1864 December 22: “We entered the city [Savannah] yesterday; and the 12th was the first regiment in”
This blue “captured letter paper” was picked up by Edwin Levings of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry as they marched into Savannah, Georgia, on December 21, 1864. 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.
Savannah Ga. Dec 22nd, 1864.
My Dear Parents;
I do not know what you will think of me for not mailing you a letter sooner. I did not mean to be so long about it, knowing that your anxiety increases with every day’s delay, but hope you will not charge me with neglect. I was on picket day before yesterday, and since then have had no opportunity to send off letters.
Savannah has fallen, — another triumph of our army. Who says this war is a failure? How is gold to-day? Eh? How is the thermometer of your feelings over that announcement? Well, before this reaches you, you will have received the news, I will try and give you the particulars.
We entered the city yesterday; and the 12th was the first regiment in. There was no fighting. The rebels evacuated the night of the 20th and retreated toward Charleston, leaving their heavy guns and magazines in good condition. They were pretty badly scared. We tried to behave ourselves, but the poultry, flour, molasses &c, that lay in our way caused us to take considerable, and we went marching through the city the objects of laughter by citizens, especially the darkies. I suppose they thought it was Christmas, and that Santa Claus had been around.
The stores were all closed. At the landing and depot we found considerable corn, flour and sugar. There were also many bbls of rice and molasses. It seems the rebels did not intend to hold the place, and for some weeks had been moving off their stores.
Savannah is a fine looking city, very compact, and is located on fine ground. There are several objects of interest, one of which is a beautiful park in the south part of the city, hansomely [sic] adorned with various kinds of trees and shrubs, with walks, and enclosed by an elegant iron fence. The houses are mostly brick, many of them hansome [sic].
I noted the countenances of the people as I plodded along with no small interest. The fair ones came to the windows and doors to look at the Yankees, perhaps, though, at the guns we carried, for you remember the guns once saved Rome ! but they did not save Savannah. One old fellow of portly dimensions and of more brass than brains perambulated the street with upturned head, not appearing to notice us, and appearing to say “I am a gentleman.” I looked to see his hat fall off, but it would’nt [sic]. One man, a merchant, I judged by his manner, wearing a pleasant, hopeful look was walking along, seemingly thinking that better days were coming. A woman, laughingly pointing to our plunder, exclaimed “You have more to eat than we.”—You would have thought so had you seen the market buildings, if they revealed any thing. There were a lot of cows heads dressed, and displayed in a pathetic array, beseeching the patronage of the passer-by. Multitudes of colored people collected at the street corners, showing us their ivories, and making all sorts of gestures and remarks, intermingled hearty laughter.
We are camped in suburbs of the city, or south-side of it. It is very uncomfortably cold. I do not think we shall remain here long — not more than a fortnight at most. Our next destination will probably be Charleston, and before this gets to you, we may be on the way.
Saw Lieut. Higby [sic: Chester G. Higbee] at noon to-day. He leaves to-day for the North, — says he may go directly [to] R. F.
Dale [Wilber P. Dale] has not gone yet — will propably [sic] start in a few days. I must close my letter for my fingers are numb with the cold. This is captured letter paper. Write to us soon.
Yours affectionately E. D. Levings