Letter written by Sergeant David Woodman Norton of the “1st Zouave Regiment of Chicago,” to his father Joshua Norton, Jr., from Chicago, IL. Norton comments on his brothers’ recent decisions to enlist. Norton is a 2nd Sergeant of Company E, but feels that he should have a higher rank. His colonel however, shows favoritism to the older members of the Zouave Company. They have orders to go to Cairo, IL, which Norton describes as “the most important post to be held west of Washington.” Norton inquires after his mother, saying that she should not be worried about her sons, as they will all return safely and with honor. Norton mentions a package of letters he would like returned to their sender, Miss Mary T. Dodge, if he dies in the war. He also asks his father to get him a commission if he can, as Norton feels he would do well in any position.
Chicago April 29th/61
I received your letter some days since and was not at all surprised to hear that Joshua and John had enlisted in the glorious cause of our country.
I am 2nd Sergeant of Comp. E. Zuave Regiment of Chicago. I should have had a higher rank but for the favoritism shown by our Colonel to the older members of the Zuave Company. As it is I have a great deal of the work of drilling the men thrown upon my hands. We have got them into pretty good marching drill and have begun teaching the manuel
of Arms. Our uniforms are not done yet, thought we expect to get them in two or three days.
We are under order to leave for Cairo or to go into camp to night or to-morrow. I hope we may go to Cairo, as that is the most important post to be held west of Washington, and we may expect some hard service there for the south must come there to get food or starve. Three Companies of our Reg. are there now.
I am glad that John was with the 1st Reg. that saw service Was he hurt at all? Has Joshua gone yet? What are the numbers of their Regiments? Mine is the 1st Reg. of Zouaves.
Mother must not feel badly to part with her sons in such
a cause as ours, even if she should be called upon to part with any of them for this life. She will meet us all again where there are no wars! But she must not expect to lose any of us. We shall all be come home safe and with honor. If we have any good fighting I mean to have a rank higher than at presant, if there is one to be had by doing one’s duty.
I have left my trunk in care of Mr. Haskell. If I don’t return I should like to have a package of letters you will find in it returned to the writer. – Miss. Mary T. Dodge Dodgeville Wisconsin
When you write to me send the letters for the presant, to care of Box 2555 and address to Sergeant DW Norton Comp. E. Zouaves Reg. Chicago, I will write again as soon as I get time and a chance. I am
not quite a novice, in military matters. Don’t forget if you can get a chance to get me a commission, that I feel sure that I can fill any office I should be likely to get, if perseverance and application are of any a/c [account].
Write Soon and tell the others to do so too. Give my love to all and write soon to
Your Affect. Son
D. Woodman Norton
Major David Woodman Norton was born 31 January 1838 in Chelsea, MA. He had two other brothers (Joshua and John) who also enlisted and served in the Union Army. He enlisted with the 1st Zouave Regiment of Chicago and was then promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of the 42nd IL Infantry then Captain on July 22, 1861. He eventually joins Major General John M. Palmer’s staff as acting Assistant Inspector General. He was killed in action near New Hope Church, GA on June 2, 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign.
Letter written by Private George R. Buck of Company K, 17th Illinois Infantry, to his mother, from Fort Holt, KY. Buck writes that he has not seen a Confederate camp since he has been in the service. He describes the various illnesses suffered by his comrades and his own recent health problems. He has heard that they will get paid soon, although he is skeptical. Buck mentions that he has plenty to eat and access to coffee. He describes the four large post guns at the camp. Buck writes that Colonel Leonard Ross is often not in camp, and the men think they will need a new colonel if he does not appear soon. Many of the men think that General Fremont “ought to have his ass kicked for letting Mulligan be so long without reinforcing him.” Buck thinks they will get whipped if the troops continue to be so scattered.
Fort Holt Ky
Sept 25th 1861
4 months ago today we were sworn into the U.S. service & I have not seen a secesh camp yet, or had a shot at them. Esq Hole & Jud Foster came over here today. George F. & H. F Hole came over here with them. G. Foster is quite better has got the fever broken. Hole looks very bad indeed but is conciterable better. I am about the same, got medacine this morning for the Diarea it has put a stup to my running so much.
