Samuel Tine Owen Civil War letters, Henderson Co., TX

These articles were in 3 parts
Old Trunk Bares War's Horror

Letters from a Civil War teen-age soldier to his parents in Henderson County
were exhumed from an old trunk in 1937 and published in an August, 1962, edition of the weekly Athens Review.

The connection between these now century-old letters and Mrs. Nettie Killingsworth was brought to light last week by the 74 year old widow in an interview with a Sentinel reporter.

The young soldier Samuel Tine Owen was Mrs. Killingsworth's uncle who died in the Battle of Gaines Mill, near Richmond, Virginia, on June 27, 1862.

The letters also bear a connection with the town of Harrisburg, from which Samuel, then a little over 17, wrote his first letter to his parents, the Rev. and Mrs. John Wade Owen. the Rev. Mr. Owen, a Primitive Baptist preacher, was Mrs. Killingsworth's grandfather.

Mrs. Killingsworth's father, John A. Owen who died in the early 1940s, had recalled the incident of young Samuel responding to the Confederate call to arms in the summer of 1861.

"I overheard my father saying how my grandmother wept when Samuel joined the Army," Mrs. Killingsworth said, straining her memory.

Then she produced as yellowed copy of the Athens Review which had published excerpts on the letters. The originals were, and perhaps still are, in the custody of Bonner Frizzell, of Palestine, who is the historian of the Owen-Frizzell families.

It was Frizzell who had discovered the letters 31 years ago in an old trunk belonging to John W. Phelps a descendant of John Wade Owen at Barry, Texas.

Samuel's first letter from Harrisburg apparently is an account of his experiences at his first duty station. And the "iron horse" he mentions probably was the mode of transportation used by the Army at least from Millican, to muster the troops at Harrisburg.

Samuel had been assigned at Athens to Company K, Fourth Texas Regiment under Captain William H. (Howdy) Martin. The group later became part of the famous John B. Hood's Texas Brigade.

Because of inconsistencies of spelling and punctuation the following excerpts from the letters are slightly edited.

"Harrisburg (near Houston, Texas) August 3, 1861.
"Mr. John W. Owen:
"Dear Father and Mother... it is with pleasure that I take the opportunity of informing you that I am well at this time and hope when these lines come to hand they may find you well and doing well.

"We landed here on the 29th of July and may muster into the service on the third day of August for during (sic) the war. There were 78 men mustered in our company yesterday. All these men quartered with us (are) from Athens or near. We will leave here for Alexandria next Tuesday on (the) Red River where I want you to write to me, and I will do the same.

"The report of our drawing money here is all a lie.

"Father, you will remember that your son is devoted to the instruction of a pious father through the disaster which is just about to over throw our country (and) calls forth our separation... yet you can depend on one thing, that to my country I will prove true, although I may find a soldier's grave.

"You will find that we did not go to Brenham but changed our course to this place (Harrisburg) by order of the Department.

"We came from Millican to this place on the iron horse where we will stay until next Tuesday, thence to the seat of war..."

Letters From a Teen-age Civil War Soldier-- Part 3
'If They Won't Fight, They Won't Care for a Wife'
This is the third and final installment of a series which quotes letters by Samuel Tine Owen, a teen-age Civil War soldier, written to his parents in Henderson County. The letters, dated 1861 to 1862, were found in an old trunk belonging to the late John W. Phelps at Barry, Texas, in 1937. Excerpts from the letters were first published in 1962 by the weekly newspaper, Athens (Henderson County) Review. The young soldier, who was later killed in battle, was the uncle of Mrs. Nettie Killingsworth, a 74 year old Northwest area widow.

"Camp Hood near Dumfries, Virginia, December 20, 1861.

"Dear Father and Mother:
"You cannot imagine the pleasure it affords me to hear from you once more.

I was in the hospital at Richmond (for) some time, sick together with others of my company. All the boys have also come out (recovered) except a few.

"We have been looking for a battle for some time. The Yankees are very numerous of the Maryland side of the river and if they want a fight they have nothing to do but to cross over... We have some good batteries on the river...
"Your devoted son..."


"At camp near Dumfries, Virginia, January 18, 1862,
"Dear Father and Mother:
"... I had the measles first and then the mumps, and they have kept me confined to the house all the winter 'till now I am getting so I can turn my hand to help my mates who have been very kind in waiting on me. But for them, I should have suffered for want of things I could not get...

"Two deserted, but nary one from our county..."


