1862: Sampson A. Renfroe to Sarah Elizabeth Clayton

How Sampson Renfroe might have looked

How Sampson Renfroe might have looked

This letter was written by Pvt. Sampson A. Renfroe (1838-Aft1900) from Barbour County, Alabama. He was the son of Phillip Renfroe (1802-1852) and Sarah Matthews (1805-1873). Samson wrote the letter to Sarah Elizabeth Clayton (1843-1916) whom he married 20 August 1865. Sarah was the daughter of Isaac Clayton (1797-1870) and Susanna Buchanan (1802-1870).

Sampson (or Samson) was a member of Company C — the “Pea River Rifles” — 39th Alabama Infantry. The following comes from Wikipedia:

During April 1862 the 1st Brigade (with the 19th, 22nd, 25th, 26th/50th, and 39th Regiments) was placed under Brigadier General Franklin Gardner, who ultimately led this brigade into Kentucky. The 39th Alabama was absorbed at the railhead in Tupelo, Mississippi south of Corinth. In May 1862 the Brigade was camped a few miles north of Tupelo at the town of Saltillo, Mississippi. During Jun 1862 the Brigade formed the 17th Battalion of Sharpshooters. On 30 June 1862 Gardner’s Brigade was in a Reserve Corps of Bragg’s Army. During August 1862 the 1st Brigade (and Army of Mississippi, under Bragg) was loaded into railcars at Saltillo & Tupelo and were transported south by the Mobile and Ohio Railroad to Mobile, changed trains, and transported north to Montgomery, West Point, Atlanta, then Chattanooga. By 18 to 20 August 1862 Gardner’s Brigade was with Major General Leonidas Polk at Chattanooga. On 28 August 1862 the Army of Mississippi began its march to Kentucky and arrived at Munfordville, Kentucky on 17 September 1862, where it was engaged in the Battle of Munfordville.

Sampson and Sarah Renfroe moved to Grimes County, Texas, in 1884. His death is reported to have occurred in Austin, Texas.


The State of Mississippi
June the 9th, 1862

Miss Clayton
Dear friend,

I am permitted to seat myself to write you a few lines which will inform you that I am enjoying a reasonable portion of good health, hoping that these few lines will find you the same. I am somewhat at a loss what to say to you for I have not heard from you in so long that I hardly [know] what to say on the account. But being that you requested me to write in your writing to your brother,¹ you also requested me to give you my P.O. but Miss Sarah I am not able to do that for we don’t stay long enough for a letter to come.

We are stationed at a place called Tupelo but I don’t know how long we will stay for we [are] expecting to leave here before long. I have no war news to give you that I know to be true though there is a great talk of peace in camp. It is said that England and France has recognized the South’s Independence but Miss Sarah, we can’t hear anything in camps but the truth. But I become satisfied to live in camps all my life for I thought that you forsakes me and I had nothing to call my attention back there.

I knew that we had made obligation to have communication between each other and it was all the satisfaction that I saw was when I had heard from you though I had dared to give it up to Mr. [John] Lewis ¹ and it was a hard thing for me to think of. But I suppose that he was getting letters from you and I could not get any. I thought it time to quit.

I am not as well satisfied as I was before I came here for there is too many soldiers here and too many sick. We are trying to get off to Pollard but I can’t say whether we will succeed in doing it or not. So if you will be so good as to write to me, I would say to you not to write me without you can send it by hand. You can send one written by [my brother] Matthew; he is at home. Write and ____ not ____ saw Daving [?].

So I will come to close for this time. Excuse bad writing, if you please. So nothing more at present. Remaining yours as ever until death, — S. A. Renfroe

Good bye. Write adieu.

to Miss Sarah E. Clayton

¹ This was probably Abraham Marshall Clayton also served with Sampson Renfroe in Co. C, 39th Alabama. See letter written by Clayton below.

² This was probably John Lewis who was mortally wounded at the battle of Stones River in December 1862. Sampson Renfroe was wounded in that bloody battle as well but survived.

The letter below was written by Abraham Marshall Clayton who served with Sampson Renfroe in Company C of the 39th Alabama Infantry. Clayton wrote from Shelbyville, Tennessee on 18 January 1863 of the bloody Battle of Stones River or Murfreesboro. The letter reads:

Shelbyville, Tennessee
January 18th 1863

Dear Mother. I seat myself this evening to write you a few lines to inform you that I a m well and hope these few lines may reach you all in good health. I have nothing of importance to write to you this time only I can inform you that I come through the battle [of Stone’s River] all safe and sound as I wasn’t in all of the fight. I was detailed to take care of the Colonel’s horses and by that got out of the hardest of the fight. There was a great deal of killed and wounded on both sides but the yankees lay as thick little chickens. Everywhere you could see a man shot anywhere, some in the head and some shot in two. Well, in fact, they were shot everywhere. We had several wounded in our company. John Lewis was mortally wounded and has since died and the rest of the wounded was Daniel Hunter, Edward Eidson, Virgil Minshew, John Lurus, Sampson Renfroe, Jordan Davis, Wesley Scoggins.

