28 March 1863: “I drop you a few lines to give you the sad news that brother Calvin is dead.”

Item Description: Letter, dated 28 March 1863, from Corporal William H. Proffit during his service in the Wilkes Valley Guards (Company B, 1st North Carolina Regiment).  In this letter Cpl. Proffit informs his family of the death of his brother, Calvin.

From folder 2 in the Proffit Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item Transcription:

Camp of the 1st NC T

March 28th 1863

Dear Father, Mother, and Sister:

I drop you a few lines to give you the Sad news that brother Calvin is dead.  He died about day break on the morning of the 25th inst. I suppose that the brain was affected which was the principle cause of his death.  It is, indeed, an appauling thought to think of the death of one so dear, but sad as it is, we have some consolation to know that he remained usually pious while surrounded with all the vice and immorality of the camp, and instead of participating in this, devoted much of time in reading Scripture.  Some of his companions expressed the thought that he was prepared to meet his God in peace.  We have another consolation that he had won the confidence and esteem of his officers and fellow soldiers, and that every possible means was applied in burying him decently.  A good coffin, clean clothes, etc. were provided.  Sad as the thought is, it is no worse than thousands have endured since the commencement of this unholy war.  I hope you will all try to refrain as much as possible from unnecessary grief, as it is a thing of no avail.  

    I have sent the Biblical Recorder to Sis. It will come to Lewis Fork, PO.  You will see in it an account of brother Calvin’s death.  You will find it under the head of Obituary.  Be shure to find it and preserve the paper.  A.J. and Alfred were down to see me yesterday.  They are as well as common.  They will write you the full particulars of Calvin’s death and burial as they were there soon after he died.  They sent for me also, but I did not go, as I was unwell myself.  Let me hear from you as often as you conveniently can. Yours,

W. H. Proffit
P.S. My health is very good at present

More information about this item:

“The Proffit brothers were very close, and the death of one, Calvin, was very hard for the others to bear.  Calvin’s death was especially hard on Alfred, his twin brother.  When a family member died, it seemed that only one person was appointed to report all of the particulars of the death.  William concentrated on his brother’s good name among fellow soldiers and his Christian faith as facts to console his family with.  William, who was now serving as a corporal, had to be very concerned as well, as he d had had several bouts with disease over the past month, despite his assurance at the end of the letter.” -  Watford, C. M. (Ed.). (2003). 89. March 28, 1863. The Civil War in North Carolina, Vol. 2 (p. 102). Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

All four Proffit brothers (Alfred, Andrew (A.J.), Calvin, and William) served in North Carolina regiments in the Virginia theater of the war.  William died in hospital at Gordonsville, Va., in October 1863.

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