Letter written by Sergeant William A. Ferguson of Company A, Baskerville’s 2nd MS Cavalry Battalion to his wife Mary, from Eastport, MS. He writes of a gunboat raid in the beginning of the Shiloh Campaign. The gunboat Tyler was discovered coming up river, and a dispatch was sent to General James R. Chalmers. Major Charles Baskerville was ordered to take two companies, including Ferguson’s, to meet the boat (they arrived too late). Ferguson writes that most of the infantry was sent to Florence to protect the railroad, and he thinks the cavalry will act as pickets along the river.
Eastport Miss. February 22, 1862.
My Dear Mary:
A few days since Capt. McCaa and two of his men went out to look after Capt. Roddy and his men that had been sent out on picket duty. so late in the evening they discovered a gun boat a few miles below this place making its way up the river. Capt. McCaa sent a dispatch to the General who ordered the Major to take two companies, ours and Capt. Fields, and try and meet the boat at this place. So in a short time we were in our saddles and after an hour and a half march reached this place. but too late to see the boat. She made a short stay here some ten or twelve of its men came a shore, talked a while with a gentleman who was staying at the ferry, they stayed a very short time got aboard the boat and made their way back down the river and has not been heard of since. We had about sixty men concealed in a ravine between this place and the landing whose intention it was to come in behind them and cut them off from the boat had they attempted to have come up in town. This is the second trop it has made up this river the other time it went as high up as Florence. It is not a very large boat carries some ten or twelve guns, has taken all the steam boats and government stores they could get along the river, but hasn’t done any other damage. It is supposed their object is to keep the river open. Nearly all of our infantry have been sent from Iuka to Florence to protect the rail road. Our cavalry, I expect will act as pickets up and down the river which is no pleasant business I assure you. We left camp in such haste that we hadn’t time to prepare any rations so we went one day without any thing to eat. The inhabitants have nearly all deserted this place and it is difficult to procure any thing to eat her. But our major has succeeded in getting us a beef and some flour, we now have a plenty of beef and biscuit. We are quartered in an old store room and at night we sleep on the floor and cover with a blanket which has given several of us severe colds. The weather is moderating and my cold is getting better. I am perfectly well otherwise. Cant say how long we are to stay here, but hope not long.
All my writing material was left at camp and there is no accommodation of the kind to be had here. I find an old ledger with some blank leaves in it and am pressing it into service.
I wrote you from Iuka, haven’t heard from you but expect a letter when I get back to camp. You will direct you letters to Iuka until otherwise ordered. Two of our men and my self are going down the river a few miles this morning. A kiss for my wife and baby. Love to all. Good bye.
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 written by Corporal John S. B. Matson of Company I, 120th OH Infantry, to a friend, from near the Mississippi River. Matson writes disparagingly of the events plaguing the country. He writes that the troops in his fleet are greatly demoralized after a failure at Vicksburg. He too is discouraged by what he sees as ignorance in both the officers and the privates. He mentions being led by General Osterhaus in their last fight, which ended with the Confederates asking for truce. Matson took the rifle off a Confederate soldier that he shot, and describes the other goods, weaponry, and even mail they took from the Rebels after the fight. Matson writes that he fears disease more than bullets, for a fever in their present situation is a certain death sentence.
