1863: Henry H. Roach to Almira Sue Browning

This letter was written by Captain Henry H. Roach (1834-1863) to his cousin, Almira Sue Browning (1842-1923) with whom he held a courtship. Henry was 27 years old when he enlisted in 1861 in Meherrin, Prince Edward County, Virginia. The “Meherrin Greys” became Co. K of the 21st Virginia Infantry. He fought in many of the battles of the Virginia campaigns, including Kernstown, Cedar Mountain, 2nd Manassas, Sharpsburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. He was killed at Brandy Station on 11 October 1863.

This captivating letter was written while on the march to Pennsylvania where the 21st Virginia participated in the Battle of Gettysburg.

See also: Roach, Henry H. (CA. 1834–1863), PAPERS, 1859–1864, ACCESSION 26966 at the Library of Virginia. A book entitled, “Save Me One Apple” was written by Karen Wagner Treacy based upon the letters in that collection.


Camp near Sharpsburg, Washington County, Maryland
June 19th 1863

My darling Sue,

When I wrote to you last, little did I anticipate being in Maryland so soon, but it is so. Yes, Sue, we are camped near the memorable battlefield of Sharpsburg. I assure you the sight of the surrounding hills brings no pleasant recollections back to my memory. I regret very much that I did not receive your last letter sooner. It did not reach me until the 15th of the present month and I would have answered it the same day but there was no mail from Winchester at that time. But now the route is open.

Sue, I will first give you a short history of our trip to this place. We left our camp near Fredericksburg the 5th of June and marched to Culpepper Court House. We remained there a few days when our corps (Ewell Corps) again took up the line of march leaving Longstreet with his corps in Culpepper & A. P. Hill with his corps at Fredericksburg to watch Hooker. When we left Culpepper we turned the head of our column towards the [Shenandoah] Valley which was very gratifying to all of old Jackson’s boys.

The 12th we crossed the Blue Ridge at Front Royal and the 13th we arrived in front of Milroy at Winchester. We threw out our lines to the right & left and drove in his pickets all around into their fortifications. Late Sunday evening the 14th, General Early got his guns in position and shelled them out of their forts. Sunday night they attempted to make their escape by leaving all of their waggons and artillery and slipping out with nothing but their infantry. But they were met about day Monday morning by General Johnson on the Martinsburg Road and driven back and nearly all of them captured. We captured all of their waggons and artillery and all their stores and about 5000 prisoners. Milroy, I am sorry to say, made his escape with a few of his men to Harper’s Ferry.

Our brigade was not in the fight at all. In fact, there was very little fighting done. The loss of killed & wounded was slight on both sides. I believe our whole army is going into Maryland and Pennsylvania. Our corps is already across and resting on the north bank of the Potomac and I understand Longstreet is coming on. I hope the war is done in Virginia. I want to carry it right into the heart of the enemy’s country and let them feel the effects of invasions awhile. We will show them, with God’s help, that we have more Jacksons than one. Lee has the best army in the world. We can whip any army Lincoln can put before us. General [Albert G.] Jenkins is in Pennsylvania with his cavalry playing the wild, so it is rumored here.

Well, dear Sue, now a word or two about myself. Your letter found me well and in fine spirits and loving you as tenderly and as devotedly as ever. All the happiness I enjoy, love, is the anticipation of soon being with you again. I sometimes feel that I would not mind this war much, if I was not separated from you dear. Oh, I do long to see you so much to be with you, to talk with you and to hear the tones of your sweet voice once more and me thinks I would get a sweet kiss or two, wouldn’t I love? Many weary months and days may past first but I feel that those happy days are in store for me. It may happen so that you will not hear from me often while I am in the enemy’s land, but I shall not forget you my love, no matter where I may be.

I have been made captain of my company since I wrote to you last. So your sweetheart is a captain now. Well dear Sue, I must bid farewell for this time. May God bless you. Write to me as soon as you can. Direct to Winchester, Capt. H. H. Roach, Co. K, 21st Virginia Regt., [Brig. Gen’l. John Marshall] Jones’ Brigade, Johnson’s Division, Ewell Corps.

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