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1863 June 14: “Our Regiment is horribly cut up, we lost our Colonel and most of the line Officers”

June 14, 2013

Frank D. Harding at this point was still with Company G of the 4th Wisconsin Infantry.  The majority of the letter discusses battles related to the Siege of Port Hudson.  The original letter is in the Frank D. Harding Papers (River Falls Mss AB), University of Wisconsin-River Falls University Archives & Area Research Center.

Carrolton La  June 14th 1863

Dear Father

                         I received a letter from you last which is the only one I have received for the past two months.  I had began to think that you had given up the idea of ever writing to me.

There is but little news stirring that can be got hold of.  Every thing about Port Hudson is quiet but in a few days I think that it must fall into our hands.  We had one of the hardest fights there of any in this Dept.   The Western Regts behaved nobly and had they been supported by the nine month’s men we should have surely taken the place.  Our Regiment is horribly cut up, we lost our Col¹ and most of the line Officers.  Gen. Sherman² lost his leg and may lose his life.  He is better this morning I hear.

Out of eleven hundred and forty men that we left Wisconsin with, hardly four hundred are left and the Regt can not muster two hundred and fifty to go in to a fight.  Our loss before Port Hudson in killed and wounded will not fall much short of 5000 men.³  The negros fought like devils’ they made five charges on a battery that there was not the slightest chance of their taking, just (as their Officers said) to show our boys that they could, and would fight.  At one time the 4th Wis., 8th N.H., 6th Mich., and 75th & 128th N.Y. Regts were on their works and had their battle flags planted, but having no one to support them they were obliged to fall back.  My Co. [G] was not in the fight as they are stationed at Camp Parapet as heavy art [artillery].  One of our Lieuts was on Gen Sherman’s Staff and was killed,4 two of the Sergts of my Co. were in the fight and one was promoted on the field for gallantry.  I went over the the battle field two days after the fight and the stench was horrible.  Our forces have surrounded the place now and are planting heavy guns and in the course of the week I think the [__?] for battle will come off.

I still board in Carrolton but do my work in the City in the Office of the Chief Commissary.  How long I shall stay there it is impossible for me to say.

Tell mother I picked out a dozen of gray hairs out of my head to lend her but I have lost them and have no time to look for more.  I mean to have my picture taken in a few days and will lend it to you. I don’t look much like a solider for I haven’t had a uniform on for more than one year.

Give my love to Mother and Diantha.  Write me soon.

Yours Truly,  Frank D. Harding

1.  Sidney A. Bean, from Waukesha, had been the colonel of the 4th Wisconsin Infantry only since March 17, 1863, being promoted from lieutenant colonel of the 4th when Halbert E. Paine was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers. Bean was killed May 29, 1863, at Port Hudson.
A list of the killed and wounded in the 4th Wisconsin Infantry from May 27 to June 2, 1863, can be found in E. B. Quiner’s Military History of Wisconsin (Chicago: 1866), chapter 14, page 504 ((UWRF Archives E 537 .Q56 1866, available digitally on the Wisconsin Historical Society’s website).
2.  As we learned yesterday, during the May 27, 1863, attack on Port Hudson, General Thomas W. Sherman was severely wounded, which led to the amputation of his right leg. His injuries were so severe that he was not expected to live. Even the newspaper in his hometown (Newport, Rhode Island) printed an obituary for him.
3.  This is a very accurate estimate by Harding. Five thousand Union losses is the number generally given.
4.  Edward A. Clapp, from Hudson.

Frank Harding letter of June 14, 1863, from the Frank D. Harding Papers (River Falls Mss AB) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Frank Harding letter of June 14, 1863, from the Frank D. Harding Papers (River Falls Mss AB) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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