Along with fighting the Civil War, the United State Army was also fighting an Indian War on the Great Plains. In yesterday’s post we saw several references to General Alfred Sully fighting Indians in Idaho Territory. The articles here on Indian affairs are from the August 20, 1864, issues of The Polk County Press and The Prescott Journal. The first two describe hostilities with various Indian tribes in Nebraska and Colorado.
During the summer of 1864, Indians in Dakota Territory were angry and apprehensive because of the previous year’s military expeditions—the Sibley and Sully Expeditions of 1863—which had severely injured area Dakota, Lakota, and Yanktonai bands of the Sioux nation. In response, the Indians increased their attacks on Northern Plains transportation routes, including the Fisk Expeditions to the Idaho gold fields and steamboats traveling on the Upper Missouri. In the summer of 1864, General Sully returned to the Upper Missouri to build a series of military forts.
The larger article below, from the Journal, is a letter from the 30th Wisconsin Infantry at Fort Wadsworth in “Dacotah” Territory (now called Fort Sisseton, located in present-day South Dakota). The fort was formally established on August 1, 1864, by Major John Clowney and three companies (B, E, K) of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry. It was named to honor General James Samuel Wadsworth, who was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864. The fort was strategically located atop a tableland called Coteau des Praries. The post was renamed Fort Sisseton, on August 29, 1876—after the local Sisseton Dakota Indians—when it was discovered that the original name conflicted with a Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island in New York.
The 30th Wisconsin Infantry included many northwest Wisconsin “boys” in companies A (Saint Croix Guards) and F (Salomon Tigers) and scattered other soldiers from northwest Wisconsin in companies D, I, and K. Of those, only Company K was with Major Clowney. Fort Rice, in present-day North Dakota, was established on July 7, 1864, and the first structures were built by companies A, C, H, and I of the 30th Wisconsin under Colonel Daniel J. Dill. When Confederate General John Bell Hood invaded Tennessee, the 30th Wisconsin was called east, with only Company I staying in Dakota Territory at Fort Union.
From The Polk County Press:
WIDE-SPREAD INDIAN HOSTILITIES.
OMAHA, Aug. 11.
W. H. S. Hughes, Adj. Gen’l of Nebraska, has issued an order calling for two regiments of mounted infantry for Indian service, for four months to report to Brig. Gen. Hurford, and Brig. Gen. Coe, as soon as possible.¹ The following is the address of Gov. Saunders² to the citizens of Nebraska : “News from our western borders is alarming. Numerous trains of emigrants and freighters have been attacked, the owners have been killed, their wagons destroyed, stock run off, &c. No less than four different points on the route between our territory and Denver were attacked in one day. Indians are now known to be infesting those roads for a distance of several hundred miles.
All available troops have been sent forward. We need more men in order to punish those savages, and give security to our frontier settlements. In order to meet this want I have thought proper to call upon the able-bodied militia of the Territory to organize a few companies of minute men, who can, and will, if necessary, move at a moment’s warning to the scene of these depredations, to assist in punishing these murderers and robbers, or in driving them from the country. I make this appeal hoping it will be responded to with willingness on their part. The Adjt. Gen. has to-day issued a special order from these headquarters, giving particulars in regard to the manner of organizing and reporting these companies.
INDIAN WAR FROM TEXAS TO BRITISH POSSESSIONS.
NEW YORK, Aug. 13.—The Herald’s Washington special says the Commissioner of Indian Affairs is informed by Gov. Evans³ of Colorado, that he is satisfied that nearly all the Indian tribes of the plains are combined in war against the whites, and it will be the largest Indian war this country has ever had, extending from Texas to the British Possessions.
ST. LOUIS, Aug. 13.—Gen. Curtis [Samuel R. Curtis] has returned from Fort Leavenworth. White men supposed to be rebel emissaries, have been among the Indians, distributing gold, and inducing them to rise against the whites.
From The Prescott Journal:
MORE DEPREDATIONS.—A few days since a party of Sioux Indians made their appearance in Blue Earth Co. Minn., murdering and carrying away thirteen whites, stole eighteen horses, and succeeded in getting away unharmed. They are pursued, and will probably be overtaken and scalped.
Correspondence of the State Journal.
