Letter written by Major Thomas K. Jackson to his wife Lucy, from Gainesville, AL. This letter is the continuation of one written by Thomas on July 30th. He has just arrived in town, and Lucy’s father is busy with preparations to visit Washington, D.C. He writes that there are no African American troops yet occupying the town. He mentions an upcoming meeting with a doctor, whom he hopes will provide some advisement for Thomas and his wife.
At Home, Aug. 1. 1865.
I have just arrived in town – 5 1/2 O’clk. P.M. – and have but a moment to say half a word & close my letter – I find yr Father busy as forty beehives in full operation, completing his arrangements for his visit to Washington, He has deferred his departure until Thursday, having found it impracticable to get ready earlier. I was glad to see Jimmie, & devoured yr dear charming letter rapturously – Oh my sweet wife, I am too happy to learn that your health is so good, and your spirits so joyous & happy – My Love, you must not suffer anything to disturb or depress you, & believe in my assurances that every body loves, and your husband adores you,
I learn that little Carrie is not so well this evening
as she was yesterday – Yr Uncle John is “hors de combat” with the breaking out on his ancles – There are no negro troops in town yet, & I do not know that any are expected – I will counsel with Dr Williams to-morrow, or this evening, if I can see him, & advise you of his advice &c. I will try to write a little to you tomorrow, giving you all the news I can gather, at present, I am ignorant of the sayings & doings in town. Susan has returned, & expresses herself charmed with her visit. My best love to Mother, Sister Aunt Bet, all at Kemper, Good ngiht my precious, & may the Good Lord guide & protect you,
Your devoted husband
Lucy Reavis (age 21 in 1863) was the daughter of prominent judge, Turner Reavis. She met her future husband Thomas K. Jackson while he was stationed in Gainesville AL. They married December 16, 1863. At least 30 known letters exchanged between them during the war years have survived. They had five children together. Lucy passed away in 1876 at just 33 years old. Thomas never remarried.
Thomas K. Jackson was born December 12, 1824 in SC. He entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in June 1844 and graduated with the class of 1848. He was appointed brevet 2nd lieutenant of the 4th U.S. Artillery, then transferred to the 5th U.S. Infantry, then the 8th U.S. Infantry. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant in 1849. He served about 7 years on the Texas-Mexico frontier with James Longstreet, until he was assigned as an instructor of infantry tactics at West Point in 1857. In 1858 he rejoined the 8th in Texas. In 1861 he resigned from the U.S. Army and was made a captain in the Confederate Army. On September 26, 1861 he was announced as Chief Commissary of the Western Department under General Johnston. He was appointed major on November 11, 1861. He was captured at Fort Donelson in February of 1862 and imprisoned at Fort Warren. He was exchanged c. May and returned to duty as depot commissary in Gainesville, AL, where he met Lucy Reavis. They courted and were married December 16, 1863. Jackson was stationed at various sites throughout the remainder of the war. He was paroled at Gainesville on May 13, 1865 following General Richard Taylor’s surrender. He remained in Gainesville with Lucy to raise their family and work as a merchant and farmer.
Letter written by Mary Chalmers Ferguson to her husband, Sergeant William A. Ferguson of the 8th Confederate Cavalry, from their home in Pickensville, AL. Mary comments on the different soldiers who brought her husband’s last few letters to her, including an African American. She has received a bag full of her husband’s winter clothes, as well as a pistol and a horse’s shoe. She writes about their daughter, and tells William how the ladies of the village made shirts for wounded and sick soldiers at Columbus, with fabric supplied by the Soldier’s Aid Society. They are also planning on sending a wagon of goods and food. Mary mentions an engagement at Richmond, VA known as the Battle of Seven Pines, and lists the casualties of what she calls the “Pickensville Blues” regiment. She has hopes that William’s army will come near enough to home that she may get to see him.
Home Friday evening
June 13. 1862.
My own dear William: –
The last letter I received from you was brought by Mr Cockrell to Columbus – and mailed at that place. Since then I have heard from you several times – by Capt Mc Caa’s company – coming through this place, first by one of the Capt’s negro’s – who considers himself a member of the company – says – “our company” – “our boys” &c. Willie Herrean has also come back- and took tea with us – tells me you are in fine health. I got the carpet bag containing your winter cloths. I felt like I had met an old friend, when I saw your little pistol. I shall keep it by me and if necessary, defend
myself. Among the other things in the carpet bag I came across “a horses’ shoe” – now – do tell me what horse has worn this shoe – that you think enough of it to send it home? One of Dr Carpenters negroes came through Pickensville yesterday and tells me that he saw you last Monday – says you are in fine health and fine spirits. I am glad to hear from you this way – but how much I should like to have a late letter. I hear that Beauregard’s army are not permitted to write any letters at all. If I cannot have the pleasure of reading a few lines from your pen occasionally I can still write to you and tell you how we are all getting along at home. The pet of the household – that sweet little girl of ours – or yours as you will have
it – is so sweet. She can almost sit alone – and has learned to pull her Granfather’s beard to perfection. He plays with her frequently and loves her very much. You cannot imagine how much company she is for me. I play with her every day – besides bathing her all over every morning – and dressing her every morning – and undressing her every evening. She sleeps with me and gives me a sweet smile as soon as she opens her peepers in the morning. I give her a kiss in return. I wish you could see her eating black-berries – with her little mouth and nose all blacked. Whenever Sarah brings me berries – or plums (of which we have an abundance) she daps her little hands in the midst of them and scatters them all over the floor, at the risk of a make believe
scolding from her Grandmother.
