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1864 August 25: “Only think, a rifle loaded with 16 cartridges and fired all in a minute if desired, and loaded in another”

August 25, 2014

There is obviously something missing toward the bottom of this letter from Edwin Levings with the 12th Wisconsin Infantry in Georgia.  Page 3 ends in mid-sentence and what follows on the next page is labeled “6” and picks up two weeks later.  The original letter is in the Edwin D. Papers (River Falls Mss BO), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and when we find the stray page, we will add it to this post.

Near Atlanta Ga Aug 25th, 1864.

Dear Father ;

                         Yesterday’s mail brought us a letter from you of the 14th inst.  All your letters lately have come through in nine or ten days.  We like to have them thus often.  The distance seems shortened, in fact, we seem almost to be at home, when hearing from there so often.

I doubt I can write a decent letter this morning.  I have been trying to solve a geometrical problem and failed.  I was successful with one I saw in the Rural and felt so pleased about it that I attempted another.  I never studied Geometry, I suppose you know, and I found the solution of the problem involved more knowledge of that branch than I am likely to possess during my soldier life, at least, I am sure I would like that study and perhaps may send for a book after we are paid off.

We shall probably be armed with the Henry rifle, a 16 shooter.¹  Most all the Regt. want that arm and can get it whenever the money is ready.  The price is $41.  Col. Bryant [George E. Bryant] has written to Gen. Sherman [William T. Sherman] to see if he will allow one of the paymasters at Marietta to come & pay us, so we can get the guns.  I have seen the rifle and fired it, and it is unhesitatingly pronounced the neatist and most effective gun in use.  Only think, a rifle loaded with 16 cartridges and fired all in a minute if desired, and loaded in another.  It has many other advantages.  The cartridges are metallic and, of course, water proof.  The cartridge box is small & will hold 100 rounds.  There are no caps nor baynet [sic] to carry.  Gov’t. furnishes the cartridges.  We have both signed for them.  If a soldier is killed & his gun recovered it is sent to his friends, or sold, according as he may have previously expressed the wish, and the money sent to his friends.  [paragraph break added]

1860 Henry repeating rifle

1860 Henry repeating rifle

The military situation here is changing for the better, I understand.  The left wing and center of the army is falling back to a new line of works, that fact being to straighten the line by letting the left rest on the Chattahoochee above Marietta, and allowing the right to swing further around the city.  You can see this arrangement the better secures our communications while it is certain to cut off those of the rebels.  This done, the rebels must fight us on our own ground, or skeddadle when they will surely be destroyed.  Either movement will result in their destruction.  The 17th corps, in the center, withdraws to the new line this evening about ½ mile distant.  At first thought this movement would seem like a confession of weakness on the part of Sherman, but you will remember the destruction of the rebel army, not the possession of the city, is …

———

6                    Sept. 10th,  Could not mail till I will say a little more.  We have about 540 men present — about 450 doing duty.  The recent battles will not make our permanent loss over 100, so that we have left about 900 men.  Half of them are of no account to us at present, and a good many never were and never will be.  Co. A  has lots of well men along the R. R. lines who won’t come to the front till made to come ~ perfect sneaks.  I hate to say it, but it is truth, & they are our recruits, with hardly an exception.  They are horrified at the idea of bullets & so make excuses or get detailed where bullets don’t sing their requiem.  Just so in the Co. with a few, — never in a fight yet & never mean to be if they can help it — sick or going to be, can hardly get them on picket & when there won’t fire a shot if they can help it.  I have a perfect contempt for such men.  Don’t send any more such men down here.  I am glad to say not all our recruits are such cowards.  There are some of them as good substantial, reliable men as carry a musket.  But it is a fact 1 veteran is worth 3.  Yet a doz. such men as I first mentioned, but enough of this.  [paragraph break added]

We are both well.  Hope you will write often.

Yours affectionately, E. D. Levings

1.  Benjamin Tyler Henry patented, in 1860, the first practical, lever action repeating rifle. It has a reliable .44 caliber rimfire metallic cartridge and produced a rapid and highly accurate fire. The first Henry rifles were in the hands of Union soldiers by mid-1862.

Edwin Levings letter of August 25, 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

Edwin Levings letter of August 25, 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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