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1864 March 3: Homer Levings Describes the Meridian Expedition

March 3, 2014

Homer Levings describes destroying railroads and communications in Mississippi on Union General William T. Sherman’s Meridian Expedition.  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.

Camp at Clear Creek, Miss.
March 3rd 1864.

Dear Parents,

                           It is with pleasure that I seat myself again to answer your most welcome letters, for it has been just a month to day since I have had the pleasure of perusing your letters, or answering them.  You of course are aware of the raid that has been made into Miss. by General Sherman, and of course you want to know all about it.  So I will try and give you an account of it so that you may get some Idea of its magnitude and probably it would be interesting to you to have an account of our marches also, so I will give you the whole thing as near as I can.

On the third day of February the 17th Army Corps, left Vicksburg, and vicinity followed by the 16th A. C. under Gen. Hurlbut [Stephen A. Hurlbut], for Maridian [sic: Meridian] Miss.  We started from here with twenty days rations on our regimental train and 40 more on the Corps train.  We crossed Black River the first day (where we rec’d. a letter from you dated Jan. 17 ) and marched to Edward Station, a distance of 10 miles with out meeting with any resistance from the enemy.  The next day we went on to Champion Hill, where the skirmishing commenced.  The 2nd briggade [sic] of the 4th division marched in advance and the 3rd briggade [sic] followed our reg’t. in advance of the briggade [sic].  The rebs made a stand near Champion Hill but it did not amount to much for they soon skedaddled.  The first rebel I see lay in a field with a ball in his back, so he of course did not scare me much.  I see the Doctors take it out of him, I thought they used him pretty rough.  I do not think he ever got well, but enough of this.  We marched on to Bakers Creek where they made annother [sic] stand, and the 2nd briggade [sic] being tired out, the 3rd was sent forward.  Here the rebs used their artilery [sic] for the first time.  Our reg’t. releived [sic] the 10th Ill., who were skirmishing with them.  The right wing was deployed out on the right of the road and the left wing on the left, there were three men killed here out of Co by a cannon shot.  We drove them from here about three miles, where they crossed the a creek and tried to tear up a bridge but our reg’t. drove them away so they did not do much dammage [sic], and they repaired it midst the enemyies [sic] fire.  We held the bridge all nigt [sic].  They tried to shell us from a hill where there [sic] battery was planted but they could not reach us and their shells did not burst.  Our company took a Lieut. and three men prisoner.  [paragraph break added]

The next day the 3rd Division crossed the bridge, the under the fire of the enemies [sic] guns.  The 68th and 32nd Ohio suffered the most.  T[he] figt [sic] only lasted about a half an hour.  Loss 17 killed and wounded, rebel loss 36.

That day we marched 12 or 14 miles and camped 5 or 6 miles beyond Clinton.  The 3rd divission [sic] had quite a skirmish at Clinton.  At Jackson we captured a cannon.  At the same time 16th A. C. were on annother [sic] road skirmishing with the rebels.  The next day we went into Jackson, where we laid all day.  Gen. Hurlbutt [sic] made a speech to us in from [of] McPherson’s Head Quarters [James B. McPherson].  He was drunk as usual.  We crossed Pearl River that nigt [sic] and camped.  The town was pretty well burned.  The rebels had the railroad in running to Jackson and had got out timbers to build a bridge across Pearl river.  We marched the next day to Brandon, distance 12 miles.  There we commenced tearing up the railroad.

On the 8th we left Brandon and marched 17 miles, the cavalry had a skirmish, two rebels killed and a woman who was watching the fight.  The rebels formed their line of battle right in front of her house, and she was standing in the door watching them, when a bullit [sic] struck her in the neck and she was instantly killed.  The 9th we marched 5 miles and camped at _nortory to let the 16th A. C. pass us.  Here I had a chance to see some eastern troops who were the first that I ever see.  They were the 77th NY, and the 35th NJ zouaves and the 178 NY.  The 25th and 32nd Wis. were also along.  The zouaaves [sic] were a hard looking set of men, a good many of the 17th NY formerly belonged to Billy Wilson’s¹ regt.  [paragraph break added]

10th  We marched through a small town called Hillsborough [sic: Hillsboro], it was most all burnt.  Our regt. was train guard.  [paragraph break added]

12th  We camped at Decatur.  The rebs fired at our train here and killed several mules.  We burnt the town to pay them for it.  The rebs fired into some of our boys that were foraging.  One man from Co I. was shot in the face, one of Co I. was shot twice and he played of dead on them and got away.  They thought they had killed him and left him.  [paragraph break added]

The 14th we left camp on a small stream called Little Chunk, for Maridian [sic] on 3/5 rations, for 5 days in our haversacks, taking only 2 teams to a regt.  The rebs fell trees in the road which impeded our progress somewat [sic].  We camped about 5 miles out of town, and started in the next morning, when it began to rain and rained most all day.  We got into some store houses and stayed over night.  At Maridian [sic] was Gen. Pope’s [Leonidas Pope] Head Quarters and by evening we destroy all their rail road communications in Miss.  [paragraph break added]

The 4th Division left the Corps here and went to Enterprise to destroy the rail road.  The business part of the town was all burnt.  The 3rd Briggade [sic] was sent the next day to Chithman (distance 14 miles) to burn a RR bridge.  It was guarded by a rebel regt. which we easily drove away.  The bridge was a nice covered bridge over a hundred feet long.  We also burnt 300 feet of trussle [sic] work and marched back part way to Enterprise and camped.  We burnt another bridge the next morning and another peace [sic] of trussle [sic] work and went in to town, and stayed over night and started back for Maridian [sic] to join our Corps and return home.  We left Maridian [sic] on our rigt [sic] and saved 5 or 6 miles.  [paragraph break added]

On the 20th we started about 8 o[’]clock, marched 13 miles and camped a mile from where we left the train but they had gone to Decatur.  We over took our train near Hillsborough [sic].  I was taken sick with the ague, was sick about a week.  The Troops crossed Pearl River the 26th.  [paragraph break added]

The 27th most all of the train in the Corps was started back for camp and annother [sic] train was sent out with rations.  The Doctor examined the convalescents and sent the worst ones into camp with the train.  I was sent along with them.  We left them 10 miles east of Canton, we went to Canton the first night.  The 17th Ay. C. captured 3 new engines that the rebs had run out of the town but could not get them away.  They also got 22 more locomotives that were being repaired.

March 4th — I have written nearly every thing that is of interest and I will not write much more.  The regt. I understand will be here this after noon.  They are at Edward Station so I will not mail this til Ed gets in.  [paragraph break added]

[Homer continues in pencil] Ed has finished his letter² and I have not time to write any more for the mail will soon go out so I will close.  This from your Affectionate son, — Homer Levings

1.  William “Billy” Wilson was the colonel of the 6th New York Infantry, also known as Wilson’s Zouaves. A history of the 6th New York states that “The vigor with which the regiment resisted the attack undoubtedly saved Fort Pickens from surprise and capture, both of which the enemy expected to accomplish.” (New York Infantry Regiment, 6th, Historical Sketch from The 3rd Annual Report of the Bureau of Military Statistics on the New York State Military Museum website.)
2.  Edwin Levings’ letter is dated March 5, 1864, so Homer’s postscript must have been written on that day.

.

Homer Levings letter of March 3, 1864, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Homer Levings letter of March 3, 1864, 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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