She loves to play with the children and gives every one a sweet smile who speaks to her
But if I tell you so many nice things about the baby – poor little I will be forgotten – if such is not already my fate – (thought of as among “the things that were“)
Last week the ladies of our quiet little village were busily plying the needle for the wounded and sick soldiers at Columbus.
We made up into shirts – three bolts of domestic – sent down by the “Soldiers’ Aid Society” at that place. To morrow evening we are going to form a society at this place – in order to do more work for those noble spirits who have suffered and are now suffering so much for our cause. We are going to send up to them to morrow
a wagon load of vegitables – potatoes, dried fruits – milk butter – eggs- chickens &c. We are not near enough the poor sufferers to wait upon them but want to administer to their wants in some way.
You have probably heard of the engagement near Richmond – call it the “The Battle of the Seven pines.” Papers received to day – say that “Gen Rhode’s brigade – consisting of the 5th, 6th, 12th Ala and 12th Miss is admitted to have eminently distinguished itself. They bore the brunt of the battle for some hours. The casualties of the “Pickensville Blues” are as follows – Killed John T. Vargaut, John L Taylor, John Works, Thomas R. Peeks, Horace Stansel. Total 5. Wounded. Sergeant M. F. Wakefield
J. E. Addington, A. A. Ball, Joseph Coleman, J. R. Donaldson, B. Y. Franklin, James Free, R. J. Tunsley – J. S. Gordon D.W. Goodwin. J. P. Harper. G. W. Hines. A. Johnson. H. B. Johnson – N. G. Jones. W. W. Peterson. Jessie Tall – W. C. Taylor. E. W. Vernon. Wm Kall – Jas Wright, G. B. Petty, G. W. Prew. M. P. Stedman. H. W. Story. J. D. Wheelbright. W. A. Burgin. Total 27. You probably know a great many of the above list. I have a letter from cousin Willie of the fourth of June – in which he says – he is sorry he was not in the fight – having a situation in the pass-port office in Richmond at the time of the engagement – and that he intends to join the comapny immediately in order to be with them in the
next engagement – which he thinks will soon take place. I think he had better stay where he is. Henry when last seen was crossing the Chickahominy bridge – going towards the enemy’s lines.
Mr Shaffer and Miss Boggs from Columbus took dinner with us to day – They tell us that the fortifications at Columbus were commenced last Monday. I[t] was rumored in that place that Gen Beauregard was visiting that place – but nothing definite was known. If Gen Beauregard sees fit to fall as far back as Columbus – you will probably visit us – perhaps on a foraging expedition. I must confess – that I would like to see you very much but the army to which you belong is just about as close as I would like to have it – especially if the
enemy are following you as closely as is reported. I expect secrecy is the best policy on the part of our army – but I find that curiosity is at the highest pitch to learn the movements of those three Generals – Beauregard – Bragg – and Price.
Brother Willie starts to school Monday morning to Mr Garthright at Summerville. Col Talbinds regiments are suffering severely from measles – pneumonia, fever. Mr Wm Fort’s remains were brought home Wednesday and deposited at the Garden church yard. Mr Horton has had the measles. But I must close as ai Have exhausted my paper – perhapse your patience.
If you cannot write – send me a message by every opportunity
A kiss and much love from
Your own dear Mary.
William A. Ferguson, from Pickensville AL, enrolled in Captain McCaa’s Company A of the Alabama Cavalry in October 1861, aged 29. He was mustered into Baskerville’s 4th MS Cavalry Battalion on November 14, 1861. Baskerville’s Battalion patrolled the Tennessee River prior to the battle of Shiloh and and participated in the battle itself. The Battalion was consolidated to form the 8th CS Cavalry Regiment. Ferguson was promoted to lieutenant and again to captain. He was captured in the autumn of 1863 and incarcerated at Johnson’s Island Prison, near Sandusky, OH. He was exchanged and rejoined the fighting in Atlanta. He served with his unit until its surrender at Greensboro, NC in 1865. After the war he became a farmer and had at least 3 children with his wife Mary before passing away on January 21, 1902.He is buried in East Hill Cemetery in Salem City, VA.
