Letter from Ellison Capers to his wife Lottie, December 19, 1861


Letter from Ellison Capers to his wife Lottie, December 19, 1861


Capers writes to his wife Lottie from Johns Island, South Carolina. He describes the retreat of the Rifle Regiment from two days before. He had been with the Carolina Light Infantry on Johns Island Ferry, and in the middle of the night was awakened to hear that the enemy's troops had landed in Rockville. Colonel Branch ordered a retreat, and the enemy captured the supplies they had left behind. Capers writes that the retreat was a mistake, and is thankful that he keeps Lottie's picture and prayer book on his person, so they were not lost.


A1961.1, Box 1, Folder 49


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Ellison Capers Collection









Date Valid


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At Church Bridge John’s Island
Thursday Dec 19

My precious wife - Your letter of last Saturday I got last night. By the time you get this you will have heard all sorts of tales about the retreat of the Rifle Regiment &c, so I give you a perfectly correct statement. Gadsen was in the city and I was at John’s Island Ferry, on the main, with the Carolina Light Infantry, having come up from the city that day, Tuesday. Well in the middle of the night, while I was asleep in Pickney’s tent a messenger came over from the other side of the river, sent by Branch, who, informed me that three of the enemy’s gunboats & one large transport, had

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sailed into Edisto, & that the enemy's troops had landed at Rockville & the Regiment was in retreat. Imagine my feelings! After dispatching to Ripley (Gen. Ripley), I went across the Ferry, with the messenger & hurried on to meet the regiment. I crossed over this bridge & on to Wadmaloo, found the regiment about 5 miles from Rockville. And the story of the messenger was substantially true. The gunboats fired shot & shell at the old fort at the mouth of the river, & Branch ordered the regiment to make a retreat to this point, which is a strong one, because he was afraid of being cut off on the Island. It was able to retreat ultimately after we saw the enemy intended to

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land in force, but to run as Branch did, leaving many of the mens knap-sacks, blankets, one third of our tents, and nearly all the commissary stores, was shameful. It is unfortunate for Gadsen & I, as well as the regiment, that neither of us were there. The enemy land in the day time & take to their boats at night. They captured all that Branch left. I shall soon be out of this milk & water affair & under the command of a man. I don't’ believe Branch a coward, but he is a good hearted, clever, fellow, who has no determination, no military sense or head. Thank you darling, for your letter. You & Frank and our dear Angel Kate, are ever present with me. No bundle yet. I did not lose a thing, But for Peter, Gadsen & I would have lost everything. Your picture and prayer book I always carry on my person. Don’t send me anything more till you hear from me.


Capers, Ellison, 1837-1908, “Letter from Ellison Capers to his wife Lottie, December 19, 1861,” The Citadel Archives Digital Collections, accessed July 13, 2024, https://citadeldigitalarchives.omeka.net/items/show/19.