“Almost every hour from the time we reached the Road until we left the shells was falling around us Sometimes as many as (30) pr minute. A grate many of them the heaviest kind thrown from the gun boats which made the protection remarkably unpleasant. (2) men were struck and killed instantly.” This is how Lt. James “Newt” Martin of Kershaw’s Brigade described his experience during the Battle of Deep Bottom (July 25-28, 1864) in a letter he sent home to his family in Newberry.
The museum recently obtained a collection of ten letters written by Lt. Martin, a Newberry native who enlisted as a private in Co. E, 3rd S.C. Volunteer Infantry at age 29.
He was elected Lieutenant on Dec. 31, 1863, and served throughout the entire war.
The letters span over two and a half years of the Civil War, from January 1862 to August 1864. Not only do these letters provide insight into the conditions that Martin and his fellow troops faced during battle, but they also show how he occupied his camp time and stayed connected to his family.
The letters are all written to his father, sister, or brother and he describes everything from a snow storm near Fredericksburg and camp minstrel shows to Union spy balloons and religious services.
He also uses his letters to convey his thoughts about the war, stating in August 1863 that “at least we should be satisfied if Charleston falls. It is my opinion the war will close soon from the fact neither England nor France wishes the union as it was. I mearley give it as and opinion although it would be Very humiliating to South Carolinians and not only to them but the whole Confederacy…”
One of Martin’s letters will be on display in the museum’s upcoming exhibit on the150th anniversary of Gettysburg, which opens next spring.
However, several of the letters, along with full transcriptions, are now available to view on the museum’s website - www.crr.sc.gov/exhibits/Pages/specialcollections.aspx.