FORT WADSWORTH, DACOTA [sic] TERRITORY, }
July 29, 1864. }
The 30th Wisconsin volunteers having been so long stationed at Camp Randall, had formed many intimate associations. Our name had become as familiar with you as household words. Those associations, we trust, have not yet lost their interest at home. After the slightly overdrawn picture, I noticed in your paper, of the sufferings endured by a portion of our command on our trip hither, I am tempted to intrude myself on your patience, deeming that a brief description of the locality of the destined goal in the far-off land of the Dacotahs, to which the command of Major Clowney4 has joined, will not be unacceptable.
Fort Wadsworth is to be located on a point between 45° and 40° north latitude, and in longitude 97° west, amid a cluster of beautiful lakes, laid down at random on the maps, on the Coteau des Prairies.5 Away from these lakes the country is bare and broken, the soil poor and rocky, the vegetation consisting principally of stunted buffalo grass and the treacherous cactus plant. But the cluster of little lakes away in among these dry hills, surrounded by grassy, fertile valleys, and small groves of stately trees, form enchanting pictures, fit scenes for the inspiration of poet or painter. You, with your beautiful lakes at Madison, may be able to form some conception of the scene. Fancy a cluster of beautiful lakes, such as Lake Mendota, of clear, sparkling water, and a beach of sand and gravel ; around the shores the landscape dotted with every variety of hill, valley, forest and prairie ; around the margin, capes, promontories and peninsulas, covered with groves ; islands rising up in oval forms from the centre, covered with trees and luxuriant shrubbery ; then, in the various windings and turnings in the labyrinth, one sees straits, harbors, bays and channels, all in a miniature picture. The effect of these visions of beauty is only heightened by the uninviting wilderness surrounding.
Of many of these lands[c]apes, ours is a chosen one. In beauty I think it excels any I have seen, and as a defensive position, when fortified with proper care and guarded by soldierly vigilance, with a sufficiency of stores on hand, we think it may bid defiance to the whole Sioux [Dakota] nation, with their savage confederates thrown in. We are on a table land, nestled among a cluster of these gens of the desert, a little peninsula connected with the main land by a strip of but a few rods wide. Our peninsula extends from north to south about the distance of a mile and from east to west not quite half a mile. In the centre of this the grounds are laid out for the fort. A square, 676 feet deep by 61_ feet wide, is to be occupied by the various buildings of the fort, and outside of the embankments and rifle-pits are being thrown up.
The scenery on each side of us is of a character previously described. Hills, valleys, groves and mild placid waters. Groves narrowing into thin strips, sometimes in straight margins, at others crescent shaped, then widening out into a broad belt.
From the point of view occupied by our company on the east, we behold a picture excelling anything we have ever seen. At our feet, separated by a steep grade, is a large lake about a quarter of a mile distant, a strip of timber extends out into the lake. In this there is a break about the centre, revealing another sheet of water beyond ; beyond this, timber and water again ; thus continuing a succession of lakes, points, parks, and groves, terminating in hills, in a back ground, at a misty distance of 18 miles.
In the center of our parade ground, or square to be enclosed by the fort, is a circular mound of proportions so uniform that one would suppose them to be thrown up by the hand of a gardner [sic]. On this little mound occurred the following little incident :
JULY 29th, 1864.
I-ha-o-jaw-jaw, chief of the Sissatoes [sic], of Lac Traverse Sioux, accompanied by a body guard of brawny red men, dressed in gaudy attire—some in buckskin hunting shirts, ornamented with fine bead work, some with red blankets thrown around their bare shoulders, some with red sashes wound around their heads, others with antique head dresses, ornamented with feathers and other trinkets pleasing to the eye of the savage. They rode into camp in true military style, alighted from their ponies and were received in the center of the camp ground by Major Clowny [sic], Adjutant Preistley6 and an interpreter. The Indians, Major, Adjutant and interpreter sat on the ground. After sitting in grave silence for a few moments, the soldiers meanwhile being kept at a respectful distance by the guard, Chief I-ha-o-jaw-jaw arose and approached the Major, shook him by the hand, likewise afterward the Adjutant and interpreter. After the chief, each of the warriors, according to rank, arose successively and shook hands with the Major, Adjutant and interpreter. The ceremony of shaking hands being ended, I-ha-o-jaw-jaw again arose, approached the Major and made a speech as follows :
“We have never been as well satisfied as now. Whatever happened below was not the work of my band. We did not join in the council to massacre whites. We are not responsible for it. Our fear of the consequences of it drove us away. We hear that our Great Father has permitted those who did not join in the former massacre, to hold their former intercourse with the whites. This affords the great satisfaction I speak of. We see you now, and it is like seeing our Great Father. We are much pleased at the meeting. Our Great Father has a very long arm, and it has reached us here—we are under its shadow to-day. We can only live when under the influence of our Great Father’s hand. We look upon ourselves as the people of our Great Father. The Indians of the North-west have a difficulty—we are ready to espouse the cause of the whites. To the Great Father, whose representative you are to us, we go for protection and care. We have been driven from our fields and hunting grounds. We could not plant our corn—we do not know how we are to live through the coming winter. We wish this to be made known to our great father, that we suffer not and die not for want of food.”
