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.
Camp at Clear Creek
Miss. Dec 2nd, 1863.
My Dear Cousins,
Your welcome letters of Oct. 30th were received at Natchez on the 17th ult. I intended answering sooner, but was prevented by the brigade moving up to Vicksburg and from there out to our present encampment 10 miles from Vicksburg and near Black River. We had built us comfortable, commodious barracks in the hope of wintering in Natchez ; and leaving them was like being turned out of doors into the cold. Had there been a prospect of active duty for us, the boys would not mind the change ; but as it is, we are shoved out here “away from everybody and everything” as the boys say, with nothing to do but picket duty.In a word, we are here to check, with other troops, rebel operations on Black River and to guard the passes between the Black & and [sic] the Yazoo Rivers. As regards myself, it is immaterial where I serve out the remainder of my service, provided I am well, — there are but eleven months more, anyway. Time will not hang heavy on me, I can fill it up with usefulness to Uncle Sam as an humble soldier, and I can use it, too, for self-improvement. Disappointments will come, and it is better to cheerfully acquiesce, and make the most of the opportunities, when they come along, then there will be no regrets.
O! Dear Cousins! You do not know how glad your letters made us, telling us Hattie and Lottie had gone up to River Falls to live with Father and Mother, and your Uncle Oliver. You say, Emma, “Did you know we had given one of our sisters to you?” I thank you much for saying so and thank you more for the gift. You knew we had no sister to love or care for us, and you have gladdened our hearts by the gift of one who is to act henceforth as our sister. We have written them both. I hope they will find happy homes and many warm friends. We knew of the proposal, but did not mention it in our last, as we knew not whether you had received Father’s letter. Father wrote Nov 1st that they arrived the evening previous. Both Father and Mother are much rejoiced at their coming, and say if their boys were at home they would be perfectly happy.
I am glad to hear you propose going to school this winter. It will be a fine chance. Really, I should be happy to call in some evening, as you say. Success to you, and many a pleasant hour. Will you let us know what studies you pursue and how you progress. How I wish I were situated to study more than I do. Books are not very light to carry and my stock is necessarily small. We did not see Mr. Ferguson on his return trip, but rec’d a note from him, stating he had “seen you, were well” & that “we could not write you too often.” We have written him. We are acquainted with Rice and Ferguson only from your place. We saw a young man named Rice, of Ferguson’s Co, at Jackson last summer, but did not become acquainted. I should judge Mr. Ferguson to be a fine young man.¹ I have not seen J. Rice lately. [paragraph break added]
We lately had a box of nice things from home, boots, clothing, butter, dried fruit, papers & other niceties. The boys gathered around apparently as much pleased as though they were sent to them ; and all thought Mother’s butter pretty nice.
There is official news in camp to-day that Gen. Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] has gained another great victory at Chattanooga ; that he has taken between 5 and 10,000 prisoners, and 40 cannon, forcing Bragg [Braxton Bragg] back on to Atlanta & scattering his forces badly. I hope it is true. If Gen. Grant has done that, he is truly the great general of the age. The feats of Napoleon will fade in comparison. The rebellion is fast collapsing, and it does not seem probably, now that its friends, the Copperheads, have failed to come to the rescue them that it will survive during another summer. I hope, Dear Cousins, you will write very soon & good long letters. You must pardon this poor affair which hardly deserves the name of letter & I will try & do better next time. Please accept with warm wishes from Your Cousin
E. D. Levings
1. There was a David H. Ferguson, a Joseph Ferguson, and an Arthur H. Rice in Company C of the 118th Illinois Infantry, which is the regiment Ed mentioned in his July 24, 1863, letter where he talks about meeting Ferguson.
1863 December 2: “The soldiers are now in good spirits, they are reinlisting all over the country, we get recruits every few days”
A letter from Wyman X. Folsom with the 7th Minnesota Infantry, to his father, W. H. C. Folsom, in Taylors Falls, Minnesota. Wyman’s handwriting is difficult to read and there are several words we could not make out, indicated with [___]. The original letter is in the W. H. C. Folsom Papers (River Falls Mss S), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Saint Louis Mo
“Dec 2″ 1863
May Dear Father
I can not improve myself any better this morning than to write you a few lines letting you know my whereabouts and that I am well and in good spirits. My health has been exceedingly good since we came here, and I am in hopes that I may continue in good health while I am in the army which I am in great hopes won’t be long. I am of the opinion that the war is about wound up. We are getting the rebels into close quarters and soon they must yield — soon this traitorous flag must fall, and our glorious flag float in triumph over the entire South. O! then won’t there be a day of rejoicing when our brave boys [___] off in triumph, and they shurly [sic] will. The United States can carry on the war for years to come. The soldiers are now in good spirits, they are reinlisting [sic] all over the country, we get recruits every few days, and I think there is going to be a war revival soon and men will enlist by the thousand and at one mighty blow crush out this poisonous viper that is trying to destroy our nation. I actually believe if I was out of the service I should reinlist [sic] — what do you think of that Father. I am nineteen years old to-day and have got my high heeled boots on so you must make allowances for my broad assursions [sic]. This makes the 2nd birthday since I enlisted and probably I will pass another in the army. I consider it an honor to belong to the U.S.A.
