Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Civil War Letters

We are lucky to have three original letters written during the Civil War by my Great Great Grandfather on my Mom's (adopted) side. I find the history in them to be so interesting and have reprinted them below just as he wrote them. (There is some sensitive language.)
John Milton Pierce, his wife (Sarah Jane Wilson) and their daughters immigrated to Franklin County, IA, by wagon from Randolph County, IN, around 1855 driving stock with them.
John Milton Pierce, 38, enlisted in Waterloo, Iowa on the 21st day of October, 1864 as a Private in Company B, 15th regiment of the Iowa Volunteers in the War of 1861. Post office address: Ackley, Hardin Co. Iowa. He was with Sherman's "March to the Sea" and was with A Company Forage Men, whose duty it was to help get supplies from the territory in which they were located.

Savanah Georgia, December 22, 1864
Dear Wife and Children,
I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and I am in Savanah.
We took Savanah or rather marched in Savanah yesterday, the Rebs left night before last. They shelled us very strong day before yesterday until after dark and they quit shooting and fled.
I dogged a great many shells yesterday as my company was on picket. We laid in the ditches all day and thought that when we got out to cook our grub they would pour the shells in on us, but providence smiled on us and not one of us were hit, but they throwed their shells near us often times.
There are over One Hundred Thousand soldiers in Savanah today. It is quite a business place at this time as they are going to and fro.
Where we will go next I can't say but I suppose we will move soon as Sherman is a fast mover and we obey orders.
I still like soldiering very well altho I should like to be at home if the war was over, I should like the war to be over and we could all come home to our families.
This has been the coldest day that I have seen even in Southern Iowa. The wind has blown very cold last night and today altho it has not frozen up yet. Down here everything looks green, here there is plenty of green corn that has lately come up on the commons, nice and green oats and everything looks green. The tall cedars wave in Georgia as the greater part of the timber is pine. Here there is a timber they call live oak that is a beautiful tree, has green leaves on at this time.
Savanah and the country around here is very level and swampy and I suppose it is very sickley in the summer season.
We have had plenty to eat since we have got to town, we have plenty of rice and sugar, coffee, beef, hardtack, turkeys and chickens.
The water is good tasting, but very warm. There are more niggars here that you could shake a stick at in a month. There are all kind of negroes here, both black and white. There are some white women here, but I think they are not the right stripe as far as I have seen of them.
I think we will take Christmas in Savanah, we will have a good time if we stay here. We have paid 10 cents per quart for rice since we have been on this raid. We will try another raid in a few days we will kill the rebels by eating their food and burning their property.
As it is getting late I shall have to close by saying write often and don't forget to pray for me as I stand in need of your prayers as wickedness doth abound in abundance.
Take good care of yourself, send me some stamps in the next letter as I am out of stamps and there is none here.
This is the 23rd and we have been out drilling this morning. There was some frost this morning and there was some ice as thick as window glass. The weather is a little more moderate this morning.
We marched around thru town. We saw General Pulaskas monument--it is a splendid thing, it is about the height of a five story house.
We were marched thru the park this was a beautiful sight. This is a large town, some fine buildings in it altho it is going to rack pretty fast.
At this time we are in camp, we have built us quite a shanty so we can live comfortable. There are some of them unwell this morning--I think it is on account of them eating and drinking too much. I still remain yours in the Lord. I still remain your affectionate husband until death directs us before.
J. M. Pierce

Port Royal South Carolina, Jan. 12, 1865
Dear Wife and Children,
I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know I am well at this time and hope that these lines will find you all well and enjoying yourselves very well. I am enjoying good health and am enjoying myself pretty well as I am a great ways from home.
I received a letter from you yesterday dated Dec. 22nd. I was very glad to hear from you. I should be glad to hear from you every week at least. I have written some two or three letters every week since we have had communication and sent several papers also.
We are camped in a pine grove, but we are under marching orders to be ready to march tomorrow morning, where I can't say but I suppose it is somewhere to fight the rebels for that is what we are down here for. What amount of fighting we will have to do is more than I can say but I am in hopes it won't be much. The less fighting we have to do the better I like it.
I think you sold our hogs well. You did not say whether you sold them alive or slaughtered them. I should like to know what you have done with old Dave. You must not feed your stock too high for fear your feed runs out before spring.
If you have not heard from Charley Shersburg, I think you had better write again to him as I don't think I shall be home in time to put in a crop. I know you can't put in much of the place yourself. I may have a chance to hire a substitute down here as there are a great many soldiers time out, but the most of them want to go home.
I should be glad to get some papers from you. I have got a few papers since I have been here.
Jane, I am out of money as we have not drawed any pay yet and we have had to buy a great many things and they came very high and that took money very fast, and I wish you send me some so I will have enough to last me until we draw out pay from Uncle Sam.
Sarah Jane, if you have not got your county, you had better try and get it as soon as you can. You had better settle up your taxes as it is on big interest and you had better stop the interest. Should have liked it if you could have had a school there this winter but so it is. You must try and learn the children as much as you can. I should like to know in your letter if you got my clothes or not, and what about that box that went to Marshalltown.
By the help of God I intend to hold fast to the faith of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I intend to live so that if I should fall on the battle field, I will be prepared to meet my God and that I may have it said of me "Come up higher it is enough of you" for you have kept My Commandments, may the Lord bless us all and finally save us all in the Portals above where there is no more War nor sinning of any kind, and won't that be a happy place to meet to part no more. Parents and children there can meet to part no more.
Children, I want you to be good children and obey your Mother for she can give you good advise and she will give you good instructions, be of good cheer for I think your papa will get home again. Dear wife, pray for me that I may not go astray, yours in the Lord, I still remain your affectionate Husband until death and after death I hope to meet you in Heaven.
J. M. Pierce

