Thursday, June 16, 2016

M. P. Kelley's Civil War Letters to Jim Smyrl

© Kathy Duncan, 2016

Mansel Pinkney Kelley initially enlisted June 27, 1861 in the Flat Rock Guards, which was Co. G in the 2nd Palmetto Reg., serving under Capt. C.C. Haile. He evidently re-enlisted with Hampton's Legion Co. D, where he served out the rest of the war.

This photograph was probably made for his mother when he initially enlisted. He was about seventeen years old.

In the first months of his service he wrote letters to his friend James “Jim” R. Smyrl, who had not enlisted yet and was still at home in Kershaw County. The earliest letters urge Jim to hurry and enlist. That letter is followed by a letter written after the First Battle of Manassas [Bull Run]. Then letters stop and encouraging Jim to enlist and instead tell him that he would grow tired of army life.

James R. Smyrl did enlist in ­­­Co. E, 2nd SC Infantry and participated in battles in Virginia and Maryland. However, he became sick and died of pneumonia in an army hospital on 18 November 1862. His father went to Richmond, Virginia to bring his body home for burial. Jim Smyrl is buried in the Smyrl Cemetery in Kershaw County, South Carolina.

The letters Pink had written him were saved and eventually discovered in an old abandoned Smyrl home.

April 7th 1861
Mr. James R Symrl
Dear friend
I seat myself for the purpose of writing you a few lines to inform you that I am well and I hope that these few lines may fin you and all of the family enjoying the same blessings Jim I arrived here on Friday after I left you at Camden John Sessions landed here last Thursday Evining.

Jim I am very well pleased with Williamston and with the people also I am boarding with A very fine man I have nothing of any importance to write to you nothing more at present give my love to all of the family and accept a good share for your self you must write as soon, as you receive this letter. Direct your letters to Williamston Anderson District Sou Car

Give my love to S. A. Baskins and all inquiring friends.
Yours truly,
M.P. Kelley

July 4th 1861
Mr James R Smyrl
        My Dear friend it is with grate pleasure that I seat myself to write you a few lines to let you no that I am well and I hope that these few lines may find you enjoying the same good blessings Jim I wish that you was heare with me for we get A plenty to eat and nothing to do I haven’t been in duty but two or three times since I have bin heare I was out on picket guard last knight for the first time Jim I like it find and I don’t think thear is much chance of us getting into a fight inless we advance on them and we dont want to do that we are just acting on the defence Jim there has bin three little battles in hearing of us and we thrashed them out every time general Johnson of virginier had a little fight on yesterday morning in the potomuck river I never herd how many men he had any how there was four thousand of the northeners Johnson killed four hundred and he had got thirty killed two of our own men and wounded another by an accident I think that they will bee a little more particular next time well Jim I will close by telling you that you needn’t to believe one half that comes out in the papers nothing more … present but remain your old friend   Jim you must write to me and let me no how you all are write me as soon as you get this for I don’t know how soon we may move to some other point. Give my love to the entire family and accept the same for your self your truly
M. P. Kelley
Direct your letters to M. P. Kelley Minassus V.A.
2nd Regt S.C. V in care
of Capt C. Haile
write soon

Camp Gregg Aug 4 1861
Mr. J. R. Smyrl
Dear friend
I this lazy afternoon seat myself to write you a few lines to let you no that I am well with the exception of a verry sore throat and I hope that when you receive this letter it will find you and all of the family enjoying good health   Jim you old rascal you wont write to me and if you dont write I will allways think you ought to write to me and let me heare how you all are   I reckon you are getting on so well with the ladyes that you dont have time to think of a fellow that is so far from home   Jim I written to you about three or four weeks ago and I havent got no answer atall   Jim you mentioned to me one time any how and tell me how the rock spring girls and you are getting

Well Jim I will tell you some thing about the times   Jim I have been in two battles since I have been in Virginia  the first one was on Thursday   the ball opened at half past eleven A. M. and last until five P.M. when the enemy was repulsed and the Sunday following we met them again at stone bridge about six mile above where the one was fought on Thursday the ball was opened at eight oclock A.M. and last until six P.M. when they was a second time driven back  Jim I wish you could have walked over the battle ground you would have seen something that you never would forgot as long as you live  you could stand in one place and see hundreds of dead men lying in all directions and we captured a great many pieces of cannon and side arms lots and a great many other things such as waggons and horses and provisions ammunition knapsacks and blankets cloaths and there was Some of every thing that you could mention and they had several baskets of shampaign..

