1863: Charles Ray Brayton to Colonel Edwin Metcalf

Col. Charles Ray Brayton, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery

Charles R. Brayton (1840-1910) was born in Warwick, Rhode Island to William Daniel Brayton and Anna Maud (Clarke) Brayton. In 1857, his father was elected as a Republican representing Rhode Island in the U.S. Congress. In 1859, he began attending Brown University in Providence, but left in the middle of his second year to join the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. He was commissioned as first lieutenant in 1861, promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1863, and to colonel in April 1864. He was honorably mustered out of service in October 1864. In March 1865, along with many others, he received a brevet (honorary promotion) to the rank of brigadier general. That same year, just a month before the end of the war, he married Antoinette Percival Belden.

Charles wrote the letter to Col. Edwin Metcalf of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. At the time of this letter, the 3rd Rhode Island Heavies were still stationed on Morris and Folly Islands near Charleston, South Carolina.

[Note: These letters are from the personal collection of Greg Herr and were transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Letter 1

Headquarters Battery C, 3rd Rhode Island Vol. Artillery
Morris Island, South Carolina
September 24, 1863

Dear Colonel,

Yours of the 13th inst. came duly to hand by the Arago. I thank you kindly for the advice which I only wished had reached me before I was compelled to answer the Governor’s proposition without hearing from you. I knew you thought well of me and I have tried to merit your esteem and confidence, but there were so many officers senior to me that I thought my chance for further promotion distant. I have already written you my reasons for accepting the position offered and trust that all may yet be satisfactorily arranged. I shall be “mustered out” if I can so as to get home for a few days. Then the whole matter can be settled. But I assure you I do not want to leave the 3rd. My Battery never was in better condition. Have got 27 new horses, all sound and young, have a good name in the command, and as independent as I could wish to be. I know I never shall be as pleasantly situated and should leave the Battery reluctantly to take a Majority in the 3rd but feelings must be suppressed—the wisest course pursued. Was there any prospect of active service on the main land, I would not give up my company, but I see none now.

I have been compelled to perform a duty at once humiliating and imperative. I yesterday preferred charges against Lieut. Morrow for “Drunkenness on duty” while in command of a section on picket duty. He has tendered his resignation which I respectfully forwarded. It came back from Henry Metcalf for my recommendation. I endorsed it “respectfully recommended for the good of the service.” I could not approve his honorable discharge and thought I might appear to crowd him too hard did I insist on a court martial. As it is, he may be court martialed as I have not heard from the resignation and Gillmore is severe in such cases. Did I do more than my duty? No doubt of his guilt, as I brought him to camp beastly drunk. I regret that my company furnishes the first case and hope you will not consider it a fault of mine for I have ever discouraged drinking and no one ever saw me drunk or under the influence of liquor while here.

I have talked to Morrow and let him pass when my judgment told me better. I could not have been more lenient with my own brother. My duty was plain. I did it and hope you approve the course. It may save some good officers and be of great benefit to the regiment in the end. Gen. Gillmore has received his appointment as a Major General. I fired a salute of 13 guns for his yesterday on the beach where there were thousands to congratulate him by cheers.

Regulars have “played out.” I don’t associate with them now. They are beneath my notice. What have they done in the campaign thus far—nothing but growl at the manner in which matters were conducted by “damned Volunteers,” yet “Sumter” gave up the ghost, and “Wagner” yielded reluctantly to the Volunteer. I am proud of the Volunteers and glad I am one. I sed to think Regulars something wonderful but have got all over that. We have given them a blow here that staggers them. Even Henry, who talked of you at first as our “amiable Colonel, praises you to the skies.” But Colonel, he is a damned hypocrite. Don’t trust him as far as you would a thief. I ask no odds of him. He is not Brig. Gen. and if he says to me what he says to others, I will break his jaw. It makes me so mad to see “Rawson” and “Gardiner” follow him like curs—not daring to speak unless Henry says so. Damn a man that will go back on his regiment and has not the moral force to resent an insult to it—come from whom it may. But never fear but that I will hold my own. They have no Seymour, damn him, to help them in their infernal designs upon us poor Volunteers.

“Irwin” has joined Hamilton’s Battery. Am sorry for it. “Myrick” and “Brainard” have had a “row” and Brainard has gone to Beaufort to take charge of hospital. No. 2 in that Battery is going to hell fast. But let them quarrel, hoping they may come out like the “Kilkenny cats” in the end.

