The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a document from the collections of the State Archives of Florida written exactly 150 years before that date, in October 1864.
So far, most of our Civil War Voices posts have come from Floridian soldiers fighting or living as prisoners of war far outside the state. Today’s post brings us back to Florida itself to hear from a young private writing to his sweetheart back home.
Albert Chalker was born in South Carolina in 1843, and moved with his family to Clay County, Florida around 1852. In 1863, at the age of 19, Chalker enlisted in Company K of the Second Florida Cavalry. He spent much of his time stationed at Baldwin, Florida serving as a courier for General Joseph Finegan. The State Archives holds a collection (Collection M72-11) of twelve letters written between Chalker and Martha Ann Bardin during the Civil War, including this one:
Oct 12th 1864
My Dear Mattie, Your most affectionate letter of the 6th inst. has been received and perused with the greatest pleasure and satisfaction. I was very sorry to hear of your sad misfortune, but I hope by the time get this that you will be over that, and enjoying good health. My health is not good, but do not let that trouble you. I hope soon to recover, as I have very good attention.I have no news of interest to write you at the present time. Our duty is very heavy as there is but four Co’s of Cavalry here. We have been looking for the remainder of our Regiment some time. If it was all here our duty would be very light. We are getting plenty of corn and long forrige for our horses at the present time. As to ourselves we are faring rather bad. We get no meat except fresh beef and that in very small quantities. Corn meal we get a plenty of that. Syrup one pint to the week, etc. & so on.
I am very tired of fighting this way. I very often say hard things about our Confederacy and officers. I think if about half of the officers now in the army and in ware houses & ordinance stores was reduced to the rank that we would get along much better. It would be great incouragement to the soldiers. Without some great chang we will lose two thirds of our [page 2] Regiment before Christmas. There is great dissatisfaction among the men. If McClellan is elected it will not probably proove so disastrous. I long to see the dawning of peace. I hope that ere next April we will have what is wished a thousand times every moment. That is peace, when we can all return to our home and once more live in peace and contentment, where we can be with our friends and relatives. Oh Mattie, wer I with you I would be hapy. Please excuse a short letter. I will close with the hope of hearing from you soon. I Ever Remain
Your affectionate &
Albert S. Chalker
When on my lonely watch at night
And naught to comfort me but the stars of light,
And weariness has lulled to rest
All other thoughts within my breast
Then I’ll think of thee.
Chalker’s frustration with the war is palpable here. Although he admits nurturing a few hard feelings about the Confederacy, his tone aims more towards weariness with war in general. Apparently this sentiment was sufficient to induce some soldiers to leave their posts, as Chalker fears might happen to his own regiment. In other letters he shares more on the subject of desertion, which was an ongoing problem for the Confederates stationed in this area.
We also get a sense in this letter that Chalker is particularly eager to get back home so he can be with “Mattie.” The young soldier would soon get his wish. Albert Chalker and Martha Ann Bardin married in Middleburg in 1865 and had several children.
Check out the related resources below to learn more about Florida in the Civil War, and join us tomorrow for our next edition of Civil War Voices!
Related Resources on Florida Memory:
- Albert S. Chalker Collection on Florida Memory
- Albert Chalker’s Confederate Pension Application
- Florida Memory Learning Unit: Florida in the Civil War
- Florida Memory Exhibit: Distant Storm: Florida’s Role in the Civil War
Related Resources at the State Archives of Florida:
Related Resources in Print:
- Biographical Rosters of Florida’s Confederate and Union Soldiers, 1861-1865 (find in a library near you!)
- Florida in the Civil War, by Nicholas Wynne and Robert Taylor (find in a library near you!)