Amongst the more than five hundred graves lying in the Friendship Presbyterian Church Cemetery at Van Vleet, Mississippi, lies a grave marked with a headstone declaring that the body of one M. R. Goodwin lies beneath it. Margaret Rose Wilson Goodwin was the wife of W. T. Goodwin and the daughter of Charles James Wilson.
Charles James Wilson was born in South Carolina around 1832-33. Like so many others, his family migrated south and west into what is now our state of Mississippi. They settled in Chickasaw County. When those clouds of war settled over our land in 1861, C. J. took himself to Okolona and joined the Rebel army. He, along with his horse, valued at a whopping $295.00, ended up in the Jeff Davis Cavalry Legion. This outfit was under the umbrella of the Army of Northern Virginia and General Robert E. Lee, Commanding.
It was around noon on November 25, 1861, that C.J., while warming himself around the fire near Warrenton, Virginia, took up paper and pen and wrote a letter to his little four-year-old daughter, Margaret Rose Wilson. Obviously, C. J. knew that his little daughter would not understand many of the big words in his letter, but he wrote just her anyway. He told of being sick and now feeling better, that since he had written “Bud”, her brother several times, this letter was to her. It is obvious from C. J.’s letter that he was an educated man, he uses ‘big words’ in his letter.
C. J. wrote in his letter to Margaret Rose that he knew he might not survive the next battle or the war but he wanted to assure her that her daddy loved her little four-year-old self. C. J. is obviously divided in his thoughts as he writes that he sort of regrets that he didn’t wake her up when he left home the morning of August 19, after being home on sick leave. I can just imagine his standing by hers, Kate’s and Bud’s bed and deciding he would let them sleep and not go through the emotional upheaval the four of them would suffer had he woke them up to say good-by. But now, he regrets it as he states “but I have sometimes thought I did wrong in not waking you but the trial was hard enough for me without having you, Bud and Kate around me when I started from home, I know not but for the last time.” Does that not just rip your heart out? Can’t you just see this young man in grey, standing by the bed of his three children and he decides not to wake them knowing what an emotional episode would ensue but also knowing it may well be the last hug he gets and gives to them?
C.J. also writes that he had not yet seen one “general fight” and he was tired of laying out all night on picket duty and he had quite enough of Virginia. Laying out on picket duty did not, in his estimation, compare with laying out fishing all night at home.
C.J. certainly managed to participate in at least one ‘general fight’ and that one was at Gaines Mill, in Virginia. Some say Gaines Mill, a part of the “Seven Days Battles” was one of the most intense battles of the entire Civil War. It was in June of 1862, that A. P. Hill, Richard Ewell on the Rebel side, under the command of General Robert E. Lee, engaged with McClellan on the Union side and it ended in a bloody, but Confederate victory. Stonewall Jackson also participated on the Rebel side, ‘tho some say he showed up late’. The battle also saw two balloonist, one on each side, checking out the movement and the forces of the opposing sides. C. J.’s Jeff Davis Cavalry Legion was part of the force used to ‘screen’ the arrival of Stonewall Jackson’s troops. Approximately 15,000 casualties all total and one of them our Charles James Wilson, forever lying in Hanover County, Virginia, far from his family who lay in Chickasaw County, Mississippi.
Another reason this letter is special is that C. J.’s great-great-grandson still has and still treasures the letter – Lamar Beaty of Houston.