Abernathy Confederate Letters

Our Civil War Ancestors hold a special place in our hearts. Few of us have the good fortune to hold in our possession the letters written by these brave men. The writer of nearly all of the following letters was a young Confederate Soldier by the name of Augustus Cabot Abernathy, better known to his family as "Cabot". He entered the War with confidence and a true heart, knowing that he was fighting for a true and honorable cause. Cabot was a member of the 12th AR Calvary which later consolidated with the 19th.

Some of the letters were written by Buckner Abernathy, the father of Cabot, Henry Abernathy, the younger brother of Cabot, a couple by Fannie Clement and one from Emma Kesterson Rhodes. Most however, were written by Cabot to his sister Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson. At the end of each letter is who it was from and to, and in most instances, where it was written from. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson (1836-1916) was the widow of William Kesterson of Sevier County Arkansas (1828-1860), the son of John Kesterson our "Methodist Minister".

I want to give some very special thanks to Mary Ann Henderson Deane (Great Great Grandaughter of Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson), the owner of these letters, for giving us the opportunity to look into the life of her Southern Confederate Ancestor and I have to warn you -
it will break your heart.

Nancy Abernathy with her 2nd husband James Credille.
Married in Dec 1864.
Photo contributed by descendant Mark Comer

13 Jan 1861
New Orleans LA

Dear Sister,

I am studying very hard and attending all the lectures, both night and day. We will close about the middle of March then I shall return to Sevier County. I do not know where I will locate the first year. I will have to do the best I can the first year but after that I want to locate in the colony any how.

The weather here is very disagreeable. It rains every other day and I hope I never spend another winter here. I am paying $5.00 per week room and board. Five dollars is considered cheap in New Orleans, but it looks like a big pile of money to me.

Pa writes that you are well. I presume you have moved by this time. I received a letter from Capt. R. C. Gilliam today in which he stated that John King and Miss Spelton ( or Skelton) were married. Tell cousin Em there is another of her old beaus married. That is the only wedding I have heard of since I left home. My studies interest me, but I will be glad when I can go home.

Kiss Walter and Betty and tell Em to answer my letter.

A. C. Abernathy

(From Augustus "Cabot" Abernathy who was attending School in New Orleans, before he entered the Civil War, to his sister Nancy C Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

Camp Gantt
August 6, 1861

My dear daughter,

After days of drilling I now kneel by my trunk to write to you. You have heard all about our trip to this place and of our organization into a Reg.

Henry is not well, but is up and on duty. He has decided to wash his clothes today but I think it is because he wants to get into the river. It takes all my time watching after him and others like him, keeping them out of the water. I feel it is my duty to care for them as if they were children. Henry seems cheerful and talks about going home when his year is out to see the girls in Red Colony once more. He teases the boys about girls around here. I did not know it was in him. He is in a fast school here and will probably learn much.

I preached twice to the Reg. last Sunday once by appointment and once by request. We have a large congregation of course and many ladies are coming out. Bro. Thomas Hunt preached one Sunday. He is here to care for his son George. Nat Graves is well and his Kin ( or son) Billy Graves has been sick. Ludley Graves is well. Dr. Bobbitt has ben puny for several days. George McElroy is sick, so I sent him to Dr. Cannon & Dr. Bobbitt. I will try to seem him before I close this. You have heard of Raineys death. That was the only one in our Company and only oneother in the 10 Co.'s since we reached here.

Murphy "Scoggins" McLeod & Edwards have all gone up home at this time to get arms and etc. for our company. You will see them and they can tell you more than I can write. It is now 10 o'clock at night with at least 100 men singing outside. I am used to it.

Thursday, August 7, 1861

I went into town to see George McElroy. He was better so saw all of our sick while there. We are waiting here to complete our outfit. Some of the company's lack a great deal that we cannot seem to get. Col. Gantt is in Little Rock to secure marching orders so I feel that we will likely begin to move before long.

I received a letter from Cabot and that is all the written news I have had from home yet. I sent several letters back - 2 to Agnes, 1 to Cabot, 1 to Mr. Welch and some to others. I want you all to write often. I am so busy drilling that I have little time to write. I write a minute then another. I must close these scattered thoughts. There are 700 men in our Reg. I have been invited to preach in town next Sunday but do not feel up to city preaching.

I remain your affectionate father

B. Abernathy

(Buckner Abernathy to his daughter Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

Camp Memphis
September 2 1861

My dear daughter,

We landed at Memphis last Friday and marched through town is all I have seen of the city. S.W. ( or N?) Watson preached to the volunteers and has invited me out to visit in his home. I have made a list of our Company and sent to the Advocate Office as they promised to publish it. If they do, you will see it, if not, I can say to you that we are all here.

I.S. Rhodes, Thredgill, Hinton, Coolman were transferred to the Red River Co. I paid $10 of the Bellville money for Hinton in Arkadelphia and $5 of it in Little Rock for one of the Rogers's boys and the balance is in my hands. William Bobbitt has applied for $5, claiming he spent that much on G.V. McElroy.

Fellis Bobbitt came on with us here and then went by railroad to Fayette County. Our camp is in a few hundred yards of the Memphis and Louisville railroad. The cars pass several times each day. It is a great sight to some of our western men. Yesterday when we heard the train coming 2 or 3 hundred men broke and ran to the tracks to watch the cars pass. They ran over the guard who got up and ran with them to see the train.

Tuesday 3rd

Col. Gantt tells me that he is starting to Missouri this morning. We had for dinner today fat side meat, crackers, black coffee in tin cups and nothing else. This bread that we call army crackers is the hardest food I ever tried to chew. Some of the boys soak theirs, others eat it dry. All in all we are bearing up nobly.

Your affectionate father

( Buckner Abernathy to his daughter Nancy C Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

Camp Johnson
October 5, 1861

Dear daughter,

Your letter of September 25 at hand. Glad you are well, sorry some of the Negros are sick ( Iuby). I am sorry that weevils are in the wheat. I would be glad if there was as much of it ground up as you could take care of and then fed to the hogs until the balance can be cleared for ..... handy. It has all sprung from dampness.

I am truly sorry to hear of the anxiety of your brother to enter the service. If I could have stayed at home and let him gone I would have done it, but you know that if I had not come my Company would not have ever left. If he will stay awhile longer I will try to relieve him, but if nothing else will do him let him go. In a few months he will learn that he is mistaken. I have left all my Negroes yours and my business in his hands and it will do much damage for him to leave. I mailed him a letter yesterday and I said a great deal to him on the subject.

You mention T. Hunt being at Murhpy's. I will say that I have no confidence in him and would be glad if he never came about us agin. He has told falsehoods on us since he went back so I fear the truth is not in him.

Henry is up and down. Coughs a great deal.

The 4th

Henry has the measles this morning. His lungs are not strong so I fear for him. Col. Gantt praises our Company drill. I write you all every week and expect to hear from some of you 3 or 4 times a week and so far have not been disappointed. I learn that the oldest one of the Miss. Kirks is dead. Luds aunt. Bill Bobbett is up to his old neighborhood again. He is restless. Nat and William Graves are up again. We are camped near a church called Edgewood. It is a 2 story and we took all the benches out and made it into a hospital for our sick. Right now it is filled with sick boys. We put in a kitchen and a stove to cook for them, so I doubt if the boys were at home they would be better cared for. Henry nor I stay there as we are still in our tent. I could not stand the hospital. I have had invitations to stay in private home but as yet I have done very well.

Kiss Agnes for me.

B. Abernathy

(Buckner Abernathy to his daughter Mrs. Nancy C Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

Camp Johnson
October 15, 1861

My dear daughter,

Your letter of the 29th is at hand then as you directed I send it on its destiny. I also received one from Cabot of the same date in which he says he will start to our camp about the 5th with Clothing and with a view toward staying and sending me home. Well, if such exchanges could be made I would be willing and gladly come but I have written to some of you before, I think from all that I can hear that the Dr. you mention in your letter, will come east soon & then his absence will be a relief to several people whom he leaves behind.

I am truly sorry that Agnes and the children have sore eyes. It takes so long for letters to pass and repass that perhaps they are well over this.

I think R. Grady took a good deal on himself to change the camp meeting to a little Bellville meeting, but some mend don't care if others go the ... ?? if Bellville and be great.

All my boys have the measles but there have been no deaths except Wilkerson. I fear A.M. Jackson will die but if doctors and nurses can save him they will. Henry is up but coughs badly and runs a little fever every day. He does not seem to be alarmed and thinks I am hard on him because I caution him. I spend most of my time in the hospital and in the tents where our sick lay on cots. All those who have died in the last few days was from the lungs taking on the disease to heavy to throw it off.

There are 65 men in my company with measles and the smell that attends them would make a well man sick. Do not know when we will leave here. Feel that it would be better to let the men see something different. The telegraph says there is heavy fighting on the mount of the Miss R.

It is raining this morning. Jackson sent for me and called, "Oh Capt., Capt., Capt., tell me what to do. ". The poor fellow can not last much longer so I comforted him as best I could.

Bro. Bradley and his wife came to see me yesterday. I was compelled to leave them to hold court martial for Col. Gantt. Bradley says he will take his wife up to Columbus and then go with her home and then come back here.

Thursday 17, 1861

I find Andy Jackson no better this morning. He talked to me on religion. I believe he is converted.

Accept the best wishes of your father.

B. Abernathy

(Buckner Abernathy to his daughter Mrs. Nancy C Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

October 21, 1861
Little Rock, Ark.

Dear Sister,

I arrived in Little Rock last night very much fatigued. I came from the county seat of Pike County in three days. I rode about 40 miles a day. The second day out I left our wagons and rode on ahead the second day after leaving Center Point. I wanted to see the Governor about the clothing for our men. They will pay for it here but will not pay for transporting them to our men, until we present our bill of costs and we do not know yet how much that will be. Since reaching here I learn that Pa has gone on to Columbus Kentucky. I had hoped Col. Gantt's men would be in Memphis but guess I will have to ride on to Kentucky before seeing them. I look for our wagons to reach here tomorrow. I shall await them here and may ride with them or I may go on ahead and wait for them in Memphis.

I stopped at Mr. Triggs and he did not charge me a cent for my room. Miss Zack played the piano for us and filled our saddle bags before we left with apples. They were good too.

The boats pass here all along going up river. The Arkansas river is up too. Little Rock is dull now and very little to eat in town. Last night Dr. Lowery asked for ham and eggs but the waiter said there was not ham in town.

My horse does not look well. He has had a hard trip and the saddle rubbed his shoulder. Hope I will not be forced to sel him. I will rest him tomorrow.

I will write you from Memphis.

I am broke, paid all my money to bring J.S. Poole's wagon and men here and he refused to pay me a cent. Pa has been gone about five hours when I got here. I wish I could have seen him before he left. I had all my undershirts and linen stolen on the boat coming down so will have to sell my horse to buy needed things. My assistant and I had to cook for all those sick men and wait on them onthe entire boat trip to Memphis. They were hard to please, too. Nurse Pa his lungs are affected to some extent.

Direct my letters to Columbus Kentucky c/o Capt Abernathys Company as that is the way the company is known there.

Since Pa is in Columbus I do not know when I will be back home. Give my respects to Mr. Welch. Kiss Mary Fanny, Walter, Dave, Camelia and all the children for me.

Your affectionate brother


(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

October 31, 1861

Cabot has joined my company and all have started for Columbus. I am left here with the sick, but I intend to resign and start for home immediately. Will start the 4 of November.

B. Abernathy

(Buckner Abernathy to his daughter Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

November 2, 1861
Columbus, Kentucky

To Capt B. Abernathy

Dear Father,

I have just received a letter in which you state that you will start home in a few days. If you could or would wait a day or two longer I will be in Memphis to see you off. Dr Jenkins is sending me back there on the boats return with a group of seick men.

Henry and I are well. We have just landed so there is no news. There are a lot of troops camped on both sides of the river. Everything is in such a stir on the boat that I cannot write.

I remain your affectionate son.


(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his father Capt B Abernathy)

November 4, 1861
Ft. Pillow Tennessee

Dear Sister,

I wrote to you at Little Rock then went on to Memphis, got there Sunday evening. I would have written sooner but expected to come home, however Dr. Jennings of Washington Arkansas who is surgeon of our regiment offered to make me his assistant so I joined his regiment and started on Thursday for Columbus Kentucky. We reached Columbus on Friday night and Dr. Jennings detailed me back to Memphis with a group of sick men. I started back on the same boat to Memphis and came to Fort Pillow Sunday evening and I am here now but expect to leave soon on another boat for Memphis as this one returns to Columbus with cannon.

Memphis November 5, 1861

I arrived in Memphis on Monday 4 and walked out to the old Camp. Found R. Scoggins and Mr. Campbell's boys here.

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

New Madrid Missouri
December 8, 1861

Dear Sister,

I would have answered your letter sooner but it came the day I started from Columbus. We came down the river on boats to New Madrid and are now camped in Missouri about 50 miles below Columbus and 3 miles from the Arkansas line. There is a large enemy force 40 miles west of us, so our men are throwing up breastwoks. The New Orleans Turtle passed up the Mississippi enroute to Columbus where we have 7 gun boats and 150 cannon waiting for Old Abe's men. We exchanged some prisoners a few days ago and got all those men Gen. Lyon had taken prisoner last May in St. Louis. Dr. Jennings remained in Columbus with the sick so I have all the practice here - some 700 men in all.

December 10, 1861

We had speeches yesterday from Gen. Jackson, Gen. Jeb (or Jef, Jess) Thompson, Col. E.W. Gantt and named the Fort here Thompson. Our boys are cutting logs in the rain to build huts for us to winter here.

The men in my mess from home are Bob McLeod, Frank and Jim McLeod, W. Hunsucker, Mr. Davidson and Henry. I sleep in the medical tent. Bob James is sick also Huntsucker and Arch Turrentine.

We have had no mail service since entering Missouri but hope to now that they have joined the Confederacy.

Henry is well. Direct your letters to New Madrid, Missouri

Lt. A.C.A.

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

New Madrid, Missouri
December 15, 1861

Dear Sister

I did not draw the writing between Paul and Chambers about that place. I never could get them together but Dave told me positively that he was going to move down to your farm the next week. You know how much I had to do the last week I was at home.

December 16

I am sitting in Dan Turrentines tent writing this letter. Mac Rogers is quite sick. I will send him to the hospital this evening. James Turrentine died last night with pneumonia and many others will die also. I will send this letter by James Coulter and George Cowling - they are coming home on account of ill health.

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

New Madrid Missouri
January 11 1862

Dear Sister,

You should see the excitement in camp. Field officers galloping to and fro shouting orders, weary sentries challenging every passerby in a loud and stentorious voices. Toward the wagon yard one sees mules being hitched and the sound of more wagons rattling up while soldiers run, pitching blankets, knapsacks pell-mell into the moving wagons. Every thing a mass of movement and confusion. Suddenly we hear the order to march and there goes our glorious confederate flag, which always brings a lump in ones throat. Where those boys have started no one knows and whether they live to return or not again no one knows.

We are supposed to be going into winter quarters here, but of course tomorrow may find us on the road again. Seven of us are in a small hut, where we are doing our own cooking. We are within 20 feet of the Miss. River in a corn field which covers 4,000 A. A few yards above us they have built a fort. We are about 1 mile below New Madrid.

I will write Ma. Somehow she seems more like a real mother than a stepmother. I guess it is because she has always been so kind and then she treats us like a mother would her own children.

In our hut is Mr. Davidson and Frank McLeod. Frank has a pet rooster who keeps us awake crowing and Mr. Davidson has found a puppy which is following him all over the place.

I am kept awfully busy with the sick. Spencer Rhodes has been ill for more than 2 months. He afterwards went home to Richmond where he died from the effect of typhoid.

My love to all the white family and tell all our negroes howdy.

Your affectionate brother

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

New Madrid Missouri
January 21 1862

Dear Sister,

Dan Turrentine leaves for home in the morning so I shall send this letter by him. He has a 30 day furlough to see his father. Henry and I are in good health and fine spirits but expect a big battle any time. We have moved into barracks and are less exposed than in tents. We have plenty to eat right now and enough clothing. From the amount of water rising on the Mississippi it must have been raining a great deal up in Yankeedom. Will close as there is very little news right now. I want to have a ambrotype (?) taken to send you. Henry is sending a lock of his hair in this letter.

Your brother,

A.C. Abernathy

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

Ft Thompson, New Madrid Missouri
February 4 1862

Dear Sister,

Your letter reached me and I was glad to know all of you were well. I hope Henry and I may remain so until our time of enlistment expires. Henry received that letter from Fanny Clements and it pleased him very much. He would read a little and then laugh aloud.

Arch Turrentine is still in bed. Dave Coulter went down to Memphis about a week ago and will come back on the mail boat. His son Jack is sick however and wants to go home.

It has rained sleeted and snowed for the last two weeks and the river is still rising.

Still no prospects of a battle. Our scouts brought in 7 horses this morning - gotten from Yankees.

The weather does not permit drilling so our men are restless. A.E. Doggett is standing guard tonight. I told the Capt. that Henry was not able to do guard duty so he has gotten out of the worst part of a soldiers life. So far I have never had to do any drilling.

Asa, D. and R. Zachry are in my mess now. Wm Huntsucker started home a few days ago. His arm has never healed.

February 6, 1862

Our mail boat goes down river in the morning. There is no news but we are ready to meet the enemy any day.

Give my love to all.

Your brother,

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

New Madrid Missouri
February 27, 1862

Dear Sister,

It has been some time since last I wrote but the reason is that I have been out Yankee hunting. About two weeks ago we heard that 400 Yankees were building a boat to cross the St. Francis River. We sent about 200 men out after them. After marching about 75 miles we were ordered back here as Col. Gantt had word that New Madrid was to be attacked. There is much excitement here as we are expecting the attack momentarily. The Swamp Fox - Jeb Thompson and his brave Missourians are here now.

Pa reached this place last Monday very unexpectedly to us. He is in fine health but told me he would not write you as he expected to be here only a very few days. He wants to leave before the fight. Henry had a chill yesterday but I am in good health. Henry is just getting over the mumps. Elex Snodgrass and Thomas Donivan are dead. It looks like our men are evacuating Columbus as 15 steam boats went up yesterday and are passing today heavily loaded.

Pa has written to Ma and Henry to you so I will close. Kiss the children and tell the negroes howdy. Give my regards to the girls living close by.

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

Edgewood Camp
Memphis Tennessee 1862

Dear Sister,

It has been some time since I have heard from you. I have not heard from home since Pa came on to see us. After Pa left me I went up to Lafayette County Tennessee with W. Bobbett. I had a severe attack of pneumonia. After five weeks absence I started back to my company. I came to Memphis and went up the river to Ft. Pillow and there learned from some soldiers from Island 10 that our Reg. had surrended. I was ordered back to Memphis so here I am trying to learn more of our men. Last Sunday about 12 came in (members of our company) and about 200 from our Reg. The others have not been heard from so it is supposed that they are prisoners. I suppose Henry was captured as those who escaped did so by swimming across a two mile wide lake.

The last time I saw Henry he had only one suit of clothes which he had been wearing more than a month. I do sincerely hope that he may yet escape. Col. Gantt and the Gen. were taken with about 3000 men, so do not have enough men for a Reg. The higher officers want to change us into a Battalion but our company officers will not give up their commissions or resign or mix companies and we have not enough men for a full company.

W. Bobbitt went back home. His brother was killed in the last battle at Corinth ( Jay Bobbitt). He was a brave boy.

If they disband and reorganize I plan on going home to see you all. Kiss Walter and Fannie for me - tell all the negroes "howdy".

Your brother
A.C. Abernathy

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

Pine Bluff Arkansas
July 25 1862

Dear Sister,

We are camped 9 miles west of Pine Bluff. There are about 3000 of us - a part of Col. Grinstead command and Col. Dawsons Reg. We marched here. It was hot, dry and tiresome sure. I have learned to out walk all of them on a march. Pink Cannon is sick. We have no tents and just 3 ovens for all these men. Our surgeon went to Little Rock 4 weeks ago so I am acting as surgeon for the entire Reg. in his absence. I am drilling 6 hours daily something I have never been required to do before. Its very awkward. Mr Welch (or Welsh) is already tired of his soldiers life and Bill Turrentine has the measles.

I hear that the two governments plan to exchange prisoners. I still have not heard a word about whether or not Henry is still alive.

I have written to Pa twice since leaving home. If B.C. Parker has not left there yet send my mail by him.

Give my regards to Miss Molly and Miss Fannie Clements.

As ever,
A.C. Abernathy

Pine Bluff Guinstead Reg.
c/o Col. McMillon

P.S. Our Reg has not been numbered yet but our letters should reach here alright.

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

September 3 1862
Camp White Sulphur

Dear Sister,

I have been sick with chills and fever again. We have been buying peaches here a 1.00 bushel and the boys eat about 100 bushels each day. We eat them raw and cooked and made into pies. I suppose that you have learned from D.B. Coulter that our company has been consolidated into another.

Dave and Lude left here for home. I know how prejudiced the people were against us before we left and under those circumstances I would not have gone home if I had been put in as a private. I am a 2nd Lt. but up for promotion to 1st right away. Our Capt. is named Ingram and he is from this neighborhood. I have never heard another word about Henry. I was very much grieved to learn of the news Richard Thorton brought home. I hope it is not so.

A good many of the conscripts are home sick and asking for discharges. I never saw the like in my life. Stout and able bodied men will starve themselves, get dirty and lousy, look as bad as possible just for an excuse to go home.

If you can get any sort of material please make me some sort of suit. Anything will do. You can cut some of Pa's trimmings off his uniform for mine. Get me a blanket also. Do not decorate my uniform too much or the superior officers will make me give the buttons and braid to them. Put one or two large needles in my package so that I can patch and darn all my rips.

Direct to me at Pine Bluff Arkansas Col. Crawfords Battalion.

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

October 7 186(?)

Dear Father,

I drop you a few lines. We started from Camp Sulphur last Thursday, making our way toward (Des arc?) on White River. It rained on us all evening yesterday and day before. We have had the worst roads I ever saw. This country through here is all low and flat. We will go across the prairie and camp at Rock R? 7 miles this side of (Clarendon?). We hear that 6000 Confederates are crossing there going East and 8000 at Desark. Col. Garlands Brigade of Texas troops that were at Arkansas Post are moving in the same direction. Col. Dawson and Col. Raines are commandeering. We have had a rough time since leaving Pine Bluff. I have walked all the way. I will send this to Pine Bluff by courier. If you get this before Billie Wilkerson starts back send me one dollar in postage. Look in my trunk and send me a box of pencil points. Silver money is imposible to get here at any price. Give all my love and tell the negroes howdy.

A.C. Abernathy

2 Hollingsheads and 2 Humphreys sick.

( Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his father Buckner Abernathy in Parclifta Arkansas)

November 2 1862
Post of Arkansas

Dear Sister,

I sent you a letter by Mr. Maxwell who was going to Paraclifta. Hope it reached you all right.

We have built 8 log huts for our company and ours is nearly completed. Then one for the officers. There are no planks for floors and we will have to make scaffolds to sleep upon. I am proud of this bed tick. Shall fill it with shucks and sleep like a horse.

It has not rained in some time and I am glad for we have no shelters until our huts are complete. We walked to this place from Sulphur Springs (near Pine Bluff) and I was wet the entire time. The country was covered with water and we waded knee deep in water as cold as Indgins.

They are putting up the best fortifications here I ever saw. They are building houses 3 feet thick and covered over with dirt. Our fort will hold 7000 men and has 5000 in it now. We have 6 or 7 hundred negroes working here on it now. Guess we will be here all winter unless we attack Helena.

Col. Garlands Texas Reg. has a good brass band and we enjoy their music. I am in receipt of a letter from Dr. Pettigrew in which he states that Pa tells him Col. Gant had written him that Henry was alive and well. I was so happy to hear it. Do wish the little boy was here with me. I also received a letter from Capt. J. S. Walker yesterday in which he stated that he would start in a few days across the river. I do wish I could go with him but my Co. is not willing for me to leave. I would have to go into Little Rock to see Gen. Holmes before I could get off, so I will remain here. I can do as much service here as I could over there anyhow. Capt. Walker writes that many of our boys are dead. Mr. Wilkerson brought me your letter - the first time I had heard from home since leaving Sulphur Springs. A boat going up to Helena yesterday loaded with prisoners passed back today full of ladies. They say the Yanks are fortifying Helena.

The woods are full of girls here. Col. Garland has tried to rid the country of them but they return every time they are driven off.

I wish I could go home. Maybe next Christmas I can get off - if I live. As soon as this river rises we may expect Yankee gun boats and then the fun will commence.

As ever your brother

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

December 31 1862
Post of Arkansas

Dear Sister,

The news is in Pa's letter which you can read. I am sending this home by B.C. Parker ? who is coming home for 2 weeks. I would has you to send me a Christmas cake but I suppose weeting is too scarce to bake cakes.

I wrote pa about capturing a Yankee boat a short while ago. We had a dull time Christmas and a lonely time. The boys raced their horses for amusement but I did not join in the fun.

I hope we whip the Yanks at Vicksburg. Well, Ben will give you all the news. Write soon to your affectionate brother.

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

May 18 1863
Tullahoma Tennessee

Dear Sister,

I have an opportunity of sending some letters across the river so will write you. I am enclosing two for Pa telling him of my hardships while a prisoner of the Yanks. I am safe again in Dixie and hope I may never be captured again.

I am sending you and Ma some needles I got from the Yankees. I know how scarce they are down here. Those clothes you made and sent were all taken by the Yanks. If we ever capture any prisoners withy will fare badly in my hands. All the boys feel bitter at our treatment.

Most of our commany is in Arkansas now but I do not know whether we will be sent across the river or not. I have made a ring for Ma, Cella, Amelia and Em.

As ever
A.C. Abernathy

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

June 7 1863

Dear Sister,

I have not heard from you since last December - six months. I have written you several times but the Yanks are watching the Mississippi River so closely that it is hard to get letters across. I have had some awfully hard times since leaving Arkansas Post. I was captured there and lay sick for several weeks, with diarrhea and fever. It left me too weak to walk. I was forced to wait upon myself and trudge through snow and mud to do it. We were treated like dogs while in prison - cursed and abused by the Yankee guards and if we replied we received the bayonet or a bullet through the chest. Half of our command died with smallpox and pneumonia.

When we started from Camp Chase Ohio where we were confied, our clothes, overcoates and blankets were taken from us. We were stripped and if we had on 2 shirts one of those was taken.

We were placed in the 19 Reg Col. Dawson's old Reg. after our exchange. I hold my same commission in Capt. Hawkins Co. I saw Lt. James Clements and Serg. Mc Linton in Richmond. They are well.

Many men here are shot for disobeying orders. Address your letters to Wartrace, Tennessee Gen. Churchill Brigade, 15th Arkansas Reg.

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

July 30 1863
Ringgold Georgia

Dear Sister,

We have been retreating and it has completely worn me out. I left my troops in Chattanooga, Tennessee and crossed the line into Georgia to rest and recoup my health. Gen. Lee lost 15000 men at Gettysburg and the Yanks lost more. In our retreat across the Cumberland Mts. our wagon train threw away all clothing bedding, so I have no blanket. After this I will have to carry my bedding on my back - if I have any.

We never hear from your side of the river now, so I do not know what has happened since I was captured at Arkansas Post. Two thirds of the people around Chattanooga are Union sympathizers and a great many families have men in the Union Army. They all refuse to take our Confederate money. They charge $3.00 for a little chicken, $3.00 for butter, $2.00 for a gallon of milk. Eggs are $1.00 each.

I saw Dick Murphy on the retreat. He is in Gen ? Division, but had no time to talk to him.

We have not a single tent in the entire Reg. and never will have anymore. They threw all of them away and there are only 2 ovens left to cook in for all these men. Two men usually sleep together by placing one blanket on the ground, the other over us. I hear that Henry has had a furlough and been home. Do hope that is true and that we may both come through this safely and get home to you once more.

I hear that Arkansas has been voted back into the Union- but hope it is not true. Do not let Pa re-enlist for he could not stand the hardships now. I would like a furlough home but I am needed too badly here right now.

Kiss all the children for me, Dave, Fanny and Walter.

As ever your brother
19th and 24th Arkansa Reg. Churchill's Brigade

(Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his sister Mrs. Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson in Paraclifta Arkansas)

At Home, Richmond, Ark

Dear Nannie

I seat myself this evening to write you a few lines in answer to your kind letter received some time since. I thought I would have answered if before this but one thing & another has hindered me, most of the family have been sick, but are all up again. Spencer & myself have escaped thus far. I have weaned Spencer. She had become so very trouble some about being nursed. She is so much better does not cry near as much. I let her stay with Sister Martha a week, but I had to warn her at last. Sister Martha says you must come over. She wants to see you very much, her health is some better I think. I presume you heard of the barbecure we had at Richmond. It was the nicest barbacue I ever attended. It was given to the Vixburg & Fort Hudson prisoners. William Johns was over. I was in hopes Henry would have been here, but he was not, William Johns came to the carriage & talked a good while & you think I ever thought the first time to ask him to call on me. I never thought of it the first time until after I got home. The family all appeared to hate it very much & so did I. But it could not be helped. I believed I am about half crazy any way, if you hear anything said about it you must apologize for me. Nannie I have had the blues all day. I wanted to go over to the camp meeting at Center Point & thought for a while Othella & I would go but we are defeated. We intended to give you & Sister a passing visit. I don't know that I ever will see you all again unless you come to see me. I have no way to go & no one to go with me. I never did want to go to see you all any worse than I do now. I have not made but one piece of cloth since I come home. We have had so much sickness that we are behind with our work. I intend trying to make two pieces by Christmas, do not know who I will succeed. I need a pair of cardes very much but am too poor to bye them at present prices. If my little family need shoes do not know how I will get them, all such as that nannie makes me low spirited. Just to think how dependent I am. It hurt me, Oh; you knew not how. Sam Walker & lady was at the cue. I was some what surprised to hear of their marriage. I reckon she thought a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush. He paid very little attention to her the day I saw them. I heard him tell some one he had given her to Bruce Willice that day, (but keep this to yourselves.) Our quarterly meeting will be this Saturday. I wish some of you could be hear. Tell Sister to be sure to send the thread for Emmers dress. I want to weave it some time between now & Christmas. (Tell Fannie Clements I intend to write to her soon. Give love & respects to the family) Mr. Pool & family also, & Mrs. Thomas. Give my love & respects to Brother & Sister & also to H C A tell him to come over. I would like to see him, tell Cille, Spencer is most as large as her I believe, tell all the children howdy & kiss them for S. & I. Fannie & Mary sends howdy to their nanny & all the rest of you tell the servant howdy. Write soon tell Sister to write, receive the best love of an absent sister

Yours truly,
Emma Rhodes ( Written by Emma Kesterson Rhodes to Nancy Abernathy Kesterson her sister in law. My best guess is this was written in 1863 but might have been 1862)

Camp Tunnel Hill Georgia
December 7, 1863

Dear Father,

I do not know whether you have written me or not but I have never received but 2 letters from home. Mr Parsons brought me a letter from you last Spring and Bird Smith came from there last week with letters for a lot of the boys but none for me.

We are having a hard time. The 19 and 24 Reg. have been consolidated. The 8 Arkansas and all have been placed in Ledills Brigade. The Georgia and Tennessee men have been whipped at Lookout Mt. but our western men drove the Yanks off 3 times. We waded the Chickamauga River by wading water and mud all night to reach Ringold where we built a fire to dry our clothing.

The Yanks were on us again and we fought for 5 hours. I received a bullet in my hip. It looks bloody and black but does not pain me. If everyone fought as the Arkansas and Texas men we would soon whip the Yanks. Most of our men are going barefooted on the frozen ground. My shoes are in threads. It is strange to see the wealthiest men of Arkansas without enough clothes to cover their nakedness, but thats what I see every day. We are hungry, cold and starved but I do not intend to give up as long as I am able to stand

( Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his father Buckner Abernathy in Parclifta Arkansas)

First Page Lost - Date Lost

We hear bad news from Arkansas occassionally - that the army men are deserting and that it takes half the men to guard the other half. Money is worth more there than here. If I get boots I will pay $200 for them, cofffee is $12 per pound, bacon $1.50 per pound. The Feds are destroying everything in their path, burning houses, tearing down fences, killing cattle, horses, sheep and goats. It is about as bad with our men as they think nothing of killing cows or chickens, not any more than they would their own. The officers do nothing to stop them for we figure hungry men must be fed else they will desert. East Tennessee and this part of Georgia are just waste lands.

If I could only hear from home I could endure the hardships. I have not heard a word from Henry since he was captured so I do not know whether he is alive or dead - still a prisoner or at home.

I saw Dick Murphy a few days since. He tells me that he plans on going home in a week or two. If he is successful in getting off he will give you all the news of us - much better than I can write it.

We hear here that Col. Gantt has joined the enemy and published an entreaty begging the people of Arkansas to go back into the Union. At first I did not believe it but everyone who comes in from there insists that it is true. All I can say is that I hope some of you swing him to a tree.

A.C. Abernathy
19th Arkansas Reg.

( Unknown as to who this letter was address or when it was written - someplace in Georgia)

February 26 1864
Holloways Ferry
Ashley County Arkansas

Dear Sister,

I am sorry that you cannot get writing paper there. I am enclosing 3 sheets for you to use because I have plenty here.

We are camped on Bayou Bartholomew. I had to swap my horse for a mare. We are allowed 1/2 number of meal daily and it is so coarsely ground that I can pick whole grains of corn out of it. They say we are to be dismounted so that our horses can be given to ?? Command. If this is true I intend bringing my horse home because I do not intend giving my horse to anyone else. I had a chill yesterday. My piles are so bad that it is all I can do to sit my saddle.

If I knew how to address the letter, I would write Cabot. It rains on us so we go to the bottom for protection as we have no tents large enough to cover us.

I am suffering so I will close.

Henry A.

(Henry Clay Abernathy to his sister Nancy C (Abernathy) Kesterson)

Richmond Sevier County Arkansas
April 9, 1864

Dear Friend,

Your more than welcome letter found its first place of destination last night. And as a proof of the happiness it gave me. Notice the promptness with which I respond. I wrote to a day or two since. Yet did not send it off. So this will answer for both. I have some both good and bad news. Now what do you suppose the good is. Well, I will not hold you in suspense any longer than I can say. I rec'd a letter from your "Dear" Bro. Cab the 3rd ? The date was 31st Jan. His letter was rather short. An more than interesting to me. I can't think you could do any accurate consiption of the pleasure it gave me to receive 1 letter from one, by whom (I thought) I had long since been forgotten. Though "I" need never again fear this. Am I not flippant on the subject? But I think I know with whom I am conversing do I not? At the time Cab wrote he was at or near Tunnel Hill Georgia. They had been doing no fighting for some time more than skirmishing. He was in excellent health and seemed to be in high spirits. Would that he may ever be thus gifted. I neglected this far to say that he had rec'd two letters from me and the same from you. One of those rec'd from me was written after I came to this place.----------------------(This line is unreadable) distressing part.

It appears that our country will certainly be overrun soon. We rec'd news today direct from our army. The battle was going on yesterday at Prairie Deand 15 mi below Washington. The feds are entrenching on one side of the Prairie and our men on the other though not entrenching. Our army keeps falling back. Our men kept them on the other side of the little Missouri for several days fighting daily. There we captured 600 negroes and killed them all. I heard this gentleman (who called here today) say this was true beyond a doubt. When Dockery left Camden coming up to the fight the greater portion of his train was captured and burned. I inquired today of Mr. Philips if he had seen Henry lately. He said not. Though frequently heard of him. I guess he was in the battle yesterday. Poor Henry I hope and pray God spared him through the storm. O what is to become of our land, is that a dismal question unanswered, for the God of all good only knows this, was this war so many lives has it torn assunder never to be renewed. O such a tender thought it almost shocks me to think of it. If the enemy get in here or rather if they seem to gain ground still Pa and Uncle Jessee will move to Texas somewhere. They have been making some preparation and when we move Uncle Tommy Parker will be bound to go. Day before yesterday he (Uncle T) was brought over here. Twas thought imprudent of him to remain at his home. Pa started this morning to Nashville to move his family. He can't stand or walk alone yet. Hester is here with him and will nurse and take care of her Pa until Aunt comes.

After supper,

We are all so low spirited tonight. I do not feel that I can interest you. Pa read a letter from your Pa a few days since he answered a few days ago but did not send it off. It will go with mine tomorrow. I reckon he gave all the news. Did you think of me when that old fortune teller was telling your fortune of course you did when you inquired of her about us. It may be that we will see each other before Christmas but I expect she guessed at what she told you. You wished to know who of your relations died with Small Pox. I heard of none dying but Miss Fannie Graves. I first wrote to you that Julia Graves did but when I found out the mistake. I wrote to you again. Miss Maria Trutson has gone to Texas with Mr. & Mrs. Davis. Perhaps you will meet with her. If you do you will be certain to recognize her. And you went to a party. Hurrah for you. Tell Mary Fannie she is a smart little girl learns rapidly I think. Tell Walter to study diligently and he will then be a learned man. Ma says tell your ma she so often thinks of her and says if she never more lives a neighbor to her, it will not be because she does not wish to. Wishes she was near you now, and indeed I heartily wish this myself. Ma says square around and make room for her for she will soon be on the move. Ma is in a great stir about this war. She will write to your ma soon and give her a full detail. Well I thought I would be through as I reached the margin but when I begin a letter to you I never know when to conclude. Aunt Betty vows that she is going to stay at home Yankee or no Yankee but I think she will decline when the test comes. Indeed I think it prudent that she should. Ma says she will do most any way rather than be left in the Federal lines. Ma has a great ? to that. Priss has been quite busy all the week weaving Becca spinning on the machine and I have been sewing and Ma spends her time mostly in trouble. Health pretty good generally. Our family are in tolerable good health. I haven't had a chill since last Sunday. I guess I will wear them through after so long a time, they seem to get lighter. Black Mary has been quite feeble all the year she has rheumatism badly. My love and kindest wishes to your Pa and Ma and all the children. Kiss them all for me accept my true love for yourself and children. Kiss them for me. Write soon. Remember me in your prayers.
Good night from your devoted friend.

Fannie Clements

I had like to have forgotten to give you Cab's address. I must do it. Pt. A.C. Abernathy 19th Ark Regt. Govens? Brigade Clebornes Division. Dalton Ga.

( Fannie Clements to Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson)

Dalton Georgia
May 2 1864

Dear Father,

I am sorry you had to leave Arkansas but am glad you are safe for the boys tell me, who get letters from Sevier County, that all the men there will be killed by the Jay Hawkers. I had rather you lost all your property a thousand times than to lose your lives. Last February I got a furlough and spent my time in Alabama - this side of the lines. I would have gone to Grenada Mississippi to see Uncle Green Graves but I did not know just where he lived until I started back. I wrote to him and received an answer yesterday. I saw a man named James who says he is a cousin of yours. He is from Selma Alabama.

All our Arkansas troops have been consolidated into one unit.

A.C. Abernathy.

( Augustus Cabot Abernathy to his father Capt. Abernathy in Pittsburg Texas)

Army of Tennessee
June 7 1864
Near Marietta Georgia

Dear Father,

I again drop you a few lines that you may know I am still numbered among the living. I wrote you one month ago and since that time I have undergone hardships so severe that you would not believe me should I tell them to you. We have fought daily and are retreating toward Atlanta. We are under Gen. Joseph E. Johnson, in whom we all have confidence. Dad Wright who drove the Paraclifta stage coach was killed. Capt. Hawkins, Lieut. Elliot, Kent and Ferguson were wounded. Stephen Keith was killed also. Bill Holdman, Wiley Nelson were wounded. I have never seen men shot down so fast in my life. I have escaped so far and hope the Lord will spare me that I may return home to enjoy peace and happiness with you all once more. I can appreciate home and its comforts as never before.

I will send this by a man going to Bradley County Arkansas, hoping that you may get it. I have written so many times and you have never gotten them that I am discouraged. I have only received two letters from you since I was captured in Arkansas Post. The last was written last December. If you can try to get a letter across the Mississippi River and have it re-mailed on this side, and I will get it through our army post office.

I have not had my clothes off at night in five weeks. I have no change of linen. I frequently pull my shirt off to kill vermin which are everywhere at present. I go 3 days and nights without sleep and frequently march an entire day and night without stopping, carrying all our earthly possessions on our backs.

( Augustus Cabot Abernathy to Buckner Abernathy, his father, in Pittsburg Texas)

Red Colony Sevier County Arkansas
June 1864

Mrs Nanie C. Kesterson

My Dear Friend:
Yours of May 3rd was joyfully rec'd yesterday. I also rec'd one about four weeks since have not written to you since the former was rec'd. Now let me ask of you this one time to look over the short comings of human nature. Though I guess it would be prudent to lead you into the light of why I have neglected you thus long. It seemed that I was destined for all occasions to be disapproved of sending a letter to the office. This is my reason, and I know it will be satisfactory with you. Dear Friend I was so much aggrieved to hear of your Ma's death. I know you are surrounded with many troubles, and sometimes think you can't bear them. Though reason teaches me that we are to submit to the one who doeth all things well. I have often thought if ever there was a good woman your ma was and truly a devoted Christian. O could I be with you. I am inclined to think it would have a great tendency to remove many sad thoughts and sorrows, from us. I have been staying with Aunt Em for several weeks. I will go home the last of this week. Aunt Em has ? boy 3 weeks old. I assure you we have music enough for one house. Lizzie improves in beauty a good deal she is such a sweet little creature. I wish you could see her when in one of her big ways of talking. I have had the pleasure of attending church twice since I came over. Yesterday was a week ago I heard a sermon preached on the subject of extortion. I never heard a more interesting discourse I believe. Though let me tell you what took place about the finishing of it. As the sermon was quite lengthy (3 hours 1/2 long) people --------(unreadable)------ Held such an uncommon high head and not looking where she was going. Stumbled over a bench and turned a complete summersault. You may now guess how I laughed. Every time I think of it I burst into a laugh. If she had not been so frisky I do not think it would have been so funny. The young lady was Miss Emma Lock. You say you hope I am in better spirits since our great victories. Indeed I am. I feel in hopes that our men on this side of the Miss. will yet claim a few interesting pages of History. Although we became so impatient and it was the belief of many that our army in general on this side of the river would not stand the storm. Though at last their bravery was proved. We have not heard from Bro since the great battle in Va. Yet have every reason to believe that he was there as he belongs to Longstreet Com. We have learned that Longstreet was mortally wounded by his own men (accidentally). I rec'd a letter from your Bo a few weeks since some little later than yours of which you speak (14 & 15 March). He wished me to inform him to what portion of Texas you had gone. He wrote that he had never heard from you since on your journey to Texas. I guess he will hear as you have been getting letters and doubtless have replied.

I passed by your old home a few days since and ours also. And indeed the places looked so natural that for a faint thought I felt as we were yet living there. And again to look around on our place and see the weeds as high as my head all around the premises and stock in our garden tearing up shrubbery. I felt almost like we had no home. There is a family occupying our house. Though for all the good they are doing they had as well be away. If time grow no worse I expect Pa will move back next fall. Do you think your Pa will ever come back to live on his place? O I do wish you may come if we move back for the fact is I don't want to move back unless you come. Tell the children to ---------------

(Written by Fannie Clements to Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson)

Camp Brigg
October 9 1864

Dear Sister,

I have heard that Cabot was killed in the battle of Atlanta. I hope it is not so.

We have camped 25 miles from Camden. We may be fixing to winter here I do not know. Nat Gravesis here but I have not seen him yet. I am out of clothes and we are starving for food. We will have to quit fighting unless we can find food. Butch Whisenhunt is going home tomorrow and I will send this by him to Washington Arkansas. When you write me address it to McNairs Brigade.

Bill Johns is ill but no dangerous

Must close

Henry Abernathy

( Henry Abernathy to his sister Nancy Catherine Abernathy Kesterson)

Augustus "Cabot" Abernathy was never to return home. He was killed at the Battle of Atlanta on 22 July 1864. Cabot died around the age of 25 years, before he had ever really begun to live, his future with Fannie Clements was never to be. Henry did return home, married and raised a family. Nancy Abernathy Kesterson married for the second time in December 1864 to James Credille, a widower with children. They had 4 children of their own. Nancy's bad luck was holding however, and she was once again left a widow in 1877, with 4 more minor children to raise.


We're tenting tonight on the old camp ground,
Give us a song to cheer
Our weary hearts, a song of home,
And friend we love so dear.
Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease;
Many are the hearts that are looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace.
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight,
Tenting on the old camp ground
We've been tenting tonight on the old camp ground,
Thinking of days gone by,
Of the loved ones at home that gave us the hand
And the tear that said "Goodbye!"
Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease;
Many are the hearts that are looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace.
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight,
Tenting on the old camp ground
We are tired of war on the old camp ground,
Many are dead and gone,
Of the brave and true who've left their homes,
Others been wounded long.
Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease;
Many are the hearts that are looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace.
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight,
Tenting on the old camp ground
We've been fighting today on the old camp ground,
Many are lying near;
Some are dead and some are dying,
Many are in tears.
Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease;
Many are the hearts that are looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace.
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight,
Tenting on the old camp ground