1864: John Nathaniel Peed to Nancy Powell (Owens) Peed

John N. Peed’s 1864 letter with ghost image of Peed in his 9th Virginia Cavalry Uniform

This letter was written by Pvt. John Nathaniel Peed (1843-1935), a trooper in Co. I (the “Potomac Cavalry”), 9th Virginia Cavalry. He enlisted in October 1861 and was promoted to bugler in December. Peed was the son of Robert Alexander Peed (1814-1858) and Nancy Anna Powell Owens (1823-1886) of Hampstead, King George county, Virginia.

The 9th Virginia Cavalry served under General J. E. B. Stuart and saw action in the Seven Days Battles, Second Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Brandy Station, Gettysburg, the Mine Run Campaign, the Wilderness, Todd’s Tavern, Petersburg, and Richmond. Peed was slightly wounded in the fighting just before surrendering at Appomattox Court House with Lee’s army in April 1865.

Peed’s uncle, Philip M. Peed, and his brother, James Oscar Peed, both served in the same regiment. His uncle enlisted as a sergeant and was promoted to lieutenant; his brother remained a private and  was mortally wounded and captured on 13 September 1863 at Culpeper Court House. He was confined at Point Lookout, Maryland,where he died on 22 December 1863.


Camp at Bellfield, Greenville Co., Va.
December 20, [1864]

Dear Mother,

This is the third that I have written home since I received a letter from you. I believe the last I got from you was dated the 1st of December. Now I do think that you might write a little oftener than that as the mail is moving very regular to the army. Jimmy Scrivener ¹ will start home this evening. Some few of the company has already gone. But as Jim is going by railroad & a straighter way too & safe, I thought I would write & send by him.

Not much news. We are in winter quarters I rather expect now at Bellfield. Both divisions of cavalry are here—ours & Butler’s. We moved here yesterday. Forage is plentiful here. The railroad only has to feed this cavalry.

President Jefferson Davis—so ill in December 1864 that rumors spread of his death.

We have a very serious report in camp this morning & it’s said to be a positive fact—that our President Jeff Davis is certainly dead. ² He has been sick for some time. I don’t give it as fact—only what it is worth. I don’t hear anything about disbanding. It has all played out, I believe, for the present. Capt. [John A.] Billingsley ³ has not gotten his furlough yet. I will write again by him.

Gen. Lee sent around an offer of seven days to go home in the Holidays—five men from a company—but I don’t think any of the boys are going to take it. I for one would like to go. It’s 120 miles [paper creased]…time & you know I could not go home & return in that time. If a man stays one day over his time, he is court martialed & I don’t want to be court martialed as I have been in the war thus far & have not.

Since writing, I have received a letter from you & you cannot imagine how glad I was to hear from home. Uncle John seemed to be very glad to hear that his family was getting along so well. He is a little anxious about his mare.

Do you think if I could get a furlough & come home that Charley is fit—I mean, in condition—to ride back for a month or two. Let me know when you write. Times seem to be for the papers a little critical in Georgia & Tennessee. But I hope they [will be] brighter soon. Goodbye. Will write again soon. From your son, — J. N. Peed

Read this if you can. My pencil is so bad, I can not write plan.

¹ James O. Scrivener enlisted 3/1/62 in Co. I, age 30. Present on every roll thru 10/10/64 final roll. On extra duty as teamster beginning in Sept. 1862. Paroled at King George C.H., 5/2/65.

² “For about two weeks in December [1864], Davis suffered from ‘neuralgia in the face,’ so ill he was rumored to have died. On the 21st, Burton Harrison reported the president ‘was not much sick, and is quite well again.'” [The Papers of Jefferson Davis: September 1864-May 1865, Volume 11] Other sources indicate Davis suffered from Trigeminal neuralgia.

³ John A. Billingsley enlisted in Sept. 1861 in Co. I as Lt. He was promoted to Captain in May or June 1863. POW at Fredericksburg, 12/6/62; exchanged, 3/31/63. POW at Hanover, 6/30/63; exchanged 3/9/64. Absent sick from that time thru final records in 1/65. Paroled at King George C.H., 5/2/65.

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