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Epperly, Christian M. (1837-1904) [Collection of Christian M. Epperly, 54th regiment, Virginia, artillery] [decimalized]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02715 Author/Creator: Epperly, Christian M. (1837-1904) Place Written: [various places] Type: Header Record Date: 1859-1890 (bulk: 1860s) Pagination: 136 letters

The collection contains 136 letters (122 war-date) mostly from Private Christian M. Epperly to his wife, Mary Epperly, living in Floyd County. The collection also contains a few letters from Mary Epperly to her husband. Throughout the war, Epperly's units consistently managed to avoid major engagements until the Atlanta Campaign of 1864.

In his letters, Epperly frequently discusses deserting the Confederacy. His wife Mary also encourages Epperly to desert and often tells him about friends and relatives who successfully left the army (GLC02715.065, 69, 70). In September 1863, Epperly finally deserts the Confederate army but returns in late November. His only punishment is time in the guard house. Epperly's discontent with the army continues to grow throughout the war and his desire to desert evolves into a belief that the South should return to the Union. In GLC02715.087, Epperly discusses seeing the South as wicked and disobedient and hopes that God in his righteousness will return the Southern people to the Union.

Other highlights also include a mutiny that took place in December 1862. Several of Epperly's letters discuss religion and God's mercy and benevolence. Letters GLC02715.015, 24, 43, 54 & 80 contain especially long and eloquent religious passages. A number of the letters emphasize the plight of the Southern people, who must cope with the vast destruction caused by the war (GLC02715.011, 43, 98 & 103).

Mary Epperly's letters (# 52, 53, 65, 69, 70, 114, 118 & 122) provide an interesting glimpse into the home front on the Blue Ridge Mountains. Like her husband, Mary is not a fervent supporter of the Confederacy. Letters GLC02715.065, 59, & 70 encourage her husband to desert. Letter GLC02715.114 blasts a recent draft of all men aged 17-50. She condemns secessionists in letter GLC02715.118 and in letter GLC02715.122, claims that the Yankee army can treat them no worse than the Confederate army has.

Christian M. Epperly enlisted in the Confederate army on 10 July 1863 at Floyd County, Virginia as a private. On 10 July 1863 Epperly mustered into the 54th Virginia Infantry (1863-1865) (date and method of discharge not given). Epperly also served in the 130th Regiment Virginia Militia (1862) and Henry Stuart's Horse Artillery (1862-1863). On 7 September 1863 Epperly deserted his unit. He returned to the army on 25 November 1863.

He was listed as:
* Deserted 9/7/1863 (place not stated)
* Returned 11/25/1863 (place not stated)

[excerpt] [draft] Floy Cty Va'
Aug the 9
…Dear Husban you wrote in your leter that you wished you was at home to get some aples to eat I now I wish you was hear if [christen] wold of brought you hear you [2] would of bin hear long ago I never eat a apel without thinking about you and wish you had some and when I set down to eat and think about you that you have nothing but meat and bread and sometimes maby not that it look to me sometimes like I can hardly stand it I would be willing to livee on bread and water if I could just give you what I have to eat but I hope the day is not fare distant when we can share with…[3]…till you return which I pray wont be long
Dear Marion I will tell you some[inserted: thing] more about the men that left the Artillery I wrote to you about theme leaving in the other leter they have got home and the home gards went to take them up last tuesday and the deserters whiped them and taken six of them prisners and all thar guns I never heard now of thar names only Billy Simpson they say he is with them I must soon bring my short leter to a cose Mother sends her love and best Respects to you and the Boys also and sais they will write to you soon…[4] Nothing more at preasent only I pray gods blessings to Rest upon you both now and forever
I still and forever shall Remain your True Wife Till Death write

From Mary M. Epperly…

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