Category Archives: Siege of Port Hudson

1862-63: Benjamin Franklin Blatchford to his Family

Blatchford in his Lieut. uniform later in the war.

The following letters were written by Benjamin (“Ben”) Franklin Blatchford (1835-1906), the son of William Blatchford (1788-1864) and Mary Gott (1806-1873). Ben was married to Emily (“Em”) F. Snow (1833-1917) in Boston in August 1855 and was laboring as a carpenter in Rockport, Essex county, Massachusetts, at the time of the 1860 US Census. Emily was the daughter of David Snow (1793-1869) and Sarah Weston (1801-1850) of Easton, Massachusetts.

Service records indicate that Ben first enlisted as a 1st Sergeant in Co. B, 50th Massachusetts Infantry on 20 August 1862 and that he mustered out on 24 August 1863 at Wenham, Massachusetts. He was later commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in Co. K, 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in June 1865 and mustered out at Wilmington, North Carolina in September 1865.

To read letters by other members of the 50th Massachusetts Infantry that I have transcribed & published on Spared & Shared, see:
William G. Hammond, Co. A, 50th Massachusetts (1 Letter)
Rufus Melvin Graham, Co. F, 50th Massachusetts (29 Letters)
Jackson Haynes, Co. F. 50th Massachusetts (1 Letter)
William Rockwell Clough, Co. G, 50th Massachusetts (5 Letters)
Benjamin Austin Merrill, Co. K, 50th Massachusetts (5 Letters)
Moses Edward Tenney, Co. K, 50th Massachusetts (1 Letter)

Letter 1

Camp Banks, Long Island, New York 1
November 28th 1862

Dear Mother & Father,

I suppose you have been looking for a letter from me but I have not had much chance to write to anyone yet and I have not much of a chance to write now. But I take this time and will try to give you a idea of the voyage here and the prospects ahead. When we went through Boston, I saw very few that I was acquainted with. We went on board the cars in Boston and went through the city of Worcester and arrived in Norwich about 9:30 p.m. when we went on board the steamer City of Boston and left for New York. We had a very pleasant passage. Just inside of Throgg’s Point, we passed the Great Eastern at anchor. She is what I call a large ship. We went near enough to her to read her name.

We arrived in New York about 9 a.m. and marched down Broadway and into the Park and halted in front of the City Hall, stacked arms, and got our dinner in the Park Barracks. We then marched down Broadway to Franklin Street and went into a large building and stopped about 40 hours when we packed our knapsacks and left for this place. We had a march of about six miles and got here about 4 p.m., stacked arms, and went to the Quartermaster’s and got our tents and had them pitched before it was very dark and turned in on the ground. We could get no hay that night. I put my rubber blanket under and my woolen blanket over me and went to sleep and concluded sleeping on the ground in a tent was not so bad after all.

We are very comfortable here. We live in small A tents, six men in one tent—rather snug quarters. The men as a general thing are well. Joseph Beals is no better (if he is so well as when we left home). I never felt better in my life than I do now and never had a better appetite and the men all say I grow fat and I think I do myself.

I don’t want you to answer this letter until you hear from me again. I expect we will be off from here by Monday sure, for four companies from this regiment leave today and the rest will follow as soon as the transports are ready. They say we are bound to Fortress Monroe and wait for the rest of the Division or Expedition which is said will consist of fifty thousand men. There is a light battery going with us that will fire 160 shots per minute. It has 25 barrels and is breach loading and has a rake of 45 degrees and is considered the most destructive weapons now in use.

As soon as you find out where we are bound, I want you to write and let me know all the news. Ask Mr. Lowe to write too and tell him I will write to him as soon as anything turns up that will be of interest to him. I wrote Em the other day and have had no answer yet but I expect a letter from her today.

I think I like it better than I did at first and am getting on first rate. I had my sword engraved in New York and it looks first rate. Give my respects to Dr. and Capt. Haskell and tell them we are well. Tell Robert that Andrew is well and has been all along and can lug his knapsack with the best of them. Ask him to write to me when he has a chance and tell Louisa to write as soon as she finds out where we are. You can send this to Em or write one to her just as you see fit—only be sure and let her know you have had a letter and she will write as soon as she finds out where we are. I don’t get much time to write or I would write to her today.

If you can see some New York papers, you will find out when we start. I expect it will be Monday and it may be before. Give my love to each of my brothers and sisters and tell them to write to me as often as they can. Don’t let anyone out of the family see this letter for it was wrote in double quick time and I ain’t had or got time to read it over to see what is right and what is wrong. But the next letter I write I will try to make it more interesting and I will write slower. You can let Mr. Lowe read this if he can. I can’t hardly myself. Give my respects to all and tell Uncle Jack that I will write to him and his wife as soon as I can find anything of interest to write about.

If you receive any letters from Henry that are directed to me, I want you to send them to me after you have read them. I have got work to do now so I must say goodbye for this time but I will write again after we land—that is, as soon as I have a chance after. Tell Em what I have wrote or send her this just as you have a mind to.

— Benjamin F. Blatchford

1 In a letter to his father, 18 year-old drummer boy Rufus Melvin Graham described Camp Banks to his father not long after the regiment arrived: “Our camp is a very level place—the Union Trotting Course—but bleak and cold. It is situated right under some hills and the wind blows over on to us. We left New York at 11 o’clock a.m. and marched down to the ferry boat and crossed the ferry to Williamsburgh, then formed a line and marched to camp—a distance of 10 miles through the mud.” [Rufus Graham to his Father, 23 November 1862]

Letter 2

Camp N. P. Banks
December 11th 1862

Dear Mother & Father,

I suppose you have been looking for a letter fro me for some time but as there is not much going on here that would be of interest to you, I have not wrote to you before for sometime, and I only write now to let you know that I am as well as ever and hope to get out of this soon. It is rather cold here. During the cold snap that we have had it has been uncomfortable here. One night it was so sold that our canteens froze solid and one canteen with whiskey in it froze. But of late we have had warm and comfortable weather. We all want to get off before we have another cold snap. It has not been so cold as to cause much suffering (but uncomfortable).

Our situation is—or would be—very pleasant in the summer. We are on the Union Race Course and within a half a mile from here is a burying ground where six hundred soldiers are buried. Part of our regiment went on board the steamer yesterday and we expect to go soon.

I would like to have Louisa write to me as soon as you receive this. Tell William I will write to him after I get off and if anything turns up that will be of interest and as I find time. I will write to Dudley and the rest of the folks. I wrote to Em three days since and she will send the letter to you or write one to you soon.

We have 11 men on the sick list but none of [them] are very sick. All that is the matter with most of them is bad colds.

Benjamin F. Sleeper has had the Shakes or the fever and ague but he is all right now. John M. Tuttle has been sick for about a week but he is better now and he will be ready for duty in a day or two.

The rest of the Rockport boys are well with the exception of slight colds. I am well and have been all along. My back don’t trouble me any and I think I am as well as I ever was in my life and I like it as well as ever.

If I have time, I will write again before I sail and if I don’t find time to write, you will see when we go by the papers. As soon as you find out where we land, I want you to write and let me know all the news. Tell Dr. Haskell I would like to have him write and I will answer it as soon as I find time. Since I have been writing, I hear that we are going to New York tomorrow but I don’t believe it yet. The news is too good to be true. At any rate, you can tell when we go by the papers. Write to Em or send this and let her know that I am well and if I don’t go away, I shall expect a letter soon.

