Lieutenant D. A. Black’s Letter Reveals the Concerns of a Dedicated Soldier
Lieutenant D.A. Black was one of the “Carolina Boys” of Company K, 38th Regiment of the North Carolina Troops, under the command of Captain M. McR. McLauchlin. On May 3, 1862, Lieutenant D.A. Black wrote to a friend in North Carolina from his camp at Milford Station in Caroline County, Virginia, and the letter reveals some of the young soldier’s feelings and experiences during the Civil War. Black wrote:
“I take my seat this evening to write you a few lines from which you will learn that I am not yet dead though very weak. They have moved us up here so near the yankees [sic] that it makes a fellow feel as if he might die some day [sic]. We left Goldsboro on the 24th…and after a disagreeable ride of some 225 miles in open cars and part of the time in the rain we arrived at Guineas Station on the 27th where we remained until the 30th when we moved again in the rain to this place. We are now very comfortably situated in an old field surrounded on one side by hills on another by a river (the name of which I would tell you only that I do not know how to spell it) and on the other sides by the 13th and 14th South Carolina Regts. which are to leave to morrow [sic]. This will leave no Troops at this place but the 38th.”
Apparently, the travel northward from North Carolina had been difficult and uncomfortable for the company of “Carolina Boys,” and Black was trying to adapt to his new location and circumstances.
The letter also reveals that Black was concerned about the ramifications of the conscription act, which enforced his service in the Confederate Army for the duration of the war (instead of the 12-month obligation to which he had agreed): “I suppose that you have heard that we have had a reorganization under the conscription act and that we are all bound for the war instead of twelve months. This is rather a hard law, but for my own part I do not care if I thought the gals would not all get married before I got back, but that I feel sure they will do.” Although Black kept his statement somewhat lighthearted with the inclusion of his fear that he would be doomed to remain a bachelor when he returned, the fact that he mentioned the new law at all revealed that he was aware that it increased the risk involved for himself and the other soldiers. Black probably was anxious that, since his time of service could stretch on for an indefinite amount of time, he might not make it home at all. His letter’s wording repeatedly conveys a message that the young man was aware of his own mortality: Phrases like “not dead yet though weak,” “makes a fellow feel as if he might die someday,” and “there is not as much sickness in camp as there has been” confirmed that Black had seen death, knew the risk of his service, and was alarmed to lose the safeguard of a set end-of-service date after fighting for one year.
Black closed his missive with “Give my love to the rest of the family and to all the Galatia Gals, not forgetting to reserve a portion for yourself,” and signed the letter “Affectionately Yours.” His tone throughout the letter is good humored, hopeful, and self-deprecating. The letter’s contents suggest that Black, like many other soldiers who fought during the Civil War, was a young man who wanted to make it through the ordeals he was facing so that he could go home, marry, and get on with his life.
Unfortunately, he did not return home. On September 16, 1862, Black died of wounds he received on August 30 at Manassas, Virginia.