This letter was written by Robert Alexander Jenkins to Margaret Elizabeth Clewell (1840-1930), the daughter of John David Clewell (1804-1862) and Dorothea Matilda Schultz (1815-1908) of Salem, Forsyth County, North Carolina. Margaret’s brother, Augustus (“Gus”) Alexander Clewell (1845-1911), served as a Private in Company E, 21st Infantry Regiment (Confederate) of North Carolina and later in Company B, 1st Battalion Sharpshooters Regiment North Carolina on 26 Apr 1862. Margaret married Robert Alexander Jenkins (1839-1917).
Duke University Library houses a manuscript entitled “Endurin’ the War,” compiled by Gertrude Jenkins containing various reminiscences, including those of Robert Alexander Jenkins, a Confederate soldier, describing his adventures leaving his northern school in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1859, the raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry by John Brown, the battle of the C.S.S. Virginia with the U.S.S. Monitor, military engagements at Hanover Court House and Seven Pines, both in Virginia, the retreat of General Joseph E. Johnston through North Carolina, the last meeting of the Confederate government, and the final surrender at Bennett House, Durham, N.C.
The volume also contains the narrative of Margaret Elizabeth Clewell, future wife of Robert A. Jenkins, describing her journey from Salem Female Academy, Salem, N.C., to Fauquier County, Va., to nurse the sick of the 21st North Carolina Infantry, the hospital and care of the sick at Thoroughfair Gap, and the battlefield at Manassas.
Addressed to Miss M. E. Clewell, Thomasville, Davidson Co., North Carolina
Care of Mr. J. W. Thomas
Camp near Kinston, North Carolina
October 30, 1864
My kindest, sweetest M,
The Sabbath rolls on and no church bell is heard near or far except in my imagination. The Bells of G.A. is heard with the peals of one in the quiet and peaceful town of Salem. Ah, how my heart longs to be once more within its confines and to see once more one of the finest daughters in whom my heart takes great delight. Alas, though for the hopes and aspirations of devotion in these times of uncertainty and trouble for it may be that I cannot get to see her in a long, long time, and affairs just now need nursing because she thinks that I am not in earnest. Therefore, I should see her as soon as possible to convince her that I am in earnest and that my love is true. I shall see here as soon as I leave camp before I go home and if the Gov. does not disband us in thirty days, I shall try and get a shot for ____ for the purpose. I certainly am more anxious to see see her than to go home but it pains me to think that I cannot see my sweet M.
I shall however do as you say. [I] know you have good reasons for advising me as you did. Still you know, dear, I would make the whole trip to see you yet. I hope some day for she and I may be with each other all the time. I have been looking for a letter from you for the past week but have not received one yet — but shall look for one tonight.
How comes on my friends in Thomasville and Salem? Have any gone to the war? I have not heard of any Salem folks down here. Perhaps they have not yet reported. I should not be surprised if they took a good many of us in the Confederate Army. Should they do so and I have to go in infantry, I shall try and get in the first battalion. Don’t you think it would be a good idea? Does Miss. M. still think that I am not in earnest?
When did you hear from __? Has he any hope of an exchange? I would like to see him. Is he well and G — how is he? What position does he hold? How does Anna go and how is Mrs. Houton and all friends? My love to Mrs. W, regards to friends and ___ to your affectionate brother.