I was very sick last night with a pain in my stomach. Do not know when I will get well, but hope it will be soon. You must not fret on my account. It will do me no good & you the harm. I have gathered a lot of dry leaves from the brush piles for a bed – it does fine. I wrote a long letter to Ann yesterday, but suppose you will get this first. Morris has come back again he is quite well. It is said we will be payed off soon, some time this week, I dont hardly believe it. We get plenty to eat, & I traded off some coffe for sweet
potatoes, which went fine with the boys. I tasted one & it was fine. Bill Boggs is writing home. They have 4 large fort guns planted at this place which look quite savage down the river. 3, 32 pounders & 1, 24, They have a large magazine here, it is under the ground but covered over with logs & sand 5, or 6 feet. We had 1000 men when at Alton & now can make but 550 fit for duty. Col Ross has some thing he likes better than this Regt., or he would stay with us more.
He has not been with us but very little since we left Camp Pope. & for the last month about 4 days. He is gone now, & the boys think if he does not stay with us closer we had better get a new Col., I think so to. Bruner has the Billious fever & is at Cairo hospital. I will send thsi with Jud. Lots of the boys think Gen Fremont ought to have his A– kicked for letting Mulligan be so long without reinforcing him. Our troop are scattered about so we have [???] in a place, & so long as this is the case we will get whipped. Fremont will get his eyes opened after while I hope if he dont soon & they’ll send Co. K we’ll plug him, G.R. Buck.
George R. Buck was a resident of Havana, IL. He enlisted on May 5, 1861 as a private at the age of 21. He served with Company K of the 17th Illinois Infantry. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on October 22, 1862. He mustered out June 15, 1864. After the war he returned to farming. He died in 1906.
Letter written by Corporal John D. Beach of Company G, 55th IL Volunteer Infantry, to his mother, from Lagrange, Tennessee. Beach writes that his health is improving, but several of his comrades are ill. He describes how the Confederates nearly took General William T. Sherman and his men prisoner at Collierville. The “Rebs” fired at Sherman’s rail cars. The 13th Regulars, vacated the train to fight, and suffered a few casualties. Sherman is now in Corinth, and his regiment has just received orders to march there. Beach mentions that he sent his violin home when he was in Memphis.
Lagrange Tenn Oct 14th 1863
I now seat myself on the ground to write a few lines to you to let you know that I am getting better I have not had the ague for about two weaks. Frank Bennett is verry sick He has some kind of fever Charles West is also sick but not as sick as Frank B. Calvin Songster is sick with the ague These three are sick in the hospital. I have not heard of Charles Patterson since we left him at Vicksburg on one of the hospital boats I expect he is at Memphis or St. Louis but I do not know whare he is. Fred Smith is
not well The regt. left Lagrange last Sunday Fred went along. They went down towards Holly Springs That is 25 miles due south of here We went from here to Holly Springs last year When we came through here the Rebs came near takeing Genl Sherman and some more generals prisoners at Collierville That is between here and Memphis The Rebs fired at them and filled the cars full of holes One car had a six pound ball put through it Genl Shermans old regt was along with him that is the 13 Regulars They got off and gave them a fight We lost 11 killed and 40 wounded and one of General Shermans staff officers General Sherman is now
in Corinth George Hawk passed through here day before yesterday and he has my thing in Corinth with him The regt has not come in yet We have just received orders to get ready to go to Corinth We will go to day I guess The chaplain is here and he brought one car load of things with him, but not a thing from Deer Park. The things are all at Cairo They was not put on the boat and so they were left But if we stay in Corinth aney length of time we will get them because they will come to Memphis the next time thare is a Sanitary boat comes down I have written three letters since I arrived in Memphis. I sent my violin
home while I was in Memphis I directed it to Mary S. Williams, Ottawa La Salle Co Ill. I paid for it; one dollar and a quarter I hope our things will come through You tell Franks mother that he is verry sick I suppose if he knew it he would not like to have me let her know it They are in the hospital at Lagrange. I guess I am the onley one that has written home I expect the ague a gain in a few days But I may not have it I have not done any duty in the regt for over one year I do not do any duty now I guess our regt has been in a skirmish while they are gone I must close on account of room Charles West has just come in the tent He has written home that he is well, but he will have the same [sickness] more.
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Direct to J. D. Beach Co G. 55 Regt Ill Vol Corinth Miss
John D. Beach, from Lasalle, IL, enrolled August 23, 1861 in Co. G of the 55th IL Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to corporal, and re-enrolled April 12, 1864, soon thereafter being assigned to Battery A, 1st IL Light Artillery of the 2nd Division, 15th Army Corps. Later transferred back to the 55th Illinois. Beach was mustered out at Little Rock, AR on June 14, 1865
Letter written by Private Isaac B. Jones of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 18th U.S. Infantry, to his cousin Helen Sofield, from Belotes Ford near Cairo, TN. Jones mentions that the mail had been captured several times in the last few months and is unreliable. He describes the hard marching from Winchester, TN to Bowling Green, KY. They caught up with General Braxton Bragg but General Don Carlos Buell held back, and Bragg escaped.They pursued Bragg’s forces to Springfield. Jones writes in great detail about the Battle of Perryville, including descriptions of the heavy artillery. The following day he walked the battlefield and describes the carnage he saw, including the surgeons amputations of many arms and legs. Jones concludes by writing longingly of his family.
