Letter – Chester Ellis, 4 January 1864

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Letter written by Sergeant Chester C. Ellis of Company H, 80th IL Volunteer Infantry, to his uncle from Whitesides, TN. Ellis says that his regiment has left the 11th Corps, and are now attached to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 4th Corps, under the command of Colonel Grose of the 36th IN. He writes disparagingly of the “Potomackers,” with whom they fought at Lookout Mountain. Ellis describes the battle as the “grandest” and “coolest” thing he ever saw, and writes how the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of the Potomac stood side by side with General Joseph Hooker and the Eastern Corps. Ellis goes into great detail about the fighting, which lasted a few days. The day after Hooker stormed Lookout Mountain, his regiment marched to support Sherman. They were marching to Knoxville when they heard that Ambrose Burnside had defeated James Longstreet. Ellis describes a difficult march back to camp, beleaguered by cold weather and a lack of provisions. Some men marched barefoot when they wore out their shoes.


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Whitesides Tenn

Jan 4 1864

Dear Unkle

I received your kind letter when we got back to camp after the fight and was glad to hear from you again And I was glad but somewhat surprised to hear that you had been to Ill I did not get [Pru?]’s letter that you spoke of for 2 weeks after I recd yours. I am in good health and we are all in fine spirits the health of our regiment is excellent. We have left the 11th Corps and are permanently attached to the 3rd Brigade 1st Division 4th Corps. The Brigade is commanded by Col Gross of the 36th Ind. that regiment is here and I saw Mr Turner (I believe his name is) the other day. He has left the hospital &

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is with his Reg; We are are all well pleased with our situation for we did not like the Potomackers a bit but they fought like dogs at Lookout Mountain

We were all through the fight at Chattanooga but it happened to be our luck not to be engaged as a Reg: Althought we lost 7 men on our skirmish line ie wounded one (Lieut)

To take the battle from beginning to end it was the grandest as well as the coolest thing I ever saw We left our camp at Lookout Valley about 9 AM of the 22″ and went over to Chattanooga got there after dark the next morning we got up and found the town full of troops: We all knew what was to be done and it was plain to be seen for down on the plain not a mile distant the rebel picket lines

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and back of them were their camp in full view although they had moved a great many the night before. Their lines and ours were from 150 to 200 yds apart

We lay here until noon: And if a stranger had been along and seen us laughing and talking he would have said that we did not know that we were agoing into a fight that day

About 12, the troops were all brought out on to an open field of some 80 or 100 acres & there was about enough to cover it the different divisions were assigned their places, that was prettiest sight I ever saw. There the glorious Old Army of the Cumberland stood with one Corp of the Army of the Potomac side by side while still further on the right was Hooker with the other Eastern Corp and we all well knew

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that Sherman had gone 8 miles up the river to cross with 2 as good corps as ever shouldered a rifle. such determination I dont believe was ever expressed on the countenances of men as were there shown. you could look over that vast army and see men from almost every state & territory from Maine to California. And judgeing from the flags which waved there they were men of the true blue style for some of their flags had been so cut up in former battles, that had every shred been fastened together there would not have made 1/4 yard of cloth. the staffs were in some places almost cut in two by balls – yet they dared to carry them into another perhaps fiercer contest than ever before. About 1 PM some 8 or 10 Regiments commenced filing off down the hill to form a skirmish line Each regiment followed by 8 or 10 men carrying stretchers to bring back the wounded on. They had not been gone long until the cannon from Ft. Wood opened and then the sharp rattle of musketry announced that the ball was opened. in 20 minutes from the time the firing commenced back came the stretchers loaded with wounded

The men went off down the hill as cool as if they were going

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down there to cut wood: every man had when he started, the flaps of his cartridge box raised and buttoned on his coat so that his pills would be handy after they had been fighting some time we started and double quicked it down to the once rebel picket lines 7 found that our skirmishers had driven them from the first line of rifle pits we formed a line of battle & after maneuvering there some time night came on and we lay down and slept sound

The next morning (24″) we were aroused at 2 and after standing around sometime we again lay down and slept until 5. It was today that they shot so many of our skirmishers Sergt Millburn of our Co: was on

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the line at noon I got his dinner and took it down to him. I got up to within 60 yds of him he says “be careful Ellis theyll shoot you sure” he was standing behind a large tree, he came back and while he was eating his dinner I took his post And poked my head around the tree to see if they’d shoot. I was soon satisfied that they would by seeing the smoke of a gun & drawing my head back the ball came whistling past me And concluding that turn about was fair play I levelled my piece and took a pull at them and we had it turn about there for some time. It was playing Ante over on a pretty rough scale but there was some fun in it. While I was there they shot at the man on my right now “says he “you tried me a pull

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poke your skull a little further around the tree and I’ll try you a shot”. They would stand there & tell each other where they shot whether too high too low of too far to the right or left. If it had been me I would have left it to their own judgement & perhaps they would not have hit so often

About 3 oclock Hooker commenced storming Lookout. I thought I had head cannonading before but this surpassed anything I had ever before heard & they kept it up until 12 that night

The next day we marched 8 or 9 miles to the left to support Sherman who was giving them fits up there, we built rifle pits and lay there until next day when after the fog blew away rebs were gone. but for three days we

