1863: William David Battle to Gray Sills

This letter was written by William David Battle (1822-1896), the son of Larkin Battle (1792-1827) and Sarah J. Sills (1801-1845). William was married to Sarah (“Sallie”) Elizabeth Swann Arrington (1824-1878) in May 1842. In 1860, William and his family lived in Livingston, Sumter county, Alabama, where he was employed as a grocer. Their eldest surviving son was William David Battle, Jr. (1845-1917), a private in Co. D, 2nd Alabama Artillery (Sengstak’s Battery) who was taken prisoner at Vicksburg with the surrender of the city by Pemberton.

William wrote the letter to his uncle — Gray Sills (1804-1891) of Castalia, Nash county, North Carolina. Gray was the son of David Sills (1773-1833) and Mary Justice (1774-1818).


Livingston, Sumter county, Alabama
April 12, 1863

My Dear Uncle,

Your kind letter was received about ten days ago just as I was starting to Vicksburg. I was very glad to hear from you & family & my old neighborhood although I was sorry for my old friend Bob Gupton though his present misfortunes may eventually prove his gain. I have just arrived home from Vicksburg. I did not see my son William. The company he belongs is in Sunflower county, Mississippi. [They] left Vicksburg about 3 weeks ago, had a fight at Yazoo River & came out unharmed. Had another fight at Deer Creek in Sunflower county, Mississippi also without an injury. I do trust he may be spared even if he was not my son owing to the willingness in which he performs the duties devolving upon him as a soldier.

Uncle Gray, he is my son & probably I should not speak of his traits of character whether good or bad but he has always proven himself to be respectful to old age & I have no doubt when he left home he left not an enemy behind which I am very glad to know the fact. He is a brave boy & I feel no uneasiness about him disgracing himself by cowardice. He stands high in his company — particularly with his officers. It was essential while at Snyder’s Bluff 14 miles above Vicksburg that a small party of soldiers should go to Deer Creek in advance of the 40th Alabama. Bill volunteered with a few of his company to go. Consequently came near being captured but managed to hold the enemy in check till reinforced by the 40th Alabama Regiment. Killed a good many Yankees & sustained a very small loss to our side. Deer Creek is about 65 miles from Vicksburg by land, 110 by water, & the richest land in the world, I expect.

I told you I was going to purchase sugar on my arrival home from North Carolina. When I got home, sugar was cheap — worth about 20 cents for good. The government would not allow any transportation, consequently I did not buy. They now allow it or in other words, the transportation can be bribed by that means. I managed to get through about 25,ooo pounds for which I had to pay (65 cts) sixty-five cents. Since I got home from North Carolina, I purchased from a man that run the blockade 280 prs cotton cards for which I gave 2000. I have nearly sold all of them at 17.50 apiece which is a handsome profit of about $3,000. I shall hold the sugar until I can get one dollar a pound. I understand it will sell readily for that in Selma for which place the sugar is in transit. I will be there in 4 or 5 days. I wish I could ship a hogshead through to you & Mr. Thomas’ families but no chance for which I am sorry.

Property has advanced a great deal since I saw you. Negro men could be bought for 1500 dollars the 1st of January. Will sell now for $2,000. I bought 5 young & likely negroes about 2 weeks ago — 4 girls & 1 boy — for which I paid $5000. I have hired them out. I had no use for them & don’t want to sell. They are the only thing I have seen that was cheap since I got home from North Carolina. Corn now selling from 2 to 2.25 per bushel. Bacon one dollar, flour 100 to 125 per barrel, buff from 50 to 100 per lb. and everything else in like proportion. I don’t know what we will do if things don’t change soon. If you haven’t supplied yourself with sugar, I think you had better do it at once. None making out South of importance bound to be 3 or 4 dollars a pound & probably more. I don’t know of anything to write that will interest you. I will close. This leaves us all well. With our best wishes for you & family through life, your friend & nephew, — Wm. D. Battle

Tell Aunt Lew my little Sallie was very proud of her dress & sends love to Aunt Lew & cousin Mary, Cousin Malin & cousin Lucy & all the rest.

Give Mr. Thomas my kindest respects & best wishes for self & family.




    1. It was purchased and subsequently sold again on e-bay by a friend of mine. In exchange for the transcription and research, he authorized me to post the letter for the benefit of historians and family researchers. — Griff


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