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Member of 21st North Carolina marveled at Pennsylvania during the invasion

Confederate reenactor at the Whitehall Civil War Days; photo by Scott Mingus
Confederate reenactor at the Whitehall Civil War Days; photo by Scott Mingus

As Confederate Major General Jubal A. Early’s 6,600-man division marched across Adams and York counties from June 26-27, 1863, many of the men marveled at the lush countryside, which was reminiscent of the Shenandoah Valley through which they had passed almost two weeks before their entry into southern Pennsylvania. Some soldiers wrote home about the girls (who ranged from very pretty to homely), the seemingly endless amount of able-bodied men still working their farms or tending their businesses in the villages and towns, and the massive size of the barns compared with the farmhouses.

One soldier in Company C of Col. I. E. Avery’s 21st North Carolina, Pvt. John H. Hundley, left his own impressions. He was a farmer from just outside of Danbury in rural Stokes County in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Throughout the war, he maintained correspondence with his wife Sally, including a letter he wrote during the latter part of the Gettysburg Campaign in which he briefly described his time in the Keystone State. His regiment occupied downtown York from June 28-30 before marching west on Canal Road and then East Berlin Road to a campsite near Plum Run about three miles east of Heidlersburg.

Here are excerpts from that short letter, courtesy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill…

On July 19, 1863, a few weeks after the disastrous battle of Gettysburg, the 21st North Carolina was camped near Darkesville, Virginia. Private Hundley sat down to write a letter to his wife.

“…We had a fine time in Penn. until the fight. We could get plenty of milk butter & bread. The citizens seemed very kind and clever in some parts of the country and a great many claimed to be Southern people and were bitterly opposed to the war and we found some few who were in favor of prosecuting [the] war and thought they would eventually conquer us. We passed through some very nice towns and villages. We had a desperate battle at a place called Gettysburg… I was wounded slightly in the fore finger of the right hand…”

Gettysburg would prove to be his final battle.

He had earlier written to Sally, “I would give this Southern Confederacy if it ware in my power to be at home with you…”

That deep desire, however, was not to be fulfilled. He would never see his beloved wife again.

Never in good health throughout his service from chronic diarrhea, Hundley wrote Sally on August 4, 1863, mentioning that he had been very ill but was now feeling somewhat improved. He was on furlough in Staunton, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. However, his oft fragile health soon collapsed, and on the 6th Sally’s brother wrote to her that John was “very sick” in the Staunton hospital.

Unfortunately, he never recovered.

John H. Hundley had been a soldier for exactly one year from the date of his final letter home, having been conscripted on August 4, 1862.

He was only 26 years old when he died.

Source: Hundley Family Papers, 1849-1899, in the Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (#4971-z). To read the rest of Hundley’s letter, click here.