William Tennent Stockton was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 9, 1812, the fourth child of William T. and Anna Williamson Stockton. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, from which he graduated eighth in his class in 1834. Stockton served with the Second U.S. Artillery in the Second Seminole War before resigning his commission in 1836 (the same year that his brother, Richard Lucius Stockton was killed at the Alamo). He eventually moved to Quincy, Florida where he ran a stagecoach line, farmed, and was elected to a number of terms as mayor. In December 1845, while living at Quincy, Stockton married his second wife, Julia Elizabeth Telfair (his first wife, Sarah Strange, had evidently died prior to 1845). By the time of the Civil War the couple had nine children (although one, Robert Stockton, apparently died in infancy sometime after 1860).
Stockton served in the Florida Militia during the antebellum years, and following Florida's secession he offered his services and those of a cavalry company, the Gadsden Dragoons, to his adopted state. Stockton received a captain's commission in the Confederate army in May 1861 and for the first months of the war he served as an inspecting and mustering officer, but he soon was assigned to the First Florida Cavalry Regiment. Stockton earned promotion to major in January 1862, and he would later rise to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
The First Florida Cavalry was transferred to Tennessee in the Spring of 1862. It participated in the 1862 Kentucky Campaign and in operations in east Tennessee in late 1862 and early 1863. During the regiment's first major engagement at Chickamauga in September 1863, Stockton received a minor yet painful facial wound. He returned home to recuperate, but returned in time to take part in the battle of Chattanooga two months later. At this battle the First Florida Cavalry and several other Florida regiments were stationed on picket duty near the base of Missionary Ridge at the time of the Union attack on November 25. Overrun by the advance a large number of Floridians, including Stockton, fell into Union hands. He would spend the remainder of the war in the Union prisoner of war camp at Johnson's Island, near Sandusky, Ohio. Released at war's end, William Stockton returned home to Quincy. He died there in 1869.
The two letters reproduced here relate to Stockton's capture. The first is written by a fellow officer and friend, J.S.M. Davidson, to Julia Stockton, informing her that he has learned that William had survived the battle of Chattanooga but was a prisoner in union hands. William wrote the second letter from Johnson's Island. It describes his capture as well as the conditions in his prison camp.
Near Dalton Geo
December 7th 1863
Mrs. W. T. Stockton
My Dear Madam
It is with much pleasure and gratifications, that I am able to announce the safety (though a prisoner) of your husband.
Last evening two Commissioned officers of this command (Knight & Roberts) who were captured at the late battle of Missionary Ridge arrived in this Camp, having escaped from the enemy. They convey the information that Cols Stockton, Bullock, & Maxwell & Captains Shine, Burroughs, and indeed all our Officers Captured were unhurt with the exception of Lt Stevens of the 1st Florida (Dismounted) who was mortally wounded.
Your husband had just arrived and was at my tent two days before the battle, how bad it was that he should have been Captured. You will please receive my deepest sympathy my dear Madam, hoping he will soon return to us again. I forgot to mention that the officers returned, report that our officers were getting along very well indeed, being as well treated by the enemy as could possible be