Local history buff inherits old war letters

Friday, April 4th 2008, 8:03 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

A local man inherited over a dozen letters that date back to the Civil War, and his love of history has inspired his daughter to pay tribute to a family legend.

These aren't just any letters, but are fragile pieces of history.

The man in one picture is a distant relative to Stanley Burleson. William D.W. Mitchell was a Captain during the Civil War.

"A week ago I had eight of my men wounded, two of my men missing and First Lt. killed in an engagement we had with the rebel Gen. Jackson," Burleson said, reading one of the letters.

The letters were written to Burleson's great grandmother Lydia -- not the Captain's wife but his sister-in-law.

"I think it's typical of soldiers, they just want to get mail and they will write to everybody that will write back," Burleson said.

Through the letters, Burleson learned a great deal about the Captain, but one thing remained a mystery.

"We have letters from 1861 through May 10, 1863, and the letters stopped," Burleson said.

That's because Mitchell was wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg and died shortly after.

"I've been to Gettysburg twice and I tried to find his grave," Burleson said. "And you looked for him with the other heroes because you knew he fell at Gettysburg."

He ended up finding the man's grave in Somerville, Ohio, the soldier's hometown.

"It's just kind of been a mystery that I've got to work on and I finally put the puzzle together," Burleson said.

And now Burleson's daughter has caught the history bug. Her quilt is her way of paying tribute to the Civil War soldier.

"I won a first place," Sharon Banta said. "I was really surprised. That was just kind of a bonus. At the time I didn't know it was going to be judged."

Her blue ribbon creation is now part of the God Bless America quilt exhibit that's touring the country. Sharon hopes the modern-day soldiers will be honored the same way we remember the soldiers from years past.

"We've got young men fighting in the war and I just hope they're not forgotten," Banta said.

Sharon says it's only fitting that she gives the quilt to her father.