Letters of General James Conner, C.S.A.


James Conner (1829-1883), Brigadier General, C.S.A. From South Carolina, before the war he was appointed U.S. District Attorney and delegate to the secession convention. After participated in the capture of Fort Sumpter, he was elected captain of the Washington Light Infantry of Hampton's Legion. Promoted to major as a result of his service at First Manassas, in the summer of 1862 he was elected colonel of the 22nd North Carolina Infantry. A severe leg wound received during the Peninsula Campaign kept him out of action for two months. It is apparent that in the spring of 1863 Conner served as judge advocate on Ewell's staff. One year later, he was promoted to brigadier general and temporarily commanded McGowan's brigade. After McGowan's return Conner took command of Kershaw's old brigade. In October 1864, he was wounded again at Cedar Creek, and the same leg shattered two years earlier, was amputated. He soon recovered and resumed command of the brigade until the war's end. After the war, Conner returned to South Carolina where he was active in the politics of his home state.

February 19, 1864

My dear Mother:

How is the jaundice coming on? Better, I hope, and that you don't see everything out of yellow eyes. In the days when we used to have a good deal of it in camp, the sovereign specific was whiskey. You had better take to tippling for a while, and call every day for your whiskey toddy, strong, and without nutmeg?

The staff Bill, which has passed both Houses, is creating some stir in the army, and especially in our corps. Mrs. Ewell, with the best intentions in the world no doubt, has very seriously injured old Ewell, and the very cleverness, which would at other times render her agreeable, has only tended to make her more unpopular. She manages everything, from the General's affairs down to the courier's, who carries his dispatches. All say they are under petticoat government.

The new Staff Bill gives additional rank to the staff of the generals, and old Ewell, acted upon by feminine influences, is dead bent on pushing Campbell Brown, Mrs. Ewell's son, up to be a Colonel, and to do it, he is trying to engineer his other staff officers out of the way. There was a knot of staff officers around my fire the other evening, all discussing their chances, when little Turner, Ewell's other aide, said: "Old Ewell told me he had never exposed Campbell but once, and then was so miserable until he came back, that he did not know what to do: "If anything had happened to him, I could never have looked at his Mother again, sir". "Hang him," said Turner, "he never thinks of my Mother, I supppose, for he pops me around, no matter how hot the fire is." A little after this speech, Turner left, and another staff officer remarked: "Well, Turner is safe, but I am in a tight place. Campbell Brown hangs on to his Mother's petticoats, and Turner is engaged to the little Brown girl, and she will prize him up, but I have to fight against the pair." I had a good laugh at them, all in trepidation about the manoeuvering of two women, and one fond foolish old man. Old Ewell is worse in love than any eighteen year old that you ever saw.

I see Congress has also passed the Currency Bill, the Tax Bill, and Military Bill--three very important Acts--and severe as they unquestionably are, I think they will do good. Even the Examiner, bitterly hostile as it is to Congress and the Administration, says they are wise and prudent measures, and congratulates Congress on its success. The effect, I think, will be good in the North. The re-enlistment of our troops, without bounty or increased pay, is in striking contrast with their scanty re-enlistments, even under the stimulus of large bounties and long furloughs. That has evinced to them that the spirit of the army is up to the mark, and now the passage, after long deliberation, of so severe a currency and tax Bill, will show that the spirit of our whole people is firm and resolved.

No nation voluntarily subjects itself to such taxation and such sacrifices, unless thoroughly in earnest. They must be possessed, inspired, with an unalterable firmness of purpose when they accept such burdens as a means of obtaining their object. I know nothing that will tend so much to convince the North that we are prepared for the worst, and intend to fight it out to the last, as these Acts. Unromantic as it sounds, taxation is the test of patriotism, and people that will stand the money test will endure anything.

The North, once fully convinced of the earnestness with which we fight this battle, will soon commence to count the cost to themselves. The army is very confident, very sanguine and it would do good to croakers if they could spend a week or two in camp and talk to the men.


Mary Conner Moffet, editor, Letters of General James Conner, C.S.A., (Columbia, South Carolina: R.L. Bryan, Co., 1950), 114-116.


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