Letter written by Captain John S. H. Doty of Company E, 104th IL Infantry, to his brother Francis, from Chattanooga, TN. Doty writes about the weather conditions in Tennessee, and how he was recently paid and sent money home to Illinois. Confederate troops are nearby, but have not “attempted anything warlike.” The Confederates are stationed atop Lookout Mountain, which is several hundred feet higher than the Union’s location on Moccasin Point. He expresses the Union’s need to take Lookout Mountain, comparing the situation to the story of David and Goliath. Doty inquires after a friend, Sergeant Homer Wilson, and mentions how two of his own men are to be tried as deserters. He writes about the severity of General George Thomas, and states that Thomas and General Ulysses S. Grant are both good leaders, though General William S. Rosecrans (“Old Rosy”) is loved throughout the army.
Chattanooga, Ten. No 18/63
Dear Bro. Francis
As yours came to hand last night and was very glad to hear from you all & that you were well, as I am very well at present, and this was as nice a day as ever you saw. It looks like the springtime in Ills. But yet we have had some very disagreeable weather here already – rain, mud, and cold. We were paid on Sunday last, and have sent part of my wages home to John, and suppose he has received it, or will by the time this reaches you. It will come by express from Springfield, Ill., as we sent by this way of an allotment roll from here to Springfield. From here we have an express office, and that was the only safe way we have of sending money home. The Rebels are here yet, but they don’t attempt anything warlike, except send a shell occasionally, and that is about all the little creatures attempt to do to us. They have wasted a great deal of ammunition, for they have fired from the [Lookout] mountain every day, or all
most every day since we have been here, & I don’t think they kill a man once a month, or at least I have not seen them. You see Lookout Mountain is very high above us. It is only (2,700) two thousand seven hundred feet above the river, which runs up to the bottom, or foot, of it, and it is very uncertain business shelling from such a height. When we get on our highest hill or mountain [on Moccasin Point], they are still about 700 or 1000 feet above us yet. It stands there like a giant laughing at us. Although it is high as Goliath was above David, still he was reached. And with shell we can reach, and have reached 100 and 200 feet above, as you may call it, giant Lookout Mountain. It seems that their shelling from that mountain does not amount to much, or has not so far. Still, we will have to take that little knoll, as it is an important place for observation, which you know is a good thing where there is an army. And you see the R.R. runs by the foot of their mountain, and we want to use the road to bring our supplies to us, although we are doing very well at present, for we have possession within 3 mile, and can get the rations
by the way of steamboat & wagons. But we must have that hill. We will say as David the poet said to Goliath of old: With a little stone I will make you fall. So our cannon will say to Lookout Mountain: We can throw shell so fast you cannot count them, and proud Rebels there on that little knoll, I will make you some day hunt your hole, and get down out of that, or some of you might get hurt. Excuse my poetry, for I did forget myself. You see a fellow gets to writing sometimes loses the subject. Frank, do you see Sergt. Homer Wilson in Ottawa, and how is his arm? It seems that it would be about well by this time, or is he in the hospital at Chicago? If he is well, he should be here, for it is not right for him to be back there if he is able for duty. Two of my co. are to be tried as deserters – Debolt & Dunn. It will go rather hard with Dunn, as he was arrested and returned under guard. But Debolt returned voluntarily. Genl. Thomas is rather severe. Give me Old Rosy yet, for I would just as soon trust him as any of them. Although Thomas is good, Grant is good too, but Rosecrans is, or was, loved by his men all through the army.
John Parrott, a member of my co., is trying, or at least I have been trying, to get him a furlough to go home for a while, as he is not or has not been well for some time. The doctor just handed me an order to make out the discharge papers for one of my company, Thomas Abbott, as he is broke down. Tom was a very good soldier, but he is used up for some time now. Frank, you wrote me that Kate and Rebecca was going to write to me. Good, for I like to get letters from girls & they are just the very two or three I would like to hear from. Well, it is about time to close as news is scarce, and there is no use to write about nothing, is there? As this letter is of little importance on account of things. I will stop by saying give my love to all & tell them to write to me. Oh, I forgot to tell you I bought a new vest today, as I have been without one for about four months – for there was none to be had. But there are some here just came on. That is all, I believe. Write soon to me and I will ever remain your obdt. bro.
Capt. John S. H. Doty
John S. H. Doty was born at Carlisle, PA, and worked in Ottawa, IL as a carpenter. He enrolled at age 23 in April of 1861 with a three months’ regiment. He joined Co. E of the 104th IL Volunteer Infantry as a captain on August 27, 1862. In the 104th’s first combat at Hartsville, TN Captain Doty was captured, but soon escaped. Doty served throughout the 1862-63 TN campaigns, and soon after this letter was written led his company in the famous assault on Missionary Ridge. He was killed in action on July 20, 1864 at Peachtree Creek, GA, being shot five times. His last words were; “Tell my father that I die for the flag. Good bye boys.”