Letters from Timothy Blaisdell
(Lt. Timothy Blaisdell)
Timothy H. Blaisdell was born in Haverhill, New Hampshire, son of Harriet Merrill and Timothy H. Blaisdell, both from prominent New England families. His father served as Aid-de-camp to General Jonathan Pool of the 2nd Division of the State Militia, and he was later a Trustee of the Noyes Academy in Cannan.
By early manhood, Timothy had left New England to join his two older sisters in Chicago. Both were married to young merchants there. Tim took a position with H. W. Hinsdale & Co. as a clerk. He and his brothers-in-law became part of the early “pioneers” who were to build the giant mercantile kingdom of modern Chicago.
Tim Blaisdell had brown hair, blue eyes, and a fair complexion. He stood five feet six. When the young people gathered on the neighborhood pond to skate in winter, he was one of the best. He had a good seat on a horse. He knew clothing and dressed well. There were many young girls who appreciated his talents.
In spite of his promising future, Tim, with some of his old friends, when he was 25 years old volunteered three years of his life for service in the Union Army. He began as a private in the Illinois light artillery, rising to Lieutenant before his death in Georgia.
This is a collection of letters which he wrote to his sisters and his brother-in-law, Charles Cram, as he fought the long “River War,” down the Mississippi, the Tennessee, the Yazoo, to his final battle along the Chattahoochee before Atlanta.
Received your two packages all right. The things are just what I wanted. As soon as I get out, I am going to make up a box of stuff that I have that I cannot take with me when we move, and send it along for you to keep.
There is a large force cut from here after Jeff again. I doubt whether they catch him. Our Company is not among them.
Mr. and Mrs. Pearson are still here. He was in to see me yesterday and wants me to call on his wife before she leaves. I mean to do so.
To save my life, I can’t think of anything more to write, so will “dry up.” Love to all.
January 31, 1862
My dear sisters,
I will only write a line this morning to let you know that I am getting along first-rate, indeed as far as I can see, am perfectly well.
There is nothing new, as usual. Love to all and write when you can.
February 3, 1862
My dear sisters,
Your box came two or three days ago, the contents all in good order. I was well enough to eat some chicken, oysters, and doughnuts, and they done me a great deal of good. The boys in the squad managed to dispense with the balance of the good things and they came in mighty good time, too, for the Company was just going away and a few nice things to put in one’s haversack don’t go amiss. Thank Kate Smith for her loaf of cake, I tasted of it and found it very nice.
Well, our Company has left Bird’s Point for good, at last. They loaded yesterday afternoon onto the Aleck Scott together with the 8th and 20th Ill. Regiment. They were dreadfully crowded and I understand this morning had to lay at Cairo all night, only leaving there this morning. The 11th Ill. Regiment left on the January this forenoon. The destination of all is said to be Smithland, Ky., about 12 miles above Paducah on the Ohio. They will probably go into camp there. We have abandoned our quarters at the Point and taken everything away. And so ends our Missouri experience. Hereafter our sphere of action is destined to be in Ky. and Tenn.
I did not feel very strong after my sickness and the Capt. told me I had better stay a few days with Dr. Turner (our Company doctor), and come up when he did, which I am very glad I concluded to do, as they must have had a mighty rough time on the boat last night and today as it has rained or sleeted incessantly. I shall probably go up to the Company in three or four days. In the meantime, I am as comfortable as you please here. There are two of us left behind. I have entirely recovered from my sickness and am getting strength rapidly. I shall be as good as ever in a day or two.
You must have had a great time at the “Fan Dance” on the Cyden Pond, of which Charlie sent me a program. Do you skate any this winter?
I shall send in a day or two, directed to Charlie, by express, a valise of clothing. The stuff in one side of it belongs to me, and the other to my friend Schuyler Coe. Please keep his things by themselves, so that he can get them when the war is over. Your can distinguish the side that belongs to me by my coat and watch. The watch is out of order and I would like to have Charlie get it fixed and charge the expenses to me, and if he ever has an opportunity to get it to me, send it along.
You had better not write again until you hear from me again. I will write as soon as I get to our destination, and tell you how to direct letters.
I hope little Carrie continues to improve. Kiss all of them (the children) and give my love to all friends. There is nothing new here, are having miserable weather as usual.
Your aff Brother,
Fort Henry, Tenn.
Feb. 16, 1862
My dear sisters,
I have just time to write a line to let you know that I am well and enjoying our tramp first-rate. I came up on the boat Friday night and am again with the company. I feel quite strong again and hope and think I shall continue so.
The fort here was taken last Thursday by the gunboats and was a hard fight of a little over an hour. The rebel infantry ran away and the fort was defended by about 70 artillerists, who fought bravely until tired out. It was a bloody affair to judge from appearances in the fort. The thing was over so quickly that our land forces couldn’t get up, due to the bad roads to cut off the retreat of the rebel forces. Our men were about four miles off, but could not get in till three or four hours after the fight was over. They heard the cannonading plainly. You can probably get a good account of the fight from the newspapers. The rebels have probably fled to Fort Donnelson (12 miles from here and strongly defended) where I hope we shall get a back at them before many days.
I saw George and Mr. Pearson today. They are in our Brigade and are both well. The 7th Iowa is also here. Saw Steve Merrill yesterday. I am writing this in the dark (i.e. by moonlight) and don’t know that you can make it out.
Don’t be alarmed about me. We have a big force, thirty or forty thousand men and can beat them every time.
Love to all, not forgetting the babies,
Your aff Brother,
Fort Donnelson, Tenn.
Feb. 17, 1862
My dear sisters,
I take the first opportunity to write you a word after our three days battle, to assure you of my entire safety. We (our battery) were engaged during the whole fight, and were under the severest fire most of the time. Miraculously, as it seems to us, we have but one of our boys killed and six or seven wounded none mortally.
Poor George Cram is shot in three places, through the shoulder, above the knee, and through the hand, but he will recover, so Mr. Pearson tells me. Mr. Pearson is safe. The 11th fought like tigers and are all cut to pieces. It is supposed they will be discharged from services. They went into the fight with 750 men and can find now but two or three hundred. I rode all over the battleground yesterday and never before fully realized the horrors of war. Sixty of the 11th lay piled up in one heap and a great many more of other regiments. Our loss is heavy, how much I cannot say. Anyone who says the “Secesh” won’t fight, don’t know that is all.
