to the toils and hardships of camp. I will be found traversing the snow-clad cliffs of the Thoroughfare and the Blue Ridge Mountains first. I will endure the toil, forbear the pain produced thereby, before thinking of submitting to such tyrannical vandals as those negro-thieving, undermining, careless, unprincipled band of demons, which are really beneath the notice of the Devil himself.
    I say and speak from my heart that life is sweet, though give me death before submitting to any such. Never has history, even in the days of uncivilization, not even the heathen when committing their brutal acts regardless of care, or Gospel, had to disgrace her pages with such detestable, disgraceful, disdainful, unprincipled stuff as the present in stating the whys and wherefores of this war, if it is truly accounted for. If it doesn't prove a disgrace to the Federals in the estimation of all nations, I can't see why. In short, to this end give me liberty, or give me death.
    I have no message of much importance to communicate to you. I have not heard from Gen. Beauregard for several days. The last account from Richmond, they were sick of fighting, as few expected a general engagement shortly. Gen. Jackson had a skirmish with the Feds the other day. He took 2000 prisoners, saying nothing of killed and wounded. Our loss was 100 killed and wounded. The enemy totally routed, we captured five car loads of coffee, all of their commissary stores, and also their artillery. What I have stated as to this fight is true, for the man I am staying with saw them with his own eyes, as they came with them from Richmond. Since that time, they have captured 4000, including 1000 cavalrymen, horses and all. If this be true, I say glory to God for it. I have great faith in Jackson and Beauregard, but not so much in Johnson as the others.
    I can't think of anything else that will interest you. My health is fairly good at this time. You will right to me immediately to tell all you know of about Joseph and Isaac. I have not heard much from home in three months. Direct your letters to Oak Park, Oak Park, Madison County, Va. They will be forwarded from there to me. Write immediately.

Nothing more remains,
your warrior brother, until death,
Thomas D. Newton


"Life is a span, a fleeting hour,
    How soon the vapor flies!
Man is a tender, transient flower,
    That even in blooming dies,"

"That once loved form, now cold and dead,
    Each mournful thought employs:
We weep our earthly comforts fled,
    And withered all our joys."

    Died at the "Wayside Home," Augusta, Georgia, on the 6th of April, 1864, Thomas D. Newton, of Co.H., 8th Louisiana Regiment, in the 24th year of his age. He had remained nearly two months in a hospital at Lynchburg, Va., and it is supposed, having partly recovered, had obtained a furlough, and was on his way home, when he had a relapse and died; yes, died away from home and friends, doubtless for want of attention. No brother near to cheer and comfort him, while enduring the pain that has laid him low; no mother to administer the cordials that are so necessary and refreshing in the hours of affliction; no sister to smooth his pillow, and wipe the dews of death from his noble brow, whilst that Monster was performing his mighty task; and no friend or acquaintance to follow him to his last resting place--a cold, cold grave. But being a good and devoted Christian, a member of the Baptist Church from his early youth, he was not alone when;

"They laid thee in thy quiet grave,
    Few mourners 'round thy tomb,
And few the pitying friends that near
    Disturbed with faltering sigh or tear
The graveyard's silent gloom."

    It is thus that another heroic spirit has taken its flight to a new and untried existence, another sacrifice has been offered on the alter of our country. Among the brave, he was the bravest; fearing nothing in defense of his country, in whose service he lost his own life with hope that she might one day be free. From his early youth he was deeply impressed with a love of freedom, his country, and his home. When war was proclaimed he was traveling in Louisiana for his health, which was very bad; although his constitution was greatly debilitated by previous sickness, yet the first sound of the drum, calling our men to arms, aroused him, and he went with the motto, " Conquer or die." With his immortal leader "Stonewall," he often, cold, hungry, and fatigued, traversed the mountains and valleys of Virginia; invaded Maryland and Pennsylvania, and participated in every battle fought by that army except the first Manassas, Richmond, and Fredericksburg, being absent then on account of sickness.
    While fighting he displayed that coolness and intrepidity which in times of battle are the handmaids of success; and Rome or Greece cannot boast a braver or more daring soldier. His military career has been a bright, glorious one, and reflects high honors upon his friends and country. While the first battle of Winchester was raging, the ball and grapeshot as thick as hail, the regiment to which he belonged was ordered to charge a battery. He being in front, with all the intrepidity of Col. Cilley of the Revolutionary struggle, and at imminent risk of his life, mounted a cannon. With his bowie knife alone, he maintained his position, killing one of the enemy, and wounding another before he received any assistance. He was once taken prisoner and gave up arms. About that time a shower of shot flew over him, when he, ever ready to take advantage of the enemy, fell as if he had been killed. In that position he remained perfectly motionless, until a proper opportunity opened a way for his escape. He then rose and returned to camps as fast as his feet could carry him, and was the only one of his company that escaped either death, or captivity.
    As a soldier he was gallant and intrepid, never swerving in the least from the paths of duty and honor. He evinced a high regard of truth, justice, and mercy, and an utter contempt for all that is low and degrading. In him were united those high characteristics which make the fond, obedient son; thee tender, loving brother, the kind, generous friend, and the brave undaunted soldier. But oh! He is gone, gone forever! Wail, Alabama, wail! You have lost one of your firmest defenders. But you can never call him back.
    We can say to his weeping parents, brothers, sisters, and friends, "Grieve not for your dear Thomas: Our Heavenly Father has taken him from this cold, cruel world, for a good and wise purpose; and to his will we must submit. So farewell dear Thomas, farewell! We will think of them and love thee, though the portals of the tomb open wide, received thy loving form, and enveloped it in its dark bosom." But,

While the dreams of love still thrill the soul,
    With mingled bliss and pain,
Or summers dying leaves can bring
Regrets o'er lifes fast fading spring
    Thy memory must remain.

One That Knew And Loved Him

    This Page last updated 02/28/02


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