Crab Orchard, Kentucky
September 2nd 1863
My dear Mother,
It being just one year ago today since the 36th [Massachusetts] left Boston Harbor, I send you this map that you may see the places of interest through which we have passed and form some idea of the extent of our marching. The map is small and only the principal towns and cities are upon it, yet you can follow our general course by the ink marks I have made upon it. In the copy of the diary which I send, many little incidents are omitted, having sent them to you about the time they occurred.
[Note: to see Charley’s map and journal entries, go to 1862-63: Charles Henry Howe, War Map & Journal]
You will see that of all our campaigning, the “Mississippi Campaign” was the most severe. Officers and men who were in the “Peninsula Campaign” say that it did not equal it. When the regiment left Worcester, it numbered 1,046 men “all told.” When it reached this place a few days ago, it stacked 140 guns. A large number of sick joined us today but there are many more in the hospitals and convalescent camps at Cairo, Camp Dennison, Cincinnati, Covington, Louisville, and Nicholasville. Some have been in the hospitals at Washington & Alexandria more than six months and probably never intend to come up if it can be prevented. Some have been discharged. Some have deserted. Some are on detached service. The line officers do not average two to a company. Two have died. Some have resigned and a number are sick.
Our Colonel, Lt. Colonel, and one Asst. Surgeon have resigned. The 36th [Massachusetts] is now commanded by the Major, formerly captain of Co. C.
Diary or list of marches and length of ditto. Washington by steamer, Leesboro 12 miles, Brookville 10 miles, Damascus 16 miles, Frederick City 16 miles, Middletown 8 miles, (marched over South Mountain), Boonsboro 8 miles, Keedysville 6 miles, (Antietam Battlefield) Sharpsburg 5 miles, Camp 3 miles, Antietam Iron Works 3 miles (over Elk Mountain), Pleasant Valley, 8 miles, Frederick City, Point of Rocks and back to Pleasant Valley (cars) 65 miles, Berlin 6 miles (end of Maryland Campaign).
Crossed Potomac on pontoon bridge to Lorettsville, Va. 4 miles, Waterford 10 miles, Harmony through Goose Creek Philemont 14 miles, Ashby’s farm opposite Ashby’s Gap 15 miles, Manassas Station or Rectortown 14 miles, Orleans (via Salem) 20 miles, first snow storm, Carter’s run or Hungry Hollow 6 miles, White Sulphur Springs 8 miles, Warrenton Junction 12 miles, Town not known 10 miles (very severe march), Persimmon Hollow 12 miles, Falmouth 16 miles (November 17, 1862, hard march), Fight at Fredericksburg 11th to 16th December, left Falmouth February 10, 1862 (cars) to Aquia Creek 15 miles, Took transport and night of 11th were off mouth of St. Mary’s river. Night of 12th off Fortress Monroe. Arrived Newport News morning 13th. Distance from Aquia Creek 187 miles. Left March 22nd, took transports. Arrived Baltimore ever of 23rd (end of Virginia Campaign).
March 24, took cars of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and Parkersburg, Virginia (26th). Distance from Newport News to Baltimore 200 miles. Distance from Baltimore to Parkersburg about 400 miles. Took steamers of Ohio river and arrived at Cincinnati, Ohio, night of 27th. Crossed river to Covington, Kentucky 28th. Distance from Parkersburg to Cincinnati 300 miles. Lexington Kentucky 29th. Distance of 99 miles (by crs). Left on April 5th per cars for Covington, 99 miles. Back to Lexington on 7th, 99 miles. 8th, marched to Nicholasville, 13 miles. 9th Camp Dick Robinson, 15 miles. 30th, Stanford via Lancaster, 18 miles. May 1st Hustonville 10 miles. 2nd Middleburg 12 miles (end of pike). 4th, moved camp 2 miles. 23rd Liberty, 9 miles. 25th Neatsville 14 miles. 26th Columbia 13 miles in 5 hours (water very scarce). 27th scout to Gradysville 12 miles. 29th Breedingsville 7 miles, 30th back to Columbia via another road 16 miles.