The men don’t get half of the letters that is sent to them and if you don’t get letters as often as you expect to, you must not think I don’t write for I shall write to you or Em as often as I find time and I want you to tell Em to write as often as anything turns up of interest and do the same yourself.

Give my love to all. — Benj. F. Blatchford

Letter 3

Delaware Bay
December 15th 1862

Dear Father & Mother,

On the 12th we received marching orders and I was left behind to take charge of the sick and see to the striking the tents and see that the baggage and everything was forwarded to Brooklyn which I done and gave satisfaction to all concerned. At nine o’clock p.m. I went on board of the steamer Niagara and at 2 p.m. on the 13th, we sailed for parts unknown. Everything went on well until the morning of the 14th when we began to mistrust that something was wrong—and so it proved, for she had sprung a leak and we was making our way for a harbor as fast as steam would drive her. At 10 o’clock Sunday we arrived at Delaware Breakwater and pumped and bailed the water out of her and got a pilot and now we are bound up the Delaware Bay for the port of Philadelphia (as near as we can judge) where this craft will be condemned—or had ought to be—for she is so rotten.

The Salem Register, 18 December 1862

After we arrived at Delaware Breakwater, the officers met and called upon men that had been to sea and decide whether it was best to proceed with the voyage or not. The officer had not been to sea but there was plenty of men in Co. B that had and the first thing that I knew, I was sent for by the Colonel and he asked me several questions about the craft and I told him just what I thought without making anything out any worse than it actually was. Everything that I said they wrote down; also the questions that was asked. You will see the questions and answers in some papers soon after this affair is settled.

After he was through with me, he sent for five or six more of our men from Co. B and asked them about the same questions. He also wrote them down and concluded to abandon the voyage in such a craft as this. I call it the meanest thing that I ever saw done—to send men to sea in a boat like this, and if I had known how bad she was before I went on board, I never would thought of throwing my life away by going in such mean craft as this. But as we are to get out of her, I won’t find fault for you will hear by other letters than mine and see some of the rotten timber that comes out of her best beams, for some of the boys are going to send home some of the pieces and the rest of the companies on board say that if it had not been for Co. B, they would had to go or went in her and they say if they had, they would all went to pot. 1

I never saw a set of men more pleased than these six companies are at the prospect of getting out of this boat. THey all say they are willing and ready to take their chance on the battlefield, but they are not willing to throw their lives away by going in such a craft as this. I may write again before I go further South, but if I don’t get a chance now, I will write the first chance after I arrive. I can’t write any more now for I have got work to do soon. Give my respects to all. Let Uncle Jack read this is he wants to and any of my brothers and sisters that happen to be at the house while this happens to be there. And tel them that I will write to all of them if I can find anything of interest to write about….

Our Rockport men are all well except Mr. Beals. He improves every day. I am as well as ever. My respects to all. You must excuse blunders as this was wrote in haste and the old boat shaking and I ain’t got time to look over to see whether it is written wrong.

We are in Philadelphia. No time to write more.

1 Drummer boy Rufus Melvin Graham of Co. F, 50th Massachusetts also felt relieved to have found safe harbor in Philadelphia: “All the time we were coming, the steam pumps were at work and when we got into Philadelphia, there was—they say—ten feet of water in the hold. The old boat trembled and it was awful dangerous. We all think that we are lucky to come off with our lives. it was a great wonder that the old shell didn’t sink before we got here but here we are all alive and feeling as well as circumstances will permit. We are anchored out in the steam opposite the Navy Yard and we don’t know how long we shall stay here but we will stay here till we can get a steamer that can keep above water at least. There is five companies on this craft and in this port. Companies C, D, F, G, [and] B is with us. Companies A, K, [and] E are gone on board of the Jersey Blue and have gone to their destination, I guess. And Company H has gone on board some other steamer and our regimental baggage with them and they have gone I don’t know where and our Band has gone in another boat and I don’t know where they are. We have got all of staff officers with us on this boat. We shall all meet together again at our destination, I don’t know when or where. It was well that the men did not know what danger we were in night before last. If they had, we should have surely have gone to the bottom. The old boat lasted us in here and that is about all. [Rufus Graham to his Father, 15 December 1862]

Letter 4

Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
January 15th 1863

Dear Mother and Father,

When I wrote to you before I told you to direct your letter to Fortress Monroe as I expected to be there by this time, but as it is, I shan’t go down there until the middle or last of next week. The reason that I have not gone is I want to get fairly well before I start and I have made up my mind to stop here until I get about as strong as ever. I am not sick now but I am a little weak and I want to get strong before I leave here. The ship Jenny Lind left here with the 50th [Mass.] Regiment on board one week ago today. She has not arrived yet, or at least I have not seen her reported but I expect to hear from her every hour.

The boys from Rockport was all well enough to go on board the ship except Joseph Beals and myself. I am here at this private hospital but Beals is in a General Hospital off 5th Street. He is not very well and I think he will get his discharge or not he will not be able to go any further. I think if you answer as soon as you receive this, I shall get it. Direct your letter to Sergt. Benj. F. Blatchford at the Volunteer Refreshment Saloon, foot of Washington Street, Philadelphia, and I shall get it. But it will be no use to write if you put it off. You want to write as soon as you receive this and I shall be here long enough to receive it. And when you write, tell me all the news and how the folks are getting on.

This is the first time that I have been sick. I never got the least cold on Long Island while almost all the rest had colds and was sick, but I was taken sick on board of the Niagara and ain’t hardly over it yet. But I think I shall take good care of my health above everything else after I go back to the Regiment this time. Tell Robert I think Andrew is (or was) well for he came in to see me twice the day before he went away. He was well then with the exception of a cold. Ask Rob to write to me and let me know how Ann and the children get along. As soon as my head is entirely well, I shall write to my brothers and sisters. Give my love to all and tell them I shall write to them soon.

I have had one letter from Louisa since I left home but I don’t blame her for I think she has wrote more—only I ain’t had the good luck to receive them. But I shall expect an answer from this the first of next week. When you write, let me know where Henry [Lowe] is. I would like a letter from him very much. I think about [his boy] Frank every day. A few days more and he will be one years old. I want you to write and tell me how his eye is and ask Dudley and Bill to write and tell me how Sam York lost his sloop. I heard she was lost and that is about all the news I have heard, and I don’t know as that is true. Tell all the folks I am getting on first rate. Write as soon as you receive this. — Ben

Letter 5

Addressed to Mr. Henry M. Lowe, Newbern, N. C., On board U. S. Steamer Southfield

Rockport [Massachusetts]
August 1863

Dear Brother [in-law],

I received a letter from you this forenoon and was glad to learn that you was in good spirits but was sorry to know that you are troubled with the shakes. I wrote to you when I first got home but you did not say that you had received a letter from me. But in case you don’t get that letter, I will commence and give you a short account of the part we took in the siege of Port Hudson.