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here firing from different quarters as they were retreating towards Atlanta. We then struck out for Knoxville and got to within 15 miles of there when we found that Burnside had whipped Longstreet and the latter was retreating. We then turned back & got to our old camp on the 17″ Dec after the hardest marching we ever done. some of our boys marched 3 days barefooted their shoes being worn out & almost every morning the ground would be froze until 10 oclock yet you scarcely ever here a murmur from them. We marched 250 miles in 15 days counting every day that we marched and some we did not go over 8 miles. We had to forage nearly all our provision and when it comes to foraging for 3 army corps you can guess that it makes food scarce If we had went to Knoxville which I was in hopes we would I would have found Hubbard had he been there

Well Uncle I have strung this out about long enough and will quit by asking you to write soon

your Nephiew

Chet C. Ellis


Chester C. Ellis, from Rome, IL, enlisted on August 12, 1862 as a sergeant in Company H, 80th IL Infantry. After losing heavily at Perryville, KY, the regiment was mounted as infantry in April 1863. Ellis was captured with his regiment at Blount’s Farm, AL on May 3, 1863 by Nathan Bedford Forrest’s command, but was soon paroled. The regiment was exchanged that fall, and Ellis and the 80th IL participated in the Chattanooga Campaign as part of the 11th Corps. In 1864, having been assigned to the 4th Corps, they fought throughout the Atlanta Campaign, but on September 2, 1864 Sergeant Ellis was killed in action at Lovejoy Station, GA.

Letter – Zebulon Ryder, 15 December 1863

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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.


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Camp Getty Dec 15th/63

Dear Mother

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

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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

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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

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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

Zebulon

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 – Charles Wilkins, 16 January 1863

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Letter written by Lieutenant Charles Wilkins of the 1st U.S. Infantry to his girlfriend Sarah while in a camp near Corinth, Mississippi. Wilkins mentions a Union defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia. He remarks on the cold weather and snow. Wilkins aims to be in New Hampshire within three months. He describes a planned foraging trip for the next morning. The latter part of the letter is dated January 21st, after Wilkins returned from foraging.


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Corinth, Miss.

                                 January 16th 1863

Dear Sarah,

    Being once more in communication with the States, I take this opportunity to write you a few lines. I received three papers from you Jan. 4th. Can assure you they were very gratefully received, as we had not seen a paper since Dec. 16th. I am almost discouraged at times at our want of success of our army in Virginia. Our loss at Fredericksburg must have been very great. I learned through my brother at Winchester that Lt. Jas. Sanborn of the 11th N.H. Vols. left the field with two wounded and was not seen until the next day. Think he had better have been shot, if he had not the courage to stand up to the work should have

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supposed he would have had too much pride to run. What kind of a story will he tell on his return home. Suppose you are having nice sleighing. We have almost snow enough for sleighing but have not the sleigh. The weather is very cold. I had to keep up a fire all night to keep warm. We feel the cold much more when we have it, from the fact that the changes are very sudden.

I think it is a settled thing that we are to go north to recruit, probably to St. Louis Arsenal. Should like to be sent East on the recruiting service. And then; well I will not anticipate, for fear I should be disappointed. But we shall know soon, perhaps in a month. It will take at least three months to fill up our regiment. I have made up my mind that I shall be in New Hampshire

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in less than three months. I am going out with a foraging party in the morning; to be gone two or three days. I shall go from twenty to twenty-five miles. The traveling is very bad on account of recent rains. Our foraging parties are sometimes attacked, but I think there is no danger of being attacked by them, on account of the traveling. Think I will not finish this until I return.

January 21st. I returned with my train of forage night before last. I had 42 wagons and sixty men to guard them. I did not know that I was to have the command of the train until just as I was ready to start, when the post Q.M. said, Lieut. Wilkins, you will take command of the train. I started at ten o’clock on Saturday morning on the Purdy, Tenn.

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road, went about twenty miles. The first day took forage enough from a planter to feed night and morning. Started at light the next morning went to [???] got thirteen loads; then went about six miles east – to Snake Creek – where I filled the balance of my teams with corn & hay. I got 12 geese & six chickens for the officer’s mess at the same place. I then thought I would find a better road to go back, and started on the Monterey road, and camped within half a mile of that place on Sunday night. I was then fifteen miles from camp. I woke up the next morning at five, had the mules fed and harnessed, about this time it began to rain. My waiter brought me a piece of chicken, some bread, and a cup of coffee for my breakfast. It rained all day on Monday, and when I got in was about as wet as a “drowned rat.” got a little cold sleeping on the ground. The major was well pleased with my success, so were all the officers

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Received a paper from you last night. In it you say you have not heard from me for five weeks. I think I have sent you three letters and this is the fourth since Dec. 20th. I met with an accident last night. The mail arrived late, and I went out to see what I was to get, and ran against a tree, cutting my forehead and chin. This morning I found I could see out of one eye; the other is “closed for repairs.” Hope to be all right in a few days. Think in future will let the orderly fetch me my mail matter. I have been setting in my tent all day, and what do you suppose has been the drift of my thoughts[?] Will tell you in my next letter.

                             I remain very truly yours,

                                    Charles

N.B. you will probably get another letter from me soon

Charles


Charles Wilkins was born in Henniker, New Hampshire to James and Sarah Wilkins. He originally enlisted in Company B of the 2nd NH Infantry on June 1, 1861 at the age of 25. He served as a private until wounded at the 1st Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861. He remained on wounded leave at Hennikee, NH until January, 1862, when he was appointed 2nd lieutenant, 1st U.S. Infantry, to date from Feb. 19, 1862. On May 25, 1863 Lt. Wilkins was wounded at Vicksburg, MS and died of his wounds on June 20, 1863. He was brevetted captain for gallant and meritorious service in action at Vicksburg, June 20,1863.