"Prince William County, Virginia, February 5, 1862
"Dear Father and Mother:
"... I heard this morning that all of the men from 16 to 50 years old were leaving the country, but father, I want you to stay at home... I think that we can whip the Yankees with one from each family.

Sary, I understand that you have married and I want to know whom you married, for I heard that all of the boys have left...when I heard of it I said that I didn't believe it, but I said if you had, you sure were crazy...


"Dear Father and Mother:
"This morning I take my pen in my hand to drop you a few lines and thinking to let you know that I am well...

"We have heard that they had a big battle in Tennessee at Fort Donelson and great loss on both sides. I have heard the Yankees took the fort and all our force (of) about 15,000 prisoners...

"Miss Sary, I want you to live single as long as you live, or 'til the boys get back from the war. The boys who stay there (at home in Henderson County) are not worthy of a family for if they won't fight for their country, then they won't take care of a wife.

"Instead of telling them that you love them, tell that you don't and... tell them they must come to fight..."

The "Sary" to whom Samuel refers is his sister, Sarah Acenith Owen. She waited until after the war to marry, becoming the wife of Joseph Epheldred Ingrum on August 3, 1865. The couple reared seven children whose many descendants now reside in Navarro County.


"State of Virginia, March 16, 1862
"Dear Father and Mother:
"... I received your kind letter day before yesterday which gave me much pleasure to hear from you all. It was dated the 8th of February and it stated that you all were well, except Mother, and (that) she was as well as could be expected...

"His name is William Travis (Owen). Why didn't you name him J. B. Hood:
(EDITOR's NOTE: William Travis Owen, Samuel's baby brother, was born February 7, 1862. All of his life he was known as "Hood" Owen, an apparent compromise on the part of Samuel's parents to comply with his wishes. It is also apparent that Samuel had a high regard for General John B. Hood who commanded the famous Texas Brigade of which Samuel's Company K, 4th Texas Regiment was a part.)

Samuel's letter continues:
"... We have fallen back about 30 miles from the Potomac River to Fredericksburg (Virginia) and it (the retreat) is stated so as to give the Yanks a chance to cross on to attack us here.

"I don't think that (it) will be long before they will attack us here, for something has to be done and I don't care how soon for I am getting mighty tired doing nothing..."


"State of Virginia, May 22, 1862
"Dear Father and Mother:
"... Well, Mother, I have understood that father has left you at home by yourself, but Mother, I hope that it is all for the better...

"I have not told you anything about our little fight the other day on the 7th of May. Our regiment was (suffered) two wounded (and) nary a one killed. Their (the Yankees') loss was great. It lasted about two hours...

"Dear sister: I hope that when these few lines come to hand that you will be well... I heard that the boys are all gone to war, and you say that you are not married; so I reckon then that... I can be at your wedding.

"... Your brother until death... so fare you well
S. T. Owen"


News of Samuel's death in the Battle of Gaines' Mill, near Richmond on June 27, 1862, was received by Samuel's parents in a letter written from camp by Samuel's uncle, I. D. Owen. The letter was dated June 28, 1862.

It was for the able command of this battle and two others (Bull Run and Antietam) that won for Brigadier General John Bell Hood the commission of major general.


Samuel's niece, Mrs. Nettie Killingsworth of Westford, was born some 32 years after the tragedy of Gaines' Mill, but the horror of war touched her own life time. Her son, Harvel R. was killed in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.

Mrs. Killingsworth, 74 lowers her eyes when asked for her views on the Vietnam war. While she understands the idealism behind the Civil War and World War II, she has one short comment on the Vietnam war:

"If those people want to fight, let them; don't send our boys there."

Mrs. Killingsworth and her carpenter husband, Gordon (who died last March), moved to Houston in 1936 form their native Athens.

The couple reared four children, Harvel R. who died in World War II; Owen K. who was killed in an automobile accident in 1953; Jehugh K. and Mrs. Evelyn Deaton, both of Houston.

After World War II, Mrs. Killingsworth devoted 500 hours as a volunteer at the Veterans Hospital. That was her way, she says, of trying to forget her own loss.

In her younger days, she was a correspondent for the Athens Review, the weekly newspaper which first published the foregoing Civil War letters.

Mrs. Killingsworth, despite her age does not presume to know the reasons for life's tragedies, but she says:

"I am learning more everyday that we have to depend on the Lord for protection."

Mrs. Killingsworth is a member of Melrose Baptist Church.

Submitted by Donald R. Therneau

Old Letters Henderson Co. TX

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