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1864 December 18: “We have made something of a march,—300 miles—and made a big hole in the Confederacy”

December 18, 2014

Edwin Levings, with Company A of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry, describes Sherman’s March to the Sea.  The campaign was designed by Union Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman to be similar to Grant’s innovative and successful Vicksburg Campaign and Sherman’s Meridian Campaign.  Sherman’s armies reduced their need for traditional supply lines by “living off the land” after consuming the rations they brought with them.  Foragers provided food seized from local farms for the Army while they destroyed the railroads and the manufacturing and agricultural infrastructure of Georgia.

The original letter is in the Edwin D. Papers (River Falls Mss BO), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Before Savannah, Ga. —
Dec 18th 1864.

Ever Dear Parents;

                                    At last I can write to you, and as usual, of our continued welfare; and this is the best news I have for you.  Thanks to the Kind Providence that has guarded our steps.

Now my snow-white sheet, companion in my toils for many a weary mile, be the bearer of glad tidings to far-off friends, and may your Journey be as prosperous, and your welcome as merry, as fortune and friendship can make them.

Yes !  to tell you of our health & safety is a pleasure for your anxiety to hear from us must be great, and your pleasure will be enhanced when I come to relate where we have been, and what we have seen and done.

But before proceeding to my narration I will acknowledge the receipt by yesterday’s mail — the first since our arrival here — of 4 letters from you postmarked respectively Nov. 1, 7, 11, 21st and I need not tell you we were most happy to peruse them.

As you are aware, we have made something of a march,—300 miles—and made a big hole in the Confederacy.  Will not the North rejoice when it realizes the effect of this great movement ?  It can not do it now, for no more terrible blow has been dealt the South than that what has just been given it in Ga.

I have not time to make any thing but a simple statement or outline of the trip, but will ere long give you a minute sketch of what I saw, and of what was done.

Now get a good war map if you can and follow me. — We left the Gate City in flames on the 15 ult. & arrived before Savannah on the 10th inst. all right.  The army, — 4 Corps, 14th, 18th, 17th & 20th — marched in two columns.  The 17th struck the R. R. at Gordon, between Macon & Milledgeville, & 170 miles from Savannah.  The towns we passed through after leaving Atlanta are McDonough, Jackson, Monticello, Hillsboro, Gordon, McIntyre, Toomsboro, Oconee, Tenille [sic], Burton, Herndon, in fact nearly all the stations on the R.R. between Gordon & Savannah.  The 17th Corp[s] had the R.R. all the way & did most of the work of destruction on it.  We burned nearly all the stations & tore up & burned the track all the way to Savannah.  The road can never be rebuilt during the war.  The destruction was immense.

I have said nothing of what the other Corps did.  The 15th, on our right made a feint on Macon.  The 14th & 20 went to Milledgeville.  Kilpatrick [Judson Kilpatrick] & his Cav. made a feint movement on Augusta whipping old Wheeter [Joseph Wheeler] hansomely [sic].  We lived off the country almost entirely.  We had only 12 days rations hardtack issued to us while on the way & full rations.  We took every thing we could lay our hands upon, & I will say never since I have been a soldier did we fare better, lived like princes in the eating line, flour meal, rice, fresh port, chickens, grese [sic], turkeys, honey, fresh beef, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, turnips, sugar & molasses being plenty.  But we took all & there is not enough left along the line of our march to save the people from starvation.  They must go elsewhere or suffer with hunger.  [paragraph break added]

We crossed the Ocmulgee River on pontoons, the Oconee River 6 miles below the R.R. bridge, & the Ogeechee River at Burton.  Marched from 5 to 20 miles a day — lay over one day.  The country all fine, though of poor soil, is one of the most fertile in the South, & many a wealthy old rebel have we ruined, taking every thing !  [T]housands of negroes came with us & are now being turned to valuable account. We came up before Savannah, took a position, but owing to the almost impassible swamps moved around near the Gulf R.R. leading South.  We are there now, about 7 miles from Savannah, & 6 from the R.R. bridge on the Ogeechee River.  When we came here no communications were open.  Fort McAllister, on the Ogeechee & 9 miles below the bridge had to be taken.  It was taken by a portion of the 4 Div. 17 Corps & some of the 15th Corps in less than 20 minutes.  Gunboats attracted attention & there the Infy. charged capturing the entire garrison & armaments.  Our cracker line is now open.

