Thursday, August 30, 2012
The following article is from the Boston Herald dated July 27, 1863 (story written on July 13, 1863). It is from a soldier of the 3rd Massachusetts Cavalry (formally the 41st Massachusetts Infantry) after the surrender of Port Hudson. As always, its interesting to see the perspective of Yanks serving in Louisiana. I found this article transcribed and posted at the website American Civil War.
Long ere this letter reaches you, will have received news of the surrender of Port Hudson, but having been to the fortifications I thought I would write a few lines to you informing you of what I saw there. The breastworks are about six miles in extent, and the natural defenses of the place are good.
After entering the gate you proceed for about a mile and half, which will bring you to the landing. You there find a high bluff, some eighty feet above the river, where the rebs had their guns placed to prevent our gunboats getting by, and it certainly looks as if a few pieces of cannon could blow any ship out of the water that should attempt to pass.
On arriving at the General's quarters I found in the vicinity a large number of rebs, who were disposed to trade confederate money for greenbacks, at the rate of ten dollars for one. Others were trying to trade articles of clothing, gold, pens, &c.
It did not seem possible that these could be the same men that a few days ago were bound to kill all of our forces that they could, but who now were as sociable and cheerful as you could wish. They all allowed that our men have fought well and for the skill displayed by our artillery men, they gave them unbounded praise.
There was one large gun in the fort that had created a vast deal of trouble to our men, and Mack's Black Horse Battery commenced firing at it, and hit it twelve times, and the twelfth brought it. The rebs think they can shoot with the musket or rifle as well if not better than our men, but as for firing with cannon they say we are too much for them. There are some fifty-five hundred prisoners in the fort. The enlisted men will be paroled, but the officers will probably not be. There were a number of planters and their families in the fort, who had sought safety, as they thought, in going there, deeming the place impregnable. Their families were allowed to depart, and what a scene of desolation must have met their eyes when they returned to what were once their homes! Their negroes, horses and mules gone; their corn and fodder all carried off, and their furniture taken away or destroyed. By this time, probably, they have fully realized the effects of war. Col. Chickering has been appointed Provost Marshal at the Fort, and has business enough to attend to in getting the prisoners off.
Since I last wrote you, our regiment has been organized as a cavalry regiment, by an order from General Banks, June 17, 1863. We are equipped with Sharpe's carbines, Colt's large size pistols, and sabres. Capt. McGee's and Capt. Cowen's companies have been joined to us, so that now we have twelve companies. The boys were much pleased when the began to be mounted, but the funny part is beginning to wear away, and they find there is a great deal of work in being in the cavalry. But anything, they say, is better than being obliged to foot it on those long marches. The health of the men in the regiment is, as a general thing, good. Three deaths have occurred within a mouth in Co. D, (Ward XI, Guard,) and the names of the men are Horace Rathbun, Adam Armstrong and Wm. Curran. The latter formerly worked in Rand and Avery's office, in Boston. He was the one who printed the paper in Opelousas while we were staying there.
Some of the regiments in Grover's division have been awfully cut up in the severe actions that occurred before Port Hudson. The 91st N. Y. Vols. are reduced to one hundred and seventy-three men; the 8th New Hampshire Vols. to a still less number, while the 4th Wisconsin Vols. have also been badly cut up!
Nim's Battery has been very fortunate so far, having several horses killed, but not a man wounded. Capt. Nims is on his taps, as usual, and ready for another brush.
Now if we can only hear as good news from Virginia as they have heard from us, everything will be lovely, "and the goose hang high." I cannot give you fuller details. And now the nine months' troops are eager for home, and I understand that several of the regiments have been promised to be sent home by the way of Vicksburg.
Some of the rebels here will not believe that Vicksburg is in possession of our forces, they say it was impossible to take it, but they will find it is too true. At the springfield landing, a place where all the Ordnance, Commissary and Quartermaster's stores were left for this Department, a raid was made by the rebels a short time ago. Some three hundred rebel cavalry made their appearance there one fine morning, and there was some tall specimen of walking.-Some laughable incidents occurred before the rebs were driven off. A teamster belonging to the 26th Maine Volunteers was quietly sitting on the front part of his wagon waiting for his turn to come for forage for his horses, when three rebs rode up and sung out to him "surrender you d--d Yankee, surrender." "Not by a d--d sight," says Yankee, still sitting calmly on his wagon. The rebs then turned to a negro who was sitting close by, and said to him, "harness up those mules, you d--d nigger, and do it quick too." "hold on," says Sacarapp, "Hold on, Mr. Nigger; if you undertake to harness those mules I'll break your head." The rebs not deigning to take any more notice of Sacarapp burst out laughing and rode away, and I saw the same teamster at Port Hudson this afternoon, as clam as a clock.
One rebel Captain rode down to the gangplank of the "Suffolk," a boat that had all the ordnance stores on board, with the evident intention of attempting to blow her up, but had a bullet put through his head that stopped his career. By this time the 162d New York were on hand and the rebs began to drop from their saddles, when finding that matters were getting warm they varmosed, taking with them a number of prisoners. The whole affair did not occupy ten minutes but it was a busy time while it lasted. Some three thousand rebels have started for their homes to-day, and they seem to be much pleased to get away from Port Hudson.
How long our regiment will remain in this forsaken hole I know not, but the shorter the time the better it will suit us. The rebels had possession of a place some eight miles below Donaldsonville, where they have erected fortifications, and for some few days have stopped the boats from running between here and New Orleans. But this morning our eyes were gladdened with the sight of the North America, which came up from New Orleans. She brought the good news that the rebels were driven back from their fortifications, and the river was clear, so that in the course of a day or two we shall have letters from home; and I hope the gentleman who abstracts papers that are sent to me will be a little more liberal than he has been for the last two months. I am willing to divy with him, but this taking them all is a little to steep, and causes everything but blessings to fall on his head. Those papers were the source of a great deal of enjoyment to the sick and well men in the regiment, for after I had read them they were circulated from tent to tent and were the means of passing many a lonesome hour, but now this vandal debars us from this enjoyment by stealing the papers and I want him to stop it.
And that blessed Paymster, is he never going to make his appearance here? The first of next month there will be seven months pay due us, and if ever a man was anxiously expected, he is the man.
Now, Mr. Paymaster, if you have any bowels of compassion for sojer boys who have to smoke "old sojers" and coffee grounds in lieu of tobacco, hurry up your cakes, for we are clean broke, and it would be dusty business for any man to make his appearance in camp with any quantity of tobacco. I don't believe there are five pounds of tobacco in the whole regiment; there is some inside the fortifications, but the sutler only asks two dollars a pound! he might as well ask two hundred, for all the good it will do the boys. Now, Major, you used to be going, going, gone, now be coming, coming, come, and favor us with the sight of some green-backs, or dire consequences will ensue.
If you want to see a busy man, you ought to have drop in quietly on Col. Chickering, the Provost Marshal. He sits at his desk al day long, in his shirt-sleeves, and he is working-some.
But of all the places to land stores, the place at the fort beats all. Imagine an incline plane from the dome of the State House in Boston to the head of West street, and you can form some idea of the ascent that teams have to make. I am not addicted to using hard words, but I must say that I have uttered some words that it would be difficult to find in the dictionary. The rebs below Donaldsonville have all been bagged by Gen. Weitzel assisted by Acting Brig. Gen. Dudley.
Hoping that the mail, when it arrives, will have the "Herald," I remain,