We were not present to hear the reply of the Major, but understood that I-ha-o-jaw-jaw was promised protection and that his statement with regard to food should be sent to the Great Father for consideration!
P. S.—The ridiculous picture drawn of our sufferings from Fort Snelling to Fort Ridgley is the subject of many amusing comments by the boys. We have been trying to learn who were the soldiers that threw aside their guns and rushed frantically into the water. None but your correspondent having had the pleasure of witnessing the interesting sight. He must have had a more fortunate point of observation, back with the train, in the rear, from an ambulance or wagon. D.
1. According to the Illustrated History of Nebraska ( p. 177): “A hundred Indians attacked a wagon train, killing, sacking, and burning with characteristic savagery. On the 11th of August, 1864, Adjt.-Gen. W. H. S. Hughes [William H. S. Hughes (1838-1901)] called for a regiment of six companies to be raised each side of the Platte [river], sixty-four men to a company ; the North Platte companies to report to Brig.-Gen. O. P. Hurford [Oliver Perry Hurford (1830-1913)] at Omaha, and the South Platte to report to Col. Oliver P. Mason [Oliver Perry Mason (1828-1891)] at Nebraska City.” Isaac Coe (1816-1899), brigadier general of volunteer militia, was at this time in charge of the 2d Brigade of Nebraska militia (p. 385). Illustrated History of Nebraska: A History of Nebraska from the Earliest Explorations of the Trans-Mississippi Region, by Julius Sterling Morton, Albert Watkins, George L. Miller, (Lincoln, Neb.: Jacob North & Company, 1907); available digitally on the Internet Archives.
2. Alvin Saunders (1817-1899) was the Civil War governor of Nebraska Territory, serving from 1861 to 1867. He also served as a U.S. senator from Nebraska from 1877-1883.
3. John Evans (1814-1897) was the second governor Colorado Territory from 1862 to 1865. Originally he was a medical doctor practicing in Indiana and Illinois. His wealth garnered him a fair amount of political power. He founded the Illinois Republican Party, becoming a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, who appointed him the territorial governor of Colorado in 1862. In 1864 Governor Evans appointed the Reverend John M. Chivington as colonel of the Colorado Volunteers and sent him with 800 cavalry troopers to attack a group of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians led by Black Kettle and camped along Sand Creek. The “Sand Creek Massacre” took place on November 28, 1864, when Colonel Chivington ordered his men to attack the encampment, killing about 53 unarmed men and 110 women and children and wounding many more. Governor Evans decorated Chivington and his men for their “valor in subduing the savages.” Evans fought off rumors that it was an unprovoked massacre, but in 1865 after an army and two Congressional investigations into the massacre, the U.S. Government admitted guilt and Evans was forced to resign. Important here is that Evans was implicated in creating the conditions for the massacre to occur by issuing a proclamation on August 11, 1864, “authorizing all citizens of Colorado, either individually or in such parties as they may organize, to go in pursuit of all hostile Indians on the plains” … and “also, to kill and destroy, as enemies of the country, wherever they may be found, all such hostile Indians.” (The Sand Creek Papers at the Tutt Library, Colorado College, include a copy of the August 11, 1864, proclamation; accessed August 21, 2014.)
4. John Clowney (1816-1885), from Mineral Point, was commissioned the major of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry on September 8, 1862. Besides being in charge of this fort-building expedition in the Dakotas, he was on command of the Post at Frankfort, Kentucky, from March 8 to September 20, 1865, when the regiment mustered out.
5. French for “hills of the prairies.” The fort sat atop the Coteau des Prairies.
6. Thomas Priestly (d. 1890) was also from Mineral Point. He originally enlisted September 9, 1861, in the 11th Wisconsin Infantry where he was the 1st sergeant of Company E. From there he was promoted to 2nd lieutenant of Company B of the 30th Wisconsin on September 8, 1862, and captain of Company B on January 27, 1865. He mustered out with the company on September 20, 1865.
