[Note this letter was written by Capt. Silas Henry Bailey of Co. G, 36th Mass. Volunteers. He served as the Acting Assistant Inspector General on the staff of General Ferrero, commanding the First Division, 9th Army Corps from Bovember 1863 to 1 April 1864. He was killed in action at Spotsylvania, Virginia, on 12 May 1864.]
Headquarters 1st Div., 9th Army Corps
Erin Station, East Tennessee
Office A. A. Ins. Gen.
February 10, 1864
Mrs. E. W. Howe
This morning I received from Lt. H. S. Robinson of my company a letter announcing his safe arrival at home and in it he stated that the gentleman with whom you are residing, Dr. Barrow, had recently called upon him and expressed the wish that I would write to you of the particulars of your son Charles’ capture. I avail myself of the first opportunity to do so, well knowing the anxiety you must feel in regard to him and would have done so before but not knowing of your address, I sent a letter to his father in New York City.
To say that I deeply sympathize with all of your family in his capture, as well as the four other men of the company taken with him and their relatives in their like state of doubt and uncertainty with yourself, is but natural from being associated with them through so many hardships and pleasures for such a period of time.
Through Charlie had been in my company for only the past six months, I met him first at Camp Wool and was always pleased with him and bear testimony with what readiness and fidelity he always tried to do his duty while I have known him, and I was glad to exchange him for one of Capt. Hasting’s men when the opportunity occurred as it was better and pleasanter for the men to be with their own townsmen.
When we were at Lenoir’s Station, 24 miles south of Knoxville, a perhaps a week or two before Longstreet’s advance—say the 1st of November, Charlie was detailed as clerk at Brig. Headquarters as he wrote you, I presume, and I was glad to have him get it as it was easier, and still sorry to lose him from the company.
At Knoxville during the siege, all men that could be spared were ordered into the ranks again for the time being as we needed every man, and he among the number obeyed the call with alacrity, and the siege being raised the 5th of December, the 7th we marched north toward Morristown 31 miles in portions of three days, reaching Rutledge the 10th of December. We were in camp here till the night of the 15th December.
The morning of the 14th, Lt. Wells—our brigade commissary—called on Col. Morrison for a sergeant and 12 men to go to a mill 7 miles east of Rutledge to gather corn from a field nearby and grind it for the use of the troops. Sgt. Bosworth of Co. C—mostly Worcester men—with 7 men from that company and 5 from mine were sent, and as our cavalry and forage trains had been beyond there only a few days previous, it was considered safe and the men enjoyed the idea of going to the dull routine that had begun even then to make camp life again a little monotonous.
Skirmishing was going on daily some 10 & 15 miles front of us and the enemy perceiving our cavalry only were pushing them turned and came back on our forces with their scouting parties.
The men got safely to the mill taking all their arms and clothing with them, and as they were to draw rations that night, Charlie was sent back that night by the Sgt. on the horse of a citizen living near the mill to draw and bring rations for the whole from camp. He stayed in camp over night the 14th as it was late when he got in and started early next morning in good spirits and expecting no trouble—nor I either—as I expected and we struck tents and all got ready to move at 8 A. M. forward, but we did not and during the day I learned from Col. Morrison that he felt anxious to have the men sent for and notified Lt. Wells to that effect. He had already sent for them by one of his men that morning, not deeming it safe to leave them there, but as near as we can find out the enemy came upon them that night or early next morning and captured the whole and must have taken Charlie and the man sent by Lt. Wells also as we have seen neither since—only a citizen reports living up that way that he saw probably the same squad, some 14 men, marching by under guard, and from the description of one of the Co. C men—who is a great talker and must have his say—they must have been the party. And I learned a day or two ago they had been taken to Dandridge where they have other prisoners.
I think they will fare better that most of our Union men by being taken by Longstreet’s men as they are brave men and are sick of the war and say they treat our prisoners always as well as it lies in their power to do, and they were met more than half way in this respect by Gen. Burnside at Knoxville, which had a great effect upon them, and will influence them much, I think, during the rest of the war.
I know the uncertainty, the suspense, is hard to bear, but how much worse it might have been. The loss of a limb or even life so many are compelled to undergo.
Charlie was in fine health, as were all except two, and I think you will again see him safe and sound. I think the exchange of prisoners must soon be resumed and it has in fact been partially already.
If I hear anything more of them, I will write at once and you will be likely to get letters from him.
Hoping he will live through all these changes and return to you safely, and devoted more than ever by the service he has already rendered and the sacrifices veritably attached, to the cause we hold most dear—and which will be treasured in after life as one of the privileges of the young men of this age, who through good report and ill report, stand by their country and its free institutions even unto the end, affect them as it may.
I am sincerely your friend, — S[ilas] H[enry] Bailey, Capt. Co. G, 36th Mass. Vol.
I was just on the point of mailing this letter to your wife which I will send through you which is all I know of Charles as yet.
I sent you a letter a few days after his capture with simply your name on it as I did not know your full address. I hope it has ere this reached you. Respectfully, S. H. Bailey, Capt. Co. G
Had Charles not been taken prisoner, he would have in a few days returned to Capt. Windsor’s office as they liked him there.