And it is making a man of me. I have now had a chance to study God human nature and the ways of the world. I am becoming convinced more and more every day of God’s goodness, my trust is in him and I depend only upon him for everything. I am confident he is ever near me watching my actions. I can not do wrong. I used to swear some but I don’t now, there! there! Getchell has brought me in a letter and I must trust it for [___] his letter. I have read the letter and eat my dinner and now will finish my letter. Father when I get out of the army I want to go through Commercial Colledge [sic], what do you think about it. I want to become a thorough book keeper and a good mathematician, are you willing I should. When I go into business I want to understand what I am about. [paragraph break added]
I will now close my letter by bidding you goodby. Give my love to all res[_]ving your [___].
Your Obt. Son
Wyman X. Folsom
Mother sent me a recipt [sic] for stopping diarrhea. I have lost it—have her send me another one if you please.
1863 November 28: Battle of Pine Bluff and News from Fort Sumter, the Battle of Bayou Bourbeux, and the Red River Expedition
The Polk County Press’ weekly summary of the war news from its November 28, 1863, issue. There are two articles titled “The News,” each with information on the Chattanooga Campaign and on other things. We have pulled all of the items about the Chattanooga Campaign from both articles into one post—titled “Chattanooga Campaign—and the rest of the items are pulled together into this post. The divider separates items from one article from items found in the other article. Items not dealing with the War have been left out.
The Battle of Bayou Bourbeux, also known as the Battle of Grand Coteau or the Battle of Carrion Crow Bayou, was fought in southwestern Louisiana on November 3, 1863.
On October 25, 1863, Union Colonel Powell Clayton successfully repulsed a three-pronged confederate attack by the forces of Confederate General John S. Marmaduke at Pine Bluff, Arkansas. With his forces badly outnumbered, Clayton effectively used freedmen to build barricades of piled cotton bales around the Pine Bluff courthouse to block the assault. Clayton’s men were officially praised for their bravery by General Steele, the Federal commander at Little Rock, while Marmaduke had carried out a reasonably successful raid, having captured 250 horses and mules and destroyed at least 600 bales of cotton
The following is a Summary of the news up to Wednesday last, gleamed from the St. Paul Press.
The bombardment of Sumpter [sic] is still progressing. it would seem as if it must be pretty well pulverized by this time. The Monitors have had a brush with the Sulivan’s [sic] Island batteries.
From Gen. Banks [Nathaniel P. Banks], in Texas, we learn that he is rapidly moving forward, and will soon have the back door of the rebellion plugged up.
Brownsville and Fort Brown, on Rio Grande, has been occupied by U.S. troops.
Memphis is fearful of a raid and her citizens are organizing for the purpose of defending the city.
In Louisiana, on the 3d inst. [November], a serious engagement took place, near the Teche, at a place called Carrion Crow, between Gen. Washburne [sic: Cadwallader C. Washburn], commanding the rear guard of the 3d army corps, and the rebels. Our troops it is said, were caught napping, and were greatly outnumbered, but fought bravely. Two twelve pound Parrots were captured by the rebels, and nearly one thousand prisoners. Our loss in killed will reach 500. The 6th Indiana was captured almost entire. The 60th Indiana and 96th O. [Ohio] lost heavily. A large wagon train which was with the command was saved. This we suppose is the result of C. C. Washburne’s [sic] brilliant (?) military genius.
The news from Richmond increases in horror. Our prisoners have become so reduced that they are killing and eating dogs. The supplies that the rebels have deigned to receive from us have not yet been distributed and probably never will be. It is more than probably that the food which humane association are attempting to send our starving prisoners is used to stop the mouths of the rebels who are also crying aloud for bread. The movement of prisoners to Danville has commenced, but whether it will be an improvement remains to be seen. Danville is a village of three thousand inhabitants, 168 miles, nearly west, from Richmond. It is but five miles from the North Carolina line and is said to be in a very fertile farming region.
