Tag Archives: Civil War

Henry Butts’ Civil War Letter 3: Swamp Water Up To Our Nees

Camp near Goldsboro, N.C.

March the 23, 1865

Dear Wife,

Civil War swamp battlefield


Image from page 29 of “The soldier in our Civil War : a pictorial history of the conflict, 1861-1865, illustrating the valor of the soldier as displayed on the battle-field, from sketches drawn by Forbes, Waud, Taylor, Beard, Becker, Lovie, Schell, Crane, 1893

The third surviving letter from Henry Allen Butts to his wife Annie was written only a day after the 2nd letter.

In letter two, he had referred to a long march, and now he tells about it. First he repeats what he said in letter two–his joy at finally receiving letters from home and he explains:

“…it is now three months since we had a chance to write. wen we was on the raid we could not send eny letters for we had no comunication. You must not think that we can write a letter and go to the post office like we do at home. We must wait till we get to a place that we can send a letter.

The 43rd Ohio Volunteers, part of Sherman’s army, have joined the armies of other generals and a total of 90,000 men are camped near Goldsboro.

Pvt. Butts has been  fortunate, but has experienced some horrendous situations.

Now i will give you some history of our march through confidercy. We left beaufort on the 13 of January and we have bin marching ever since up to this time. About 75 miles this side of beaufort is wear Stull (Jerimiah Stahl) was killed. The fight comenced on the 2 of febuary. That is the day that Col. Swayne has his lague shot off. He was about fifty yards from me wen the canon ball hit him.

Civil War Officer

Lt. Col.Wager Swayne, who lost his leg at the Battle of Rivers Bridge

Col. Swayne is Lt. Col. Wager Swayne, a Yale graduate. By the end of the war, he had been advanced to Major General of Volunteers and Brevet Major General in the regular army. He won the nation’s highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. for an earlier battle, Corinth, Mississippi. Quoting from the web site Lybarger’s Civil War:

“A lieutenant colonel in the 43rd OVI during the second Battle of Corinth that mortally wounded Col. Smith, Swayne became its colonel after Col. Smith died. On Feb. 3, 1865, Swayne was severely wounded while crossing the swampy Salkahatchie River in South Carolina. While helped to an ambulance wagon, he kept repeating, ‘The Lord sustains me.’ He was successfully evacuated to New York City, losing his leg but surviving.”

The battle was the Rivers Bridge part of  Campaign of the Carolinas , and General Sherman had divided his troops, 5000 strong, with those under Swayne circling through the swamp to flank the 3000 Confederate Troops who were trying to prevent the Union Army from crossing the Salkahatchie River. Besides a vivid and gruesome account of what it was like to be in this battle, Henry Allen returns to the subject of the death of Jerimiah Stull/Stahl.  Henry Allen’s mother was Esther Stahl Butts, so there is a strong possibility he was related.

We marched on the skirmish line and thear we had to stand in the swamp in water up to our nees till about 12 o’clock at night wen we was releved. The next day being the 3(rd) we was ordered to charge the battery.

We charged it about three o’clock in the evening. That is about the time Stull(Stahl) was killed.  We had to charge up a road through the swamp and thear was water on boath sides of the road. Stull was at the side of the road wen he was shot and he fell in the water.  The ball hit him in the side and went through him.

Wen he fell I was about 20 steps before him. Wen he fel all he said ‘help me out’. Thear was one of our co(mpany) boys by the name of Short close to him wen he fel. He helped him out. He was dead. He was bured on a hill. Him and five others was bured side and side. I did not see him after he was killed.  he is under the sods of South Carolina and I hope he is at rest. Tell Mrs. Stull (Stahl) he was bured as dessent as we could bury him. Tha made a box for him.

His brother William was not with us wen he was killed. He is at Hilton Head, S.C. in the hospital tending to the sick. I don’t no weather he herd of it or not.

An account I read of the battle said that soldiers tending to the wounded had to hold their heads up so they would not slip into the water and drown. It was a morass of blood and death. And Henry Allen, who had twice closely missed being shot, escaped at least one more time.

Obid Underwood was close beside me wen he had his arm shot off. He was sent back to Beaufort. I have not herd wether he is living or not.  I suppose you no more about it than I do my Dear.

