20 April 1864: ” I am seated in an old field, surrounded by men flushed with hope & success & dividing out their captured spoils. I write to you on Yankee paper with a gold pen, & Yankee envelope with Yankee ink, smoking Yankee cigar, full of Yankee sugar coffee &c.”

Item description: Letter, dated 20 April 1864, from Leonidas LaFayette Polk to his wife Sarah Gaddy Polk regarding the Confederate victory at the Battle of Plymouth, N.C., and spoils taken from Union soldiers.

More about Leonidas LaFayette Polk:

L.L. (Leonidas LaFayette) Polk (1837-1892) of Anson County, N.C., was a planter; editor; merchant; Confederate officer in the 26th and 43rd North Carolina infantry regiments; Democrat and Populist; first North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, 1877-1880; founder of the Progressive Farmer; and vice president and president of the National Farmers’ Alliance and Industrial Union, 1887-1892. He was influential in founding the North Carolina College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts at Raleigh (now North Carolina State University) and the Baptist Female College (now Meredith College). Polk was the son of Andrew and Serena Autry Polk. He married Sarah Pamela Gaddy of Anson County in 1857 and they had one son, who died in infancy, and six daughters.

[Item transcription available below images.]

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Item citation: From the the L.L. Polk Papers, #3708, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

Bivouack 43d. N.C.T.
Near Plymouth, N.C.
April 20th 1864

My dear wife,

Through the mercy of God I am permitted on this the proudest day for our good old State, since the beginning of this War, to write you. After a severe engagement of 2 1/2 days we had the honor & the joy to behold the flag of our enemies lowered to day, which we all hope & believe is the beginning of a better time for N.C. I am seated in an old field, surrounded by men flushed with hope & success & dividing out their captured spoils. I write to you on Yankee paper with a gold pen, & Yankee envelope with Yankee ink, smoking Yankee cigar, full of Yankee sugar coffee &c. with a Yankee sword, navy repeater, & other “fixins” buckled about me. We had an awful time. Got here on Sunday surprised the Yankees commenced on them, Monday night stormed a fort, very formidable, impossible to get into it, but surrounded it & forced it to surrender. Last night stormed the other 2 forts, took one at daylight this morning surrounded the other & forced it to yield at 10 o’clock – took about 2000 prisoners & did not lose in all more than 200 killed & wounded, almost miraculous. To God be all the praise. In our Regt. 5 killed, 13 wounded & 3 missing, all from Anson safe but Wm. Mosely slightly wounded. Twenty thousand Yankees cannot retake the place. Well I did not get anything myself. The boys gave me what I got, except a few things I bought. They have me 3 prs. kid gloves for you slightly damaged. For the children a round comb a piece. I bought a pair of shoes for Lila. Cannot get any for you as yet will try to get some nice things for you. I will send my tricks to you the first chance. We didn’t have time to get much to day. The boys gave me a fine spy glass, a very fine pipe, & the pen with which I write just like the one at home. We got almost anything that can be thought of. If I only had any way to carry the things I could get hundreds of things for you. I intend to do my best. I think of you all the time, while the balls, shells, & canisters where whistling around & over me, I thought of home, Sallie & the babies. I hope you are all well, have not heard a word from you since some time before I left Kinston but look for the mail every hour, where I know I will see a letter from you. O how good it would be to get one this evening! I hope to hear from you often. I got a letter from [R?] a few days ago saying he was going home. Tell him I wrote to him at Oxford. Hope he will write to me. We don’t know where we will go from here will write you as often as possible. Have not had the chance to write before, no mail since we left Kinston. I forgot to tell you that our Gun Boat came down safely, & is a complete success so far. We got any quantity of all & everything. 

I would like to go more into detail but have not the time. I will do so as soon as possible. O I would like to see you so much. Kiss my dear babies for me & I know they will be so proud of their nice combs. I tried to get one for [?] but could not. Give her a pair of gloves if she wants them & will do for her. I hear there are thousands of cotton cards in town & I hope we will get some or all of them. Some of our boys got some of them. I am in fine health but can assure you had as hard a time as ever in my life, charged through the worst swamp I ever saw, got wet all over nearly lay still under fire of guns all night & came near freezing but I am now all right & am myself again.

The storming of the Forts was the most awful work I have ever seen done & I tell you it was anything but pleasant, but as I have seen so often before. I tried it again. I was at the head of the Co. in the charge nearly a mile through a level field & swamp & the thickest of the fire, but of course before you get this every body will know I disgraced myself. Well my dear Sallie I am stopped by one of my boys to go & drink some good old Rie with him, & he says you must excuse me. May God be your friend & Protector. Write to me at Tarboro. Kiss the children for me your devoted husband.


(Tell Gillman Angus went through all right and is getting on finely, says he has as much plunder as he wants.)

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