Pangle Family Papers: Civil War Letters and Internship Experiences

by Shannon L. Buford

Little did I know when I walked into the archives that I would be transported back to 1863, but that’s what happened when I began my first project as an intern: reading and digitizing (scanning) a series of letters from Confederate soldier Sergeant David “D.W.” Pangle to his wife, Delia Newman Pangle. These Civil War letters are the most personal part of the Pangle Family Papers collection, which also includes family photographs, receipts, deeds, weaving patterns, and other materials.

D.W.’s letters to Delia have research value not because they offer any revelations about the War or the 1860s, but because they represent the experiences of thousands of soldiers like D.W. He writes about the wretched conditions at the various camps his unit occupied (camps around Shelbyville, Tullahoma, Chattanooga, and Jonesborough) and the widespread illnesses that he and his fellow soldiers suffer: “I have been very sick but I think I am improving . . . We have no tents and just have to lay out on the ground and take the wheather [sic] as it comes . . . I never expect to see home again unless I get better treatment.” He tells Delia that he sees no quick end to the war and fears that he will never “see home again this side of the grave.”

He continually laments his separation from Delia and their infant son, Tillman, and their estrangement becomes even more disheartening as D.W. writes that he has received no letters from his wife or anyone else in their family. Given the unreliability of mail in the 1800s, such breaks in communication were expected, but D.W.’s pleas for Delia to write to him demonstrate how alone he must have felt.

Somehow, he never lost hope. In nearly every letter, he proclaims his faith in God and his belief that he will see his family again one day, whether on Earth or in heaven. Despite the pain that his words often show, his courage always shines through.

When I began researching the Pangle family genealogy, I discovered that D.W. did not survive the war. However, Tillman lived to be ninety-five years old, which surely would have brought D.W. joy.

About University Archives

Archives and Special Collections resides in Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library on the first floor. The collection includes materials of legal, fiscal and historical significance to Tennessee Tech University and documents the history of the Upper Cumberland Region. The collection includes over 2,500 cubic feet of manuscripts, photographs, and archives from Tennessee Tech as well as surrounding people, businesses, and organizations of the Upper Cumberland. The collection contains books on the history and culture of the Upper Cumberland Region of Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Internships and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.