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For years I have been doing research for a regimental history of the 21st Mississippi Infantry. I have read their letters and diaries, viewed their photographs, and read many of their names on casualty reports from just about every major battle where the Army of Northern Virginia was engaged. I have been privy to their hopes and dreams, and read of the secrets they told to only their closest friends and family. In short, I have gotten to know them as well as anyone can who is separated from them by over a century and a half. One of the letters that will be used in this book is the following, which was written by a member of the 21st Mississippi on New Year’s Day, 1864, in a camp near Russellville, Tennessee:
But a happy New Year to you my dear sister & may it each revolving day bring a new joy to your heart & a fresh hope to its fruition. The old year went out last night bathed in tears and weeping piteously at the termination of its reign. The steady patter of the rain upon the window pane & the low, half stifled murmur of the wind made a fit requiem for the expiring monarch – but the new sovereign quick to seize the ‘staff of office’ & desirous of obliterating all signs of the late incumbent rushed down from his northern realms with boreas as his advance guard & hoary handed winter close behind as reserve & by morning scarce a sign of the previous reign remained. Everything was frozen stiff & the wind howled & screamed & rushed along as though hunting with desperate energy & malice. The last poor unfortunate that might have lurked behind or overstayed his time.