On the 27th of May at daylight the first battle commenced. We were ordered to support batteries which we did until about 2 o’clock in the afternoon when we was ordered to the left center to take part in the charge. This was rather hard for us as we had marched upwards of 20 miles and had had but about an hour’s rest. But we had made up our minds to go into Port Hudson that day and off we started. But the men was so tired they could not hold out to march under the burning sun so a great many fell out and lay be the wayside. And when we halted at the battlefield, our company numbered [only] 15 men and 8 of that number I was glad to see belonged to Rockport.

After halting a while, quite a number of the boys that fell out caught up with us and we fell in again and started for the front which was about 600 yards. We had not gone but a short distance when we were ordered into the edge of the woods and order[ed] to lie down which we did under a middling sharp fire where we lay about 2 hours when our whole force began to retreat leaving—as the boys all think—about 1900 killed, wounded and missing. 1

Our regiment then went back to the right center and supported the Marien Battery which was about 700 yards from the Rebel works. After supporting this battery for about 10 days, we built more breastworks of cotton 300 yards from the Rebel works. This work we done in the night without losing a man out of our company and only one out of the crowd. So when daylight came, the Rebs found 4 pieces of Mack’s Battery 2 within 300 yards of their noses.

We supported this battery until the 13th of June when we was ordered to take part in the charge which was to come off the next day (Sunday, the 14th). So at 10 o’clock at night, we formed a line, had the whiskey, and started for the left of our line where we joined the advance column. Here we were ordered to save our powder until we were close on them when we was to fire and then give them the bayonet. This began to look like war. As the rebs opened a sharp fire, men began to fall. We passed over a number of dead and wounded until we, or the regiment ahead of us, came to a deep ravine and could not get across so we had to lie down the rest of the day and get off when it came dark. One company within 25 yards of us lost 13 men that day. We did not lose any but a number was wounded in the regiment. 3

After we got out of this—the worst battle we ever had at Port Hudson—we went back to Mack’s Battery within 300 yards of the Rebel works and supported that battery until the surrender. Then I was willing to come home, but I never wanted to come home until Port Hudson was ours.

While our company was in the service, we lost 16 all told. The last one that died that you was acquainted [with] was William Goday. Solomon Choate is sick but he is getting on first rate. About 20 of our company are sick here in Rockport. I don’t know how many in other places. Ten of our regiment died on the passage home. We came up the Mississippi and had a good chance to see the Western States. Joseph Devon of our company we left sick in Mound City, Illinois. Also Solomon Choate & Ephraim Brown. The two latter are at home but Devon’s case is hard.

I was down to your Mother’s last night. She and Susan send their love. I have not seen Edward yet. He is at Dover. Your Father is down East.

I was onboard of Arthur Parson’s vessel at Port Hudson a number of times. He is promoted to Ensign. George Rowe is dead. John Rowe’s George—the one that married Eliza Gilbert, he died at Louisville, Kentucky. He was in the 35th [Mass.] Regiment.

Father is about the same as when you left home. Your boy is a great friend of mine. He is trying to help me on this letter but I think he does more hurt than good and half of the blunders here you must charge to him. I found him a smarter and bigger boy that I expected. We soon got acquainted and now we are chums. He tries to help me in everything I do but I don’t think he does much good, but as he thinks he does, it’s all right. He calls me Ben and every time I come upstairs he takes hold of my hand and leads me into the room.

A short time since, Louisa wrote to you and put a letter in the box she sent. She also wrote two letters beside. She will write again in a day or two. She wants you to look out for that box that she sent August 12th. It was worth or cost her $28. I was very, very sorry to find you off when I got home for I had not seen you for so long. I had planned a good many good times and was sure you was at home until I heard the contrary in Boston. But I am in hopes to see you before many months as I expect to come that way soon.

We was sorry to hear that Addison [Pool] is so slim but as cold weather comes on, we are in hopes he will be better. Of the whole number of the drafted men that you mentioned to Louisa, all are exempt with the exception of Frank Farr, James Gott, Arta Gott, Joseph Haskins. These had to fork over $300 each. And of the whole number drafted, no one that I know of are going. And that man that worked for Dr. Haskell took an axe and cut two fingers off of his right hand as soon as he found he was drafted. This of course cleared him.

You wanted to know what we think of the prospect of the war coming to an end. Well, I have heard the Mississippi called the backbone of the rebellion from the beginning of the war. Within a few weeks I had the opportunity of traveling over that backbone from Port Hudson to Cairo and did not see a sign of a reb except what was prisoners and fighting in the Southwest is about over. And of the 1500 prisoners I went with (as a guard) from Port Hudson to Red River, Vidalia, and Natchez, very few say they will fight again.

And as Charleston is called the Head of the Rebellion, we think as the walls of Fort Sumter have crumbled away before our gunboats, the head of the rebellion has received a dreadful shock and the prospects for peace is brighter now than it has been at any time during the war. As I have no more room, I must draw this to a close. Write soon. — Ben. F. Blatchford

1 Drummer boy Rufus Melvin Graham of Co. F, 50th Massachusetts, kept to the rear for duty as stretcher bearer, was more direct in his assessment of the days fight: “The next morning our regiment was ordered to go and support a battery as soon as light. They went off without any breakfast. They supported a battery all the forenoon and in the afternoon went into battle (the 27th). Our folk made a charge upon the breastworks and got driven back. We accomplished nothing but had a lot of men killed and wounded. We had two men wounded in our company—Charles Stickney ¹ in the ankle and Hugh McDermott ² in the hand. Our regiment was in the thickest of the fight. The rebs fired grape and canister and horse shoes and pieces of railroad iron and almost everything. Our batteries fired at them all the time.” [Rufus Graham to his Father, 19 June 1863]

2 Capt. Albert G. Mack commanded the 18th Battery, New York Light Artillery that was attached to Augur’s Division in Banks’ 19th Corps at Port Hudson. The battery was also known as the “Black Horse Artillery.” The battery was active at Fort Bisland, the Amite river, Plains store, and the siege of Port Hudson, La., where it participated in the assaults of May 27 and June 14.

3 Drummer boy Rufus Melvin Graham wrote his father of this day’s action as well: “On the 14th of June (Sunday), we had another battle. Our folks stormed the fort again and two companies succeeded in getting inside of the fort. That was all. They were taken prisoners. We lost in killed and wounded 2,000 men and accomplished nothing. Gen. [Halbert Eleazer] Paine was wounded twice and when they were carrying him off the field on a stretcher, he was shot through the head and killed. That day our regiment was down on the left supporting a battery and were under fire all day and had no one hurt. [Rufus Graham to his Father, 19 June 1863]

1862-63: Gustavus Davis Bates Diary

The following letters and diary track the movements of Pvt. Gustavis (“Gus”) Davis Bates (1823-1903) of Plymouth, Massachusetts, who enlisted in Co. D, 38th Massachusetts Infantry. He was discharged from the University Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana, for disability on 5 August 1863.

Gus was well educated—an 1850 graduate of Brown University—and was enumerated in the 1850 US Census as a lawyer in Plymouth, Massachusetts but in August 1862 when he enlisted to serve his country he was a 38 year-old county school teacher. His regiment was transported to Louisiana in the Bank’s’ Expedition and fought at Fort Brisland in March 1863, where a large contingent from the regiment were captured and briefly held as prisoners of war. “Gus” was admitted to University Hospital at New Orleans on April 9, 1863 and remained there until medically discharged from the army on Aug. 5, 1863. His diary entries from May and June 1863 suggest that though he might have been marginally capable of being returned to service in the field, his doctors found his nursing skills to be of greater value to the military and so he was kept at University Hospital until his discharge.