Mississippi River Jan 20th/63
I received your last when we were flushed with victory, and you had better believe it was welcome I also receive one from Anne at the same time and once since I dont know what you think of the prospect of the country at this time but my humble opinion is that it is not very flattering the political atmosphere is filled with measmatic vapor that cannot be deadening in its effects the horison is also obscured with black clouds that we dont know at what moment will let loose to the destruction of this once happy Republic Oh! that it was in my power to stay the threatening calamity but weak and trifling is man individually they do not seem to think any more about us than if we were as many hogs every body that a chance seems to be studying how they can best cheat the Government to fill their own pockets men with straps on their shoulders are all the time when oportunity offers are poisoning the minds of the soldiers concerning the intentions of the Government till it would not suprise me if there would be an efforet made to lay down arms before long if the troubles are not soon settled you have no ideas of the demoralization of the troops in this fleet The expedition to Vicksburg as you are aware was a perfect failure and it was truly discouraging to hear different Regts talk you would thought it out of the question to get them into a fight again but we went up the Arkansas River and whaled hell out of them at Arkansas Post and the boys felt better than before but as soon as they found the fleet was bound again for Vicksburg there was general dissatisfaction there is every thing to discourage a true lover of his country and very little to encourage I do all I can to allay this feeling but there is
too many to operate against me some with straps on their shoulders say that they thought it a just war when they went into it but but they have come to different conclusions such I think should immediately be cashiered I think for there is so many d-d fools that thinks because a man has straps on his shoulders that he knows more My humble opinion is that there is as much ignorance among the officers of this Regt as there is among the Privates and God knows that ignorance is Legion throughout and the influence they they exert is discouraging I would tell some of them they have no business here but their power is to much for me so I have to seal my mouth it is not here like it was at home. There was a rumor here yesterday that 90000 of Burnsides men stacked their arms and refused to serve any longer is it so or is it as I think a lie I have not give you any particulars of our last fight I must say I would rather not have gone into the fight men may say they are spoiling for a fight but that is all in your eye for there is nothing inviting to any rational man but we were in the most exposed position of any Regt we were first brought into line of Battle under the enemys fire and marched forward in line for a short distance in this position we were halted and ordered to lie down I hugged the ground pretty close and still the bullets seemed to come confounded close we lay there a short time till the Gunboats and our land Batteries silenced their Batteries they kept up a continuous musket fire Gen Ousterhouse rode up to us as we had closed in mass and were down when he rode up and ordered us to forward D.Q. [double quick] with a cheer they were nearly whipped we did so I expect that Mary would be a widow before I got ten rods but thank God I got through we run up to within 100 yds of the fort and lay down in shelter as best we could under a murderous fire balls whizzing all around us I was behind a stump with three others we lay some time before we fired I as best I could to see where their fire came from presumably an object appeared that induced me to shoot but the load was wasted for I then discovered where they were
I loaded and looked and saw a curl of smoke leveled my gun and as he raised to fire I fired and there was no smoke come from that place if my ball killed any I have no regrets for I never took more deliberate aim at a wood pecker I fired some six times and the flag of truce was raised by them and then such a rush you never saw I had the curiosity to go in where I saw the smoke curl and found a Reb shot in the forehead he had a bad wound but did not look as though it hurt him much he had dropped a very nice Enfield Rifle which I captured and have yet I do not know whether they will let me keep it or not I will if possible The Colors of the 120th were on the fort the first The cannonading during the Fight to you I cannot describe none but those that have been at similar engagements can form anything like a correct Idea they had two Parrot Guns 120 pounders and one Columbiade besides a No of lesser caliber their field Batteries were disabled by their horses all being shot the Battle field presents no very pleasing aspect to to me and I will not dwell on it we had a complete victory I understood that we got 7854 prisoners 600 mules and a large amount of arms and Amry stores they had three months rations and waggons and clothing any quantity we made a clean sweep they had captured a very large mail some of my letters were among the captured I am now writing on Rebel Paper now I picked up about fifty letters some of them were just written and some them interesting it afforded me some gratification to read their letters for I supposed they had read mine they got some money that had been sent to the boys I understood that a letter was picked up directed to Surgeon Tagart now Brigade Surgeon offering a bribe of $300 by a widow woman for the discharge of her two sons stating that he could do it for one of them had a sore throat and the other had a lame back I infer this woman knew he could be approached in this way you perhaps have little idea of the extent of fraud practiced on the Government Since we left Vicksburg there has been about three or four desertions to the Co in this Regiment
four in our Co and my humble opinion is if our QM Chaplain and an number of officers are not delt with in a summary manner the 120th Regt of O.V.I. will not amount to a d-d in a short time why if I thought as I have heard some talk I would Desert By the Eternal I would well the men hear them talk in this manner and what can you expect from them I tell you if I had authority there would be some drumhead Court Marshals till the military atmosphere became a little pure life is sweet to me on several accounts but not worth a d-d in their view I do not wish you to or any one I respect to be put to the trials of a company of this kind for it is rough and a man must have a constitution to bear it I am more afraid of fever than bullets for if a man gets down sick with fever on this damnable River he is almost shure to die as thoug a bullet was put throug his vitals and If Boating along this River will put down this Hell born Rebellion we are certainly doing our share toward it there is now over 600 unfit for duty and they still keep us fooling along the river sometimes I think it is to run us into the ground as fast as possible if that is the intention well are they succeeding I have not been very well since we left Memphis but I am so as to be about I do not report to the surgeon for I think it dont amount to much Capt Au had command of the Co at Vicksburg and behaved with Credit I think he is no coward he was not able to be out at Arkansas Post McElwain is not cowardly in fact with few exceptions Co I. behaved well I think there are as brave boys in our Co as any where our Capt case was not decided I understood that the Judge Advocate said he did not think the Capt was aware of the amount of evidence against him we do not get much was news I want you to keep me enlitened as much as possible if you have the gift of continence as well as I have had this time you can give me considerable news direct as befor Yours &c J.C.B. Matson
-Page 1, Continued-
You must excuse the hasty manner of this letter and make allowance for mistakes for it is a very poor chance a fellow has to write here I forgot to say that we had an awful fall of snow in Arkansas if it had all stuck it would have been a foot deep My love to Zepru and Yourself
John S.B. Matson enlisted at age 33 as a corporal with Company I of the 120th OH Infantry on October 17, 1862. He was promoted sergeant on April 17, 1863 and captured on May 3, 1864 at Shaggy Point, LA during the Red River Campaign. He was paroled or exchanged as he was later mustered out of service at Camp Chase, OH on July 7, 1865.