June 1st Jamestown 20 miles, marched all night and arrived just in season to stop a rebel cavalry force that had crossed the Cumberland and were driving in our pickets. 4th Columbia 18 miles, 5th Cambellsville 21 miles, 6th Lebanon 19 miles (58 miles in 48 hours), 7th cars to Louisville 69 miles (end of Kentucky Campaign).
8th Crossed Ohio river to Jeffersonville, Indiana. Took cars on Jeffersonville R. R., changed cars at Seymour, took O. & Miss. Railroad. 9th, changed cars at Sandoval, Ill., took Ill. Central R. R. reached Cairo at midnight. Distance from Jeffersonville nearly 400 miles. 10th took steamer on Mississippi river, reached Memphis night of 11th, (passed Island No. 10, New Madrid, Mo., Hichman, and Columbus, Ky. Forts Pillow and Randolph on trip). 14th Left Memphis passed Helena, Arkansas, reached White River Landing on 15th. 16th, passed Napoleon, La., reached Lake Providence, La., at night. 17th Left Lake Providence reached mouth of Yazoo River at 10 a. m., Snyders Bluff 12 M. From Cairo to mouth of Yazoo 592 miles. From mouth of Yazoo to Snyder’s Bluff, 19 miles. Marched 4 miles and encamped near Milldale, Miss, 20th, moved 4 miles and encamped 9 miles in rear of Vicksburg. Heavy details for alarm and picket guard duty, digging rifle pits, falling trees, and throwing up parapets, &c. until July 4th when Vicksburg surrendered.
One hour after the surrender we started to drive Johnston who had been threatening Grant’s rear (our front), marched 10 miles, heat and dust almost unbearable. No water to be found. Great thirst. 5th, 5 miles and joined our brigade. 6th, 2 miles to bank of the Big Black. Heavy showers in evening. Picket firing across river all night. River narrow but very swift. Considerable difficulty in throwing bridge across. Finally succeeded and crossed at noon of the 7th. Marched through swamps, cornfields, over hills and bayous (pronounced by natives Bio). Heavy showers came upon us. So dark that one could not see his file-leader but for the constant lightning. Finally camped by the road 10 m. Morning found companies, regiments, and brigade terribly “mixed up” and considerably the worse for the ducking. The air was so hot and water so scarce that the men drank water from their hat brims during the shower.
8th, started in afternoon. Marched slowly. In evening in crossing a bayou on a dilapidated bridge, the rank became broken which at once caused considerable straggling. Regiment at last halted after a march of 8 or ten miles. Stragglers came in all night. On this march we passed Joe Davis’ (Jeff’s brother) plantation, burnt cotton gin and the rest of the buildings would have shared the same fate had it not been discovered that his wife was the only person on the place and she a “good Union man.” 9th, ten miles at night mules and men died from the use of impure or poisoned water. One battery lost ten horses.
[July] 10th, 4 miles and came up with the main body of the rebel forces. 45th Penn. sent out as skirmishers. At 4 P. M., Col. Bowman’s brigade’s skirmishers fired the first shots [Battle of Jackson]. At 10 P. M. we had driven them two miles through cornfields and woods. Stacked arms and went to sleep, half mile in rear of Insane Asylum. 11th, skirmishing recommenced at daybreak. At 10 A. M. we had driven two miles farther. Co.’s A & F of the 36th [Mass] were now sent out and it was discovered that the rebels were now in their fortifications. They poured grape and shrapnel into our men who fell back over the brow of the hill. The companies were relieved at night. Co. A lost none. Co. F 2 killed and a number wounded and sun struck. 12th, heavy cannonading for 20 minutes ad our Division were relieved by another. Formed camp in woods in rear of Asylum. Water very poor. Mules, horses and men drink water from a rain water pond. 14th Again went to the front. One man of Co. K wounded in four places by one shot. One man of Co. G slightly wounded over the eye by shrapnel. 15th, still in front. 16th, morning relieved and formed camp farther in the woods than before. About dusk shells (44 lbs) were thrown into our camp. Upon examination, they were filled with sand instead of powder.
