Henry has had it up to here! He’s marched hundreds of miles. Seen friends and relatives die and fall injured all around him. Slogged through swamps. Subsisted on minimal grub and worn rags for clothing. He has not been paid by the army since he enlisted nearly three years ago.
And those busy-bodies back home, who didn’t choose to fight the war, dare to complain about the way he treats his new bride? Henry Allen Butts is so angry when he writes this letter that his never-terrific handwriting becomes so agitated that a transcriber 100 years later has a hard time making out what he said.
Note: I am passing this letter on as the transcription reads–with lots of blanks . In a very few instances, I have filled in a blank where it seems obvious what the word is. As usual, I have added some punctuation and capitol letters at the beginning of sentences to make it easier to read. Otherwise his original syntax is left undisturbed.
Watch out—here it comes. A curse for those naysayers at home.
Calming down a bit, Henry gets to the good news–he is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
Henry’s 43rd Ohio Volunteers are camped near Raleigh North Carolina, as General Sherman carries on negotiations with the Confederates. Although General Lee had surrendered to General Grant on April 9th, the war dragged on here in the Carolinas and even longer in the West.
General Sherman reached an agreement with General Johnston for surrender on April 18. However, when the document was forwarded to Washington, Sherman was berated for being too easy on the enemy. Meanwhile, news of the April 14th assassination of President Lincoln had reached the army, so it was clear that the North was not in a charitable mood.
The two generals were back at the table on the day following Henry’s letter home. On April 26 Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston would sign at Bennett’s Place, a humble farm house, a final agreement marking the biggest surrender in the Civil War. Henry was right on target when he said he would soon be home. His company was mustered out 2 1/2 months later, July 13, 1865, at Louisville, Kentucky.
Between the surrender at Bennett’s Place and the 43rd’s travel to Louisville and journey home to Ohio, they would join with all of Grant’s army in a triumphant Grand Review in Washington D.C. on May 29, 1865. It is unfortunate that we do not have Henry Allen’s description of that glorious day. (This is the last surviving letter home from Pvt. Butts.) It is said that General Sherman took special pains to have his men bathed, trimmed and well dressed, since they had the reputation of being scruffy lot. Their long marches and constant skirmishes had not left time to worry about their appearance.
Henry was one of the fortunate ones who made it home in good shape. 4 officers and 61 enlisted men from the 43rd were killed or mortally wounded. 2 officers and 189 enlisted men died from disease.
This year is a special anniversary. You could have attended the festivities marking the 150th anniversary of the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston to General William T. Sherman at Bennett’s Place in North Carolina in April, 2015.
*Since two of those letters from Goldsboro survived, we know Anna got them, but the third is missing and it is possible it never got to Ohio.
See Henry’s letter #3 here.