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Today my Mom and I began our genealogy trip to areas where her father’s family lived.  We will be researching Willis, Welch, Buckner, Collins and more as we visit Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama.

Before we left I pulled out some of my files of research from several years ago.  As mother went through those papers she noted a letter written by Jabez Willis to his sister Caroline Ballenger.  Here’s a transcription of the letter:

November 20, 1862
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Mrs. Caroline Balenger,

Dear sister.  For first time I take up my pen to drop you a few lines to let you know that I am well at present, hoping that may reach you and find you well and doing the same.  I intended to write you before now but it is such a bad chance here to write.  I hate to begin it.  I have wrote Sarah a letter today telling her a little about what we are doing.  I have never heard from Hamilton but once since we first went to Chattanooga.  I heard from him as we went on to Kentucky.  He had left Clinton about 8 weeks before.  We heard that his Regt was at or near Knoxville, Tenn and don’t know what has become of them since they may be some where close by but if they are I can’t hear of them.  There is abundance of soldiers here.  I think there will be a fight here some where in this country but I don’t know where abouts it will be.  This is a mighty fine country.  We have flour, meal, bacon, and beef plenty.  There is a good deal sickness here at present and I suppose a good many deaths at the hospital.  There is so many here.  There is obliged to be some sickness and death.  Old Bragg Breckenridge and Buckner are all here.  There is going to be if I am not mistaken, very bad times, is just ahead.  It is bad now but I am afraid there is worse coming.  I learn that they are taking or enrolling all men from 18 to 40 and that they are kicking up about it.  That will be bad if they do that.  I learned they had called out the Malitia to settle those rapid fellows, enough of that.  Dean Hollidy had been very sick but I learned today he is getting better.  I believe I will close for the present as I have but little time to go on.  I would like to come home and see you all.  I could tell you a heap more than I can write.  I will write again before long.  Give my respects to inquiring friends and receive a portion to yourself.  Write to me.  Your truly Jabez G Willis to Caroline Balenger — Conley Linton Ballenger, The Ballenger Family of Fayette County, Alabama, C.L. Ballenger, Huntsville, Alabama 1998 (pages 68-69).

Jabez is my half great, great great uncle.  Using footnote.com we now have the following timeline for him:

  • April 14, 1862  Jabez enlisted at Fayette, Alabama in the 41st Regiment, Company H for 2 months.
  • July 1, 1862 he re-enlistment in the same unit for duration of war.
  • November 20, 1862 Jabez wrote letter to his sister predicting bad times to come in the war
  • December 1862 at Murfreesboro, Tennessee  he was listed as missing before the battle; then as prisoner of war; then presumed dead.

His letter predicted some very bad times and within a month of his letter he apparently died.  His letter sheds some light on who he was and who some of the important people in his life were.   Letters like these are treasures.

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