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1864 September 24: “Mr. Halverson confirms the stories about the shocking treatment our men receive in the rebel prisons,” specifically Andersonville

September 24, 2014

There are so many good choices in this letter to use as the heading for this post!  Edwin Levings is in good form with this letter to his cousin, Charlotte “Lottie” Levings.  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.

Camp of the 12th Wis. Vols.
Near Atlanta Ga, Sept 24th / ’64

Dear Cousin Lottie;

                                      Yours of August 30th was duly rec’d and perused with much pleasure; and for its kind and free expression receive my thanks.

Having a little while this morning in which to write, I hasten to answer; but I should say being minus the material to make a letter of much interest, I hardly know what to say.  I have a fear that, as you probably hear from me not unfrequently via Father and Mother, my letters to you are much like old stories.  I will not allow it, however, to prevent me from writing to you, for I love to receive your letters and will answer them all, though but poorly.

You speak of Cousin Elbert’s marriage.  We did not know of it till your letter came, not having rec’d any letters from Cousins Louisa and Emma for some time.  I never made our to write to him.  Will you say to him for me — long life and much happiness to you and wife.  I wish he had waited til “this cruel war is over.”  I could not write to him, now, without thinking he is married, could I?¹

By a letter from Father yesterday I learned you are to lose Prof. Wilcox.²  I am very sorry, for he will be greatly missed in River Falls.  The Sabbath school, the church, and society there will all feel they have parted with a most valuable member.  Who can fill his place?  I shall always feel he has been greatly wronged, that he was compelled by the malice of evil minded person to exile himself from home and friends.  Nobly has he stood up against the shafts of persecution wishing no one evil, but doing good to all as opportunity offered.  There are some persons who seem incapable of appreciating a good man; and it is a fact that none of us fully know the worth of such a man till he has gone from our midst.  God bless him wherever he goes.

Will you have the kindness to inform Mr. Roberts’³ family that the Co. has received some intelligence about him which, perhaps, they have not heard.  Private Halverson4 whom we thought was killed in the battle of the 21st July, returned to the Co. last night.  He was taken prisoner and sent along with Mr. Roberts to Andersonville Ga., and the other day was exchanged.  Mr. Roberts a few days before, thinking Gen. Sherman’s [William T. Sherman] men were not to be exchanged soon managed to be sent off for exchange to Charleston or Belle Island.  He was well and kept up good courage.  If he had waited a few days he would have been exchanged here.  Mr. Halverson confirms the stories about the shocking treatment our men receive in the rebel prisons.  He said there were 35,000 of our men there huddled together in one inclosure.  That they died at the rate of 120 to 130 per day, that their daily ration consisted of but  pt. meal, a bit of bacon and a little salt.

Most of the inhabitants of Atlanta have been sent to the rebel lines.  Gen. Sherman does not intend to feed them with one hand and fight them with another as has been done.  You ought to see them as they go out in our ambulances to the rebel lines, old and young, fair and homely, exiled from their homes with a few old tables, chairs, &c by the destestable Yankees.  Serving them right, I say.  They are a bitter race and if they would have their independence they must take some other means than war and treason to get it.

An old citizen said to one of our boys recently that if we had captured the city of Atlanta by charging the rebel works it would have been a great victory for our arms; but that the way we did take it was a disgrace to us.

We have good news from our Eastern armies — that Gen. Sheridan [Philip Sheridan] has achieved a great victory.  Good !  Every rebel defeat, while it adds to the discourgement [sic] and demoralization of their armies, adds to the discomfiture and shame of the “peace men” at home.  This war can not go on much beyond this year, for I feel confident that our victories and the coming elections will give the rebels and “peace men” such a quietus that they will give up the struggle as a lost game.

Our non-veterans will be going home abut the 20th next month.  They feel confidant that the veterans will not have to stay in service another year.  I do not think it will be longer than that.

We have considerable rainy weather now, and some of the boys have begun to have the chills.  Homer has had several, but is well now.  We have drawn a few new tents and expect more.

I feel myself dull to-day and guess I had better stop writing.  Will you please write often and accept with best wishes from your Cousin,
.                                                                 .Edwin

1.  Myron Elbert Levings (b. 1843) was the son of Edwin’s and Homer’s Uncle John Denison Levings (1811-1891). He probably went by his middle name because there were so many Myrons in the family. Elbert married Nancy Fidelia Charter on May 1, 1864. Cousins Lucy Louisa (b. 1840) and Emma Eliza (b. 1842) were sisters of Lottie (Charlotte Amelia, b. 1845) and Hattie (Harriet Lucinda, b. 1849), the daughters of Edwin’s and Homer’s Uncle Alpheus Hall Levings. After the Civil War, Lottie married Jerry Flint’s brother, Phineas C. Flint.
2.  Benjamin Wilcox (1816-1875), originally from Connecticut, was the head of the River Falls Academy from 1856 to 1864. In the 1860 Federal census of River Falls, Wilcox is listed as a “professor of languages.” He had living with him two children—Edward and Willis, both born in New York—from his first wife, and three more—Helen, born in New York, and Grace, born in Wisconsin—with his second wife, Caroline.
3.  Samuel C. Roberts, from New Richmond, was taken prisoner at Atlanta on July 16.
4.  Torbion Hulverson (official roster), was a mis-spelling of Torbjorn Halverson. He was from Martell (Pierce County), and had only enlisted on January 25, 1864, before being taken prisoner in late July at Atlanta.

Edwin Levings letter of September 24, 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 September 24, 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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