1863: Richard A. Huxtable to Family

This letter was written by Richard A. Huxtable (1840-1916), the son of James Huxtable (1808-1894) and Charity Avery Shapland (1811-1847) of Devon, England. In the early 1850’s, the Huxtable family moved to Woodford county, Illinois. They were enumerated in Greene, Woodford County, Illinois, in the 1860 US Census, Richard’s father identified as a farmer, and Richard identified as a 19 year-old farm laborer.

In August 1862, Richard enlisted as a private in Co. H, 77th Illinois Infantry. He was discharged on 10 July 1865 at Mobile, Alabama.

Richard’s letter provides us with a great description of the surrender of Vicksburg and the subsequent celebration.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]


Battlefield near Vicksburg [Mississippi]
Friday, July 3rd 1863

Dear Father, Mother, Brothers, Sisters & Friends,

I take my pen with pleasure to write you these few lines. I was on picket again yesterday. I fired some 20 rounds at the Rebs. One of our boys was shot there the day before. I covered up his blood after he was taken away. Many poor fellows have freely shed his blood (and you know for what & why).

This morning at 7 A. M. our attention was attracted by seeing most all the boys running up on the hills. They said the white flag was raised on one of the forts and it was so. The rebels sent out Gen. [John Stevens] Bowen ¹ and his orderly under a flag of truce to Gen. Grant. They came over to our lines on horseback. Our officers took them and blindfolded them and then conducted them to headquarters. I got a look at General Bowen. He is a good-looking man although I could not see his eyes.

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 4.43.19 PM
CDV of Maj. Gen. John S. Bowen, The American Civil War Museum

I went up on the hill and climbed up in a tree to look around with different feelings from what I had a week before when I kept behind bushes and trees so as not to be seen. Now I could see and be seen without being disturbed by the whizzing of bullets past my ear sent on a mission of death.

In about two hours they went back but there was no more firing heard and they agreed to meet again at 3 P. M.  At 3 General Bowen again appeared under flag of truce and the conditions of surrender was agreed upon I presume for at 8 o’clock when I went on picket, we were ordered to watch but not fire so we got up and stood or sat on the breastworks without being afraid of being shot.

July 4th. I was on picket. All was still and quiet. The sun rose clear and bright over the now peaceful City of Vicksburg. Rebels were to be seen all around. We were not allowed to talk to them. Thus the morning moved slowly again in almost unbroken silence when all at once a cannon was heard—and another & another, and another all around the lines [that] tell us in tones of thunder that the day of our Independence had come. And Oh! it was a welcome day to us long to be remembered by those who live.

The rebels soon marched out in front of the strongholds and stacked their arms, leaving them in our care. They then started for the city. Our boys from camp soon followed them and the city was soon filled with Union soldiers. About noon they began to return to camp, laden with such things as they found—paper, books, clothing, tools of all kinds, saddles and lots of fancy things. I was on picket & could not leave. Had to stand there in the hot sun all day. Was relieved at 9 o’clock at night. I was so tired I went to bed without knowing or anything about it. It’s not all play in being a soldier, I tell you. We have been on picket or other duty every other day and night too—not allowed to sleep at night. Stay awake all night until we are pretty well worn out and this is not all here. In some trying moments, we have some of our number laid away in the cold grave and cannot have a moment to bid adieu to them or [go] to the spot where they lie. Another drops out of the ranks sick. He is sent away perchance we never see him more. Doth God do all thing well? Oh yes, let us trust Him.

From your truly son, brother, & friend, — R. A. Huxtable

¹ John Stevens Bowen (1830-1863) died on 13 July 1863—just a little over a week after this letter was written.

The newspaper clipping was published sometime between 1892 and 1916 when Huxtable died.

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