Emails from
Dr. Don Ervin Woolf
about his great-great-grandfater
Jesse Ervin Woolf
member of
Armistead Calvary Brigade, Company "A"

From: "Don Woolf"
To: "Tom McKnight"
Subject: 12th MS Cavalry
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2000

Dear Tom:

My gg grandfather was Jesse Ervin Woolf. The following is what I have on his service with Armistead's Brigade. I transcribed the letters from the originals which unfortunately, I don't possess.

Anything you can add would be appreciated.

Dr. Don Ervin Woolf, PhD

Letter to his wife from the battlefield near Rome, Georgia 10 miles west of Rome October 15, 1864.

Dear wife,

I again write you a few lines to let you know I am yet in the land of the living. This leaves me and William both well and unhurt.

No doubt you will hear awful tales before you get this. We attacked on the 11th and mixed with them some time. They came out some distance, we falling back. We made a stand about one mile from town. We had two brigades of cavalry and two pieces of canon. We commenced with them. The Yanks stopped and fell back to Rome. We lost some few men, none from our company.

Next, the 13th, the Yanks attacked our pickets about 7 o'clock. We went to support them.. The Yanks came out in heavy force, infantry and cavalry. Their infantry on our front, the cavalry on both sides flanking us. We fought them for a time retreating and I understand we killed a heap of them.

They came very near surrounding us so we had to run and we done it finally. We were hemmed in on one side by the mountain and the other by the Coosa River. We had a running fight for 10 miles. Our loss is heavy, but not so bad as we thought at first. We lost about fifty in our brigade, mostly captured, about 150 in the two brigades, but we don't know yet for there is a heap in the woods yet that will come on out.

We fell back through a gap in the mountain and the Yanks stopped so we have not seen them anymore. I don't know how many the Yanks had, but they had a heavy force. They was from the river to the mountain and it is said that Sherman was here in person.

My horse was shot in the loin, but not hurt much. The same Bulleit made eight holes through my blanket and I think that blanket saved me. I made my horse jump a fence and he fell and throwed me and I lost my saddle bags and all my clothes but what I had on, but I was glad to get out without them. There was none of our company killed or captured I don't think.

I saw Joe Webb. He is not hurt. There was two of his company killed, none of your acquaintance. I have not time to write much now. I don't know when I will have a chance to write again. One of our members is going home in the chance of sending this to you.

We lost all of our socks nearly. Things will make out, but I hope will get along someway. I have swapped off William's horse for a mule. He has one of the best mules I ever saw I think. Rides fine. My horse stands it fine and is in better condition than he was when I left home.

I think there will be some desperate fighting before long. I hope we will come out best. I am very anxious to hear from you, but Lord only knows when I will.

I don't have any hopes of hearing from you while we remain here and there is no telling how long we will be here, but I hope we will whip the Yanks yet. I think we have got them in a bad fix, but the Lord only knows how it will end. Our army is in good spirits.

Give my love to all the children and tell them Pa wants to see them and to be good children. William is getting on finely. He is in better health than he was when he left home.

Don't get out of heart. Trust in the Lord. He alone can save us and I hope He will spare my life to see you again. I feel thankful that I am still living when I look back I cannot help wondering that so few of us was killed, the bullets falling like hail.

May the Lord spare us to meet before long is my prayer. Give my respects to all my friends.

Write to me direct to Blue Mountain, Alabama. I may get them. Excuse this badly written letter. I fear you cannot read it. I have done it in a hurry.

I remain as ever, your loving husband,
Ervin Woolf

PS We are still camped near the mountain gap called the narrows. The Yanks have retreated to Rome. There was heavy firing of canon east of here on the 18th. I hear they stood **********of their***but I don't know whether it is true or not. I have not seen them yet. Will might know when he comes and so farewell for the time. E. Woolf

Dear Madam:

I have been told that you wish to ascertain the Company and Regiment that your husband belonged to in the Confederate service.

He belonged to Company "A" of Armistead's Regiment, Armistead's Brigade of Cavalry. He was killed in a fight near Rome, Georgia in December 1864.

This information may enable you to get the benefit of the late law passed by the Legislature of Alabama for the relief of Confederate Soldiers and their monies.

Yours respectfully,
R. Chapman
Reuben Chapman
Livingston, Sumter, Alabama

(From web author Tom McKnight: I was very touched by the above email which was a transcribed letter from Jesse Ervin Woolf to his wife, soon before he was killed in battle at "Rome, Georgia" in 1865. My g-grandfather, who also fought in that battle, could have been the one killed, and hence I would not be here. So I responed to the above email with more questions about his ancestor, his age when in battle, and himself. Below is his response. I also encouraged him to write David Slay who is researching the Rome battles.)

From: "Don Woolf"
To: "Tom McKnight"
Subject: Update on
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2000

Dear Tom:

You're more than welcome to the information. First off, before I answer your questions, I have an addition to send along. To wit: [As our politicians in TN & TX would say.]

Jesse Ervin Woolf enlisted in Company 'A' of Armstead's Brigade of Cavalry on October 19, 1863 at Gainesville, Sumter, Alabama. The unit later became part of the 12th Mississippi Cavalry and was known as the 16th Confederate Cavalry. It was involved in a number of engagements.

At the time of his enlistment, Jesse was a 42 year-old farmer from Sumter County, Alabama described as being five foot eight inches tall with hazel eyes, dark brown hair, and fair complexion.

He was killed in action on October 18, 1864 somewhere between Rome and Dalton, Georgia during General John Bell Hood's retreat from Atlanta.

A witness to the retreat later wrote: " . . . they plodded on their weary march, some barefoot, others with raw-hide strapped around their bleeding feet. I could see Lost Cause stamped on every face. I knew then the Confederacy was doomed".


The letter from Reuben Chapman was dated June 5, 1891.

William Reading Woolf, b. 6/27/1847, was Ervin's eldest son. The name 'Reading' was in honor of Ervin's father Reading Woolf who died when Ervin was barely three. I do not know the cause of death.

William apparently joined Ervin in Georgia and did not see previous action. He was only seventeen at the time.

Ervin married Emily Caroline Pack, b. 12/9/1827 and d. 11/20/1905, in Sumter County, Alabama. She married Ervin February 05, 1846 and was the daughter of William Pack and Mary Rebecca Nettles.

There is one other letter from Ervin to Emily which my uncle in Arkansas has, but I have not been able to get a copy thus far. He is almost ninety and has become a bit forgetful. I'll call him this week and remind him.

In that letter, he answers Emily's question as to what to name the son who was born while he was away. He says that he 'wasn't much for choosing names, but if you insist, name him Forrest for I believe that General Forrest has done more for the south than any other man" .

[At least that is a rough estimate drawn from my creaking memory banks of a brain]. The baby's name wound up as Franklin Foresst Woolf.

By the way, Ervin's g grandfather is said to have been killed at Fort Washington, New York on November 16, 1776. However, I remain unconvinced.

I am, for the time, living in New Orleans. I share my time here and in Portugal whenever I find the time to get over there.

My degree is Lib Arts. My thesis was "Medieval Walled Cities".

Keep in touch,

PS: I will drop a note to the gentleman you mentioned in your email. And, please excuse any errors in this note. It's late. Good night.

Return to 12th Mississippi Calvary Web page