21 June 1863


Camp of 36th Regiment Mass. V. near Vicksburg
June 21st 1863

My dear Father,

We arrived at Young’s Point near the mouth of the Yazoo river in the afternoon of the 17th and after receiving orders, steamed up the Yazoo about twenty miles and landed a mile below Haines Bluff and marched to this place, a distance of five miles. The road beats any that I have ever seen in Virginia or Kentucky. It seems as if the farther south we go we find less and less enterprise.

Contrabands flock in here by the thousands from the vicinity of the Big Black river.

An order has just been issued that the men shall not leave camp for any purpose whatever and roll calls will be sounded at different times so if any man is absent, he will be severely punished. You see we expect an attack from Breckinridge who has succeeded in crossing the river (Big Black, I suppose) and threatens the Vicksburg road. Our regiment is in a pretty responsible position at the fork of the road—one leading to Yazoo City and the other to Vicksburg. We are about eight miles from Vicksburg and six from Grant’s fortifications but we have got rifle pits stationed along so that our boys can keep a large force in check until reinforcements come up.

Heavy cannonading is heard every day and were it not for the three thousand Union prisoners there, Grant would reduce Vicksburg in less than no time. He is a cunning bird. Night before last he removed a body of his troops from a certain position and to all appearances weakened that point. The rebs who are ever watchful for a chance to escape, made a dash to go through at one A. M. but old U. S. Grant was on hand for them and while the batteries in front poured shot and shell into them, the batteries in the rear performed the same act. Thus they could go neither way nor stay where they were without getting a good grist of “Iron hail” and it is said that out of a brigade of three thousand, all but nine hundred were killed or wounded.

Prisoners say that the city would be surrendered on condition that Grant would allow five persons whom Pemberton would select to leave the place untouched. It is supposed that Jeff Davis is there “visiting.”

I hope it will not be my fate to stay here long after Vicksburg falls. To be sure, blackberries as large as your thumb and plums are ripe and in abundance, but alligators swarm in the rivers to prevent us bathing and wood ticks, scorpions, rattlesnakes, copperheads, & moccasins, mosquitoes as large as horses, ants the size of mules, are thicker than “unmentionables around a country school house.” Drinking water is very scarce. The nearest spring to this camp is one and a half miles off. By gracious, Virginia is a paradise to this forsaken state.

But I find I am getting lengthy and perhaps tedious and so I will close. I write to mother very often but get no answers, She writes, no doubt, but we have had no mail since we were at Lebanon, Ky. It’s rather hard to be obliged to wait so long for a mail.

I am feeling bully but the cussed mosquitoes have bitten me all over.

Hope you are well and healthy. I remain yours affectionately, — Charley

Write often.

Camp of 36th Reg. Mass. Vols. near Vicksburg
June 21st 1863

My dear Mother,

I now forget whether I have written since we arrived at Snyder’s Bluff but my impression that that I have. Last night the 36th left there and marched to this place, a distance of four or five miles. We are at the forks of two roads—one leading to Yazoo City, the other to Vicksburg. It is a pretty responsible position to hold. The report is that Breckinridge has crossed the Big Black river and threatens the road. We have got plenty of rifle pits and just want him to undertake to get into Grant’s rear, if he dare, and if we don’t give him one of the ugliest thrashings he ever had then I’m no judge of soldiering. Why I honestly believe that our single regiment can hold a force of eight or ten thousand in check for an hour or at least until reinforcements come up in the position that we have got.

But I have seen enough of this state and the sooner they send us away from it the better I shall like it. Snakes, scorpions, lizards, and mosquitoes as large as horses are too numerous for me.

But I must get supper soon and I can tell you no news except that the wedder is uncomfortably hot. I will close wishing you health, wealth, and prosperity.

Yours affectionately, — Charles H. Howe

Next Letter: 27 June 1863