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Your Devoted Lorraine: Civil War letters offer Rome resident a valuable link to his family's past

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In a worn orange envelope that reads simply “Elrod Family Information,” Rome resident Brandon Elrod keeps a bundle of papers and photos that give him a glimpse into his family’s past.

There are photos of family members. And there is also correspondence between Brandon’s great aunt Lorraine Elrod and a man named Parker Elrod. Parker seems to have done the bulk of the research to gather the materials in this envelope, from birth certificates to newspaper clippings and lists of family members.

The families united on these pages are the Elrods, Triggs and Swanns covering their movements through South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

And there are two documents in particular that are very special — letters written by Brandon’s great-great-great grandfather, Hugh Lorraine Swann, while he was fighting in the Civil War. The letters are not the originals. They’re hand copied from the originals but are still treasures to Brandon.

Hugh was born in York County, South Carolina in 1828 and he married Jane Latimer or Lattimer who was born circa 1829 in York County as well. They married on April 23, 1850. They had eight children including Julia Virginia Lorraine Swann, Jane Adaline Smith (born Swann) and Ella Ida Elrod (born Swann). Brandon traces his line to Hugh through Ella.

Hugh (who went by his middle name Lorraine) enlisted for service in the Confederate Army on June 12, 1862 with Company 6 of the 5th Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers. He left for the Civil War from South Carolina. Jane came to live with family in Georgia while he was away.

The following are the letters (in their entirety) that Lorraine wrote to his sister Mary and his wife Jane while camped near Chattanooga in October, 1863. They are a tiny but valuable piece of Civil War history.

This letter is to Lorraine’s sister, Mary, and it appears that although their correspondence had been infrequent, Lorraine was still very affectionate toward her.

Camp Near Chattanooga, Tenn.

October 11, 1863

Mrs. Mary R. Davidson

Dear Sister,

Yours of the 3rd inst. came to my hand yesterday found me only tolerable well. Suffering slightly from change of climate and water.

Today I am better.

I must own I was somewhat surprised at the receipt of your letter, but agreeable surprises produce no bad effect. I had no idea but that you had entirely forgotten me, as it had been so long since I had written to you.

But I am glad to know you have not entirely forgotten me.

I have and yet love you as I love no other human being outside of my own wife and children. Perhaps you have never had sufficient evidence to prove this to you, nevertheless ‘tis so.

We are still in battle line before Chattanooga. I do not think we will advance upon the enemy owing to the natural and artificial strength of the position. Neither do I believe the enemy will advance upon us as we are very well fortified. It is possible that the enemy will advance on our left and attempt to take from us our positions on Lookout Mtn. If so there will be a short and desperate engagement and our brigade will do the fighting. I hardly anticipate this event but it may take place from the fact that the mountain commands the railroad from Memphis, the only channel of transportation possible to the enemy except wagons over a rough mountain road of sixty miles.

Time must develop the issues of this campaign.

We have had three skirmishes with the enemy, got no one hurt in our company, 13 killed and wounded in our Regiment.

I suppose Paulina has forgotten me. If she will write to me I shall know she has not. If she does not I shall know she cares nothing for me.

The yankees shelled our line yesterday. One shell before its explosion cut down an apple tree in three steps of my shanty and the fragments of eight different shells flew everywhere over our regimental line but hurt no one.

Kiss Jimmy for me and give my respects to Mr. Davidson and family and to Paulina.

Write soon

I am truly your brother

H. Lorraine Swann

This letter is to Jane, his wife:

Camp Near Chattanooga, Tenn.

Oct. 21 / 1863

Dear Jane,

I read a letter from you dated the 12th which stated you had only got one letter from me since I left home. I have wrote four or five since I came here, so it is not my fault. I am in tolerable health. Have had pretty rough times since we came here but have had no hard fighting to do yet.

We are confronting the enemy at a distance of not more than two miles. They throw shells into our camp almost every day but seldom hurt anyone. The movements of the enemy yesterday seemed to indicate that they would attack us last night but they did not do so and there is no unusual excitement this morning, everything is quiet on the lines.

I want you to send me my woolen scarf and a pair of gloves soon as you can, send also some socks. I will not want anything else this winter.

Give my love to Maria Craig tell her I would have liked to have seen her when I came by home.

If you get any chance I want you to send me some sweet potatoes and some bread as we get short rations.

I have but little news to write. I hardly apprehend much fighting just at this point for both are well fortified and I hardly think either party will attack the other anytime soon, though I cannot tell what a day may bring forth.

Give my respects to friends in general. Remember me kindly to the children and remember your promise to me that you would write to me once a week.

Direct in this way: C. “E”, 5th Reg. S.C.V. Jenkins Brigade, Hoods Division, Chattanooga, Tenn.

I do not feel like writing any more. I command you to God’s care and keeping.

Your Devoted

Lorraine

Just a few weeks after writing the letter to his wife, Lorraine was killed in the Battle at Campbell’s Station, a battle of the Knoxville Campaign, on Nov. 16, 1863. He was 35 years old.

From Chattooga County in 1891, Jane filed for a widow’s pension and in that year received $100.

In 2013, a woman claiming to be Lorraine’s great-great-great granddaughter posted the following information to the genealogy web site Ancestry.com:

My husband, Ben, found an account of how my third great grandfather, Lorraine, died in the book “The Struck Eagle Brigadier General Micah Jenkins” by James J. Baldwin III on page 248.

Lorraine, as he went by his middle name, was a school teacher and farmer. His daughter, Addie, told of going with her father in an open buckboard wagon to teach at schools — as those places had no full time teachers or schools. Addie told also of the day her mother, Jane, received notice of Lorraine’s death. Jane read the letter and promptly threw it into the fire, only saying to them ‘your father’s dead.’ Addie was about 12 years old and had managed to read some of the letter over her mother’s shoulder. She said it gave his death date and a ‘lot’ number of where he was buried. It took me years to find out where Lorraine actually died, as Addie had not known his unit had been ordered to Knoxville from Chicamauga, Tennessee, and everyone thought he was buried on Lookout Mountain from where he sent his last letters home. I am still searching for his burial site but am afraid it may be under a parking lot as best as I can tell after going to Campbell’s Station, TN with my husband.

Much of this information is new to Brandon who believes his dad got this packet of documents from a cousin and it came into Brandon’s possession only when his dad died in 2011.

“I never knew anything about having relatives in the Civil War,” Brandon said. “I never traced anything that far back. This was in a box and it was neat to come across it and find out what it’s all about."

Now that he knows how special the contents of this envelope are, Brandon said he plans to store the letters and documents in a place befitting their value as treasured family heirlooms and important documents to his family’s history.

He would like to visit Lookout Mountain knowing what he knows of Lorraine’s presence there and may even visit Campbell’s Station (now Farragut) in Knox County, Tennessee where Lorraine died.

He knows how valuable this link to his past is and would like to share it one day with his own children — telling them about Lorraine and Jane and how they played a very small role in the Civil War.

“That’s really cool that I now have proof that one of my ancestors fought in the Civil War and where he was and how I’m connected to that,” he said. “When my little girls are old enough to appreciate it, I’ll definitely share this with them and one day it will be theirs to pass on to their children.”

Blake Silvers conducted research and contributed to this story