Richmond, Virginia, May 11, 1865
Dear Wife and Children,
I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along. I am in reasonable health and hope these lines will find you all well.
I have not got any mail from you for some ten days. We marched from Raliegh, N. C. to this place we have to march on to Washington and there we will get on the cars and strike for the West. When that will be is more than I can tell. We averaged 27 miles on the last march. It was too hard on the men. Some days was very warm and a great many men gave out on the way, some men were sunstruck.
There is a great many soldiers here at this time, they are moving out as fast as possible for Washington, some thinks we will leave here tomorrow, but that is very uncertain.
There has been but very little mail here since we have been here. This is a very warm day. It is as hot as a great many days that we have in Iowa in midsummer. This is a beautiful country around here. About Petersburg is a splendid country and well watered and very good water.
We have some of the Rebs strong works around Petersburg and on one side of Richmond they had strong works. The boats are running up and down the James river. The cars are running to and from here.
Things appear to be reviving up here. We are treated very well by the citizens here, there are a great many of them in peddling one stuff of another to us in the eatable line. If we had plenty of money we might have plenty of pies and cakes to eat here for they are fetched around here in abundance.
I think the general health of the soldiers is good at this time. There is some that has the diarrhea, but I think it is not raging very bad as we have good water in this country and that is the principal cause of this disease. I think, for when we soldiers are confined on the kind of food we are, I think they require more water that if we had vegetables of some kind to eat or all kinds to eat, as it is we are confined on sow belly, hardtack and coffee.
I have been examined and I am one of the number that is to go to Washington by water from here. I am very glad of it for the weather is getting very warm and it is hard work to march that far, when a man is not very stant. We think we will start tonight or in the morning.
I am ready any time to leave this place as I am tired and sick of such a thickly settled place as this. I shall have to close as it is time the letter was in the mail bags.
I shall put my trust in the Lord as we have but very few meetings here lately, I get rather luke warm at times, but it is my own fault for the Lord is always willing to help us on our way if we only lay ourselves at the foot of the Cross.
Pray for me that I may hold out faithful to the end.
I still remain your affectionate Husband and Father.
J. M. Pierce
J. M. Pierce died at the age of 38 in Haywood Hospital in Washington D.C. on June 7, 1865. The Surgeon General reports he died of Acute Diarrhea. He left his widow Jane and 7 daughters ages 2 to 14. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
15th IOWA Regiment Infantry of the Civil War
The 15th Regiment Infantry joined the Department of the Tennessee July 1862 and served in this command until December 1862. The Regiment returned to the Army of the Tennessee and served in that army for the duration of the war. The Infantry Regiment was ordered to march to Washington, D.C. on the 29 April 1865 and took part in the Grand Review of Western Armies staged on 24 May 1865.
The Regiment did gallant service on many hard fought fields. The 15th Iowa Infantry participated in the battle at Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing); the siege of Vicksburg; stood with Sherman on Lookout Mountain and accompanied him on his March to the Sea; participated in the capture of Atlanta, Savannah, Goldsboro and Raleigh until the war finally came to an end.

November 15 - December 10, 1864 -- Campaign against Savannah, Georgia (Sherman's March to the Sea)
December 10-21, 1864 -- Savannah, Georgia (siege)
January 14 - April 26, 1865 -- Campaign of the Carolinas
January 14-15, 1865 -- Pocataligo, South Carolina (skirmish)
February 3-5, 1865 -- Salkahatchie Swamps, South Carolina (skirmish)
February 8, 1865 -- Rivers's Bridge, Salkahatchie River, South Carolina (actions)
February 9, 1865 -- Binnaker's Bridge, South Edisto River, SC (skirmish)
February 11-12, 1865 -- Orangeville (Orangeburg), South Carolina (skirmish)
February 15-16, 1865 -- Columbia, South Carolina (skirmish)
March 3, 1865 -- Thompson's Creek near Cheraw, South Carolina (skirmish)
March 11, 1865 -- Fayetteville, North Carolina (skirmish)
March 19-21, 1865 -- Bentonville, North Carolina (battle)
March 24, 1865 -- Goldsborough, North Carolina (occupation)
April 10-14, 1865 -- Raleigh, North Carolina (advance)
April 14, 1865 -- Raliegh, North Carolina (occupation)
April 26, 1865 -- Bennett's House, Durham Station, North Carolina (surrender)
April 29 - May 20, 1865 -- March to Washington, D.C., via Richmond, Virginia
May 24, 1865 -- Passed in review before the President at Washington, D.C.
July 24, 1865 -- Mustered out of service at Louisville, Kentucky
July 29, 1865 -- Reached Davenport, Iowa by rail, then marched to Camp Kinsman for final discharge.

1 comment:

cwcad said...

What a blast from the past. I could only hope to meet such a man. Nary a complaint. we must realize that this man was not telling the whole story and that his background was that of a strong working man.

What a treat to read this. Beats any book on the civil war that I have ever come upon.


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