Fiery Letter from a ‘Nashville She Rebel’

The Civil War era is an abundant source of fascinating letters, from military personnel as well as civilians. The following letter is a good example. It was written by a Confederate woman in Tennessee to her prisoner-of-war cousin held in Indiana. The letter was printed by a Northern newspaper to mock the “Nashville She Rebel” for her bloodthirsty vows and poor spelling.

However, there is no denying the fierce spirit of resistance and independence in her letter, in defiance of the fact that Confederate forces in Tennessee were reeling during the spring of 1862. Losses at the Battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson opened up the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers to invasion, Nashville fell, and the Battle of Shiloh cost the South a bloody defeat and the loss of General Albert Sidney Johnston. But there is no defeat in this woman’s words.

a letter written by a Confederate woman during the Civil War, Weekly Wisconsin Patriot newspaper article 24 May 1862
Weekly Wisconsin Patriot (Madison, Wisconsin), 24 May 1862, page 3

Here is a transcription of this article:

Beautiful Letter from a Nashville She Rebel

The following polished and peppery letter was written by a Nashville girl to a cousin, who is a prisoner at Camp Morton, Ind. It ought to be published in the next edition of the Complete Letter Writer:

John,

I want you to write and tell me about the fight, and how many lincoln devils you killed. I would like to have been there and seen them lincoln devils keel over. It would have done my soul good to have seen them fall by thousands. John, as you are a prisoner, and cannot have the pleasure of killing lincoln [hired hands], I believe I will take your place, and I tell you what, I will kill live Yankees – I will do more for them than Morgan has done for them. I tell you Morgan is taring up the barn for them; he is doing the work for them. John I wish I was a man, I would come there and I would soon get you out of that lincoln hole. I would tar their hearts out, and then cook them and make them eat them; but I will do all I can for you, and when they come in Shelby I will get some of their skelps and hang them up in my room for you to look at. I will be for Jeff. Davis till the tenisee river freezes over, and then be for him and scratch on the ice –

Jeff davis rides a white horse,
Lincoln rides a mule,
Jeff davis is a gentleman,
And lincoln is a fule.

I wish I could send them lincoln devils some pies; they would never want any more to eat in this world. May Jeff ever be with you. – This is from a good southern rights girl – from your cousin, Marianne.

Note: an online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is not only a great way to learn about the lives of your ancestors – the old newspaper articles also help you understand American history and the times your ancestors lived in, and the news they talked about and read in their local papers. Did any of your ancestors serve in the Civil War? Please share your stories with us in the comments.

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