Fort Donnelson is the most naturally fortified place I ever saw. It seems as though 10,000 men could defend it against 100,000. We must have ten or fifteen thousand men of them prisoners. As I write, they are passing us on their way to our boats, and a more God-forsaken looking set of beings you never saw, un-uniformed and ragged. There is, I think, no doubt but that this is the big victory of the war. We thought so yesterday when they surrendered, if one could judge from the cheers that went up from 50,000 throats. I won’t crack on what Taylor’s Battery has done, but from the congratulations we receive from regiments and companies, we think we have done our duty. Our six guns (during the three days) fired over six tons of shot and shell.
I am very well, although sleeping in the mud and snow, and having constantly wet feet and sometimes clothes, for the past week. We have had no tents until last night. My paper is out (it is all I have) and I must close. I forgot to say that the gunboats were defeated and that the entire credit of the victory belongs to the land forces.
The 57th Illinois are here, but were not engaged. Among them are Lt. Col. Fred Hulbert and Harlan Page (1st Lieut.). I have seen them both.
Fort Donnelson, Tenn.
February 21, 1862
My dear sisters,
I have just received two letters from you, one dated Jan’y 6th, and the other of the 16th inst. since which date you have no doubt received my letter written the day after the surrender of the Fort.
Chicago seems to have broken loose, for we have any quantity of her people with us, among others, Mr. Collyer. I have not seen him to speak with him yet, but shall before he leaves. Sib, I understand, is on his way here, George Cram, I suppose, is before this, in Mound City or Cairo, as he was the day before yesterday on the Chancellor lying at this place. He was very comfortable, so Mr. Pearson tells me. George is a brave fellow, and belonged to a noble set of men, both company and regiment. They stood until they were literally cut to pieces. Out of about 550 men that the 11th took into action, over 350 are killed, wounded and missing. The 11th was commanded by Lieut. Col. Ransom (who is the bravest of the brave). Col. Wallace being in command of our Brigade, composed of the 11th, 20th, 17, 45, 48, and 49th Illinois Infantry, the 4th Illinois Cavalry, with McAllister’s and our Battery.
Yesterday and today I have been compiling a list of the killed, wounded and missing in our Brigade for Col. Wallace. Exclusive of the 4th Cavalry, whose report is not in, but whose loss is trifling, the total is 686 men; about 130 killed, 450 wounded and 100 missing (probably prisoners at Nashville). Among the latter is Eugene Ransom, a younger brother of the Col., and who is a Serg’t in George’s Company, his Company (K) has lost 45 men. Other Brigades have suffered severely, but not to near as large an extent as ours. Our total loss is not as yet made up, but it must be, I should judge, somewhere near twelve or thirteen hundred. We cannot tell the loss of the enemy, and probably never can, but appearances indicate that it is larger than ours, exclusive of prisoners in our hands.
Our Battery was not with the 11th and 20th at the time of the charge on them, on the right of our lines, but were engaging the enemy’s batteries on the left, where we had been ordered early in the day, and where we stood under a heavy cross-fire for four or five hours, until our ammunition was expended. During the entire fight, our six guns fired over 1700 rounds of ammunition. One of the worst things we artillery men had to contend against was the enemy’s sharpshooters. They kept up a constant fire on us, and being completely covered in rifle pits, we could do them little harm. They are splendid marksmen and exposed as we were on entirely open ground within 270 yards of them, it is surprising how we escaped with as little loss as we did. On Friday morning, while four of us were limbering up our gun (No. 1) preparatory to leaving our exposed position, the sharpshooters of the enemy discovered us, and poured a perfect hailstorm of rifle balls on to us. One struck the wheel within two inches of our Sergeant’s head, and for a few minutes the zips of the balls around us were anything but pleasant.
On Saturday, they changed their style on us, and gave us shot and shell, and such dodging you never saw. It was load and fire and drop, flat as a pancake. We watched the smoke of the enemy’s guns, and down we went, except when we were loading, where there was nothing to do but to grin and bear it. The rebels had good artillerists and rifle guns and gave us many close calls. The infantry lying behind us and supporting us on Saturday, had numbers killed and wounded, but fortunately we escaped with none killed and but very few wounded. Two of our guns, Nos. 5 and 6, and two of Company A’s Chicago Light Artillery (this was all of the fight that Co. “A” saw, having arrived from Fort Henry Friday night) were charged Saturday afternoon by the enemy's infantry, but we obliged them to fall back by our canister.
Thursday night was the hardest night. I think that any man in the Company ever experienced, we lay on the brow of an open hill, exposed to the enemy’s fire, which their riflemen kept up at intervals all night. Early in the evening, it rained very hard, wetting us to the skin; it then snowed hard, and to crown all, froze hard. We had no tents and they allowed us to build no fires and we all came near perishing before morning.
Many of our boys froze their toes and fingers, and we would have frozen solid if we had not kept tramping around. I didn’t sleep a wink and shook like a man with an ague fit all night.
Friday night we slept on the snow with no covering but our blankets, on top of which fell during the night about two inches of snow, and Saturday morning we were woken up by the seceshs’ shell falling amongst us. I saw one poor fellow of the 17th torn to pieces within 20 feet of where I laid. We immediately took our guns to the top of the hill and kept blazing away at their batteries during the entire forenoon, and they returned the compliment, I assure you. We silenced one of their batteries that we know of.
Sunday was the day that we all expected to be the day for fighting. It was understood all over our camp that the enemy’s breastworks and batteries were to be charged by our forces, and we laid down in the snow and slept soundly, expecting big work for the next day. You can imagine our joy and surprise when about nine o’clock Sunday forenoon, cheers commenced going up along our whole line, sure six or seven miles in extend, and it was announced that the Fort had surrendered. We immediately took up our line of march for the inside of the Fort, and such a happy set of fellows as we were, when we saw what an immense number of prisoners we had taken, you never saw. As for me, it was the happiest day of my life, and I felt well repaid for all suffering and danger passed through.
We, none of us, had any idea of the strength of the Fort until we entered it. It seems as if 20,000 men ought to defend it successfully against 100,000. The water batteries of 17 guns on the river are very strong and command the river for nearly a mile and I don’t believe all the gun-boats afloat can silence them, for the reasons that but two or three boats can be engaged at once, the river being so narrow. Our boats have done very little damage, except to barracks, by shells thrown over the high bluffs.
