In front of Port Hudson
June 19, 1863
I was at our camp this morning and wrote a letter home but have since read your letter commenced May 31st and two from brother Lewie—one May 31st and June 5th—and we are resting today so can write you a few lines more and have ready to send by the next opportunity. No knowing when we may be off duty again. I don’t know as you can make out anything by the map I sent you but we are now in the edge of the woods just behind the cotton bales. The bales were hauled here for building batteries or for other purposes in which they can be made useful.
Perhaps if I go back and give you a few particulars of the first storming of Port Hudson, they will not prove uninteresting.
On the Sunday after our first fight [at Plains Store], immediately after breakfast our division started towards Port Hudson. We moved very cautiously and as soon as the head of the column reached the spot where the rebels had had their outer pickets, a halt was ordered and the cavalry sent ahead for a feeler. As soon as they returned, we advanced about a mile further and the forces were placed in position—not for a fight but as if we were at the end of our march.
General Augur and Col. Chapin now came up to Major Love for a company to skirmish through the woods, and Co. B was ordered forward with Lt. [Timothy] Linahan to help me, as Mason had “flunked” as we started. Batteries were sent out to the right and left of the road and opened on Port Hudson which were replied to in good earnest. This firing on our part was only to find out the position of some of the rebel batteries, and ascertain the size of their guns. In the meantime we were advancing slowly and cautiously through the wood which was almost impossible on account of the undergrowth. It seemed as if no one had ever been there before. However, we soon came on to the rebel pickets and after firing a few rounds, they retired rather hastily.
We followed them though slowly and soon came in sight of earthworks with any number of men standing on them, I told the men not to fire but to fall back a little ways as we were now in the edge of a clearing about seven hundred yards across, Across this clearing or slashing is where I could see the works. Before I started Col. Chapin told me that I would come across some rifle pits occupied by only a small force [and that I was] to drive them out and take possession myself. Now I knew what was in front of me were not rifle pits and that I would have to have a young army to take them so I left Linahan in charge and went back to report to Col. Chapin. He ordered me to fall back about three hundred yards and remain there till relieved which was just before dark.
During the day Generals Weitzel and Grover had been closing in on our right, Sherman on the left. After I started, Capt. Sizer was sent skirmishing with instructions to bear off to the left. He came across the rifle pits and drove the rebs out. I believe there were two men in them. He held them till General Sherman’s men came up as they were on his proper front. He says when Sherman’s men came up, they made a regular charge on them as if the whole rebel army were there.
The next two days not much of anything was done except get batteries into position and get range though each day about four or five o’clock I was sent out to the picket line—the line to which I fell back—and to skirmish from there out to the slashing. The last time, Col. Chapin gave me his glass, for I had left mine behind, with instructions to find out all I could. I reported three or four guns on the works. The ground for a short distance in front of the woods covered only by tall weeds and grass; beyond slashing (trees cut down). The Col. asked me if I though troops could go through. I told him not in regular order, nor could they go fast. They would have to climb over stumps and logs. It seems that on Tuesday, although opposed by both Sherman and Augur, General Banks decided to storm the works in the morning. So four hundred volunteers from each brigade were called for—two hundred to carry fascines and deposit them in the ditch so that the artillery could cross, and two hundred stormers to mount the works and hold them till the support could come up, and all go in together under cover of the artillery.
From our regiment was wanted one officer and sixty men. We had no trouble in getting volunteers—a number of officers offered to go, among them Dobbins, Gray, Higgins, Morgan & Maj. Love. I did not feel it my duty to do so but felt if the regiment went together, I should like to be one. Lt. Morgan, Co. I, was chosen and so our party was made. Col. Chapin lead the two hundred fascine carriers and Lt. Col. O’Brian of the 49th Massachusetts the stormers.
On Tuesday several heavy guns had been mounted at different points on our line and all waited rather impatiently for morning. We all slept well but were up by times in the morning. I had just had a wash and was ready for breakfast when Col. Chapin rode up and asked Maj. Love for two companies for skirmishers. Co. B & G fell in and were at the picket line in a few moments. At this time the artillery opened, slowly, and were answered with a will by the rebs. My company was on the right and Capt. Sizer’s to the left of the road with orders to creep as close as we could and pick off the gunners. It took some time to get into position as we had to go part of the way on our hands and knees.
The artillery kept firing with a view of dismounting the enemy’s guns of which there were five on our front. Finally two within range of my men’s guns were knocked over and I reported to Col. Chapin. My company was now stationed in the edge of the woods and I placed men in the trees to get a better sight at what was going on in Port Hudson. One of my men [who] had on a red shirt was soon discovered and they turned a gun on him. He had hardly touched the ground and the others sheltered behind trees—which was the work of but an instant—when a curl of smoke arose from the gun, and whiz! came a little six-pound shot. About this time General Augur came up to my line and told him all I knew, and gave him the position of the remaining three guns.
Just after this the artillery opened very lively and kept up a terrific thundering for about an hour. At the same time our brigade together with the 2nd Louisiana [Colored] Regt. were being massed behind my line and under cover of the woods. As soon as all was ready, Col. Chapin and Major Love came out to where I was to get a view of the rebel works and the ground over which they had to go. After taking a careful look, both returned to their commands.
