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1863 March 25: After Being Taken Prisoner by the Rebel Guerrillas, “their escape was mirraculous”

March 25, 2013

In what has become a rare letter from Homer, we hear the same story Ed told earlier (March 16) of the capture and daring escape of George W. Reed, Ferdinand Bennett, and Franklin Brady, all from Company F of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry.  The George Read mentioned in the first sentence is not the same as Company F’s George Reed, but probably explains why Homer consistently misspells George Reed’s surname.

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 25th, /63.

Dear Parents,

                           Yours of the 15th, was rec’d to day, and I now take my pen in hand to answer it, and also one from George Read, which I received to day.  We moved camp to day, we have got a nice camping ground, and are very comfortably situated now, to [sic] comfortable, I think to remain long for we generaly [sic] move when soon after we get things fixed up nice.  We got the boards with whitch [sic] our bunks are made,—from the house of the Rebel, Gov. Harris [Isham G. Harris] of Tenn.  We are having verry [sic] pleasant weather now though it has rained for the last to [sic] days.  The trees are commencing to [l]eave out and the peach trees are in blossom. [paragraph break added]

It is reported that our cavalry had a little fight to day with the rebel cavalry or guerillas–I do not know which.  Corporal Bennett, of company F that was taken prisoner by the guerrillas, has returned, their escape was mirraculous [sic].  There was one man from company E. that was taken by the same gang only a few minutes before was released unconditionaly [sic].  After they had taken him, the Capt. ordered his men to charge and take Bennett, Brady, and George Read [sic: should be Reed].  While they were doing this the Capt. commenced talking with the company E. man, he told him that he wanted him to tell him how many union [sic] soldiers there were out there at that time, he answered him that there were two hundred of the 7th Kansas, which was untrue, but it answered the purpose verry [sic] well for the Capt. thought he had no time to lose and told him that he might go back to camp; for the information, he had given him, and told him to give his respects to his Captain.  There were only to [sic] of the company F boys, that had arms, Bennett all fired several shots at them, and Read fired at them five times, wounding one of them badly, they were then taken, and their hands were tied behind them, but Brady and Bennett were cunning enough to place their hands so that they could slip them out at any time.  They took them to their camp and placed them in line to shoot them.  George Read [sic] and started and run, and they shot at him, but it was after dark and they could not see to shoot verry [sic] well, they fired at  him and shot off one of his fingers and grazed the another finger, at the same time cutting off the lower bone of his left arm, the ball also cut the rope that they tied his with, so he got away from them and hired a negro to pilot him in to camp. They then fired at Brady, and the ball passed his head without hitting him, but they stood so near him that the powder burnt his face.  It stuned [sic] him so that he fell and he thought that he se [sic] Bennett fall but he was mistaken, just as they were a going to shoot him he threw up his hand, and knocked the gun one side and the ball went in to the air then he struck the man in the face and knocked him down and then he run and got out of their way, he did not get back for three or four days, they put the nigger hounds on his track, and he had to swim the river several times to get out of their way.  [paragraph break added]

Have you received the book which Ed sent. We should like to have you send us a bottle of Pulsatilla.  It is most time for the mail to go out, so I close, with my best wishes for your welfare.

From your Affectionate son,

1.  Pulsatilla is a homeopathic remedy, used, among other things, to treat coughs.

Edwin Levings letter of March 25, 1863, 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 March 25, 1863, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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