1865 March 30: “This war is to bring us, both North and South, to a willingness to render justice to the downtrodden of our land”
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.
Goldsboro N. C. March 30th, 1865
Dear Cousin Lottie,
Your letter of the 3rd ult came to hand on the 25th inst. making me glad beyond expression. It found me just entering upon a rest from a long, weary march; and I could but think how timely the little missive, and how nice to know you sent it.
Now I will try to form an answer thereto, hoping you will not think I have forgotten, or lost any love for you as to care not to know where you are, or what you are doing. Indeed, what made you think so? If I love not my cousins, I love nobody, and am unworthy of love. Yes, I am always pleased to hear from you.
And you are teaching near Maiden Rock. The news gave one mingled feelings of surprise and regret,—regret that you are thrown among strangers. It is pleasanter, you know, to hear of our friends from where we have been, or where we possessed some acquaintances. I hope you are not lonely, and hope you have found friends; though it does seem to me you are in a lonely place. Perhaps it is the association of the name, Maiden Rock, that gives rise to the feeling. Though historic with interest the place to me was always invested with a lonely grandeur. But a cheerful, working heart is at home anywhere, and no doubt you find enough in the school room to employ your best energies, so that while you are doing good, you are also receiving it in the consciousness of having done you duty, thus bringing sunshine into you heart and leaving no place there for shadows. How is it ? Tell me all about you experiences, for the teacher’s calling is a high and noble one
Well, you wished my opinion of the probable duration of the war. My idea is perhaps not worth much, but I will jot it down for you with pleasure. I always thought the Almighty had a purpose to work out in the prosecution of this war — the establishment of that great principle laid down in our Constitution, and so little regarded by us as a nation, humanity to the enslaved, or equality of human rights. Viewed from this standpoint we must see that though man proposes, God disposes events, and that consequently the war will continue by his decree till we as a people no longer deny the oppressed their rights. This war is to bring us, both North and South, to a willingness to render justice to the downtrodden of our land. When we reach that step peace honorable and permanent will come. Who can doubt that our armies backed by loyalty to this principle are to establish it throughout our beloved land. We are not quite willing to recognize the golden rule but are fast becoming so. We can read the signs of the times and see that progress is making toward the Rights; and we know that Peace is not far off. You perceive I consider that obedience to this Heavenly principle is the condition of peace, and that peace will come of obedience, never without it. Our Constitution has recently been amended so as to forever abolish slavery in the U. S. That was a grand act. The other day a colored lawyer was admitted to practice in in [sic] the Supreme Court of the U. S. the first instance of the kind. Have you read the report of the interview of Sec[’]t Stanton and Gen. Sherman with the colored men of Savannah? It is exceedingly interesting. [Edwin M. Stanton, William T. Sherman]
I have not yet told you about our march in the Carolinas. You must pardon me for my short account of it, as I have almost unconsciously written along forgetting what would most interest you. Our march began from Pocotaliga S. C. Jan. 30th, and ended at Goldsboro N. C. occupying fifty three days. The country is all pine, sandy, and full of swamps and streams. The two latter we were crossing every day, wading in the water and mud, so that our feet were wet nearly half the time. Sometimes we had to wade through swamps flooded with two or three ft. of water, and the enemy in front. This was the case at Orangeburg S. C. where our regiment by a flank movement drove the rebels, an entire brigade, out of town and captured at the Court House a large Secession flag. We destroyed the R. Roads as we marched, and consumed all the subsistence. There is not enough provision left the people to last them a month. Orangeburg, a beautiful town, was burned and Columbia was mostly destroyed by the devouring elements. We entered it the night of the 17th Feb. the bands playing Columbia, the gem of the ocean. Never shall I forget that night scene. It was the determination of the soldiers never to leave the city without having first burned her to the ground. There she was, a beautiful city, wealthy and populous, but in her was passed the first Ordinance of Secession, and in her shot and shell had been molded for the destruction of the glorious Union, and now she must be punished. The wind blew strongly, the flames leaped wildly over the fair city, for the curse of God was upon her. Thousands of soldiers thronged the streets and buildings appropriating their contents, while citizens rushed along the pavements in terror, the women in their fine dresses of silk, surrounded with furniture, valuables, and their servants, imploringly besought beseeching us to protect their property. But there was no help for it. In the morning the sun shone upon a ruined city. We then destroyed the R. Roads northward, directing our march to Cheraw, on the Great Peedee [Pee Dee] River, where we captured a lot of artillery. Then we marched rapidly to Fayetteville, communicating there with our fleet and loading up with a little hard tack &c. Goldsboro was not aimed at, and after several hard battles with Johnson’s [sic] forces, we reached the place [Joseph E. Johnston]. The final battle was fought on the 21st inst. 20 miles west of here, when we overpowered the concentrated forces of the rebels, 35,000, and drove them in disorder across the Neuse River. Their loss was heavy, they playing their old game of charging our works before completed. Our loss I do not know. The loss of my Regt. was 3 wounded in Co. H.¹ My Co. lost one man mortally wounded while foraging.² We lived well most of the way.
Cousins Louisa & Emma say they have not heard from you in a long time. We had letters from them the other day. Cousin Ellsworth [Ellsworth Burnett] is Capt. of the Pioneer Corps. The peach & plum trees are in blossom. How is it up there? You will soon be back at R. F.—will you not write a long letter, pardoning me for this rambling, dull scrawl? It is now sundown, and are you not glad? But I will say Good night.
1. Company H’s John Aspenwall, from Weyauwega (right arm amputated), and Mathias Feldhausen, from Wrightstown, are listed in the official roster as being wounded at Bentonville, N.C.
2. John Ducy, from Moscow, died March 21, 1865, from wounds received at Bentonville.