This letter was written by Dr. Erwin James Eldridge (1833-1902), a native of Cecil County, Maryland. Eldridge “received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical school in Philadelphia and then traveled to Vienna to complete his studies. While there, the Crimean War broke out. Eldridge served as a surgeon there and was decorated for his service. When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted at Americus GA as an Assistant Surgeon in 16th Georgia Infantry, Cobb’s Brigade on July 19, 1861. He was approved and promoted to Surgeon effective July 22, 1862. He served as Brigade Surgeon for Cobb’s/Wofford’s Brigade (Crampton’s Gap, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chattanooga, and Fort Sanders—Knoxville) until Jan 24, 1864. On Oct 10, 1864 he was granted a leave of absence with permission to visit Nassau—possibly to obtain medical supplies.” [see 16th Georgia Infantry blog]
Dr. Eldridge married Emma Ronaldson. He resided in Flat Pond (Lee County) and then Americus (Sumter County) Georgia.
What is most interesting about this item is not so much the content of the letter as the envelope that was hand crafted from a ledger page by someone corresponding with Surgeon William Francis Shine ¹ of the 7th South Carolina Regt., (Kershaw’s Brigade, McLaws Division, Longstreet’s Corps). Somehow the envelope came into the hands of Dr. Eldridge who carefully disassembled the envelope, reversed it and re-used it to send this letter home to his wife—reminding us of the scarcity of paper for letters and envelopes in the Confederate States during the war.
Addressed to Mrs. E. J. Eldridge, Flat Pond P.O., Lee county, Georgia
[Postmarked Fredericks Hall, Va.]
September 4th 1863
My darling little wife,
With nothing in the world to tell you of, and nothing to ask about unless I repeat the questions I have asked weekly for a couple of years, I hardly know what to make this letter of.
The day I wrote last we took a march of about ten miles, stayed a couple of days & returned. Nothing in the world going on.
Col. [Goode] Bryan ² asked me to say to you that he had written you a long letter about a month since & supposed you must have got it long ago. I remember when he wrote. He is quite well & sends love to you & misc.
I send today by Lieut. [Seaborn A.] McLendon of the 51st Georgia Regt. (Col. [William Marion] Slaughter’s old regiment) a postage containing a dress for Mrs. C., a hat, & pair of suspenders for Joel, some trimming—the only kind I found—for the baby & some cotton & a tooth brush for my darling. I hope the dress will please Mrs. C though I did not know exactly what kind of mourning she used. Your share was less than the others. Well Emm, write & tell me what you want. If it is in this county, you shall have it. How are you off for shoes? I should like to see the baby since he has learned to walk well. I expect as you say he is a remarkably well, smart child.
I am sure, my darling, I have no objection to your paying Mrs. Bryan a visit this fall or winter, or doing anything, or going anywhere that you want to that constitutes to you comfort or pleasure. I hope before I get home you will have fattened up a little. I am sorry to learn you are getting so thin. I am afraid you nurse the baby too much. In fact, I am pretty sure of it. Don’t wean him but don’t let him nurse so much.
Tell Lon I have not yet received her letter & will be very glad to hear from her.
You speak of knitting socks, making shirts, &c. I am in need of shirts [more] than anything else. Nearly all I have with me are about gone. Well, my darling, I have nothing in the world to tell you. Kiss baby for me. Love to all. I certainly can’t be in a writing mood. Don’t send such a short reply as this unless you, my darling, write soon to your loving & affectionate husband. [No signature]
I wrote to Mrs. C. a few days ago.
¹ “William Francis Shine was born in 1835 at Talahassee Florida to Captain R A Shine, a building contracter, member of City Council and a Conservative Whig. Young William studied at the Tallahassee Seminary before attending college at the University of Georgia, where he studied medicine. Even though the Civil War interrupted his education, he still served as a wartime surgeon. Military records indicate that his initial service was with the 1st Florida Battalion from February of 1862 until June of 1862. His next assignment in September of 1862 was to the 7th SC Infantry of Kershaw’s ANV brigade. He resigned from this position in April of 1863 but on July 20th 1863 was assigned as the surgeon of the Phillips Legion Infantry Battalion. He continued in this assignment until November of 1864 when he was granted a 30-day leave. Entries in July of 1864 show him as the senior surgeon of Wofford’s brigade (of which the Legion was a part). Although this is the final entry in his record, it would appear he remained in this assignment until war’s end.
After the war he completed his education, earning a Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Georgia. Dr Shine commenced his residence and medical practice in 1867 at St Augustine, Florida. In 1868, William married Maria Jefferson Eppes. Their only child, Francis Eppes Shine was born in 1871 and would also become a doctor. William’s wife died in 1897. He lived on until October 21, 1910. Dr Shine and his wife are buried together at Greenwood Cemetery in Orange County, Florida.” [By Kurt Graham]
² Goode Bryan (1811-1885 graduated 25th in his 1834 West Point class and was brevetted a 2nd Lieutenant in the 5th Infantry. Resigning his commission after only 10 months’ service, he was back in Georgia looking into the prospects of becoming a planter. He followed agricultural pursuits, working land in Georgia and Alabama. Later he served 11 months as Major of the 1st Alabama Volunteers in the Mexican War. He was a delegate to the Georgia secession convention in 1861. With the coming of war he joined the 16th Georgia Infantry as a Captain and this time found himself under arms for an extended period. He was elected regimental Colonel in February 1862. The 16th Georgia first saw service in the Virginia peninsula fighting and in the Seven Days’ Campaign. Later it fought in the Maryland invasion, and in the Chancellorsville and Gettysburg campaigns. He was appointed Brigadier General on August 29, 1863, and assigned to Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s command in Tennessee. He then saw action at Chickamauga and Knoxville. In Virginia again in spring 1864, he led a brigade into the Battle of Wilderness, fighting until its ammunition was nearly exhausted. Shortly afterward, his health began to fail, and he resigned his commission on September 20, 1864.