Eli Pinson Landers was nineteen years old when he left his home in Gwinnett County, GA to join the Confederate Army in August of 1861. In his frequent letters to his mother, Eli describes the excitement and adventure of going off to war and his passionate dedication to the Southern cause. But as time goes by, his letters become more serious, describing the hardships of life in a military camp, watching his companions die in battle and from disease, and other horrors of war, such as having to dine among the dead. As he falls ill and writes his final letters home, he tells his family how he wants to be buried and what words to inscribe on his tombstone. Yet, even on his deathbed, he spoke of his support for the Confederacy and his sense of honor to have served to defend it. Here are excerpts from some of his letters.
Monday, August 05, 1861 ~ RICHMOND, VA ~
Dear Mother,I have got a small chance to drop you a few lines to let you know that I have landed at Richmond yesterday evening and are well as common and tolerable well satisfied but very much wearied and tired. I am now 7 hundred miles from you all. We ate breakfast in Augusta Monday morning. We got there about sunrise. The citizens of Augusta give us our breakfast and treated us well. There was a young lady give me a flag made of silk ribbon and told me to take it to Virginia but some grand raskal stold it. The people, both men and ladies, give us the praise all the way. They hurahed for Georgia for she carrys the day here at Conier's Station. The tracks was full of ladies and fellas. I fell in love with one of them.
Friday, August 16, 1861 ~ RICHMOND, VA ~
Dear Mother,This morning after coming back from drilling I am much wearied. I seat myself to tell you that I am in my tent by myself and to tell you that I am well this morning. I promised you that I would write you the truth if I could but it is impossible to do it although I am allowed to write what I please. When I wrote you the first letter I had just got here and had not seed much then but my eyes has been opened since thenŠThere is two fellas just come out of the guardhouse. They was put in there night before last. I wrote to you that it was cold here and it was, but in the morning it got as hot a day as I ever experienced. The sweat is running down my cheeks right now. We have had enough to eat till last night. We did not have a bit of bread for supper, only what we bought because the quartermaster drawed rations for five days and it give out. I got permission from my captain and went up in town. There I saw the greatest place I ever did see! Atlanta is nothing more than a kitchen to a Big house. I will tell you folks that there is no use trying to compare nothing to what I have saw since I left home. I saw Washington's Monument. It was away up a stack of fine rock and he is on the largest horse the I ever saw. Washington is on the horse wit his sword in his hand. The horse and man looks as natural as nature itself. Just get out of the way because it looks just like its coming right onto you! It is larger than any man or horse you ever saw. I also shook hands with old Zachary Taylor yesterday evening. He looks just as natural as the man itself. It is about the size of a man and is made of tombstone. You can see the coat buttons and neck tie, even down to his shoestrings. Well, I really can't tell you as plain as it is. Here we are 750 miles apart and I am here trying to tell you the conditions! We expect to be called tomorrow as soon as we get drilled enough but we are ready to start anytime. They had a fight in Missouri on the 16th. We killed and wounded three or four thousand and was still in pursuit of them with a large body of cavalry and was likely to destroy all of them which I am in hopes they will. They had a fight in thirty two miles of us on Wednesday night. The Yankeys killed and wounded five hundred of our men but we whipt them in the fight. We don't know how many we killed of them but they drove fourteen hundred of the Yankeys up in Richmond "to take supper with us!"
Wednesday, September 11, 1861 ~ RICHMOND, VA ~
Dear Mother,The recruits landed here this morning. We was all glad to see them but was much gladder to receive our things and that old brandy that was sent. You never saw boys as glad in your life as we was. It found us that was sent to all well but it made me think of old Gwinnett mighty strong. We have nothing new since yesterday when I wrote that other letter. We are all as lively as you please. The recruits looks like they was scared. They are not used to our fare. We are getting use to it now. My Respected Mother I went up in town today and got my ambertype taken which I will send to you and I want you to keep this one for me and believe it to be the same boy that left you. This one cost 3 dollars but you won't take $100 for it when you get it. Mama I want you to keep my picture as long as you live and show it to all the girls. Tell them that it is a Virginia Ranger. It is just like me now so you can guess how I look. "It" tells the girls and you all howda for me. It can't talk with you but if I was there I could. Look on the cartridge box and you will find my name which was put there with a lead pencil?o keep this picture My Dear Mother for it is just like I am now?ive my love to all of the Gwinnett friends. I want to hear of you smiling when you get this. Remember that it is a son of yours who is in the noble cause of his country and who will willingly stay with it till death if needed. So let the Sweetwater girls see it. Tell Henry that it is Eel. So farewell dear friends. I know you are my friends. I return my sincere thanks to you for the presents. Farewell dear Mother. E.P. Landers
Fall 1861 ~RICHMOND, VA ~
My Dear Mother,I stood duty the other night when it was raining hard and I thought of my old feather bed at homeUThere is many trials and tribulations to undergo here but I prefer it before subjugation?amma I never shall forget the last time I saw you and all the rest of my people. I would sure like to see some of the old Gwinnett peach pealings and water millions [watermelons] rinds. We hardly ever get anything of that kind but we must make out without them. This letter closes with thoughts in Gwinnett. Mamma I dream about you all nearly every night. I drempt that you had come to see me and I was going about Richmond with you but I hope that the day will come when it will not be in dreams that I will be with you when we will set down round your table to eat in independent peace for that is the only way that I ever expect to eat with you again. My dear Mother this is a dreadful life but I feel reconciled to it for I believe that we are on the right side of the question. Mamma I think about you every hour in the day. I just think about you working so hard without me till I hardly can stand it. It was hard enough when I was there to help you but you must do the best you can.
Saturday, March 15, 1862 ~ SUFFOLK, VA ~
My Dear Mother,I this morning take pleasure in writing you a few lines to let you know how we are getting on. As for myself I can't tell the truth and say that I am well but I think that it is the cold and being exposed to the weather and broke of my rest waiting on the rest of the sick. I am sorry to tell such news to you but I reckon I had better tell the truth. All of my mess is down sick but me. E.M. McDaniel has been very bad off for several days but I think he is some better this morning. W.N. Franklin had a hard chill this morning and is now bad off and also W.M. Mayfield had a chill this morning and is now very sick. W.W. has not come back from the hospital yet. He is in Williamsburg though I heard from him. He is improving so that takes all in my tent. There is a great deal of sickness in camp now but no more than I expected for we was the worst exposed of any set of men I ever saw but I hope that I will stay up to wait on the rest of them for they are not able to wait on each other but I fear that I will fail for I can hardly keep up now and have to be up and down all night. If I have to wait on them and drill too, I think that they ought to excuse me from all other duty but they will not do it but I will do the best I can for them but the best is bad enough for we are right where there is no accommodation to be found. They are in the tent lying on the ground but that is solgers fare anyhowŠI cant write as I wish to for the poor boys is moaning with their pain so bitterly that it has confused my mind till I cant compose it but you need not to expect to derive much pleasure from this letter for there is no good news in it. We are expecting to leave here in a short time and if we do I don't know what in the world we will do with the sick for there is no hospital in Suffolk. But I reckon if we do leave they will be sent to PetersburgUYou must try and do the best you can for there is no telling how long I will be separated from you but I know one thing. It will be just as long as the Enemy follows and persecutes us for it never shall be said that I returned home with the enemy pursuing in my tracksŠIt is now raining and a prospect for a wet spell and if there is one surely some of our sick will die. It looks hard that men should suffer so on account of the infamous Yankeys! Goodby My Dear Mother.
Friday, June 06, 1862 ~ NEAR BURNT CHIMNEY, VA ~
Affectionate Mother,I am once more permitted to write you a few lines to let you know that I am yet alive and is well but that is more than many of my friends can say and I know that it is for nothing good that I've done that I am spared but a great Blessing bestowed upon me. But the God of all nations has for some purpose brought me through another engagement unhurt and I feel thankful to say so for while many of my brother soldiers were slain on the field. The fight was on the 2nd day. We had been pursuing them hot all day Sunday when in the evening we came up with them which terminated in a hard fight. But our regiment was not engaged in it. We stayed there all night and next morning we started out after them again. We marched all day Monday when in the evening another struggled insued lasting from 5 o'clock till 9 o'clock with unmerciful fighting. Our regiment got here just as the battle was over. We stayed on the battlefield that night. Our line was formed over many dead and wounded Yankeys. We ate breakfast over all their dead, some with their brains out on the ground. After eating we formed a line of battle and started out through the woods on another Yankey drive. We marched till about 12 o'clock when news came to us that General Jackson was before us with thirty thousand men after the Yanks. Then we turned our course and in the evening we came up with the Yankeys in line of battle in a noble position with a heavy battery in good range of us. We made an immediate attack and with large forces on both sides. But they having all advantages of the ground and our men not expecting them so close by that our men was not properly organized for the engagement but we had run on them and we was obliged to fight or retreat. The first command given was to fix bayonets and charge the batter which the gallant men in great heroism did but we had to charge through an open field for about a half mile under the open and well directed fire of a heavy battery well supported with infantry. The grapeshot and bums cut our lines down so rapidly our officers finding it could not to be taken. We was ordered back for form and tried it again but did not succeed and retired the second time. It is amazing strange how any of us got through to tell the fate of others for all this time we were under the fire of their cannons with the grapeshot and bombshells flying round us thick as a hailstorm. Great destruction on both sides but the number is not yet ascertained. There was several of our regiment killed and a good many wounded but none of our company was killed. D.W. Haney was wounded in the knee. The doctor says that he will lose his leg. Medlock was shocked with the bursting of a bumb in his face injuring his eyes but not hurt bad. All the rest of our company come out safe but there was not more than 20 of our company went into it. Some was sick, some tired down and left behind and some was lost from the regiment and I expect some just slipped outŠTwo of our captains got wounded and one of them mortally. He is now dead. A piece of bumb scalped me on the side of the head making a mark but not breaking the skin. It burnt so I thought I was wounded. Next morning I went over the battlefield and it was awful to look at the scene of destruction that had been done. The field was lying thick with our Noble Southerners being trampled on.