No rations drawn yet, but will be in a day or two.  We have eaten up every thing around here.  Our food now is Rice, of which there are thousands bushels in the country, & coffee & beef, nothing else, save now and then a potato or little meat.  [paragraph break added]

Dale¹ came through with Kilpatrick’s Cavalry.  He came down to Atlanta just before we left with 4 or 500 dollars worth gold pens — sold them all in one day, got cut off & had to come through with.  He is with us now — a wild trick of his, you see.  [paragraph break added]

We are on the South side of the city 7 miles distant, rebels are opposite entrenched on the other side of a big rice field covered with 4 or 5 ft. water.  No fighting, nothing but picket firing & artillery duels.  Are waiting the arrival of supplies of all kinds for a siege.  Best authority places the rebels at 15,000.  Many citizens with all their goods are inside & can not get out.  They are completely hemmed in on all sides.  Pardon such a letter, I have no business to send such a letter but the mail goes out soon & I know you would be glad to get even a scratch of my pen.  Are both well.  Will both write fully next time.  So Good by[e].  Yours affectionately, Edwin D. Levings.  Write via N. Y. Army of the Georgia.

Were paid off at Atlanta, & have got $360 to send you, which we will do as soon as an express office opens.

1.  Wilber P. Dale, from River Falls. He had mustered out of the 12th Wisconsin on October 28, 1864, when his term expired.

Edwin Levings letter of December 18, 1864, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Edwin Levings letter of December 18, 1864, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls


1864 December 17: St. Albans Raid and Other News of the Week

December 17, 2014

Following is the weekly summary of war news from The Polk County Press of December 17, 1864, with a very few items of news from The Prescott Journal of the same date.

Union General William T. Sherman will not capture Savannah, Georgia, until December 21.

Both newspapers mention the St. Albans Raid, which was the northernmost land action of the Civil War.  It was a controversial raid from Canada by Confederate soldiers meant to rob banks in retaliation for the Union Army burning Southern cities and to force the Union Army to divert troops to defend their northern border.  It took place in St. Albans, Vermont, on October 19, 1864.

The Battle of Nashville took place on December 15 and 15, 1864, which explains why this week’s newspapers don’t really know anything yet, just that Union General George H. Thomas and Confederate General John Bell Hood were in place.

From The Prescott Journal:

The News.

—The report is that SHERMAN has captured Savanah [sic], after a sharp battle, and taken the whole rebel force prisoners.

—The St. Albans raiders have been released by the Canada authority for want of jurisdiction.  Much indignation is felt at this act, especially by the frontier States.  Gen. DIX has issued an order to the military to go into Canada, if necessary, to capture such marauders, wherever found, and hold them.  [John A. Dix]

—There is nothing of importance from THOMAS and HOOD.

From The Polk County Press:

News Summary.

—The Canadian authorities having discharged the St. Albans’ Raiders, Gen. Dix has ordered the military in future to pursue such marauders into Canada.

— Mr. Washbarne M. C., who returned lately from Grant[‘]s Headquarters states, that Grant is confident of the whole situation, and that the late movement by Warren was a perfect success, resulting in great damage to the Weldon R. R., and the ruin of the new crossing from the Weldon to the Danville R. R.  [Ulysses S. Grant, Gouverneur K. Warren]

— There is nothing later from Nashville.  At last accounts, the armies of Hood and Thomas were confronting each other at that place, but there has been no fighting since the battle near Franklin.

— Gold has been falling a little for a few days, and is quoted at 234.

— The “Times” Washington special says Rosecrans has been relieved of his command, and also Gen. Steele.  [William S. Rosecrans, Frederick Steele]

— The rebel papers are denouncing the secret sessions of their Congress. The Charleston “Murcury” [sic] says it is high time that the people and the press should “lift a voice of earnest condemnation of this new system of smothering public opinion” which it adds “even the Yankees do not practice.”  The same paper in speaking of JEFF DAVIS sanction of emancipation by putting in slaves in the public service, to be subsequently freed cries out :  “Whither have fled the ‘constitutional scruples’ once so characteristic of our chief magistrate ?”  [Jefferson Davis]

The “Mercury” is nearly as unhappy as it used to be under the Government of the Union.

— The London papers of November 18 announce the arrival of Gen. Tom Thumb and family in that city.  They are holding daily “levees” in a hotel near St. James’ Palace.  The “Star” says :  “The baby is a pretty little girl with light silken hair and a vivacious disposition.  She will be a year old next month ;  and it may interest our readers to know that she weighs precisely seven pounds and three-quarters.”

— Governor Vance, in his recent message to the North Carolina Legislature, confirms the reports that the laws cannot be enforced in that State, owing to the existence of a band of desperadoes, consisting of rebel deserters.  They make raids upon the mountain frontier, and murder, rob and destroy with savage cruelty.  [Zebulon B. Vance]

1864 December 10: Prescott Ladies’ Soldiers Aid Society, Rebel Spies, News from Shenandoah Valley, Military Fashions, and Other News

December 16, 2014

Following are the smaller items from the December 10, 1864, issues of The Polk County Press and The Prescott Journal. From The Polk County Press:

— Magnus Peterson, Co. C 7th Minn., died recently at St. Louis.—He was a resident of Chisago Co., Minnesota.

— Governor Vance, in his recent message to the North Carolina Legislature, confirms the reports that the laws cannot be enforced in that State, owing to the existence of a band of desperadoes, consisting of rebel deserters.  They make raids upon the mountain frontier, and murder, rob and destroy with savage cruelty.

From The Prescott Journal:

– Rev. C. C. BICKNELL, Gen. Agent of the Northwest ern [sic] Freedmen’s Aid Commission, will address the citizens of this place on Sunday evening, on the subject of the Commission.

Finger002  Joseph Copp, who was feared to have died in rebel hands, has been exchanged, nearly dead with starvation and exposure.  He will return home as soon as his strength will allow.

Finger002  Lt. C. C. Higbee is commissioned Capt. of Co. B 12th regiment.  Good for Chester.

Finger002  The Ladies’ Soldiers Aid Society here is doing a good work.  Besides sending off several well filled boxes, they have this week remitted about $40 to the Christian Commission.

Judge Bates [Edward Bates] has engaged Ex-Attorney General Coffee to manage the government cases before the next term of the Supreme Court.

SPIES IN REBELDOM.—The Richmond Enquirer has a long article, of which the following is an extract, on the rebel spy system :—“It is well known to persons who have at all directed their attention to the matter that this city, and indeed the whole South, has been for a long time infested with Yankee spies.  They are known to have regular lines of communication which leave Richmond nightly, and evening papers reach Grant’s headquarters before three o’clock the next morning.  These parties have facilities for knowing a great deal, and they communicate everything to the enemy at the earliest moment.  These facts have been reported to the war department long since and from time to time, and yet no steps have been taken in the matter.  Our present system of detectives is absurd, and productive of more evil than good, and yet it is adhered to, while government is daily injured and spies abound, to the great detriment of the public service.”  [Ulysses S. Grant]

FROM THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY.—The Herald’s special with SHERIDAN says :  “The army has remained undisturbed since EARLY made his last half-way advance, and now it appears probably we have seen the last rebel army for this year.  Gen. SHERIDAN has appointed Maj. C. S. STEWART¹ his chief engineer.  He is a West Point officer, and graduated in 1826.—Gen. SHERIDAN has opened the railroad to within four miles of Winchester.  In case of interference by guerillas [sic], he has ordered the arrest of all male secessionists in the counties adjacent, and their confinement in Fort McHenry ;  the burning of all the hay, grain, and subsistence of every sort, and the removal of all the stock, belonging to such persons.  Brig. Gen. STEVENSON is charged with the execution of the order.”  [Jubal A. Early, Philip H. Sheridan]

“GREAT GUNS.”—A correspondent writing from the Army of the Potomac makes a remarkable statement.  He says :  “The use of some shells recently of extraordinary power has demonstrated the feasibility of reducing to ashes either Petersburg or Richmond.  Guns now on their way here will throw shells into Richmond from our batteries in front of the 18th Corps, a distance of seven miles.  With these guns in position, and projectiles prepared, our gunners can destroy Richmond in forty-eight hours.  A particular kind of shell has been prepared, and in this consists the main feature of the proposed plan.  The projectile was tested at New Haven, and a range of seven a half miles obtained.”

Finger002  The minimum standard height for recruits for the volunteer service has been fixed by the Secretary of War at five feet, instead of five feet three inches, as heretofore established.

THE REBEL PRISON IN SOUTH CAROLINA.—A correspondent of the Edgefield Advertiser says :  “Florence, the military prison, is 20 miles from Florence depot, which is about 100 miles from Columbia.  The stockade contains an area of 32 acres, and a building 180 feet long, inserted in the ground four feet, with a small ditch inside, and a large moat or ditch.  There are about 16,000 prisoners in the stockade.  About 1,000 have taken the oath of allegiance.  More contemplate doing so.  The greatest mortality per diem since the establishment of this stockade has been 55, and the smallest about 30.”

Finger002  The peace men of Delaware refused to participate in the service of Thanksgiving Day, because Governor CANNON, in his proclamation, instanced among the causes for thankfulness the freeing of the slaves of Maryland, and the prospects of a speedy declaration of universal freedom.

Finger002 Gen. COUCH [Darius N. Couch] has been relieved of the command of the department of the Sesquehannah, and ordered to report to General THOMAS [George H. Thomas].

MILITARY FASHIONS.—The young officers who manage, through political influence, to get themselves detailed on “special duty” hereabout, are becoming fearfully excited about their personal appearance.  At the beginning of the war, round head cropping was the martial fashion, and some heads used to look as though they had not only been closely clipped, but sand-papered, while the favorite hue of complexion ranged from a deep brown to a miscegenative yellow.  But now our sons of Mars affect the cavalier hats, with long curls, a Vandyke beard and moustasche, and a pale complexion.  The regulation uniforms are replaced by right shell-jackets, (which may account fer [sic] the sometimes tight appearance of the wearers,) with corduroy small clothes, high boots, silver spurs, and dainty riding whips.  As for the Zouave style, it has disappeared ;  and curiously enough, those who entered the service with the Zouave drill and dress on the brain, have nearly all fallen out of the ranks.  Probably the unearthly sounds which they uttered in place of good Auglo [sic] Saxon words of command, undermined their constitutions.  At any rate, we no longer hear “Or-r-r ar-r-r !” “Or-r-r ar-r-rl !” but “Shoulder arms” and “Order arms” in plain English.—Washington Cor. Boston Journal.

