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Pvt. Albert Swap, 7th Illinois Cavalry, Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 30, 1864, reading, in part:
“…you said you suppose Chas Dewey would arrive before I received this message of yours, so he did, but I regret to say he is among the missing on our trip to this place. We left Memphis on the 17th and was 9 days on the River there was several men drowned before we arrived at his place and C. L. D. and John R. Chapman of Co. are among the missing. The last I saw of them was about two miles above New Madrid, Mo….It has now been 62 days since the Regt. went out on this scout, they are now about 40 miles from this place at Columbia where they are having some very hard fighting with Hood’s Army. Genl. Thomas is out there with two corps of Infantry but the rebs still drive him back. We could hear very heavy cannonading in that direction for about an hour this morning. There is going to be some very hard fighting about this city in a short time if they keep driving our men back. We are camped about two miles from the city and they are going to move us in towards the city as they think we are exposed to a raid from the Lebanon Pike…There is considerable excitement here today the Rebel General Hood is still driving our men they are now within 20 miles of this place. Some of our men who have come from the front seem to think that Genl. Thomas is falling back to get the rebels where he can gain some advantage over them while others seem to think they are two strong for us, if the latter there will be some hard fighting and then we will either have to fall back or be gobbled but we must always look on the bright side of everything…But alas how many of our Brave soldiers are falling hourly as I am penning you these poor lines, the sullen booming of the cannon that I can hear very plainly speaks of death…to the soldier…”.
From Raynor’s auction
My Dear Wife,
Day before yesterday I commenced a letter to you but it was so cold yesterday and this morning that I didn’t get it finished for this morning’s mail. But I have just got yours of Dec 4th and glad to hear from you as I always am, but when the interval between letters gets long as was the case this time I get anxious. You had evidently not got the two or three letters I have written since the Franklin battle. Yes I was there in command of our Brigade skirmish line when the battle commenced. But our Heavenly Father has spared me through another fierce conflict where many fell, more worthy than I. It is impossible for me to give you any real idea of the fierceness of the charge of the Rebbles. Or the gallantry with which it was met by the boys in blue. You will find by perusing my journals many little insights of a soldier’s life which I do not give in letters. I hope you will not give it to others to read and criticize nor criticize it too closely yourself, for I know you will make many allowances when I come to tell you the circumstances under which it was written during a ceaseless nine month’s campaign.
I am glad that the poor of Evansville are so well remembered by the farmers of Vanderburgh. I shall always be a friend to the poor. Got the coat and it is generally admired by the Officers for its beauty and fineness, though it doesn’t fit as well as military rules would prescribe. However you can judge some by the enclosed photos how it makes me look. The package sent by Tom I haven’t yet received, but I will get it I suppose. Don’t bother about the gold pen.
Mrs Harris must have a very interesting time. Well don’t let her get mad at you. She spoke very highly of you and Mother Eaton in her letter. I wish you had some pleasant companion until I get home, but then you have peaceable neighbors who will I hope afford you protection. As to my coming home Christmas don’t you flatter yourself up so much a belief and then suffer a terrible disappointment, for there is no certainty at what time I can get to come home but I hope to see you sometime this winter. But it will depend a great deal on what the Rebs will do and how the weather is for campaigning. This has been a terrible cold day and I have lain under my blankets all day. But I hope you will plenty of wood and coal to keep you and Baby comfortable all the winter long. Write soon to your affectionate one, Lee
Source: The Kraig McNutt Civil War Collection, Copyright 2012
Dec 3rd, 1864
There is a mail going out in a few minutes and I must write a few lines to tell you of my safety. You have heard of the fight at Franklin day before yesterday and will be anxious to hear particulars.
I was sent with several others of the Co. after rations about an hour before the charge was made and the fight was almost over before we could get to our works. Tho we started immediately, I tell you, it was a hard battle but our boys stood their ground like heroes, tho a part of the 4th Corps left their works which almost lost the day for us. Our Corps has now, at last, a name which we may be proud of. The enemy’s loss was awful, you can have no idea of it unless you could see the field. The nearest fighting in our Brigade line was directly in front of our Co. We were the left center Co., next to the Colors, and they seemed determined to capture them, but our boys stuck to them. The rebels came up on to our works, some of them jumping clear over them. The ditch in front was piled with dead and wounded and for rods in front, a man could hardly put his foot down without stepping on them. Our loss was comparatively slight, 5 wounded in our Co . . . .