Letter written by Corporal Wesley Langs of Company F, 6th NY Cavalry, to his brother William, from Malvern Hill, VA. His regiment crossed the Rapidan River, and have been marching towards Richmond. He describes destroying the railroads and how they charged the Confederate fortifications at Richmond and held them for a day before being forced to leave. Langs has heard news of the Army of the Potomac, and how General Hancock has captured thousands of Lee’s men. He describes the massive casualties suffered since crossing the Rapidan, and how after one day of fighting he “saw the ground covered with dead Rebels.”
Malvern Hill, Va
May the 15 1864
Dear Brother as it has been a long time that you have not heard from me and it being the first opportunity that has presented itself to me I thought I would write and let you know that I am still alive and well I suppose you thought that I might be dead when you herd about the movement of our cavalry which I will give you a detail account We crossed the rhapadan [Rapidan] May the fourth and have been marching and fighting every day since Our movement has been on to Richmond We got in the rear of Lees army and distroit [destroyed] the rail roads which caried his supplies with all the supplies and ammunitions.
We came on a guard that was takeing three hundred of our men to Richmond and recaptured all of them On the twelfth we came to the fortifycations of Richmond and charged the works and took them We held them untill the next day when we were obliged to leave them We had a hard fight before we gave them up Now we lay on the old battle ground of Malvern Hill where we were two years ago – about six miles above Harrison’s Landing We herd this morning that the Army of the Potomac was driving the enemy and that General Hancock had captured twenty-five thousand men all of old Stonewall Jacksons Division We have lost some good men since we crossed the rhapadan. James Chilson is wounded He was struck in the shoulder with a ball
We do not expect to stay here any length of time The Gunboat is up here and General Smith is at Petersburg Everything is on the move We never saw [such] fighting before It is horible We fought in the woods one day and the next day I was over the same place and saw the ground covered with dead Rebels I want to see the end of this war as soon as posable [possible.] There has been blood enough spilt If we can get hold of the right ones we will soon put an end to such carnage As far as I can learn our armies are doing well I have not time [to] write all the news this time You must write often as you can and dont wait for me Direct as before Good by this time
Wesley Langs enlisted at age 25 on December 27th of 1861. He was promoted to corporal on November 1st, 1862, sergeant January 1st, 1865, and was captured at Trevillian Station, VA on June 11, 1864. He mustered out sometime in 1865.
Letter written by Confederate Captain Walter A. Goodman, Assistant Adjutant General, to his father, from Perryville TN. Goodman is staff to Brigadier General James Chalmers, in Forrest’s Cavalry Corps. This letter was written two days after Forrest’s raid of Johnsonville, TN. Goodman writes of the Confederate victory along the Tennessee River, which he claims was won with a small cavalry and limited artillery. He says General Buford “commenced the ball” by capturing a government transport barge. He goes into great detail about the engagement, mentioning that Confederate fire on the warehouses at Johnsonville completely destroyed Union stores. They are preparing to cross the river to join General Beauregard, who is supposedly travelling to Columbia, TN. He hopes to “strike a successful blow on [William T.] Sherman’s rear.”
Hdqr Perryville Tenn
Nov 6 – 1864
My Dear Father
Before this reaches you the papers will have told you of what we have done along the Tenn River. Our success has certainly been very great with a force of cavalry not by any means large & with fourteen pieces of artillery – all of which were never in action at the same time. We have destroyed four of the enemy’s gunboats, two or three of which mounted eight guns each – twelve or fourteen steamboats – eighteen or twenty barges & a very large quantity of freight of various kinds principally belonging to the [U.S.] government- besides securing some blankets, shoes & other articles which we were greatly in need of. And all this with the loss of two or three men killed & six or eight wounded & two of our cannon which had been placed on board of one of the captured steamers which was afterward recaptured by the enemy.