Maj. Gen. Q. A. Gilmore [sic: Quincy A. Gillmore] has left for New Orleans, where he will report to Gen. Canby [Edward Canby] for the purpose of inspecting the defences of various fortified posts in the Western Military Division.

The rebel admiral Buchanan is to be sent to New York and thence to Fort Warren, Boston harbor.  [Franklin Buchanan]

The Herald’s Washington special says :  Information has been received here of the formation of a peace party in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, for the re-admission of those States.

Information of seemingly reliable character is to the effect that Capt. Semmes [Raphael Semmes], of the pirate Alabama, arrived at Bagdad, Mexico, October 11th, en route to Richmond via Matamoras.

1.  Charles Seaforth Stewart (1823-1904) graduated from West Point in 1846, along with George B. McClellan, “Stonewall” Jackson, and George Pickett. During the Civil War, he was Chief Engineer of the defenses at Hampton Roads from September 1861 to November 1864. From November 1864 to June 1865, he was Chief Engineer of the Middle Military Division, which was responsible for operations around the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and the Valley Campaigns of 1864. For his Civil War service, he was brevetted to lieutenant colonel in the regular Army. Stewart reached the rank of colonel in June 1882, and retired.

1864 December 10: Conditions in Southern Prisons and Wisconsin Deaths in Andersonville

December 15, 2014

The following two articles on prisoners of war are from The Prescott Journal of December 10, 2014.

Contrasting Pictures—The Exchanged Prisoners

There is no better illustration of the spirit in which the present war is waged by the respective parties to it than is afforded by the treatment of prisoners on either side.

The rebel prisoners, men taken with arms in their hands, while engaged in a wicked and treasonable attePmpt to destroy a Government guilty of no act of oppression towards them, but on the contrary distinguished for its kindness and beneficence, are humanely cared for, protected from the inclemency of the weather and bountifully fed.  The Union prisoners, captured while defending their country and its flag, are on the other hand exposed to ever contumely, and treated with a severity such as in no civilized country is visited upon the vilest malefactors.  They are robbed of their money ;  stripped of their clothing ;  exposed, unsheltered in all seasons ;  kept upon the scantiest possibly pittance of food and that rendered as unpalatable as it is capable of being made ;  huddled together in the narrowest limits, as it for the express purpose of rendering their condition as horrible as possible ;  and, as if with a premeditated purpose, the combined agencies of famine, filth, and burning or freezing skies left to engender disease and death among them, while, if they attempt to escape from the cruelties of their loathsome and deadly confinement, they are hunted with blood-hounds like wild beasts.

The comparative condition of the two classes of prisoners as they were brought forward for exchange in Savannah recently, shows the results of the different methods of treatment.  The Savannah Republican of the 14th says that up to the previous evening about 2,000 rebel prisoners had been brought to that city, and adds :

“The prisoners, for the most part, look far better than we expected, after the hardships of their long confinement, and in many instances brutish treatment.  Many say they wish no furlough, but desire to be sent immediately to the front, where they will have an opportunity of getting even with their captors.”

The charges of “brutish treatment” and “hardships of confinement” are best answered by the condition of the prisoners, who are reported ready to proceed at once to the front and resume their places in the army of traitors.  No doubt their quarters and their food while prisoners were luxurious compared with the rebel army fare.

Now mark the contrast presented by the condition of the Union prisoners exchanged for these sturdy, well-fed, able-bodied rebels.  The correspondent of the New York Times who accompanied our fleet with the rebel prisoners, writing from Savannah describes the Union men received as follows :  “Men looking like living skeletons, almost naked, shoeless, hatless, and spiritless ;  men with no other garment than overcoats ;  men whose skins are blackened by dirt, and hang on protruding bones as loosely as bark on a tree ;  men whose very presence is simply disgusting, exhaling odor so fetid that it almost stops the breath of those unaccustomed to it.  Reports of rebel surgeons show that for the period of a month through which the reports extend, there is constant, monotonous complaint against the treatment to which the sick are subjected.  Men in the last stages of emaciation from chronic diarrhea received no nourishment and starved to death on coarse rations which the stomach of a strong man would reject.  Others, suffering gangrene and ulcers, were compelled to fester in putridity without even sufficient water to cleans[e] their loathsome sores.  Week after week the diseased and dying were kept without shelter, and many without clothing, on the bare ground, exposed to the torrid sun and rains at all times.”

The same correspondent speaking of the treatment of Union prisoners in Georgia says :  “For months they have been deprived of sufficient palatable food.  The little they received had been rarely cooked, because in a country abounding with field, their jailers forbade them adequate fires.  At the prison pen near Millen, Ga., for same weeks, there has been no meal or flour given to the prisoners, and sweet potatoes in lien thereof have been eaten raw.”

There doubtless sympathizers with the rebellion in the North who will attempt to extenuate the monstrous guilt of these barbarous acts of cruelty.  They will plead in behalf of the rebels their straitened condition and the lack of clothing and of food in the rebel army, and they will urge it is not to be expected, under such circumstances, that they can or will treat their prisoners as we treat ours.  To this plea there is one all-sufficient answer.  When people are destitute of the means of carrying on a war, it is time for them to cease fighting.  If the South cannot treat prisoners in accordance with the usages of civilized nations, they have no business with prisoners ;  they are no longer entitled to be regarded by any nation as belligerents ;  they forego their claim to be recognized as a civilized society ;  they can only be considered in the light of lawless and irresponsible savages, of banded pirates and murderers.  If they attempt to excuse their treatment of Union prisoners upon their inability to feed and shelter them in accordance with the rules of warfare between civilized nations, they confess that they have pushed their resistance to the just authority of the United States beyond the limits of the broadest construction of the right of revolution.—They acknowledge that they are brought to the point of exhaustion by the war, and if they persist in continuing it, under such circumstances, the United States will be justified in adopting any rules of retaliation, in the future conduct of the war, which would be proper in a contest with savages, with Sioux or Camanches [sic], to whose level the Southern leaders descend in their treatment of Union prisoners.

It may be true that the rebels are unable to provide proper food for their prisoners.—But it is not a deficiency of food alone that is complained of.  There are other circumstances of mere, cold-blooded, inexcusable, brutal savageness in their treatment of prisoners.  It is evident that a diabolical malignity, an inordinate and barbaric malevolence, a spirit of wanton cruelty such as fiends should blush to acknowledge, animates them.  If they lack food they do not lack room.—Their prisoners need not be crowded into a narrow camp like that at Andersonville.  They might be permitted to keep their quarters cleanly ;  they might be permitted to bury their dead decently ;  they might be permitted to erect for themselves a shelter against the weather ;  they might be permitted to cook their scanty rations in such a way as to render them as wholesome and palatable as possible ;  all these things might be permitted without incurring any additional or considerable hazard of their escape, but have been steadily refused, with no other apparent reason than the deliberate purpose to render their condition unendurable, to destroy their lives, and to break down those that survived so as to uufit [sic: unfit] them for further service as soldiers.

Deaths of Wisconsin Prisoners at Andersonville. 

The New York Times, whose correspondent accompanied the flag of truce for the exchange of prisoners at Savannah, prints a list of three thousand prisoners who have died in the charnel pen at Andersonville, Ga., between the 7th of June and the 18th of July.  Eleven thousand in all fell victims there to the horrible cruelty of the rebels.  From the list in the Times we select the following names of heroes from Wisconsin who suffered the most cruel martyrdom there, with the date of their death :

S. P. Waller, C, 21st, June 7th.
M. S. Hilton, L, 1st cav. June 12th.
Mulligan, B, 1st, June 13th.
Jacobson, D, 15th, June 15th.
B. Bimgardner, K, 26th, June 15th.
A. Rosch, F, 21st, June 16th.
H. Ball, A, 7th, June 16th.
J. K. Alwise, E, 24th, June 17th.
H. A. Bowman, F, 10th, June, 18th.
S. W. Turney, D, 21st, June 18th.
W. H. Fountain, A, 10th, June 21st.
J. S. Updell, B, 15th, June 22d.
E. Brooks, H, 1st cav. June 22d.
Serg’t. A. Church, 7th, June 23d.
James Hanson, K, 15th, June 23d.
F. Grash, I, 10th, June 24th.
L. Enger, K, 15th, June 24th.
B. F. Boomer, I 10th, June 25th.
C. Knudson, E, 15th, June 26th.
E. Damkoehler, I, 26th, June 26th.
A. Plum, K, 4th cav. June 26th.
J. Chapman, G, 2d, June 29th.
O. Broms, G, 15th, June 30th.
R. Steffens, F, 15th, July 3d.
E. McCormack, L, 1st cav. July 6th.
O. H. Vohast, L, 1st cav July 6th.
D. McKenzie, F, 1st, July 7th.¹
Peter Lack, A, 7th, July 7th.
J. Vetter, F, 6th, July 9th.
F. Serbet, C, 24th, July 9th.
D. D. Thompson, B, 36th, July 10th.
O. Oleson, B, 15th, July 11th.
John Dago, L, 1st cav. July 18th.
J. Brown, H, 4th cav. July 18th.
I. Jackson, B, 24th, July 14th.
S. Cummings, A, 21st, July 14th.
J. Tyler, A, 10th, July 16th.
Charles Went, B, 7th, July 16th.
J. Sherman, A, 24th, July 16th.
W. Shoop, G, 1st, July 18th.
B. Pickett, F, 1st, July 18th.²

1.  Duncan McKinzie, from Taylor’s Falls, had enlisted October 23, 1861.
2.  Thomas B. Pickett, from Saint Croix Falls, who had enlisted August 26, 1861.