A correspondent of the Chicago “Tribune” gives particulars of the battle of Pine Bluff and a rebel defeat. Marmaduke with 4,000 men and 12 pieces of artillery attacked Col. Clayton Sunday, the 25th day of October. Col. Clayton’s force consisted of between five and six hundred men and nine pieces of artillery. Col. Clayton barricaded Court Square with cotton bales and was thus enabled to resist the enemy’s attack. Marmaduke attempted to burn him out but only succeeded in burning several of his own wounded. After five honrs [sic] fighting he retired with a loss of 53 killed and 164 wounded. Our loss was 17 killed and 39 wounded.
Massachusetts has passed the bill for the payment of $300 State bounty to each volunteer. The payment is to be made immediately upon the enlistment, and together with the Government bounty makes the handsome sum of six hundred dollars for a new recruit, and seven hundred for a veteran. They also passed a bill to pay colored soldiers three dollars a month from the State Treasury, which makes their compensation equal to that of white troops.
The telegraph brings the intelligence that Joshua R. Giddings, Consul General for Canada, had been arrested at Montreal, on the charge of kidnapping, and held in $30,000 bonds. An account says that the man alleged to have been kidnapped was a rebel thief who stole $8,000 at a hotel in Cincinnati and fled to Montreal. A detective followed him, but being unable to obtain a warrant in the city, secured one in Toronto and made the arrest. The officers were immediately set upon by the secessionists and compelled to surrender his prize. He was afterwards arrested on a charge of kidnapping. The arrest of Mr. Giddings is intended as a secession insult to our Government.
The difficulty in the way of feeding our prisoners at Richmond has been obviated, and supplies go forward regularly.
The news from Charleston is important. Our monitors are said to be sailing up the channel towards the city. The fall of that hell-born hole is slow in coming but sure. The sea wall of Fort Sumpter [sic] has been demolished and more shells have been dropped into the city doing considerable damage.
As near as can be ascertained, all the officers of colored regiments have been hung, and the privates either hung or sold into slavery. The Government is determined to protect the colored troops from such outrages, and will take immediate steps to retaliate.
Later advices from Bank’s [sic] Expedition are important. He finds a healthy Union sentiment in Texas and also a large amount of cotton.
From the Army of the Potomac we have conflicting accounts. One is that the entire army has crossed the Rapidan to give Lee [Robert E. Lee] battle, while another report says nothing of the kind has been done.
The following article on the 1st Wisconsin Infantry comes from the November 28, 1863, issue of The Polk County Press. Company F, under Captain M. M. Samuels, was the Saint Croix Rifles.
The First Wisconsin—What if has Done and Suffered.
A letter from the First Wisconsin, in the Army of the Cumberland, says :
This army has advanced three hundred and fifty miles into the enemys’ [sic] country, conquering as it advanced, and holding every important position gained, in spite of the determined resistance of the foe. We used the spade and pickaxe at Muldrow’s Hill [Kentucky], on the Ohio, as we are doing now on the south bank of the Tennessee, within rifle range of the State of Georgia, Mumfordville [sic], Bowling Green, Nashville, Murfreesboro, Tulahoma [sic], Chattanooga. Flanked by Bragg [Braxton Bragg] a year ago, we fought him at Perryville [aka Chaplin Hills], and here the more dazzling record of our regiment begins. Forty-nine per cent of those engaged in our regiment fell there in line of battle—every second man—while the rest held the position and repulsed the enemy, who left their dead for loyal Kentuckians afterwards to bury. Wisconsin’s First Infantry saved Indiana’s Fourth Battery, every piece of it.—When the horses were nearly all killed, the Infantry of Wisconsin moved the guns from position to position, until the foe had retired, and then drew them by hand with them. Indiana’s artillerists presented a splendid stand of colors, and Wisconsin those noble deeds of a half destroyed regiment. A stand of colors from the soldiers of another State to their fellows in the field is something to be proud of.¹
For the glorious deeds done at Chaplin Hills our Colonel was appointed Brigadier General.² But the story of the regiment would be too long ; let us pass to the last great battle, Chickamauga. We were among the first who passed through Stevenson’s Gap, in the Lookout range, and while feeling the enemy, as it is termed, this regiment lost the only officer killed. On the morning of the 19th of September we were among the first engaged. We lost in less than twenty minutes time, sixty-five per cent. of the balance of the regiment. On Sunday, the 30th, we were among the first to feel the rebel fire, and to resist all the forenoon the rebel advance, and until disasters befell other portions of our army, when a new line must have been formed, and then with our glorious old hero, the Corps Commander, Gen. Thomas [George H. Thomas], we took a new position and held it thirty-six hours, and then came with him and the rear guard into Chattanooga. Official records make thirty-six officers killed in Gen. Thomas’ Corps. Wisconsin’s smallest regiment in the army lost five, one-seventh of the whole. We suffered all this, and yet we shout victory, whatever army contractors and gold speculators may cry. This army lost 13,000 and gained a position. Bragg gained part of our dead, some of our wounded, and lost 25,000 men, fourteen Generals, and what was considered a great loss still, the stronghold north of the Tennessee river. If Bragg had the magnanimity of the old Roman, he would exclaim, “One more such victory and I am ruined.”³
To close, this regiment has had no dismissals for cowardice or otherwise disloyal acts, no court martials for any misdemeanors.
1. This is confirmed in the official account of the regiment, published in E. B. Quiner’s Military History of Wisconsin, (Chicago: 1866), chapter 11, pages 428-30. Casualties at the Battle of Perryville are listed at the bottom of 429 and top of 430. (UWRF Archives E 537 .Q56 1866; available digitally on the Wisconsin Historical Society’s website).
2. John C. Starkweather was appointed brigadier general on July 17, 1863.
3. Pyrrhus after the Battle of Asculum. A victory with such a devastating cost that it is tantamount to defeat is known as a Pyrrhic victory.
Following is a short article on the Union victories at the battles of Lookout Mountain (November 24, 1863) and Missionary Ridge (November 25), also part of the Chattanooga Campaign. This article is from the November 28, 1863 issue of The Prescott Journal.
After their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga, the 40,000 men of the Union Army of the Cumberland under General William S. Rosecrans retreated to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee besieged the city, threatening to starve the Union forces into surrender. Bragg’s troops established themselves on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, both of which had excellent views of the city, the Tennessee River flowing through the city, and the Union’s supply lines. Union forces under General Joseph Hooker assaulted Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and defeated Confederate forces commanded by General Carter L. Stevenson. Lookout Mountain was one engagement in the Chattanooga battles between General Ulysses S. Grant’s Military Division of the Mississippi and the Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee. It drove in the Confederate left flank and allowed Hooker’s men to assist in the Battle of Missionary Ridge the following day, which routed Bragg’s army, ending the Siege of Chattanooga.
The Great Battle.
GRANT has won a glorious victory over Bragg, near the Chickamauga, taking 6,000 prisoners, and driving him from his strong position. We have not room for the particulars. The St. Paul Press says:
Grant has added another to his long list of unvarying successes. His fourteen victories have culminated in a fifteenth, which rounds off and consumates all the rest. The disaster at Chickamauga has been more than retrieved, by the splendid triumphs of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. The rebel forces under Bragg have been hurled from the summits and [s]lopes of those commanding hights [sic] by the heroic bravery of our troops–bravery transcending even the skill or hopes of their commanders–and from the top of Lookout Mountain, Grant, with his invincible legions behind him, now looks down upon the plains of Georgia, as Napolean looked upon the fair champaigns of Italy, lying helpless at his feet, from the summit of Mount St. Bernard. If at Vicksburg the gate and outer wall of the Confederacy was broken down, at Chattanooga and its mountain invirons [sic] we have won its citadel, its last stragetic [sic] stronghold.
The importance of the victory can scarcely be estimated. It gathers up the fruits of half a dozen previous campaigns. It gives the union armies undisputed possession of the whole Valley of the Mississippi, and drives the rebels from their mountain fastnesses into the plain country between the Alleganey [sic] range and the sea, and easy prey to our advancing columns.
This short letter from Edwin Levings, with the 12th Wisconsin Infantry in Mississippi, has some missing pieces, which you can see in the digital image below. The missing words are indicated with [___] and where we guessed includes a question mark. 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.
Camp at Clear Creek
Miss. Nov 29th 1863.
You see I have not
sent my letter off. We had to
come out here 2 days ago, 10 miles
East of Vicksburg, and about 3
or 4 North West of Black River
bridge. There are at this place
5 Cav. Regts. and our Brigade.
[___] have drawn two large Hospital
[___] for the men to live in
[___] we can get other tents. Mrs.
[___] is at V[icksburg] attending to
[_] [s]ick soldiers. She is a noble
[woman?] and more than worth all the officers
[___] army to look after the
[com]fort of the soldiers has more
influence than a Major Genl.
I will write more about her some
time. The weather is cold & wet.
We look for the next letter
from you with much i[nterest?].
Write soon a good l[etter?]
& let us know how you all are.
E. D. Levings
Co A, 12th
Regt. Wis. Vols.
3rd B, 4th Div.
