Countdown to 1864: Letters from Confederate Captain to His Wife

Achilles James Tynes was a Confederate captain with the Fifth Virginia Cavalry, from Tazewell County, VA, writing to his wife, Harriet Fudge Tynes, during the campaign in the Shenandoah Valley and the raid on Chambersburg, PA, the ensuring retreat, Battle of Moorefield, and the strained relationship between Gen. John McCausland and Gen. Bradley Johnson.

29 July 1864 – Crossed the river at the McCoys Ferry. Took the road via Clear Spring; reached Mercersburg at six P.M.; found all horses, good & run off or hidden. Had a slight skirmish with about 150 calvary who fled. Will leave here tonight. The route is not yet designated. At Mercersburg, the proprietorship of the old Mansion house gave us supper of beefsteak, butter, coffee, milk, bread, and Comet.

My champagne – was tolerably merry. At dark, moved east upon Chambersburg. Marched all night – skirmishing. Appeared before the place about 4 A.M. Slight resistance. At half-past 5 o’clock, we entered the town.

Levied a contribution of 100,000 Gold or 500,000 Green Backs, or in case of failure, the town would be burnt. Three hours run out. The city fired about noon. The saddest spectacle I ever witnessed to see the women and children. This inaugurates a terrible system of retaliation, devastation, and rapine. From Chambersburg, took the great Pittsburg R. to McConnellsburg across the Mt. Reached that place at dark. Rested all night. Set off at sunrise, taking the road to Hancock, on the Potomac R & B&O RR – reached about 4 P.M.


Made a levy on the town of five thousand rations and 30,000 dollars, to be paid in 4 hours. Averill came up ere the time expired. Had a little bout with him, lasting until near sundown, when we left him and set off for Cumberland across the Allegheny range and after one of the most fatiguing marches of nearly all night and a part of today (first of August, I think it is) I have ever endured and under one of the hottest suns I ever felt, reached the vicinity of this place, at about 3 P.M., on the Great National Pike.

We found the enemy very strongly posted upon a range of hills some 2 miles East of the town when a severe artillery duel was commenced, mingled occasionally with musketry at long range. ‘Tis just now sunset, and as yet, neither party seems to have gained any real advantage. The casualties on our side are very slight, only about two or three men slightly hurt and two horses killed, and two or three wounded.

Adieu for tonight dea.

READ: Countdown to 1864: Town Burned, Leaving More than 2,000 Homeless

READ: Countdown to 1864: Masonic Significance of the Burning of Chambersburg

In honor of 1864, the Ransoming, Burning & Rebirth Living History Re-enactment & Light Show, we will be publishing the story, accounts, and other historical information leading up to Saturday, July 16th. The Re-enactment and light show will occur at 9 pm after Old Market Day in front of the 11/30 Visitors Center.

Thank you to the Franklin County Visitors Bureau for providing the content for this series.