1864 December 10: Thanksgiving with the 37th Wisconsin at Petersburg

December 14, 2014

A letter from Robert C. Eden, captain of Company B of the 37th Wisconsin Infantry, that appeared in the December 10, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.  Local soldier Samuel Harriman was colonel of the 37th.

Thanksgiving at Petersburg. 


PREBLE’S FARM, VA., Nov. 26, 1864.

FRIEND LUTE;—”I have piped unto you, but you have not danced;” I have written letters unto you, but received answers none.

We, the 37th, tarry yet among strangers in a strange land ;  we dwelleth in tents, even pup tents, after the manner of the Ishmaelites ;  though I guess their tents were of the Sibley pattern, for a pup tent would not  have held all the wives of those days, and in a Bibley tent you can crowd in as many people as you please, only taking the precaution to tie the door, to keep them from “slopping over.”

On the 25th day of the current month a commissary wagon appeared in camp, bearing sundry barrels, which being safely delivered—at our camp, in their turn bore turkeys, chickens, pickles, apples, tobacco, &c., (especially the the latter)—a Thanksgiving Dinner, furnished to the whole Army of the Potomac by kind friends in the Eastern and Middle states.

We sat round, as the Commissary Sergeant unpacked the barrels, with full hearts and empty stomachs, the North wind, or some other tender feeling, making the water run from our eyes, and the eatables fetching it from our mouths.

It was a solemn sight, and I fell to thinking. Those lordly turkeys strutted defiantly upon the rich farms of Pennsylvania ;  those chickens perhaps represented (sex being appropriate) the one little ewe lamb of some poor but generous soul, and tender hearts were wrung as fair hands twisted their necks ; those pickles were, may be, put up by the best and fairest of her sex among the valleys of Connecticut, and as she peeled the onions, and thought of the soldiers, peradventure she wept ; those apples were peeled and strung amid much hugging of buxom maidens, and frolic and —— kissing, no doubt prevailed at their preparations, and my feelings here overcoming me, and seeking our smallest drummer boy, I cursed him bitterly, and the child wept, and relieved me much.

At four P. M., our festal board groaned beneath the weight of delicacies as the shingle units which hold the hard tack boxes of which it was made dropped out on the floor, owing either to weight of the delicacies, or to the Assistant Surgeon’s insisting on sitting on it.

And we fell to and eat, and as we eat, we became filled heart and body ;  in heart with gratitude to t he kind friends who furnished the feast, and in body with the good things they sent.

And we sat down and eat, and as we eat the sun set, and all the land was darkened, and we retired to our bunks and sleep that banishes care fell on us, and we dreamed of our grandmothers.

On Thursday, I paid a visit to Gen. BRAGG [Edward S. Bragg] and the different Wis. regiments in his command.  I found many old familiar faces, and some, alas !  I missed.—This war, LUTE, severs many old ties ;  we see a friend one day in the full enjoyment of health and strength, careless and happy.  We return after a few days, and find that the dark shadow has fallen on him, and that he has passed away from us forever into the unknown land.  War ! cruel war !  Homesteads deserted, family circles broken up, wives widowed, children orphaned, and aching hearts everywhere, are its fruits.

But the country is worth this, and more too, and the offerings of one generation will, let us hope, procure years of happiness for those yet to come.  A grand future is yet before us, dim and indistinct in the far hereafter, but coming surely and certainly, with the blessing of Peace on a united people, and those inexhaustible resources which we now can hardly picture even in imagination, will become extended and developed.  The war has been a hard and bitter lesson, but America will come forth out of the struggle, purified by the fiery test, odd delusions swept away, old errors banished, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Minnesota to the Gulf, the sun will rise and set upon a people, happy, prosperous, free and united.

We may not live to see that day, but like an old lady with the rheumatism, I “feel it in my bones;”—there’s going to be a change in the weather.

The above is an “episoad [sic] ;” we will return to our muttons, if you please.

I found Gen. BRAGG and the whole Fifth Corps in the condition you would express in three words—“virtuous and happy.”  The Gen., sided by his aides, was superintending the roasting of a turkey in an oven constructed, secundum artem,¹ of clay and stones.  I at once perceived the etymology of the word aide-de-camp.  They aid Generals when they are about to move or de camp, baste the turkey while it is roasting, and, when not otherwise employed, run on errands during a fight.

After a while the turkey was pronounced fit to eat, and having analysed the contents of a black bottle and pronounced them commissary whiskey, we sat down and enjoyed an excellent dinner.  Towards evening I returned homewards, following the line of works up to our Corps, which is situated about 3 miles from the Fifth, on the extreme left of our position.  The night was extremely dark and the road very rough and broken, and “I have for my country fallen,” was my exclamation more than once before I reached our camp.

