In front of Port Hudson
May 30th 1863
As I have a few moments to spare before the courier leaves here, I shall improve them by writing you a few lines. I have written two letters home since we took the field, neither of which I numbered as they were written in a hurry and I forgot it. In my haste I told you that we had had a terrible battle. Gen. Augur’s Division is directly in front of Port Hudson. Gen. Sherman on our left, and General Dwight, Grover, and Payne on our right—the whole under the command of General Banks.
On Tuesday he made known his plans to his Generals. During the night he had a number of heavy siege guns planted in a position to rake the rebel fortifications. With these he expected to silence some of their guns. On Wednesday morning [27 May 1863] we were all awakened very early to prepare for the fight. About six, all our artillery opened fire, throwing an awful shower of shot and shell into the rebel earthworks. In the meantime, Capt. Sizer and I were ordered to the front for skirmishing and to report where our shot and shell struck—he taking the right and I the left of the road. We advanced under cover of the woods till we came to the slashing in front of the fort. Here I halted my line and sent some men to the front, about twenty yards to pick off their gunners. We annoyed them so much that they finally turned one of their guns on us and gave us a full charge of grape and canister which fortunately did no harm though very seldom done—fire a cannon at a line of skirmishers. All this time our artillery was hard at work and dismounted two guns, both of which I saw drawn away from the works.
About noon Gen. Augur massed our brigade behind my line in readiness for an assault on the fort. At the same time Generals Sherman & Grover made the same move. And at about two o’clock the signal was given to charge and it would have done you good to see with what a will the brave men met the showers of grape, canister, nails, old iron, pieces of chain, and everything that could be thrown from a gun. By the time our men got three quarters of the way across, there were tired out and our lines very much broken. This was because the slashing is so thick it is almost impossible for even a line of skirmishers to get through. So the men hid themselves as best they could behind the stumps and logs and picked away so at the Reb gunners that they could not fire a gun. Here our men lay until they had fired all their ammunition and took the cartridges out of the dead and wounded men’s bones. Gen. Augur was near me during the whole of the action and he sent an aide to General Banks to say it was going hard with him. Soon the order came to fall back to the original line. This was about six o’clock.
As soon as we stopped firing and commenced carrying off the dead and wounded, the rebels let us alone and did not fire a shot. I held my line during the fight and all that night. Our regiment loss was ninety killed, wounded, and missing. Col. [Edward Payson] Chapin was in the advance and was killed in the early part of the fight—shot through the head. Major Love was wounded soon after through the right shoulder. Since the fight nothing in particular has been done. We are all quiet and trying to get rested. The big guns occasionally speak to let the rebs know we are still here.
I tell you, Lewie, that was a terrible fight. Although I was not with the regiment during, I was under fire all the time and I wonder that no more of my men were hurt. I had two killed and two wounded. Lt. Col. Collier’s resignation has been accepted and I always until yesterday supposed that I was senior Captain and would be the first promoted and perhaps I will yet. But in the absence of our Major, General Augur has appointed Capt. Higgins and Capt. Sizer to act as field officers. He was governed by the date of commission which has been our guide in this case. I am senior Captain now. When the Major makes nominations for promotions, we will know where we stand and not till then. It is pretty hard to be jumped but if is is so decided, I will try and take it patiently and do my duty as I always have tried to do.
Poor Col. Chapin. We all miss him very much and feel that his place can never be filled. But still Major Love will make a splendid Colonel. General Augur has lost his right hand man.
Every time we have had a prospect of a fight, [Lt. John B.] Mason has been taken sick and had to go to the rear. I guess ere many days, he will be dismissed from the service. Gray has gone to Baton Rouge. He is doing nicely. Lt. Col. [Collier] leaves for home in a day or two and will call on Mother. I hope she will see him.
If you see Hote [Seymour], tell him that I have received his letter and would answer t if I was anywhere else. I am very busy here as I am alone with my company. Most of the officers here are in the same fix—three officers being wounded and four or five being sick. The mail waits for no one. Love to Grandma, Grandpa, and heaps for Mother and yourself.
From yours in haste, — Albert