Category Archives: Fort Wagner

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.”

1863: Col. Alexander Piper’s Order No. 5

Col. Alexander Piper, 10th New York Heavy Artillery (Find-A-Grave)

These orders were penned by Lt. Eugene A. Chapman who served as adjutant to Col. Alexander Piper of the 10th New York Heavy Artillery. The orders were issued in January 1863 while the 10th manned Fort Wagner—an earthen fort in southeast Washington D. C. that was sometimes called Fort Good Hope. Eugene was 22 years old when he enlisted in August 1862 in the Black River Artillery. He was made Lieutenant and Adjutant in September, and became a Captain of Co. C by July 1, 1863. He was later discharge for promotion to serve as an Asst. Surgeon in the 127th USCT.

The 10th N. Y. artillery regiment was organized on Dec. 31, 1862, of the 1st, 2nd and 4th battalions, Black River artillery, the battalions having been organized at Sacket’s Harbor in September, and the consolidation took place on Dec. 27. The men were recruited in the counties of Jefferson and Lewis and were mustered into the U. S. service for three years as follows: Cos. A, B, C, D, E, F, G and M on Sept. 11, at Sacket’s Harbor; H and I on Sept. 12; at Staten island; Co. K on Nov. 12, and Co. L on Dec. 27, at Fort Schuyler. The 2nd and 4th battalions left the state on Sept. 17, 1862, and were at once assigned to garrison duty in the forts about Washington; the 1st battalion garrisoned Fort Richmond and Sandy Hook, N. Y. harbor until June, 1863, when it joined the others at Washington.

Order No. 5 pertained to the requirements and responsibilities of those carrying out the duties of the battery’s picket guard. Col. Alexander Piper, an 1851 West Point graduate with many years of military experience under his belt was a stickler for discipline.

“The Picket Guard” by N. C. Wyeth, painted in 1922


Headquarters 10th New York Artillery
Near Fort Wagner
January 26th 1863

Order No. 5

The following orders relating to Guards and Sentinels at the different posts are published for the information of all concerned. They will be read to the Guard at least once every day by the senior non-commissioned Officer of the Guard.

I. At least two non-commissioned officers should be detailed with every guard—one of whom must be awake and with the guard at all times day and night.

II. The officer or senior on-commissioned officer of the guard is responsible for the carefulness and efficiency of the sentinels. A sergeant or corporal should inspect every relief before it is posted to ascertain if the men have their belts, clothing, and accoutrements in order. Every sentinel should be visited at least once in every ten hours to communicate to him new orders if necessary and to ascertain if he is acquainted with the orders already given, and is properly executing them.

III. When not on a post, members of the guard must remain at the guard house or tent. None should be allowed to leave it without the authority of the Sergeant in charge and then not more than two at a time.

IV. Where “prisoners” are confined under charge of the guard, they must in no account be allowed to leave except to go to work or to the sink. If it is necessary for prisoners to go to their quarters for any purpose, permission must first be obtained from the officer of the day. Meals for prisoners must be sent to the guard house or tent. When prisoners are sent out to work, they must be accompanied by a sentinel who will have orders to let them have no communication with any person except by authority of the officer of the day or commanding officer. The sentinel will see that the prisoners under his charge work well and steadily. If any of them trifle or neglect their work, he will report them to the sergeant or corporal of the guard.

V. During a “term” of guard duty which lasts 24 hours, neither non-commissioned officers or privates must remove their belts or any part of their clothing.

VI. The duties of a sentinel are most important and most responsible. On him depends the safety of the command. If he is vigilant, and army can rest in security. But if he is careless or indifferent, his companions are at the mercy of an enemy. Officers and non-commissioned officers cannot therefore be too careful in seeing that sentinels discharge their duties properly and execute strictly the orders that are given them.

All persons, whatever their rank may be in the service, are required to observe respect towards sentinels. Sentinels will walk their posts briskly with the bayonet fixed, carrying the musket at a shoulder arms, right shoulder, shift arms, or support arms. They must not quit their post without being regularly relieved not must they hold any conversation that is not necessary for the proper discharge of their duty.

VII When an officer passes across the post of a sentinel, the latter (the sentinel) will halt face outward and salute according to the rank of the officer. The Commanding Officer, Officer of the Day, and all officers above the rank of Captain are entitled to “present arms.” Captains and all officers below that grade are entitled to “shoulder arms.” The rank of officers is indicated by the shoulder straps. After retreat, sentinels do not salute but they stand at attention when an officer passes. When a sentinel is being relieved is giving or receiving orders or whenever he speaks on post, he must come to “arms post.”

VIII In addition to the above orders the following articles of the Revised Army Regulations will be read once a day to the guard. Articles 399, 400, 401, 407, 408, 409, 411, 413, 414, 415, 416. 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 429.

These orders will be neatly attached to a piece of board for better preservation and will be kept with the guard.

By order of Col. A. Piper
E[ugene] A. Chapman, Lieut. & Act. Adjt.

1863: Samuel W. Madison to Nancy Madison

I could not find an image of Samuel but here is an unidentified Union private approximately Samuel’s age.

This letter was written by Samuel W. Madison (1840-1864) while serving in Co. F, 13th Indiana Infantry. According to muster records, Samuel enlisted as a private on 19 June 1861 and he died of chronic dysentery at Davids Island, New York, on 14 February 1864.

A claim for a widow’s pension was filed by Samuel’s mother, Elizabeth, after she received word of his death. She contended that relied upon the wages of her son, her husband Robert having died in 1853.

The 13th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment was originally accepted for state service for one year and was organized at Indianapolis for the U.S. service by volunteers from the companies in camp. It was one of the first four regiments volunteering from the state for three years.


Camp 13th Regiment
Folly Island, South Carolina
September 8, 1863

Dear Sister,

I seat myself this morning to write you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along. In the first place, you will excuse my ragged paper as I have no other here in the tent and the sun is very hot and I am too lazy to go to the sutler’s shop to get any.

I have not got altogether well yet and I would state here that you may hear that I got wounded which I did but it was so slight that it is hardly worth mentioning. It was by a small piece of shell—not bigger than a pea. Went in my shoulder. It is about well now. It was on the first night of this month. We was laying in front of Fort Wagner and a shell from there burst over our company and wounded two besides me, but none of us bad enough to stop from duty. So if you hear about me being wounded, you need not be uneasy for it is as I say. It don’t amount to much. I would of not said anything about it but I thought you might hear it and think it is a good bit worse than it is.

There has been five in our company wounded since we are here but only two that is shot bad as to stop from duty. Fort Wagner and Fort Gregg and all Morris Island is now in our possession and today the gunboats have been keeping up a heavy fire all morning—to what effect, I don’t know.

I will close for this time hoping these few lines may find you all enjoying good health. Write soon. I am your brother till death. — Sam Madison

Company F, 13th Regiment, Indiana Volunteers
Foster’s Brigade, Folly Island, S. C.

Please send me a few stamps.