Letters of
Pvt. George Sylvester Lea

George Sylvester Lea
"An Edited Index to the Private George Sylvester Lea, Co. C. 'Amite Rifles' 7th Regiment Mississippi Infantry Collection of Civil War Letters compiled by John A. (Jack) Banning and Betty Lea Banning, 1992"; Edited by Ronald J. Skellie, Regimental Historian of the 7th Miss. Infantry, 2002. revised 2006.[George Lea Index, ed. Skellie, 2002, rev. 2006]

Quoted from the index:

"The collection of letters came to my attention from my friend and fellow researcher, Col. Bob Patterson, who had received them from Tim Burgess, who was doing research on the battle of Franklin, Tennessee. Originally my set of letters was incomplete in that it did not include letters relating to the Atlanta Campaign. In the fall of 2002, my friend and former professor, Dr. Charles Sullivan of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, provided me with the missing pages that he had received from Roger Hanson of Hurley, Miss.

The collection of letters covers from Saturday, August 24, 1861 to Friday August 12, 1864. These letters were part of the 'The Lea Family Letters' that were written during the Civil War by or to members of the Lea Family of Amite County, Mississippi. Letters from Private George Sylvester Lea of Co. C 7th Regt. Miss. Infantry to his father Hampton Muse Lea are the most extensive.

In addition there are letters from his father to George, letters written by friends while George was recovering from wounds received at Murfreesboro, as well as, letters from cousins, uncles and friends in other regiments.

Carey and Jean Lea discovered the letters in an old armoire in the Hampton Muse Lea home and started the process that has led to their inclusion in the regimental history of the 7th Mississippi.

On October 8, 1992 John A 'Jack’ Banning and Betty Lea Banning completed the process of transcribing these valuable family treasures. They spent over a year painstakingly handling the old papers and meticulously deciphering every page in its original spelling, punctuation and grammar.

In their introduction Jack and Betty Banning say, 'It was an experience we will never forget. We found the letters covered the entire gamut of human emotions from excitement, extreme interest in the progress of hostilities, humor, sadness and at times despair. It was like reading a history of life in the deep south during the Civil War.

The letters cover the time frame of August 1861 when the independent companies started to arrive on the Mississippi coast Camps of Instruction until August 1864 when George’s last letter was received. He was killed four months later at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee. The family tells us that his servant and constant companion throughout the War, Kemp, returned after the war with George’s father and his close friend, Nick Travis to recover his remains. They transported his body back to Mississippi where he was buried with his family in the Zachariah Lea Cemetery."

"At this time we have been unable to obtain originals or even copies of the letters. Since the author's are deceased and all attempts to contact family members have failed to develop leads as to the location of the letters, all we have is the Banning's transcribed letters.

The following letters are offered for review by message board researchers in the hope that they will help uncover answers to the location of Gainesborough, Mississippi as well as offering a chance for everone to see of sample of this excellent collection of period letters. Editors notes and comments indicated by [ ]".

[October 26, 1863 (Monday Morning) Camp near Chattanooga, Tenn. GS Lea to HM Lea]

In this letter, George relates to his father that he has received a letter from his brother, Bud, who is now on detached service with Capt. Miller’s Company picking up deserters and conscripts. In his situation in line of battle at Chattanooga, he would normally have time to write, but due to the inclement weather he had not been able to write.

From all reports, the weather in Chattanooga had deteriorated quickly and that the area had been saturated with rain cause very difficult living conditions and even more difficulty for those traveling the roads delivering mail and supplies.]

[George Lea Index; ed. R. Skellie, 2002, rev. 2006]

“Camp near Chattanooga Tenn
Monday Oct 26th 1863
H.M. Lea
Jacksonwood, Miss.

Dear father"
[Terrible Weather]
"Yours of the 7th last came to me a few days past owing to the bad weather I have not been able to reply till the present. This morning is the first sunshine we have had for several days. It has been raining almost quite half the time since we have been in this place, and it is the most disagreeable time and place I have ever saw. I have nothing of interest to write you Nothing strange since last. My health is not so good as it has been I have been somewhat under the weather for the past ten days I cant say I am really sick but feel unwell all the time, But I think I am improving.”
[Don’t Know Old Rosy’s Plan]

“As regards our situation and that of the Enemy it is the same all quiet I believe Old Rosy has received heavy reinforcements. Whether he will attempt to drive us from here or not I am unable to say.”

[Letter from Bud in Cavalry]

“I received a letter from Bud yesterday he was at Gainesborough Miss at the time he wrote on detached service picking up deserters and conscripts I would like to be with him but think is no chance for that. I know when our time up if this war has not closed I think I will try Cavalry service a while About the chance the chance that is offered us in getting I will refresh your memory on the subject. I know that you know that I wish to come home and this chance is all that I have to come and I guess it is a pretty bad chance."

[Forty Day Furlough Offer]
"If you can get a man and send him up as my recruit you will see me coming with a forty day furlough. I will be willing to give a right smart to get one to come. I want to come home worse than I ever did in my life Every letter I get from home I want to come worse than ever.