   Well Jim you must tell Mcdonald hardy for me and tell him that I havent forgotten him yet   I would like verry well to see you all and you must write to me and tell me if there is any chance of getting that pup   I will close as I havent got any thing more that is worth writing  I suppose Mr. Sessions has been out here a few days ago but I didnt see him. Give my best respect to mack also your pa s entire family and accept the same for your self  Jim you must write soon to your old friend.

M.P. Kelley
N.B. Direct your letters to manasses junction 2nd palmentto regt S.C. V
in care of Capt. C C. Haile V.A.
Give my love to all and
write soon

Camp Kershaw Viannah August 23 1861
Mr. James. R. Smyrl
Dear old friend  I
seat myself this afternoon to answer your kind letter that I received just a few minutes ago  Jim I was undoubtedly glad to heare from you and to heare that you are all well  I am well I have had verry good health Since I have been in verginia  the a great many of our men have had bad health and some of them are pritty ? at present  wee have lost six of our company since I have been heare I reckon you have heard of luit Thomas J. Clyburns death before you get this letter  Jim I would like verry much to see you all   at this time I done verry well when I first come out heare for all of the men was strangers most but I have got so use to them till I dont care for their company much   Jim you said that you was glad to heare that I and John got thru the battle so well  Jim I am verry thankful that I got thru without getting hirt and I would have been much better satisfied if you had have been with me and went thru without getting hurt  Jim I wish that you was heare with us to spend a few ? with us if nothing else  Jim wee have had some pretty tight times since I written to you before for wee have had to move some three or four different times and there hasent been more than a half dozen clear days the hole time—well Jim as I ast you to tell mee how you and The Rockspring girls was getting on you say that you fly around sometimes and I expect that you do fly around some time and I expect that sometimes comes pretty often and you say that you dont go in reach of them but you cant fool me for I know two much about you for that  I know you fly around pretty extensivaly and I don’t love you for it for I knew full well if I was I home and and all of the young men was gon I would allmost take posession of all the young ladies  Jim you say that you saw my old sweet hart S.A.B. and that she has a notion of volunteering and coming out heare  Jim when you see her again tell her for me that I would bee glad to see her and tell her—that if she want to volunteer to just come on she will bee verry acceptable as a soldier or cook or any thing that she wishes to drive at and tell for mee Jim that I think she might to wright to mee as I wrote to her last and tell all for the girls to wright to mee  I would bee ? to hear from any person that is in favor of the southern independence that is what I am in favor of and I intend to have my part while its ? if I live and keep well Jim you said that Mr. Thomas Sessions spend a week with John after the battle. I heard that he was out heare but ? get to see him  I was verry anxious to see him I havnt had the opportunity to see John since I parted from you and him at camden I heard from Jim the other day he is well or was when I heard from him  Jim. I know you would like to bee a soldier awhile but it is like everything else you would get tierd of it yet Jim I am glad that I can say that some ? our sick men are getting better two of them has just arrived from the hospital and I hope that some more of them will bee able to come in camp again before long for our company is quite small

Well Jim as I havent got any thing of any importance to write I will have to begin to come to a close  Jim you must write as soon as you get this letter  I began to think that you was knot going to write to mee but since I received this letter from you I see you have written to me before and I didnt receive you letter  well Jim I will close by asking you to  ? family and all enquiring friends also accept the same for your self  Jim give my love to all of the Rocksprings girls. Wright abought means to & answer this as soon as you read this.
Your old friend,
M.P. Kelley
Direct your letters to Fairfax C.H.   V.A.
N.B. Tell McDonald howdy for me when you see him again tell him I am well and in good health.
Good bye for this time
Write soon

Camp Kershaw Oct. 28th 1861
Mr. James. R. Smyrl.
My Dear Sir.
I seat myself this morning for the purpose of answering you kind letter which I received yesterday  if found mee verry unwell. I havent been well for the last week and I am just on a stan but I am in hopes that I will get on the mend before many more days. I am in hopes that these few lines may find you and all the rest of the family enjoying good health  Jim I havent got any thing that is of any importance to write we have fallen back from where wee was when I wrote to you before bout twelve miles but what it was done for I am knot able to say and wee moved again yesterday and I expect that if the enemy dont advance on us this will bee our winter quarters  well Jim you say that McDonald has left and that he taken my watch with him  if it will do him any good and he dont return it and he may have it and welcome. Well Jim, I will bring this uninteresting letter to a close by asking you to give my best love to the entire family and accept the same for yourself  Write soon to your old friend
M.P. Kelly

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