This rare, early-war Confederate letter was written by James Osborn Oslin (1835-1900), the son of Lucas Oslin (1799-1851) and Mary A. Arnold (1800-1864) of Murfreesboro, Rutherford county, Tennessee. James enlisted at age 25 in Co. A, 2nd Tennessee Infantry commanded by Col. William B. Bate. Organized at Nashville and mustered into the Confederate service on 12 May 1861 at Lynchburg, the 2nd Tennessee was rushed to the battlefront in Virginia where they received their baptism of fire at Aquia Creek on 1 June 1861. The Battle of Aquia Creek was predominantly an exchange of cannon fire between Union Navy gunboats and Confederate shore batteries on the Potomac river. The battle was tactically inconclusive; the Union gunboats were unable to dislodge the Confederate batteries from their position.
The regiment was present at the Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, but was not engaged in the battle, although it did come under fire later in the engagement. On February 9, 1862, the regiment was transferred to the Western Theatre and served with the Army of Tennessee until the surrender of the army on April 26, 1865, at Durham, North Carolina. It took part in the Battles of Shiloh, Richmond (Ky), Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Ringgold Gap, Resaca, New Hope Church, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek, Jonesboro, Franklin, Nashville, and Bentonville.
James wrote the letter to his friend, John W. Parker (1836-Aft1880), the son of Isaac Parker (1809-1852) and Mary A. Sophronia Fuller (1815-1861) of Murfreesboro. John was married in 1859 to Mary L. Aslin and worked as a brick mason in Murfreesboro.
Addressed to J. W. Parker, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
May 28, 1861
We left Richmond yesterday at 12 o’clock and arrived here at six o’clock. I cannot tell how long we will stay here for we can hear the cannons firing away plain this morning. They are sixteen miles off. We think they are at Aquia Creek or on the Potomac. We heard that fifteen war vessels was on the Potomac yesterday. The boys are very anxious to get into a fight. You ought to hear them whoop when the cannons roar. I don’t know how they will do when they get closer.
We had a very warm reception yesterday when we stopped at the depot and after we ate, we mustered through town after a splendid brass band. We stopped in town and heard some speeches and [went from] there to the fair grounds and struck our tents and went to sleep. All of our company is well except McDowell. ¹ He is up on and about. Capt. [Stephen N.] White says we will leave here today. I shall not mail this until I see whether we will leave or not. Give my compliments to all the neighbors. Tell Puss and Tinie howdy and also Addie.
We are [with]in fifty miles of Washington City. I reckon you have heard about the late fights in this state and how our side come out victorious. I believe God is [on] our side and I believe we will come out more than conquerers. Wash ² says howdy to you all and says tell Becky to tell his mother and father howdy and tell them to write to him. They live at Mrs. Collier’s.
If I can find out where we will go this evening, I will let you know. So I will wait awhile.
Eleven o’clock. We leave in a few minutes for Aquia Creek. I will write again soon. I will let you know in my next letter where for you to write. No more at present.
— J. O. Oslin
¹ There were two McDowell’s in Co. A, 2nd Tennessee Infantry — Samuel H. McDowell and Matthew L. McDowell.
² Probably Joel Washington Booth of Co. A, 2nd Tennessee Infantry
My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.