Gus was the son of Comfort Bates III (1791-1876) and Elizabeth Pierce (1792-1878) of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Gus was married in 1848 to Nancy Doten Finney (1828-1896) and had at least three boys living at the time of his enlistment—Charles Hubbard Bates (1849-1918), Josiah Finney Bates (1851-1918), and Alfred Merton Bates (1858-1933). After the war, Gus returned to teaching school in Plymouth.

There are four documents in this archive: A letter dated 19 November 1862 written from Fortress Monroe enroute to Louisiana; a diary fragment from the passage from Baltimore to New Orleans; a letter dated from New Orleans on January 7, 1863; and a diary fragment written at University Hospital in New Orleans in May and June 1864 during the fighting at Port Hudson.


Adams Express Co.
Fortress Monroe, Va.
November 19th 1862

Dear Wife,

I have sent you $15 (fifteen dollars) by Adams Express. As soon as you get this, send directly over to Rich & Westars or other express in town & get it. Carry the paper I send you with you. I received $23.40.

We are still here. There is no doubt about our going in the Baltic, I think on an expedition. I can’t write you much now. Will do so soon. Our company are now at the Express Office sending their money home. Expect to be ordered to fall in any minute. We have just come on here from the ship & shall go about a mile to hair the day to ourselves. I have been over to Hampton and also the rivers. We are getting pretty dirty & shall have a chance to wash up today. Write me often. You don’t know how much I want to see you all. I am well but there is considerable sickness on board. Four of our company have died within a few weeks.

We shall probably take on board the Baltic about 1700 troops—perhaps 2,000. We shall be packed away on shelves. We are beginning to see what war means but I want my little wife to keep as easy as she can about me. I shall endeavor to look out for No. 1 as this seems to be the rule.

The men of course are in better spirits today having been paid off. I could write you a good deal I have seen since writing you last & will soon but must close now. Yours affectionately, — G. D. Bates


The U.S.S. Steam Ship Baltic

Steam Ship Baltic, Fort Monroe

November 24, 1862—Left Camp Emory Sunday November 9, 1862. Embarked on board the Baltic about 15 miles from Baltimore November 10th; and after a pleasant trip down the Bay, arrived at Fortress Monroe on the 12th of November early in the morning. Went to Hampton Village Nov. 17th with regiment.

Visited Negro School. Heard them sing splendidly & listed to several recitations in Arithmetic, Geography, & Spelling. Teacher from Central New York.

We have on board two companies of New York 131st. Went on shore. Fired three rounds at target. Went up the beach about 1 mile from the fort. Arrived on board before dark. Getting in coal all night. Made so much noise, couldn’t sleep. Frank [Bates] had box from home. Letter from wife.

Steamship Baltic—November 25, 1862—Regiment went on shore. Did not go. Nothing unusual transpired today.

November 26, 1862—Went on shore with the regiment. Went up the beach and shot at target.

November 27, 1862—Went on shore without equipments—dismissed and allowed to go where we please. Men generally did well, but few cases of insubordination in consequence of whiskey.

November 28, 1862—Went on shore. Shot at target. Came on board at half past 2.

November 29, 1862—Battalion & Company drill beyond Hampton bridge. New York 110th, 114th, and 116th [regiments] out also. Came on board at 4 o’clock. The Passaic—a steam sloop of war, & a gunboat arrived in Hampton Roads. Several transports also arrived. Raw wind.

November 30, 1862—Spent the forenoon getting ready for inspection. The Passaic accompanied by gunboat went down the Bay about noon. Quite a stir among the gunboats.

December 1, 1862—Inspection this forenoon. Very Pleasant.

December 2, 1862—On board all day. Indian rubber blankets delivered to the regiments this afternoon. 80 rebel prisoners arrived from Baltimore [who] were well dressed. Gave up cartridges today. Commenced raining about noon. General inspection of quarters by physician. Complaints made & remedies promised. Member of company buried.

Steam ship Baltic, Fort Monroe—December 3, 1862—On board all day. Rainy. The fleet ordered to be in readiness to sail and are making preparations to go to sea.

December 4, 1862—A. S. Russell came on board. Fleet got under way this morning. Men securely fastened & preparations are being made for the coming storm.

Steam Ship Baltic at Sea

December 5, 1862—Wind dead ahead. Ship labors hard. Deck very wet. Spray covered the forward part of the ship blowing a gale. A great deal of seasickness on board. Off Hatteras, encountered a severe gale. The sea breaking completely over the starboard wheelhouse & drenching the men forward, accompanied with vivid lightening & crashing thunder. The rain poured down in torrents & at one time the ship was in great peril—the ship running very high and ship straining every timber to keep on her course.

December 6, 1862—At sea. In the morning signaled only 4 of the fleet [in sight]. Capt. Eldridge of the Atlantic came on board. Changed our course to northeast to look after the rest of the fleet. Ascertained that one of the propellers was disabled and in tow of the Ericsson. The Atlantic, U. S. Augusta, Baltic & Arago are in sight of each other during the day. Weather moderated & favorable.

Baltic at Sea

December 7th 1862—Off Port Royal—weather pleasant. Capt. of Augusta sent a Lieutenant to the Baltic & informed Capt. Comstock that the packing of his trunchions [?] was giving out & asking advice whether he should repack them or go into Port Royal. Ordered to unpack them. This settled the doubtful point whether we were going into Port Royal or not. Sent up rockets in the night. Several responses. Having pleasant view. The living on board is very poor & our accommodations are very contracted. The men are scattered over the deck reading, writing, playing cards & chattering together, most of them having recovered from sea sickness & being in good spirits.

At Sea on Baltic

December 8, 1862—Weather fine. Course S. S. W. The remainder of the fleet do not come up. general inspection aft. Inspection of men took off right boot & stocking. Saw three sail towards night. off St. Augustine towards night.

[Page missing, December 9-11, 1862]

At Sea, December. 12, 1862—Warm and pleasant. Fine run last night & today. Nothing unusual has occurred.

At Sea. December 11 [should be 13th], 1862. The Baltic hove to above 4 o’clock in the night. saw the land early in the morning. Arrived at Ship Island at 1 o’clock today. Atlantic went over the bar first. Baltic struck heavily on the bar going in. Gunboat Augusta came in soon after the Baltic. The U. S. Arago, S. R. Spaulding, arrived before us. Some 15 or 20 sail were in port. The U. S. left soon after we arrived. Mataras [?] arrived at 2 o’clock p.m. Capt of Augusta came on board & accompanied General Emory on shore. S. R. Spaulding left in the afternoon. Several vessels left and several arrived during the day.

Ship Island

December 14th, 1862—Commenced going on shore this afternoon. General Banks with the 41st Massachusetts left in the North Star at noon. On board the Baltic all night.

41st Massachusetts soldiers on board the North Star while anchored at Ship Island in December 1862

December 16, 1862—Ship Island. Went on shore this morning in boats ay Ship Island. Encamped about half mile from the wharf on the sand. 23rd Connecticut encamped here. 16th New York and two companies of 13th Maine doing garrison duty. There are about 50 rebel prisoners here. Drew rations of coffee & sugar. Went down the beach and got a good stove. Saw Robert Finny of The Kensington.