1864 August 13: More Details on the Explosion and Casualties at the Battle of the Crater Near Petersburg
The following report appeared in the August 13, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.
Attack on Petersburg.
The Times’ special, dated “before Petersburg, July 30th,” says :
As soon after day-break as was practicable for the troops to move in co-operation, an immense mine, reaching far away under the enemy’s line of earthworks in front of Burnside’s corps [Ambrose E. Burnside], was fired. The explosion was the signal for the discharge of every piece of artillery we have in position from the Appomattox to our extreme left. The effect was magnificent. Ninety-five pieces of artillery were fired so simultaneously that it seemed as if they might have been discharged by a pull of one layard [sic: lanyard]. The firing thus opened was kept up in the same manner with scarcely a perceptible lull for at least an hour and a half, when it slackened to some extent.—The result of the explosion of the mine was almost to annihilate one regiment and bury three guns.
Under cover of the artillery, and pushing our advantage gained by the suddenness of the assault, the 9th Corps advanced, taking possession of the works through the gap made by the explosion and driving the enemy to the second line, which crowns the hill tops eastward of the town. Nineteen of the 22d North Carolina, buried by the explosion, have been dug out alive, badly burned and scratched, and some of them doubtless mortally hurt. The attack they pronounce a surprise.
The mine was 400 feet long, and constructed with two galleries diverging from the main passage, making three chambers in which a train of powder nineteen inches wide and deep was laid. The effect of the explosion was very disastrous.
The grandeur of the artillery fire I have never seen surpassed. The enemy’s artillery played but feebly. Very few minutes elapsed before the rebel lines were entirely shut from view by banks of smoke, and our gunners could only be guided in their work by having obtained a proper range before. Many of the shells from the front of the 18th Corps must have struck far in the streets of Petersburg. From that direction a heavy black smoke across soon after the opening of our fire, evidently from burning buildings. After the rebel lines were pierced they made a hurried movement to their left and suffered heavily from an enfilading fire.
Gen. Ledlie’s division [James H. Ledlie] of Burnside’s corps led the attack, the 14th heavy artillery having the advance. About 100 prisoners so far have been brought into Burnside’s Headquarters. The cannonading is still hot and the rebels hold their position obstinately.
The World’s special says :
The mine was to have been sprung at 3 o’clock this morning, and the Lieutenant General, accompanied by his staff, reached Headquarters about that hour. Gen. Meade [George G. Meade] and staff also assembled at the same same [sic] place at the time appointed for the explosion of the mine, but for some reason it did not take place. Everything movable in the way of troops had been placed in position to move at the first signal. The entire 2d corps were held in readiness, but up to the hour of writing this dispatch they had not been called into action.
At 4 o’clock a cloud of dust was seen rising from the rebel entrenchments. This was followed by a general upheaving of earthworks, reaching, probably, fifty feet. The whole mass looked like a huge fountain of earth and dust, and formed a most imposing spectacle. Simultaneously with this explosion, our batteries along the entire line opened a most murderous fire on the rebel breastworks, and the infantry, with deafening cheers, rushed into the embankment of the enemy. Constant cannonading, lasting now one hour and twenty minutes, has been going on.
At 6 o’clock our valiant troops had captured and occupied the first line of rebel entrenchments. Prisoners are constantly arriving from the front. Several of our wounded are also coming in. They report the slaughter inflicted upon the enemy by the explosion and accurate ranges of our shells as terrible in the extreme.
H’D Q’RS POTOMAC ARMY, July 31.
After the explosion at an early hour yesterday morning, everything betokened a brilliant victory ; but soon after matters assumed a different aspect, a part of the attacking force having given way, exposing the balance to an enfilading fire from both artillery and infantry.
The programme was as follows : The mine to be exploded at 3 A. M. ; the batteries to open at once along the entire line, immediately after the explosion, and the 9th Corps to make the charge, supported by the 18th Corps, Ayer’s² [sic] division of the 5th Corps, and the 3d Division of the 2d Corps.
The greater part of the arrangement was carried out as ordered, although the commencement was later than the hour designated, on account of the fuse going out twice. The explosion took place at precisely 40 minutes past 4 o’clock. The roar of artillery that followed was almost deafening.
