This letter was written by Andrew Jackson Gilbert (1834-1925), a member of Kemper’s much vaunted Brigade in Pickett’s Division. 1st Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. The letter was written while Gilbert and the other soldiers of the 7th Virginia Infantry were on the Suffolk Expedition and only a couple of months before launching their northward tramp to Gettysburg.
According to Confederate military records, “A. J.” enlisted in March 1862 at Camp Taylor for three service in Co. F, 7th Virginia Infantry. Less than two months later, during the Battle of Seven Pines (30 May 1862), he was wounded and was absent from the regiment for a time while convalescing. He returned to his regiment by the fall of 1862 and was with the regiment and present for duty during the remainder of the war.
A. J. was the son of Edward Gilbert (1794-1871) and Susan G. Sandridge (1802-1865). He was married in December 1856 to Martha (“Matty”) A. Twyman (1836-1901) and together they had at least seven children together — one of whom they named “Kemper Jackson Gilbert.” After his forst wife died, A. J. married Susan Francis Hall (1865-1930).
A. J. is buried in the family burying ground at Burnley’s, Albemarle County, Virginia. His older brother, Thomas Austin Gilbert (1824-1862), served in Co. F, 59th Georgia Infantry, and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
Camp near Suffolk, Virginia
April 23, 1863
My Dear Wife,
I write you a few lines this evening to inform you that I am in good health at the present. the day is very bad — it is raining very fast and everything looks gloomy and dismal in camp. We are near Suffolk in line of battle about 2½ miles from the town. The Yankees are not more than a mile from us in strong force. We have to go on picket every two or three days. We have picket fighting every day. The shells whistle around us very close but have not hurt anyone yet.
I have not heard from Travis for about five weeks for we are some distance apart. The last I heard from him, he was at Little Washington, North Carolina, with D. H. Hill.
You wrote me word that you had made a cap and you want to know if it fitted me or not. I have not received it. Mr. [William] Dulaney did not get it from Chafar Herndon as he came down to the camp so the first safe chance you get, you must send it and a pair of pants also as I have just finished patching my old ones a few moments ago and I bought an old hat to do me until I could get the one you have at home and gave 2 cts. for it so you can guess from the price what sort of a hat it is.
I was very glad to hear that my colt looks [well] and was extremely glad to hear that you were getting plenty of milk. Mattie, you must have as many oats sown as possible and as much corn planted as you can have done.
Give my love to old grandmother and tell her to write to me and Ma & Pa and tell them to write to me and tell them that rations are very short with us at the present. We hardly get enough to do us from one draw day to another. the Yankees captured one of our best batteries and 50 men the other day. It was Capt. [Robert M.] Stribling’s Battery. ¹ They only brought off the caissons and the Yankees had to throw the guns into the river so it did not profit them much. I believe I have told you all the news of any account.
Kiss Idella for me and tell her to be a good lady and Pa will come home after awhile. Estelle, you must kiss her too and she must be a good sweet child till Pa comes home and he will bring her something pretty if she is a good baby. Write as soon as you get this and give me all the news. I remain yours until death.
— A. J. Gilbert
Write. Direct your letter to Richmond, Virginia, 7th Regiment, Company F, Kemper’s Brigade, Pickett’s Division. Paper is very scarce and envelopes. I cannot tell when I can write again.
¹ “Stribling’s Battery” was the Fauquier (Virginia) Light Artillery. This battery moved to the Suffolk area with Longstreet in February 1863 and in mid April were ordered to Fort Huger on the Nansemond River where they were expected to block Union river traffic into Suffolk. On 19 April 1863, Union artillery opened fire on the fort which was then surprised by a land attack from the rear by 270 Union troops. As a result, the Federals captured all five guns, and 137 men in the fort — 55 of them members of the Fauquier Battery.