I have just seen Mr. Collyer. He gave me a grip that pretties near “bust” my knuckles. He is knocking around here doing all the good he can, and he has, I think, plenty of field for his efforts. I have just been aboard the City of Memphis, one of our hospital boats. Nearly 300 wounded men lay on the floor of the cabins, some in the agonies of death, others groaning and shrieking, and all suffering more or less. I think it was worse sight even than the battlefields, for there one saw few wounded, they having been mostly removed.
One of our boys (George Kingsley) just breathed his last on the City of Memphis. He was not in the fight, but died from the effects of a broken blood vessel, caused by coughing. We also buried our killed comrade Oscar Reckens, yesterday in the burying ground at this place. His friends will probably remove his body to Chicago when they learn of his death. His last words were, “Take me back where the horses won’t step on me, and then go back to your guns, and tell my friends I died as a brave man should.” He was a German, and was a universal favorite in the Company. He came up the river from New Orleans last July and joined the Company at Bird’s Point.
I could have got plenty of trophies in the shape of arms and accoutrements to have sent you, but having no means of getting them to you, I have let them alone. The civilians here from Chicago and elsewhere are buying up everything they can lay their hands to in the shape of curiosities, such as arms, etc., often at extravagant prices.
There is rumor today that our Brigade (2nd) 1st Division, is under marching orders for Clarksville (between here and Nashville) for tomorrow. Col. Wallace, with a force, made a reconnaissance to that place yesterday and his command report it a fine place of about six or eight thousand inhabitants, and mostly deserted by then. I have not much faith that we shall go. At any rate, our Brigade doesn’t want to be left behind, if we are badly cut up, but to continue in the advance, as we have done during the war.
By the way, our howitzer (No. 1) fired the first shot in the battle of Fort Donnelson, Feb. 13, 1862.
I will send this by private hands, or mail, as I find most practicable. Kiss the children for me. I am in the best of health.
Fort Donnelson, Tenn.
Feb. 28, 1862
I have sad news to tell you. Mr. Pearson has just told me that George has died at Mound City. I hope you have heard of this before, and trust you have, as Mr. P.’s son went up to M.C. several days since to take George to Kinmunday or to Chicago as he (George) might choose. Mr. Pearson knows none of the particulars, as he only casually learned of the fact from the Sutler of the 11th who came up today to this place. If it were possible, I should go at once to Mound City, but military rules forbid it, and I must stay with the Company. Indeed, I should have gone with George when he was wounded, if it had been possible.
I can sympathies truly with you all in your loss, for I have known George well during the last six months, and he has been a good friend. He has died nobly and his memory will ever be dear to us.
I have but time to write a word, but the Orderly wants me to help him this evening with his Muster Rolls.
Had a hard throw from a horse about a week ago, which bruised me up somewhat, but am now all right again. Sib goes down to Cairo tonight or in the morning and will take this.
Your aff. Brother,
On Board Packet Silver Moon
Near Savannah, Tennessee
March 12, 1862
My dear Sisters,
I have not written you since leaving Fort Donnelson, there having been no opportunity of mailing or sending letters. Indeed, I do not know how this can go, but will write and chance it.
We have been nearly a week on board this boat, having marched from Fort D. to Middle Landing (near Fort Henry) on the Tennessee River. On this march, we were two days in making 12 miles. We laid at Middle Landing some three or four days, and have since been going very slow and cautiously up the river, until we are now well on towards Alabama. There are 62 boat loads of troops today at this point, and how many behind, I can’t say. One of our fleet was fired on by musketry last night from the shore, killing one man and wounding several.
If we can judge from waving of handkerchiefs and hats, and cheers for us, as we pass along, the people of this region are generally “sound on the goose.”
There are a thousand conjectures among us as to our destination. Some think it is to Florence, Ala., and so on down to the Gulf of Mexico. Others, say onto Hamburg in this state, and over to Memphis. At any rate, I believe the “secesh” will dispute our landing at the line of the railroad (not many miles south of here) or our passage beyond it. But we have a big army (I don’t believe less than 50,000 men) and a good one, and are full in the faiths that we can clean out anything they have got to offer.
We are preceded in our passage up the river by gunboats. We have with us on the Silver Moon a committee of the Chicago Board of Trade, who came up to present our Company with a stand of colors, which is fine, costing $150. They (the committee, Walkes, Thompson and Wright) will accompany us on our expedition.
I have not heard from you since leaving Fort Donnelson we had no mail up to today. Continue to write (directed as before to Cairo) and I will answer as often as I can find opportunity to send. I heard through some one that poor George was buried at Rose Hill. Write me those particulars. Mr. Pearson is here with his regiment. I saw him this morning.
We are very comfortable on our boat, having only our Company and Company D of the 11th Illinois Regiment on board. Co. D has been detached to our Battery, and have done us great service. I wish you could see our fleet in column as we move up the river these splendid moonlight nights. It is the grandest sight I ever saw.
Love to everyone,
Your Brother Tim
Camp near Pittsburg Landing, Tenn.
March 23, 1862
My dear sisters and brothers,
I have received nothing from you of later date that the 4th instance, I have no doubt you have written since, but it takes a long time for our mail to reach us here, “way down in Tennessee.” It is a week or ten days since I have written you, having been busy moving camps and doing duty of one kind and another.
Before leaving Savannah, I tried several time to see Capt. Waddell about George’s matters, but couldn’t find him either time. Henry Buckley left Charlie’s letter for him at his tent. I saw Mr. Pearson and gave him Charlie’s letter. He thinks it doubtful if it can be established that George was in command at the time he was wounded, but promises to do all he can in the matter, and I suppose will report to you. Lieut. Vore would be the man who, I should think, would know if George was wounded before or after himself. I have heard that he (Vore) had been released and gone home, but could not find out positively whether it was so or not. If we happen to be with the 11th again, I will try to see Captain Waddell, although I suppose he will answer Charlie’s letter and give him what information he is possessed of.
Our company is detached from Col. Wallace’s Brigade and put into Col. Ross’ of the 17th Illinois, and we are again in the advance. Our old Brigade is so badly cut up, that I suppose that they will not be taken into battle again soon. Co. Wallace was very mad because they took us from him but it was Gen Grant’s order, and could not be helped. He (Wallace) told us that he should do all he could to make the separation but temporary. The Brigade (including what is left of the 11th) is still in Savannah, and I suppose will remain there for a time. Col. Ross is a fine man and officer and next to Wallace, I would soon have him for a brigade Commander as anyone I know.