At 5 o’clock the charge was made and the fort with a part of the line and on each side was carried in a most brilliant manner. The 2d division, which was in the centre, advanced and carried the second line, a short distance beyond the fort, and rested, holding their ground with the utmost determination. At this time the colored division under Gen. Julius White, was pushed forward and ordered to charge and carry the crest of the hill, which would have decided the contest. The troops advanced in good order as far as the first line, where they received a galling fire, which checked them, and although quite a number kept advancing, the greater portion seemed to become utterly demoralized, part of them taking refuge in the fort, and the balance running to the rear as fast as possible. They were rallied and again pushed forward, but without success. The greater part of their officers being killed or wounded during this time they seemed to be without any one to manage them and finally fell back to the rear, out of the range of the volleys of cannister [sic] and musketry that were ploughing through the ranks.
Their losses are very heavy, particularly in officers, as will be seen by the following figures :
Twenty-Third U. S. colored, 150 [sic: 15] officers killed and wounded and 400 men lost including missing.
Twenty-Eighth U. S. colored, 11 officers and about 150 men killed, wounded and missing.
Twenty-Seventh U. S. colored, 6 officers and about 150 men killed, wounded and missing.
Twenty-Ninth U. S. colored, 8 officers and about 200 men killed, wounded and missing.
Forty-Third U. S. colored, 6 officers and a large number of men killed, wounded and missing.
Thirty-Ninth U. S. colored, several officers and about 250 men killed, wounded and missing.
The loss in the 2d division of the 9th army corps, Gen. Leslie commanding, was very severe. It is estimated at from 1,000 to 1,2000, while many make the figures larger. Among the missing I regret to announce the name of Gen. Bartlett [William F. Bartlett]. He succeeded in reaching the fort with his command, but having accidently broken his cork leg, he was unable to get off the field. He however held possession of the ground for several hours, and only surrendering when all hope of escape was gone. Some two hundred men, both black and white, were with him at the time. Nearly all of Gen. Bartlett’s staff were captured at the same time. Col. Marshall,³ who was commanding the 2d brigade of this division was also taken prisoner with several of his staff ; also Col. Wild4 [sic], of the 56th Massachusetts, is reported to be taken prisoner ; Col. Gould,5 of the 59th Massachusetts lost a leg ; Major Buxton6 [sic] of the 179th New York also lost a leg ; Lt. Col. Barney7 of the 2d Pennsylvania was wounded ; Maj. Prescott,8 of the 57th Massachusetts was killed ; Major Ross9 of the 31st U. S. (colored) lost a leg. This division, having been a great distance in advance of the rest of the line, held its position for several hours, but was finally compelled to fall back, suffering severely while doing so.
The loss in the first division was also severe. The latter has 400 in the hospital.
The 18th corps occupied part of the line on the right, but their loss was not very great.
We took about 250 prisoners, mostly South Carolinians, and five battle flags.
1. From the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, published under the direction of Redfield Proctor, Stephen B. Elkins, and Daniel S. Lamont, Secretaries of War, by George B. Davis, Leslie J. Perry, Joseph W. Kirkley, Board of Publication ; compiled by Calvin D. Cowles (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1891-1895). Available in Special Collections, UWRF University Archives & Area Research Center (E 464 .U6), or digitally at Ohio State University’s eHistory.
2. Romeyn Beck Ayres (1825-1888) graduated from West Point in 1847, but saw no active service in the Mexican War. When the Civil War started he was promoted to captain in command of a battery in the 5th U.S. Artillery and was heavily involved in the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford. In October 1861 he was appointed chief of artillery for William F. “Baldy” Smith’s division in the Army of the Potomac and fought in the Peninsula Campaign, the Seven Days Battles, and the Battle of Antietam. Just before the Battle of Fredericksburg he was promoted to brigadier general and chief of artillery of the VI Corps. In April 1863 he became commander of a division in the V Corps, leading it in the Battle of Chancellorsville. Ayres arrived late at the Battle of Gettysburg and did not participate much. His division was then sent to New York City to suppress draft rioters. In 1864 he led the 4th Brigade, 1st Division, V Corps in Grant’s Overland Campaign and commanded the 2nd Division, V Corps in the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign. he received particular commendations and brevet promotions for the Battle of Globe Tavern (Second Weldon Railroad) and the Battle of Five Forks. Ayres continued to lead his division through the Appomattox Campaign and the Confederate surrender.