There is to be a Grand Review today. “Brayton’s Battery” has the “Right” of the Light Artillery. Capt. Joe Comstock is still at the [Hilton] Head awaiting transportation. You speak in your letter as though the 3rd was intolerable now. I can’t believe you really mean any such thing. Cursed we are by as miserable a lot of Field Officers (excepting yourself and Ames) as ever sapped the life of any regiment, but still we have talent among us sufficient to fill creditably any position. Our officers are far in advance of any I have seen here, take them as a class. You have no idea of the class of officers that came with those troops from Virginia. The 3rd stands well and are treated as Artillery Companies should be. They have done well. I am proud of them. If you can make a better regiment than stands out of the 4rd Rhode Island, mark out your cause and there are enough of us to support you. Only a few croakers to deal with.

Never fear about our getting into Charleston before you come back. Don’t you think me rather precocious in asking what I did. But I can’t help it for if I am left out now, I shall never command a regiment, I fear, and it is hard jumping from Major to Colonel over a Lieut. Colonel. But we will talk this over I hope before anything definite is done. I can keep my counsel—have so far—and promise you I will in future. Please excuse the emphatic remarks. Yours truly, — C. R. Brayton

Letter 2

Office of the Chief of Artillery
Morris Island, South Carolina
December 14, 1863

Dear Colonel,

Yours ofthe 4th and 5th (postscript) was duly received a few hours after I had mailed one for you. I think Eddy’s case settled for I well knew the Gov. had “no personal interest in the matter.” Bailey, I think, was at the bottom of the affair, put up to it by Eddy’s friends at home. If you think the matter need more attention, I will write the Governor about it, but I think it unnecessary.

Maj. Ames is in command of the Battalion. I showed him your letter about Report and Returns. Peirce of Co. D had a Descriptive List which Burton says he gave to Lamson, one having been given, the Company Commander has no right, I think, to give another.

Reenlisting is all the rage here now. Connecticut offers a bounty to Veterans which with the US Bounty, makes $792 for cash, beside aid to the families. Rhode Island should offer $500 in addition to the US Bounty of $402. This will secure all the old men of the regiment we want and many from others. Regimental commanders here have appointed Regimental Recruiting Officers to reenlist Veterans. Why not appoint some officer in the Battalion here or direct Ames to do so? It is a matter that requires immediate attention—else other regiments will get the start of us. The course is for you to appoint a Recruiting Officer here with orders to report to Lieut. Reynolds, Com. of Musters for instructions as to his duties. I have the above direct from Col. Smith.

Why not write the Governor about the Bounty and see if the $300 now paid by the State will be paid to men reenlisting in the old regiments.

There is nothing new. We have been having a heavy storm during the past week which has caused the water to encroach on the island 30 or 40 feet, completely cutting through the island just below “Wagner.” Admiral Dahlgren got caught outside and could not get into the Inlet on account of the sea on the bar. The “Weehawken” sank last week—cause unknown, so the Navy says. I saw her go down. There was a puff of smoke and she sank in less than a minute. Between 20 and 30 lives reported to have been lost.

The storm has evidently broken up the “obstructions” 1 between Sumter and Moultrie as large masses of timber, evidently links of some chain have been driven on shore. They consist of 9 sticks of 15 in. hard pine timber firmly bound together with iron hoops. Through the centre is a bar of railroad iron, on either end of which iron links have been attached so that an indefinite number of these wooden masses can be joined together and thus make a chain of great strength. The timber having buoyancy enough to support the railroad iron at all times and the iron being strong enough to prevent vessels from forcing their way past it.

Sumter was on fire in the Southwest corner during the past week—cause unknown to us. We shell the city every twenty-four hours. I will see about King’s Case Co. M today. Regards to all your officers. I pity Lanahan’s wife—she being alone at Pulaski, but Capt. Jerry is satisfied, I suppose. Write soon. Have not yet received our mail by the Arago. Can’t it be sorted at the Head some way?

Ever your sincere friend, — C. R. Brayton

1 The New York Herald of 7 April 1863 carried an article on “the obstructions” in Charleston Harbor. They were said to consist of “floating rafts, made of heavy timber, securely lashed together by cable chains, and then bolted to an upper layer of timber, which not only covers the chains, but adds a bracing strength to the structure. At a given point this bar or boom is provided with a moveable gate, which is opened to allow their own vessels to pass in and out. This place of ingress is directly under the guns of Fort Sumter and so close that it seems impossible that any vessel could pass them, A chain and a connecting seres of obstructions exist between Forts Sumter and Moultrie.”

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