Genl. Buford commenced the ball on the 29th [October] by capturing a transport & barge loaded with government items on their way up – and in the next day we went to the river at Paris Landing nearly opposite Paris and captured a gunboat, two transports & four barges. Gen. B. burned his boat & barge – & one of our boats was so badly
damaged that we burned it & the barges. The remaining transport & the gunboat were so little damaged that they were soon put in running order & we hoped to be able to make use of them in crossing the river. We put two pieces of artillery & some of the captured stores on the transport & moved up the river toward Johnsonville – other two boats running in company as closely as possible. On the evening before we reached Johnsonville however our boats got too far in advance & were chased by two Yankee gunboats which captured the transport after it had been disabled by the treachery of some of the crew who cut the tiller ropes. On the next day we got a part of our artillery in position & had several skirmishes with the enemy’s gunboats & their artillery in the town. On the fourth having brought up more artillery we opened fire upon the boats and in a short time set fire to and destroyed all of them including three gunboats – 8 or 10 steamboats & 12 or 14 barges some of the loaded and an immense pile of freight on the shore & one or two warehouses.
Johnsonville is the terminus of a R.R. from Nashville to the Tenn. river which is much used in transporting army supplies – which accounts for the collection of freight there. It is protected by a fort & was strongly garrisoned – but tho’ they did all they
could & sent their shot & shell in showers around us they could not save their boats and property. We left them standing in line of battle & looking at the ruins. Three of their gunboats moved up the river & forced us to heave over & then when reinforced to five or six came up and took a look at the ruins – but ran away before we could put our plans to capture them into execution.
We moved from Johnsonville yesterday & reached here today. We are now preparing to cross the river in order to join Beauregard – who is said to be on his way from Florence [AL] to Columbia, Tennessee. It is impossible to say when we will go or what we will do, but I hope we may be able to strike a successful blow on Sherman’s rear.
I am quite well – we have had some bad weather & I fear we will have more.
I could not see Lamar as I passed Oxford as you requested. I saw Col. Neely at Bolivar and he promised to be at Grenada at the appointed time. I did not have time to see Mr. Wood. I gave the papers you handed to me for Mr. Walton to him. Write to me at Corinth – care of Maj. Gen’l Forrest – and the letters will be forwarded. I forwarded the papers in regard to the exchange of Mr. Frost and Otto to Gen F[orrest] and have heard nothing from them since.
Walter A. Goodman, was originally the adjutant of the 17th MS Infantr. He served as the acting assistant adjutant general on Brigadier General James A. Chalmers’ staff from June 29, 1862 to July 19, 1862. He was promoted to A.A.G. on Chalmers’ staff, remaining as such until Dec. 22, 1864.
Letter written by Private Linsey T. Wills of Company K, 10th VA Cavalry, to his sister, from a camp near Ream’s Station. Wills is encamped at Ream’s Station. He mentions shelling on the James River and near Petersburg. Wills lists articles of clothing he is in need of. The latter part of the letter is addressed to Wills’ brother George. Wills believes that if George B. McClellan is elected president, the war will likely be settled. Wills also expresses skepticism at the capture of Atlanta.
