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Private William Rufus Barlow Civil War letters

Identifier: AC-1276

Content Description

The handwritten letters of Private William Rufus Barlow (1827-1865), a conscript into the Confederate Army from Caldwell County, North Carolina. The letters cover Barlow's wartime experiences from August 1862 until January 1865.


  • 1862 - 1865

Conditions Governing Access

No interlibrary loan.

Conditions Governing Use

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications for which the Appalachian State University assumes no responsibility.

Biographical / Historical

William Rufus Barlow (1827-1865) was a native of the Kings Creek community in Caldwell County, North Carolina. Barlow married Mary Ann German (1827-1860) in 1859, they had one child together, Marshall Columbus Barlow (circa 1860-1948). After Mary Ann's death in 1860, Barlow married Elizabeth German (1840-1914) in 1861 and had a son, Sidney Stokes Barlow (1862-1924). When William Rufus' half brother John Oliver Cromwell Barlow (1819-1862), died of wounds received in a battle near Richmond, Virginia in July 1862, the Barlows took his two youngest children Benjamin H. (1849-unknown) Sarah Jane (1854-1911) as their own.

Conscripted into the Confederate Army, William Rufus Barlow reported to Camp Hill in Iredell County, North Carolina in August 1862. Assigned to the 18th North Carolina Infantry (8th Regiment North Carolina Volunteers), Barlow joined conscripts from Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, and Wilkes counties. Barlow and these other western North Carolina men replaced the nearly 300 casualties suffered by the regiment in actions in Virginia earlier that summer. Of the eighteen men, including Barlow, who joined Company B of the regiment in August 1862, only five would return home.

The recruits traveled north to join the Army of Northern Virginia, Barlow's unit saw action at Sharpsburg, Maryland on September17, 1862 where he was wounded in the wrist by shrapnel. He then walked 122 miles to the General Hospital at Staunton, Virginia, where he recovered. Barlow participated in many of the major and minor engagements of the eastern theater of the Civil War, including the Battle of Fredricksburg (December 1862), the Wilderness (May 1864), and Spotsylvania (May 1864). Captured during the Battle of Spotsylvania, Barlow was sent to the prison camp at Point Lookout, Maryland and from there to the prison camp at Elmira, York. At the time Barlow entered the camp, the prison was already overcrowded, leaving Barlow and other prisoners exposed to the New York winter. He wrote his last letter home on January 1, 1865, dying of pneumonia on January 31, 1865.


1 Linear Feet (1 flat box)

Language of Materials



The collection is comprised of letters sent home by Private William Rufus Barlow (1827-1865) of the 18th North Carolina Infantry, Company B. The letters are primarily addressed to his wife, Elizabeth German Barlow (1840-1914). Barlow was conscripted into the Confederate Army in the summer of 1862 and reported to Camp Hill in Iredell County, North Carolina. The letters follow Barlow's wartime experiences with the Army of Northern Virginia from August 1862 until January 1865 and include descriptions of camp life, sickness, battles, and lists of casualties from his home community. Much of Barlow's writing was devoted to sending instructions to his wife and children concerning the operation of their western North Carolina farm under the economic and financial stresses of the Civil War. Barlow's letters also expressed the personal fears and values of a conscripted soldier, often reiterating his hunger and requests for various foodstuffs, his inability to escape the army, his belief that he will die in the war, and his hope to see his wife and children again in heaven.


The letters are arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by Bryan Barlow on June 30, 2019.

Condition Description

The letters were laminated prior to arriving at Appalachian State, otherwise in good condition.

Legal Status

The materials from Appalachian State University Libraries' Special Collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. As a result, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.
Private William Rufus Barlow Civil War letters
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Repository Details

Part of the Appalachian State University Special Collections Repository

218 College Street
Boone U.S.A. - North Carolina 28608-2026 United States
8282624975 (Fax)