In front of Port Hudson
June 19th 1863
Dear Mother & Brother,
I have just left the regiment, about a mile in front of this, for the purpose of writing you a few lines and to get a clean pair of socks (a pair of my new ones that I sent to Gray by our post master). Here I am in the Quartermaster’s tent back with the wagon train: a nice cool place in the woods, away from the rattling of the sharpshooters and the heavy booming of the siege guns.
Since my last letter was written, the regiment has been doing heavy duty, most constantly of the time. I have been with them all the time except part of two days. I was worn out and had to rest. I can’t remember days nor dates but will try and give you a sort of sketch of our duties since my last. About that time one night we were ordered to the front, within three hundred yards of the enemy’s works to support a working party who were to throw up a breastwork for six guns. We took our places without saying hardly a loud word and remained all night without being discovered or disturbed. The work was too much for one night and men could not work by daylight as the sharpshooters would make it too warm. Just as it was getting light, orders came for the regiment to occupy the rifle pits of a battery already completed on our right and about three hundred yards further to the rear, but a sufficient force must be left to protect the new work in case the rebs should attempt to destroy it. So Capt. Wadsworth and myself were left with our two companies.
There are no trees or bushes near to keep off the sun and you had better believe it was rather warm. And men who were sick had to bear it for the minute a man showed himself, the rebs would send a messenger after him that makes a very disagreeable hissing [sound]—especially when they come very close and I guess we gave them as good as they sent. The boys would watch for the smoke from their guns—for they kept popping most all day—and then would let them have two or three. Well here we stayed all day; were relieved at night by some of the 49th Massachusetts companies and ordered to join our regiment. Here we stayed forty-eight hours. This made sixty hours duty. These last pits are just in the edge of a belt of woods and during the day part of the men could lay in the woods but could not get much sleep as the big guns kept firing every five minutes.
Sunday morning about 1 o’clock we got orders to be ready to move in an hour. Generals [William] Dwight, [Cuvier] Grover, & [Godfrey] Weitzel have repeatedly said that could take the enemy’s works any time General [Nathaniel] Banks would let them try. So on Sunday they were to have a try. As near as I can make out, our brigade was to make a feint in the center while Dwight was to go in on the left and the others on the right. So at two in the morning, we marched into a point of woods (I will try and draw a plan so that you may more easily understand our position) to the left of our front. Here five companies were deployed as skirmishers under command of Capt. Sizer with orders to advance as far as he could with out firing. After advancing to within a hundred and seventy-five yards of the works, our right company came into the left of the Twenty-first Maine who were deployed on our right. They fired on us but fortunately did no more harm than to give the rebs the alarm. It was just getting light and we now commenced firing in earnest. The batteries all opened. This was a grant yet awful sight. Awful for we know the shells deal death and destruction wherever they strike. We could plainly hear the rebels falling in and preparing to meet us.
Our men took shelter behind stumps and logs and were very little exposed. The five companies in the woods were kept marching and all the show was made that was possible so that the rebels in the uncertain light would think that we had a large force at this point.
The attack on the flanks now commenced in earnest and we could hear the cheers of the men as they charged and see the smoke of volley after volley that was poured into them and they returned with a will. I think at first we fooled them and they kept a force on our front, but soon discovered that the real fighting was to be done elsewhere, so only a few, well protected by cotton bales and sand bags, were left to look after us. Our men were ordered to fire and make all the noise they could although we could on;y occasionally see a reb though we knew there were lots of them there.
About eight, an aide from General Augur came with orders for the rest of our companies to advance onto the skirmish line and keep up a brisk fire. So Capt. Higgins sent me out with them. Here we stayed all day firing without having had anything to eat and most of the men without water. At night we were ordered to fall back and protect the battery in front of which we had been all day. In the morning we were relieved and returned to our place of starting. Our regiment has not been as far back as our regular camp for two weeks. When off duty, we rest in the woods just back of the picket line behind some cotton bales. All i know about the attack is that it was a failure. All our troops occupy their old positions.
On Saturday at half past eleven, General Banks opened on Port Hudson with all the guns we have and fired for an hour. The rebels made no reply. General Banks then sent in a flag of truce demanding their surrender of the place. General Gardner’s reply was, “My duty is to defend, not to surrender.” All think that ammunition is scarce in Port Hudson or the rebels would occasionally make some reply.
Major Love is gaining though will not be for duty for some time. Gray is doing nicely and his wound is healing fast. Dobbins has not been on duty for several days. Lt. [John C.] Nial who has been assigned to duty in my company is laid up with a lame foot. Mason having gone leaves me alone.
Our loss on Sunday was twenty-two killed and wounded. We all think they are pressing our regiment pretty hard. But Col. Paine—Colonel commanding our brigade—says ours and the 2nd Louisiana [Colored] Regiments are the only ones good for anything. The others are nine-months men and their time is so near out they all shirk, and get rid of all the duty they can if on picket, and fired on they run and leave theit posts.
My time is up and I must close or I cannot get away again. Give my love to Grandpa and Grandma. With lots for yourselves from yours lovingly, — Albert
P. S. I can’t tell much of the fronts besides our own. Mail just in brings letters No. 27, 28, and 29, and 7 papers. Have not read them yet.