Camp near Ream’s Station
Sept 10 1864
I received your letter a few days since & would have written to you before now, but forgot it till yesterday, tho’ will not procrastinate longer. This leaves me very well. We are now picketing at Ream’s. Our regt. went on [duty] yesterday. I did not go. Abe had got back & wanted to go, so I let him have my horse to ride, as his horse was sent home. There has been nothing transpired of an interesting character since we got here that I know of. There has been heavy shelling on the James this morning, tho’ I reckon it is from gunboats. Also more shelling than usual near or at Petersburg, tho’ I have not heard the
result of it. Things are quiet along our lines, so far as I know. I did not expect that Henry [younger brother] would hurry to go in the army & if I was him, I would not do them any good, for he ought to be discharged. I am glad the George got home. I don’t know when I can get home, for I keep well, & my horse is nearly as fat as when I got back from home. I keep well. Tell Mary H. that I told Abe that when he went home for his horse that I wanted him to go to Bedford & get me a pair of pants & go to see Mr. H. He said he was afraid; that if I was along he would go, but to go by his self was too big undertaking for him. Tell her that if he came, that I will have to come
with him. When he comes, I expect to want you to send me a pair of pants, & the best way will be for you to send them by Preatch & he can carry them to Nelson’s & she can get them from them, tho’ I will let you know. I drew a nice pair the other day and sent them by Abe. Have also a pair of boot tops, & a fine Yankee spoon. I will have them sent home soon. How is my horse. I must close. Sent by L. T. Hills. Well, George, I was very glad to get a letter from you & hear you was at home. I would like to be at home myself, but it seems that I make slow speed at going. We have had two heavy fights since I saw you, tho’ I came out all right, & I intend to
work the thing on the safest honorable scheme to save my barke [skin]. It is sorter my opinion, if Maclelen [McClellan] is president, that if he offers state’s rights, the next spring they will go back into the union & the fight settled, & if they don’t do that, it is my opinion that the Yankees will flog us at once, & drive the thing to a close. There is no more that will interest you. It has been said that Atlanter [Atlanta] was re-captured but I don’t believe it. Write soon & give me the nuse [news]. Your brother,
p.s. I would like to be at the meeting. You must try to make a good thing of it for yourself, yours, etc.
Linsey T. Wills was born in 1837 in Bedford, VA. He enlisted in 1861 and served in T.C. Jordan’s heavy artillery until he was transferred to Company K. He served in the Confederate Army until the surrender at Appomattox. After the war he moved to Texas and worked as an engineer. He married Texas native Mary Simmons in 1870 and raised a family. He died in 1914 from a heart attack following an automobile accident and is buried in Weimar, TX.
Letter written by Private Asbury Fouts of Company I, 9th IA Infantry, to his parents, from a camp near Nashville, TN, during Hood’s Tennessee Campaign. Fouts writes about marching out to the breastworks under the command of General James B. Steedman, where they could see Confederate rifle pits. The brigade was ordered to draw the Confederates out, thoughheavy fire caused them to leave before doing so. Two days later they were ordered to Fort Negley to hold the breastworks. On December 19th, 1864, they started for Murfreesboro, and went as far as Huntsville, AL, when they heard the Confederates were at Decatur. A hard march brought them to the Tennessee River, which they crossed on gunboats. The Confederates shelled them, and the town was eventually evacuated.
Camp Near Nashville
Jan the 16th 1865
It is with pleasure that I seat myself down to write you a few lines, for I have not had time to write until now. For about 6 or 7 weeks I wrote you a few lines while at Courtland but do not know whether you received them or not. I wish I had kept an account of our movements since we came to Nashville. I have forgotten all the dates, so I will not attempt to give an account of the Battle of Nashville. Four days after we came to Nashville we drew our arms for the defense of the city, and marched out to the breastworks on the left under Gen.
Steedman’s command. The Rebs’ rifle pits were in plain view about a mile and a half off. We remained in this position for 8 days without disturbance from the enemy. I believed they would have stayed there all winter without attacking us if we had not drove them out. One day our brigade [Col. A. G. Mallory’s, Capt. C. C. Cox’s Battalion] was ordered out on skirmish for the purpose of drawing them out of their works. Our reg[iment] advanced along in front, with the reserves down under the hill. We fought them until the [fire] got too hot for us, and fell back slowly without accomplishing our purpose. The man standing next to me was wounded. Just before the fight one of the boys gave his revolver to his comrade and said, boys, this is the last time I will have of
speaking to you. Pointing to them, he said there is the Rebels, they will kill me. He was shot through the neck and killed instantly. In two days afterward our corps was ordered over to the right, or rather in front of Fort Negley, to hold the breastworks. That day our forces attacked their works. A heavy cannonading was kept up all day. The second day still heavy infantry fire – very heavy. The fight became general all around. Our company was not in the fight at all. [We were] held as reserves in the breastworks. It is hardly necessary for me to try to give a description of our brave boys fought; it is old news to you before this time. The Rebs fought
well. On the 19th of December we started for Murfreesboro, there taking the cars, went down as far as Huntsville, Alabama. There we heard the Rebs was at Decatur. We started for that place on the 25th. After marching through mud knee deep, wading swamps & rivers in cold weather, we reached the Tennessee River opposite Decatur about noon on the 28th. [We] crossed over on the gunboats above the city. The boats played on them while we prepared for a night attack. They shelled us a while, but did not pay much attention to them. About ten o’clock they evacuated the town. It was well fortified. It is getting dark. I will close for the present.
