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Gilmer Letters Civil War Letters of Russell County
June 24th 61
Laurel Hill, Barbour Co Va

Dear Sisters & All;

                         I received your letter yesterday (Sunday) and never opened an envelop with so much pleasure in my life.  You would be surprised to learn in what position your letter found me.  I was choping with fifty nine others, in a heavy tunberew field, which had been dead-ended about three years.  The field has a good crop of wheat on it.  I never heard trees fall so fast - Sunday as it was.  It seems that there is no Sabbath here or rest for the weary.  There is a company out today on the same business.  The object in cutting the timber is to give our canons full sweep and to impede the progress of the enemy, in case they should attack us.  We masked the far[...] all around that wheat field.  They are cutting trees in a cornfield today.  The man's whole farm is being torn up.  But it is better to destoy a few farms than to let the enemy march through and destoy hundreds of farms and thousands of lives.  In my opinion they are now as far in the state, as they can get.  Another regiment came in, on yesterday evening, numbering about nine hundred and fifty from Georgia, making in all, about four thousand, here now.  Our position is a very nice one and it would require twice our number to drive us from it.  We hear their canons fire every day & pay no more attention to it than to the passing of a waggon along the road.  The true soldier fights his hardest battle in leaving home and friends.  I have encountered nothing as hard yet as leaving you all; yet I am over all that now, and under the circumstances would as soon hunt Yankeees as squirrels.  My health is good.  Not much sickness here.  Your letter was directed to Philippi, but if it ever gets to that place I will take it in my sachel.  You did not know that there was a strong force at Philippi.  The mail goes no further North than here.  I hope we will open the way for  it to the line in a few days.  We know not what our officers intend to do next - nor do the editors.  A great deal that you read in the papers is not true.  Although we have made great preparations here and still making, yet we may leave in a few days - not though in the direction of home I assure you.  Our foe must be driven from our soil and made to know his place before you can have a chance to see us.  Life is uncertain anywhere.  You seem to be too much troubled about us and about the times.  Take it all with a strong heart, and determined will, like I took the rain a night or two ago.  I told uncle Billy about that and may be he will show you the letter.  It was really funny how the wind uncovered our pig pen.  I got wet to (and if any thing past) the skin.  I wish I could picture ever thing off to you as it is.  Even if I had the talent it would take more than a quire of paper.  Yesterday did not look like sunday.  I read a chapter or two in my testament last night by candle light and would have read more but the drum was tapped to put out lights and at that moment they must be put out.  The companies take it day about working.  The axes, spades, shovels and mattocks are ringing today and every day.  Tell George, Creed, and Hayes to come ahead, and make their calculations to see hard times.  I think they ought not to have volunteered.  There will be no drafting in the state I think without we draft some of these people around and Northwest of here.  We have taken several prisoners and sent them on to Beverly & Staunton, &c, &c.  I bundled up my dirty clothes this morning and started to a house to get them washed, but was halted by a sentinel.  No man is allowed to go out side of the encampment without written permission from the Colonel.  I returned with my clothes and intend to wash them myself, and iron them on my back.  Since I commenced this letter I have been called out to drill two hours.  I will now finish before eating time.  We have got to making Jonny cake and it eats fine.  Our squad has two or three or four boards for that purpose.  Our fare does tolerably well - of course we are awkward about cooking and it is a right smart task.  Water is not handy to our camp.  There is no excitement here in the [...t].  We dare the eneemy to come in range of our guns.  I wish they would come and try to take this place.  Our canons are planted behind good breast works and all our muskets loaded and cartridge boxes full of loads.  If we fail taking them at Philippi we can fall back to this place.  I have no idea though, but that we will rout them when we do undertake.  We take no paper here yet and dont read the news at all.  I am glad to hear that you are all well.  I hope you will not miss us so much after a while.  I want you to be particular about writing to us and give all the home news and what is going on in the county.  Tell Charlie and Wilson to write and I will answer them.  I have but very little time to write indeed.  Twenty minutes is all I want to write four pages.  
Love to all. Goodbye.

Your Affectionate brothers
J.E. Gilmer
Wm. R. Gilmer
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