Water, Water Everywhere on the March to Vicksburg:Erasmus Anderson Letter #11

Carthage Louisiana  April 20th 1863

Dear Wife,

…We have made our way around here at last, partly by land and partly by flat boats and yawls for the land is nearly all under water here and the rebels have cut the levee to try to stop us.  We are now about 30 miles below Vicksburg.

The 16th O.V.I., as part of Ulysses S. Grant’s plan to take Vicksburg, has continued to march south on the Louisiana side of the river. The march to Vicksburg is underway, although the troops are going south, in order to cross well below Vicksburg and attack from the South.

On the march to Vicksburg

To Smith’s Plantation April 18 1863

The “finally here” is an understatement. Our usually irascible Erasmus seems almost optimistic in this letter. Cpl. Wolbach’s account describes the long slog from Richmond Louisiana, where ‘E’ wrote his last letter to a levee just past Smith’s Plantation. Wolbach says:

“Moved on April 13 through fearful roads all day across fields. Avoiding the roads where they were the worst, picking our way around ponds and over bayous, with great loads of mud sticking to our shoes, the regiment dwindling away and becoming smaller every hour.  Sweating, weary and hungry, the advance fragment of the 16th reached the place for the night’s encampment.”

Erasmus said “…the rebels have cut the levee to stop us.” Wolbach explains that the land is flooded for about a mile between the plantation and the river because the Confederates have cut the levee. The first men to get there built rafts from boards torn from nearby buildings, and later troops are ferried across that water.

Erasmus speculates at length about the strategy of the army, although it is “hard for me to say anything of about what we are going to do”

…but from all appearances there will be something done soon.  The Rebels have or are reported to have a fort at Grand Gulf below here.  I think it is the intention to take it and go on down to Fort Hudson and there connect with Farragut’s Fleet and take Fort Hudson, then the two fleets can connect together on Vicksburg.  My opinion is there will be hot work in this quarter before long but the gun boats will do the butt end of the work; in my opinion we have a powerful fleet here and above and [both in his immediate vicinity and north of Vicksburg] put it with the fleet below [south of his present position] it will be enough to do almost anything.

This is quite a change in outlook for the usually pessimistic Erasmus who has been predicting that the Union could not win.  Perhaps the cannonading that took place a couple nights ago impressed him with the power of the Union’s Navy.  He tells Suzi:

There is eight big gun boats down here and two transports.  They run the blockade the other night.  They had a warm old time though, one transport sunk, the gun boats was not hurt.  They are soggy looking old things.  I tell you it would do you good to hear them let loose.  It makes it roar up and down the Mississippi for about a quarter of an hour like thunder.
Vicksburg-gunboats attack

Vicksburg-gunboats attack, April 16 1863

This is the battle that Erasmus and the other men heard boom from 30 miles (Wolbach says 18 miles) away in Vicksburg.  The fleet consisted of seven ironclad gunboats and one wood gunboat (General Price) as well as  three transports pulling ten barges. The ship that went down was the Henry Clay, a transport ship. Cpl Wolbach gives a detailed and dramatic description, which you can read here.

Given what they marched through to get here, and what he can see around him Erasmus is concerned about how they are going to go forward.

Now if we have to go clear to Fort Hudson, I see no other way to go but march for we have no boats and cannot get them below Vicksburg and I don’t see how we are to march it will be a long hard and hot march.  The weather is very hot here now but if I only keep good health it is all I ask.

Wolbach has mentioned that it continues to rain, and “Very little besides the levee at New Carthage was above water.  Much of the back country was one vast watery waste.”

Once again Erasmus voices the soldier’s complaint his own colorfully expressed–”Nobody tells us nothin’.”

I may be mistaken in regard to our movements for it is all guess work for we know nothing about it for a soldier is just like an ox he don’t know in the morning where his bed will be at night; he don’t know whether he will move today, tomorrow, or if he does move, where he is going; whether it will be 5 miles or 50 but it is all for the best I suppose in the rounds.

He is looking at Suzi’s letter, and starting to answer her plaintive inquiry about when he will be coming home.

