Elizabeth Davis Swiger, ed. “Civil War Letters and Diary of Joshua Winters: A Private in the Union Army, Company G, First Western Virginia Volunteer Infantry” Parsons, WV: McClain Printing Co., 1991.
*Throughout 2022, the “Publication of Note” portion of the newsletter will highlight important collections of letters and primary documents relevant to the Civil War era in the Shenandoah Valley published by smaller publishing houses.
On September 23, 1861, Joshua Winters, a native of Marshall County, Virginia (now West Virginia) enlisted in Company G, 1st Virginia Infantry. During his three years of service Winters kept a diary and wrote regularly to family members, most notably his four sisters. While Winters was uneducated and spelled many words phonetically, the thoughts he shared with family and confided to his diary prove a useful primary source for individuals interested in the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley.
As a veteran of the 1st Virginia U.S., Winters experienced fighting in the Shenandoah Valley in 1862 and 1864. His thoughts offer valuable insight into such notable engagements as the First Battle of Kernstown, Piedmont, Third Battle of Winchester, and Fisher’s Hill. Beyond descriptions of battles and the movements of armies Winters’ letters and diary offers insight into the localities through which he passed. For instance, in a letter Winters wrote to one of his sisters on March 15, 1862, he offered a description of Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), a place he found so appealing he admitted “when the war is over i could liv thair.” Nearly two years later, on May 5, 1864, Winters described the scene as Union troops entered Winchester. While most residents remained indoors, Winters noted one Unionist civilian waving a handkerchief in support of their entrance into the oft-contested community.
Ably edited, Winters’ letters and diary offer significant insight into the conflict in the Shenandoah Valley.