From December 16 to 27 [1862]—At Ship Island drilling, Had frequent conversations with rebel prisoners, most of whom were anxious to have the war brought to a close & join the Union. Others would settle on [nothing] but recognition. Six men from each company was detailed to cut wood on the Island about 4 miles from camp. Israel Thrasher 1 of our company went.

This ambrotype depicts members of the 38th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment at camp on the beach of Ship Island, Miss. during the Civil War. The photograph was taken in Dec. 1862 by an unknown photographer and probably was owned by Francis William Loring, a lieutenant with the regiment; an inscription on the verso of the image reads, “Field & Staff 38th M.V. FW Loring Ship Island, Miss. Dec. 25, 1862.” Photo. 2.97 Removed from the Francis William Loring papers [Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collection On Line]

Ship Island, December 27, 1862—Went up the beach with Israel Thrasher, gathered shells & visited the graveyard. Most of the names were between 18 and 25 year old. Mostly from Maine. Indiana, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, & Massachusetts were represented among the dead.

Ship Island—December 29, 1862—The North Star, Northern Light, & Illinois came in this morning. Had orders to move. Went on board the Northern Light about 12 o’clock at night.

Steamship Northern Light

December 30, 1862—After some delay in getting off, left Ship Island this morning at 8 o’clock in the Northern Light. Quartered in the forehold. Better accommodations than in the Baltic. Several cases of measles on board. Had a fine run all day & during the night.

Steam Ship Northern Light, Mississippi River. December 31, 1862—Entered the [river] about 9 o’clock this morning. Had a good passage up the river and arrived at New Orleans not far from 7 o’clock in the evening.

1 Israel H. Thrasher was also from Plymouth. He died on 29 June 1863 at New Orleans from wounds received in the fighting at Port Hudson on 14 June 1863.


Camp Kearney
At Greenville near New Orleans
January 7, 1862 [should be 1863]

Dear Wife,

I send you within $20 (twenty dollars) by Adams Express. I can’t write you much now. Shall write you by mail. We are encamped here 4 miles from the city and about 8 by the river. We like the camp better than any camp we have been in. The weather here is pleasant most of the time, not comfortably cool night, so that I am not cold with overcoat & blanket.

We have three days rations ordered to be cooked & 10 days on hand all the time. I think I can send you 4 or 5 dollars now. Shall do so in my letters. It costs 65 cents to send this to Plymouth. I received two letters from you dated 7th and 16th of December. Your Uncle Henry is right, I think about the wood. Pay it.

Lt. Col. David K. Wardwell—“When Wardwell went, the fighting talent went also.”

We arrived here last Thursday, laid over one night in the city, and came up here next day. Whether we shall go up or down the river is uncertain. I shall endeavor to write you once a week about Sunday. If we move, I shall write about the time of moving. Should anything unusual take place, I shall let you know. I think the Colonel will try to have us stay at New Orleans. Col. [Timothy] Ingraham is acting as Brigadier General and the 38th is commanded by Lieut. Col. [William L.] Rodman. When [David Kilburn] Wardwell went, the fighting talent went also.

But I must close. Frank [Bates] 1 and I are well. Tom Savery 2 is sick with the measles [which are] prevalent in camp.

Your affectionate husband, — G. D. Bates

1 Francis (“Frank”) Bates was also from Plymouth. He served as a musician in Co. D, 38th Mass., until 30 January 1864 when he was discharged at Baton Rouge for disability.

2 Thomas G. Savery of Plymouth survived his bout with the measles only to be wounded at Port Hudson on 14 June 1863 and discharged at Boston for disability on 28 December 1863.


The remaining diary entries were all penned in the University Hospital at New Orleans

University Hospital, New Orleans

May 27, 1863—About 150 men from this hospital ordered away to their respective regiments. Packing up in the afternoon. Showers during the day.

Thursday, [May] 28th, 1863—Packed my knapsack & put things in readiness to go to the regiment. All the men were ordered into the front hall to answer to their names. No questions were asked me by [Asst. Surgeon] Dr. [Samuel H.] Orton but he ordered me back to room. Unpacked knapsack & put things in [ ] for a further sojourn at this institution. Removal into another war. Saw several wounded pass the hospital. Among them General [Thomas W.] Sherman. Reported also that Neal Dow is killed & General [Christopher C.] Augur wounded at Port Hudson. Several doctors came round at 10 o’clock in the eve and took names to send off. About 120 went today. Papers contain accounts from rebel sources of fights at Port Hudson & Vicksburg. Sent letter home, No. 12. Fletcher, Nye & Laws of the 38th in Ward K went off today. [George H.] Fish of Co. D & H[oratio] Sears of Co. G. [George W.] Belcher of [Co. A], 38th [Mass.] sent back. [Albion] Leavitt of 26th Massachusetts went off also who was in Ward K. Become acquainted with Mr. Burbeck of East Abington.

Friday, May 29th, 1863—Rained last night. Pleasant this morning. Became acquainted with George Bates of Worcester, Co. 130. Wounded, came from Baton Rouge. [Was] on the fight at Port Hudson. Heard of the death of Lt. Col. [William L.] Rodman of the 38th [Massachusetts]. No one could be found to take charge of the regiment. Rumored death of Gen. Paine. Shower in the afternoon accompanied with thunder and lightning. About 70 men left the hospital this afternoon. Joe Loring, Otis Foster, & Israel H. Thrasher went off [back to the regiment] today. Only one left of Co. D in this hospital. Seven transported in the evening.

Saturday, May 30th 1863—Hard thunder and rain this morning. Talked with wounded sergeant of 131st New York. 1 Thinks when he left [Port Hudson] there were 3,000 killed & wounded on our side. Represents the fighting as the most desperate of the war. The Negro Brigade fought like tigers & neither gave or received quarters. They were near to the river on the left & were opposite to one of the best brigades of the rebels. They defeated them at every point & would have gone into Port Hudson had they been supported by artillery. They went into the fight with 2700 and came out with 1700.

1 The wounded sergeant was probably one of four men: 22 year old Hector Sears of New York City was 1st Sergeant of Co. I. He was wounded in the fighting at Port Hudson on 27 May 1863; 23 year-old Sgt. Paulis Van Version of Co. F thought the date of his wound was not given; 27 year-old Sgt. James Devlin of Co. F, who was wounded at Port Hudson; or 31 year-old Sgt. William Boxberger of Co. D who was wounded on 27 May 1863 at Port Hudson. One of them would have been the source of the information provided Bates about the “the Negro Brigade.See poem by John A. Morgan entitled, The Black Brigade at Port Hudson.

In May 1863, the 1st and 3d Corps D’Afrique attacked the Confederate stronghold of Port Hudson, Louisiana. After previous units failed to break through the Confederate defenses, Brig. Gen. William Dwight ordered the African American units to attack a strong point along the western edge of the Confederate line. The units crossed a short bridge, bordered on their right by the Mississippi River and on their left by entrenched enemy sharpshooters and cannons. The Louisiana troops, led by freedman Capt. Andre Cailloux, assaulted the position under withering fire. Cailloux, wounded twice, led his soldiers until mortally wounded by a cannon ball just outside the breastworks. The assault withdrew and successfully laid siege to the Confederate garrison until it’s surrender six weeks later. Cailloux’s gallantry under fire became a rallying cry for African American and white Soldiers alike throughout the rest of the war.