We left Savannah on the steamer John J. Roe night before last, and unloaded the battery at Pittsburg Landing yesterday noon, and are now camped about three miles from the river in a fine piece of timber, convenient to wood and water. We are 15 miles from Savannah, up the river on the West bank, and about 25 miles from Corinth, Miss., where we understand the “Secesh” are concentrating large bodies of troops. It is thought that we have at this point about 70,000 troops and will probably be largely reinforced before advancing much farther, so you see we didn’t come down here to be whipped. Besides, it is said that Buell’s big army is only 25 miles from here, up the river on the East side.
One of the engineers, engaged in constructing roads for the army about here, told me yesterday that he thought we would remain here about a week and then advance slowly and by easy marches on the enemy probably at Corinth, or at some other point on the Memphis and Charleston R.R.
One of the boys just came in with the rumor that the rebels had fallen back from Corinth to Mississippi Junction. They are reported in large force. Gen. Grant has been reinstated, and is again in command of our expedition. Buell’s jealousy, I reckon, was the cause of his being relieved from command. Buell has been at Bowling Green all winter with 100,000 men until Grant with 25,000 opened the way to Nashville for him, and because he went up to Nashville with his staff, on a little trip from Fort Donnelson, Buell must have complained of him for encroaching on his sphere of action. I forgot to say that our Company is now in Gen. Sherman’s Division. We were formerly in McClernand’s.
I saw George but once after he was wounded. On the last day of the fight, our gun was disabled about noon, and we (our squad) retired down the hill. Here, near the hospital, I met George. He was walking (limping somewhat) and looking for the Hospital. I gave him some water from my canteen, and he told me the nature of his wounds. He did not think that he was dangerously wounded but wanted me to find Mr. Pearson and send him to him at the Hospital, which I did. I tried to find George after the battle, but did not succeed, until Young Pearson told me that he was on the Chancellor which had left that day for Mound City. As soon as I met George, wounded, I wanted very much to go with him to the Hospital and take care of him, but it was impossible. Our gun was short of men and disabled as we were by the breaking of an axletree, we expected to go into action again immediately. I think from what I can learn that he had the best care possible at the Hospital at For Donnelson from his uncle and others. I think it very strange that the doctors at Mound City did not insist upon taking the ball from his shoulder, even if he did object to it.
You have paid your price for Donnelson, but the consolation is yours that George lived and died a good and brave soldier, and although his death so far away from friends and home is very sad, you will think and speak of him with feeling of pride. I miss him very much. He was the only intimate friend I have had outside of the Battery, and being so near each other, we were together a good deal.
I had a letter from John D. Pilbrick, Supt. of Public Schools in Boston (a former teacher of mine at the Nayhew School) a few days since. He said he had seen my name in the Boston Journal as being in Taylor’s Battery at Donnelson, and wrote to inquire if it was his former pupil that was spoken of. I answered his letter a day or two since.
Thank you for your oysters. They came when we were on short rations, living on “hard bread and pork.” Old and rusty at that, and made several feasts for us.
Love to everybody,
Your brother Tim
Pittsburg Landing, Tenn.
April 4, 1862
My dear sisters and brothers,
We are still in camp at the old place, and don’t see were waiting for movements on the Mississippi, perhaps the cleaning out of Island No. 10, and Randolph, and some other places, so that we can form a junction with Pope at Memphis.
We have a very large army here, probably near 100,000 men, and we hear that Buell’s big army of 70,000 or 80,000 is somewhere near us on the other side of the Tennessee River. We have had lately a number of Division revisions, some of which were very fine. Our Division (McClernand’s) will pass in review before Gen. Grant tomorrow. Wish you were here to see some of these military displays. Gen. Wallace, formerly Col. of the 11th Illinois Reg’t, and lately commanding our Brigade, has been assigned to the command of the Division of Gen. C.F. Smith, now sick, and is therefore an acting Major-General. He is trying very hard to get Major Taylor’s Battalion of four batteries, and particularly our battery, into his Division. I hope he will succeed. By the way, we are no longer “Taylor’s Battery” but Capt. E. Barrett’s Battery. The change was made on the 1st instance. Capt. Barrett. is a gentleman as well as an officer, and is universally popular. The three other Lieutenants have been promoted a step each, and without much doubt, Dick Roberts, our First Serg’t, will be appointed Junior Second Lieut. In which case, Capt. Barrett told me day before yesterday, he would appoint me First (or Orderly Sergeant) of the Company. It is the highest non-commissioned position in a Company, and I naturally enough feel a little pride in the promotion. If appointed, I shall live in the Captain’s Mess and tent, and wouldn’t ask to be with a better man than Capt. Barrett. The Orderly is mounted and gets the big pay of $20 a month and clothing and rations. I am sorry to leave the old “squad” (No. 1) in which I have been since I joined the Company and in which are any quantity of good fellows. After all, the most independent man in the army is the private. Don’t say anything about all this until I write you again, for if Dick Roberts isn’t appointed Lieut., I shan’t be appointed Orderly Sergeant.
I received Het’s letter of the 28th yesterday. I was glad to hear that she was getting better. That throat disease must have been very painful. Always write me if any of you are sick, and if dangerously so, I shall make a big attempt to get a furlough and go home.
During the last two or three weeks, we have been having, not warm, but hot weather, hotter than I ever saw in June in Chicago. The fruit-trees were two weeks ago all in blossom, and no one thinks of wearing a coat.
I saw Walter Pearson about George’s things a few days ago. He told me he had got George’s trunk and contents from Capt. Waddell, and in a few days was going to Kinmunday to express them to Charlie. He also promised to see all of Company that he could and find out all possible about George being in command of the Company at the time he was wounded. Write me whether or not Charlie has received an answer to his letter to Capt. Waddell. If not, if his regiment be near us at the time, I will see him, and see if anything can be done to establish George’s widow’s claim to a Captain’s pension.
We hear that our letters from the Tennessee River are detained at Cairo by military authority for prudential reasons. Is it so? Do you receive my letters in any sort of reasonable time? I write you about once a week, sometimes of tenor, but seldom go over that time without writing.
You ask if I received the liquors Charlie sent by Sib to Donnelson. Yes and good they were, too. So many boxes and bundles must be a nuisance in making so long a trip, besides we might have been a march inland, in which case there would be no way in which things could reach us. I know you would have like to have sent me any quantity of good things, if it had been possible. Never have you minded I will make up on eating when the war is over, and I think you will see what an appetite is.