You will probably suggest that this letter has a good deal of turkey about it.  May be it has, but I can’t help it.  The whole army for the last three days has talked turkey and eat turkey ;  it now “walks turkey,” and shortly expects to gobble JEFF. DAVIS [Jefferson Davis].  So mote it be !

Col. HARRIMAN has left us on a twenty days furlough, business affairs imperatively demanding his presence at home.  I have been trying to find a pretext for a similar leave of absence, but having no business and no home, cannot do it.

But I have written about as much nonsense as you will care to print, or your subscribers to read, and as I do not believe in making the Press an engine of oppression, I will cease from inflicting.

Ever yours,          .R. C. E.

1.  A Latin phrase meaning “according to the art, or according to the accepted practice of a profession or trade.”

1864 December 10: A Sword for General Joseph Bailey

December 13, 2014

From the December 10, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.

A Sword for Gen. Bailey.

It will be remembered that last summer, during the unfortunate Red river campaign, the vessels of the Mississippi squadron were caught by the low water above the falls at Alexandria, and for a time it was feared they would be lost.

By the skill and energy of Col. BAILEY [Joseph Bailey], of the 4th Wisconsin—Acting Engineer of the 19th Army Corps—in planning and superintending the construction of a dam across the river, however, the vessels of the squadron were all released.  For this achievement, Admiral PORTER [David D. Porter] expressed the warmest thanks and praise in his official reports, and Col. BAILEY was breveted a Brigadier General and in that capacity rendered efficient service in the recent operations in Mobile bay.  Our correspondent with the Mississippi squadron wrote at the time that the officers of the Navy purposed uniting in some testimonial of their gratitude to Col. BAILEY for what he had done and appreciation of the man and his services.

This testimonial has taken the form of an elegant and costly sword, with a rich scabbard and belt, from the celebrated firm of TIFFANY & Co., New York. The scabbard of the sword bears the following inscription :

“Presented to Brevet Brigadier General Joseph Bailey, U. S. Volunteers, by Read Admiral David D. Porter, commanding Mississippi Squadron, as a mark of respect for his indomitable perseverance, energy and skill, in constructing a dam across Red river, enabling the gunboats under his command to float out in safety.”

The letter of Admiral PORTER, offering the sword, was dated at Georgetown, D. C., Sept. 18th, and expressed the warmest pleasure in thus acknowledging the service performed by Gen. BAILEY, and his readiness at all times to give due credit to the army for any service rendered the navy.

Gen. BAILEY’S reply, dated “Headquarters, District of West Florida, Barrancas, October 23d,” tenders his heartfelt thanks for the gift, modestly attributes much of the success on Red River to the good will with which Army and Navy joined hands to save the Mississippi Squadron ;  expresses his sense of the importance of the Army and Navy working in unison and good feeling ;  his desire to do all in his power to aid in crushing this rebellion ;  his high regard for the officers of the Mississippi Squrdron [sic], and his trust never to bring dishonor on the sword of which he is the recipient.

As circumstances prevented the personal presentation, and acceptance of the gift, Gen. BAILEY suggested that it should be sent to Gov. LEWIS [James T. Lewis], to await his orders.  It has arrived here, and may for the present be seen at the Executive office.  Its bestowal is a compliment of high value, and it affords pleasing evidence of the entente cordiale which should always exist between those who fight for the Union, whether on land or water.—State Journal.

1864 December 10: Wisconsin Proclamation to Correct the Enrollment Lists for the Draft

December 13, 2014

The following proclamation by Wisconsin Governor James T. Lewis about the enrollment lists related to the draft appeared in The Polk County Press of December 10, 1864.  The Proclamation also appeared in the December 24th and 31st, 1864, issues of The Prescott Journal.  (It was the only item in the December 31st issue, the rest of the two-page issue being advertisements and tax lists.)


By James T. Lewis, Governor.


WHEREAS, Under the recent call for troops, considerable complaint was made of the excessive enrollment of the State ;  and whereas, by special authority obtained from the War Department, the draft was temporarily postponed, in order that the enrollment lists might be properly revised and corrected ;  and whereas, the time allowed for this purpose was necessarily short and it was found impossible in the more distant parts of the State to accomplish the same prior to the day fixed for the draft ;  and whereas, authority is now given by the Provost Marshal General for the further correction and revision of the enrollment lists, by striking therefrom the names of all persons improperly enrolled and by adding thereto the names of all persons liable to draft which have been omitted as hereinafter specified ;  and whereas, this is a matter in which the people of the State are deeply interested, now therefore to the end that the troops hereinafter called for from this State (if any) may not be disproportionate to those called for from other states, and that the quotas assigned to the States may be justly and equally distributed between the several towns and wards thereof, I, James T. Lewis, Governor of the State of Wisconsin do issue this my proclamation, requesting and recommending that all good citizens, and particularly the town, city and village authorities shall make timely and persistent efforts to thoroughly revise and correct the enrollment lists of their respective localities, and as to the manner of doing this and the authority therefor, I would call special attention to the following extracts from Circular No. 39 Provost Marshal General’s Office bearing date the 15 inst.