Belotes ford near Cairo, Tenn. Dec 4th, 1862
I received a letter from you a little more than a month ago, I think, and allow me to say that I was very glad indeed to hear from you, for I had not received any word from any of my folks for a long time. I received one letter from my wife since I last wrote to you. She and Susie [daughter] were well. I had been looking for a letter from you for quite a length of time, and had almost came to the conclusion that you had not received my letter. Our mail have been captured, here and in Ky. several times within the last three months. So there is not very much dependence to be placed in them now. Well, cousin, we have some sharp times, and awful hard marching since I last wrote to you. We have marched over 800 miles, including our flanking movements, since we left Winchester, Tenn. We marched from Decherd, Tenn. a distance of 20 miles to reinforce Gen. Shouph. He was expecting to be attacked almost every hour. We did not get the order till evening. Then we started and marched nearly all night with nothing but blankets and rations. It rained hard, and was very cold and disagreeable. We had nothing but dry crackers and a little fat meat to eat, and only half rations at that. We got here the next forenoon and laid in line of battle two days. We had no fighting except some skirmish and picket fighting. We then moved on, with our whole force, near Pelham, Tenn. We expected there for sure to
have a general action, but the enemy evaded us. We then marched to Murphreesboro on a forced march a distance of 65 miles. We rested there 20 hours and started in the evening, marched all night, and continued on till we arrived at Nashville, Tenn., a distance of 32 miles. We done all this marching on half rations and scarcely water enough to drink. We guarded the bridge of the Cumberland River at N[ashville] 7 days. Then we received another order for another forced march to Bowling Green, Ky.’ We made that in three days, a distance of 69 miles just in time to catch Bragg and his force of about 80,000. But Gen. Buell would not leave us at them, but kept us back two days, and Bragg made his escape again, after being allowed to take 4,400 of our men prisoners, and paroling them. Co. K, 2d Batt. out of our regt. was taken there, and the duce of it was, it was just a full company. They had just came into the service – consequently green, although well drilled. (I will resume our journey) After the enemy had two days’ the start of us, Buell, the old “traitor,” concluded to leave us go on the pursuit of the Confederate forces. The men were a good deal discouraged, but marched well. The fact of the business is, the marching we made has never been equaled in the U.S. We were 8 days without running water to drink, but twice. All the rest of the time we had to drink water out of mud holes in the road, and ponds in the fields. The water in some of the ponds was all green on the top, but we got so very dry that would drink almost anything in the shape of water, and we had nothing but dry crackers and a very little meat to eat, and coffee to drink. We never get beans or rice on a march for want of time to cook them. The day after we got to Louisville, Ky. There was
325,000 Union troops bivouacked there. We rested there a short time and started after Bragg, Buckner & Kirby Smith’s forces. We went by the way of Shepherdsville, Bardstown, Springfield, etc. We marched 9 miles before we got to Springfield without a halt. All the time as fast as we could possibly walk, and part of the time on a double quick. There the Rebels opened fire upon us with their artillery. But ours proved too much for them. They had to retreat. Our brigade was in the advance and our regt. was in the advance of the brigade, so you see we were thrown in the hottest of the fire. We fought them back from ½ past 11 till night. The next day there was some skirmish fighting, but the third day they took a stand this side of a creek, they having the choice of the ground and all the water. So you see we had to fight them back for water. The general action commenced on the morning of the 8th of October about three o’clock, and both sides fought their best till after dark. Our brigade was held back as a reserve, but were called into action a short time before sundown. So that we were under heavy fire at least an hour and a half. Our battery took its position and opened up with incredible fury. Night was growing fast upon us, and the combat grew every minute more ferocious. The flashes of the artillery was blinding, above, around, in front. Bombs, solid shot, canister and minie balls flew like hail whizzing & exploding in every direction. The shrieks and groans of the dying and wounded, added to the horror & confusion of the moment, made up altogether a scene of consternation and dismay enough to
appall the stoutest heart. I was over part of the battlefield the second day after the fight, & the ground was literally strewn with the dead & wounded. I seen one place where the surgeons were at work with the wounded. They then had a pile of legs and arms about four feet high. I seen one poor fellow with the whole of his underjaw shot off He was living yet, but never could [say] anything; and others equally as badly wounded. One man in our regt. had his leg taken off, another was shot through the lungs, & another had both of his arms blown off, & face & breast burned all into a crisp. The battle was fought at and near Perryville, Ky., and it is called the battle of Chaplin Hills.