Black troops attack the Confederate line at Port Hudson

Has no doubt that Port Hudson will fall before night today. We had taken all the batteries except three. Our force is estimated at 35 to 40,000. The Rebs at 15 to 20,000. The Rebs asked for two flags of truce to bury their dead and wanted a third which was not granted. Before the time had expired for which it was granted, they opened on our men. The battery was immediately charged and taken. Our army advanced through woods filled with briars, fallen trees, ad ravines 15 or 20 feet deep in which the men were continually falling—some of who, were a long time in getting out. The obstructions were represented as formidable & our men suffered incredibly in advancing on the enemy who are strongly posted in every advantageous position, commanding the approaches to Port Hudson. No doctor came round today. Warm and pleasant.

Sunday, May 31, 1863—The tables were full again this morning, many of the wounded being well enough to go down. Went through wards where the wounded are this morning. Saw but one very bad case wounded in the head—looked very bad. Talked with [Corp. Lewis M.] Bailey of Co. G, 38th [Mass.] [who was] slightly wounded [at Port Hudson]. About 200 wounded have arrived at this hospital. Hot day. Dr. McLellan came round—No. 452, Ward E, 3rd Story, University building.

University Hospital—June 1, 1863, New Orleans. Hot day. Siege of Port Hudson still going on. General Banks receiving reinforcements. All the wounded men concur in the opinion that Port Hudson must fall soon. Dr. Conner in charge of the Hospital, having returned from Baton Rouge. Quince arrived 26 days from New York.

June 2, 1863—Continues hot. Letter from home [dated] May 17th. A few wounded continue to arrive from Port Hudson.

January 3rd 1863—Warm and pleasant. Letters from home [dated] April 26th, also April 30th. B. F. Hathaway called.

June 4th 1863—Wrote letter No. 13 home. Hot day. Nothing unusual. Papers contain nothing.

University Hospital, June 5, 1863, New Orleans. Great Union demonstration in New Orleans last night. 8,000 persons present. News generally encouraging I this section of the county. New Orleans very quiet. Business reviving and the people settling down to an orderly & quiet life. Dr. Conner called men together in the yard. Examination for the purpose of ascertaining who were city for duty. Very warm.

June 6th, 1863—Very warm. Several discharged men getting ready to go North. Among them [Corp. Nathaniel O.] Holbrook of [Co. C], 38th Mass. and [Jedediah M.] Bird of the 4th Mass.

June 7th, 1863—Continues hot. Dr. Conner ordered all the men in the yard to his office for examination. 15 or 20 men from the hospital North discharged.

Monday, June 8th 1863—Very hot. 40 or 50 men discharged to regiment today. All the men at supper table ordered to Dr. Conner’s office after supper. Went. Was told to go back to Ward & keep quiet. Took a large number of names for regiment & for light duty about the hospital.

Tuesday, June 9th 1863—Continues hot & dry. Sixty men packed up to leave for regiments. Ordered back & remained over night. Doctor did not come round until after supper.

University Hospital, June 10th, 1863—Continues very warm. 40 or 50 men left this morning for up the river. General Wentzel’s Division defeats the Rebs in rear of our forces at Port Hudson & droves them to Liberty.

June 10th 1863—Cooler. Nothing of importance.

June 11th 1863—Showery. Cooler. Some thunder. Put up cistern in the hospital. Fifty men arrived at hospital from Brashear City. Learn from them that the Rebs trouble our forces some in that vicinity. All the gunboats and troops have been withdrawn from above Brashear to Port Hudson. Clearing out the hospital of that place. Three new men came into Ward E where I am at present. Chamberlain and Gage left Wednesday.

Friday June 12th, 1863—Cool and comfortable. wrote letter No. 14 home.

Saturday, June 13th 1863—Sent letter No. 14. Wrote T. B. Rich for papers. Also J. H. Loud. Received papers from home date May 28th.

University Hospital, June 14, 1863—Comfortable weather. Dr. Conner came round this morning and notified several that he was going to send them home. Said but little to me. Was accompanied by Dr. McLellan who is now practicing in Ward E where I am at present. Had a talk with Quince. Informed me that Israel H. Thrasher & Foster had left Barracks Hospital. Col. [Timothy] Ingraham went home [to New Bedford] today. Several came to the hospital from Brashear City. Had a long talk with Petra of Co, B, 38th [Mass.] Read the scriptures most of the day. Place my dependence on God and try to do my duty & be reconciled to my situation.

Monday, June 15th 1863—Shower in the afternoon. Some thunder. Quite comfortable. Read New York Herald‘s first account of fight at Port Hudson. Some chill today. Received letter from wife of May 31st.

Tuesday, June 16th 1863—Cool this morning. Exciting news from Port Hudson. Few particulars. Sent letter No. 15 home. Rained hard in the eve. Some thunder and lightning. Exciting rumors from Port Hudson. 4th Wisconsin Infantry entirely used up. Talking about sending men away from the hospital to make room for additional wounded. Sergt. [Joseph] Smith, Corp. Parks, & [George W.] Thomas of Co. G received their papers & leave, paid off today & going home. Heard that Brig. General Sherman is wounded.

Wed., June 17th 1863—Rained hard last night. Cool this morning. About 50 wounded came to the hospital from Port Hudson [including] Israel H. Thrasher & Thomas Savery of Co. D. Heard of the death of Lieut. Holmes, Lieut. [George B.] Russell wounded. Opening hospital at St. Louis Hotel. Detailing men to go as nurses.

University Hospital, June 18th 1863—Clear, hot day. About 60 wounded from Port Hudson came to hospital yesterday and today. Thirty or more discharged men left in Matensas for the North, among them [George W.] Thomas of Co. G, and Sergt. [Joseph] Smith of the 38th Mass. Several men left to go as nurses at the St. Louis Hospital. Doctor did not come round today. Reinforcements from Key West, 26th and 47th Mass, went up the river to Port Hudson. Papers contain nothing of movements, successes or reverses in this department. All the information to be had is derived from wounded men whose stories differ so much that but little can be relied on them. Weitzel had has got within fortification at Port Hudson & holds his position.

Friday, June 19th, 1863—Hot day, Several men detailed for St, Louis Hospital. Sent for in the morning by Dr. Conner. Wished me to send down my cord [?] which I did. [George W.] Belcher & [John] Peters were also sent for by the Doctor.

Saturday, June 20th 1863—Sent letter No. 16. Received letter from home [dated] May 24th. Rumors of the Rebs burning 4 or 5 steamers on the Bayou Plaquemine. Heard firing Thursday night up the river. Boats going up the river take on board guns and protect themselves with plating around the pilot house.

1863: Eben Peck Wolcott to Susan (Peck) Wolcott

My friend Buck Zaidel, co-author of the book, “Heroes for All Time: Connecticut Soldiers Tell Their Stories,” informs me that it is near impossible to find an image of a soldier in the 28th Connecticut. This unidentified Yank is from my collection.

