In 1989, my father asked me if I wanted my great-great grandfather's pockets. In the 1800s pockets were worn inside trousers, rather like a modern money belt. The pockets contained about 75 old letters and, as I began reading them, I found that they were mostly Civil War letters.
I began typing these letters up, thinking that others in the family might want to read them someday. As I began digging into the letters, I learned that Barham Bobo Foster was a signer of the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession for the Spartanburg District and learned of the terrible cost of the war to his family. So the structure of a book began to form. As I continued my research, I found another 275 letters in the Caroliniana Library at the University of S.C.
Lt. Col. Barham Bobo Foster was second in command of the 3rd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry from its initial organization in 1861 until he left the army in 1862 in failed health. His two sons, Perrin and Tony, served in this unit until their deaths in combat.
In the final edited form, these letters reveal the lives of the Barham Bobo Foster, his two sons, his wife, and daughters during the period from late 1860 to early 1863. The Fosters were engaged at Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, the S.C. coastal defenses, Harper's Ferry, and Fredericksburg. In addition to battle descriptions, the letters offer insights into the thinking of an upcountry planter family on the war, politics, and home life as the war continued to grind away.
I have enjoyed getting to know this family. I hope that you will also enjoy getting to know them.
Lt. Col Barham Bobo Foster
Many people who have read this book have been intrigued by Barham Bobo Foster's slave, Mid. Foster brought Mid with him to Northern Virginia in 1861 to help manage his horse, cook, do laundry, and similar camp chores.
On the night of September 3, 1861, Mid and four other slaves left the Confederate camp to seek freedom across Federal lines. On September 24, Foster writes to his wife that a party of slaves was fired upon the day before while crossing the Confederate lines. The leader was killed and buried on the scene. Foster speculates that it might have been Mid, but decided not to exhume him and confirm his suspicion.
Douglas McRae, a doctoral candidate in history at Georgetown University, got curious and found that a Middleton Foster was a soldier in the 23 Regiment, US Colored Troops. I was able to find Middleton Foster's military records in the National Archives. His enlistment record states that his birth was in Spartanburg, S.C. and that he was 36 years old. His enlistment record is signed on March 31, 1864, with an "x". Middleton Foster is very likely Mid.
His muster roll records state that he was absent sick in the General Hospital at Alexandria , Va. beginning on July 17, 1864. The records say that he never returned to the regiment. On November 30, 1865 the 23rd USCT Regiment was mustered out of the United States service. The muster roll on that date still records him as absent sick at an unknown location and no discharge was furnished.