[balance of letter missing – unsigned]
Asbury Fouts, from Taylor County, IO, enlisted at age 19 in Company I of the 9th IA Infantry on October 19, 1864. When en route to the 15th Army Corps (W. T. Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee), via Nashville, Fouts was assigned for temporary combat duty at Nashville along with other recruits and also veterans returning to active service. He was placed in Colonel A. G. Mallory’s brigade, Capt. C. C. Cox’s battalion, and participated in the reconnaissance of December 13th along the Murfreesboro Pike toward the Rains farm. Mallory’s brigade suffered 10 total casualties. Fouts joined the 9th Iowa in March 1865, and was discharged at Louisville, KY On July 18, 1865.
Letter written by Sergeant Ira B. Goodrich of Company D, 21st MA Infantry, to his cousin Oscar, from Camp Clark near New Bern, NC. Goodrich writes about the battle of New Bern, and reports that he and his brother Charles survived. His other brother George was left on Roanoke Island with Captain Theodore S. Foster. Goodrich describes how the fleet left Roanoke Island for Hatteras, before starting down the Neuse River. Preparations were made to land near at the mouth of “Slocumb’s Creek” in small boats. He describes the order of advance and how fighting began when skirmishers discovered Confederate troops in strong breastworks. The firing from the Union troops was so intense that the Confederates raised their guns above the ramparts and fired at random. After 4 hours of fighting Goodrich claims that his regiment’s ammunition was running low. The Confederate’s works were finally taken by the 51st New York and another Massachusetts Regiment. Since the battle, he has been guarding a barracks.
Camp Clark (formerly Camp Hill) near Newbern N.C. Mar. 24th/62
I received Saturday your letter dated Mar. 10th, and very welcome it was to me. I had been expecting for a long time to hear from either you or Ormond, and not receiving any letter from sister, I had set out several times to write, but kept putting it off hoping that the next mail would bring me a letter from you. At length I have the great pleasure of hearing from you, and take this early opportunity of replying to your very interesting letter. As the fact of my writing to you in August 1861. would conclusively indicate, I am alive and well, having for the second time passed unscathed through the perils and dangers of a hard fought battle. such I thank God is the case, also with my brother Charley [Pvt. Charles Goodrich, Co. D]. George [another brother serving with Co. D] having been left upon Roanoke Island to take care of Capt. Foster, was not in the engagement.
I have no doubt a short, detailed account of the movements of the expedition since leaving Roanoke would be interesting to you. For though I am aware that you will be informed, and in a much better manner than I can inform you, through the papers. Still I think that a communication direct from one who was a participant in the movements will not be devoid of interest to you and to your family.
The fleet left Roanoke Island at about 8 o’clock A.M. of the 11th instant and came to Hatteras, where we lay at anchor for the night. At 8 the next morning we again got under weigh [way] and started for Neuse River. The day was delightful and we had a splendid trip down the sound. As we entered the mouth of the Neuse River the view upon either shore was grand. The thick heavy pine
forests upon the shore and far away upon the higher land, the plantations presented a sublime view. As we passed up the river, we began to notice large volumes of smoke arising; doubtless from signal fires. Nothing occurred of importance as we advanced. The gunboats to the number of 14 in advance, and the transports with the sailing vessels in tow following. At about 6-1/2 P.M. we advanced about 16 miles from Newbern. Early the following morning preparations were made for landing the troops. The place selected for the landing was at the mouth of “Slocumb’s Creek.” The water being too shallow to admit of the near approach of steamers to the shore, the men were landed in small boats. When the landing commenced there was a great anxiety among the standard bearers of the various regiments to get their flags ashore first. And it was amusing to witness the racing which took place among the small boats containing the standards. There were three or four together who seemed to stand about an equal chance. And as they neared the shore, each color bearer sprang from his boat into the water to his waist and scrambled to the land as fast as possible. The race was won by a strapping fellow belonging to the 51st N.Y., who planted the first regimental color upon the soil.
