Benjamin J. Gaston served as a first lieutenant with the Independent 2nd Battalion Alabama Volunteers and as a private in the 10th Alabama Cavalry. He wrote several letters to his parents, and sometimes his brothers and sisters, between 1859 and 1865. This collection of letters give us a very personal look into the life of a Confederate solider during the Civil War.
In this 1861 letter for example, Gaston describes some of the conditions that he and his men had to endure, such as drinking dirty water and fearing that it would cause them to become sick. Unfortunately, his letters show that sickness was a dangerous problem that affected his group harshly over the years. He also comments here on the confusion caused by getting conflicting orders from two different commanding officers.
Gaston wrote a touching message to one of his sisters in this 1862 letter. He speaks of his affection for her and his hope that he would be able to return home to his family safely. He goes on to instruct her to make sure that a younger brother learns to write so he can also send Gaston letters.
This letter was written in 1864, when Gaston was a prisoner of war having been captured by Union soldiers. He writes that he is being treated “as well as I can expect under the circumstances” and he asks his parents if they can send him money, not so unlike how a modern college student might ask his or her parents today.
-Austin Dixon, Digitization Technologist | Hoole Library