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Collection Number: 05261

Collection Title: Robert W. Parker Papers, 1858-1889

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


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Size About 350 items
Abstract Robert W. Parker was born in 1838 in Pittsylvania County, Va. His father, Ammon H. Parker, and mother, Frances Goggin Parker, eventually settled in Bedford County, Va., where Robert became a farmer. Robert served in the 2nd Virginia Cavalry of the Confederate States of America Army from the onset of the American Civil War, and attained the rank of 4th Sergeant. Robert was killed in action at Appomattox Courthouse, Va., on the morning of 9 April 1865, the same day that Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to the Union Army. Surviving him was his wife, Rebecca Louise Fitzhugh Walker Parker, and two sons. The collection consists of correspondence, notes, receipts, and artifacts related to Robert W. Parker's service in the 2nd Virginia Cavalry Regiment, Confederate States of America Army. A typed transcription of each letter is included. Most of the letters were written by Robert W. Parker to his wife, Rebecca Louise Fitzhugh Walker Parker, in Bedford County, Va. Other correspondents include Robert's mother, Frances Goggin Parker, and various siblings and cousins. Robert W. Parker's letters contain vivid descriptions of the life, opinions, and concerns of a Confederate cavalry soldier. The letters document the skirmishes, battles, and campaigns in which Parker participated, including the First Battle of Manassas; the Battle of Chancellorsville, Va.; the Battle of Brandy Station, Va.; the Battle of Kelly's Ford, Va.; the Overland Campaign of 1864; and the Shenandoah Valley campaigns of 1862 and 1864. In addition to information about battles and military campaigns, the letters also contain descriptions of life in Confederate military encampments, including the food and supplies provided to the troops, picket duty, and drills. Many letters relate information about other members of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry who were acquaintances of the Parker family, including their illnesses and deaths in battle. In his letters, Robert W. Parker often asked his wife and parents to send him foodstuffs, clothing, shoes, and other personal effects. A particular concern for Robert W. Parker was the condition of his horses, and some of his letters deal with the difficulty of procuring new horses, either from his parents' farm or via purchase, when his old horses were condemned by the Army. In all of his letters, Robert W. Parker expressed concern for his wife's welfare and state of mind, often imploring her to take care of their sons. He also worried about the condition of his farms.
Creator Parker, Robert W., 1838-1865.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Robert W. Parker Papers #5261, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
See also Lee's Last Casualty: The Life and Times of Sgt. Robert W. Parker, Second Virginia Cavalry , Catherine M. Wright, editor (University of Tennessee Press, 2008), which contains transcriptions of Robert W. Parker letters.
Acquisitions Information
Received from R. T. Dooley of Charlotte, N.C., in March 2006 (Acc. 100350) and October 2006 (Acc. 100513: letter, 15 August 1861, and transcript added to volume 1).
Sensitive Materials Statement
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 (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Robert W. Parker was born in 1838 in Pittsylvania County, Va. His father, Ammon H. Parker, and mother, Frances Goggin Parker, eventually settled in Bedford County, Va., where Robert became a farmer. Robert served in the 2nd Virginia Cavalry of the Confederate States of America Army from the onset of the American Civil War, and attained the rank of 4th Sergeant. Robert was killed in action at Appomattox Courthouse, Va., on the morning of 9 April 1865, the same day that Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to the Union Army. Surviving him was his wife, Rebecca Louise Fitzhugh Walker Parker, and two sons.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection consists of correspondence, notes, receipts, and artifacts related to the service of Robert W. Parker of Bedford County, Va., in the 2nd Virginia Cavalry Regiment, Confederate States of America Army, during the Civil War. A typed transcription of each letter is included. Most of the letters were written by Robert W. Parker to his wife, Rebecca Louise Fitzhugh Walker Parker, in Bedford County. Other correspondents include Robert's mother, Frances Goggin Parker, and various siblings and cousins. Robert W. Parker's letters contain vivid descriptions of the life, opinions, and concerns of a Confederate cavalry soldier. The letters document the skirmishes, battles, and campaigns in which Parker participated, including the First Battle of Manassas; the Battle of Chancellorsville, Va.; the Battle of Brandy Station, Va.; the Battle of Kelly's Ford, Va.; the Overland Campaign of 1864; and the Shenandoah Valley campaigns of 1862 and 1864. In addition to information about battles and military campaigns, the letters also contain descriptions of life in Confederate military encampments, including the food and supplies provided to the troops, picket duty, and drills. Many letters relate information about other members of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry who were acquaintances of the Parker family, including their illnesses and deaths in battle. In his letters, Robert W. Parker often asked his wife and parents to send him foodstuffs, clothing, shoes, and other personal effects. A particular concern for Robert W. Parker was the condition of his horses, and some of his letters deal with the difficulty of procuring new horses, either from his parents' farm or via purchase, when his old horses were condemned by the Army. In all of his letters, Robert W. Parker expressed concern for his wife's welfare and state of mind, often imploring her to take care of their sons. He also worried about the condition of his farms.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Correspondence and related material, 23 March 1858-1 April 1889.

