Letter of Condolence to widow of Mathew A. Dunn
John C. Wilkinson, 33rd Miss, Company K, Amite Defenders
Hamburg, Edgefield District, S.C.
February 15, 1865
Mrs. Mathew A. Dunn,
[ed. Her name was Virginia Lenorah Perkins]
My Dear Friend, I seat myself with a heart filed with sorrow to pen you a few lines to let you know that I do truly mourn and sympathize with you on account of you great irreparable loss.
On the 22nd____, I received the sad and heartrending intelligence that Mr. M. A. Dunn and J.L. Anderson [ed: probably John L. Anderson] of my mess and seven others of our Co. were killed at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee on the 30th of November 1864.
Mr. Dunn and I were only slightly acquainted when our Co. organized, but before leaving our beloved homes, we agreed to be members of the same family in Camp and drew our first rations together and continued so until I was wounded in May last.
And to me, he proved to be a true friend under all circumstances, in sickness, in health, in trials, and under all the hardships we had to undergo, he was always a patient and cheerful friend.
I am incompetent to write a eulogy upon such a character, and will only say to you that M. A. Dunn was free from the influence of the many vices and evils so common in Camp which entice so many from the path of rectitude.
But did by a well ordered walk and godly conversation make manifest to his comrades that he was a devoted Christian, true gentleman and patriotic soldier.
Being kind and obliging, he enjoyed the good will and confidence of all who had the pleasure of being acquainted with him.
By this sad bereavement of Co. lost one of its first members, Amite County a good citizen, Ebenezar [ed. referring to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Amite County where Mathew was baptized and a member] a worthy member, and you and your dear little ones, a kind and dearly beloved husband and father.
Dear Friend, though I join you in shedding a tear of grief, let us not mourn as those who are without hope, for we feel assured that our loss is his Eternal gain, that his freed spirit is now singing praises to our Blessed Savior in the Paradis above where all is joy and peace.
O, that we could truly adopt the language of Paul under this heavy affliction – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Then, how consoling would be the language of our Saviour, “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. For because I live, ye shall live also.” Then, my afflicted Sister, be admonished by the poorest of the poor to look to the fountain whence cometh all our help and strength; Jesus alone can comfort you in all your trails.
“For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, his ears are open unto their prayers.” We have the promise of the comforter, and Paul says, “Likewise, the spirit also helpeth our infirmities for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.”
And to give us full assurance, our Blessed savior informs us that He maketh intercession for the Saints, that according to the will of God.
And so, there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God, and we have so many sweet and precious promises. Let us therefore come boldly into the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in each time of need.
I know that the ties of nature are such that you cannot refrain from weeping and though your dear husband cannot return to you, yet you have hope that you may go where he is, and join him in singing a song of deliverance.
And may God on tender mercy remember you and your dear Little Ones. May He lead, rule, guide, and direct you safely through this life, giving you that sweet consolation which He alone can give. And finally, through the merits of his dear Son, crown you His (with your dear husband) in his kingdom above where “God will wipe away all tears from your eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither shall there be any more pain, but where all is Joy and Peace is the desire of one who wished you well.
You have no doubt seen a list of the killed, wounded and missing at the Battle of Franklin, Tenn. on the 30th November 1864. And many more mush have fallen at the Battle of Nashville on the 15th of December from which I have no news from my company.
When I left Camp I left six messmates whom I loved, four of them, J.P. [ed. probably Josiah P. Lea] and C. C. Lea [ed. probably Charles Lea], J.L Anderson [ed. probably John L. Anderson], and Mathew. A. Dunn have poured out their life’s blood in defense of their country. R.S. Capell is severely wounded and my dear son, W.H.W. [William H. Wilkinson] reported captured. Truly, we have cause to mourn but I desire not to mourner.
Not wishing to weary you with my imperfection, I close; when at the throne of grace, remember me and mine and believe me to be your friend in deep affliction.
John C. Wilkinson
[Thanks to Michael N. Pittman MD, descendant of John Cain Wilkinson, for a copy of the letter.]