Letter of Lieutenant Joseph G. Younger of Company F, 53rd VA Infantry (Armistead’s Brigade, Pickett’s Division), to his cousin. Younger writes that his brothers are well, but he has been ill. He remarks on how hardened soldiers have become to suffering, observing that they hardly care if someone dies as long as it is not a relative. Younger inquires on whether his cousin has found him a “sweetheart.” Younger describes shelling at Petersburg, VA. He hopes the war will soon end. He thinks the Confederacy should conscript African Americans to fight for them like the Union has.
Cousin August the 18th 1864,
Your long looked for letter has come at last. It has been duly perused it finds Marion & Nathan well but I am quite sick and have been for some time. I do not think I shall be able to finish this epistle on account of my head swimming so bad it seems to me the paper is turning round all the time. Cousin it is so bad to be away off here sick, where no Femenine hand is to feel of ones fevered pulse. nor any kind and affectionate sister, mother, relative or friend to watch one as he lays and suffers upon the ground, soldiers have become used to so many suffering that they have no sympathy for one that is sick, so long as they can keep will if one die it makes no difference with them so the
unfortunate one is no relation of theirs if one gets killed in battle it is the same case. This indeed is a hard time. People are bound to become better or I think they will be cut off and perish all over the land. I think it has rained all over the state by this time we have had quite a nice shower since I have been writing and it looks like coming down down again shortly. So you have not picked me out any particular young Ladie for a sweet heart you say that there are several nice young Ladies in that neighborhood but you will wait and let me come and pick for myself. Cousin I think I should be pleased, at any choice you would make for I am shure your fancie and taste would be perfect You speak of Miss Emma Womack as being a nice young Ladie I should
Judge so for I have heard a good deal of talk about her but Mr W or Mr Younger is too far ahead for any of us to talk about her. Marion though seems satisfied about it so I must be too as I am not acquainted with her he says she is one of his best friends and he is certain she will let him know when she is going to get married. There were terrible terrible shelling at Petersburg this morning before day I have not as yet heard the cause of it. We will have hot time here soon I think, a good deal of sickness are getting among our soldiers I am in hopes the war will end soon I have thought it would end this winter but I do not know how it will end nor when I know this much it cannot end too soon for us I think it had as well end this winter as
to go on next spring for it will never end by fighting no-how, We have to fight negroes now driven up to us by the white yankeys our men fought them at Petersburg & also on the other side of the river a day or so ago our boys allways slay them when they get a chance at them but it is a shame for our good young white men to be killed by a yankey negro, I think if they fight negroes against us we ought to conscript some of our to meet them I reckon our negroes would fight as well as theirs. I must close as I am getting so weak I cannot sit up write soon I remain Your affectionate Cousin
J G Younger
Joseph G. Younger enlisted as a private on July 10, 1861 at Union Church, VA in Company F of the 53rd VA Infantry. He was promoted corporal August 14, 1861; sergeant December 15, 1861; but was reduced to private on May 5, 1862. He was hospitalized August 18, 1862 at Chimborazo Hospital, Richmond, VA with diarrhea, then marked as ‘absent’ and sick at home in September of 1862. He was present December 15, 1862, then hospitalized again on February 28, 1863 at Lynchburg, VA. Present once more April 15, 1863. He was appointed 2nd lieutenant on April 4, 1863, but on November 12, 1864 he requested a transfer to the artillery “due to a lack of respect shown him by the men of his company.” Younger was duly transferred into the Halifax VA Light Artillery Battery on December 15, 1864. He survived the war, and later lived in Mississippi County, AR until his death April 13, 1916. His brothers Francis Marion, and Nathan, served at least through the end of 1864, both being issued clothing at Fairfax, VA on December 31, 1864. However, no further military documents could be found for all.
The 53rd VA Infantry was one of the most prominent of Virginia regiments, serving from December 1, 1861 until April 9, 1865. As a part of Armistead’s Brigade, Pickett’s Division, it was among the foremost in the famous “Pickett’s Charge” at Gettysburg, led by Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead over the stone wall at the Angle during the height of the assault on July 3, 1863. Here the regiment lost 34 killed, 140 wounded, and 150 prisoners or missing, total of 314. It is believed all three Younger brothers were presentand survived this ordeal.
