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Erroneous reports that loved ones have died are a common occurrence in every war. Usually the news comes from an official entity, such as the War Department, or a commanding officer, but Francis Christiance found out about his own untimely death by reading the newspaper.

[Editor’s note: Punctuation and spelling are presented exactly as they were in the original letter]

Alexandra Heights, Oct. 7, 1861

Dear Wife,

I this day received an issue of the Star and Times containing the following paragraphs which no doubt overwhelmed me as much as it certainly must have done you. “To be shot: Francis Christiance deserter from the ranks of Capt. Truax’es Company, one which we have known for a long time was sentenced to be shot and perhaps met his faith at noon to-day. We have not given this fact publicity before, we did hope for and do not yet despair of a reprieve for the misguided solider though the fact that this terrible punishment is meted for a second offense seems to abide it:—”

I simply deny in to each and every specification contained in the above.

1st. I am not shot.

2nd. I am not sentenced to be shot.

3rd. There has not been here the slightest supposition among the men or myself that I was to be shot.

4th. I never deserted from Capt. Truax’es Company nor have I ever been tried for any charge for desertion. From whence these false assertions could have originated I cannot surmise. But if he has feeling for a kind and loving wife, a household of children, not to say of the grief that fills your heart at this report, he certainly would not be humanity to contract it.

This afternoon Col. Jackson has received a letter requesting the transmission of my dead body to my wife, my feeling may better be imagined than described. The editor of the Star certainly should bare a great deal of the blame for publishing a rumor leaving a whole family on the foundation of what must have been a mere rumor, but this is not the first nor I suppose the last kindness we will receive from those we left behind.

Truly your loving and yet living husband

Francis Christiance


Originally published in the January 2007 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.