I received the letters and papers by Abe Heartt and Charlie Fleetwood. Tell Bev. Warner and Charlie Lowell I have received their letters.
“Everything is very quiet on the Tennessee, and I can think of nothing to write you. How is Maggie Hannah? Give my love to her.
One of our Kenosha boys, Charlie Dana, has received a discharge for physical disability (he is consumptive) and gone home. Much love to the children and to all friends.
Pittsburg Landing, Tenn.
April 12, 1862
My dear sisters and brothers,
I wrote you at the first opportunity, on the second day after the fight, a word or two just to assure you of my safety and good health, and sent same to Cairo or Chicago, as the case might be, by some of our wounded or sick boys.
On Sunday morning (our Battery being in Gen. Sherman’s Division, on the outposts, and on the extreme right) we were completely surprised by an order to hitch up, and immediate cannonading told us that we were attacked.
We moved the Battery to the next hill on the right, and immediately engaged a rebel battery in front of us. Before long, we discovered the secesh infantry moving on us for the purpose of taking our guns. We held our fire until they were within three or four hundred yards of us and then gave them canister from our six pieces. They, however, steadily advanced on us until they were not 50 yards from the muzzles of our guns. Our continued fire of canister, however, here broke their ranks and they wheeled and ran, leaving the ground covered with their killed and wounded.
In the meantime, our support, consisting of Ohio troops (among others the 77th Reg’t) when they saw the enemy advance, had broken and ran, after firing but one volley at the enemy, leaving us alone. The Col. Of the 77th sat down on a log near me and cried like a child at the cowardice of his men, whom he was unable to rally. Some of our Company drew revolvers on the cowards, but nothing could keep them to their posts.
After engaging the rebel battery for a short time longer and firing on the retreating rebels, who had marched off to the left to attack another position, we were ordered to fall back to an open field about one half a mile distant, and there took position and engaged a battery (masked) while we were in full sight of them. We held our position for two hours, exposed to a most terrific fire of musketry and artillery. Their shell burst over and around us, killing and wounding many of our horses and some of our men. One of our squad, Albert J. Putz of Chicago, was struck in the head by a musket ball and instantly killed. Another, Charley Edwards, who stood right on my left hand, was struck by a piece of shell in the abdomen and severely wounded. Numbers of the boys on the other guns were hit and more or less hurt.
After exhausting our ammunition at this point, we moved back some distance and filled up our caissons and limbers again, but were not again ordered into action until Monday, P.M., when we were ordered to take position again and open on them (the Secesh) but, at this time, they broke and ran and we didn't get a chance at them again.
There is no use denying that we were badly beaten on Sunday. When night came, we had been driven almost to the river. Many of our troops (especially those from Ohio) were panic-stricken and I don’t believe there was a man in camp but looked for defeat on the morrow, but (among our brave men from Illinois, Iowa and Indiana and other states) there wasn’t a word breathed of giving up.
At dark the firing ceased, except from one of our heavy siege guns, which fired a shell into the rebel camps once in fifteen minutes during the entire night. We lay down in the mud, exposed to a driving rain all night, and I for one, slept as soundly as I ever did at home in a bed, although without blankets, tents, or any covering whatsoever. By morning we were well soaked.
On Monday the fighting commenced early, and continued without much advantage on either side until noon, when we began to drive them, although they contested the ground inch by inch. During Monday P.M. the fighting was perfectly terrific. It was one crash of musketry all the time. I haven’t any words to describe the horrors of the battle. Perhaps I can tell you something of them when I get home.
By four o’clock Monday P.M., we had them under full retreat, and drove them beyond our lines with great slaughter. Our cavalry followed them some distance, bringing in numbers of prisoners, pieces of artillery which they had abandoned, and small arms of every description thrown away in their flight.
Since the fight, we have had many alarms daily, and have been expecting and attack again hourly, but we are ready for them and they can’t drive us to the River again.
It is not thought now, however, that Beauregard will attack us again, and as Halleck has arrived this morning and taken the place of the imbecile Grant, we are in bully good spirits, and now it is our turn to be the assailing party. We have heard the good news from Island No. 10. I hope and think that in two or three weeks I can write you that we have cleaned them out of Corinth, and whatever other place they may make a stand.
The slaughter on both sides is awful, I can’t say how much. The newspapers can give you these details much better than I can. We think we have killed their Gen. Johnston. Our Gen. W.H.L. Wallace (formerly Col. Of the 11th Illinois) is killed. He was a noble man. The glorious little 11th fought bravely and are out again. There are only about 75 men left in the Reg’t for duty. It is the banner Reg’t of the war. Col. Ransom is wounded in the head, not dangerously, however. Capt. Barrett and Maj. Taylor behaved splendidly, and the Battery sustained their reputation well. Company A, Chicago Light Artillery, did nobly and are badly cut up. There are hardly any batteries that were in the fight, but lost more or less of their guns, except Company A, and us. But fortunately, the rebels were unable to remove them in their hurried flight, and merely spiked them.
It has rained incessantly since last Sunday night and we are knee deep in mud. The arrival of Buell and Wallace on Sunday night, I firmly believe, saved Grant’s army from destruction. I hope he (Grant) will be removed.
His career has been full of blunders, the greatest of all of them on last Sunday, when we, on the outposts, were surprised by Beauregard without a moment’s warning.
The “secesh” destroyed our entire camp, and we are without even a change of underclothing, but that will be remedied soon by the different Quartermasters.
They got none of my letters, for the reason that I invariably burn them after reading. Hope they will have a good time.
On Sunday, we had about 60,000 fighting man, the secesh at least 120,000. At night Buell reinforced us with not exceeding 30,000 and Wallace with 10,000, the latter turning their right on Monday P.M. The troops opposed to us were the flower of the Southern army, not at all like the Donnelson rabble. They took of us prisoners on Sunday about 4,000 comprising entire regiments of the 58th Illinois, 12th and 14th Iowa, are all taken; and portions of other regiments. I do not believe we have 1000 prisoners. In short, Grant bungled the whole thing. And although, perhaps we were not in a condition to follow them up as and army, our cavalry might have harassed them much and taken many from their rear.
