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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Civil War Letter of a Dying Soldier: G. H. Stephens, 12 June 1864.

To the point:

  • People Mentioned - G.H. Stephens, Clarcy Ann Stephens, James A. Stephens, John Stephens, Preston Stephens, Sammy Stephens, Synthia Stephens, Joshua H. Stephens, W. L. Langley
  • Places Mentioned - Natchitoches, LA; Sernchyville, Carthage, Panola County, TX.
  • I am not a direct descendant of this line. I would love to find someone who is.
  • Blogging Prompt #36: Military Battles and Your Ancestors, hosted by Genea-bloggers on Facebook, inspired by We Tree

Let us remember that not all battles were fought on the battlefields...

Upon the passing of my grandfather, Horace Vaughn Wells, in 1992 I inherited an antique Oshkosh suitcase stuffed with old papers. The suitcase belonged to Ed. J. Hogan, husband of my great grandmother Ola Mae (Perkins) Hogan. 

Stuffed in a corner pocket of the musty suitcase was the following letter:

Citation: Civil War Letter of a Dying Soldier: G.H. Stephens, 12 June 1864. Photograph by Herstoryan. Houston, Texas. 2009
[This is a transcription. The document appears to have been typed on a typewriter. The xxxxx were typed over words in order to correct misspellings or otherwise omit the word. Original errors and format are preserved to the best of my ability.]

G. H. Stephens Dying Request . 
Natchitoches, La. June 12, 1864.
To My Dear Clarcy Ann Stephens:
My Dear Wife:
I this morning through the hand of a friend attempt to write you a few 
lines perhaps for the last time. I am in the hospital and am very low
with Typhoid Fever, been sick ever since the 25th of April, was sick
at Sernchyville until about a week ago and was moved here, I was
as I thought better at that time, but have relapsed and am very low
but I am still in hopes that I may recover, but if I should not I want 
you not to take xxx my death hard.  but submit to the will of God, who
xxxxxxxxx doeth all things well.  My prayer is that you may raise all our
children honest and to live in the fear of allmighty God.    My dear wife I
feel that this will be the last words, that you may have from me.  Some of x
my prayers is that you may meet me in heaven for I feel that my way is xxx
clear and that my faith is well founded in the lamb of God that taketh
way the sins of the world. 
My dear wife,  it would afford me great pleasure to see you and the child-
ren this morning to bid you all farewell and to collectively and indivduall
ly ask the blessings upon you if it is the will of God, but thank God that
I am able to say and feel they will be done not mine.   I feel that my time
is short a word Son James A. remember your father and his dying request is
that you may love and abey your mother and so live as to meet me in heaven
My dear boy you are now 12 years old and left with out a father to advise
youx through this world.   But you must live soberly, honestly and take the
bestcare of your brothers and sister that you can.    Remember that a great
deal depends on you for your own happness.  and there's to James A. Farewell
To John my dear boy, my advice to you is the same as to James.  Be a good
boy honor and obey thy mother and obey her and so live as to meet me in
heanve.   Preston dear son,  I must take you one at a time but to you will
say you must reamin as xxxxx   ever a good boy so live as to make your
self and those around you cheerful and happly,  May God Bless you to help
your brothers and sister through life.  To My dear Sammy take the advice
given to the other brothers and love your brothers and sister and live for
God and heaven.    Synthia my dear daughter I have but few words to say to
you,  but you are very dear to me I wish that I could impress upon you
the importance of looking to your mother and go to her for advice and com-
fort do the best you can love your brothers and sister if one you may have
May God Bless you.
To Joshua H.  My dear child you are too young to remember what I say but
God bless you and protect you through life and save you in heaven. 
                                         Your  dying  husband  and  Father .
G.H.  Stephens . 

Citation: Stephens, G. H. Letter to Clarcy Ann Stephens. 12 June 1864. Privately held by Herstoryan. Houston, Texas. 2009.

A second letter accompanies the letter above and is as follows:

Citation: Civil War Letter to Mrs. C. R. Stephens: W.L. Langley, 15 June 1864. Photograph by Herstoryan. Houston, Texas. 2009


June 15,1864.
To Mrs  C.R.Stephens:
It has been my lot to be with your husband for the last
few days.  He came very low with Typhoid Fever,  I could see but
little change in him until about dark last night,    he called me  to
him and told me that he was dying,and wanted me to finish this letter
or note to you,  he said that he had said all that he could say.  He
took your type and looked at it and kissed you and Synthia  calling
you both by name asking God to bless you. He gave way for a few
moments to his feelings and said aloud: Oh Clarisy,  Clarisy,   those
were the last words he spoke audible,  He died about 9:30 oclock the
night of June 14th.   He told me that he was of the Methodist belief
 but there is neither Methodist or Baptist in this town, and He was
so anxious to be baptised that he sent for a catholic Priest and re-
ceived baptism at his hands.  He read the 3rd chapter of St. John
and felt that there was hope in that for him, the 16th verse was his
favorite,  His great desire was that you meet him in heaven and to
bear up under your loss the best you could.  He died very easy, was
not more than 1½ hours dying.  Sensible as long as he could speak.
Mrs Stephens I am apprised of the fact that your loss is heavy, but
bear them the best you can.   He had $27.00 in money his clothes was
not much account, as he had left all of his clothes perhaps with the
train.   I cant say more at present.
                                                      Remaining Yours and C
                                                      W.L. Langley
N.B.  I live in Panola County, Texas, 10 miles north of Carthage, 
belong to the 14th Texas     %  (9)  Walker Division.
Citation: Langley, W. L. Letter to Mrs. C. R. Stephens. 15 June 1864. Privately held by Herstoryan. Houston, Texas. 2009.

My chest is tight. Tears overtake my eyes. As genealogists we collect names and dates, sources and artifacts to piece together stories of our past. These two letters reach beyond the facts and grab ahold of our hearts. We listen so that his life is honored. We record so that his life is remembered. 


  1. Great post. Letters can be such a window into otherwise forgotten lives.

  2. Following today's sermon (9/8/13)at U S Christian Commission Civil War Chapel in Gettysburg, hosted by John Wega , I feel compelled to comment on scenes like this at the Daniel Lady Farm. In this barn and many like it many men met their maker but before dying none of them spoke of how great a battle it was but of their salvation and their love for their families. This serves as a reminder to us all not to leave it to the last minute before finding our Lord, start today because tomorrow may never come...these letters bear this out, yes the tears flow and chest is tight but we take heart that in his last moments he gave so much to those who read them so many years later and may yet find the Good Lord before it is too late.

  3. This was great to see the love and commitment from my GG Grandfather. George H Stephens is the son in law of James A. Truett from Shelby CO. George Stephens father also joined the army at the same time that he did (John C Stephens) from Shelby CO.TX. Thanks for the info James L. Stephens.

  4. This is from my GGGrandfather and it makes me proud to know what kind of people I came from.

  5. Thanks for the insight to my great, great grandfathers faith. This makes my heart heavy
    for what the rest of the family went through during these years.