We have powerful cold weather up here, we are all about to freeze up. It has just quit snowing yesterday. We have no tents. We just have to lie and take it. I haven’t received a letter from any of you in a month. The reason I haven’t wrote to you is that we have been trotting about so much till I couldn’t get to write. I expect there will be a fight here in a few days.

I sent you 20 dollars by Wright Faulk and I want to know whether you got it or not. Tell Sis and all of them to write to me for they have a better chance than I do to write. I got all the things you sent me except a pair of shoes. There is not much chance for furloughs but as soon as I see a chance, I will try to go home. Tell John if the conscript gets him to come to this Regiment if he can but stay at home as long as he can. So nothing more. It is getting so cold I can’t write no more so I remain your affectionate son till death, — A. M. Clayton

P. S. Write soon if not sooner.

The following two letters were written by John K. Clayton to his sister, Sarah Elizabeth Clayton. Notice that it was written only one week after after Sampson’s letter. We learn from this letter that Sampson Renfroe most likely fathered a child out of wedlock with an unnamed woman prior to his marrying Sarah Clayton.

John Clayton and other members of Company C, 39th Alabama Infantry participated in the weary march into Kentucky but saw little action; heavy losses at Murfreesboro. Fell back to the Chattanooga line, had heavy losses at Chickamauga. At Missionary Ridge the loss was light, and wintered at Dalton. Regiment fought in the Atlanta Campaign, suffering severely; in the trenches of Atlanta, and at Jonesboro, its ranks were thinned sadly. Marched into Tennessee and lost a number of prisoners at Nashville. Emerging from that train of disasters, it campaigned in the Carolinas, though reduced to a bare skeleton, with its last battle at Bentonville. Reported 95 casualties at Murfreesboro and lost 31% of the 310 engaged at Chickamauga. In December, 1863, it totaled 337 men and 219 arms: on April 26, 1865, less than 90 officers and men surrendered.

[Note: This letter was shared by J. Mark Powell; the transcription is heavily edited to correct spelling errors of the author.]


Whitfield County, Georgia
February 22, 1862

Miss S. E. Clayton
My dear sister,

I would write you a long letter if I had the time, but it is after noon & Winston Andrews has got a furlough & is going to leave in a few minutes. This note will inform you that myself and A. M. is well at this time & hope that this may reach your kind hand & find you & Ma both well. Sis, I received your kind letter that you sent by Mr. Hatchell. I was sorry to hear that Mother had the chills & fever & glad to hear that she had missed them one day.

As for news, I have nothing strange to write. There is a great talk of us leaving here soon & I think that we will leave in a short time. Almost all the troops has left here & gone to Mobile, Alabama. I am afraid that we will have a bad time before long. If reports be true, we are in a bad situation.

Sis, our rations is only common — not very good. Sis, I went out in the country yesterday & I found some pretty girls. I found one that I fell sprawling in love with. She is one of the jinks of all jinks. I will tell more about her in my next letter. Write soon. I am in a hurry. Give my regards to sister M. E. & family, & also you & mother.

I remain your brother, — J. K. and A. M. Clayton


Itawamba County, Mississippi
June 16, 1862

Dear Sister

I Received your kind letter this morning which gave me much satisfaction to read. I was glad to hear that you were well. I am always afraid to hear from home for fear that I will hear some of you are sick. But I hope you all will keep your health until I go home. My health has been good with the exception of the mumps. I have the mumps but I am about well of them. Marshall is well all the time. Sometimes he has little spells like he used to have.

The health of our soldiers is very bad at this time though our boys in our company is all well at this time. Sister, I am hoped up with the thought of Tess being made so much. You don’t know how much good it does me. Sis, we have had trials to encounter with here sure. We have had nothing to eat this morning at all. Sis, you wrote that you only weigh 113 lb. I am sorry to hear that my sister has to work so hard but Sis, times is hard everywhere at this time. Sis, I will tell, you live in a happy land to what this is sure. Sis, when I get home I will tell you the destruction of this country. I can’t write anything about it.

We are needing rain very much at this time. The water that we have to drink here is very bad sure. Sis, you wrote that you had corn silk. I am glad to hear that. Sis, there is no crop here hardly at all. The soldiers tear things up. They kill the stock, steal the chickens and geese, sheep, goats and everything else. Sis, I have always heard of hard times but I never saw hard times before.

But still I am fat as any a buck. I weigh 125 lb. Marshall weighs as much as I ever did in my life and looks as well. Sis, you said something about Sampson being called Pap. I told him about it. He laughed very hearty about his boy but did not deny it at all. Sis, you must tell those girls back there to prepare themselves for I am going to have some of them when I get home. Tell that bitch Cale Hildenhunt not to fret. Daggon fool, I wouldn’t write to her again to save her life. She thinks she has now got me safe as a suitor. She thinks that Jorden is a good hard boy. Now, dang bitch, Sis, you must make her think that I love her and I can’t rest.

Sis, you must excuse my short letter. I am in a hurry. Mr. Dansby is going to start this morning. Sis, you must write to us every time you get the chance. This is the very last paper and I can’t get many more for the money. Give my best respects to all the family for us.

Your brother unto death, — J. K. Clayton, A. M. Clayton

Miss Sarah E. Clayton, through the politeness of Mr. Dansby
June the 16, 1862
Confederate States Army/62

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