Friday, May 08, 1863 ~ FREDRICKSBURG, VA, AFTER THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORVILLE ~
My Dear Mother,Knowing that you will be uneasy till you here from me I will write to you for you will be sure to hear that I was killed in the fight last Sunday, for it was currently reported here that I was. But I write this with my own hand to testifying that I am yet in the Land of the Living and all honor and glory be to God for his care over me. We have had some awful times here for the last ten days. We have been in line of battle all the time marching through the woods, muds, and swamps and some part of the army was fighting all the time. We have lost a many a good solger during the time but thte 3rd of May our Brigade got into it heels over head and our regiment lost more men than we ever have in arry fight yet. We had to fight them behind their entrenchments. There was some of our company killed fifteen steps of their trench. Our company is nearly ruined. At last count we had lost three killed dead on the field and twenty wounded I will give you the names of some of the wounded: Asa Wright, Frank Plaster, Thom Mathews, Dave Johnson, Dave Rutledge, Jo Rutledge, Thom Todd, Thom Massey, Jim Raby, Bill Hunneycutt, Caut Cofer and others. Bill Wommack lost his right leg and died soon after. Thom Massey lost his left arm. Thom Weathers was wounded and died the next day. Elbert Daniels got shot through the thigh. I was slightly wounded in the hand but I am still with company. I stayed at the hospital two days to wait on Jim Mathews and Bill Wommack. They was badly wounded. Jim was shot near the kidneys. The ball never came out and he was very feeble when I left him. I understand he died today, poor fellow said all the time it would kill him. He said that a plain token come to him that if he went into the fight he would get killed. The poor fellow looked very pitiful at me when he got shot and begged me to help him but I had no time to lose. It was everyman for himself for they was falling on my right and left and my disposition inclined to try to return the fire with as much injury as possible. We fought desperately to gain the day after all our destructive we captured the whole passel of the line that was fighting us. They raised from their trench with a white flag and surrendered to us like lambs. Three cheers for the Army of the Potomac! I must brag although our Brigade suffered worse than any other but my heart is full of thanks for the great skill that has been manifested among us. During the fight we have defeated the enemy. In every attempt we have completed our designated goal and every point we have slain thousands of their men. There is no use to try to give a correct report of the prisoners though I don't think that fifteen thousand will cover the number we have taken. Several of their generals and many officers of other ranks as well. Our troops all seemed to go into it as cheerful as if they was going to their dinner and not very few stragglers behind either. The men would march with their heads up and energy shining on their brow and with such a spirit the victory will always be ours. We have drove old Hooker and his blue coats back over the Dare Mark, but thousands of them will never get back. They will moulder on the south side of the River. The Rapphannock River is the Dark Mark with General Lee. they can't say on this side!
Thursday, September 24, 1863 ~ CHATTANOOGA, TN ~
Dear Mother,I tell you it was a trying case for me to pass so near home and not call but I pondered the matter. I thought sufficiently and thought it was my duty to stick to the company, deny myself, forsake home for the present and cleave to the cause of our bleeding country to drive the oppressors from our soil which threatens our own door. I thought we was badly needed or we would not a been sent for. I knew it would not be much pleasure for me to beat home without leave. I may never see you nor my home again but if I never do I can't help it. I expect to be a man of Honor to our country at the risk of my life. I don't want to be a disgrace to myself nor my relations. It is unknown who will get killed in this fight. It may be me and if I do get killed if there is any chance I want my body taken up and laid in the dust round old Sweetwater and I want a tombstone put at my head with my name and my company and regiment, the day I enlisted and the name and date of all the battles I have ever been in. I have spoke to some of the company to see to this matter if they should live and me not. I reckon what little I've got will pay expenses. This is my request if it is possible. Now don't think I've give up to being killed but you know it is an uncertain thing as we are expecting to be called to attention soon so I will hasten throughUDon't be uneasy about me. Your affectionate son, E.P. Landers to his Mother.
Friday, October 02, 1863
Dear Mother,I reckon you will hear that I am very sick and I have been but I am getting better. I got worse all the time after you left. Day before yesterday was a very wet day and I come very near going out. The ground was covered in water. Everything wet and no place to lie down and I got so bad off till they started me to the hospital through the rain and I got as far s Mr. Lemmons. I just felt like I was going to die so I went in and just told them I must stay there. They soon fixed my bed and done all they could for me. Next morning I come on here but in a few days I am going back to the company for I get no better fare here than I did there. Don't be uneasy about me and come back. I was afraid that some of the boys would write that I was very sick but I am a heap better. Most well so don't be uneasy.
Friday, October 16, 1863
Eli Landers died of typhoid fever in the hospital at Rome, Georgia. He was 21 years old.
Tennessee Confederate Flagger
Sister, Eileen Parker Zoellner