We suppose Beauregard has fallen back on Corinth, leaving a strong rear guard between us. Our sick and wounded have mostly been sent to Cairo, Mound City, and Paducah. I have talked with many secesh wounded. They are mostly from the Gulf States. We buried on Tuesday, in our Company quarters alone, 19 secesh, among them a Lieut. Col. And Capt. from Louisiana.
I could fill up a dozen sheets, describing matters and things about the battle, but you can probably get a better account from the newspapers than I can give you. So I will “simmer down.”
I received Sade’s, Het’s and Charlie’s letters a few days since. I can’t imagine how I can get that new lease deed acknowledged. This country is completely deserted of its inhabitants (what few there ever were) and it is impossible to find a Notary Public. Ask Hitchcock if there are no officers in the army authorized to take acknowledgements. In regard’s to selling the place and purchasing again, let Charlie act his own discretion. If he pleases himself, he will please me. I have entire confidence in his judgment, and as soon as I can find out who is authorized to execute the acknowledgement, will send the release deed along.
I will see Capt. Waddell and Mr. Pearson as soon as possible. It is strange they do not write you.
We have a lot of Chicago people down here today among others, was Dr. Boone. I shall probably send this by some of them.
I wrote you the other day about by being appointed Orderly Sergeant of the Company. Capt. Barrett finds on consulting the regulations that an Orderly must be appointed from the list of Sergeants, but says he shall try to arrange it in some way so as to make it work. I don’t care much either way, except as it is a promotion. As far as the duties are concerned, I had rather remain a private.
Love to everybody, particularly the children.
Your Aff brother,
Headquarters Taylor’s Battery
In the field of Shiloh
Near Pittsburg Landing, Tenn
April 19, 1862
My dear brothers and sisters,
I will write you a few words this morning, just to let you know that I am in the land of the living, and well. Presume before this you have seen Billy Hea, who can tell you how we are situated here, our prospects ahead, etc., etc. Things don’t look as though we should move under two weeks, although Halleck is straightening things and going a great ways towards making order out of chaos, for there is no denying that matters were considerably mixed before his arrival. We are still in Gen. Sherman’s Division, although not on the outposts, as was the case at the time of the battle. General Divisions of Buell’s corps have moved out front of us, and are between us and the enemy, who are reported to be about eight or ten miles from us, and so on to Corinth.
Gen. Mitchell has occupied Huntsville, and some other important points in Alabama below the line of the Memphis and Charleston R.R. Halleck, the other day, intercepted some of Beauregard’s telegraphic dispatches to Richmond, by cutting the wires and attaching an operating instrument. One of these was to the effect that if he (Beauregard) was not immediately reinforced, that he could not hold Corinth. Our Generals have fixed the Memphis and Charleston R.R. so, however, that it will be a long job for the secesh to reinforce Beauregard’s army from the East; trestle-work and bridges having been destroyed, the track town up for some distance. Besides, Gen. Mitchell has possession of several points on the line of road. We have just heard of the capture of Fort Pulaski. Big thing, isn’t it?
Our Company is in a pretty bad condition at present, as far as our men are concerned. We have only about sixty men for duty, the balance being absent, sick or wounded, most of who have been loaded onto the Hospital Boats, and from thence home, I suppose. We have tried hard to get leave to go to Illinois for a short period to recruit, and I think would have succeeded, had it not been for the efforts of a certain Major (recently promoted) to the contrary. One thing is certain; we can’t take our full Battery, or even four guns, into action in the condition we are in, as to man. I suppose the powers that be will give us a detail of green infantry, who know as much about working artillery as a woman would.
We have seen more service in the field, done more fighting (and successful fighting, too) than any Battery in the service here, and the men are simply worn out by exposure and hard work, and a respite is due to them. There are over 90 Batteries here, and they could spare us easily, if they were disposed too, if the Company was full and in good condition, there isn’t a man in it that would not wish to be kept in the advance (as we always have been) and see the thing through. But by hard work and hard fighting, we have won a good name, and we don’t care to imperil it by going into action half-manned. Or what is the same thing, with our guns manned by a set of infantry who don’t care a curse for the Battery, or its name, as long as their own precious lives are safe. If we ever do lose any of our guns, it won’t be our fault.
I was promoted, the other day, to Orderly Sergeant, and have taken up by abode at Capt. Barrett’s Headquarters. I have considerable writing to do, and of course not quite as much leisure as formerly.
Don’t wait to send letters by private hands, but write and send by mail (directing as usual) as often as you can.
Your aff Brother,
Field of Shiloh
April 26, 1862
My dear sisters,
There is nothing new to write of, but I will just say a word, as I have nothing else to do, to let you know that we are still at Pittsburg Landing, and that the subscriber is pretty comfortable, as things go. I haven’t been first-rate for four or five days, having had a pretty severe diarrhea, and any quantity of biliousness, but feel much better this morning and nearly all right again. I lay it to the weather, which since the battle, has been one succession of rains. It is clear and cool this morning, and I hope will continue so, for since we left Bird’s Point in February, it has seemed that pleasant days are the exceptions and rainy ones the rule.
April 28, 1862
I was obliged to leave off here the other day, and haven’t had time to resume since. My duties now keep me busy and I have little time to spare. We know nothing about our future movements, but expect marching orders momentarily. We have just heard of the Federal occupation of New Orleans, glorious, if true.
About that question you asked me in your last letter. If the secesh should kill me over, I should wish, if possible, to be buried in Mt. Auburn. I know the boys would see my body to Chicago. But then I have no idea of any such termination to my career. I hope and expect to see many good times in Chicago yet.
Lt. Rumsey came down yesterday from Chicago. He brought me several packages from the different individuals at H.W.H. and Co. Tobacco, Brandy, etc., all of which was very acceptable.
Am getting better, but don’t feel all right yet. One of our boys is going to Cairo this P.M. right off, and I must close.
Love to all,
Camp No. 6 Army of the Tennessee
Near Corinth, Mississippi
May 13, 1862
My dear sisters,
It is some time since I have written you, but since leaving Pittsburg Landing, we have been so busy, moving camps and changing positions, that I have had little spare time. We are now about four miles from Corinth, our Division, belonging to Maj. Gen. W.T. Sherman, occupying the extreme right and advance. Halleck is moving slowly and surely, having left Pittsburg Landing as early as the 29th of April, moving cautiously, and throwing up entrenchments as we go. I think the battle must commence within two or three days. We have at least 100,000 and perhaps 125,000 men, and are confident of victory. Skirmishes are occurring daily between our pickets and those of the enemy; the latter invariably falling back.
