Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Note: This letter—a document written in 1862—includes terms and topics that may be offensive to many today.  No attempt will be made to censor or edit 19th century material to today’s standards.

On Steamer Henry Clay, off New Madrid, Mo.,

April 16, 1862.

I finished my last in a great hurry, helped strike and load our tents and equipage and started for the levee, confident that we would be off for Memphis, Orleans and intermediate landings, before the world would gain 12 hours at farthest in age. That day over 30 steamers arrived, received their loads of soldiers and departed, all down stream, preceded by six or eight gunboats and 16 mortarboats. Word came at nightfall that there were not enough boats for all and the cavalry would have to wait the morrow and more transports. We lay on the river banks that night, and the next day all the cavalry got off except our brigade of two regiments. Another night on the banks without tents, managed to get transportation for for two battalions, one from each regiment. They started down yesterday at about 10 a.m. and more boats coming we loaded two more battalions, but at 9 p.m. a dispatch boat came up with orders for us to stop loading and await further orders. The same boat turned back all the cavalry of our brigade that had started and landed them at Tiptonsville; we are at 6 this p.m. lying around loose on the bank here awaiting orders. That boat brought up word that our fleet was at Fort Pillow, and the Rebels were going to make a stand there, but that nothing had occurred when she left but some gunboats skirmishing. What the devil we are going to do is more than three men like me can guess. It’s awful confounded dull here. Nothing even half interesting. Saw a cuss, trying to drown himself yesterday, and saw a fellow’s leg taken off last night. These are better than no show at all, but still there’s not much fun about either case. I’m bored considerably by some of my Canton friends wanting me to help them get their niggers out of camp. Now, I don’t care a damn for the darkies, and know that they are better off with their masters 50 times over than with us, but of course you know I couldn’t help to send a runaway nigger back. I’m blamed if I could. I honestly believe that this army has taken 500 niggers away with them. Many men have lost from 15 to 30 each. The owners were pretty well contented while the army stayed here, for all the generals assured them that when we left the negroes would not be allowed to go with us, and they could easily get them back; but they have found out that was a “gull” and they are some bitter on us now. There will be two Indiana regiments left here to guard the country from Island 10 to Tiptonsville, and if you don’t hear of some fun from this quarter after the army all leaves but them, I’m mistaken. They’ll have their hands full if not fuller. We have not been paid yet but probably will be this week. I tell you I can spend money faster here than anywhere I ever was in my life, but of course I don’t do it. Am trying to save up for rainy weather, and the time, if it should come, when I’ll have only one leg to go on or one arm to work with. That Pittseburg battle was one awful affair, but it don’t hurt us any. Grant will whip them the next time completely. Poor John Wallace is gone. He was a much better boy than he had credit for being. We all liked him in the old mess very much. Ike Simonson, of same company, I notice was wounded. He was also in my mess; was from Farmington. There are no rumors in camp to-day. Yesterday it was reported and believed that the Monitor had sunk the Merrimac, that Yorktown was taken, and that another big fight had taken place at Corinth and we held the town. That was very bully but it lacks confirmation. Think it will for sometime yet, but Pope says we’ll come out all right through all three of those trials. It’s just what’s wanted to nip this rebellion up root and all. That’s a rather dubious victory up to date, that Pittsburg affair, but guess it’s all right.

APRIL 16TH—Troops are being concentrated rapidly in Virginia by Gen. Lee.

Wednesday, 16th—No news of importance. [1]

[1] There was much discussion among the men over the great battle we had just been through, the battle of Shiloh. The question why the Confederates lost the battle, I should answer as follows: First, they were four hours late in making the general attack on that Sunday morning. The Confederate generals, instead of sending some of their staff officers before daylight to spy out and report to the commanding general what they had seen (according to a report of H. C. Lockett of General Bragg’s staff), should have had their first line of battle at the Union picket line by that time, and then charging our pickets and coming in upon the first camps, they could have captured them before they could have dressed; then pushing on to the other commands, they could have put them to rout before they could have formed a line of battle. But their being so late In making the first attack gave our commanders time to form Into line. As it was, whenever the Confederates advanced our forces were in shape to fire volleys into them and easily throw them into confusion, thus making their advance slower and more irregular during the day.

In the second place, the Confederates starting four hours late in the morning made them more than six hours late in the afternoon, so in place of being ready to make their last charge of the day at 1 o’clock they did not make It until almost 7 o’clock In the evening. By that time it was too late, since the Union generals had formed a strong line of artillery, supported by all the infantry, who stood loyally by their colors. Then, just before the final charge, one brigade of Buell’s army had already arrived and formed in line, and the day was forever lost to the Confederates.—A. G. D.

April 16. Wednesday. — AM. Sun shining brightly. I have hopes of weather now that will allow us to move forward. A fine day at last! Major Comly drilled the non-commissioned officers as a company, A. M. and P. M. I drilled the regiment after parade. In the evening the new sutler, Mr. Forbes, brought me [a] letter from Lucy and portrait. Dear wife, the “counterfeit presentment” is something. Also papers of 12th. The victory at Pittsburg [Landing] was not so decisive as I hoped. The enemy still holds Corinth, and will perhaps fight another battle before giving it up.

Captain Bragg came in tonight, reporting a gang of bushwhackers in his neighborhood. Would send out a company if I were not afraid that orders to move would catch me unprepared.

April 16th. The remainder of the vessels, including the Hartford, followed up the river, and anchored at the head of the fleet.

April 16th.

Among the many who visited us, in the beginning of 1861, there was Mr. Bradford. I took a dislike to him the first time I ever saw him, and, being accustomed to say just what I pleased to all the other gentlemen, tried it with him. It was at dinner, and for a long while I had the advantage, and though father would sometimes look grave, Gibbes, and all at my end of the table, would scream with laughter. At last Mr. Bradford commenced to retaliate, and my dislike changed into respect for a man who could make an excellent repartee with perfect good-breeding; and after dinner, when the others took their leave, and he asked permission to remain, — during his visit, which lasted until ten o’clock, he had gone over such a variety of subjects, conversing so well upon all, that Miriam and I were so interested that we forgot to have the gas lit!

16th. Morning rainy. Issued ten days’ rations. Major said that the boys of the non-commissioned staff could not go on expedition for lack of transportation. We were already packed up, tent down for the march. Finally to our joy another team came and we loaded, saddled and started. The sky cleared and the ground was nice for marching. After marching 6 or 7 miles we halted for the horses to graze. The grass has started considerably. Encamped on the Drywood Creek, east branch, at sundown. Baggage train being mired on the road, the men bivouacked without tents, without suppers, the distant thunder threatening rain. Our team came, no rain.

April 16.—Mrs. Miller, Mrs. Ogden, and nearly all the ladies from Mobile left for Columbus, Miss. I remained, with Mrs. Glassburn, from Natchez. My brother is here, and I have become so much interested in some of the wounded that I could not leave them. Mrs. Ogden was completely worn out; and it is not much to be wondered at, as she, with the rest of us, has had to sleep in any and every place; and as to making our toilet, that was out of the question. I have not undressed since I came here.

This morning, while the ladies were preparing to leave, as their goods and chattels were all mislaid, much noise prevailed in finding them. I was annoyed, as I knew that many of the wounded were within hearing. I thought that it was not strange that surgeons should prefer to have Sisters of Charity to nurse their sick, for they know how to keep quiet. To add to the noise there were a number of washerwomen who had come from New Orleans. A doctor, who I was informed was Dr. Foard, the medical director, was assigning them to the different places in the hospitals. If Pope had been there, I think that he could have made a few additions to his “Ode to Silence.”

I dislike very much to see some of the ladies go, as they have been very kind to the sufferers, and I know that they will miss them very much. They go to Columbus, Miss., where are a great many of the wounded. I daily witness the same sad scenes—men dying all around me. I do not know who they are, nor have I time to learn.

I6th.—Left camp at 8 this A. M., Gen. Brooks’ Brigade having the advance, with Gen. Hancock’s at a respectful distance in the rear. Then came the third, under General Davidson, and so on. Marched one and a half miles, and halted in line of battle. At the same time, 10 A. M., our artillery (Mott’s Battery) opened fire about a mile in advance of us. This is the first time we have had a near prospect of a general battle, and the effect on the bearing and conduct of our men surprised me. Were they burning with impatience to join their friends in the fight? In trepidation lest the danger approach nearer? Weeping to think how many of us before night must bite the dust? Rejoicing that this fight may terminate the war, and with it our privations, hardships, toils and dangers? Weeping over the fate of friends now falling in the fight? Not a bit of these. For myself, so soon as the firing commenced I rode up to Major ______, and we exchanged an expression of our wishes in case of serious accident to either of us. That arranged, he remarked, “Well, Surgeon, should you be killed it will be only for an hour or two. You will then wake up, (the Major is a Spiritualist) rub your eyes, look around you for the boys, but soon realize your new position.” We parted. I rode along the line of Hancock’s Brigade to see the effect on them. I first came on a group of men talking “horse talk,” and playing with their horses. Whilst I was listening, General H______ rode up, gave some general direction about ambulances, and casually remarked that Mott was having a hard time. I asked, What? He replied laughingly, that his “big French artillerist” had been killed, and that he had several others badly wounded. This Frenchman is said to be the best artillery officer in the service, and thus is his death announced to those for whom he has fought and died. Who knows how many ties of home, of country, of family, he has severed in our cause? I felt hurt, made no reply, but passed on to the 49th Penn. Regiment. Their band were lounging on their drums and horns as listless as personifications of ennui. Along the regimental line were quartettes interestedly engaged in the melancholy occupation of “old sledge.” At the other end of the line the staff officers, including the Chaplain, were lounging around, and seemed to be digging into their brains for something to think about. The Sixth Maine exhibited about the same degree of interest; whilst the 43d New York were amusing their Irish fancies by counting the reports, and now and then exclaiming, “By Jabers, but that shot tould some of your last stories,” and other similar remarks, showing that they had not become quite as much hardened as those around them. Rode back to the head of the line to see if the Brigade Staff realized any more fully the importance of our situation. I, of course, expected to find in Gen. H______ about two hundred and fifty pounds of animated and dignified humanity, surrounded by his staff of well dressed, well mounted officers, dashing from point to point on the field, holding everybody and everything in readiness for the conflict. What an illusion! I found the General stretched upon the dried grass, his elbow on the ground, his head in his hand—that laugh! Why the General nodded so low that a stub of old grass has run into his nose, set it a bleeding, and he sprang up with such an oath as none but he could utter. The scene was so ridiculous that even the common soldiers could not restrain a “guffaw.” Major L_____, a few feet beyond, lies on his stomach so fast asleep as not to be disturbed by the loud guffaw of the soldiers. To such a state of hardened carelessness have we been brought by a few months of constantly disappointed expectations.

In the afternoon moved down into the open field where the artillery fight was going on. Brooks’ Vermont Brigade engaged the enemy, keeping up a sharp fire across the creek, (Warwick). The artillery firing became still more constant. Our sharpshooters picked off their gunners, our batteries dismounted several of their guns, and three Vermont companies dashed across the creek in the face of the enemy’s infantry fire, drove a body of them from their rifle-pits, but were compelled to fall back (not being supported), leaving about twenty of their number dead on the field. We have no better fighting men than this Vermont Brigade, composed of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Regiments. For the small number engaged this has been one of the most fiercely contested battles of the war. The engagements of artillery and musketry have been terrific.

10 o’clock, P. M.—The warring of the passions, the physical straggles and strifes of the day, are hushed in darkness. Oh, to how many, hushed forever! In the last half hour the firing has ceased. I have walked the round of my regiment, lying on their arms in the open field, to see if any were sick after the fatigues of the day; and having retired into the deep woods alone, and ate a little cold supper, now sit on a litter, bloody, dyed with the blood of the dead, whom it has been all day carrying, (my lantern between my knees) to make this note of the sad occurrences of the day. We attacked the enemy, and have been repulsed.

I have not had time to finish my article, commenced weeks ago, which was to write down the U. S. Sanitary Commission, and I am glad of it, for here again we have been made to feel that the Commission is a power for good. Whilst the officials have been wrangling over the question as to how the hospital stores of the army got lost in the move from the Potomac to the Peninsula, and whilst the soldiers have been suffering for want of them, this Commission has been actively devising means to supply the much needed articles, and, behold! right in the midst of the battle to-day, whilst Generals were inquiring of Surgeons : “Have you the necessary comforts for the wounded?” and whilst Surgeons were anxiously enquiring what they were to do in the absence of them, this Commission drops down amongst us—from some where—their wagons are unloaded, and the wounded made comfortable. That “writing down” article will not spoil by a little more keeping.

Fort Barnard, Va., April 16, 1862.

Dear Mother:

Have just finished signing the pay-rolls; expect to get paid off to-morrow, but not certain.

I am very tired, but the captain says I must write ten lines.

I assure you, mother, I have not tasted anything which I have said I would not touch. No man can induce me to take whiskey, brandy, or gin, or anything of the kind. The captain had a present of some native wine which I have taken, but nothing stronger.

They have got a temperance society; but my word, if I give it, I will stick by.

To see so much drunkeness in camp is enough to make one despise the stuff even as medicine.

No news of importance from this quarter of the globe.

Yours truly,

Leverett Bradley, Jr.