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1863 July 4: “It is all up with Vicksburg. The rebel stronghold is in our possession, thank God!”

July 4, 2013

Edwin Levings, with the 12th Wisconsin Infantry at Vicksburg, is singing a very different tune about the Confederate soldiers than he has in previous letters.  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.

Vicksburg, July 4th/63

Dear Parents;

                              I feel first rate to night and wish I knew you did.  What have you been thinking about today?  I need not ask – I well imagine, but if you have any gloomy restless thoughts, put them away at once and rejoice with those that rejoice.  Victory,  victory,  victory !  Let the joyful sound echo all over the land and the praise of a grateful people arise to the Most High for His signal favors and blessings on the cause of the Union.  It is all up with Vicksburg.  The rebel stronghold is in our possession, thank God!  The glorious old “stars and stripes[”] flow over the city and the rebel works; the sullen and terrific roar of cannon has ceased; the rattle of musketry is o’er.  The siege of Vickburg [sic] is a fact accomplished.  “Spades is trump,” this time, there’s no mistake.  The rebels displayed the white flag on all their forts this forenoon at 10 o’clock & came outside & stacked their arms & then marched in to their camps.  Yesterday morning our army open’d on them with a terrific fire from artillery, as a foretaste of what they would get to-day if they did not surrender.  They put up white flags all along, & came up on their works & sat there all day, without their arms, looking at us & talking back & forth with us, & this morning surrendered uncondionally [sic].  They are mostly fine looking fellows, but dirty and starved most to death.

I have been on picket to-day, & have mingled freely with the rebel soldiers whom are allowed to go & come anywhere outside our pickets.  Have had many a pleasant chat, shaken hands with them, &c.  The came outside to the springs, eat blackberries with us, made trades.  The utmost good humor & pleasant feeling prevailed among us, – glad are they to be once more free from the authority of their officers & to get something to eat.  We gave them all we had with us & lugged on hard bread, meat & coffee & a more tickled set of fellows I never saw.  I pitied them & would give them any thing to eat they want.  Those in front of us are Tenn. troops,—they are tired of the war & are determined to go home & are down on the Ga. troops & say they are the mere tools of politicians.  Lately their food has been peas, beans & corn ground & baked, but there gave out & they had nothing but rice, sugar & molasses, with a scant allowance of flour.  Poor fellows, they are glad to get out,—& say they are glad we have got it – they realize as well as we how strange it is to be firing away at each other to kill, day after day, & then finally meet in friendship as we have to-day.  I tell you I don’t believe friend and foe ever met with better satisfaction.

Morning of July 5th, 1863 –

I have got to quit writing,—we are going after old Johnson [sic: Joseph E. Johnston], so they say, and our Division leaves for Black river at 8 o[’]clock this morning.  We are under Gen. Ord [Edward O. C. Ord], Com’d’g 13 Army Corps.¹  We take 5 days rations & go in light marching order.  We are taken by surprise but are ready for it.  So good bye & write soon to your boys,

Edwin & Homer

Direct as before.

1.  Ed, Homer, and the rest of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry are setting off on what will become known as the Jackson Expedition. While the Siege of Vicksburg was still going on, Johnston had gathered 30,000 soldiers at Jackson, Mississippi, and then cautiously moved them toward the rear of Ulysses S. Grant’s army as it surrounded Vicksburg. Grant responded by sending General William T. Sherman on the Expedition to clear Johnston from the Vicksburg area. Sherman took with him the XIII Corps under Edward O. C. Ord (who had led the XIII Corps since June 19, 1863) and attached to it the division under Jacob G. Lauman. The Expedition will last from July 5 to 25.

Edwin and Homer Levings letter of July 4, 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 and Homer Levings letter of July 4, 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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