Letter – John Harris, 17 January 1862


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Letter written by 1st Sergeant John S. Harris of Company F, 11th MA Infantry, to his brother, from a camp near Budd’s Ferry, MS. Harris describes marching several miles from Leonardtown to their present camp. He is currently under arrest in his quarters, and expects to be court martialed and demoted. Harris claims that if he could be promoted by a vote from the company, he would already be lieutenant, but he has to be appointed by Colonel William Blaisdell. Harris refers to some of the officers as selfish, and writes that he hopes to live long enough to “smile over their dead bodies.”

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Camp near Budds Fery Jan 17

Dear Brother

I recieved your kind letter & paper in due time was very glad to hear that you and all the folks are well although I have been somewhat used up since we arrived in camp from Leonardtown we started from L on Sunday the 12th and marched to Newport a distance of about 25 miles through the mud the next day we marched to port Tobacco 14 miles on Tuesday we marched to camp 16 miles.

I am under arrest in the quarters and I expect to be court martialed

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but the most they can do with me is to reduce me to the ranks and I dont care much about that we have got a new Capt his name is Debereaux from Salem but we have not found out much about him yet, but I will try live long enough to get square with them all, if I could be promoted by vote of the Co I should have been Lieut long ago but I have to be appointed by the Col and there is 2 or 3 working against me all the time but it is a long road that dont turn and I will let you know as soon as thare is any change in the programe over

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the opinion here it that thare will be a general forward movement soon but it is hard telling any thing about it here, but God knows I dont care how soon for I am tired of being in hell I if I have come out here to die I dont care how soon but I will them that I wont show the white feather [cowardice] and I think my life will be spared to see some of these selfish Officers die so that I can smile over their dead bodies

I dont think you would know me I have got as cross as hell, ———–

I should like to see Augusta Comstock for old aquainntance sake and if you see her give her my respects

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to her and tell her I should like to hear from her I shall write to Jennie today or tomorrow

please write soon to your Brother

J.S. Harris

John S. Harris was a 25 year old “driver” from Boston, MA. He enlisted on June 13, 1861 as a 1st Sergeant with Company F of the 11th MA Infantry. The reason for his arrest in the above mentioned letter is unknown, but Harris was in fact promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, August 11, 1862, and 1st Lieutenant, March 13, 1863. He did see his prophecy of living to “smile over the dead bodies” of certain selfish officers fulfilled at the Battle of 2nd Bull Run, where the 11th MA Infantry suffered 113 casualties, including that of Lt. Colonel George P. Tileston. Unfortunately, Harris was also destined to “come out to die,” and was killed at the Battle of Chancellorsville, VA.