We had a hard time since we left Beaufort. I seen more than I ever want to see agane. We have seen hard time. We marched five hundred miles. Some of was bare footed, others nearly naked. We was the hardest looking set of men you ever seen, but now we have plenty of clothing and plenty to eat.

He closes once again saying that he will write when he has a chance. They have been told that they will stay here for some time. The Army marched north to Richmond to join with Grant’s army at the beginning of April.

Obid Underwood is Obediah (Obed) Underwood who was in Henry Allen’s Company. He did survive the war after having his arm amputated at the shoulder.

Obidiah Underwood

Obediah Underwood with arm amputated. Photo provided by National Archives to South Carolina State Parks Service.

According to the web site Lybargers Civil War , there was a Grand Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in Mt. Vernon, Ohio in 1897. Since that was very close to Henry Allen’s home, he very well might have been there. Lt. Col. Wager Swayne, who Henry Allen saw injured, was in attendance.

This year (2014) is the Sesquitennial of the North Carolina campaign, and North Carolina has a great website to mark the occasion.  You can get pictures, anecdotes and a detailed timeline at the North Carolina Civil War 150 website.

Henry Allen Butts Letter #2: After a Long March See Henry’s Letter #4: Henry Loses His temper, here.

52 Ancestors: #3 George Butts–Family History Mystery

George W. Butts, 1834-1863 (?)

When I wrote about my great-grandfather Henry Allen Butts last week and week before last, I was not sure that I had identified his twin brother George. Some  evidence says that he may be George W. Butts, and I at least know a little bit about his short life if he IS George W. Butts. On the other hand…..

George, George, George–who are you?

Twins

These are NOT the Butts brothers. These are twins from 1886 in a photo from the Green County Pennsylvania Photo Archive. Used with creative commons license.

Records abound for George Butts’.  Unfortunately, few of them match the known birthplace and dates of my great-uncle George, my great-grandfather’s twin brother. WARNING: Inside baseball ahead.  If your eyes glaze over at the details of tracking family history, you may want to skip to Henry Allen’s letter home.

Even though I have  not been able to find official baptism and birth records for a George OR a Henry Allen Butts born in Louden, Franklin County, PA, the Butts family Bible that lists “John Henry Augustus born 29th November 1834,” says, “George was born on same day five hours apart. Was baptized January 15, 1835 by Priest (He ? en.).”[As I mentioned in the article on Henry Allen, the family histories are all consistent in saying that John Henry Augustus became Henry Allen. Census reports confirm both boys born in 1834/35.]

The fact that there is no further record in the family Bible, while others in the family have spouses listed, and some have children listed as well, lends credence to the fact that he died young.

The 1850 Census taken in St. Thomas Township, Franklin County, PA shows the family as follows:

  • Jacob Butts, 25 (Miller)
  • Catherine Butts, 21
  • Frederick Butts, 20 (Laborer)
  • Thomas Butts, 17 (Laborer)
  • Henry Butts, 15 (Laborer)
  • George Butts, 15 (Laborer)
  • James Butts, 10
  • Ellen [Esther?], 52

This list of the family members and their ages is confirmed by other sources. Apparently their father died between 1840 and 1850 and all the boys except the youngest must work to support the family.  Their mother Esther, would have been 52 at that time.

Interestingly, in the same township census there is also a George Butts, 16 years old, born in 1834 [Census ages are frequently a year off because the census taker calculates from birth year rather than taking into account birth month]. This George Butts is living as a laborer with the Jacob Huber family.  I imagine it is quite possible that both families would list him with them, as laborers worked on a seasonal basis. So while he was literally with the Huber family at the time of the census, his own family considered him a permanent resident.

Great Uncle George, are you George W.??

Union Army Soldiers

Drawing of Union Army soldiers lining up for soup. Click for more information. Citation below.

There are several men named George Butts in the Civil War rolls of Pennsylvania. A distant cousin who shared her research with me ten years ago, believed that George W. Butts is buried in a Church yard in Franklin County PA. That man’s birth date is almost correct on the tombstone  the aforementioned cousin tied together that deat with the George W. Butts listed on Union Army rosters.