Letter by Private Zebulon P. Ryder of Company I, 11th PA Cavalry, to his mother. Ryder describes how busy he has been since many soldiers re-enlisted and were given furlough. He claims he will not be able to easily get a furlough but will be home to stay in August. He expresses displeasure with how the African American soldiers were given “equality with the whites.” Ryder references an event from picket duty while in Suffolk, VA about a month earlier when rebels had captured 7 from their regiment. The night before they left Suffolk, Ryder and a few others discovered that Confederate pickets were staying at the Pugine House. Ryder and his comrades attempted to capture the soldiers, but were interrupted when more Confederate troops arrived. Ryder proudly mentions the two geese that he is fattening up for Christmas.
Camp Getty Dec 15th/63
I seat myself to write you a few lines and I hope you will excuse me for not writing sooner as I did not have time for thay have kept us a going all the time lately as thare is a gret meny of the boys that has Reenlisted home on a Fourlough. I reaceived my farthers letter dated the 5th but I was out on picket about 15 miles from Camp and had no CHance to answer it as i Just got back yesterday and was not in Camp but 4 hours when I was sent with a dispatch to a place in North Carolina called Caratuck [Currituck] with a dispatch it is [40/90?] miles from here I was a Rideing all last night and did not get back untill 8 oclock this morning so you can think I am prety tired although I am well an I hope you and all the famaly are the same i reaceived that note my farther sent from Gen Butler but did not shew it to the Colenell as it whould be no use now as thare is so meny Boys home on a fourlough now that I could not get one very easy and if nothing hapens I shall be home in August to stay and I can easy stand it untill then I guess and when I get home you can not drive me in
the Service for the Negro is soldier enough now whith out haveing the whites in to help them I think it is the most and the meanest thing to Government ever done whas to put Negros on Equality with the whites which they are a doing down here and I hope you or none of my freinds sympathises with them for if you only here 1 quarter as much about them as I did you whould not. While I whas sent on picket thare whas and Old lady named Ryder Claimed Relationship with me she said she was my Cousen her folks she said lived at Sag Harbor but wether she is or not I do not know but still I would not be fool enough to say she was not as I was used so well I borded thare the day I was out thare and she dose just as well as if she had bin my Cousin she has bin down here 30 years but I forgot what her farthers name whas but she had a brother named John who whas out this side of Suffolk last month doing picket douty whe was thare 15 days and thare whas orders for some of us to go in Suffolk for the week before who came thare the Captured 7 of our Regt with 8 horses and 2 wagons but the night before whe came away
thare was 7 of started and whent up as it was Raining prety hard and the night was dark whe thought thare whas no danger and our Rations whas prety scarce whe thought whe would press a few chickens. whe crost a small stream Caled the Jeraco Canall on a Raft whe got thare about 11 oclock and when and seed a few of our frends that whe got acquainted with while our Regt whas Camped thare and they used us first Rate so well that whe thought thare was something up so whe met a negro and questioned him and he said that pickets was stationed at the Pugine house and whe had beter leave and whe thought so two and as whe whas a comeing away whe spied 5 of them a seting in a house takeing it so laysay whe thought whe would try and capture them so drawing our Revolvers whe whent up to the door and knocked and soon as the door whas open when made a Rush in and be fore thay had time to thinck and gt thare arms whe ordered them to surender wich thay done with out showing any Resistance for thay seen it was no use whe got thare arms and whas a marching them away when whe
heard more of them coming down the Road and whe knew whe had to leave so whe took the 5 muskets and left but not before whe had fired the muskets off at them and 3 shots a piece from our Revolvers and they Blaced [blazed] at us but whe whas behind the House and it was so dark thay did not hit any of us but I thinck by the way thay yelled whe must have hurt some of them but you may be shure whe did not stay long to see and whe knew thay would not folow us as thay did not know how many men thare whas of us whe Ran about 2 miles and then whe got as meny chickens and geese as whe could cary and started for head quarters some one fired a shot and shot one of our boys in the arm but not enough to do him any harm as it only grased him I have got 2 of the geese now fatening them up for Christmas, when you see Ruth ask her why she dose not answer my letter as I would like to here from her very much, give my love to all inquiring friends and write soon
from your Affectionate son
excuse my scribling for I am sleepy
Zebulon P. Ryder was born in New York City. He enlisted in Company I of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry on August 3, 1862 at around 16 or 17 years of age. He was first assigned to duty in Suffolk, Va. with his company, and survived the war, being discharged May 16, 1865.At some point he moved west to Tennessee, married, and worked as a farmer. He died February 26, 1909 of pneumonia in Buena Vista, TN.
Another letter by Zebulon Ryder, dating from 3 August 1862, can be found at Spared Shared. Be sure to check them it as well!
Letter written by Private Erastus Gregory of Company C, 114th NY Infantry, to his brother, from Port Hudson, LA. Gregory gives a day-to-day account of the battle fought at Port Hudson. Gregory’s regiment worked on building breastworks while being shelled by the Confederates. Despite being under continuous fire, Union forces suffered few losses. He mentions Major General Franklin Gardner going to Major General Nathaniel P. Banks to settle the fight with a trade of men and artillery for the fort, but Banks refused. Gregory writes that the ideas one may have about what it is like in battle fall short of the reality, and praises the bravery of the soldiers going into the field. He calls those who cry for peace cowards. He disputes that the Union is fighting for the rights of enslaved peoples, but rather is fighting to crush the rebellion, though hegoes on to say that he hopes when, “resurrection morning shall dawn upon us I may be accounted worthy to sit down near the throne of God with as black a man as ever trod the soil of old africa.” This was written the day before he was killed in action.
Port Hudson on the Mississippi 204 miles above New Orleans
June 13th 1863
Dear Brother and all I will begin a letter for you today but cannot send it out until this battle is decided for they do not allow any mail to leave here until then we started from the old railroad on friday the 29th of may and went to New Orleans by railroad we took a steamer from there and came up the river and arrived five miles below here on Saturday we stayed all night and on Sunday the 31st we marched onto the Battle ground we were brought up for reinforcements & so we were sent right to work they had been fighting 7 days when we got here, and I am going to keep an account of every day until the battle is decided last night Sunday night our men were sent out to put up some breastworks and worked till 12 o clock & then slept what we could the rest the time until morning the rebs shelling us by spells through the night Monday june 1st this day opens upon us very pleasant the men are fighting with a will on both sides the rebs have been throwing up new works during the night and our men have been shelling them all the forenoon and have finally succeeded in knocking them down the rebs had a big gun behind it (the works) and our men have just dismounted it with one of our big guns so they have only 2 more big guns left that they can use against us the
infantry fighting continues brisk all day) Tuesday june 2nd the rebs shelled us by spells all night last night the infantry fighting was also kept up most all night and they are fighting like tigers today the reb shells have done us no hurt yet except to scare us pretty bad and one man (in Co. K) probably being a little more scart than some of the rest started to run to get out of the way when his foot slipped he fell some way so his gun went off the ball passed through his foot in such a manner that it had to be cut off but during surgical operations he sudenly passed into eternity and that with the exception of killing a few mules is all the hurt they have done yet that is to our regiment but they have killed about (1000) men here since the fight began and probably wounded 3 times as many more) Wednesday June 3d is a pleasant day we are fighting with a will with cannons as well as muskets The old rebel reneral [Maj. Gen. Franklin Gardner] has been out today to see gen Banks [Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks] for the purpose of settling the fight he told Gen. Banks if he (Banks) would let him have the men and 50 pieces artillery and his own life and be permitted to go he would surrender the fort to us but good old gen B told him (No) he wanted him, his men, artillery, & the fort besides) this old rebel general is the man that used to be United States paymaster and ran away with a pile of money that he was sent to pay troops and joined the rebs & being a smart man, they made a general of him but if we get him he will never be general any more for any buddy) thursday June 4th fighting commenced at daylight fight all day) friday June 5th fighting again today like tigers the rebs began to shell us again last night as usual but our men had been fixing for them and when they opened on us our men opened on them and ere the morning light they had dismounted the rebels two last guns and according to the statement of a negro that got away from them and came to us we killed a
good many men the negro said that we slaughtered them terribly) Saturday June 6th we are fighting today as eager as if it were the first day of the battle our men shelled the rebs through the night and they did not answer to our fire poor fellows had nothing to answer with) an Irishman has come over from them today and gave himself up he says we have almost give them enough he says two regiments of them have laid down their arms and took an oath that they will fight no more against their country) Sunday June 7th this is a lovely day full as pleasant as it is holy I am not fighting today but some of our regiment are the rebs opened upon us this morning with a gun that they had got mounted they made out to shoot once before our men got one of our old long toms in range and that is the last I have heard from the old gun today) this was an awful stronghold but we must soon have it I think) the fort or port is 7 miles around it and we have four lines of soldiers clear around) we have 30 miles of soldiers here, when they stand four abreast Monday June 8th fighting continues all day there was cannonading by spells all night by our men the rebs not answering to it but two or three times) I suppose you have an idea of what takes place in a fight like this but your ideas fall short of the reality) when I get home I will try and tell you so you will know something about it but I have not time to write it. But I tell you it is nothing that anyone would crave after) to see a regiment of brave boys go proudly into the field where shot and shell fly thickly around them perhaps before the first round is fired a piece of shell or musket ball hits a man on the head and he is carried from the field in an expiring condition another perhaps has his leg or arm shot off by a canon ball or grape shot while another is shot in the breast in such a manner that you can see right inside of him) and I tell you it is not very often that one word of complaint is heard from these brave men so eager are they to save their country from ruin) yet strange to
say we have men in the north that do us a great deal of harm by their cowardly cries of peace peace when there is no peace it dampens the faith of many an unthinking soldier and at the same time gives great courage to the traitors or rebels but I would say to such men as they are go on say all and do all you can we have taken the job to put down this unholy rebellion and with the help of almighty God we will see that it is done and done handsomely too if it takes ten long years to do it but for my part I dare not come home and tell my neighbor that I gave in my voice (to have peace on any terms) after the rebels had killed over two hundred thousand of the brave boys) I dare not come home and take my old gray headed father & mother by the hand & tell them their gray hairs must go down in sorrow to the grave because I had given in my voice to have peace on any terms, and therefore give the rebels all they demanded in the first place) I dare not come home where my wife and children are and take them by the hand and pat the little children on the head and tell them that I had brought a curse upon them and their children for generation and generations to come by giving in my voice towards having a peace which would be more ruinous than defeat itself) I dare come home and look my brothers & sisters in the face and take them by the hand and tell them I had signed away their peace the remainder of their lives by giving in my cowardly voice for peace) and back out at this critical juncture after more than two hundred and fifty thousand of our brave and noble young men had been buried beneath the Southern sod) I dare not do it I say) No I had rather brave the storm of iron and lead a spell longer) but enough of that) you will begin to think I am getting to be a union man if I do not stop) Albert D. is here he makes a good soldier and one that is pretty well calculated to pick a reb at pretty near every shot) we have cowards but they did not come from Mt Upton [NY] you see) tuesday June 9th infantry fighting continues brisk all day the cannons also keep up a tremendous roar all day Wednesday June 10th the rebs threw 5 shells at us last night but they were soon hushed up by our guns for our men shelled them all night infantry fighting all day today
thursday June 11th this is a rainy wet morning) our regiment were sent out last night for the purpose of removing some trees and rubbish that were in our way between our guns and accouterments ½ mile back and went to work like tigers to get our job done before daylight and we were progressing finely) when we had got within a few rods of their breastworks they probably knowing that we had not got our guns a large party of them sprang up from behind some brush and fired into our men of course we dropped everything and run and run we did it up & run in any manner for it but I should say we took a faster gait than a run) But strange to say there was only 3 or 4 wounded in the whole regt and only one in our company and he received his wound by falling down on his axe and cutting himself) not very bad) heavy cannonading by our men all night) the rebs not answering our fire except with musketry) we are having a terrible fight here to get this port but nothing daunted we press forward with a will not forgeting however to ask the blessings of almighty god to rest uppon us and the aid of his strong arm to guide and direct us and then we do not fear anything that can be devised by southern rebels or northern traitors) there is only one thing that I regret and that is I am sorry they are not all here together so we could fight them all at the same time not that I have any hatred toward them in any other way than to hate their actions (all I want is to bring them to terms that is bring them to an unconditional surrender and then with as much joy as the father experienced at the return of the prodigal I will receive them back and call them brothers again) those northern traitors get up the miserable story that we are fighting for the (****** as they term it) I suppose they think that if they get up that miserable yarn that we will not fight so hard but I will tell them now for all that we have come down here to whip these rebels and crush out their wicked rebellion and negro or not negro) (******
or not ******) we are bound to subdue them the cost be what it will) And then after the rebs are completely whipped then I say we shall have time enough to talk about the negro and then if I see anything in them or about them worthy of fighting for I will enlist and fight on the rite side) But until then I shall not bother my brains much concerning the negro some seem to think that because the negro has a black skin he ought to be a servant or slave and be bought and sold and whipped and kicked and abused in any way that a cruel master or overseer might see fit punish them) some even go so far as to say the negro has no soul but I believe when God created the negro He put as a baby [illegible due to fold] his man and I hope when the resurrection morning shall dawn upon us I may be accounted worthy to sit down near the throne of God with as black a man as ever trod the soil of old africa) If my sentence is no worse than that would be I shall be satisfied) one word more about Northern traitors and I will close this subject) tell them for me that I say, they had better come down here and help their rebel brothers for we are getting them in a tight place and they need their help very much but if they cannot or dare not come tell them to keep on and do all the hurt they can where they are) and tell them to hurry up for we shall be home some day and then it will be very strange if they do not [illegible due to fold] days they have all day sit about as if the rebels fight as well as they did the first day I am sitting here behind a tree in the edge of the woods writing this letter the balls fly around me like hail but I hardly notice it I have got so used to it) the cannons keep up a tremendous roar on our side but the rebs do not answer only with muskets) I thought I would not send out any letters until this battle was decided but I can and I think I shall send this tomorrow (Saturday) I received a couple of letters from you yesterday and was more than glad to hear that you were all well I am hearty and stout as a bear I think you did not enjoy your ride from Sanford very much the letters that I received were dated
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April 25th and May 10th give my respects to all tell Amelia and the children I have not forgotten them and I shall be glad when the war is over and then I can come home and see them all I will close for the present.
Erastus Gregory enlisted at the age of 28 in Guilford, NY on August 9 of 1862. He served as a private in Company C of the114th NY Infantry. He was killed in action June 14, 1863 at Port Hudson, LA. According to family lore, Gregory was killed when a bullet passed through the bible he carried in his pocket.
Letter written by Private Marcus S. Nelson of Company D, 14th MO Infantry, Birge’s Western Sharpshooters (later the 66th IL Infantry), to family, from Corinth, MS. Nelson has heard that generals Sterling Price and Earl Van Dorn are at Iuka, MS, with a force of several thousand men. He expects a great battle to be fought soon. Nelson’s company went out skirmishing, though he was unable to join them. Nelson calls Company F as the “cowardly company,” and states that Company K mutinied. He has heard that the Confederates in Iuka are retreating, and that General Ulysses S. Grant is in full pursuit, mentioning that Grant “always does what he undertakes if he ain’t drunk.” Nelson also mentions that while African Americans are not allowed to be soldiers, they are employed in other areas in the camp.
Corinth, Miss. Sept. 20th 1862
Friends at home:
Congratulate us! Once more there is a prospect of something being done in these parts. Price & Van Dorn are at Iuka, twenty one miles from here with a large force variously estimated at from twenty to sixty thousand men (they probably have not over twenty-five thousand) and are menacing this place. We have a heavy force at Burnsville, seven miles this side of Iuka, and it is expected that there will soon be a great battle fought at or near one of these places. The number of our troops at Burnsville is about equal to that of the enemy at Iuka, and we have the railroad to facilitate the transportation of reinforcements from this place if necessary in case of a battle. Three companies of Sharp Shooters, “D” among the number, have been out since a week ago today, skirmishing with the enemy’s advance. As they left the day after I returned from the North , I did not go with them. I should though, if my feet had not been blistered with my rascally boots so that I could not march. They have had some pretty hot work out there, but at the last advice, not a man was hurt. At one time Company D was alone with the exception of three of Company F (the cowardly company), the remainder of that company having sulked, and Company K mutinied on account of the senior captain having put their [captain] under arrest for his superior bravery. The Rebels were in the edge of a piece of timber, at the top of a hill, and the S.S. were ordered by the infantry colonel who had
command of the expedition to dislodge them. This of course was work for bayonets. But Co. D never flinched. Only two men in the company backed out. The rest “charged” with loud shouts up the hill in the face of the enemy’s fire. It seemed like madness to rush into the woods with no arms but long range rifles [the regiment was armed with the Dimick American Deer and Target Rifle, a sporting rifle not fitted for the bayonet], but the command was “forward” and Co. D always obeys orders. Rushing through a perfect storm of balls, they reached the top of the hill in safety, and , discharging their rifles into the woods, dashed in after the already retreating Rebels. Through this piece of woods they pursued them, and held the woods until ordered to return to Burnsville. The infantry which was ordered to support the Sharp Shooters in the attempt to dislodge the Rebels from the brush followed on slowly until met by the first volley from the concealed Rebels, when they absolutely refused to proceed, and our boys were obliged to drive them out alone. To show the coolness with which the boys conducted the whole thing, I will relate a couple of incidents. One of the boys, Dallas Brewster by name, when double-quicking it up the hill, saw a ball strike between his feet. He stooped down, dug it out of the dirt, put it in his pocket, and went on the same as though bullets were not flying like hail stones around him. Another dropped on one knee to load, and had just poured the powder in his gun, when an English rifle ball struck close to the toe of his boot. He picked it up, tried it in his gun, and coolly remarked, “just a fit,” – “saves my going into my pouch for one,” and loading his gun with the Secesh ball, he was off after the Butternuts again. This Dal. Brewster has a step brother by the name of George Yerington in our regiment, whose mother is related to the Abbys in some
way. I believe Mrs. Fred Abby & she are sister. At all events, George has seen the whole of them and remembers them, and I presume Carlista will recollect him but I don’t know.
My health has been steadily improving since my return from the North, and if I can get all the milk I want, I guess I shall get along.
I cannot make out a meal of victuals without milk, and I have to pay fifteen cents a quart for it. When I was in Alton & St. Louis it was brought to me for five cents per quart, but here we usually have to pay twenty unless we can steal it. I should like to come home and stay long enough to get in the wheat, but as we some expect a “harvest” here soon, I suppose Uncle Sam don’t wish to spare any of his “reapers.”
You say you have only four head of cattle, and I have noticed several times that you have spoken of old Tom, or Jim, or John, or some other name which I supposed belonged to some old crowbait, which father had jayhawked, or had given to him. But I begin to mistrust that the steers are gone, and that old Tom is in some way connected with the trade. Please tell me something about it, and who owns the steers now, if you know. I think when I come home I shall bring along a pair of mules, first for the sake of their music. I have become so accustomed to it that I don’t think I could get along without it.
I think, Valeria [oldest sister], you were guilty of a kind of an “Irish bull” when you told the folks that “if they stayed and kept you they would leave you, etc.” Do you see it?
But without joking, the quicker you get out of that hole, the better it will be for all parties concerned.
If you send me those things by express, send them immediately, as we may be ordered away from here in the course of a few weeks, perhaps a few days. I think, however, we shall probably stay here for some time yet. I am very grateful to Harriet for her kindness, and hope her present will be something which I can preserve. Good news comes to us from Iuka tonight. The Rebels are in full retreat, and General U. S. Grant, who always does what he undertakes if he ain’t drunk, is in full and close pursuit, bagging “game” by regiments. A train of 21 cars has just gone out for prisoners, and many have been brought in before, within a few hours.
There is some prospect of taking the whole Rebel army. That’s the way we do business in the West. We are now using every means in our power to crush the rebellion. They won’t allow us to use n****** for soldiers, but we use them for teamsters, cooks, etc., & their women cook and wash for us, and their children wait on our officers. The most robust of them (the men) we employ in fatigue work when we have any [work] to do. They have done a “big job” of clearing for us within a few days to open a range for our siege guns to the S.W. of Corinth. I must wind up now as it is getting rather late. Write as often as you can, and believe me, as ever,
Your affectionate son & brother,
Sp’port, [Springport] Mich
Marcus S. Nelson, a school teacher from Van Buren County, MI, enlisted in Company D, of Birge’s Western Sharpshooters on March 10, 1862. He joined his company at Pittsburg Landing, TN on March 25, 1862, and was present at the Battle of Shiloh, and the Siege of Corinth, MS. Private Nelson was killed in action (shot in the head) at the Battle of Corinth, October 4, 1862.
Letter written by Private Cornelius Baker of Company K, 1st ME Cavalry, to his mother, from the headquarters of the 3rd Brigade near Petersburg, VA. Baker writes that he is still cooking, though he has not been able to bake as much since returning from the hospital. His health has improved as the weather has cooled down. He mentions how George (possibly George Baker, 19th Maine Infantry) is a prisoner in Georgia. He describes a recently-fought battle [Hatcher’s Run, VA], and mentions how his regiment suffered heavy losses. Baker’s regiment captured several prisoners, including the African American drivers of ten Confederate army wagons. Much of the regiment has gone home, having served their full term.
3d Brigade, Q.M.D.
Near Petersburg, Va.
Your very kind and long looked for letter was received this morning, for which I am very thankful. I am pleased to hear from you once more, mother, and to hear that you [are] enjoying a comfortable degree of health.
My health is as good as can be expected. I am still at the same old business (cooking). I have been obliged to give up my old mess on account of my health. I have been unable to attend to baking since I came from the hospital. But since cool weather has made its appearance, I have improved in health
very rapidly. George is in Georgia, a prisoner. I know of no way that you can get a letter to him. I will ascertain as soon as possible if there is any way to get letters to him, and if there is, I will let you know at once.
This is a cold, rainy evening, but I have a very comfortable chance for which I am truly thankful.
We had a severe battle near this place last Tuesday. Our regiment lost heavily. I think there were about 90 killed, wounded, and missing. Among those that were killed was Lieut. W Collins [Co. E]. He was a fine, promising young man, and is deeply lamented by all that knew him. Our men captured quite a number of prisoners, ten army wagons loaded with provisions, and
the drivers (all colored men). One of them is with me. He is the smartest darkey that I have seen since I have been out here. He says that God alone knows the suffering there is among the poor class.
Quite a number of our boys have gone home, having served out their term. I shall remain here until spring, then if my life is spared, I shall come to see you and all my old friends.
It is too cold and chilly for me to write much more. Give my love to Aunty; tell her she is thought of and most always spoken of by me. Charlie Lyons is here with me and sends his love to you. Give my love to all inquiring friends. Good bye. Direct your letters
Corenelius V. Baker
3rd Brigade 1st Maine Cavalry
Washington D.C. 3d
Street to 1st Maine Cavalry
3d Brigade QMD
C. V. Baker
Cornelius V. Baker, from Houlton, ME, enlisted at age 29 in Co. K, 1st Maine Cavalry, on March 5, 1862. He served as a private, and was detailed to the quartermaster’s dept. in 1863, and on June 15, 1864 as a teamster. He was discharged March 5, 1865