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A Letter from Dustin Hoffman

Portrait of William R. J. Pegram

Portrait of Col. William R. J. Pegram (Image courtesy of the Virginia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy through the Virginia Historical Society, Accession no. 1946.227)

In October of 2008, I wrote Dustin Hoffman a letter. Why? Because he was looking at me from above my work station!

When I first came to the VHS, I learned we could borrow from the museum department a painting to hang in our cubicle. Being a Civil War nut, I chose a portrait of Col. William “Willie” Pegram, a young Virginian who served in Robert E. Lee’s army, who wrote a chilling letter in 1864 describing the horrors of the Crater battle. This letter has been often quoted by historians. In addition to being known among Civil War geeks, I noticed that Willie Pegram bore a striking resemblance to a young Dustin Hoffman. Was I just crazy? Well, one of our security officers, Tom, without prompting, said the same thing.

I had to write to Dustin. So I did.

October 7, 2008

Dear Mr. Hoffman:

I have enclosed a photograph of a painting that hangs above my desk at work. The painting is of “Willie” Pegram, an artillery officer who served in the Army of Northern Virginia during the war. Some of us at the Historical Society think it looks like you, maybe in your Papillon or Marathon Man period. If you think so, I hope you enjoy the [enclosed] photograph. If not, I’m sorry for wasting your time.

Yours Sincerely,

Colin Woodward, Ph.D.

Dustin Hoffman's letter to Colin Woodward

Dustin Hoffman's letter to Colin Woodward

I looked for Dustin Hoffman’s agent online and got his Los Angeles address. I put the letter and photo in the mail and thought that’d be the end of it.

A few months later, in March, I saw a letter in my mailbox postmarked Los Angeles. I didn’t know anyone in L.A. When I opened the letter, I read this:

Dear Colin,

I’ve been out of the country, just got back into the office and there waiting on my desk was my soul mate from the Civil War.

Thank you so much for thinking of me.

All the best,


Who says archiving isn’t “Hollywood”?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Gregg Jones permalink
    05/03/2010 3:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing that. Now maybe we can cast Dustin in the role.


  2. 08/22/2010 12:22 pm

    Looks like Andrew McCarthy as well. Which means Andrew McCarthy resembles Dustin Hoffman. Wonder if anyone has connected the families?


    • 05/03/2013 1:56 pm

      This is my husband’s ancestor. We are fascinated by him. I just realized he does look a little like a young Dustin Hoffman!


  3. 05/23/2013 12:15 am

    I like what you guys are up too. Such clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to blogroll.


  4. 07/10/2014 10:00 am

    Now I want to hear Hoffman try to do an Upper Tidewater, sliding diphthong accent. I bet he could.



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