A dedicated and considerate parent and husband and, despite a lack of formal education, John William Watson was something of a literary man. Like most farm boys of his generation, he wrote like he spoke and spelled like it sounded, thus preserving the “sounds” of the war:
April the 11, 1862
My Dear Wife
I take this oportunity to write you a few lines to let you know where I am at this time and how I am. we are in Fredericksburg at this time… I am well at presant except a cold. we had marching orders tuesday morning at seven oclock we march that day through the rain and mud from the camp down to town and through falmouth down to hopewell and staid there untill the next day about ten oclock and then march back to the camp through the mud rain and hail and when we got there we could have no fire to cook any thing that night and next morning came to town and we dont know what we went for yet have you herd of any yankees near by lately when you were in town. I would have give any thing to come down to have seen you but I could not get… I am verry much obliged to you for the butter and eggs and bread you sent me. they made me thinck of home…give all my respects to all my frends if I have any but keep the largest portion for your self and my little babys…
Ironically, he instructed wife Margaret to burn all of his letters, which would have been a tragic historical loss. Fortunately, she couldn’t do it.