These two letters were written by Henry Jackson Cooper (1833-1908) of Co. A, 39th Battalion Virginia Cavalry. Henry enlisted as a private in the Confederate service in October 1862 at Winchester Virginia, when he was 27 years old. His military record indicates that he stood 5′ 7″ tall, had a dark complexion, brown hair, and hazel eyes.
The 39th Battalion Virginia Cavalry was attached to General Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, and served as General R. E. Lee’s personal cavalry command. The unit participated in every engagement at which General Lee was present from Fredericksburg to Appomattox. On April 9, 1865, it contained 1 officer and 80 men. As Major John H. Richardson commanded the unit, it was often referred to as “Richardson’s Battalion of Scouts, Guides, & Couriers.”
Henry was the son of Henry Cooper (1794-1869) and Mary Magdaline Eshelman (1801-1881) of Frederick County, Virginia. He wrote the letter to Mary Margaret Rudolph (1842-1886), the daughter of George Rudolph III (1807-1861) and Catherine Ann Littler (1818-1858). The impending marriage of Mary’s older brother, Jacob Carr Rudolph (1837-1907) and Rachael Isabella Estatia Malcorah (“Cora”) Bowers (1840-1901) is mentioned in the 2nd letter (marriage occurred on 4 October 1864). Henry married Miss Rudolph in 1867.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Camp of the 39th Battalion, Va. Cavalry
July 17th 1864
I received your kind letter on the third of May bearing date of the twentieth. I was much gratified to hear from you. I did not know when I wrote whether you would get it or not, or whether you would condescend to answer it or not. Your letter came to hand almost like a leaf in the wind. I was at headquarters that day and no one knows that I got it.
We broke camp the next day. I hope you will not think hard of me for not answering yours. We were marching or fighting nearly ever since and the mail being stop[ped] most of the time and the Mister Yankees trying to get round us so that I didn’t think a letter would get through—if it will now or not. I suppose you think I have forgotten you but I do assure you it’s not the place to forget home or friends.
I am getting tired of camp life. I begin to think the war is coming to a close before much longer one way or the other. You spoke of General Lee protecting your country—that you were all good Southern people—that you would rather have the Rebels there than the Yankees. I reckon you thought our country was going up sure enough, when the Yankees were going up the Valley taking everything before them. They did not make as much as they expected. They met more Rebels than expected.
General Grant has been the worst whipped general that has tried to take Richmond. I don’t suppose you got an Southern paper. You can just reverse the Yankee paper account. Then it will be more like the thing. There has been more Yankees killed than in any other fight. I got sick of seeing dead Yankees. Grant has [a] strong position in front of Petersburg but when his men come out of their breastworks, our men will slay them as same as they did at Cold Harbor.
I might tell you a heap of the battle scenes but I don’t think it would interest you. The most interesting news is from General Early. He is doing good work in Maryland from accounts. Perhaps you have heard more than we have.
You spoke of paying your friends a visit on Cedar Creek and making use of Leap year. I don’t suppose you found many young men at home but if you found the right one, then all was right. If not, then I couldn’t say I hope you had a nice time and enjoyed your trip. You say Miss Lindy Bowers was single yet. You must think you will have a wedding soon. I would like to know who it is, if it’s not secret. This is the Ladies time to make the advance. I hope they will make good use of it and we will hear of lots of weddings this year.
I hope when these few badly written lines reach you they may find you well and in the best of spirits. Give my best regards to those Ladies you spoke of. I must close by asking you to excuse these few badly written and composed lines. Write soon. Give me all the news.
This leaves me well. From your true friend, — H. J. Cooper
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Camp near Petersburg, Chesterfield Co.
39th Battalion Va. Cavalry
September 14, 1864
I again seat myself to drop you a few lines. I received your letter dated the 21st of August. I had almost concluded you had not received my letter, I was glad to hear from you again. It affords me much pleasure to get a letter from any of my friends—especially from my lady friends.
I have no news of interest to communicate to you. Everything is quiet here. We still hear the Yankees are reinforcing and it is thought there will be another fight soon but we can hear anything except the truth.
You say the people over there think the war will be over this fall. I hope it may but the fall of Atlanta seems to have encouraged the Yankees again. But I hope by the help of God that we will be able to stand them in spite of all their boasting and that we will soon be a free and independent people before another year shall pass around. I think if the Yankees hear the southern girls are preparing their uniforms, they will lay down their guns and go home, don’t you?
I am getting very tired of being in the army. I have not been at home for most a year and don’t expect to for two or three months yet unless something takes place more than I expect. I would like to be at home about the time Miss Hattie’s wedding takes place this fall. I hope she is going to get a nice man for I think she is worthy of a gentleman of high respect. You wish me not to tell her you told me about it. It is the first that I knew there was anyone waiting on her and I do assure you I shall not let any one know anything. You may trust to me.
You say there are a good many marrying and going to get married. I wish them all success. I hope your brother and Miss Cora may see many and happy days. In your first letter I thought you intended to make good use of this year but you talk as if you would rather be on the old maid list. But I think you are only joking. If that sweetheart did not please you so well, I think you will soon get out of that knot. Perhaps before the war is over, you will charm some nice fellow. Then you say, others get married [so] I will too. You won’t wait till the war is over. I am going to wait for I don’t think a soldier that is not married ought not to get married till the war is over. Then if he is spared, there is time enough.
I must close. I hope when these few badly written lines reach you, they will find you well and enjoying yourself. This leaves me well. Excuse all mistakes. From your true friend, — H. J. C.