"Unless You Come Home We Must Die"
From: bernhard1848@att.net
The author/editor of “True Tales of the South at War,” Clarence Poe, relates two of his lifelong convictions as believing Theodore Roosevelt correct in stating that “The world has never seen better soldiers than those who followed Lee;” and “that this war was sustained by women no less heroic than the men.”
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
“Unless You Come Home We Must Die”
“The women of the South willingly gave for their cause the things that meant most to them.  They gave up their husbands and sons, not grudgingly, but with Spartan courage.  The following letter is a moving example of this patriotism.  A Clark County, Virginia, woman whose husband had been two years in Yankee prisons and in exile from his home, and whose son (an only child, in his eighteenth year) was then in some Northern Bastille as a prisoner of war, wrote to her husband:
“If it were possible, I should like you to be at home; but I do not want you or O. to give up the struggle for liberty and our rights . . . I would love to be with you; but do not expect it in these times.  I wish O. was at home – I mean in his company; but I would rather him be a prisoner for the war than have him home dodging his duty, as some do.  I am proud to think every man in my little family is in the army.  If I have but two, they are at their posts of duty.”
On the other hand some women with half-starving children so desperately needed their husbands that they urged them to desert.  An old schoolbook, Moore’s School History of North Carolina, contains a paragraph in illustration of this point which many a schoolboy (including the writer) remembered long after he forgot other dates and facts of his history lessons:
“My Dear Edward – I have always been proud of you, and since your connection with the Confederate army I have been prouder of you than ever before.  I would not have you do anything wrong for the world, but before God, Edward, unless you come home, we must die.
Last night I was aroused by little Eddie’s crying.  I called and said, “What’s the matter, Eddie?” And he said, “O mamma, I am so hungry.” And Lucy, Edward, your darling Lucy, she never complains but she is growing thinner and thinner every day. And before God, Edward, unless you come home we must die.  Your Mary”
Edward did desert – and this letter from his wife was given to the court as the only evidence he could offer when tried by courts martial for desertion. Although he voluntarily returned to his command after his family was provided for, the courts-martial found him guilty but recommended mercy.  So he remained in service and was last seen, pale and bloody, firing after the retreating Federals.  He fell dead at his post of battle.”
(True Tales of the South at War, How Soldiers Fought and Families Lived, 1861-1865, Clarence Poe, editor, Dover, 1995, pp. 64-65)