There has been a report in camp that we have been reinforced on our left at Hamburg by Gens. Sigel and Curtis, but we can’t reliably trace it. At any rate, we are enough for Beauregard without them, our army now being composed of the good men; the shirkers having mostly on one excuse or another, gone off home. We, yesterday, heard the good news from Virginia and the Mississippi, viz., the sinking of the Merrimac, occupation of Norfolk and Portsmouth, the advance of the Monitor and Naugatuck up the James River, and the sinking of two or three gunboats on the Mississippi by Commander Foote.
Things are working, and if Corinth doesn’t wind them up, we must at least give them credit for perseverance worthy of a better cause. Halleck has the confidence of the entire army, and is every inch a General. One can’t help noticing the different state of things since he took the field. Grant isn’t anywhere.
We are having beautiful weather, only intensely hot, as much so as I ever experienced in Chicago in mid-summer.
Pat White arrived in due time. Much obliged for the tobacco and shirts, they came in good time and place; also the rubber coat.
Het writes that she has heard that I was very sick. It is not so. I was troubled for a week or two with bilious diarrhea, but not enough so as to incapacitate me for duty, and have recovered entirely. I have told you not less than a dozen times that you needn’t worry yourselves about my being sick. If I do get right sick, I shall do the best I can to get well again, and as heretofore I have enjoyed first-rate health, I see no reason why I should not have the same luck in the future. I don’t believe in the kind of soldiers that put for home every time they have a stomach ache. It has been that sort of work that has compelled us to turn over two of our guns; over forty of our men being in Chicago on sick furloughs, a great many of whom have run over their time. I don’t refer to men who are really sick, but to those who are playing off. If they ever take a notion to come back, we can be a six-gun Battery again. Serg’t D.F. Chase is back with us again. He is not able for duty, his arm being stiff, but will probably stay until after the Battle. He is a fine fellow.
We heard day before yesterday of the mortally wounding of Billy DeWolf, a former member of our Company, but lately a Lieut. in Gibbon’s Battery in the Regular Army. He was a splendid little fellow, and a universal favorite. Het used to see him on the skating pond winter before last. He was wounded before Yorktown. McClellan telegraphed to his mother in Chicago of the fact. He and Gen Burnside procured the commission for Billy. They were friends of the family.
We have just drove in the secesh pickets on the lines of our division, killing one and taking five prisoners. I heard that Lt. Vore is with his Reg’t again. The 11th is not in our Division, but if I can get to see them, I will inquire about George’s matters. They are some two or three miles in our rear at present.
I received your letters two or three days since. I suppose Rev. Warner sent the undershirts. Thank him, and tell him I will write when I have time. Write often, Love to the children and everybody.
In the Field before Corinth
May 18, 1862
My dear sisters,
I wrote you two or three days since, but as we hear that our letters go no farther than Pittsburg Landing at present, being detained by military authority, and as I have a chance to send by private hand to be mailed at Cairo, I will write a word.
We made an advance yesterday (i.e. our Division Sherman’s) and had a lively skirmish, losing some 13 killed and 40 wounded. The secesh lost to a greater extend. We drove them and occupy the ground for which we fought. Our Company lost no men, killed or wounded. We are not within less than three miles of Corinth. I may be mistaken, but I think from appearances that it is Halleck’s plan to let them evacuate, which under the circumstances, would be to them nearly as disastrous as a defeat. The question is will they evacuate? I do not believe a battle imminent for several days, unless they attack us.
I am not well at all. I have a sort of a bilious diarrhea which hangs to me very persistently, accompanied by nausea, but I do not give up to it, and keep about as usual. After Corinth is taken, I am going to try and cure myself up. Love to everyone.
Your Aff. Brother,
In the field, Two and a Half Miles
from Corinth, Mississippi
May 27, 1862
My dear sisters,
I have received several letters from you very lately, but as I invariably burn all my letters up after reading them, I can’t acknowledge them by that dates. The last I received was one yesterday of the 18th from Hattie, in which she complains of not receiving any letters from me. I write and have written as often as once a week, and if you don’t get my letters, you must charge the damage to Uncle Sam’s P.C. arrangements, or to Gen. Halleck’s detention of letters from this seat of war. When I can, which seldom, I write by private conveyance to Cairo. “The boys” or whoever told you about my sickness have exaggerated things very much. I have been troubled for a month with a bilious diarrhea, but not so badly as to be incapacitated for duty, or to lose a day. I have been with the Company all the time, and not as sick at any time as to have to lie down. You mustn’t believe all the stories you hear from our boys about the sickness in camp. Being absent from the Company, it is evidently for their interest to make it appear that the army is a most unhealthy institution. When I get right sick, I will come home if I can, and if I couldn’t get the consent of these inhuman, red-tape Surgeons of our army, I would do the next best thing and go anyway. They might call it desertion, or what they pleased. Because a man has enlisted to serve his country, it is no reason he should be treated like a dog by these one-horse country doctors, who, once they mount shoulder straps, think they are very near Almighty! I speak more particularly of Henry Dudley’s case. He has been very sick for two weeks or more with typhoid-fever, and although his fever has left him, he is very much prostrated, and needs great care and attention, but although all possible efforts have been made to have him removed to the Landing and then home. We have as yet been unsuccessful, and am afraid will not be. He lays in a tent here; the skirmishing of our pickets and these of the enemy, only half a mile distant, keeps him of course in a constant state of excitement, and he is rather low-spirited. I think he will recover without doubt, but many a man of less strong constitution would have gone under before this.
John Easson is right alongside of us, and we are buying of him some luxuries for Henry, which we hope will build him up, which is now what he needs. John gave me the handkerchiefs and stockings. Thank you. They are just what I wanted. He is doing a splendid business, sales $800 to $1000 a day, and all for cash, and such profits! Ask him when he gets back. He has good goods, and is very reasonable as sutler’s prices go. The risk is great, and I don’t blame him for making large profits. He has been very accommodating and liberal to us Battery boys. Jimmy is helping him in his business for a few days.
I hope Billy Blackie will get well. He is a good hearted boy, and I am glad you have done so much for him.
We are in a constant state of suspense, and are in good readiness for a battle at any time. Our horses have not had their harnesses off day or night (except once a day for cleaning) for eight days. We are behind fine earthworks, and can give Mr. Beauregard all he wants, if he will come to us. Our Division (W.T.Sherman’s) is on the right, and in the advance, where the attack, if made, will probably be first, to try to outflank us. We have been in line of battle since three o’clock this morning (it is now noon) expecting an attack every moment.
