John Calhoun Birdwell, son of Allen and Luinda Ross Birdwell, was born in Lawrence County, Alabama on April 7, 1829. By 1845 the family had moved to Rusk County, Texas, where Allen Birdwell served as a State Representative to the Texas Legislature from 1853 to 1854 and from 1863 to 1864. In 1849 John C. Birdwell married Adaline Burney Cunningham, and they resided a number of years at Mount Enterprise, Rusk County before moving to Flatswood, Nacogdoches County shortly before the Civil War. John served in Company H of the 17th Dismounted Cavalry and was captured at Arkansas Post on the Arkansas River. He died on January 6, 1869.
A farmer, John Birdwell included instructions for running the farm in his absence in his letters written to his wife during the Civil War. Her letters report the progress of crops and livestock. The letters of both recount their hardships during the war as well as news of family and friends. Birdwell describes Confederate camp conditions depicting disease epidemics, food, music, gambling, funerals, weather, and ragged condition of the troops. He was not a slave holder and waxes bitter about the slave owners causing the war then paying substitutes to fight for them. Most of his letters were written from Camp Nelson and Camp Hope, Arkansas and contain an underlying refrain about the unreliability of mail service during the war.
(Mitchell, Gwenneth."John and Adeline Birdwell." Rusk County History. Dallas, Texas; Taylor Publishing Company, 1982. p. 112.)