This letter was written by Cpl. Joseph Jackson [“J. J.”] Baker (1841-1931) who enlisted at Hansonville, Virginia, in April 1862 in Co. K, 54th Virginia Infantry. He was taken prisoner at Marietta, Georgia, on 26 June 1864 and confined at Camp Morton in Indianapolis until his release in June 1865.
Joseph J. Baker was the son of Joseph McClure Baker (1815-1876) and Jane Jackson (1817-1901) of Salem, Wythe County, Virginia. In January 1870, Joseph married Sarah Jane Carter (1848-1944) and the couple had at least five children. Both Joseph and his father were Virginia farmers.
According to Joseph’s military records, he stood 5’10” tall, had dark hair and blue eyes.
See also: Joseph J. Baker Correspondence in the Special Collection of Virginia Tech.
Camp Reynolds, BG ¹
May 29th 1864
Dear Father and Mother,
I am well. Craig Carter ² & Frank [Carter] are at the hospital. [Columbus M.] Primm is near well [and] so is [James H.] Archer. [Allen F.] Hurst, ³ [William R.] Nelson & myself are all that are [fit] for duty of [our company?]. We are now within 30 miles of Atlanta. We have been fighting and marching for 20 days. The Feds pressure us all of the time. Yesterday we were moved back as reserve. There is skirmishing along the line this morning. Wherever we make a stand, we can repulse them but they have so many men they flank us which causes us to fall back. The loss upon the side of the Federals is greater in killed than ours from the fact they have been charging our breastworks so much though we have lost a great many men captured, broken down men on account of hard marching & sick men. We have lost about 200 men killed, wounded & missing & sick since we have left Dalton in the 54th [Virginia].
The country is so level they flank us all the time. Their force is estimated at 200,000 men. I don’t think they are so strong as that. The worst of the fight is to come yet which will come off whenever we get their flanking parties stopped. I feel that the God who rules all has been with me and it has been through Him that we have been spared through so many dangers for the last 20 days. I have not heard from Frank once he was wounded. Mr. Lee Ballard and Addison Calfee are all safe so far. John Bedsure [?] is here. Also Mr. Fowler of [ ] is here & well.
I dreamed of seeing Mother last night. I hope it may come to pass. The Yanks fight & charge here both night and day. The pickets don’t make any stop [in] shooting for night. The sharpshooters are pegging away continuously.
Direct by Atlanta. Your son, — J. J. Baker
¹ The encampment was probably named after Brig. Gen (“B.G.”) Alexander Welch Reynolds who commanded the 54th and 63rd Virginia, 58th and 60th North Carolina attached to Major General Carter L. Stevenson’s Division, Hardee’s Corps. He served in this capacity until he was wounded at New Hope Church in 1864 during the Atlanta campaign.
² James Craig Carter served in Company K, 54th Virginia Volunteer Regiment for three and a half years in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky. He enlisted at Hansonville, Virginia. James Craig Carter was wounded in the Georgia campaign by a bullet through one of his cheeks and was given medical care by Dr. Alexander Haller of Wytheville, Va., who was also in the Confederate service. The Bible Craig Carter was carrying at the time he was wounded has the following notation on the back fly-leaf: “I was shot down with this Book in my pocket on 22nd of June 1864. At Mount Zion Church, Ga.”
³ Allen F. Hurst of Co. K, 54th Virginia, was wounded on 25 February 1864 at Rocky Face Ridge, Georgia. He was taken POW on 19 March 1865 at Bentonville, NC.