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 Home    Documentary Heritage of the Civil War    Part 2, 2012: "Gone to be a Soldier"    Granville W. and Mary Caroline Belcher letters, 1862-1864

Granville W. and Mary Caroline Belcher letters, 1862-1864

View of Courthouse and Confederate Monument, Martinsville, Va.

View of Courthouse and Confederate Monument, Martinsville, Va.

Library of Congress,

Prints and Photographs Division


Gen. Lewis A. Armistead















Lewis A. Armistead (1817-1863), colonel of the newly formed 57th Virginia Infantry until he was promoted to brigadier general on April 1, 1862.

Virginia Historical Society, 2003.160.33


University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg) External Link
Granville W. Belcher (b. ca. 1833) was a farmer from Martinsville, Henry County, Va. He enlisted in company F, 57th Virginia Infantry on July 10, 1861. Belcher was promoted to 1st Corporal in December but in Jan. 1862 his record reports "absent without leave." He returned to service by May and continued with his unit except for periods of illness in mid-1862 and again in late 1863. For much of his time, Belcher was a cook for his unit. In Feb. 1864 he deserted at Weldon, N.C., was confined, and then deserted again in July. His name appears on a list of Confederate prisoners of Bermuda Hundred, and records show that in August he was at the US Post Hospital near Harrisburg, Pa. By Aug 25, 1864, when he was sent to the General Hospital, Belcher had taken the oath of allegiance to the U.S. Belcher was married to the former Mary Caroline Dickinson, and they had a son, George. Members of the two families whose correspondence is included in the collection are Granville, Mary Caroline, Charles Belcher, William H. Dickinson, and Washington Dickinson. All of the men served in the Confederate Army.
The bulk of this collection consists of sixty-nine letters, dated from Feb. 2, 1862 to June 28, 1864, from Granville W. Belcher to his wife, Mary Caroline Belcher. Ten letters, dated from Jan. 13/18, 1862 to Aug. 26, 1864, between Mary Caroline; her brother, Washington Dickinson; her nephew, William H. Dickinson; Belcher; and Belcher's brother Charles Belcher make up the remainder of the collection. Belcher and Washington Dickinson both served in the Virginia 57th Infantry Regiment, William Dickinson was a member of the 10th Virginia Cavalry and Charles Belcher was also in the Confederate Army. Granville Belcher's letters regularly express his displeasure with army life. He complains of excessive marching, poor rations, and ill health. He also describes other aspects of army life, including the high prices of food and the election of Confederate regimental officers and noncommissioned officers. Belcher's letters rarely mention combat, although he does describe his regiment's action during the Battle of Gettysburg. He chronicles a few other engagements, only two of which he was actually involved in. More often, he writes of missing home and Mary Caroline. Occasionally he gives her instructions on how to manage their farm. A recurrent theme in Granville's letters is his desire to return home unharmed. He repeatedly assures Mary Caroline that if he is killed or wounded it will not be due to bravery on his part. The letters recount his attempts to go home on furlough or by securing a paid substitute. The letters also describe his arrest, sentencing, and confinement for going home without leave. The remaining letters in the collection provide description of conditions in various Confederate camps, of some military action, of Mary Caroline's loneliness and have information pertaining to Granville and Mary Caroline Belcher's farm.

[Read Granville W. Belcher's letter to his wife, Nov. 7, 1863]

(See the NUCMC catalog record)

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 Home    Documentary Heritage of the Civil War    Part 2, 2012: "Gone to be a Soldier"    Granville W. and Mary Caroline Belcher letters, 1862-1864
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   October 16, 2014
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