Ohio History Journal

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Letters and A Diary of

Private James W. Anderson


Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, University of Florida

Since this article is drawn almost wholly from the diary and

letters of Private James W. Anderson, perhaps a brief sketch of

this Confederate soldier's early life will not be amiss. James

Anderson was born on a farm in McNary County, Tennessee, in

1835. He secured what little formal education he had at the

Farnsworth school, a village school near which he was reared.

Definitely, his "chance for schooling away from home" was

quite limited.1

His life as a youngster was brim full of play and work in a

healthy rural atmosphere. He often rode a horse from the stable.

amid "stalwart oaks and the scrubby black jacks," to the trough

in the barnyard that held a pool of water.2 In the late autumn

or early spring he threw sandy stones at a robin red breast as it,

by flight, gathered protective distance, or he heaved a smooth

rock at a cooing turtledove as it sought safety in some bower,

brown or green with foliage, higher up in a tree. As a youth he

"walked in manly pride" with his younger brother and with his

sisters as they "gathered wild grapes from the tangled vines" or

picked blackberries from the briary bushes. He looked with

admiration on the "wild rose and the Lady Slipper as they grew

beside the gentle winding brook that was fed by the spring." As


1 James W. Anderson to Mrs. John H. Duke, January 13, 1853. Mrs. Duke

was Anderson's sister. The letter is in the possession of Clayton Anderson of

Memphis, Tennessee, who is a descendant of its author. All letters used in this

article are in this collection.

2 James W. Anderson, Diary, December 14, 1864. This diary was written by

Private Anderson while he was a prisoner of war in Camp Chase and dates from

December 11, 1864, to January 19, 1865. The original is in the possession of Clayton

Anderson. The writer wishes to express his appreciation to Mr. Anderson for the

use of this diary and the letters.