The attention of the Board of Enrollment is called to Section 6 of the act amendatory of the Enrollment Act which is in the following words. Viz :

Section 6.  And be it further enacted, that Boards of Enrollment shall enroll all persons liable to draft under the provisions of this Act, and the Act to which this is an amendment, whose names have been omitted by the proper enrolling officers; all persons who shall arrive at the age of twenty years before the draft ;  all aliens who shall declare their intention to become citizens ;  all persons discharged from the military or naval service of the United States who have not been in such service two years during the present war ;  all persons who have no been exempted under the provisions of the second section of the act to which this is an amendment, but who are not exempted by the provisions of this act ;  and said Boards of Enrollment shall release and discharge from the draft all persons who, between the time of the enrollment and the draft shall have arrived at the age of forty-five years, and shall strike the names of such persons from the enrollment.

It is to be borne in mind by the Boards, that their duties in regard to the correction of the enrollment do not cease with its revision as recently completed or now in progress.  On the contrary, the revision and correction of these lists is a continuous duty, to which the labors of all Boards must be directed.  The names of all persons liable to do military duty taking up their residence in a sub-district, as well as all in the sub-district who from time to time become liable, shall be added to the Enrollment lists ;  and the names of persons who enlist into the military or naval service, or remove permanently from a district, or whose liability terminates while in it, will be stricken off ;  and in case of removal, whenever it is practicable the Board of Enrollment of the district to which the person removes will be notified, and he will be enrolled by that board.

The Board of Enrollment shall have copies of the enrollment lists open to the examination of the public at all proper times, and shall give the public notice that any person may appear before the Board and have any name stricken off from the lost, if he can show the satisfaction of the Board, that the person named is not properly enrolled on account of—

1st.  Alienage ;  2d.  Non-residence ;  3d. Over age ;  4th.  Permanent disability of such a degree as to render the person not a proper subject for enrollment under the law and regulations ;  5th.  Having served in the military or naval service two years during the present war and been honorably discharged.

Civil officers, clergymen and all other prominent citizens, are invited to appear at all times before the Board to point out errors in the lists and to aid in the correction and revision thereof.

And also to the following extracts from instructions to Col. Lovell [Charles S. Lovell], A. A. Provost Marshal General of this State accompanying said circular.

It is plainly for the interest of each sub-district to have stricken from the lists all names improperly enrolled, because an excess of names increases the quota called for from such sub-district, and that it is equally for the interest of each person enrolled in a given sub-district to place upon the lists of all persons liable to do military duty, because the greater the number to be drawn from the less the chance that any particular individual will be drawn.

It is the personal interest of every enrolled man that the quota in which he is concerned shall not be made too large and that his own chance for draft shall not be unjustly increased.  Both these objects will be attained if all parties will aid in striking out the wrong names, and putting in the right ones.  Especially is this interest of those drafted men who, by putting in substitutes themselves liable to draft, have secured exemption which, by the terms of the law, holds only until the present enrollment is exhausted in their sub-districts.

Men who are over forty-five years of age and in consequence excused by law from the performance of duty in the field, owe it to the cause and to the country to take a zealous and active part in the correction of the enrollment lists—a military service of the first importance.

The law requires that quotas shall be assigned in proportion to the enrollment ;  and the fairness and justice of this mode of determining the amount of military service due from each and every section of the country cannot be doubted, if the enrollment is made as nearly perfect as it is practicable to make it.  The amount of service due to the nation from every town and county is thus laid fairly and plainly before the citizens and I am sure that a higher motive than selfish interest will prompt all to do their share in perfecting the enrollment, and securing a just and efficient execution of the laws for raising troops, whenever it becomes necessary to apply them.

Confer with the state and local authorities, and present the foregoing views to them, and secure if possible, prompt and practical assistance from them in perfecting the enrollment lists.  The subject should receive the attention of the town, precinct, and ward meetings and committees.

Deputy Provost Marshals and special agents will be required to devote all the labor possible to this service in their respective counties.  They must communicate with the local authorities, clergyman, and other prominent citizens, as to the accuracy of the present lists, and the corrections necessary to be made.

As far as practicable they should be required to visit each sub-district, carrying with them a copy of the list for such sub-district, which should be compared with the poll books of the sub-district, and having corrected it, a true copy plainly written, should be posted at the places of voting in the sub-district, with a notice attached thereto, calling upon the citizens to suggest any further corrections that may have been overlooked.

In testimony whereof, I have hereto subscribed my name and caused the great seal of the State of Wisconsin to be affixed.  Done at Madison this twenty-eighth day of November, in the year of our Lord on thousand eight hundred and sixty-four.



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