I found the following letter a few days ago in The Fayette Chronicle, January 9, 1880, and wanted to share it, as I think the story perfectly illustrates how war forged men who served together into the closest of comrades.
This letter was written by Thomas B. Manlove of Vicksburg, who was Lieutenant Colonel of the 48th Mississippi Infantry and a seasoned combat veteran. He was wounded in the battle of Sharpsburg, September 17, 1862, and after recovering from his injury he returned to the regiment. Manlove was back with the 48th Mississippi by the time of the battle of Chancellorsville, April 30 – May 6, 1863, and was listed as ‘slightly wounded.’ In the last days of the war Manlove was wounded and captured at the battle of Hatcher’s Run, and he was paroled at Varuna, Virginia, on March 22, 1865. He was still in Richmond recovering from his wound when the city was captured by the Federal army in April 1865, and the young lieutenant colonel found himself a prisoner once more. Thomas B. Manlove was paroled for the last time on May 19, 1865. (Compiled Service Record of Thomas B. Manlove, 48th Mississippi Infantry, accessed on Fold3.com)
During the war the 48th Mississippi was part of the brigade commanded by Brigadier General Nathaniel H. Harris, and consisted of the 12th, 16th, 19th, and 48th Mississippi Infantry regiments. After the war the veterans of these regiments formed the Harris Brigade Association, and on November 13, 1879, the group held a reunion in Port Gibson, Mississippi. One of the attendees was Thomas B. Manlove, and the experience of seeing the men of his brigade once again inspired him to write this letter:
Letter from Port Gibson
I am still lingering among my boys, or the remnant of those who blazed a road to glory
under the folds of the Southern Cross – the boys who marched; the boys who fought; the dear, dear boys who died and are sleeping in peace, from the blue Potomac to the Rio Grande. Their names are written on a nation’s heart, henceforth one and indivisible.
To the noble matrons, the fair, beautiful and ravishing ladies of Port Gibson and Claiborne, and its whole souled men, my soul goes out in hearty greeting. As for the ladies, they stole my heart away. God bless them, and keep them foraye [forever]. The grand and hearty reception accorded Gen’l N.H. Harris, of your city, and his surviving veterans was sublime, and must have assured them that they keep the key to the hearts of their people and have not suffered and endured in vain.
In the annals of the ages no braver men faced the storms of war, or went to battle and
immortality than the Mississippians who followed the stainless swords of Jackson and Johnson, Beauregard and Lee. Tell me not the days of chivalry are dead and gone. They live as brightly today as when Sarsfield led the Irish legions on the Boyne, and the helmet of Navarre was the oriflamme at Ivry. They are living in the stories Southern mothers tell their little ones when they tell them how their fathers fought and bled, and they will live ‘Till wrapped in flames, the realms of ether glow, and heaven’s last thunders shake the world below.’
My friends here are legion, and I am under obligations for constant hospitality. Capt. A.J. Lewis, an old comrade and a lawyer of prominence in Port Gibson, and Mr. W.T. Morris, a brother of my honored friend, Judge Joshua S. Morris, of your city, whose guest I have been, I desire to thank especially. To Major J.S. Mason, of the Port Gibson Reveille, whose seeming indifference to the success of the re-union of Harris’ Brigade, has been harshly commented upon, I return my heartiest thanks. With sorrow shrouding his home, and mourning the loss of his nearest and dearest, he had no heart to take an active part in any of its proceedings, solemnities or festivities. A parent’s grief is sacred,
and should not be invaded, even by the injudicious advice of friends whose intentions may be good. A Nestor of the press of our grand old State, though his head is silvered with the harbingers of the grave, his trenchant pen is as flowing and eloquent as ever, and the journal of which he is the head, and at the present sole editor, is a power for good in the land we love. To him I am indebted for the freedom of his office and much valuable information, of which I will avail myself at an early day.
Less than half a year after writing this letter, Thomas B. Manlove was dead; his obituary claimed that he was the victim of his wartime wounds, which had slowly killed him. Manlove died at the Edwards House Hotel in Jackson, and his remains were returned to Vicksburg for interment in Cedar Hill Cemetery. (The Comet, July 3, 1880)