About 350 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Oversize Volume SV-5261/1

Correspondence, 25 January 1860-31 October 1861 #05261, Series: "Correspondence and related material, 23 March 1858-1 April 1889." SV-5261/1

The first few letters are unrelated to Robert W. Parker's Civil War service, but instead concern affairs relating to other members of the families of Robert W. Parker and his wife, Rebecca Louise Fitzhugh Walker Parker. The first letter by Robert W. Parker from a military camp is dated 29 May 1861. Most of the letters immediately following are from Robert W. Parker to his wife and deal with camp life and conditions, including military drills, food and supplies, and the arrival of various friends and acquaintances of Robert W. Parker. Parker's letter from 26 June 1861 was written from Manassas Junction, Va., where the Confederate Army was encamped, and his 22 July 1861 letter relates in considerable detail his participation in the First Battle of Bull Run. Subsequent letters deal with the aftermath of the battle at Manassas, including gathering of weaponry and equipment left on the battlefield. Parker's letters from September to October of 1861 relate various maneuvers, skirmishes and pickets. Other letters include a few written by Frances Goggin Parker to her son admonishing him of the need to avoid "wandering in the paths of vice and immorality," and to maintain his Christian faith.

Oversize Volume SV-5261/2

Correspondence, 11 November 1861-17 February 1863 #05261, Series: "Correspondence and related material, 23 March 1858-1 April 1889." SV-5261/2

Robert W. Parker's letter of 11 November 1861 to his brother tells of a significant battle at Leesburg, Va., in which Robert was involved, which possibly could have been the Battle of Ball's Bluff, although he greatly exaggerated the number of soldiers involved and the number of casualties, particularly on the Union side. Parker's letters from December 1861 to February 1862 detail life in the Army of Northern Virginia at their winter encampment in Loudon County, Va. Letters of February 1862 from Parker to his wife discuss whether he should reenlist in the Confederate Army, a decision which he would eventually make in the affirmative. Most of the following letters from Parker to his wife detail various encampments and scouting missions, particularly in Culpepper County and Madison County, Va., as well as occasional engagements in support of General Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Campaign from April to June 1862. In September 1862, Robert W. Parker fell ill; he sent a letter to his wife from Chimboraso hospital in Richmond, Va., and two following letters document Parker's convalescence at his home. Parker's letter of 9 January 1863 shows him rejoining the Army of Northern Virginia in Spotsylvania County, Va.

Oversize Volume SV-5261/3

Correspondence, 17 February 1863-October 1863 #05261, Series: "Correspondence and related material, 23 March 1858-1 April 1889." SV-5261/3

The first letters are from other members of Robert W. Parker's extended family, two of whom were also soldiers in the 2nd Virginia Cavalry. Following this are letters from Parker to his wife from his regiment's encampment in Culpepper County, Va. Parker's letter from 19 March 1863 relates events from the Battle of Kelly's Ford, Va., which had occurred two days previous to the letter. In his letter of 17 May 1863, Parker told his wife about the unlikelihood of being able to purchase a substitute to take his place in the 2nd Virginia Cavalry, even though he was willing to spend "twenty-five hundred and even more if I could get out of this war, even if it didn't last six months longer." Parker's letter of 10 June 1863 tells of a battle along the Rappahannock River, likely the Battle of Brandy Station, and lists the casualties from his company. Parker's letters from the following months relate skirmishes and maneuvers across central Virginia, particularly around the Rappahannock River, including the Battle of Aldie in Loudon County, Va., described in his 21 June 1863 letter. His letters from June and July 1863 mention news about Confederate losses in Vicksburg, Miss., and Gettysburg, Pa., although he was not a participant in either battle.

Oversize Volume SV-5261/4

Correspondence, 3 October 1863-1 April 1889, and other materials #05261, Series: "Correspondence and related material, 23 March 1858-1 April 1889." SV-5261/4

Robert W. Parker's letter from 18 October 1863 to his wife relates the details of a heated cavalry battle that raged from the Rapidan River to Manassas, V. On 24 November 1863, Parker wrote to his parents telling them that his horse was condemned by the Army, and asked them about the possibility of him buying another horse and keeping it with them during the winter. Letters from the winter of 1863-1864 show little conflict, with most of the letters involving financial matters and camp life. Parker's 2 March 1864 letter tells of fighting in Madison County, Va., although it is not certain whether this fighting represents a major battle. Parker's letters from March and April of 1864 reflect a growing pessimism about the South's fortunes in the Civil War, and express Parker's wishes to visit his home. Letters from 9 May to 3 August 1864 relate intense fighting connected to the Overland Campaign of General Ulysses S. Grant, while a couple of letters follow from the Shenandoah, where the 2nd Virginia Cavalry was fighting with General Jubal Early's corps. Parker's letter, dated 20 January 1865, reflects his despondency about the worsening conditions of the Confederate army, relating that "we are sometimes with rations and sometimes without[;] our horses I might say and tell you the truth starving." Parker's last few letters report impending action, but are generally more optimistic in tone. Robert W. Parker was killed in action at the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse on 9 April 1865. A letter written by an unknown individual from Appomattox Depot in Virginia to Parker's wife expresses sympathy over her husband's death, and relates Parker's devout and gentlemanly qualities. Also included are mathematical notes from Robert W. Parker's school studies, as well as Parker's report card, dated 23 March 1858.

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Processing Information

Processed by: Jesse Brown, May 2006

Encoded by: Jesse Brown, May 2006

Materials are housed in volumes as received.

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