James W. Old, born 1840, was the son of Theo and Eliza Old of Yellow Branch, Campbell County, Virginia. For easier reading I have corrected the spelling errors in the letter.
Letter from James W. Old, Company B, 11th Virginia Infantry
June 20th, 1861, probably written from Camp Pickens which was established at Manassas Junction by South Carolina troops.
June 20th, 1861
It is with a sad heart that I attempt to write to you, to think that I am so far from my dear friends and perhaps never to see them again. But I hope and pray that I may be spared to meet you all again, but I will have to go through a hard time if ever I do get back. I have already seen hard times, but nothing to what I expect to see. Ma, I am happy to hear that you all are well. It is a great comfort to hear and read letters from you all. Ma, I have been on the transit for some time, else I would have written to you before now, but I have been off from here for nearly two weeks and had to work very hard a fraction of my time. I have not seen a pleasant Sunday for some time. We get some orders every Sunday to go somewhere. There is preaching here every Sunday, but I have not had the opportunity of hearing preaching but twice. I am in hopes that I hear preaching this coming Sunday if I am not call off before that time. Ma, we have not been in 4 miles of Alexandria, but we have been all amongst them. We went in ten miles of Alexandria, our company went with us. I heard since we got back that there were 100 Yankee’s all around us, but they did not show their faces to us. There was a train of Yankee’s that started up to where we left, but they did not get there. The South Carolinians fired a cannon at the train and cut off 2 of the cars and killed 8 of them and a good many crippled them. And they got 50 muskets and all of the tools which they had to build the bridge. Our picket guard got 2 of the rascals last night and one of them is a pretty brave fellow. He says he came to fight the South and he intends to lose the last drop of blood in him against the South. He was a Sargent of their picket guard. He was circling around to relieve the guard when he was taken. They got a couple of our pickets the other night. I will stop on the subject of the Yankee’s. Ma, I intend to take a mother’s advice. Dear Mother, it gives me great comfort to know that there are so many prayers continually in my behalf. Ma, I intend to discharge my duty as fair as I can. And I intend to look to that one who is able to protect me through the raging scenes of battle. But if it is his will for me to be put down in the field of battle, I give myself up to him. Dear Mother, I ask for your prayers on my behalf that I may meet those dear ones that I have left so far behind, but if I never see you again my dear mother, I hope to meet in a better land. Ma, give my love to all and a large portion for yourself. Ma, please send me something good by the first one that passes if you please. I will have to close my letter as I will soon have to go on drill. Ma, tell John and Laura that I will write to them before long, for I have not got the time now. I will close my letter. Tell them I miss them and Henry Howday.
From your affectionate son until death, James W. Old