I go out often to the picket lines to see the shooting between ours and the secesh pickets. One can get behind a big tree and see the fun in a comparative safety, although the bullets whistle sometimes uncomfortably close to one’s ears. We have one or two of our pickets killed or wounded almost every day. Our lines (picket) are only about 300 yards apart, across an open field.
Last night, the secesh were doing a heap of railroad business in Corinth. We could hear very plainly the whistle of engines and the rumbling of trains all night. I presume this led to the idea that we were to be attacked this morning, our Generals supposing that the secesh were bringing up troops to our right for the purpose of flanking us. I can’t say, but I don’t believe Halleck intends attacking them at present. Short rations and sickness will do the business for them as surely as bullets.
I had a letter from Frank a few days since. He said nothing in it about changing his name. If they do try that game, they will slip up on it, I reckon.
Mr. Pearson was up to see us this morning. He and Matt have been sick at Kinmunday, but are both better. His Reg’t is about four miles in the rear and form part of the reserve. It is strange they can’t ever leave as in the reserve, but must put us always in the advance. This “spoiling” for a fight is about played out, and I don’t crave one a bit, although I had rather fight and be done with it, than to be in constant suspense, called up two or three times a night, etc., etc.
Our boys are returning from Chicago slowly, some of them, I reckon, waiting for this battle to be fought. Tom Boyd is at the Landing, but has not been up to camp, yet. He sent my letter from Het up by John Easson. Tom is a queer duck, but a good-hearted and generous soul. His manner belies him. Chase is still here, land will stay probably until after the battle, it if is not postponed too long. He is not capable for duty, but will render what assistance he can in taking care of the wounded. Our boys that may be hurt will have better care after the coming battle than has been the case previously. But dinner is ready and I must close. Remember me to Jinnie Hea and all friends.
Your Aff. Brother,
P.S. We are luxuriating on John Easson’s ale, butter, etc.
In Camp Near Chewalla, Tenn.
June 9, 1862
My dear sisters,
I have just received your two letters by Billy Hea, who arrived this morning after a three days trip from Pittsburg Landing, mostly on foot. He looks well and hearty.
I can write but a word, as we are under marching orders to move at a moment’s notice, and I may be interrupted any minute. We are going to grand Junction, Tenn., and it is the prevalent idea that from there we march to Memphis. The expedition is composed of our (Sherman’s) and Hulbert’s Divisions. McClernand has gone to Bolivar, Tenn., and Wallace to Purdy, Tenn., and Pope and Buell are after the secesh somewhere.
Our Division has a right smart little fight the other day, before occupying Corinth. Secesh charged on us, but a few canister shot sent them back. Their shot flew around us sharp for about a half an hour. We were skirmishing and doing picket-duty most of the day. Isn’t that something new, artillery standing picket-guard? We have done lots of it lately.
Well, Corinth is disposed of, and I think Halleck has shown himself a General in the manner he has done it. The rebel works were strong, and thousands of lives must have been lost if he had rushed pell-mell onto them, a-la-Tribune. It is very easy for Dea. Bross to sit in his easy chair and abuse Halleck (who has the confidence the entire army) but let him come down here and shoulder a musket, and march through felled timber up the hills that surround Corinth in the face of fire of musketry and artillery, and I reckon he’ll sing another song. I believe Beauregard. Evacuation (through demoralization) will injure their army more than a hard fought battle. I have seen lots of deserters, and they are disgusted with these continual retreats and evacuations.
Halleck’s order to Sherman for marching say, “an attempt to turn the rear of the enemy at Guntown yesterday disclosed the fact that the most of their army has retreated southward.” Some think we shall go south into Mississippi. We shall see.
At present we are ten miles west of Corinth, and about thirty from Pittsburg Landing on the line of the Memphis and Charleston R.R. The newspapers not withstanding, (I see some of them say Pope and Buell occupied Corinth first) four companies of Dickey’s 4th Illinois Cavalry, and Taylor’s Battery were the first of our troops who passed through the town of Corinth, and we went through flying. I tell you, we were on the dead run from the time we left our breastworks until we pulled up five miles beyond Corinth, where we remained all day.
I have been pretty busy of late, between riding backwards and forwards to our old camp on business of the Company, and doing my writing. I am much better than when I last wrote you. My diarrhea is entirely stopped and I feel first-rate, and have a good appetite.
I do not think we shall have any more fights at present, indeed. I shouldn’t be surprised if after Richmond is settled, there was not another pitched battle of any size during the war. The western rebel army is about played out, and I think Halleck will finish up the job for them without any very hard fighting.
Capt. Barrett told me a week or two ago to get onto the Memphis and go down the river if I wanted to, but I don’t want to leave the Company until the war is over. If my health is good, that is all I ask. If by some good luck, our Division should summer in Memphis, I could probably get a furlough for 10 days or two weeks. But I don’t look for any such good fortune, for they have always kept us in the advance and I suppose will continue to do so. I would like to see you. Dick Roberts, one of our Lieuts. He is going to Chicago on recruiting service one of these days, and I will tell him to go and see you. I would like to see you, Sade, in your new house, and hope to before many months.
Your aff. Brother,
In the Field, Moscow, Tenn.
July 3, 1862
My dear sisters,
I shall write but a word, for my fingers are so stiff with rheumatism that I can hardly hold a pencil. I forgot where I wrote you last from, but at any rate, we started from Chevalla, came to La Grange, Tenn., where we remained several days. La Grange is a beautiful place, containing many fine residences, but the people are strongly secesh. From that place, our Brigade, Col. Morgan Smith’s, took a trip down to Holly Springs, Miss., for the purpose of obstructing the Mississippi Central R.R. below Holly Springs, which we accomplished. Holly Springs is another pretty place, but unfortunately given over to secession. We receive no greetings from the white people of the towns in these parts. The niggers, of whom there is any quantity, are as usual, noisy and demonstrative. We returned to La Grange without meeting anything strange, and the Division soon after took up its line of March for La Fayette, Tenn., 31 miles from Memphis. We stayed there a few days, and for some reason, I can’t see what made a forced march back here to Moscow, on one of the hottest days of the season, killing several, and using up many from sunstroke. You have no idea how the sun pours down its rays in this latitude. Three days ago, our Division left here its destination…