I was very glad to hear that cousin Alfred was so well situated. I only hope his regt. can stay where they are. If they should be ordered out on a few such chases after the Rebels as we have, he will begin to have a poor opinion of soldiering. I think, however, that the most of these new regts. will escape these hard marches. We have actually marched as high as 32 m[iles] a day, on half rations, with rifle accouterments, and 60 rounds of cartridges. You were saying you wished me to write to cousin Alfred. I don’t feel myself at liberty to open the correspondence. It would be entirely contrary to our discipline. If the capt. would write to me, I would be most happy to answer to the best of my ability, and give him all the particulars of the movements of the Army of the Ohio. We have 20 companies now in our regt., and three new ones ready to join us. Our regt. is different from the volunteers, we are divided in three battalions. I would rather be in a volunteer regt., on account of their not being so strict as the regulars. I would like to write more, but don’t feel able. I have been sick for several days. I am afraid my constitution will not bear up much longer. I have not much to live for, but my dear little daughter. If I could but see her once more I would feel better satisfied, but it is more than I expect. Give my love to your children, and accept the same for yourself. Tell Alfred I wish to be remembered. From your affectionate cousin, Isaac B. Jones
Direct: Co. C, 3rd Batt./18th U.S. Infty./ 1st Division 3rd
Brigade/ Gallatin, Tenn.
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Please answer this immediately if you deem it worthy. Direct to Gallatin, Tenn. this time, but at any other time you may direct to Louisville, Ky. It will always be forwarded. I would be very happy to receive a letter from cousin Alfred.
Isaac B. Jones was a carpenter from Williamsport, PA. He originally enlisted with Captain Joesph E. Ulman’s Battery of Light Artillery PA Volunteers at the age of 27. The company was discharged March 7th, 1862 and Jones re-enlisted with the 18th U.S. Infantry. He was killed in action on December 31, 1862 at the Battle of Murfreesboro.
Alfred J. Sofield was a clerk/justice of the peace in Wellsboro, PA when he enrolled as a Union Army Officer. He served in the Civil War as Captain and commander of Company A of the 149th PA Volunteer Infantry. During the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, he was stationed along Chambersburg Pike north of the McPherson Farm. His unit under artillery fire from the Confederate batteries on Herr Ridge, and was struck by a round, which killed him as well as Private Edwin D. Dimmick and Corporal Nathan H. Wilcox.
Letter written by Corporal Amos Kibbee of the 1st Battalion, 4th IL Cavalry, to his cousin Hattie, from Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee. Kibbee describes his transfer from the 29th IL Regiment to the 4th IL Cavalry after the battle of Shiloh. He describes what it is like for a soldier in battle, and the overwhelming feeling to completely destroy the enemy that comes as a means of self-preservation. Kibbee writes that Nashville, New Orleans, Richmond, and Memphis are all in Union possession, and does not see how the Confederates could at this point hope for success. He is anxious for the war to end as he feels he is not suited to a soldier’s life – his main goal is for the war to end rather than to be promoted in the military. He requests that his cousin be available when he visits home so that they may spend time together, and that he will likely move back to Illinois.
Pittsburgh Landing, Tenn. May 11th, 62
Dear Cousin Hattie
Yours of April 20 came to hand yesterday and I avail myself of the time given me today on account of being on guard all night to answer it, although perhaps I should do it better if I were not so sleepy and tired. I think I forgot to tell you in my last that we have been transferred from the 29th Reg. of Infantry to the first battalion of the 4th Cavalry, commanded by Col. Dickey. We have been attached to this since directly after the battle of the 6th and 7th of April. The division to which I belong (the first, Gen. McClernand’s) was very badly cut up in the fight and they have many sick, and I think this may be the reason why we are held in reserve, and it is very probable we shall not participate in the coming struggle which is hourly expected, and which, indeed, is now already being fought, but more the fashion of a siege than an assault. We have heard cannonading in the direction of Corinth this morning, which implies that “somebody is being hurt.” I have shared the fortunes of this division of the army ever since its organization at Cairo. I was with it at Forts Henry and Donelson, and at Shiloh. It is unnecessary to tell you that the army met with little opposition at Fort Henry, but we had several cavalry skirmishes with their mounted scouts, shotgun cavalry.