We don’t fear the enemy here. We are well fixed.
Source: (p. 125)
“Burning Rails as We Pleased”: The Civil War Letters of of William Garrigues Bentley, 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. McFarland, 2011.
My Dear Wife,
I am all of a flutter of joyous excitement. Evening before last I received your long but very interesting letter and papers also, one from brother bearing good news from home. Then last evening I received the coat and contents of its pockets. Then again today one of Company C came up from Knoxville and brought my old valise I thought I would never get again. It came just in time for the Rebs captured our . . . . . [rest of sentence is unreadable, holes in the letter at the crease].
All is good here! Coming in on the heels of the great victory we won over the enemy at Franklin on the 30th Nov makes us feel good. I have no doubt you have heard all about what we accomplished but you must want to know how I came out which was all right. The Rebs fought desperately. Colonels and Generals rode right up to our faces bringing their men up in fine style but “blue coats” wouldn’t budge back one inch and they fell victims of their own mad actions. A person could walk over several acres of ground passing from one dead body to another. It was a terrible slaughter. We took almost 3,000 prisoners and 12 colors. Many more could have been taken up but it was dark & our forces fell back to this place inside its fortifications, where we can use the Rebble army up if they come on to us. There is no quicker way of suffering this war than by having the Rebs charge our works, when they invariably get whipped.
Well the coat fits a little loose but I suppose it will shrink some so I will keep it. The other one shrank up so I had to sell it.
[Ewing stops writing for the 3rd and picks back up on Sunday, the 4th of December.]
Source: A.L. Ewing, 63rd Indiana Infantry, The Kraig McNutt Civil War Collection
The recent announcement of the newly discovered John Bell Hood papers is one of the largest and most significant findings of primary resource material tied to a major historical figure from the American Civil War in years. I asked several historians the same question: what are some other examples of newly discovered material about an important Civil War personality?
Jack Davis: I can’t think of anything similar in recent years. A lot of RE Lee private letters were revealed to be in family hands a few years ago, but they have not been released to the general public, only made available to Elizabeth Pryor for her book. There is no typical route by which such things become available to the general public. Sometimes they are published, sometimes sold at private auction, sometimes bought by a public archive, and sometimes donated to an archive.
Wiley Sword: Much to my amazement, there has been a lot of new information recently discovered. For example, I’m currently working on transcribing an archive of more than 100 Brig. Gen. Bradley Johnson letters. While most are ante-bellum, there is much new material with insightful perspectives on Johnson’s entire life. Also, this week, I’ve just run across various original unpublished and unknown Alexander Stephens – the Confederacy’s vice president – letters. Even Franklin seems to be involved. I’ve obtained a marvelous postwar letter and six very detailed battlefield drawings of an early prominent student of the battle, William D. Thompson (ex. lieut. 97th O.V.I.), which gives new information on the Carters and clarifys positions of Union troops. I have not yet released this material. Further, there have been recent new discoveries of other important material, much of which I’ve published in Blue & Gray Magazine, including the Longstreet-Jenkins-Law feud, Abraham Lincoln’s brush with death at the scene of a rocket test in 1862 (the rocket exploded); Hooker’s attempts to get ammunition to the front at Chancellorsville, etc. In all, there seems to be new material and new insights forthcoming. Let’s hope it continues.
Steven Woodworth: Bud Robertson finding Stonewall Jackson’s little black book of aphorisms, etc., when he was researching his Jackson biography.
Chris Losson: In 1999 a biography of Union general Orlando Willcox was published. The biography was based on papers that were discovered in a Washington, D.C. attic. Historian Robert Garth Scott used those papers, including a journal kept by Willcox, to create the biography. Certainly Hood was higher on the Civil War “food chain” than Willcox and if this is a sizeable collection it is the most important find in years. Because of the success of the film Glory, it was significant when a collection of Robert Gould Shaw’s letters were made widely available in an edited work. Yet scholars had known of the existence of Shaw’s letters, which had been published in a small print run by the Shaw family after the war. But it is hard to conceive of any collection that has surfaced recently that will challenge the discovery of Hood’s papers.