Soon the whole column was in motion, Col. Chapin being the first man out of the woods followed closely by his two hundred fascine carriers. Close to them came the stormers. Then came our brigade, one regiment after another, the 116th [New York] in advance. As soon as they cleared the woods, I saw the Major, who was ahead of the line, take hold of the color sergeant’s arm and point with his sword to the rebel flag. Then wearing his hat, all started on the double quick.
Our men were not fairly out of the woods when the rebels opened on them an awful storm of grape and canister together with volley after volley from the infantry. Still our brave men kept on, reserving their fire till they could be more sure of a mark. As soon as they came to the slashing, it became impossible to keep a line and men from all regiments were mixed up. A few men nearest the colors were kept together by the color sergeant and succeeded in getting way to the front but finally all had to seek protection behind stumps and logs. It was impossible to go ahead or get back. The men stayed and fired at whatever they saw. About forty got into a ravine and succeeded in keeping the guns quiet from which we had had so many doses of grape.
In the meantime General Augur send an aid to General Banks to say that it was going hard with him. Then came the order to fall back, each regiment to take its original position and Gen. Augur sent word to me to hold my position at all hazards in case the rebels followed us up. As soon as we ceased firing and commenced carrying off the dead and wounded, the rebels stopped firing and showed themselves above their works. [They then] asked us “to come try it again some day,” “not to go away,” “come in and take supper,” and kept talking so till after dark.
Col. Chapin was shot through the head by a grape shot—probably killed instantly. He had not got more than half way. Major Love and Gray were wounded about the same time. Morgan and Jones got way to the front. Jones has since died. Moran severely wounded but doing nicely. I tell you, we miss our dear Colonel—none more than I do. It seems almost as if I had lost a brother. And Major Love and Seymour and Gray being away, seems almost as if I was in a new regiment. And then to have Higgins in command. He is not a favorite among the men. But Capt. [John M.] Sizer is. The men all like him. He is a splendid officer and as brave as he is good. I tell you, we will be mighty glad to have our new Colonel back again. I tell you, the officers and men will go wherever he will lead.
Although my company was not with the regiment [in the assault], it cannot be said that I was not in the fight for we were just in range all the time, though protected by trees. My loss was two killed and two wounded. The wounded are doing well. On Sunday, three of my men were wounded. One poor fellow had to lose his left arm amputated. Lt. Linahan was killed. He is the one who helped me in the first fight. He was as brave a man as ever lived and was killed while shooting at a reb with the gun of one of his men that was wounded.
I have felt a little down-hearted for a few days, but yours and Lewie’s good letters soon put new life into me and I feel now as bright as a new dollar.
Perhaps by this time you have seen Col. Cottier. I hope you have. He was with me during our first fight [at Plain Store]. It is rather strange that none of my men were hit on that day but the two men from Co. G were both wounded in my ranks. It is impossible to keep each company separate during a fight—especially after a charge. Aside from those killed and wounded in action, I have five men wounded while out sharpshooting. Besides our regular picket line now, each division sends out each day a party of sharpshooters. They vary in numbers according to the front we cover. These are relieved just before daylight in the morning and after dark at night as we cannot get positions so close as we do in the daylight. I have been close enough to hear the officers give orders and hear them talk with one another while at work. The last time I was out, one of them was singing, “My Mary Ann.”
John Dobbins has gone to Baton Rouge as he has not been well for several days. He is to be promoted to fill [Lt. John B.] Mason’s place. Sergt. [Oscar F.] Tiffany—you have his picture—will be Second Lieutenant, [Wilson H.] Gray is to be Captain of Co. D. Capt. [George G.] Stanbro [of Co. F] has resigned to accept a position as surgeon, not in this regiment though. Will Seymour will have his place if he can get relieved from his present position.
Capt. [Charles F.] Wadsworth [of Co. A] left us very suddenly yesterday. Says when he gets to Buffalo he will give you a call. I am glad Sizer is Major, I should like to have him Lt. Colonel for Higgins is not a favorite and Sizer is, and is much the best officer. It is hard to be jumped but I should not care if Capt. Higgins was as good as Sizer. But seems they entitled to their positions, being my senior according to date of muster. I come next sure.
I am glad my money reached you for though but little, it would help some. I am delighted that Lewie is to have Jim Smith’s place. I knew if he was patient, Mr. Kip would fix him all right. I would like much to attend the grand festival that is noticed in all the Buffalo papers. All the ladies seem to be interested. The boxes are all tight, in Gray’s care at Baton Rouge, and as soon as we get into Port Hudson the will come in play. It is now getting dark and I must close. We go into the trenches again tomorrow unless something new turn up.
Please give my love to Grandpa and thank him for his kind letter and photograph. Love also to Grandma, Aunt Julia, and all my many friends. Tell them they may soon look for the fall of Port Hudson and Vicksburg. Love to Lewie. Thank him many times for his good long letter. And now dear Mother, I will bid you goodnight with a heart’s warm kiss. We will rest quietly tonight unless the rebels come out to us and we have no fear of that. Goodnight!
Yours lovingly, — Allie