John P Hite (1862)

21 September 2022

John Pendleton Hite of the 33rd Virginia Infantry was never officially appointed Sergeant, but did serve as such in November and December 1862, which helps date this photograph, contributed to his Find-a-grave memorial by Bryan Watson.

John sent a letter home shortly after the great battle at Sharpsburg of 17 September 1862 in which he describes his experience in Maryland:

Sept 21st
Camp near Martinsburgh [VA]

Dear Bettie:

As I have an opportunity of sending you a letter I embrace it. We are now about 6 miles below Martinsburgh on the road that leads to Williamsport. Since I last wrote I have been in Maryland 4 days, not there long enough to form an opinion about it. On Wednesday last there was a hard battle fought near Sharpsburgh MD. Some parts of the battle field we repulsed the yankees, whilst in others they repulsed us, neither party can claim much of a victory to my opinion. We captured a good many prisoners they also done the same. The next day after the battle I went over a good deal of the battle field; found the dead yankees at least twice as thick as ours. We were taken in the evening before the general engagement. I went in with them but as I have not been exchanged yet to a certainty the Capt. sent me to the rear. I went out under a strong cannonading, had many shells to burst all around me, one solid cannon ball rolled between my legs; supposed it would have broken my leg if it had struck it. The ball passed on some distance struck a solid fence rail which stoped it I then went to it. Capt. Walton will make out a report of my being captured, will send it to Jackson, then if I have not been exchanged I will be released immediately. I have not taken a gun yet, of course the officers will not let me until they know I have been exchanged.

John T. Johnston, George Griffith, A.H. Keyser are the wounded my company. G. B. Long missing supposed to be killed or badly wounded & captured. The Capt. told me this morning, that he expected I would be appointed Serg. Major of the Regt. you need not let the news get out of the family for the present. We captured the whole yankee force at Harpers Ferry about 13000 strong with every thing that is necessary to equip such an army which of course is a great deal.

I don’t know if the Dixie Artillery was in the recent engagement. Col. Buswell & son got to us this morning. If you see B. F. Coffman or any one that is coming to our company tell them to enquire at Winchester Post Office for a letter or letters for me individually. If you answer this send it by some one for I cannot tell where we will be soon.

I’m not sure who Bettie was, though his sister Sarah Elizabeth (1843-1863) is a good candidate – especially as he requested the news of his possible promotion “not … get out of the family for the present.” John was not married, though he may have had a sweetheart before he left home in 1861.

The Dixie Artillery, also formed in Page County, was indeed on the Maryland Campaign, under the command of Captain William H Chapman, though largely in reserve at Sharpsburg.

The letter quoted above is from Harlan R. Jessup’s The Painful News I Have to Write, Letters and Diaries of Four Hite Brothers of Page County in the Service of the Confederacy (1998). Thanks to the reenactors of The Stonewall Brigade for the transcription, shared via Facebook.

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