Sophia and Charles Thomson Haskell of Abbeville, South Carolina, were the parents of a large family which included seven sons who served in the Confederate Army. Two of them, Charles and William, were killed in action, and two others, Alexander and John, were badly wounded but survived the war. The paternal great-grandfather of the Haskell brothers was Colonel William Thomson, a hero of the Revolution, and one of the officers in command of South Carolinians who repulsed British forces at Breach Inlet near Charleston in 1776.
During the War Between the States, Alexander Cheves Haskell (1839-1910), would become colonel of the 7th South Carolina Cavalry. He was wounded four times during the war, most seriously in October 1864, when he was shot in the head. He lost an eye, but otherwise made a remarkable recovery and returned to his unit in the Army of Northern Virginia to serve to the end. A touching love story is also part of his life during the war. On September 10, 1861, he married a lovely young woman named Decca Singleton, but their days together as husband and wife were to be brief. In his book Belles, Beaux and Brains of the Sixties, Thomas Cooper DeLeon, a Confederate veteran and author, recorded that “one year later the husband was a widower, with only the news from his far-away baby girl to solace the solitude of his tent.” In June 1862, Mary Chesnut recorded Decca’s last days and passing in her diary. Before she died, the young Mrs. Haskell told Mrs. Chesnut that she “had had months of perfect happiness.”
Using Haskell’s letters and recollections, his daughter, Louise Haskell Daly, wrote a biography of him entitled Alexander Cheves Haskell: The Portrait of a Man. Only about 125 copies were privately printed in 1934, and the author sent one to the famous author and historian Douglas Southall Freeman, who is best known for his biographies of Robert E. Lee and George Washington. In Freeman’s letter of acknowledgment to Mrs. Daly, he praised her father’s memoirs highly and asked permission to include one of his letters in a new book he was working on (The South to Posterity, published in 1939). Freeman called a letter Alexander Cheves Haskell had written to his mother in 1863 the noblest and “most beautiful born of war,” and held him up, along such figures as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, as one of the highest examples of Southern character. Freeman chose this book for his “Confederate Bookshelf” and considered it one of the best memoirs of the war. Historian Robert Krick called it “one of the grandest classics of Confederate literature.”
Used copies of the original edition by Mrs. Daly are rare and expensive, but Alexander Cheves Haskell: The Portrait of a Man has been reprinted (with a new introduction) and is available from Broadfoot Publishing Company. Click below for link: