Letter – James Campbell, 17 October 1863


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Letter written by Private James Perry Campbell of Company D, 79th IL Infantry, to a friend, from Chattanooga, TN. Campbell is recovering from an illness in the hospital, where he has been since the Battle of Chickamauga. He is “heart sick” after the army was forced to retreat, having hoped for a victory that would end the war. He describes casualties on both sides, including the “River of Death” at Chickamauga, and the reality of dying for one’s country. He states that a soldier’s real motivation is less in glory and more in dreams of peace and going home. He mentions Braxton Bragg’s army is also camped nearby and that Confederate soldiers were stealing clothing left on the battlefield. Campbell thanks his friend for looking after his family.

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Chattanooga Tenn. Oct. 17th 1863

Dear friend

I take this oportunity to write you a few lines. I must excuse my self for not writing oftener to you, but I scarcely ever write except to home, I think that my diarhea is getting better since I have been here in the hospital I have been here ever since the battle waiting on the wounded and I think if I keep my self whare I can take care of my self that I will get shet [shed] of it after a while but this is a poor place for that purpose it is the most disagreeable place I ever was in, this is the first time I have been away from my ridgment since it came out in the servis, The ridgment is camped in about four hundred yards of my hospital the boys are all well what few thare is of them left, The hospital I stay at has about six hundred patients in it and my ward has had 36 and thare has 13 of them died and several more of them are bound to die yet, but the cases we have here are all of the worst kind the slightly wounded wer all sent to Nashville and other places north This was a very distructive and hard fought battlethe hardest of the whole war I think, I tell you Tom, I though when we comenced to fall back to this place that we wer gon up, it was a new thing for this army to retreat it was the first time it had ever done that trick, I never felt so heart sick in my life

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as I did when our army had to give up the field for I had though only of victory before and then a speedy close of the war and the joys of home dear home a gain, but we did not have that field without an effort as the dead of both armies will testify, it was the bloodiest field of the war and we left many a brave soldier thare who gave his life for his countries salvation I saw whole brigades cut to pieces at a single charge and even divisions melted away like snow we ever as you have learned before this greatly out numbered, our ridgement lost a bout half of our men but we do not know who is killed or who was taken prisoners as the fight we suffered most in took place after night, but Tom it will not take more than one more such a scratch and the history of the 79th regment may be writen in full for it will be with the things that wer, And what their history the ridgement may be remembered but those that composed it will be forgotton befor the flesh drops from their bones, talk to a soldier a bout the glory of dying for his country (as some of the northern papers do) and he will point you to the ditches on the field of Chickamauga and ask you what glory you can see in 3 or 4 hundred dead bodies piled in one narrow ditch, it is to save their country and get home to their families a gain that animates the soldier to do his duty, the fame of dying in the battle especially when that fame is to be sung by such selfish and cowardly men as the majority of those at the north are is not prised verry highly by a soldier, but talk to him of peace and of home and you will animate his whole

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soul, the soldiers want an honorable peace, not one of Vanlandinghams, Well here we are or what is left of us laying in a half circle round this town and Braggs army lays in the same shape just outside of ours, and neither of them seems willing to attact the other, I think that the rebs got the worst of the fight in killed, but we lost a great many guns and other soldier traps the rebs got a good suply of clothing from our boys that was left on the field they got one suit from me the best I had

Tom I feel much obliged to you for the interest you take in the welfare of my family and hope I may yet be able to partly return thos favors, but that must be left to the will and providence of an alwise and merciful God who rules and controls the destinies of man as well as those of nations and armies, If thare can be a fare price got for that land of mine I would like to have it sold and if it is not too much trouble I would like to get you to see if you can make a sale of it, and to help Hester to collect some of those debts if help will do any good, I must close this letter and I hope it will find you all well and doing well. Tell Hester that I am getting along verry well now and feel more like getting well than I ever have since I have been aling with the diarhea, Remember me to your wife and tell her I think she mite have writen to me

Your ever faithful friend and brother

J. Perry Campbell

James Perry Campbell, from Paris, IL, enlisted in Company D of the 79th IL Volunteer Infantry on August 1, 1862. He served as a private and mustered out on June 12, 1865 at Camp Butler.

Letter – John Compton, 24 September 1863


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Letter written by Private John D. Compton of Company G, 105th OH Volunteer Infantry, to his sister Margaret, from a camp near Chattanooga, TN. Compton describes a “hard fight” that occurred the previous week [Battle of Chickamauga]. He writes that they were outnumbered and suffered many casualties but only one man from his company was wounded. The regiment was forced to retreat on the last day of the fight. His company was then held in reserve.He describes an order to “charge bayonets” which drove back one brigade of Confederate troops. Compton sends his regards to his other family members, and urges his sister to reply soon.

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Camp near Chatinuga Tenn Sep 24/63

Dear sister Margret I recevid your [???] letter and was glad to hear from you since I got your letter We have had some hard times We have ben in a very hard fight last friday saturday, and Sunday We fought the enimy with Superior number our loss was grate While the enimy was grater from our Compiney there was none Killed but one wounded that was Cussion the red hed that ust to go Kingsville to School the ordly sargen and my self took him from the field our regt on saturday was obliged to retreet our ranks was broken by the surpier number but the brigade was scatered to the 7 winds of the Earth but our small squad containing 425 men was scatered could not get the next but 126 men in our reg We then held in resirve so if our ranks broke we could sustain them the rebels broke our ranks on sunday the men ran We layed about 6 rods back of them they ran thru ours the order was given to charge bayonets We done it and drove one brigade of them they flanked us we ran back We expect another atact but let them come We are very heavy fortifying here Waiting for [???] then we will try them Well I must stop riting for this time J.D. [???] is all rite and all the rest I will tell you the rest next leter rite soone from your Brother give my love to all Father mother sister brother rite soone let our fokes no how I am as soone as you get this

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Well James rite to me

Good Bye Forever J.D.

Compton to Margret and James [???] rite soone as you get this

John D. Compton was the son of farmers Rueben and Margaret Cary Compton. He was born in New York in 1842. Sometime between 1850 and 1860 the family moved west and settled in Kingsville, Ashtabula County in Ohio. He was killed on July 22, 1864 during the battle of Atlanta from a gun shot wound to the abdomen.

Letter – Cecil Fogg, 24 September 1863


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Letter written by Private Cecil Fogg of Company B, 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, to his father from Chattanooga, TN. His company left the Signal Station to rejoin his regiment in Trenton, GA then came down into the Chickamauga Valley. He describes being part of the advanced guard in the Battle of Chickamauga, being fired at by Confederate pickets. Despite being outnumbered they managed to turn the Rebels back and took prisoners. Col. William G. Jones was killed with another man from his company. The following day they were part of the center and were nearly surrounded, being fired on by sharpshooters from 3 sides but eventually were able to meet up with Gen. Gordon Granger’s Reserve Corps and fell back to Union fortifications.

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Chattanooga Sept 24th


I am sitting in one of the “Last Ditches” (just finished) writing this. I have been through a two day fight and nearly 2 weeks of skirmishing since I wrote to you last and have escaped unhurt up to this time. Co. B staid up on the mountain above Jasper guarding the Signal Station from the 22nd Aug. till the 6th of Sept. On the 6th we started for our Regt. which was at Trenton Ga. we got there on the 8th. On the 10th we started southward and went about 10 miles then crossed over Sand mountain [AL] one of the Look-out range, when we were coming down the valley into Chickamauga Valley we could see where Gen. Negley’s Division was fighting a whole Corps of Rebels. I was in the advance guard

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coming down the mountain and was fired at by Rebel pickets at the foot of the mountain. It was about dark when we got to the foot and we ran the pickets in abut a mile farther and then stopped for the night. Several balls came pretty close to me that evening and one of our co. was wounded. We skirmished around here till the 18th when it was discovered that the Rebels were moving towards Chattanooga on the other side of Pigeon mountain. we started and marched all night of the 18th Our Brigade was about the center. The Rebels out numbered us 3 to one according to their account. There was a weak place in our line a little to our right when the Rebs broke through

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and we were called out there to turn them back, and we did it we took some prisoners there who said it was the hardest fighting they had ever done and they had been in nearly all the fights in the east. There is where our Regt lost the most. Col [William G.] Jones was killed and Maj. [William H.G.] Adney wounded one of our co. killed and 5 wounded. The next day the big fight came off They turned our right and left and we were nearly surrounded in the center and were exposed to a fire of sharp-shooters on three sides of us. About an hour before sunset our Brigade took the lead and made a charge to cut our way through and get out of there, and we got out just about sunset. When we stopped Gen. Reynolds, Col. [Philander P.] Lane of the 11th

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Capt Henry, 3 Lieutenants and about 150 of our Brigade (mostly 36th men) were all that was present. The balance had taken a different direction after passing through the 1st and 2nd line of Rebs and come out by a shorter cut bringing with them about 200 prisoners when Gen. Reynolds and his 150 men stopped it was sunset, and we had run 4 or 5 miles, cut our way through 3 lines of rebs and were then chasing a while Brigade of Cavalry. The dirt and noise we made then was all that saved us, we found our way to Granger’s Corps, then to our own, and fell back 6 or 7 miles that night. Monday night we fell back to the fortifications and have been at work fortifying all the time since.

Col [Timothy Robbins] Stanley of the 18th was slightly wounded Sunday.

Cecil Fogg

Cecil Fogg enlisted in Company B of the 36th OH Volunteer Infantry on August 12, 1861 at Marietta, OH at the age of 20. He served through his three year term of service and re-enlisted for the war, but was mustered out July 27, 1865 based upon a surgeon’s certificate of disability. The 36th served in West Virginia in 1861, and participated in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam as a part of the 9th Corps before being transferred west in January 1863. As a part of the Army of the Cumberland’s 14th Army Corps (George H. Thomas), the regiment fought at Chickamauga and later in the Atlanta and Savannah, GA (March to the Sea) Campaigns.