The Polk County Press’ summary of what has been happening in eastern Tennessee, from its November 28, 1863, issue. There are two articles titled “The News,” each with information on the Chattanooga Campaign and on other things. We have pulled all of the items about the Chattanooga Campaign from both articles into this one post. The divider separates items from one article from items found in the other article. Items not dealing with the War have been left out.
After Union General William S. Rosecrans was defeated at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, General Ambrose E. Burnside was pursued by Confederate General James Longstreet. Burnside skillfully outmaneuvered Longstreet at the Battle of Campbell’s Station on November 16 and was able to reach safety in Knoxville. Burnside was briefly besieged at Knoxville until the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Fort Sanders on November 29.
The attack on Gen. BURNSIDE commenced on the 19th in earnest. The aspect of affairs is not cheering, and it would be useless to deny that there are good grounds for fearing a disastrous result of the contest. He has fallen back one-third of a mile in order to secure a stronger position, as the telegraph says. This is a confession of weakness unpleasant to contemplate, and the whole tenor of the news is depressing.
For weeks it has been known that this attack has been contemplated, and there must have been gross mismanagement if BURNSIDE has not been strengthened sufficiently to hold that country against great odds. We hope and believe that he has been so strengthened, but the importance of the struggle is too great to feel at ease until a victory is announced.
The exact location of the reported engagement cannot be determined from the dispatches. It was on the Kingston road, but whether the rebels were advancing on Kingston or Knoxville cannot be positively defined. We are inclined to the belief that the fighting was in the immediate vicinity of Kingston which is about thirty miles west of Knoxville, and situated at the junction of the Holston and Clinch rivers. Our loss is set down at 100, 25 of whom were killed.
The latest advices from Burnside were up to the 23d inst., when he telegraphed the War Department that his position is impregnable and had no fears of Longstreet.
The fighting which has been mentioned as having taken place was an attack upon our out-posts and was only one of a series of engagements, which have taken place at intervals ever since last week Saturday. On Saturday morning the 16th, Burnside attacked Longstreet, and drove him accross [sic] the Tennessee river, with a loss of over 1,000 in killed and wn’d. In this battle Burnside’s loss is set down at 200. On Sunday morning Longstreet re-crossed, and Burnside considering his force too small, fell back without an engagement to a place called Lenoirs, which is twenty miles south of Knoxville. On Monday he fell back from Lenoirs, but as Longstreet was in hot pursuit, he formed a line of battle about noon, and an engagement ensured which lasted until three, P. M., when Burnside fell back to a more desirable position, and offered battle which was accepted, the fight closing at dark with our troops in posession [sic] of their own ground. In this engagement which was very severe, our loss was about 300, including Brig. General Sanders,¹ who fell mortally wounded. The loss of the rebels is stated to be more severe, as they were the attacking party. During Monday night Gen. Burnside retired to Knoxville, where joining his main army he still remains, and up to the 23d no attack had been made upon him by the rebles [sic], and he is well fortified.
A successful advance has been made toward Missionary ridge by a portion of the army of the Cumberland, under Gen. Thomas. The rebels contested the advance and the engagement was very severe, lasting for nine hours. The battle resulted in a brilliant victory, and in gaining a very important position. The last reports from Chattanooga, were that Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] was moving and that unless Bragg retreated the armies would fight another battle very soon.
Dispatches state that Bragg [Braxton Bragg] has opened fire upon Chattanooga and its adjacent camps. There was a rumor at Cincinnati that Hooker [Joseph Hooker] had been engaged with the enemy, but no particulars were given.
— It is positively stated that Gen. Sherman [William T. Sherman] has effected a junction with Grant’s right wing. The rebels also have been largely reinforced.
The last report from Lee’s [Robert E. Lee] army was that they were falling back to Hanover Junction, depleted one half to join in the attack on Burnside.
1. William Price Sanders (1833-1863) was a cousin of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He graduated from West Point and served in Utah and other western territories. When the Civil War started, Sanders remained loyal to the Union and became a captain in the 2nd U.S. Dragoons, which was renamed the 6th U.S. Cavalry. He participated in the Peninsula Campaign and the Battle of Antietam. After Antietam, Ambrose Burnside gave him a command in the Department of the Ohio and he raided into East Tennessee and pursued Morgan’s Raiders. Sanders was promoted to brigadier general on October 18, 1863, but he died before the appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Sanders was killed by a Confederate sharpshooter on November 18, 1863. Fort Loudon was renamed Fort Sanders in his memory. (Fort Loudon is underlined in blue on the map above.)
2. Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, by Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden (Chicago: McDonnell, 1866-68): 533; available in the UWRF Archives (E 468.7 .G87 1866).