So I have been in two regular pitched battles. Although I have seen blood enough spilt, yet I can hardly content myself to be a noncombatant in the present impending battle. Yet I think you will hardly demonstrate this “bloodthirstiness,” but a desire for a speedy peace, which can only be accomplished through their utter and complete overthrow, and to endure this I am willing, yes, anxious to “brave the leaden storm” once more. There is much to plead in extenuation for the soldier who is so often accused of forgetting the feelings of this better nature. There is a wide difference between experiencing the wild and terrible excitement on the battlefield, and contemplating it from afar. It is utterly useless for anyone to attempt to describe such feelings in language, but this much I can say. It is an utter forgetfulness of everything but a desire to destroy your enemy in the quickest way possible. I think perhaps it is self preservation more than anything else that prompts this feeling. But in all my experience I have never seen a soldier offer the least indignity to a dead or wounded enemy. No truly brave man would do this. Only cowards are capable of it, and I think, Hattie, you would find more than one here to dispute the word of anyone who would call me a coward, or accuse me of inhumanity to a suffering friend or foe. Well, the battle of Yorktown, or rather the siege, has been brought
to a successful issue, and the Rebels are in full retreat towards Richmond, and I hope it may have the influence upon the destiny of this war that all have presaged for it. With Nashville, New Orleans, and Richmond, and Memphis in our possession, their armies defeated on every field and side, what can induce them to hope for ultimate success? It is nothing but reckless foolhardiness to protract the struggle longer. But if they will carry it on to the bitter end, the consequences must rest upon their own heads, and nothing but destruction, almost annihilation, awaits them with its horrors enhanced a hundred fold if we adopt Gen. Hunter’s last resort, which ere long will be done. I am anxious that this war should close for many reasons. First, a soldier’s life does not suit me very well, and next, you must know that it is time nearly thrown away from a pecuniary point of view. You know of course that the wages are small, and it is very little we can lay up out of it, and I wish to be doing something for myself. For it is useless to deny it. I am growing old fast. The misfortunes and hardships of a few years have done the work of many. God heed the day of peace. Well, I am going to write something now which perhaps I never should. If I had not seen that little “my” in parenthesis in connection with Lieutenant Leek. I protest against your doing so again will tell you why. Since we have entered
upon the scenes that have tried mens’ souls we have had many trying times of danger, where officers especially have been watched by jealous eyes, and I regret to say it, but he has greatly fallen from the estimation in which he was held at first by the men under his command who think the feather in his heart a little whiter than the big black one in his hat. They think he is troubled with a disease popularly demonstrated “the bighead.” But this is too common a failing among army officers. You wished to know what kind of a looking man our captain is. He is a man about my height, not so heavy built, will weigh about 150 pounds, light complexion, sandy hair, tolerably good looking, is about 38 years old, has a wife and several children at home. As his temperament would indicate, he is passionate and impulsive, and if he is lacking in anything it is in cool discrimination in times of peril. He is liked by some, and disliked by some, but he is a very good officer. My ambition consists more in wishing to bring this war to a successful termination than for official promotion, and I would rather hear of peace today than be assured of a brigadier generalship in six months more of war. I cannot see the necessity for your keeping to the school room so steadily. Surely you might consult your own wishes and feelings for this season, anyhow, or at least a part of it, for I am going to stay perhaps a month when I come, and shall want you at liberty then while I stay, or I shall be lonesome. I expect to go back to Illinois to live after visiting all my relatives there. Yours truly,
Ame to Hatt
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Tell your mother that I thank her very much for her good wishes, and should be as glad to see her as she would me, I’ll warrant. And “Sister Lizzie” the same. I can imagine the pretty things she said; “tell” me. Tell Madison I am coming to see him and stay a whole week. And if I should conclude to take my horse with me, perhaps we won’t have some madcap races. My black [horse] is not in as good condition as he was. He has had awful hard usage and poor feed. The roads are too bad to haul forage, but he will improve as soon as we get plenty again. You may look for me about the first of August; a year from [my] time of entry [in the army].
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We are encamped about half way between Pittsburg and Corinth. [We] shall move up a little closer tomorrow. A.K. to H.
Amos Kibbee, from Metropolis, IL, enlisted on August 7, 1861 as a corporal in an independent company of Illinois cavalry, designed to be attached to an infantry regiment as an adjunct unit. His company was assigned to the 29th IL Infantry during the battle of Shiloh, but was transferred to the 1st Battalion, 4th IL Cavalry immediately thereafter. In the spring of 1863 various independent companies were re-organized to form the 15th IL Cavalry, and Kibbee was assigned to Company B. He was promoted to sergeant (no date recorded). Kibbee was mustered out of the army on August 25, 1864, at the expiration of his three years’ enlistment.