This letter was written by Corp. Eben Peck Wolcott (1844-1863) of Co. E, 28th Connecticut Volunteers. Eben was the son of William Albert Wolcott (1810-1879) and Susan H. Peck (1812-Aft1870) of Lakeville, Litchfield county, Connecticut. Eben contracted disease during the siege of Port Hudson and died on 28 August 1863. Eben’s older brother, Samuel W. Wolcott (1842-1864) was killed in the fighting at Deep Bottom Run in Virginia in August 1864 while serving with the 7th Connecticut Volunteers. [The Manuscript Collection at Florida State University has a letter written from Samuel to his brother Eben, dated 26 May 1863] Eben wrote this letter to his mother, Susan (Peck) Wolcott.

The 28th Regiment was the last Connecticut regiment organized under the call for 9-month volunteers. It was composed of only 8 companies: five from Fairfield County and 3 from Litchfield County. Stamford men in the regiment numbered 188.

Eben’s lengthy letter gives us an incredible eye-witness account to the events leading up to the surrender of Port Hudson and of the surrender ceremony itself that took place on 9 July 1863. He also speaks of Rebel desertions and of the danger they faced attempting to enter Union lines manned by Negro soldiers of the 1st and 3rd Louisiana Native Guards.

Surrender of Port Hudson (Officers on horseback and parade). Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection, accession no.1974.83

See also—1862: Eben Peck Wolcott to Josephine Darling Wolcott published on Spared & Shared 17 in August 2018.

The Special Collections & University Archives of Virginia Tech houses the Eben P. Wolcott Correspondence which contains 41 letters addressed to Eben by family members in Connecticut.


Addressed to Mrs. Susan H. Wolcott, Lakeville, Connecticut

Port Hudson, [Louisiana]
July 5th 1863

Dear Mother,

It is three weeks today since we made the charge on the fortifications. I think we have gained some on the Rebels since then. We have batteries closer than we had then & have dug trenches close up to their earthworks. There is now and then a gun (I mean one of the big ones) fired so we have plenty of music the most of the time.

I did not expect to spend the Fourth of July in front of Port Hudson 9 months ago. Then I thought if I was a living that I would be home. The boys claim that our time has already been out three different times. I guess when the government gets through with us, they will tell us of it. There is a possibility that we will be at home in August & then we may not. If this place is taken before long, I think we will be at home in August.

Our regiment has been out in front in the trenches now six days. I should of been with them if I had been well enough. But I am feeling much better than I have for the past few days. I shall go on duty in a day or two. We have no doctor in our regiment now—one being left at Brashear City in charge of a hospital and the one assistant left in charge of our sick, & doctor [Ransom P.] Lyon is sick now 1 so we have a doctor from another regiment. Wright & Burns are down today. They have drawed their new suits and look a little more like soldiers than we do for we are rather dirty and shabby. They start home on their furlough the 15th of this month—60 day furlough.

There is no use in my trying to describe what is going on here for I only see a small portion of 5 miles of earthworks & the papers will give a more correct account than I can & I have a most miserable pen—the only one I have—and it has been in use over a month & that all through the company for I am about the only one that has a pen and ink in the company. I was just a thinking where you was today—whether you was at home or with the friends down east. I shall wait very patiently for another mail but may not get another till we get back to New Orleans. I got two letters from Daniel the last mail. I have not written him in some time but I shall the first opportunity.

July 7th. I am feeling very much better—as well as I expect to till I get home again. We have heard most glorious news today (if it be true & it is said to be official news), that Vicksburg has fallen on the Fourth of July. 28,000 prisoners, 280 field pieces, 80 siege guns. I rather think the Rebs though there was something up for we had heard and played brass bands all the forenoon & then ended off with the salute (they were not blank cartridges as they are North). They are getting more guns in position every day. In a few days, I shall look for the downfall of this place. The last two men shot yesterday—shot out in the trenches. There is more or less lost every day. Our regiment has been very lucky since we have been in the trenches. But the Rebs are death on the Negro regiments here. 2 There is more in proportion of them killed than there is of the white soldiers. But in return, the Negroes are death on them. There doesn’t a Rebel get through near them alive. If there are deserters coming in, it makes no difference. They say that the Rebs will kill them if they get a chance & it is now more than fair for them to do the same to them, they think.

There was quite a number of deserters came out yesterday. Some of them got shot in coming out. They said there would be more come out but they was afraid to for as sure as a man showed his head, there is a dozen bullets let loose at it. Our men throwed letters over to them this morning telling them that Vicksburg had fallen. They wrote back asking them to throw over some tobacco for they had none & could not get any. The boys did throw over some & told them if they would only come out, that they could get all they wanted.

We have been waked up the last two mornings by their throwing a few shells rather close for comfort. This morning there was one struck a tree a few rods from us, cutting it entirely down and struck another glancing, hitting another & struck in the dirt a few feet from us. If it had not hit the tree, it might of come pretty close to some of us.

July 9th. The great stronghold of Port Hudson has fallen. Yesterday morning early the Rebel General [Franklin] Gardner sent out & made a request that there might be a meeting of the officials of both sides to see about a surrender of the fort. No sooner than the flag-of-truce was raised & both sides had ceased firing, our men rushed up on the top of our works & the Rebs on the top of theirs. They talked a few minutes & then our men went up to their works (the outer sides) & in a few minutes it looked like a mass meeting or a cattle show for they fairly swarmed around their works. The Rebels fetched out corn beer 3 & treated our soldiers. I traded canteens with one of them. They seemed to be overjoyed at the prospect of a surrender.

The commissioners met at 9 a.m. I know not the conditions of surrender except the officers retain their side arms. Yesterday afternoon at 4 o’clock there was one brigade of our men marched into the fort. 4 This morning the biggest part of the troops marched in at the right and left with the bands playing at the head. The Rebel troops was drawn up in line over near the river side—that being the only level place that I saw inside—and troops marched up in front of their troops so the two armies were a facing each other about 3 rods apart; our troops forming two lines of battle & theirs only one. After the lines formed, there was a company of marines fetched in a flag staff and it was raised right in the rear of the Rebel line upon a battery of theirs & the Stars & Stripes run up. And then our generals & their staffs rode up in front of the Rebel generals & staff. One of our aides rode up to [Maj. Gen. Franklin] Gardner and told him that all was ready. Gardner rode out, lifted his hat to our general, turned around, called for his troops to [come to] attention. They ordered them to ground arms. Then there was some conversation passed between the two generals that I could not hear & the surrender was over. 5

A depiction of the Rebel soldiers grounding their arms during the formal surrender ceremony at Port Hudson on 9 July 1863. Drawn by J. R. Hamilton and published in Harper’s weekly on 8 August 1863.

The surrender was not made to General Banks but to one of the other generals. I could not learn the name but probably shall see it in the papers. There is about 6,000 troops in the fort in all, between thirty-five and 40 hundred official soldiers at the breastworks. There was hardly a gun in the fort but what had been dismounted & in fact, our gunners would knock them over as fast as they could put them up. The most of the fortifications inside are natural, with a little artificial work added to them, making them very strong—ravines after ravines that was most impossible to get through. Our artillery created havoc with them & they was near starved out. The Rebels were very anxious to know what we was a going to do with them—if we was to parole them or keep them prisoners, and if so, where we would take them. 6

Rebel fortifications at Port Hudson as they were found after the surrender

The air is very impure in the fort. There has been a great [many] men, horses, and mules killed & have not been buried. If I can get a chance, I mean to go in again but they have a guard on and will neither let a man in or out unless he can steal in through the lines. That was the way I had to do today. I spent 7 hours in the fort & did not go half way around it. It was so very warm in the middle of the day that got pretty near tired out & had to come in. But I saw what I went to see—the surrender. A part of our regiment is out doing guard duty and the rest is still in the woods. You will get the news of the surrender long ere this reaches you & all the particulars with it so I will not try to tell any more.

