The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
Historical Manuscripts Home
Alphabetical List of All Collections | Collections Listed By Subject


Manuscript Collection

Collection Title: Whitehead (Dr. P.F.) Letters

Collection Number: M124

Dates: February 1864-December 1864

Volume: 77 Items

Provenance: Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Travis Beckham.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Dr. P.F. Whitehead, from Kentucky, was a surgeon in General William W. Loring's Division, Army of Tennessee, Confederate States of America. He traveled with the Army through Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. On June 30, 1864, he was promoted to the rank of chief surgeon. He was also associated with the Confederate States Military Prison in Andersonville, Georgia, in the summer of 1864, perhaps when the Army of Tennessee was in that vicinity. Nothing else is known about him.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of 77 items of which 52 are letters from P.F. Whitehead to Miss Irene Cowan and 21 are some of the envelopes they were mailed in. The remaining four items include one letter dated March 2, 1864, from P.F. Whitehead to Mrs. Hicks stating that Mr. Hodgins has no room to accommodate Dr. Hicks. An undated letter from Charles C_______ and _________ Balter to Dr. Whitehead asking for whiskey for the wounded. An undated map showing troop positions on the Chattahoochee River. An obituary for Robert H. Innis, 1st lieutenant of company F, 2nd Kentucky Regiment, Lewis' Brigade.

The bulk of the collection consists of fifty-two letters from P.F. Whitehead to Miss Irene Cowan in Eufala, Alabama, dating from February 1864 to December 1864. When the letters begin, Loring's Division, to which Whitehead is attached, had just retreated from Canton, Mississippi. He is writing from Alabama while the Division is on its way to Georgia. The letters from May through September were written mostly from Marietta, Georgia. Miss Cowan's brother, Captain James J. Cowan, and two nephews (one identified as Warren Cowan, the other unidentified) were also attached to Loring's Division. Dr. Whitehead kept Miss Cowan posted on their health and promised to give them the very best, most personal, medical care. In June, he sent one of her nephews, Lieutenant Cowan, and a friend, Oscar Steele, to Eufala for health reasons. Captain Cowan was also sent home at one point, but all three later returned to the battle front. J.G. Hicks was also sent to Eufala after the amputation of an index finger. It is unclear whether Hicks was a family member or a friend.

Whitehead predicted battles several times, but usually was wrong. Skirmishing, some major, was the main activity of the Division. For the better part of this period they were stationed on the Chattahoochee River but Whitehead's infirmary was in Marietta, Georgia. Whitehead reported the misery of camp life when it rained. He thought the war would last several more years and even welcomed the prospect because he was unsure if he could adapt to civilian life again. Miss Cowan received a rebuke for snide remarks she had made about the Confederate Army's "retreating talent." On July 19, Whitehead mentioned some dissatisfaction with General Loring, but in a letter dated a week later he wrote that their differences had been resolved. In August, Miss Cowan's unidentified cousin received a serious wound in the leg and Whitehead expressed concern that the leg would have to be amputated. This cousin eventually did get better and was not mentioned again. In July, Whitehead reported that the army had not been paid for six months, but did not elaborate on its effects on morale.

Whitehead wrote regularly, about every other day, until September, while he was still in Georgia. The next letter is dated December 6 and came from Nashville, Tennessee. The Confederate Army was in dire straits there. Whitehead said that this was the bloodiest battle he had yet seen. The letters stop at this point.

The collection is arranged in chronological order with the undated items filed at the end. The envelopes are interfiled in the appropriate chronological sequence.


Created by: Bobs M. Tusa
Prepared and maintained by
The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries Special Collections
http://www.lib.usm.edu/spcol/index.php
118 College Drive #5148   Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5148

Please send comments or questions to Ask-a-Librarian
Revised: November 10, 2004