I see but poor prospects of it till peace is made.  Unless something turns up that is unseen at present [musing--]not but I like to be at home but the impossibility of the thing[--] but I hope this summer will put an end to this war some way or other.  If we can succeed in taking these three places on the river I don’t see how the rebels can hold out much longer.  They will not give up until the bitter end.

Despite his change of tune, he can’t resist one political jab at the leadership.

If we had the right kind of men this war would have been over long ago.

But suddenly Erasmus is ordered to pack up.They are moving again.

This is a hasty close.

E. Anderson

Although this letter is dated April 20, the troops moved out on April 19, so he may have had the dates wrong.  This next move takes them to a much more pleasant camp, which he will describe in his next letter.

Previous letter: Vicksburg Campaign begins

Notes: The transcriptions of his Civil War letters  which I use with the permission of a descendant of Erasmus’ widow and her second husband, and I am deeply grateful for permission to share the letters.

Other sources include:

  • A site devoted to the 16th OVI that is a real treasure trove of information about Ohio’s soldiers in the Civil War. That site is the source for Cpl. Wolbach’s “Camp and Field” report which was published in the 1880s.
  • Ancestry.com where I find birth, census death, military and other records of my ancestors and the people that Erasmus mentions.
  • Maps and the photograph come from Michael K. Wood’s site on the 16th OVI, linked above.

From Farmer to Lawyer, John Franklin Stout: 52 Ancestors #16

John Franklin “Frank” Stout 1861-1927

“Dependent upon his own resources from the age of eighteen years, he has made good use of his time and opportunities and his developing powers in the practice of law are now indicated in the large and important clientage accorded him.”

Omaha, the Gate City and Douglas County Nebraska (1917)

Born in 1861, the 8th living child of Emeline and Isaiah Stout, John Franklin Stout, known as “Frank,” made his own destiny. The large family lived on a farm near Middlebourne in Guernsey County Ohio, and when Frank’s father died in 1872, the eleven-year-old boy probably wondered if his future was to be the farmer of the family.

Frank’s oldest brother Will (my great-grandfather) had left for medical school in Pennsylvania, his brother George had attended medical school in Cincinnati and the following year, Tom, his closest brother would leave to go West.  But Frank must have been a bookish boy, who loved to study.  After finishing public school at the age of 17, he went to Ohio Weslyan College in Delaware for a year, and that was enough education to qualify him for teaching.

John Franklin Stout

John Franklin “Frank” Stout, taken in Cambridge, probably while he was teaching (early 1880′s).

Back he went to the family farm and took teaching jobs during the winter, while he helped out with crops and livestock in the summer months. But the pull of the West, that had drawn Tom and probably many of the numerous Stout cousins out west, called to Frank as well.  After six years teaching, he lingered in Guernsey County long enough to study with a lawyer in Cambridge, Ohio for two years and passed the examinations to become a lawyer on June 10, 1887. Soon after, he got on the train for Kansas.

His first practice was set up in Hutchinson Kansas that year,

John Franklin Stout

John Franklin Stout in his law office, probably his first office in Hutchinson Kansas (1890s)

He met his future bride in Cambridge Ohio, perhaps when he was teaching, or perhaps during the two years he was studying for the bar, but the tie must have been strong, because after 3 1/2 years, he returned to Cambridge to marry Lida Stitt in 1890. (Since their son, Robert Irving, was born 7 months and two weeks after their Christmas Eve wedding, one might speculate that Frank may have visited Ohio a couple of months before the wedding.)

They continued to live in Hutchinson, Kansas until 1895, when Frank apparently decided that Omaha was a more fertile ground for a lawyer.  And population figures bear that out.  The population of Omaha jumped from 30,518 in 1880 to 140,451 in 1890, although it fell in 1900 to about 104,000. He established his law firm in Omaha and three years later their daughter Gertrude was born (May, 1898).

Omaha was prospering as a shipping center, supporting stockyards and grain mills. It also became the banking center of the area. The booming city had approved a charter for government in 1886, a library was built in 1871, a Masonic Temple would be constructed in 1900 and the Auditorium in 1904. I wonder if Frank and Lida went to see Sarah Bernhardt or the New York Metropolitan Opera on the stage or attended the astounding electric shows in 1908 and 1909. I picture them joining the throng of nearly 28,000 people attending the Trans-Mississippi Expositions’ opening day in June of 1898, and hearing President McKinley speak. Certainly, Omaha offered a metropolitan atmosphere that far exceeded Cambridge, Ohio.

