The most revealing and touching passages written during the American Civil War are found in letters exchanged by loved ones. The letters of South Carolina Cavalryman James Michael Barr to his wife Rebecca offer an excellent example. Barr enlisted as a private in the 5th S.C. Cavalry Regiment in January 1863, just as the fortunes of war began to turn against the South. After serving more than a year in its native state—away from the great battles farther north—the 5th S.C. Cavalry was called to the killing fields of Virginia.
All the while James Barr sent letters home. According to editor Thomas D. Mays, the most valuable of these concern the family farm—a middling operation supported by several slaves. Through his vigorous correspondence, Barr participated in his farm’s operation, asking for details and providing instructions.
But Barr also supplied news from the front and described his life as a soldier, including word of the clash at Trevilian Station, where Barr was wounded.
Barr’s letters have been preserved over the years by family members and were originally transcribed and compiled for publication by his granddaughter Ruth Barr McDaniel. This new and thoroughly researched volume springs from the efforts of her sons Raymond and Robert McDaniel to bring this unique and informative story to a wider audience.