1864: John Birchard Rice to Eliza Ann (Wilson) Rice

Surgeon John Birchard Rice

This letter was written by Surgeon John Birchard Rice (1832-1893), a physician from Fremont, Ohio, who served in the 72nd Ohio Infantry. He was promoted to Brigade Surgeon after the Battle of Shiloh and eventually made Chief Surgeon of a Division in the 15th Army Corps, and Medical Office of the District of Memphis, overseeing 150 surgeons and 15,000 soldiers. He later served in the US Congress (1881-1883).

In this letter, Rice informs his wife of the casualties sustained by members of the 72nd Ohio during the expedition to Tupelo, Mississippi, in July 1864 under the command of Gen. Andrew Jackson Smith. In the Battle of Tupelo (July 14-15), Union forces turned back Confederate forces under Gen. Nathan B. Forrest that were threatening the disruption of Sherman’s supply lines during the Atlanta Campaign.

John B. Rice was the son of Robert Stuart Rice (1805-1875) and Eliza Ann Caldwell (1807-1873) of Fremont, Sandusky county, Ohio. He was married to Sarah Eliza Wilson (1842-1928) in 1861.


Memphis, [Tennessee]
July 21, 1864

My Dear Wife,

The expedition under General Smith returned to La Grange yesterday. They whipped Forrest badly but we also have suffered severely. We received between three and four hundred wounded last night by the train. The 72nd covered itself with glory at the engagement near Tupelo, on the 14th. Sixteen, all the most severely wounded in the 72nd who were not left at Tupelo, came in. Among them is Major Eugene Rawson who is dreadfully wounded. A bullet entered his right eye and came out just in front of his left ear. His condition is dangerous. He is delirious most of the time. His left eye is good. 1

The rest of the wounded unable to march are as follows: 

Lieut. D. W. Huffman [Co. B], left leg shattered just above the ankle. He was left at Tupelo.
Sergt. Major [& Adjutant] Charles L. Hudson, side, severe. 
Co. A, [Pvt.] James Martin, three fingers off left hand. [Pvt.] Edgar Reynolds killed. 
Co. C, [Sgt.] Duncan Carter, thigh, slight. [Pvt.] Michael Frederick, shoulder, severe.
Co. D, [Pvt.] William Gooley, shoulder, slight. Grones, thigh, severe. 
Co. F, [Pvt.] George Jackson, right arm amputated, left at Tupelo. [Pvt.] Peter Andrews, head, dangerous, left at Tupelo. [Pvt.] Joseph Bensinger, in thigh & left arm amputated at shoulder joint—left at Tupelo. [Pvt.] Augustus Smith, leg, slight. [Pvt.] Louis Bowlach, fingers of left hand, slight.
Co. G, [Pvt.] Darius Downing, shoulder, severely. William Davis, thigh, severely.

The rest of the wounded are all slight.  The Regiment had not over one hundred men engaged. I am very busy, which must be my excuse for not writing more now. 

Your loving husband, — John B. Rice

1 Major Eugene A. Rawson died on 22 July 1864 at Memphis from wounds received on 15 July 1864 at Old Town Creek, Mississippi.

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