1861: Abner Newton Steele to Eleanor Caroline (Thomson) Steele

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Abner Newton Steele (courtesy of Jeff Thomson who posted image on Find-A-Grave)

This letter was written in June 1861 by Abner Newton Steele (1826-1862) while serving as 1st Lieutenant in Co. G, 11th Alabama Infantry. Before enlisting with the North Port Rifles, Abner had prior military experience during the War with Mexico having served as the First Sergeant of Co. A, Mississippi Regiment Rifle Battalion.

At the time of the July 1860 US Census, Abner was employed as a merchant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, having previously operated a plantation near Columbus in Chickasaw county, Mississippi. Enumerated in the household with him was his wife, Eleanor (“Ellen”) Caroline Steele (1825-1906), age 33, his three sons, Richard (age 7), Frank M. (age 3), and John C. B. (age 1 month), and two girls, Isabella (“Bell”) Vaughan (age 16) and Mary J. Vaughan (age 14).

The 11th Alabama was organized in June 1861 at Lynchburg, Virginia, under Colonel Sydenham (“Syd”) Moore. By January 1862, they were attached to Cadmus Wilcox’s Brigade and fought under him at the Battle of Seven Pines, the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, and finally at the Battle of Frasier’s Farm (or “Glendale”) where Abner Steele, leading Co. G, was killed with 48 other men of the 11 Alabama in hand to hand combat with Federals defending two artillery batteries. Incredibly, eight of the ten officers leading companies in the 11th Alabama were killed in the bayonet assault at Frasier’s Farm.

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Richmond, Virginia
June 8th 1861

Dear Ellen,

Yours of the 28th ult. was received today and I was glad to hear from you for it was the first. I am sorry to hear of sickness about North Port and hope Dr. Sanders will soon recover. I am very anxious to see you and the little boys but in the present condition of our country, I believe it to be my duty to fight for you and them for if the South is coerced, the poor people will be made slaves of. I just read Lincoln’s Proclamation and you can just say to the men of North Port that if they don’t think it necessary now, they had better quit trying to raise a company and say at once that they never intended to go to the war.

As to the news about here, I can’t tell you anything for certain. There are various reports in circulation but we can’t believe much we hear. Everything in the War Department is kept a secret.

We are camped in regular military style and under military discipline. I sustain myself well as an officer but there is no chance at present for promotion. We are camped in a beautiful plane about one mile from the principle part of town but I have had no chance to see anything of the city.

Our rule for drilling is one hour before breakfast, two after, and three after dinner. I have a squad to drill and will have the company to drill. Our Captain is a very poor military man and will never be much better and as for the 2d & 3rd Lieutenants, I don’t consider we have any atall. Col. Moore is very anxious to get into a fight but I think we are not atall prepared for it.

I saw Dr. Will in Montgomery. He looks about the same. [   ] did not come up with hi,. I think he wrote to you while we were there.

I bought a trunk but have not got much to put in it yet. I am smack out of money and not much prospect of drawing any. Let Bell tell old Grochell that she has a Guardian to attend to her financial affairs. I want Jo to stop school at least the next session. If you need any legal advice, call on C. M. Cook. If you prefer me writing with ink, mention it in your next. Let me know whether you got letters from Knoxville, Tennessee. Also several from Lynchburg, Va. I am well. So is Peter Henion, Tom Hammer, and all the North Port boys. I have no more paper. Goodbye.

Affectionately, — A. N. Steele

My mess is John & Dock Hughes, Peter Henion, T. Hammer, E. Anders, & Jo Richards. Also Charles. He is boss. Tell the little boys I think of you & them every day almost hourly. My love to the girls. John & William S. both well. Write often. Don’t mention the No. of our regiment. I think it is changed, Care of Col. Syd Moore.

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