George W. enlisted in the 3-month volunteer 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment, Company C on April 20, 1861 and was mustered out with his company on July 26, 1861.   Later in 1861, a George Butts enlisted in the 77th, but he is not designated as George W. Butts. Unfortunately the Veteran’s Burial Card from National Archives found at Ancestry.com says that George W. Butts was born in 1841. (with the same death date that we have for George W.)

George W. Butts, Civil War soldier, is buried in a Lutheran Cemetery in St. Thomas, Pennsylvania, Plot #294.  The tombstone, according to the Butts cousin says he died May 21, 1863 at 28 years, 3 months and 22 days old.  That does not quite match up with either the Butts family Bible or the Veteran’s Burial Card, which says he died at 21 years old. Furthermore, we know the family was Catholic and he was baptized by a priest, so why would he be buried in a Lutheran Cemetery? That as well as the birth date shown with the death record casts  doubt on George W. being the correct George.

All of this points to the fact that I probably spent a couple of days pursuing the wrong George.

Uncle George, Are You George M??

The History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865, lists a George M. who enlisted 9 October 1861 as a Corporal in Company F, 77th Infantry. Again, this is Henry Allen’s company, and it seems logical that the twins would enlist in the same company at the same time. However, the list includes no further information to help track George.

So there we are. Stuck. He was born a twin to Henry Allen Butts on a known date in a known place. I know his parents’ names and that he was working as a laborer at the age of 15 to help support his widowed mother and her large family. Everything else is speculation. Do you have more information on George Butts? Where do you suggest I go next?

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, who is the son of
  • Mary (Mame) Isadore Butts Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Henry Allen Butts, who is the twin brother of
  • George Butts

Civil War Photo Citation: Forbes, Edwin (1839-1895). Life Studies of the Great Army. A historical work of art, in copper-plate etching, containing forty plates, illustrating the life of the Union Armies during the late Rebellion. New York, E. Forbes, 1876, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections Library, University Libraries, Pennsylvania State University

Research Notes

  •  Transcripts of a Butts Family Bible provided to me by Jane Butts Kilgore in 2003, owned at the time by James E. Butts. Other carefully researched information on the Butts family was also sent to me by Jane Butts Kilgore.
  • “A History of the Henry Allen Butts Family” by Rev. Homer Blubaugh, Saint Mary Church, Lancaster, Ohio.  This is a combination of documented and anecdotal information about the Butts family from Ohio. Some was gathered at family reunions. Some is downright wrong, but some is quite interesting. My copy was sent by Butts descendent Helen Findon in 2003. The document says Revised May 11, ’92 – Rev. Homer Blubaugh. Copies in the authors’ possession.
  • History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-5; Prepared in Compliance with Acts of Legislature, by Samuel P. Bates, Harrisburg: B. Singerly, state printer, 1869-71.Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Library, 2005
  • Birth and death records researched on Ancestry.com in this case yielded mostly dead ends.

52 Ancestors, Letter #1: Dear Wif–Civil War letter to Anna Mariah Smith

Anna Marie (Ann Mariah) Smith 1835-1917

Henry Allen and Ann Marie Butts

I am having great difficulty finding definitive information about Ann Mariah or Annie Smith, my great-grandmother. (To make it even more fun, her mother was Mary Smith–yeah, you try to find the documents for Mary Smith!!) I have Annie’s picture when she was an older lady, and I know that she married my great-grandfather Henry Allen Butts, who wrote to her in these Civil War letters I will be sharing.

However, her name is in question (Anna in some census reports, apparently called Annie by her husband and family, Mary, Marie or Mariah middle name in various family trees. Although I have not discovered a birth record, everyone (including my father’s notes and the 1900 census) agree she was born on April 12 1835 and her maiden name was Smith. Census reports say she was born in Ohio and her parents were born in Maryland. When did she die? My father’s notes say 1915, but the Ohio Deaths index says April 23, 1917.

When were she and Henry married? My father’s notes and other family members and family trees say August 23, 1863. However, the 1900 census, taken in June of that year, says she and Henry had been married 35 years. Furthermore, Homer Blubaugh’s history of the family reports that the marriage license on file at the Knox County Probate Court, they were married on August 23,1864. If that year is correct, they would have been married only one month before the birth of their first son, Giles Allen. This could point to a scandal of sorts, and clarify their accepting attitude when daughter Mame later got pregnant out of wedlock.