You made mention of so many being present at Line Creek Association I think out of so many you might scare up some old fellow He will have the chance of joining any Regiment or Company he may wish in the Army" "So he reports to me as my recruit then he can be mustered in where he wishes. Col. Bishop says he will guarantee a furlough to every man that got a recruit. Some are getting off already Billy Wilson will have to come out soon again and he will do well to come here with me. It is immaterial whether he is old or young So he will do for the service they are not particular about it no way"

[Cattle Being Pressed by Cavalry
George Fears Losing Them—That’s All He’s Got]
“You state in your letter that the cavalry are pressing all the cattle. I am afraid they will get all mine I hate that for they are all that I have got now and it seems hard to take them from me but it cant be helped."

[Send Clothes and Pepper]
"you will send me some more clothing when Mr Bennett comes. Mother can send some socks in addition to what I have already written for. If you have the chance of sending any thing to eat by any one coming tell Mother to send me a good bit of peper it is something we greatly need and cant get it. I think there will be some one coming up at different times during the winter We are much closer now than last winter but more difficulty about coming to us.

Well I will quit for this time I will write again soon. I will by every opportunity.

Tell Sis to write often & Em Lea too, I guess Em Richmond ____ has forgotten me, she never writes. When you write to Bud you can tell him I received his letter I will write soon to him

Write often your self, it is always much gratification to hear or of all being well."

[George uses a new closing here for the first time. By comparing this closing we can determine the date for some of his undated letters since up to this time, he had never used this closing:]

"You can judge my feelings towards you all & being at home better than I can describe them to you Give my love to Mother & Sisters, Dr. Felder. Tell Uncle Jim I say get me a recruit if he can.
Good bye for this time
Your Boy

Names Mil. units Locations Subjects

Terrible weather Gainesborough. Miss.
Line Creek Association
Old Rosy

Bud [letter at Gainesborough, MS. in Cav.]"

[This letter from T.M. Lea, George’s brother in Capt. E.A. Miller’s company of Cavalry may have been from Waynesboro, Miss. since we are unable to locate a place called Gainesborough in Mississippi. It is also unlikely that he was in Gainesborough Tennessee since T.M. Lea wrote to his father a short time later from Waynesboro. See Letter pp. 84, 85 Nov. 2nd Red Bluff Wayne Co. It is unlikely that Bud Lea could have traveled from Tennessee to Wayne County in that time period. Since he was in a local company it is unlikely that his company could have or would have gone to Tennessee. It is possible that there was a place called Gainesborough on the road to Carthage Miss. in Leake County. That is a distance that he could have traveled, but it is still possible that this is a transcription and/or spelling error; and he was actually in "Wainesboro".]

[George Lea Index; ed. R. Skellie, 2002, rev. 2006]
Names Mil. units Locations Subjects
Col. Bishop [William H.]
Billy Wilson
Mr. Bennett
Em Richmond [Cousin]
Em Lea [Cousin or sister?]
Bud ____[T. M. Lea]
Dr. Felder
Uncle Jim [Lea]

Source: [George Lea Index; ed. R. Skellie, 2002, rev. 2006]

[Letter November 2, 1863 , Redbluff Wayne Co. Miss. T.M. Lea to H. M. Lea]
[Clothes Boots and Jeans]

"Redbluff Wayne Co Miss Nov 2d 1863
Monday Morning
As their is no mail I will send you a letter by hand. Sergeant R. H. Neyland is going home on furlough and I send a letter by him left in care [of] Mr. Barney. I want you to send me one pair thick drawers 3 pairs wool socks and one pair heavy jeans pants and a pair of gauntlet gloves have the socks dyed some color that will suit the camp". [Cavalry Boots] "And I want you to have a pair of boots made No. 8 high instep long legs and flaps to cover the knees. I will pay for them myself and if I dont come home after them send them to the RR by someone coming out and directed to Waynesboro in care of Capt. E. A. Miller."

"Do not send the boots by Mr. R. H. Neyland he will have more than he can bring. Be sure to meet Sergeant Neyland in Liberty and send my socks drawers pants gloves and one under shirt. I have written to George but have not rec'd an answer yet. I may come home some time this winter. My mare is doing very well so far."

I am in very good health at present. I am going to saddle up now. I must close. Good Bye T.M. Lea"

"P.S. Carry my clothing to Mr. Stratton and put my clothing with Floyds Strattons Sergeant is going to bring some for him. Send a letter by Sergeant

Direct all letters to Waynesboro, Miss
Care of Capt E.A. Miller

This leaves me well. Good Bye T.M. Lea

P.S. Monday Night. I have just rec'd your letter of the 22d hearing that all are well. I have heard nothing from George yet.
Good Bye T.M. Lea" GSL/TML

Source:[George Lea Index; ed. R. Skellie, 2002, rev. 2006]
Names Mil. units Locations Subjects
Redbluff, Wayne Co, Miss.
Heavy jeans pants
Sergeant R.H. Neyland [Sgt. Robert H. Neyland, Co A 24th Battn. Miss. Cav. (Moorman's)
Mr. Barney
Capt. E.A. E. Miller [Capt. E.A. Miller, Co A 24th Battn. Miss. Cavalry (Moorman's). Also called Co E Miller's company raised in Clark and Wayne Counties]
Lea 'Mare doing very well'
Mr. Stratton
Sergeant ____ [Neyland]
Waynesboro, Miss.
Floyd Stratton
T.M. Lea"
Source:[George Lea Index; ed. R.Skellie, 2002, rev 2006.]