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1862 May 14: “We succeeded in silencing forts, gunboats, rams, and everything else belonging to the rebeldom”

May 16, 2012

A letter from a soldier in the 4th Wisconsin Infantry, originally published in The Milwaukee Sentinel, was reprinted in The Hudson North Star on May 14, 1862.   The letter and a post script, written the next day, is followed by a small note in which the North Star editors comment on the contents of the letter.

Frank Harding in his letter of May 3 provides a similar, and more detailed, description of these same events.


Sufferings of the Regiment—Near New Orleans.

Correspondence of the Milwaukee Sentinel.

North-West Pass of Mississippi, }
April 23, 1862. }

EDS. SENTINEL :—I have had little or no opportunity for writing you for many days, and what I may now write will perchance be a long while in reaching you, as our mail facilities are by no means extrordinary [sic].  We left Ship Island by the Great Republic on Thursday, the 17th ult. [April], three thousand of us stowed thickly on her decks, with few or no arrangement for comfort, or subsistence even.—Gen. Butler [Benjamin F. Butler] and New England troops preceded us, reaching the Pass and safely crossing the bar on the morning of the 8th.  We, the Northwestern troops—Fourth Wisconsin, Sixth Michigan and Thirty-first Indiana—reached the same point a few hours later, to find the water so low that we could not enter the river with our large ship, and must therefore remain outside.  And ever since we have been rolling and pitching at anchor in one of the filthiest ships I ever set foot upon, and emitting a stench from all parts of it that would knock a man down at eighty yards as surely [as] a Minnie ball.  For the purpose of lightening the ship the Fourth Wisconsin has to-day been temporarly [sic] transferred to the decks of the Steam Frigate Colorado.  A most welcome change, and in a sanitary point of view, of inestimable value to our famished, disheartened and suffering men !

We had Gen. Williams [Thomas R. Williams] and Staff on board, cozily and comfortably quartered in the saloon of the Great Republic, and quite as indifferent to our condition as they were careful for their own luxurious ease.  There are others superior in rank more in the blame—men who ought to think as much of men under their command, as of speculating out of expeditions, and of means furnished by the government for their use.  A sad story of wrong and outrage is to be told one of these days, and they of whom it shall be told had better walk right straight into perdition, than attempt to stem the flood of hot indignation they have created.  In passing, I seriously think that if the Great Republic in its present nastiness could be moored for twenty-four hours anywhere within gunshot of New Orleans, the city would of necessity be surrendered.  The “stinkpot” invention is nowhere in the comparison.  Investigation in this direction can do no harm, and may be of essential service in checking the necessary course of men, out of which grow the wrongs inflicted upon our volunteers soldiery—wrongs which are crushing out manhood, patriotism, hope, and even life itself.  From the hour we were recklessly exposed to the guns at Sewall’s Point, until we set foot on the decks of the Colorado, the Wisconsin Fourth has been subjected to ill-treatment for which there is hardly a name.  A dozen battles could not have so maimed and wrecked this fine regiment.  Our coming on board this ship is like the transition from slavery to freedom, or a blaspheming hell to a rejoicing heaven.

I cannot close this paragraph without expressing the very great obligation we are under to Lieut. Davis, Commanding, Capt. Reynolds, Lieut Boyd, and the officers generally of the Colorado, for the polite manner in which they received us, and the attention paid to our comfort.

News has just come down to us from above that the fleet will pass up to Forts Jackson and St. Philip to-night, the chains which obstructed progress having been cut.  It is also said that a deserter from Fort Jackson reports its abandonment.  This is the substance of a letter read in the ward room a few minutes since.  In the event that the last item should prove to be incorrect, nothing can prevent the forts falling into our hands.  So far, only the mortar fleet and gunboats have been employed, commencing on Thursday last ;  but now the sloop-of-war, with their heavy guns, can take part in the work of reduction, and will assuredly open the way to New Orleans.

When next you will hear from us, it will probably be somewhere in the vicinity of that city.

Our sick list is a large one, and at the present time we are not over eight hundred strong, showing a reduction of nearly one-third from our original count.  Disease, and not battle, has so thinned our ranks—sending men to their homes, to the hospital, and to the grave.

My notes of the Expidition [sic] are quite full, and you shall have them in due time.

A. C. B.

APRIL 24, 1862.

EDITOR SENTINEL :—A despatch just received from the fleet announces the reduction of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, after a bombardment of seven days.  A grand attack on the part of the entire naval force was made this morning, about 4 o’clock ;  and although encountering a terrific fire from the forts, the rebel gunboats, and a battering rain with five rafts in tow, we succeeded in silencing forts, gunboats, rams, and everything else belonging to the rebeldom, with few casualties on our side.  Taking it all in all, this is one of the most brilliant achievements of the war, and has won for our gallant navy fresh laurels.  We are to move immediately toward New Orleans.  I cannot write more now, for we are in the hurry of preparation.

A. C. B.

SOJER BOYS.—From the correspondence which we publish from the Milwaukee Sentinel, (the only advices we have from the 4th Regiment) our friends, the Hudson City Guards, are having a sorry time of it.  We hope that all that “A. B. C.” [sic] writes is not true.  

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