3. Elisha Gaylord Marshall (1829-1883) graduated from West Point in 1850. He became lieutenant colonel of of the 13th New York Infantry in April 1862; participated in the Peninsular Campaign, Siege of Yorktown, and was seriously wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg; promoted to colonel of the 13th New york in December 1862, was a brigade commander at the Battle of the Wilderness, and was captured at the Battle of the Crater and held as a prisoner until April 1865. Upon his release from prison in April 1865, he assumed command of the 1st Brigade defending Washington, D.C. for the remainder of the War.
4. Stephen Minot Weld, Jr. (1842-1920), colonel of the 56th Massachusetts Infantry. After beginning law school at Harvard University in 1861, Weld was appointed a 2nd lieutenant in the 18th Massachusetts Infantry on 27 January 1862. He reached the rank of Captain and participated in the battles of Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg before being honorably discharged on 25 December 1863. He was twice captured by Confederate forces, and twice exchanged. On 2 June 1864 he was commissioned as lieutenant colonel of the 56th Massachusetts Regiment, and was promoted to colonel in command of the regiment on 31 May 1864. He was mustered out of the Army a second time on 12 July 1865. In 1866, he received a brevet promotion to brigadier general to rank from March 13, 1865. After the War, Weld became a cotton broker.
5. Jacob Parker Gould (1822-1864), colonel of the 59th Massachusetts Infantry. At the beginning of the Civil War he organized a company, the Stoneham Grey Eagles, which became Company G, 13th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, however, he did not command that company as he was commissioned the Major of that regiment in July 1861. His regiment knew hims as the “Fighting Major.” On April 24, 1864, he was discharged, to accept a commission of colonel, 59th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and was mustered the following day as such. On July 30, 1864, he was mortally wounded by a gunshot wound in his left knee, at the mine explosion at Petersburg, Virginia. He was brought to City Point and had his left leg amputated and was then transferred to the Officers’ Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arriving on August 20. He had suffered severely from the effects of the amputation and died August 21, 1864, in Philadelphia.
6. John Barton, major in the 179th New York Infantry; previously captain of Company C.
7. Benjamin G. Barney, lieutenant colonel in the 2nd Pennsylvania Provisional Heavy Artillery; previously captain of Company H.
8. Albert Prescott (1830-1864), major in the 57th Massachusetts Infantry. He was a Spar Maker from Charlestown before enlisting on April 16, 1861, at the age of 31. He served as 1st Sergeant in Company K, 5th Massachusetts Infantry and mustered out on July 31, 1861. He then enlisted on July 30, 2862, in Company B, 36th Massachusetts Infantry and was promoted to full 1st Sergeant, and then to captain of Company B on August 28, 1862. On Marcy 2, 1864, he became captain of Company I, 57th Massachusetts Infantry, and was promoted to major on June 15, 1864. He was killed July 30, 1864, at Petersburg, Va.
9. William E. W. Ross was lieutenant Colonel of the 31st U.S. Colored Troops; the major was Thomas Wright. Prior to that he had been lieutenant colonel of the 10th Maryland Infantry (3 months, 1863-64).
1864 August 17: “Books, papers & letters just suit me and my mind starves without them. How well I should like to be at home to-night!”
A homesick Edwin Levings, with the 12th Wisconsin Infantry in Georgia, writes to his Cousin Hattie Levings. The original letter is in the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Near Atlanta Ga Aug. 17th / ’64
Dear Cousin Hattie,
Your much wished for letter, dated 31st July was received by us several days ago, and I read it with all the expected pleasure, and thank you for it.
I presume you have read what I wrote to you in a letter to Lottie. You did not think I was censuring you I hope. I was confident your time was fully occupied and perhaps better occupied than it would have been in writing letters to me.
But now that your school term is nearly out and you will be more at leasure [sic], you can attend to your teasing cousins.
It is now 3 o’clock P.M. and as we are to draw rations early tomorrow morning and expect to make another movement, I thought I would not delay writing longer.
Since the great battles around Atlanta, the accounts of which you have doubtless read, the Army of the Tenn. has held the center and we have had much easier times. I think we shall soon be on the flank position again, and if so, may have some more fighting to do; but it is difficult to tell what movement is intended. No serious fighting had taken place this week ∼ all seems very quiet except on the skirmish line where there is considerable picket firing, doing no particular hurt. The rebels seem quiet, but as they now see we are not going to test their breastworks. I doubt not they are trying some game of strategy, for no sooner do we begin to settle down in our operations,—when we are not doing much, than they they [sic] show more vigor; and if we are not very vigilant we must take consequences. A force of rebels estimated from 300 to 20,000 mad a dash at our communications near Dalton, but what damage they did no one seems to know. That was the other day. Our rations were immediately cut down to 3/5 and all unnecessary picket firing ordered to cease; but the impression is that the damage, if any, was slight, and we are told we are to draw rations as usual & write at pleasure.
