Thornhill, John O. Letter

A Guide to the John O. Thornhill Letter, 1865 Ms.2009.068


Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061

John M. Jackson

Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech
John O. Thornhill Letter1865
0.1 Cubic Feet 1 folder
Thornhill, John O., 1834-1907
The materials in the collection are in English.
The collection contains a letter from John O. Thornhill of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry, written apparently while on medical leave at Campbell, Virginia.

Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

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Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to research.

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: [identification of item], [box], [folder], John O. Thornhill Letter, Ms2009-068, Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

Source of Acquisition

The John O. Thornhill Letter was purchased by Special Collections in 1993.

Processing Information

The processing and description of the John O. Thornhill Letter commenced and was completed in May 2009.

Biographical Note

John O. Thornhill, the son of Jesse Thornhill, was born in Virginia around 1834. Enlisting in the 2nd Virginia Cavalry on May 13, 1861 as a private, Thornhill was elected first lieutenant of his company on May 8, 1863 and wounded at the battle of Aldie on June 17 of that year. He had returned to duty by March 1864 and was wounded again at Todd's Tavern on March 7, 1864. Thornhill seems to have remained absent on medical leave for the remainder of the war. His post-war occupation is listed as farmer. John O. Thornhill died in Campbell County, Virginia on December 17, 1907.

Organized from counties in west central Virginia, the 2nd Virginia Cavalry (originally designated the 30th Virginia Cavalry) was composed primarily of units that had previously served in the commonwealth's militia. (Lynchburg's "Wise Troop," which would become the 2nd Virginia's Company B, had been a militia unit since 1859.) The regiment initially served in northern Virginia and participated in the first battle of Bull Run. The 2nd later joined Jackson's 1862 Valley Campaign, then was ordered to the Virginia peninsula, where it fought in the Seven Days Battles. Remaining in Virginia, the regiment saw heavy fighting and participated in several major battles, including Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. The 2nd spent several months protecting rail lines near Petersburg, then joined Early's 1864 Valley Campaign. Returning east in early 1865, the regiment participated in the Appomattox Campaign. The 2nd Virginia Cavalry was disbanded at Lynchburg on April 11, 1865.

Scope and Contents

This collection contains a letter written by John O. Thornhill, a soldier in Company B, 2nd Virginia Cavalry. Dated from Campbell, Virginia just weeks before the end of the war, the letter seems to have been written while Thornhill was on medical leave. The soldier makes note of a recent Yankee raid, discusses his injury and prospects for securing a release from military duty, and expresses a hope for peace in the near future. Thornhill refers to the recent desertion of "Abe Leaman" (probably Abraham H. Leeman/Leman) and several other comrades, then mentions other acquaintances, both civilian and military, including Company B's commander, Captain [William] Steptoe.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

  • Civil War
  • Local/Regional History and Appalachian South
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the John O. Thornhill Letter by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Container List

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