By 1917, when Frank’s biography was one of those published in Omaha, the Gate City and Douglas County Nebraska: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement, Vol. II, the Stouts were integrated into the community and his law practice had grown from being the 2nd named partner (Wright and Stout, Hall and Stout) to his own firm of Stout, Rose and Wells, with the additions of Hallick Rose and A. R. Wells as partners. His picture reflects a mature, dapper man, sure of his place in the world.

John Franklin Stout as shown in the Omaha history.

John Franklin Stout from the book on Omaha’s history, published in 1917.

He and his wife attended the Presbyterian church and supported the Republican party. He was a member of the Masons, who had completed their grand temple just ten years after he moved to Omaha. He was one of 2000 members of the Commercial Club, joined the Omaha Club and was an early member of the Omaha Country Club, organized in 1901–all the trappings of success.

Frank’s son, Robert Irving Stout, graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts (1913) and returned to Omaha to lead a very distinguished career in banking, following in his father’s footsteps by belonging to every important organization in town.  Robert also served in the World War (which we now know as WW I).

When Lida died in 1917, Gertrude was still at home with her father, and in 1923 father and daughter sailed to England.  Although records show me when they returned to New York from Plymouth England, I have no other information about their journey.  Although I heard many stories of family members who were avid travelers, Frank and Gertrude are the first of my ancestors (that I know of) who traveled abroad.  It sounds like an exciting reward for his long path to success.

When they sailed to England, Gertrude was 25, and she had not yet married. Since she married the year that Frank died, is it possible Frank disapproved of the marriage and the trip was a ploy to separate her daughter from the man she wanted to marry? You may accuse me of being a romantic, but I know that my grandmother was sent off to New York City to separate her from an “unsuitable” match. Sent by her father, Frank’s older brother.

Yet census reports tell me that Earl C. Sage, Gertrude’s husband, who also lived with his parents until the couple were married, was a medical doctor, so it is difficult to see why our successful lawyer would have an objection.

On the passenger list, he gives his address as 117 South 39th Street, Omaha. This charming house was built in 1907, and Frank and Lida moved into it in 1915, after living at several other places in Omaha, including twelve years at 1103 South 31st Street.

John Franklin Stout home

Google Map street view Frank Stout home,Omaha

My grandmother seemed to have lost track of her uncles, and she and my mother never had the rich stories about these Western wanderers, Tom and Frank, that they had about other branches of the family. So I am glad to learn and pass on their stories.

If the youngest son was out to make the most of every opportunity and show that he could do as well as his older brothers, John Franklin Stout succeeded.  Frank Stout died in 1927 and was buried in Northwood Cemetery in Cambridge, Ohio beside his wife Lida.

My relationship:

  • Vera Marie Badertscher
  • Daughter of Harriette Anderson Kaser
  • Daughter of Vera Stout Anderson
  • Niece of John Franklin Stout


  • Census figures are from  Nebraska Department of Economic Development
  • Omaha, the Gate City and Douglas County Nebraska: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement, Vol I and Vol,II, edited by Arthur Cooper Wakely (1917). Vol. II, pg.188-189 for bio of John Franklin Stout; Vol. I for background history of Omaha.
  • Who’s Who in Burt County Nebraska, 1940 for information about son Robert.
  • Cemetery Records available at Find a Grave.
  • From Ancestry.com:
  • Guernsey County Ohio census for 1870 and 1880; Omaha Nebraska Census for 1900, 1910 and 1920.
  • Ship passenger record Rotterdam, Plymouth England to NYC 1923
  • Google Maps for picture of the house at his address in Omaha.
  • Family photographs  with inscriptions, in the possession of the author.

This has been a weekly post in the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Project started by Amy Johnson Crow at “No Story too Small.” Check out her weekly recap showing the list of participants for some ripping good stories.