I am glad you like Mr. Weld¹ as a teacher. If you did not, you would feel very unpleasant. If I ever get home, I will plunge into books or I greatly mistake. I know not what to do many times for the lack of reading matter. Books, papers & letters just suit me and my mind starves without them. How well I should like to be at home to-night ! Wouldn’t it be fine?—but I must not dwell on that subject. There comes up the idea of comfort & so on,—the nice fixings & a thousand more things that please, you see. What kind of soldier would I be if I let my thoughts and desires run after such things? Why I felt half provoked at a fellow yesterday for mentioning such things as warm brisket[?], turkey dumplings &c, but then we do have funny times talking over Mother’s good things. We get together in groups and talk and laugh, and I don’t see but we relish in imagination there things as much as if we actually had them. We have good fare, but not very good accommodations for cooking. Supper is about ready. Homer and Dale,² our comrade, is getting it. We shall have some solidified bread, an admixture of coffee & sugar, and a compound of dessicated potatoes & beef. You may laugh but Homer says this supper is not to be sneezed at. In all truth, Hattie, we do enjoy ourselves, spite of all the disadvantages & privations incidents to our life.
1. Allen Hayden Weld (1809-1882).
2. Edwin’s brother Homer, and their friend Wilber P. Dale.
1864 August 13: Twenty-Seventh Wisconsin Infantry — “Our regiment is in Gen. Salomon’s division and the 7th army corps of Major Gen. Steele”
Reports from various Wisconsin regiments appeared in the August 13, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal. We made each report its own post because of their length. This post is a letter from the 27th Wisconsin Infantry, stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Further from Sherman’s Army.
The Battle of Peach Tree [sic] Creek.
Honor Won by Wisconsin.
A Letter from a Kentucky Hospital.
DOINGS OF A WISCONSIN BATTERY WITH SHERMAN.
AFFAIRS BEFORE PETERSBURG.
⇒From the Capital of Arkansas.
Slanders on the 35th Refuted.
Affairs in Arkansas—Little Rock and its
People—Condition of the 27th.
HEADQUARTERS 27TH WIS. REG., }
LITTLE ROCK, July 25th, 1864..}
Editors State Journal :—Thinking perhaps you might suppose I had forgotten my promise to write you from this department, I take up pencil this morning that you may know how the 27th are, and what doing.
Our regiment is in Gen. Salomon’s division [Frederick Salomon] and the 7th army corps of Major Gen. Steele [Frederick Steele]. We are located on a fine elevation, about half a mile from the city. Our men are in pretty good health, the command numbering 600 in all, have only 100 on the sick list. In our camp is a good spring of water, and that is a luxury here. We are doing guard duty, picket duty, fatigue duty, and sleeping duty—rather more of the latter.
My impression of this country is any thing but favorable ; perhaps few states are found where the blighting curse of slavery has made its impress more than here. The soil, so far as I have seen, is poor, from being poorly managed. Every thing, including the inhabitants, wears a haggard look. I see no fresh, blooming checked girls, but sunken eyes, sallow complexions are everywhere met with. All the Union feeling here you could put in the cavity of your tooth. Our pickets extend out some five miles, outside of which it is quite unsafe to venture. Some few days since two of the men went a short distance from the line to pick berries and as the boys here would say, “were gobbled up,” and nothing but the presence of our troops hold the rebel sentiment in check. A large proportion of the effective men of Little Rock are in the rebel army, and their better-halves at home hate and fear the blue coats.
The city of Little Rock is quite pretty, some 4,000 inhabitants, and some fine, stately mansions, gardens and parks, indicating once a place of wealth and pride, but, by the ravages of war, her glory has departed. The native timber, oak and pine, with many choice varieties of other climes, surround the dwellings and ornament the streets. The capitol building is quite inferior. The best building in the State is the St. John’s College, now occupied as a hospital by our sick. That, with the additions put on, is a large institution. There are some 700 sick soldiers in it now.
The weather has been very hot until within a few days past. It is now cool and pleasant, though quite dry. Newspapers fro two to three weeks old bring two shillings, and are scarce at that.