The regiments formed in line as fast as they were landed, and after the 21st [Massachusetts] landed, it at once took up the line of march in advance. Marching about a mile and a half along the river shore, we halted in a cornfield and waited for another regiment. Very soon we were joined by the 24th [Massachusetts] and again we started, soon entering a path in the woods. We came to a small camp of log houses, which it seems the Rebels had used as a barracks for a company of cavalry. It now began
to rain quite hard, and we had from this time a rough time of it. I had forgotten to say the gunboats were all this time shelling the woods as we advanced along the road (which all along lay near the river). The signal corps, who were with the advance guard, sent up rockets from time to time which informed the gunboats of our whereabouts so that they wouldn’t shell us. We marched on very quiet for two miles further, and came to a long line of breastworks, extending from the railroad to the river, more than two miles. It was deserted. We were very much surprised to see a work of this kind so extensive, and seemingly of such great advantages for defense, deserted. I could not make up my mind what to think of it. “Certainly,” thought I, “If the Rebels have got 2,000 men in a stronger position than this, our 8,000 had better go back. For if they fight they must beat us.” Well, we passed on, and as we marched through these works and the color bearer waved the stars and stripes over the breastworks we gave three hearty cheers for the Union. A mile farther brought us to the railroad, where we were ordered to halt and await reinforcements. And here we ate our dinner of hard bread and salt beef which we carried in our haversacks. Reinforcements arriving in half an hour, we again started, now taking the railroad track. Until now, Co. G, our right flank company, had been acting as advance guard and skirmishers. But now Co. D was ordered to relieve them of the duty. The order of an advance was as follows: A sergeant with two men in advance, the acting captain in command of the first platoon deployed as skirmishers on each side of the track. The 2nd lieutenant with the 2d platoon
500 yards in rear of the first as reserve. And the battalion the same distance in rear of the reserve of the advance guard. The orders were to advance with care as fast as possible, and if fired upon, to fall back, as no engagement was desired until the next morning. The division proceeded cautiously for two miles further, and as it was near night, and from reports of darkies, we were near the Rebels. left the track and halted and prepared to pass the wet night as comfortably as we might. We were better off in one respect than on the first night of our stay on Roanoke – we had our blankets with us this time, which was not the case when we landed at Roanoke. It rained all night and we were quite uncomfortable. No fires must be made, of course. Well, morning came at last, and soon after sunrise our skirmishers discovered the Rebels and the fight soon became general. The Rebels had a breastwork similar to the one we passed the day previous, but much stronger. Our regiment was ordered to the left, by the railroad track, and the fighting here was terrible. The balls flew thick and fast. Our company, by getting behind trees which the Rebels had felled to impede our advance, had a splendid chance at the gallant southerners. The Rebels were in their rifle pits and as soon as any of them showed his head over the embankment our Harper’s Ferry rifles were sure to bring him down. After fighting for a while, they found our fire so hot that they dared not raise their heads over the ramparts. But would elevate their pieces in their hands and without raising their heads, fire over – at random. At other points on the line the fighting was very severe. The Rebels had so tremendous an advantage in position that it seemed almost impossible for us to
beat them. For more than four hours we fought them, but our ammunition was fast giving out. The 60 rounds we had brought with us almost exhausted. The 21st was divided into two parts; the right wing under Lt. Col. [William S.] Clark, and the left under Maj. [Joseph P.] Rice. Thus separated, the regiment had been fighting all day. Seeing the state of affairs, the general ordered the 21st to charge, which Col. Clark, with the right wing of four companies did. The Rebels, when they saw the charge about to be made, poured in their fire but did not check the 21st. They rushed on the breastwork and the Rebels fled. Soon discovering the small force they fled from, however, they rallied. And three regiments came charging down upon our right wing, which being unsupported, could not meet the charge, and retreated, the Rebels with wild cheers again taking possession of their breastworks. The whole 21st was rallied, and supported by the N.Y. 51st and one of the other Mass. Regiments, again rallied drove the Rebels and took the works with all the Rebels’s cannon. The fight was over. Our regiment at once took possession of the Rebel camp near the battery, while the other regiments pushed on towards Newbern. It was a great victory, indeed.
We have taken all the Rebel fortifications in and about Newbern, with all their cannon and field pieces. How many I don’t know, and in short, I think, about split the entire secesh institution in N.C.
Having now given you pretty much all the information I can concerning the fight, I will speak a word of myself, and close. Since the battle I have been with two men guarding a small barracks formerly used by a Rebel artillery company, which artillery and
part of the company were captured at the battle, & scouting. Lt. Barker found it and left me with two privates to guard it. In the barracks were three men belonging to the said artillery company, and we took them prisoners, and we have them to guard too. This camp is 8 miles from the camp of the regiment, and 4 miles from our outside pickets, and [since there is] only three of us, we are liable to be disturbed in our dreams by thoughts of our danger. Though aside from this, we are having good times here. Plenty of fat pigs, sheep, cattle, and poultry are running about. So I assure you we live well. We have flour and the prisoners make bread for us. Plenty of coffee, and in short we are getting along richly. Only it is very lonely. We have no visitors but negroes, but enough of them to satisfy the heart of even a Grisly.
