1863 April 29: “Gen. Dow is in command of this post and a bigger fool never wore shoulder straps”
Jerry Flint, with Company G of the 4th Wisconsin Infantry in Louisiana, writes to his brother Phineas (Phin) in River Falls. Jerry’s handwriting is frequently challenging to read, hence the occasional guesses in square brackets followed by a question mark [?]. The original letter is in the Jerry E. Flint Papers (River Falls Mss BN) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, University Archives and Area Research Center.
Detachment 4th Wis Volunteers
Camp Parapet La Apr 29th /863
I shall have to beg your pardon for not answering your letter sooner. It has been nearly three weeks since I’ve received it and it had been on the way over a month. I suppose by this time you were at River Falls so I shall direct to that place. The miniatures you sent came through all right. It did my soul good to get them. I cannot see that Mother has grown old at all and you are about the same except that you are a little [fair?]. I have now a very good collection of pictures to keep off the blues. Lu and Carrie sent me theirs and who could look at them without laughing. I have also Elimira’s which makes me think of the good old days gone by. Besides I have one or two that I picked up in my travels that are not bad to rest the eyes on. They are from the famous old city of Baltimore. I tell you Phin I enjoyed life in that city. New Orleans is like the black hole of the infernal regions in comparisons. [paragraph break added]
Yesterday I had a call from Monroe Brown.1 He is in the 15th N. H. Reg. You will recollect that he went to school at the Falls [River Falls] the winter Clapp [Edward A. Clapp] helpt2 there. I was shaking with the Ague [fever] when he came in laughing and held out his hand [and] asked me if I knew him. I had to look a spell before I could make out where I had seen him although he looked very familiar. He came here when Gen. Banks’ [Nathaniel P. Banks] troops and has camped within 50 rods of us for four months. Yesterday he got to talking with one of our boys and found out where the company was from. I have also heard that Ha[yward?] is at Bonnet Carre [Carré] twenty five miles above here. He was also encamped at one time close to our battery but I didn’t know it. [paragraph break added]
Gen. Banks is doing good work in western Louisiana. We hear every day of the immense amount of supplies he has taken from the rebels. By papers found on one of the captured rebel gunboats we learn that they had a nice plan laid for attacking New Orleans. But Banks’ movements frustrated them. Their army is driven out of the country, their navy blowed to the devil and their naval commander whom they call the Paul Jones of the South3 is a prisoner in New Orleans. His flag ship was the old “Queen of the West.” As our fleet advanced in Grand Lake the Calhoun sent a fire ball crashing through her which set her on fire and and blew her up.4 [paragraph break added]
The weather is extremely hot so that we do not drill much only from half past seven to half past eight in the morning, and about half an hour in past sundown. The rest of the time we lay in the shade as much as possible.
To morrow is a general muster of all the troops in the department and I have been at work nearly all day, cleaning musket and equipments and putting my things in order generally. We are expecting pay in a few days. We shall have four months pay here day after to morrow.
Gen. Dow5 is in command of this post and a bigger fool never wore shoulder straps. He has forbidden the sale of Whiskey in camp although it was recommended by the surgeon. Beer and cider have fared the same and also ice which is the worst of all where there is nothing to drink but the warm river water. The boys are all well.
Hoping this will find you in health. I remain
Your Brother, Jerry
1. Monroe Brown was a corporal in Company G of the 15th New Hampshire Infantry.
2. “Helpt” looks and sounds odd to most of us, but it is in fact the simple past tense and past participle of help.
3. E. W. Fuller was a veteran gunboat commander and was the captain of the CSS Queen of the West. He was called the “John Paul Jones of the South.”
4. It is interesting to note that the USS Calhoun, which was a captured Confederate ship, destroyed the CSS Queen of the West, a captured Union ship. A shell from the Calhoun set fire to Queen of the West’s cotton, and her burning wreck drifted down the river for several hours before she grounded and exploded.
5. Neal S. Dow (1804-1897), the son of Quaker parents, had the nickname the “Napoleon of Temperance” and the “Father of Prohibition.” He was also an ardent abolitionist and his home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. When the Civil War began, Dow volunteered for service even though he was 57. He was appointed colonel of the 13th Maine Infantry and his regiment participated in the capture of New Orleans (along with Jerry Flint’s regiment). He was promoted to brigadier general in April 1862, and was assigned to command Forts Jackson and Saint Philip, the two Confederate forts captured at the same time as New Orleans. Dow is best remembered for his role in the Siege of Port Hudson, which is coming up May 21–July 9, 1863.
This photograph of Dow in his Civil War uniform is from the Neal Dow entry in “Maine: An Encyclopedia.” The original photograph is in the collections of the Maine State Archives.