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35th Massachusetts Infantry - NEW

Item LTR-8705
June 20, 1863 John W. Hudson
Price: $375.00


Original Civil War soldier's letter. 16 pages, written in period ink.

Camp 35th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry
Mill Dale, Mississippi
Near Snyder’s Bluff

Saturday, June 20, 1863

My darling Sophy

I am disposed to write today and have some leisure for the purpose. You will see that my hand is unsteady. Please account for it by thinking that it may be very hot here, and my accommodations may be poor for writing. If you can do so and make all allowances, I shall be very glad to go on until the attractions of “No Name” (Collins’ Novel) shall draw me hence. Lieutenant Meserve bought the book on the river boat and lets me read it.

I was blessed with a sight of Cairo while we stopped there. I strolled over it Sunday afternoon and saw that it was about the last place made, although it is capable of being made perfectly inhabitable if commerce shall so decree. Coming down the Mississippi we reached Memphis early one evening, and were that night paid. We lay at Memphis all the next day, and most of us went ashore. So I gratified myself with becoming acquainted with the streets of Memphis also. It is a fine, healthy place, and will prosper amazingly when we shall have conquered a peace. I got a new haversack and a pair of crimson silk pocket handkerchiefs with no figure except a slight printed black border. P.S. Ha! Ha!

Leaving Memphis we entered the disputed country, where we somewhat expected to be fired into. Nobody appeared alarmed; in fact it was romantic to be sailing down that mighty flood of muddy water in such a palace of elegance as the Imperial, with full power to divide our time between the open decks, the saloon, the well finished tables and the bunks, with a chance of getting a shell or round shot or a shower of bullets about us at any moment. Almost a dozen other boats were with us. Some of them were fired into; we were not, though I think we presented the most tempting mark of all.

Vicksburg—the map will show you—is at a bend of the river, where having turned in its course toward the S. E. it turns and flows N.E. On the Louisiana side of the river is a canal, as you know, cut so as to make the point of land toward Vicksburg an island and leave V. an inland city with an old river bed in front. (Of course the fall pr. Mile would be greater in the canal from one end to the other than from and to the same points in the longer course of the river. So if the water could once be made to flow vigorously and begin to wear out the canal, down comes V.) Unfortunately for the project the canal was not dug large and deep enough: it was left with a bottom and sides of clay; and the water passed, what little ever went, smoothly through, leaving the canal as it was. We disembarked just above the upper mouth of the now dry canal and huddled together on the neighboring ground. I slept within 2 rods of the famous failure—and without suffering much from mosquitoes too. The next day we marched across the land to a landing on the Miss.

Below V., but in plain sight of it. A part of the brigade got across the river and we got upon a transport to go; when word came from grant that he had men enough and didn’t want us. So we marched back to the first landing. Next day we took a crazy old boat and steamed round into the Yazoo (the river of “Death”) spending the otherwise uncomfortable hours of a violent storm under comparative shelter, and landing at Snyder’s Bluff. Of all the mud that I ever saw the mud here was, if not the deepest—and certainly it wasn’t that—the most uninviting. The banks were so steep that one ran a risk of sliding down against his will, and soft enough to let in an army shoe and make a neat fit. Besides, when we left the boat and marched to this place (the day after our ride) it was hot again and somewhat oppressive. We passed many Weston troops at various places. Many of the most intelligent are glad to see us—particularly if their N.E. born. But the fools think we don’t know what a real fight is. They sometimes speak half contemptuously of us and at us, and tell us we shall get sick of lugging knapsacks. It is a fact concerning most of these boasters and subject of the boasting of Western papers, that they live in large tents, and have knapsacks and all carried for them, while the Eastern troops only have one wagon pr. regiment. For Field and staff, one for line officers, one for company baggage (cooks’ and other utensils) one for commissary stores, and one for hospital department. V. is not so hard to take as Yorktown would have been; and our position out here in its rear—vs. Johnson et. al isn’t hazardous at all. Confound the bragging of the west! For the sake of letting the dunks see a sight, I almost wish we might once fight alongside the boasters. We may have to make entrenchments here—that is uncertain; but you may be pretty sure we shan’t have to fight much, unless we go farther down river. Vicksburg is most certainly ours without a fight. Nothing can save it—nothing can dislodge us in time to do it. If the report about Port Hudson be true (that it is taken) very big thing has been accomplished.

Our camp is near some woods. The officers are up in the woods. And even here it is very hot. I hardly dare to tell you how I am dressed; but it was so warm when I left the last page that I took a good recess of loafing. And still we are now, according to a pretty lady in a neighboring house, having a comfortably cool time. After 10 a.m. she never leaves her house till night, in the full warmth of summer. For wild living creatures we have only mosquitoes, ants, wood ticks, rabbits lizards, rattlesnakes, and lice—together with the usual variety of insects.

No! They are domestic. My lift is by no means perfect. J.W. H.

One has to “bathe” every day for several reasons. And yet I think it is a healthy place. If we leave before the fever season we shall probably take all our men back with us—except those killed in action. They now bid fair to number about zero.

June 22 – Very late at night.

Dear Sophy. We don’t always regard the conventional rules which civilized society tried to impose upon the times and season of its member. Witness this occupation now. And yesterday—Sunday—feeling that I had lain long enough on the ground, I strayed off alone (contrary to order, by the way) down into a very deep valley among a most dense can-brake and cut about 20 good sticks—with a jack-knife—and afterwards lugged most of them laboriously into camp. My bed is now a foot from the ground and consists of brake-stems laid lengthwise close together on four cross pieces of stout brake, each of which is supported at each end by a crotch-stick. My two pieces of tent are merely an awnng to protect from sun and rain; though a great tree saves the former purpose almost all day. It’s an airy life.

