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1865 January 18: “I tell you we hugged the ground for awhile for dear life, expecting at every discharge to be hit”

January 18, 2015

Pocotaligo, South Carolina, was the closest depot to Port Royal Island and was a sought-after target for Union troops to disrupt railroad service.  It fell to Union General William T. Sherman in early 1865 shortly after his army’s capture of Savannah in Christmas 1864. Very little of the community remains today.

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.

Pocotaligo S.C. Jan 18th, 1865

Cousin Hattie,

                             A leasure [sic] hour has come, and I am thinking how well I should like to receive a letter from you.  It is a long time since I had that pleasure, and it is with the hope you will soon write to me that I pen these lines.  I fear you thought as Father writes so regularly that your letters would possess no interest to me, or perhaps, you have expected two letters for one.  Your letters will certainly interest and please and I shall look for them.  I am no letter writer, — my letters are sorry looking, dull things — and hoping you will pass my imperfections by[,] may I not receive a letter from you soon?

How well I should enjoy being home this evening!  I fancy I can see how the scene in the kitchen looks.  Father is perusing the newspaper; Mother is sewing, or dreamily sitting in the rocking chair, and you are intent with a book.  A more interesting scene than I can sketch, of course, ~ very pleasant, but I will not continue the sketch farther.  I wonder if I shall again be permitted to enter the home circle and enjoy its sweet influence.  Only the All-seeing Father, who careth for us all, knows.  I am far away, and am taking a soldier[‘]s lot, and know not what may be in store for me.  I am not sad in consequence.  Our cause is holy, and if I live to enjoy the blessings of a restored Union, that enjoyment will increase with the remembrance of these days of toil.  If not, it will be all right.  I can use the present only, and may I use it well.

Well, Dear Cousin, we have both been in battle again, and we are yet safe.  I must tell you what we have been about the last few days.  The 17th Corps left Beaufort on Port Royal island the 13th inst. to gain a foothold on the Charleston and Savannah R. R.  Our Div. was in advance.  The day following we skirmished with the rebels for 10 miles, and night closed the day with a sharp, short fight.  Co. A. 45th Ills. and Co. A. 12th were on the skirmish line and advanced to within 300 yds. of the rebel intrenchments which were across a marsh, 2 miles from Pocotaligo Station.  The rebels poured fierce volleys of musketry into us and played on us from 3 forts with artillery.  We were in the open field  but lost but few men.  That we lost so few is truly surprising.  We lay down between the  corn rows, and I tell you we hugged the ground for awhile for dear life, expecting at every discharge to be hit.  The cannon shot ploughed up the ground showering us with dirt.  Robert Gibson of River Falls was knocked down by a piece of shell, but beyond a slight bruise there was no harm done to him.  Some of the boys had their knapsacks completely riddled with bullets.  The cloth tent & blankets of Private Beardsley [Alva S. Beardsley] of Prescott were completely riddled and ought to be in the Historical Rooms at Madison.¹  We had but 3 wounded in the Co. one severely, none killed.  The rebels left in the night retreating across the Saltcatcher River towards Charleston.  I think the rebels must be very weak when a mere handful of men can drive them.  The negroes said they, the rebels, were terribly frightened.

We are strongly intrenched on the R. R., it being the purpose I am told, to establish communication with Savannah.  I hear we shall stay here 8 or 10 days, draw clothing & other supplies.  So you see this army has become a flying column and may strike anywhere.  The troops are perfectly joyous at the discomfiture of the rebels who can only make a show of strength at most.

While at Beaufort the Sanitary folks & the Christian Commission agents visited us, distributing their gifts among us.  It does me good to see these ministers of Kindness from our Northern homes.  They presented the Regt. with a lot of canned milk, tomatoes, soda crackers, farina, & other things.  The farina, though, what can we use it for?  We can not make puddings with it without other material.  It might answer to whitewash cake when sugar is high.

The weather down here is fine at present — the nights are cold & we have to get up close to the fire.  Dear Cousin, I heard, how, I do not recollect, that you are teaching school.  Tell me how you get along.  What is Lottie about.  Let me know what the young folks are busying themselves about there [sic] winter evenings.  We are both well as usual.  Please write soon directing via N. Y.  [paragraph break added]

With well wishes for your happiness, I am Your Cousin, Edwin Levings

1.  The museum displays of the Wisconsin Historical Society were called the Historical Rooms at this time.

Levings letter 1865-01-18

Edwin Levings letter of January 18, 1865, 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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