At any rate, less than a month after baby Giles Allen (called Allen in his father’s letter) was born, Henry Allen  joined the Union Army. (Enlistment date: October 16, 1864). Three months later, December 18, he writes the first of the surviving Civil War letters to his bride.

Dear Wif, it is a pleasure to me that I em permited to seat myself to anser your ever welcom letter which came to hand yesterday. i was glad that you and dear little Allen was well. your letters found me well and enjoying myself as well as i can enjoy my self better since i herd from you for it hes bin a long time to me.

This Civil War letter is written during the Siege of Savannah.  Henry Allen Butts was part of reinforcement troops joining General William Tecumsah Sherman and after training in Ohio, they had taken steamboats south and  between mid-November and mid-December they marched across Georgia, in Sherman’s destructive March to the Sea. See more about his troop movements here, and details of the 43rd Ohio here.

Sherman's March to the Sea

Henry Allen Butts joined Sherman’s Army in November, in the March to the Sea. From WikiMedia Commons.

i must tell you the reason i did not hear from you sooner we started on this march the 15 of november and landed hear on the 10 of this month we had no comunication all that time but it all right now we have had a hard march over three hundred miles. some nights we did not get time to lay down and hardly time to eat but we ar through and i em glad.

Although Henry Allen is not strong on spelling and punctuation (I have added periods at the ends of sentences for clarity) he gives a vivid picture of his battle experience, and shows us a kind and thoughtful husband.

i did not think that i wold write to you this day for we laid under the rebels fire boath Saturday and Sunday and the shells and balls flew thick and fast. thear was one shell bursted about ten feet from me and broke three of our guns so i begin to think that was coming rather close and i got behind the fortification. i was out on the bank at the time getting a drink. thear was 7 of our regt wonded. none in our company. we came out safe and i hope we always will. i don’t think we will here eny more fighting before Savanah for after the fight last Sunday we moved 15 miles to the right to guard the steamboat landing perhaps we will stay hear some time.

Two days after Henry Allen wrote this letter, the Southern General William Hardee fled Savannah. Meanwhile, the infantry private was glad to stay in one place for a time. We know from historic reports that Sherman’s army was running very low on supplies, and as either the Southerners or the Union army had destroyed most resources, could not live off the land they occupied. I was amused to see that Henry Allen agrees with Erasmus Anderson, whose letters I printed last year, about the Southern sweet potatoes. And obviously missing home, he nevertheless plays down the danger he faces.

Sherman's March to the Sea

Sherman’s Headquarters. Drawing from Harper’s Weekly 1864.

we have a nice camp and plenty of good water and plenty of coffee that is the only thing i like the army for.  this is the most beautifull cuntry i ever seen. it is all sandy land and nothing but pine timber. this is a grate of state for s(w)eet potato we have plenty of them to eat. i wich you had some but you and me will have some wen i come home. i hope that day is not far distant . my dear don’t think hard wen you don’t get a letter for thear is times we can’t send a letter. i will write to you as often as i can.

Henry Allen does not frequently mention other people in his letters. But in this first surviving letter, he does mention “Henry.”  A distant cousin, corresponding with my brother, identified “Henry” as the older brother of Annie Smith Butts. “I. Stull” [Stall] might be a relative of Henry Allen on his mother’s side. I have not identified “Landon,” nor traced Henry or I. Stull (who could be Jerimiah or William Stull, both listed with K Company.)

you stated in your letter that henry had bein home. i was glad to hear that he got home to see his dear littel ones.  you also stated that Ma cs [?} wanted you to come and live with them. i don’t want you to go thear or any other place. you stay wear you ar. i can make enough to keep you without living amoung strangers. i want you to stay wear you ar if i have to pay your bording all the time i am away. i don’t want people to say that my wife had to work out amoung strangers. dear wife i want you to send me four plugs of navy tobacco as soon as you can. the boys is all well. I Stull is with the company. give my love to all friends. landon got a letter.

 As was the case with Erasmus Anderson’s letters, Henry Allen closes with some instructions for his wife and a request for some tobacco so he could roll his own cigarettes.

