Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Campaigning with "Old Stonewall": Confederate Captain Ujanirtus Allen's Letters to His Wife

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Campaigning with "Old Stonewall": Confederate Captain Ujanirtus Allen's Letters to His Wife

Article excerpt

Campaigning with "Old Stonewall": Confederate Captain Ujanirtus Allen's Letters to His Wife. Edited by Randall Allen and Keith S. Bohannon. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998. Pp. ix, 286. Preface, prologue, illustrations, maps, epilogue, appendix, bibliography, index. $34.95.)

Collections of letters and other primary sources are one of the Civil War's richest legacies. Historians of the period are finding these sources published and annotated to a greater extent than ever, allowing a wide distribution of rarely seen material. Adding to this genre is Campaigning with "Old Stonewall, " edited by Randall Allen and Keith S. Bohannon. Ujanirtus Allen, a captain in Company F, 21S` regiment of Georgia Volunteer Infantry, wrote at least 138 letters to his wife, Susan Allen, from his enlistment on July 9, 1861 until his death shortly after the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 8, 1863. Allen's letters detail his experiences as a soldier, but also concern his family's well-being and his worries as an absentee plantation owner. Campaigning with "Old Stonewall" is as much social history as it is military history.

Several themes constantly reappear: homesickness, hope for the fighting to end, food and supply shortages, illness among the soldiers, concern for the business matters of the plantation back home. Particularly interesting is Allen's view of chances for foreign intervention. "I have one petty hope left and that is that England and France will interfere as mediators. . . . They will never interpose unless their interest (which I hope is) is greater than their antipathy. We will soon see if cotton is king" (p. 39).

There are also passages in the letters where Allen explains to his wife why he is fighting. He feels defeat for the Confederacy would be nothing less than cataclysmic. "Defeat with us is utter ruin. We would be disfranchised, dishonored, murdered and our property taken away from us. …

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