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 9, 1864

My dear Mother,

I received a letter from Henry a couple of days ago, and that, and the letter from you, are all that have so far found me out. I suppose others are on the way, and so, I hope, is the coffee. Yesterday, I received an invitation to dine up at old Ewell's at five. Of course, I accepted, and had quite a pleasant dinner. Pitched into the vegetables in a way that must have astonished Madam Ewell. It was my first chance at long forage that I have had since in the Camp.

I was presented to Miss Brown, Mrs. Ewell's daughter, a dark-skinned, dark-eyed, clever girl, but not very pretty; a very large head, and a stout roll-about figure. I had previously sent up the letter and palmetto. She was very much obliged to Mary for sending it, but wants some instruction as to preparing it for plaiting. The palmetto is very dry and stiff. It will, I think, require soaking in water to give it softness and pliancy enough to be worked. She wants Mary to give her full directions--says that she will write Mary in a few days.

The General's house is six miles from my quarters, and the ride a pretty cold one. Altogether it was a very pleasant dinner. Mrs. Ewell is very agreeable and clever, decidedly smart, and must have been very handsome when she was young. The General is not what he was--so all that know him say. The loss of his limb has seriously affected his usefulness and even impaired his mind. His artificial leg is as poor a concern as I ever saw.

The Yankees gave us a slight turn on Saturday. They drove in our pickets in the morning, crossing the Rapidan under cover of a heavy fog. I paid a visit to General Johnson yesterday, and he gave me a full account of it. About five brigades crossed. It was nearly dark before we got our troops up to the line, and it was then too late to attack. The night was as black as Erebus, but everyone anticipated an engagement in the morning. During the night, they quietly returned to the other side of the river. They had no artillery or wagons with them, and consequently could move without noise. General Johnson said he was within two hundred yards of their lines, and yet did not hear them moving.

During the early part of Saturday night and early Sunday morning, troops and artillery were moved to the front and things looked lively for a little while. For although the Yankees had re-crossed the river, they were in line of battle on the opposite side, with their artillery in position. So both sides stood until Sunday night, when the Yankees moved back to their old quarters. General Lee was quite anxious that they should attack, as our position was a very strong one, and he said that if we could not thrash them out there, we could not do it anywhere. By Monday morning everything was quiet again.

We are having glorious weather. No snow, no sleet, and rain only one day since I have been here. Bright sunny days, but very cold. There is an immense fire in my room, and yet water freezes if you drop it on the door. The roads are as hard as marble. They were in terrible order, and the hard weather has made them solid. One night's snow, and two days sun would put them knee deep in mud.

All the Yankees, dead and prisoners, in the little brush on Saturday are foreigners. Not a real live Yankee among them. General Johnson said he had a good deal of chat with them. Said they re-enlisted to jump the bounty of a thousand dollars. That out of a regiment of three hundred which had enlisted, only forty came back, the rest jumped the bounty, and that since then, they paid the bounty in instalments.

I have seen no one yet who knows, or can form any idea about what we will do when Spring opens. It is thought here that Meade will fall back to Washington as soon as the weather is mild enough to warrant a movement; that he is weak, and will be unable to hold the line he now occupies. If he does, of course, we move too, and perhaps may keep moving on until we go into Pennsylvania again.

I wrote you to send me that coffee. I turned it over to the mess, for of course, I could not have coffee for myself alone. I will send you money every now and then, so as to have funds in your hands. I have no use for it here. Can't buy a thing. I did manage to buy two cabbages about as big as your fist, for two dollars and a half a piece. Turnips were three for one dollar, white peas one dollar and a half a quart. Rather steep that, so I gave up my vision of pease soup, and settled down on the bacon and greens.

You may as well let Nash turn my black cutaway coat, but tell him not to take in as much of it as he did of the black frock coat. He made that so small that I could hardly squeeze into it. Tell Nat to abuse him, and blow him up, and give him the coat to turn.

Kind regards to all at the Canteys.

Yours affectionately


P.S. William says he paid Mary the servant at the Southerland's who cared for the terrapins. Inquire into it, and let me know.

Mary Conner Moffet, editor, Letters of General James Conner, C.S.A., (Columbia, South Carolina: R.L. Bryan, Co., 1950), 110-113.