I think there is a prospect of our staying here a week yet and then probably we will start down the river. If I had of only been to home now, there would have been a good chance for me to of enlisted in the 6-month regiment and gone into Pennsylvania but I am not one of the lucky ones. I hear today that Arlo Wolcott of Norfolk was killed in the fight of the 14th of June. He was in the 49th Massachusetts Regiment. He was an orderly sergeant. 7

I should like to know what luck Lee had met with in Maryland & Pennsylvania. I hear that some of the 2 years and 9 months men have volunteered to go into Pennsylvania. We got a small mail yesterday but I got none from home. I got one from Daniel after he got to St. Augustine & one from David Curtis. I wrote to him while at Brashear & one from Ettie Wolcott. She wanted to know what was the matter with you all. She had not heard from you since she left Salisbury. Samuel was well when he wrote. If I have time, I must write him today for it has been some time since I have written him.

I haven’t much time to write and therefore have to hurry it off rather faster than I would like to. I take notice that the sick are getting well fast. They have done remarkably well for the last day and a half. It is possible that I shall not write again very quick for I am thinking we shall begin our way home before many weeks. I am as well as ever at present. I don’t know as I have time to write more today.

From your affectionate son, — E. P. Wolcott

1 Surgeon Ransom P. Lyon died of disease on 6 August 1863.

2 The two Negro regiments were the 1st and 3rd Louisiana Native Guards who had been used by Banks in a futile assault on the Rebel works at Port Hudson on 27 May 1863. Most of these soldiers were recruited in New Orleans and were underprepared for the attack but their enthusiasm impressed General Banks who praised them afterwards.

3 Due to the chronic shortage of drinking water during the hot summer months and the severe drought, the Rebels made a weak beer with corn, sugar and molasses which was kept in barrels at their entrenchments. [See Forty Days and Nights in the Wilderness of Death].

4 Though the surrender terms were hammered out and signed on 8 July 1863, Gardner requested that the official surrender not take place until the morning of the 9th. According to Edward Cunningham’s book entitled The Port Hudson Campaign, 1862-1863 (page 118), this delay was exactly what the Rebels wanted so that any who wished to try to escape during the night might do so, which many of them did by swimming downriver under cover of darkness.

5 Wolcott’s eye-witness account of the surrender ceremony at Port Hudson is consistent with that posted on the American Battlefield Trust which reads, “Port Hudson surrendered on July 9, 1863. At 7 a.m., General Gardner’s ragged army formed in line along the river by his headquarters. As the Federals marched across the shell-blasted soil to the river, they could hear the booming of the guns in Battery Bailey firing a 100-shot salute. Arriving at the river, the Union troop wheeled right and lined up facing their former foes. Gardner offered his sword in surrender to Brig. Gen. George Andrews. Andrews returned it to Gardner in honor of his brave defense of his post. The Confederate infantrymen then put down their arms. There were no cheers as it Stars and Bars were lowered, only proud, defiant silence on one side and respectful silence on the other. That changed when the Stars and Stripes fluttered from atop the flagpole. The ragged, gray-clad men were still quiet, but the huzzahs from the blue-clad ranks more than made up for their silence. Captain Jacob Rawles’ 5th U.S. Battery fired a salute of 34 shots as the American flag went up the pole.

Another account of the surrender ceremony appears in “Life with the Forty-Ninth Massachusetts Volunteers,” which reads: “The ceremony of surrender…was conducted by Brigadier-General Andrew, General Banks’s chief of staff. The spot chosen for the ceremony was an open area, near the flag-staff, opposite the centre of the river batteries, and very near the bank. Along the main street the soldiers composing the garrison were drawn up in line, having all their personal baggage, arms, and equipments with them. General Gardner and staff, with a numerous escort, occupied a position at the right of the line. By 7 o’clock our troops marched into the works, headed by the brigade which had volunteered, a thousand strong, to storm the place in the next assault. Colonel Birge, of the 13th Connecticut regiment, was in command of this storming party. It was fitting that they should lead the way with the flag of bloodless victory, who had volunteered to do so with bayonet and sabre. Artillery closed in with the infantry, and as the grand cortege swept through the broad streets of Port Hudson, with the grand old national airs for the first time in many months breaking the morning stillness, the scene was most impressive and soul-stirring. Never did music sound sweeter, never did men march with lighter step, or greater rejoicing, than our troops, as they came into the place which had cost the lives of many of their gallant comrades. All the sorrow for their losses, and all the joy for their present victory, came to the mind at once. But every private bereavement was instantly forgotten in the nation’s great gain, and every man justly seemed proud to have had a part in one of the greatest triumphs of the war. Passing directly across from the breastworks on the land side to the river batteries, the column then marched by the right flank, and afterwards halted and fronted opposite the rebel line. General Andrew and staff then rode up to receive the sword of the rebel commander. It was proffered to General Andrew by General Gardner, with the brief words: “Having thoroughly defended this position as long as I deemed it necessary, I now surrender to you my sword, and with it this post and its garrison.” To which General Andrew replied: ” I return your sword as a proper compliment to the gallant commander of such gallant troops—conduct that would be heroic in another cause.” To which General Gardner replied, as he returned his sword, with emphasis, into the scabbard: ” This is neither time nor place to discuss the cause.” The men then grounded their arms, not being able to stack them, since hardly one in ten of their pieces had a bayonet attached. They were mostly very rusty and of old style. Quite a number of the old Queen Bess pattern were included among them, having a bore half as large again as the ordinary musket. Most of the cartridge boxes were well filled, but the scarcity of percussion caps was universal. An officer of the garrison, in explanation of this fact, remarked, that this very scarcity of caps was the reason that the men were allowed to cease firing on the right and left for several days. The number of men surrendered is over five thousand. Of these nearly four thousand are ready for duty. The remainder are in the hospital from sickness or wounds. There were six thousand stand of arms, with full equipmnents. The troops are some of the best in the Confederate service; many of them were at Fort Donelson, and all have been at Port Hudson since the battle of Baton Rouge.

6 Sometime after the surrender, Banks made the decision to parole the enlisted men and non-commissioned officers who were allowed to go home. Banks erred in releasing the prisoners, however, because the paroles were approved only by Gardner who was himself now a prisoner-of-war. Declaring the paroles illegal, Jeff Davis ordered the men to report for duty after a brief furlough and they were sent back into action. About half of the Rebel officers were sent to Johnson’s Island prison camp; the other half to the US Customs House prison in New Orleans. [Source: The Port Hudson Campaign, 1862-1863, page 120.]

7 Wolcott may have his facts wrong on this identity. The Orderly Sergeant in Co. H of the 49th Massachusetts was named Joseph B. Wolcott. He was killed by a sharpshooter on 23 June 1863 at Port Hudson.