Being so far from camp, I know very little of what is going on, and can tell you nothing of any of the movements now in progress by the expedition.
A letter directed to Geo. From Kiene reached me as I was directed by him to do. I read it. Future letters to him should be directed to Roanoke Island, General Hospital, care of Capt. T. S. Foster. In her letter, Sarah says she would like to hear from me. It would give me much pleasure to write her, and soon I will do so. Please give my sincere love to your parents, brothers, and sisters, and tell Ormond I believe he “owes me a letter.”
With kindest regards, I remain:
P.S. I shall forward Sarah’s letter to Geo. at the earliest possible moment. He will probably go home with the capt. when he is able to go.
Ira Blake Goodrich enrolled in Company D of the 21st MAInfantry as a corporal in August 1861. His brothers Charlie, and George, both served with the regiment. Ira was promoted to orderly sergeant in early 1862, and was captured at Chantilly, VA September 1, 1862. He was later paroled and returned to duty with the 21st MA, being promoted to 2nd lieutenant to date from Sept. 6, 1862. He subsequently became a 1st lieutenant January 15, 1863, and fought in most of the battles of the regiment, including the Siege of Knoxville, TN, and the Wilderness, VA. He was mustered out of the army August 30, 1864.
2 Confederate HQ telegraph dispatches sent by General P. G. T. Beauregard to General Albert Sidney Johnston from Jackson, TN, to Decatur, AL prior to the Battle of Shiloh. In the first dispatch, General Beauregard requests surplus ammunition for guns and small arms to be sent to Corinth, MS. It also mentions that Union forces under General Charles F. Smith’s command are up the Tennessee River. The second dispatch states that General Chalmers in Iuka, Mississippi, has sighted Union boats. Beauregard mentions that pickets at East Port spotted Union ships at Savannah. He writes that the Union boats will likely go to Pittsburg Landing or East Port. He also warns Johnston not to collect too many trains at Tuscumbia, as they may be cut off from the west by Union forces.
Jackson, March 12th 1862
Genl. A. S. Johns[t]on
Have you surplus ammunition for guns & small arms for this army – If so, send to Corinth forthwith. Enemies force up Tennessee supposed to be [Gen. C. F.] Smith’s command.
G. T. Beauregard
Jackson, March 12th 1862
Genl. A. S. Johnston
Genl. Chalmers at Iuka telegraphs some of Boats in sight – At East Port when my pickets left at six o’clock this morning enemy were at Savannah last night with thirty-three transports & gun boats did not disembark – wagons Horses & all on board at sunset they said they would start for Rail Road this morning early – There is not water enough for the Gun Boats to go to Florence – They will stop at Pittsburg or East Port – the enemy took in all pickets & guards last night.
Later shelling East Port
Two Gun Boats in sight.
N. B. Be care not to collect too many trains at Tuscumbia for fear of being cut off from the west by the enemy
It appears this document was carried by a dispatch courier from the telegraph office in Decatur, AL to Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston’s HQ. It is believed this dispatch was the first time Gen. Johnston saw the fateful mention of “Pittsburg [Landing],” where he would die little more than three weeks later. As such, these messages prompted immediate action on the part of Johnston to aid Beauregard at Corinth, MI. Johnston sent Hindman’s brigade by rail to Corinth on March 15th, and despite adverse weather, hastened preparations to get his army there, 93 miles distant. Johnston’s troops began arriving about March 20th, and by March 23rd Johnston was present himself. Although the crisis declared by Beauregard did not result in immediate significant fighting, it was a precursor to the crisis that soon developed. Following the occupation of Pittsburg Landing by the main segment of the Union army on March 16th it was apparent that a major Union offensive against Corinth was imminent. Ironically, this ominous message of Beauregard’s four days earlier had pinpointed the exact location to carefully watch. Eastport, also mentioned as another likely site of enemy occupation, was protected by long range Confederate guns, thus Pittsburg Landing was the obvious enemy point of invasion. Despite Beauregard’s astute observations of this, little was done in scouting, mapping, or otherwise planning for the major offensive strike that soon resulted in the famous April 6th surprise attack at Shiloh.