Note:  According to Wikipedia definition of “Navy Cut Tobacco“: Navy tobacco is a Burley leaf pipe tobacco. In colonial times sailors twisted tobacco into a roll and “tied it tightly, often moistening the leaves with rum, molasses, or spice solutions.” Stored in this way the flavors melded. To smoke it a slice was cut, known as a “twist” or “curly”. Eventually all twisted tobacco, and then pressed tobacco, became known as “Navy” “because of the convenience for sailors and outdoorsmen who favored its compact size “and long-lasting, slow-burning qualities.” Navy Flake tobacco is pressed into bricks and sliced into broad flakes.

From Henry Allen’s Letter, we know that his wife Annie is loved and cared for. The four letters that survive are spaced close together, so I suspect there may have been more. We also learn that she has offered to go to work in someone’s home so that he will not have to pay for her room and board, and that his pride prevents that possibility.

After Henry returned from the war in May 1865, he purchased 12 1/2 acres of land for $400 near Millwood, Ohio. Despite the fact he now had his own place, Henry continued to work as a laborer.  According to family recollections compiled by Homer Blubagh, they had a large vegetable garden and she was well known for her beautiful flowers. She and Henry had five more children. The last child, Rebecca Jane (Jenny), was born in 1874 when Anne was 39. Jenny is the only person of that generation that I remember meeting. I was very young and she must have been in her late 70s when my family visited her in Mt. Vernon Ohio.

Later in their lives, Henry and Annie lived near the grain elevator in Danville Ohio.  From later recollections of relatives, we know that Annie was very devout, frequently walking several miles to church down a country lane, carrying her youngest at the time.

  • Their oldest, Giles Allen, known as “Uncle Golly,” (b. 1864), did not leave home to marry until he was 23.
  • In 1891 their daughter Mary Isadore, “Mame”, “got in a family way” and she and Henry Allen took in Mame’s illegitimate daughter to raise.
  • A year later, her next son, Monas Isaac, “Mon”, (b. 1867), was married, and Mame married Clifford Kaser (my grandparents).
  • Son Francis Cerius,  “Frank” (b. 1872) was married in 1894.
  • Daughter Rebecca Jane, “Jenny” (b. 1874) was married in 1898.
  • The next year, Annie and Henry’s daughter Ann Elizabeth, “Bessie”, who was engaged to be married, died of appendicitis (“inflammation of the bowels”) at the age of 26.

My great grandmother Annie Smith Butts died in April 1917 at the age of 82, and was survived by her husband, Henry Allen Butts.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, who is the son of
  • Mary (Mame) Isadore Butts Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Ann Mariah Smith Butts.

Research Notes

  • Letters home from Henry Allen Butts. I do not have the originals or copies of the originals. I only have transcripts which my brother obtained from a man named Colopy who had the originals and lived in San Diego. There was a Colopy who was a grand daughter of Ivan Henry Smith mentioned in the letter.
  • Letter from Marie Smith to my brother, Paul William Kaser (1983). (copy in my possession).
  • Hand written notes (circa 1970) by my father, Paul Kaser, made about birth,death and marriage dates .
  • Transcripts of a Butts Family Bible provided to me by Jane Butts Kilgore in 2003, owned at the time by James E. Butts. Other carefully researched information on the Butts family was also sent to me by Jane Butts Kilgore.
  • “A History of the Henry Allen Butts Family” by Rev. Homer Blubaugh, Saint Mary Church, Lancaster, Ohio.  This is a combination of documented and anecdotal information about the Butts family from Ohio. Some was gathered at family reunions. Some is downright wrong, but some is quite interesting. My copy was sent by Butts descendent Helen Findon in 2003. The document says Revised May 11, ’92 – Rev. Homer Blubaugh. Copies in the authors’ possession.
  • For information on the 43rd Ohio: http://www.ohiocivilwar.com/cw43.html (consulted 1/13/2015)
  • For rosters of Ohio Civil War soldiers: http://www.ogs.org/research/results_ohcwss.php
  • A Compendium of The War of the Rebellion, Vol III, Regimental Histories, page 1599 and page 1517. Relevant copies of pages provided by my brother from library copy.
  • Letter from The War Department,  Adjutant General’s Office to Mrs. Truman Bucklew, Killbuck Ohio, December 6, 1934. In the author’s possession.
  • