With the great discussion going on over at Eric’s blog on historical documents and copyrights, I notice this article. As you know I started SoldierStudies.org as a massive rescue mission to avoid the potential loss of these aging and often discarded documents. This story just reaffirms what I believe what we’re doing over there at SS is so important. From the article:
Petersburg, Va. â€” Eli Pinson Landers would be astonished to learn that Civil War letters he wrote to his mother in Gwinnett County would be rescued â€” a century later â€” from an Atlanta trash pile and put on display.
The letters were published in a book that would make him one of the 13 “Soldier Comrades,” an interactive exhibit at the Pamplin Historical Park and National Museum of the Civil War Soldier, 30 miles south of Richmond.
The 21-year-old farmer, the grandson of a Baptist minister, enrolled in the 16th Georgia Infantry in August 1861 and went north to fight with Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. One of the first of his letters to his mother was jovial: “Dear Mother, if I never see old Gwinnett again, tell Miss Cody I’m glad to be out of her cotton patch.”
After seeing battle for the first time, he wrote: “I get sort of ticklish when the bullets whistle around my head.” After an especially bloody battle, his humor apparently dissolved into an open-eyed realization of war’s real horrors: “I have saw the wounded hauled off in four-horse wagons, just throwed in like hogs, some with their legs off, some with their arms off, in terrible condition … .”
While dying of typhoid after the Battle of Chickamauga, near Chattanooga, in l863, he urged, “Dear Mother, weep not for me.”
Landers’ letters likely were passed through his survivors and descendants, until finally in the mid-l960s the last recipient threw them out on the street as trash. A passer-by picked them up, read them and kept them with her when she moved to North Carolina, where she gave them to a neighbor interested in history. They were stored in a closet until the 1980s, when they were given to author Elizabeth Whitley Roberson, who published them in her book, “Weep Not for Me, Dear Mother.”