1862-63: John Calvin McAulay to Nancy Keziah McAulay

These letters were written by John Calvin McAulay (1835-1910), the son of Hugh McAulay (1797-1867) and Nancy Davidson Alexander (1804-1873) of Mecklenburg county, North Carolina.  McAulay served in Co. K, 56th North Carolina Infantry.

John survived the war and returned to Mecklenburg county where he married Jane Sarah Beard (1849-1895) in 1869.


Peace Institute Hospital
Raleigh, North Carolina
August 24th 1862

Dear Sister,

I seat myself to write you a few lines to let you know how and where I am. I am in the hospital at Raleigh. My leg got cold in it at the camp at Goldsboro and I was sent to the hospital there and then after staying there 3 days, I was sent to this place where I fare little. We only get a small piece of bread and a [   ] of coffee. At Goldsboro I felt as much like eating as I ever did and [          ] but not very good but if I [   ] wages get that I can do it I do not get sick. I am enjoying myself very well here although I am weak. I do not trudge about home much now. My leg was not bad because the weather was warm. My leg hod got better before I was sent to the hospital and I would never went but our regiment was ordered to Magnolia 50 miles this side of Wilmington and after the regiment left, there was another docter left to attend the sick that was left behind. The doctor set me to the hospital and said I was not fit to be there. The doctor [that] is over our regiment is a perfect savage — has no feelings for humans at all more than he has or ought to have for it  [   ]. John Hux ¹ is with me in the hospital and Vance. John is right bad off. For my part, I am well as I could expect to be. If I could get a [     ] of that was fit to eat. The water here is good and a good place for air.

This house was built for a Female College but was not quite finished. It is north of the State House about a half a mile — just a straight street to the hospital.²

Yesterday on the train coming up to this place I got plenty of peaches and pie and watermelon but had to pay well for them. At the hospital you can not get such things without stealing them. I do not want none of my folks to come to see me now but if I get sick, I would like for someone to come to see me.

At the hospital at Goldsboro, there was men’s wives came to see them and the doctor would not le them stay in the hospital at night. It is against the rules. There was mothers brought them something to eat and they could not get to stay in with them and let them eat it. They say that they know what to give them to eat. There is several in the hospital that has been there 6 weeks and now are not fit for service just because they do not get enough to eat. A man can never gather strength without to get something to eat. Our regiment came back from Magnolia and stayed two days [and] now are at Wilmington and when I get able, I will be there too.

You ought to been at the camp on last Sunday night to seen the boys when the long roll beat, putting cartridges in the cartridge box, and forming a line and marching to the depot to take the cars to leave. The news was that the Yankees was landing this side of Wilmington. Everyone of them thought that they were going into a battle. Some of them left their money with me and others felt like I would like to be along to see the fight.

Nothing more at present. — John C. McAulay

¹ John Hux and his brother, William Morris Hux, were also from Mecklenburg. They enlisted on 8 July 1862, the same date as McAulay.

² The institution that eventually became William Peace University was founded in 1872 as Peace Institute by a group of men within the Presbyterian Synod of North Carolina. The leading donation of $10,000 USD ($257 thousand in 2017 terms) came from William Peace, a prominent local merchant and a founding member of the First Presbyterian Church of Raleigh.[2] Peace was a member of the second class of the University of North Carolina (class of 1800), and a longtime proponent of education as a benefactor of Raleigh Academy, a school primarily for boys. Additionally, Peace donated 8 acres (32,000 m2) for the campus site.[3] Main Building, a red brick, white-columned Greek revival building was built between 1859–1862, but was commandeered by the Confederate States government early in the Civil War to be used as an army hospital. The Main Building was designed and built by the Holt Brothers, Thomas and Jacob, who were notable builders from nearby Warrenton, NC. The Civil War and Reconstruction Era delayed the opening of the school, but Peace Institute opened in January 1872. [Wikipedia]


[8 miles from Goldsboro, N. C.]
May 23rd 1863

Dear Mother,

I seat myself to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and where I am. I am at the county brig, 8 miles southeast of Goldsboro. Myself and 5 others are here as guards. We expect to stay here though we do not know how long. We got orders the other [day] to be ready to start for Goldsboro. We came to Goldsboro the 21st. There were sent down here. We have good cabins to stay in & we can lie in the brig that the Yankees burnt last winter.

I was glad to get out from under the captain & hope I will never get back there again. He made me drill to the last when not one that was examined and found not fit for duty had to drill. If he could have kept me, we would have done so. I had to leave my box. I intended to bring it with me to this place though I can do very well without it here. I have some good books. I am going to try my hand fishing. Fish is plenty.

I have not heard from home since my box came. I am thinking the time long to hear. I have notion to send for Jane to come and stay awhile with me and bring me another box. If I had one now & could keep it until I would eat it up, I had to sell a good deal of my box for fear of having to leave it behind & have a little of the ham yet and some dryed fruit and the bottle of black pepper. I want to get some hens. The yard that was here had chickens and I got a good many eggs. We have tolerable water here—better than it is in Goldsboro.

There is only 6 of us here. It seems as if there was nobody here at all. [There are] all good fellows. When you write, send the letter in care of Thomas H. Allen, Lieut., and I will get it I guess. But it had not reached me when I left. Calvin Brown will send it to me. I wrote to him yesterday to let him know where to direct to. I haven’t no news tonight. Do the best you can with my buggy and boots. Whatever you think you can get, ask it. Tell me how my hogs look and cow.

Direct to Goldsboro, N. C. in care of Lieut. Thomas H. Allen.

— John C. McAulay

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