1863 March 16: “They fell behind a short distance when 15 guerrillas pitched on to them”
Edwin Levings spend most of this letter telling his parents about three soldiers from Company F (Ed’s in Company A) of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry. 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.
Memphis, Tenn. March 16th/’63
My Dear Parents;
Finally we are in Memphis and you are probably looking for a letter, thinking we have gone down the river ere this. We came here the 14th,—the roads were very rough and our wagon upset twice, breaking the wheel the 2nd time. After getting here, (about dark) I with others was detailed to go back and get the Co. luggage. Got back 2 oclock [sic] at night. I have not been into the city yet, our camp being out-side and only two passes from the Co. being allowed per day. This is a fine country here abouts. The residences and surroundings are magnificent, what I have seen of them. The shrubbery & trees & flowers look beautifully. O Mother how I wish you could see them. Peach trees are blossoming. The weather is beautiful now and there is but little rain. We draw 2 months pay to-day. I presume we shall go down the river in a few days.
Co. F met with bad luck the day before we left Camp Butler. Co. I was out foraging and 3 men of Co. F, Reed, Bennet [sic] & Brady¹ & one of Co. E were out with them. They fell behind a short distance when 15 guerrillas pitched on to them. Co. E man they took first & put him on [the horse] behind the Capt. of the squad. The Capt. ordered his men to charge on the other 3,—meanwhile the rebel officer asked him if he had any money. He said he had 50 cts. He also inquired the number of our men out there. He told him there were 200 Cavalry in the edge of a swamp if they had not just passed that road, pointing to the rear. The officer looked frightened & said, “You get off the horse. You may go. Paddle for your Camp. You are a pretty nice young fellow & you may go for this information,” & away he went as fast as legs could carry him. The other 3 were taken & disarmed, to whom the officer said “Now we are going to shoot you. The Union men have burned my house &c & I shall have vengeance out of you.” They tied their hands behind them. They leveled their pieces & fired. Just at the instant, the boys broke and run. Reed was shot through both hands & fell & but picked himself up & escaped & a negro took off the cord from his hand. Brady’s face was burned with powder & he fell in the tall grass feigning he was hit. The officer with loaded revolver & with sabre in the other was feeling round after him, it being now nearly dark. Brady took hold of the sabre & said “dont [sic] shoot, I shall die anyways.” “Yes” says the officer, “I mean you shall.” Brady sprang to his feet & sprang darted behind some trees when the officer fired & missed, the powder burning Brady’s face & Brady made his escape also. Bennet [sic]¹ did not escape though he run also. No doubt they killed him. Just before this occurred one of the teams got stuck in the mud & the guerrillas came up, but Lieut. Hoyt [Francis Hoyt] formed his men in line across the road & the rebels took flight, one or two of the Co. were a few rods behind & barely escaped discovery. They fired, shot one rebel through the band & another through the back the ball coming out in the arm. These guerrilas [sic] are citizens & some of them were recognized as having been in our camp. The Cavalry got some of them afterwards & it will go hard with them. This usage makes me think Copp & Pierce² were killed in like manner, for they said they had had 2 other men of the 12th before.
It is very warm to day for spring. We have just been paid. Homer rec’d $29.80, I $34.85. The reason of the difference is I have had less clothing then he, the allowance being $42.00 yearly, & we get pay for the balance. The clothing acc’t is settled yearly. We express to-day $50.00 to the City Bank of Prescott for you. We have now rec’d one year’s pay, & have sent home 240 dollars in all. Out of [$]312,─ expenses having been since first paid, not including what we had when we enlisted, $54. So it stands thus, 1 years pay [$]156 each, [$]312; sent home [$]240; expenses [$]54; balance on hand 18 dollars. Well it is a hot day I much confess & I must stop. The opinion is we shall stay here a week or so. I will write ere leaving. So good by[e] to-day.
Direct 3rd Brigade, 4th Division via Memphis Tenn.
1. George W. Reed from Menekaunee, Ferdinand Bennett from Menekaunee, and Franklin Brady from Marinette. Neither the official roster nor E.B. Quiner’s Military History of Wisconsin mention this incident. Bennett survived this encounter with the enemy, only to die July 28, 1864, near Atlanta, from wounds.
2. Joseph M. Copp, an original Company A recruit from Prescott, and Elgreen C. Pierce, were taken prisoner on December 25, 1862. Later reports had Copp hanged by the Rebels, but that was not true as he survived the War.