Civil War condolence letter for General Paul Semmes, 1863

A primary source by Mary Oden

Mary Oden to Emily J. Semmes, July 10, 1863. (GLC07225)By 1863, thousands of Northern and Southern women had volunteered in hospitals to help care for sick and wounded soldiers. In cities and towns near battlefields, wounded soldiers were often placed in private homes and other buildings when hospitals were overcrowded. Whether in hospitals or in private homes, women provided a measure of comfort to the injured and often corresponded with soldiers’ families when the men were not able to do so themselves. Mary Oden, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, sent this letter to Emily J. Semmes the day Emily’s husband, Confederate General Paul Semmes, died from wounds he had received at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.

A full transcript is available.


Mary Oden to Emily J. Semmes, July 10, 1863 (GLC07225)

I need hardly ask you to pardon me for addressing you in this your season of sore anguish and bereavement, it will be enough to state in apology for so doing, that your sainted husband fell asleep among us; it was a privilege to have his example before us, teaching us that the soldier of Christ has nothing to fear when passing through the dark valley. Dr Hadley one of his surgeons, remarked to him, that he bore his sufferings with great calmness, his reply was, I am endeavouring to bear them like a Christian philosopher; even when suffering severe pain he seemed to take pleasure in conversing and after he became so ill talked constantly of his family. . . .

One little circumstance I have forgotten; a few moments before the General died, he asked for his sword, laying it across his arm, he asked again for his Testament he took it and with it in his hands expired, they would have left it so, but that he had asked that you should have it. Oh! if all our warriors might die as he did, death would be robbed of half its sting.

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