The five acre tract – Loring’s Advance – currently being preserved by a local battlefield preservation group was the very site that a Confederate soldier named Mathew Andrew Dunn was shot and killed on November 30, 1864, during the Battle of Franklin. Dunn was a member of Company K, the Amite Defender’s, 33rd Mississippi, Featherston’s Brigade.
One of his commanding officers wrote his widow after the battle to detail the circumstances of Dunn’s demise at Franklin. He is buried in an unknown grave at McGavock Confederate Cemetery.
The Civil War Trust is leading the preservation effort at the national level.
January 11, 1865
I received a note from Mr Harrell a few days ago inquiring into the circumstances of your husband’s death.
On the evening of the 30th Nov 1864, our brigade was formed in line of battle and moved through a very dense wood driving the enemy before us. On emerging from the woods we found ourselves in front of the enemy breastworks at Franklin. We were ordered to charge and at the word the Brigade moved forward your husband in the front rank. The charge was a gallant one, many of our men reached the works and fought for a while hand to hand with the enemy – but we were compelled to give way – and fell back some two or three hundred yards and there remained until next morning. Mat was killed in about 50 yards of the breastworks. He was killed instantly. During the night the enemy retreated and at daylight next morning I went immediately to the battlefield to look after my dead and wounded friends. Matt was one of the first I found. He was lying on his back. He appeared to be peacefully sleeping. A Spirit was on his countenance and everything indicated that he passed away without a struggle. He was wounded four times – two of which were sufficient to have caused instant death. One ball struck him directly in the front just below the breast bone passing through – another struck him in the right side passing through – another in the right cheek, and another in the left hand. Early as I was, others had been there before me and had taken everything of value from him. I found his testament lying near his breast and thinking of his widow far away, I put it in my pocket for you. I will be home sometime this winter and will bring it to you. My duty required my presence at other points and I left him. I saw afterwards that he received a decent burial at the hands of his friends and comrades.
_____________ has preserved a lock of his hair for you. His mess mates tell me that he had no baggage except what he had with him (his knapsack and his blanket) and these were taken by the inhuman robbers of the dead. It would certainly be a consolation to you to have received some last messages from your loved one, but the unexpectedness of the battle and the circumstances of his death precluded the possibility of such a thing. You have two strong sources of consolation Mrs Dunn, that your husband died as he had lived, a true Christian, and his death was such as becomes the true soldier, on the battlefield with his face to the foe, and followed by love and regrets of all his comrades.
Your loss is great and deeply do I sympathize with you, but you “mourn not” as one without hope,
I am respectfully
C.P. Neilson (1)
Mrs M.A. Dunn
Source: The Jonathan Dunn Kinfolks, 3rd Edition, 1987.
(1) Charles P. Neilson was Sergt-Major and A.A.G. Brigade
My Great Grandfather, James Jefferson Anderson, and his brother John were in Co. K, 33rd. John was killed by a cannon round while sitting beneath a tree after being wounded in both arms and dropping out of the line of march. This battle, possibly because of the loss of John, affected the mental well-being of my GGF the most. When he got old and senil (probably had Alzheimer’s), he would often wake in the morning and go about with his shotgun thinking he had to get ready tho fight the Yankees.
Thanks for publishing this
Thank you so much for printing this. I was not aware of this letter. Matt Dunn was one of the heroes of my book, The History of the Thirty-Third Mississippi Infantry Regiment. Matt wrote many letters back to his beloved wife, Stumpy, back in Amite County. When I visited his grave site in Franklin I felt a certain closure since I felt I had come to know him through his letters.
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The name of the person who preserved the lock of hair was James Monroe Causey. That sentence should read “Monroe Causey has preserved a lock of his hair for you.”
I have a poor scan of the original letter. I also have a copy of a letter my great great uncle wrote to Stumpy telling of his death.
Hi, Virgil: Would it be possible to get a copy of the letter your great, great-uncle wrote to “Stumpy” about Mathew Dunn’s death? email@example.com
Hi Virgil, Thank you very much for filling in the blank on who preserved a lock of Mat’s hair. Was always curious about that. Mathew and Stumpy were my GGgrandparents. As a boy, I used to read all Mat’s original letters at my grandmother’s house when I would visit her. I also read the original letter that your great-great uncle wrote, all of which were in my grandmother’s possession. When she moved to live with one of my aunts, she donated all the letters to the Mississippi State Archives. A graduate student at LSU published then in hard copy. I am sure they can all still be found at the Miss State Archives. Best regards, George Cowan
By the way, if anyone does visit the Mississippi State Archives in search of Mathew Dunn’s letters to Stumpy, there were donated by Mrs. Manning Hudson, born Norma Jean Dunn, who was Mat Dunn’s granddaughter. She donated then sometime in the late 1970’s, as I recall.