This letter was written by 33 year-old Pvt. James F. Currie (1831-18xx) of Co. M, 7th Tennessee (Confederate) Cavalry (a.k.a. “Duckworth’s Cavalry”). James was the son of Joseph Currie (1800-18xx) and Nancy “Ann” Jones (1809-18xx) of Lauderdale County, Tennessee. His cousin, Neal Archibald Currie, was a sergeant in the same company.
James wrote the letter from Abbeville, Mississippi, on 2 June 1864 where his company had been encamped for a week. This was just days after Colonel Duckworth prepared a roster of the regiment dated 28 May 1864, at Abbeville which gave the following account of the organization of the regiment:
This regiment was formed about April 1, 1862, of Logwood’s Battalion and six companies acting singly under the supervision of W. H. Jackson, who claimed to have been made colonel of cavalry by the War Department, and to be acting under orders from General Beauregard. From the 20th to the 25th of the following May there were 10 companies reorganized under the provisions of the original Conscript Act at Trenton, Tennessee, they having previously been either transferred to or mustered into the Confederate Service. Subsequently two other newly formed companies (“L” and “M”) were attached to the regiment, and the election of field officers took place on June 20, 1862. “Under the administration of Colonel Jackson, this organization continued until the following fall, when three companies, “A”, “B”, “M”, were detached for escort to General Officers, two of which, companies “B” and “M”, have since been returned; Co. “A” still remains detached. In the meantime, Co. “K”, by the resignation of its officers, and assignment of men to other companies became extinct. Early in the year 1863 Colonel Jackson was promoted brigadier general, and succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel J. G. Stocks, and he, by me, then major of the regiment. The following August, Colonel Stocks resigned, and I was promoted to colonel by General Order from Brigadier General Chalmers’ Headquarters, and was commissioned as such by the War Department to rank from October 8, 1863. About the 1st of February last, Captain C. C. Clay, the second ranking captain in my regiment, was examined for promotion to majority of the regiment. His examination was made by three field officers, was pronounced very unsatisfactory by the Brigadier General Commanding, and forwarded for decision to the War Department, but of this nothing has been heard. In the meantime Captain W. F. Taylor, Co. “A”, Brigadier General Jackson’s Escort, was ordered by Major General Lee to report to General Forrest, and he was assigned to my regiment as lieutenant colonel by General Forrest’s order April 1, 1864, in which capacity he has since been acting. When Colonel Jackson was promoted he carried away with him all the books and papers belonging to the command. Hence the uncertainty and probably inaccuracies both in this, and in the roster, as to dates.
There is a reference to the “eight days fight” in the letter. I believe this was the series of skirmishes between Forrest’s troopers and Sherman’s army near Meridian, Mississippi in February 1864.
There is some possibility that James Currie was killed before the end of the Civil War. I cannot find his in census records after the war and his name does not appear on the final muster of the company in 1865. See footnotes.
Abbeville, Lafayette County, Mississippi
June the 2nd 1864
Dear wife [Kate],
I again have an opportunity of sending you another letter and I thought for fear you all wouldn’t get the letter I had sent you, I thought I would send you a few lines to let know we are all well with the exception of some very sore arms from [small pox] vaccinations. James Lake ¹ has a very sore arm & several others. I have not been vaccinated yet & won’t be unless we get better matter for the business than we have at the present.
I have no news to communicate to you all but I will endeavor to do the best I can. I have wrote to you so often since I heard from you all [one line illegible due to crease in paper]…the seventh letter I have wrote to you all.
I saw a gentleman today that passed by your houses last Friday. He tells me you all was well. His name is Robert Macklin. ² I expect to send this letter by him. He spoke of not leaving until Saturday or Sunday but we have just got orders to cook four days rations & we don’t know whether we will go north or south. If we go north, Major Macklin will go on as we do, but if we go south, he will turn back for Tennessee. I wrote you all a letter yesterday by Judy Allison & Ben. I forgot to date it but that will be alright when you get this.
We have had a splendid season here today. It rained some little last evening.
Kate, if you will have the children vaccinated, be certain that you all don’t get the matter from any person that is not healthy. They have been using the pock matter here & it is very dangerous & does no good in keeping off the small pox. The matter that has been used here the doctor got it from Jackson, Tennessee. I expect it was sent there by the Yankees to get it spread through as many of our boys as it was possible. ‡ I would rather have the small pox than to have that kind of matter put in my arm. We had one case of small pox in this regiment but I don’t think it will spread any farther as that case was sent to the hospital as soon as it was took.
We have no news from Virginia & Georgia later than I wrote to you yesterday. I must rest awhile.
June the 3rd 1864 — As Major Macklin is not yet gone, I thought I would give you all a few lines as we did not move according to the orders we had last evening, the orders being countermanded before the hour of leaving came.
Well Kate, I have but very little news to write from all the information we can get here. We think Grant lost 65,000 men in his recent fights in Virginia. We are expecting a big fight with Grant & Lee. There is a rumor in camp that Lee has drove Grant thirty-five miles back towards Washington City. Since the eight days fight, Captain [James P.] Russell is better & he is expected back in camps this evening. Anderson Johnson is well. Sabe Berks [too]. ³
Well, I have not heard from Robe & Dave since I left home. † No news from General Johns[t]on’s army.
My mess is all well at this time. We have been encamped at this place a week today. Aunt Betsy & Uncle Harvey wanted me to see if you all could spare them a barrel of salt but when I was to see you all, everything was so flustered that I forgot to mention it to you all & have neglected mentioning it in the letters I wrote to you all. If you can spare him any, you will please let him know the first opportunity & make apologies to him for me. I don’t wish them to think hard of me.
I have sent my mule to Oxford today to have her shod by Ransom Martin & I have sent for some letter paper & envelopes so that I can write to you all often. It is worth [smudged] dollars a quire & eight dollars a pack for envelopes — pretty [high] for Dixie. There is but very little of the new issue yet in circulation but I think we will be able to draw some of the new issue some time in this month. Let me know how Uncle Jim is getting along. We have to pay one dollar per pound for butter milk & some will give us milk. We are faring fine here in the way of eatables. I don’t want you all to think hard of me for not writing each one of you a letter for I write to all — one as much as the other. You can show this letter to one another. My love to you, Kate, Mar, Lizzy, & sisters & brother-in-laws. Kiss little Joe & my children for me. My love to Mr. Evans. Don’t forget to give my love to ___. Your friend until death, — James F. Currie
¹ James E. Lake (1844-1911) served with Co. M, 7th Tennessee Cavalry.
² Major Robert Frederick Maclin, Sr (1812-1896) resided in Brownsville, Haywood County, Tennessee in 1860. His son, James Smith Maclin was a private in Co. M, 7th Tennessee Cavalry (a.k.a. “Duckworth’s Cavalry”) which was part of Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s army. One of the members of this company was 4th Sgt. Neal Archibald Currie (1843-1883) from Wellwood, Haywood County in Tennesee. Neal’s parents were Hervey Currie (1809-1876) and Elizabeth Clark (1810-1878). The whole family moved west from North Carolina to Haywood County, Tennessee, around the time of Neil’s birth.
³ Sabert L. Burks (1846-1921) served in Co. M, 7th Tennessee Cavalry. He was from Ripley, Lauderdale County, Tennessee.
† Robert B. Currie (b. 1840) and David Currie (b. 1842) were James’ younger brothers. Robert and David both served in Co. K, 9th Tennessee Infantry that were part of Joseph E. Johnston’s army in Georgia, at the time.
‡ During the Civil War, allegations were made about the use of smallpox as a biological weapon, although no definite evidence exists. See Steiner, P. Disease in the Civil War: Natural Biological Warfare, 1861-1865. Springfield, Illinois. 1968. See also allegations against Luke P. Blackburn regarding the use of Yellow Fever as a biological agent.