A rumor afloat that Jackson evacuated. In their haste, the rebels left sick and wounded behind and left their colors flying. Colors are now in the hands of the 35th Mass. Started for Grant’s Ford near Canton on Pearl River. Arrived late at night after a march of 20 miles. It was reported that our cavalry drove the enemy from the town. 18th, marched in a southerly direction and struck the Mississippi Central Railroad three miles above Tugaloo Station, 10 miles. Commenced destroying track and followed the business until noon of 19th when after burning the station, we marched to our camp at Jackson 12 miles. Men fell out and died on the way. 21st, crossed Big Black and encamped on opposite shore, 3 miles. Heavy showers at night which gave us quite a dampening (my blouse I left at Milldale). All were hungry as bears. 22nd, reached Milldale 14 miles. Regiment could not number 200 men. Stragglers and sick came into camp every day until August 4th when wes started for Snyder’s Bluff, 9 miles. 5th, took steamer and started for Cairo, Illinois, which place we reached August 10th, 612 miles.
Took cars on Illinois Central Railroad. About midnight an accident happened to the locomotive which detained us until the morning of the 11th when another “loco” was sent to our relief. Soon arrived at Centralia where “hot coffee and refreshments were free to volunteers.” At Sandoval we changed cars and took O & M Railroad, reached Cincinnati August 12th after a ride in cattle cars of about 400 miles. Refreshments and good water plenty. In afternoon, crossed river to Covington, Ky., marched two miles to barracks. 13th, left barracks and formed camp one mile from there. Plenty of rations. August 17th, took cars for Nicholasville and arrived 18th after riding 112 miles. Marched 5 miles and formed camp near “Camp Nelson.” Men fell sick every day with fever and ague, dysentery, typhoid fever, &c. A few died. August 29th, started for Crab Orchard and after a three days march of 34 miles, arrived and formed camp.
We expect to have a rest now but a rest in the army is a mockery. When we are not marching, we are drilling about five hours a day and constantly at work policing the camp, general’s quarters, or roads. This is the kind of rest we receive. Good rations are now abundant and partly atone for the Mississippi Campaign when we lived on quarter rations.
Old Kentucky is the state we like to stay in, yet we would not object leaving it to go to the “Bay State.” Hope the time will soon come when we can do so.
Hoping this long letter will find you enjoying good health. I remain yours affectionately, — Charles H. Howe
My dear Mother,
You may show this diary or map to anyone you see fit but I rather have my relations see it than anybody else. You show it to your best friend and she will show it or tell it someone else and so on and in a little while it will be a very large story containing many thigs that I have not written. I have given you a plain statement of facts—a truthful story as near as possible, as as such I wish it to remain. I do not desire my writing to be commented upon as I write to you for your benefit (if you can obtain any) and not to the public at large. On the whole I think the less you show it the better (especiall to gossipers) but act your own pleasure.
Father can see it when he visits you. Do not send it to him for it might be lost and I am desirous of having it saved that in future years I may look it over. I intend to keep a diary of events as long as I am in the army and from time to time I will send it to you.
Your letter of the 26th has been received and I am glad to hear that you have got my letters and ambrotype. You allowed that I had come to a “wise and sensible conclusion” in regard to past and future, but you gave me no advise as to what to follow for a living. Now the more I think of the matter, the more i become convinced that law should be my profession for if I could study with some smart, active lawyer a year or two, I know I could make a good living in the western country—State of Illinois or Indiana, for instance. It is something that I think I should like. Great hand to argue (you are probably aware of that last fact). Remember the prophesy of the lamented Jock Sawyer who said I must and should sometime be a lawyer. Whew, but I fear I am looking too far ahead. When I remember that the army holds me, it gives me a dampener.
I am well and enjoy myself hugely. Hope you are in good health and spirits. Give my love to little Wall and all friends and take a good share yourself. write often. Please send a few stamps as they are scarce here.
Your affectionate son, — Charley