I wish you could see the region we occupy. It is grand. The country here is a set of bluffs—very high ones, too. Our camp is in a hollow. I can walk from the level of it, beginning to ascend at the very cook-fire of Co. G. and, climbing as steep a hill as one can cling to, be at once almost on a level of the tops of tall trees. I believe I could throw a cannonball from where I stood, down upon some of the tents. The bluffs are cut up by very abrupt ravines more than a hundred feet deep. Cane brakes and various trees grow abundantly. I can go in a moment to a noble beech tree behind which—for all the stump would do—I should feel safe from 20 lb. shells. (I don’t like to talk of the 9, 11 and 13 inch shells, simply because my experience hasn’t gone so far.) Grape vines as large as your neck hang from one of the trees, and others have a most elegant trimming of harmless ivy, the stem of those creeper bound to the main tree by an alarming reticulation of little tendrils (is that what they are?) and grown 2 inches thick. Up 60 and 80 feet upon some trees you see an air plant, called here “Spanish Moss.” It grows on branches and hangs lower and lower toward the ground as the season advances. One youthful philosopher asked us to look up and see how high the water had come by seeing what it had left in the trees.

I have become familiar with the levee. It is a sine qua non, but I rather like a county wh. Doesn’t need it. Walking on it in a solitude never inhabited and never destined to be, except by soldiers, under nobody’s eye except those upon a gunboat and those of the dweller across in Vicksburg, I found solitary graves of members of the 4th Virginia Volunteers U.S.A.—the most desolate grave yard I ever saw. A battlefield is a fitting one.

You wonder what we know of the progress a few miles away at Vicksburg and what are our feelings? We know but little. Occasionally we hear firing, both infantry and artillery and both sometimes very heavy. At night the sounds are plain. I listen to the bursting of bombs which I know commit havoc in V. with the same feeling of gladness which I should have to see votes rolling up for the right man at an election. It is war, and the idea of self-preservation and the contemplation of hard necessity fit us for anything that conventional laws allow. Still I don’t know what this work makes cruel at all.

Your welcome letter via Sergeant Patch came last (Sunday) night. It was delightful. My intimation to you all not to write has deprived me of much exceeding pleasure. I will readily answer what you asked. If I had known of Mr. Dodge’s intention, I would have interposed to prevent his letter to Colonel C. at once. As it is, the letter may make a present complication or may not—I can’t tell. In the end it can hardly result in harm as I had no part in it. In fact I never knew my dear good friend had written until your letter implied it in language too strong to be mistaken. Your father’s letter was very kind and I was glad to receive it. Of course I couldn’t let the Col. See it—he would at once think I had been up to some machination or other.

Since we came here some furloughs have come through, all signed by General Burnside, who is still at Cin. My papers may be by this time all signed and also on their way. Who can tell? Be assured of one thing. I am not despondent. I feel well here, get along well, really do not wish to be off if the regiment fights, and trust to luck, trying to opened upon character to undo false suspicions or reports if any may, or may have, affected the mind of our Col.; or any other man: We’ve been paid and I have money enough; there seems to be food enough and water, etc., and in short this is just the same corps in the army of a Christian nation which we have seen it everywhere. We expect good mail communication soon, and very little to disturb us while we stay. Tomorrow a fatigue party goes out to dig. Tonight the regiment got orders to have 3 days rations cooked, and that looks like a move. We never can tell. I shall not pack up tonight though.

How is Miss Wright? Two things bring you and her forcibly to my mind every day, viz. the botanic wonders of the place (Magnolia Trees included) and the French talk of Lieutenant Meserve. Then I look at my watch. Give my love to Miss W. Tell her that until my arrival in Miss. I haven’t felt the energy to write to anybody except the regulars, and that if I don’t soon see her I will hope soon to write. (That makes me see, a week ahead, 4 copies of muster roll of Co. D. for which Sergeant Morse and I shall be responsible. In an apartment, with a desk, I should like to write military office work moderately. Out here, the little more than no accommodations, it is a bad job to make out such large papers.) Love also to the rest of the Wrights.

I hear bad things of the Waltham Bank. What will become of H. Heard’s riches? Seriously, though, I’m sorry. How does it happen? Wayland will feel as if one of her own monied institutions were gone.

You amused me some by reciting in detail how much—so long ago—you expected me at home. I hope yet to go and much anticipate your summons to old Lex. Which will surely take place if I do. Wouldn’t it be a happy time? Especially if, amidst it all, in should pop the Ch. Folks? I believe I should like a leave as well as you would like to have me get one. Now, I believe, is the “appointed time,” when I could get cured and make preparations to guard against the future. #Pardomnez

The day we got here I went on picket. Presently the Col. 36th Massachusetts rode along to find camp ground for his brigade. I walked back to the regiment when low out steps little Ned Stocking who used to make fires for us in Boston—now a drummer. Later I’ve seen L. W. Clarke, my Boston & Cambridge Friend—Joe Willard’s mate, now Captain 29th. I was glad enough to see him, and really found him not ruined by liquor. He was quiet and entertaining as of old.

In closing let me assure you that I feel pretty well and that I neither fear nor anticipate any anger to ourselves at present. There may soon be certain hardships to bear which may prove too much for me, for instance, long marches.

With much love to you all,

Ever yours,

John W. Hudson