The day after reporting here, I was relieved from duty in the Twenty-seventh regiment, and ordered to take charge of the Twenty-fifth Ohio Battery, at Fort Steele, some half a mile from the camp of the Twenty-seventh. Fort Steele is a strong earthwork, and is situated on a hill commanding the city and its surroundings.
Our mail communication is rather uncertain. White River being quite low and infested with guerrillas, boats have to come up in fleets guarded by gunboats, and arrive semi-occasionally. This may reach you during the summer. More anon. J. B. C.
Reports from various Wisconsin regiments appeared in the August 13, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal. We made each report its own post because of their length. This post is a letter from Pembroke V. Wise with the 37th Wisconsin Infantry. Company F of the 37th contained many men from northwestern Wisconsin, as well as a few in other companies.
Further from Sherman’s Army.
The Battle of Peach Tree [sic] Creek.
Honor Won by Wisconsin.
A Letter from a Kentucky Hospital.
DOINGS OF A WISCONSIN BATTERY WITH SHERMAN.
⇒ AFFAIRS BEFORE PETERSBURG.
From the Capital of Arkansas.
Slanders on the 35th Refuted.
Trip of Co. K to the Potomac Army—Rebel
Recruiting in Maryland—Conservative Democrats
ordered to fall in—Affairs at Petersburg.
Correspondence of the Daily State Journal.
IN THE FIELD NEAR PETERSBURG, VA., }
July 26, 1864. .}
Messrs. Editors :—Co. K and a detachment of the 37th Wisconsin, amounting in all to 105 men, started from Madison on the morning of the 14th of July, were furnished with a good supper at the “Rest” at Chicago, and arrived at Harrisburg at 12:45 p. m. on the 16th, where we had to lie over, on account of the Baltimore Railroad being cut by the rascally secesh, until the 19th, arriving in Washington on the 20th. Here we laid over until the 21st.
I was reliably informed when passing thro’ Maryland, that the Democrats, who lately made the armed raid into that State, and who stole so freely from the loyal people therein, that when arriving in a village or town, certain officers detailed with a guard for that purpose, inquired for the residence of certain good Conservative Democrats, sent out for them, and when so collected together, they were ordered to “fall in,” and told that “arms and horses would be furnished them.” They invariably demurred, but the officer politely informed them that he held in his hand a list of the “Knights of the Golden Circle,” that he had their names and their oaths, by which they had sworn to aid the Confederates the first opportunity, and if they longer refused, they would be “treated as deserters and shot down.” By these means they largely recruited their forces. That these are facts I have no doubt.
The trip from Washington, on board the steamer John Brooks, via Fortress Monroe to City Point, where we arrived at 4 P. M. on the 22d, was very pleasant. I noticed particularly that the colored population is very very scarce on the plantations, &c, after entering the State of Maryland. I do not mean that there were greater numbers North, but that they have almost disappeared in Maryland, District of Columbia and Virginia, except what we see in the army.
“City Point” is a city that has sprung into existence since May last. Steamers run regularly here on time. Monitors, gunboats, ships, schooners and wild steam tugs are scattered all along the bay and river.
From City Point we rode out six miles on a military railroad train, to Charles Station, thence three miles on foot through the dust, brought us to the old camp of the 37th Wisconsin, one mile in rear of the trenches which the regiment has occupied since the 17th inst., and about one mile and a half from Petersburg.
I served over two years in the Army of the Cumberland, but I never saw anything to equal what I find here. The whole face of the country has been dug up, and there are lines after lines of very strong entrenchments, and supported by immense earthworks, built in regular fort fashion. Grant’s [Ulysses S. Grant] invincible army drove them over two miles of such fortifications on the memorable 17th and 18th days of June last, and if he had had fresh troops then, he would have driven the Johnnies pell mell into Richmond before the 20th of June. Our rifle trenches are not more than one hundred and twenty-five paces from the first line of the rebels, and the firing of small arms is continuous night and day, with every now and then a general pounding away with the big guns. The siege is progressing slowly but surely.
The Thirty-seventh Wisconsin has been constantly day and night under a heavy fire since the 17th inst. Many of our officers are sick, but some are improving. The traitors have the exact range of Col. Harriman’s headquarters, and rain shells and minnies about him continually, but he maintains his steadiness and equanimity as cool as a cucumber. [Samuel Harriman]
1. Pembroke V. Wise, who had been in Company F of the 1st (3 years) Wisconsin Infantry, and on March 31, 1864, re-enlisted in Company F of the 37th Wisconsin Infantry. Wise was from Prescott.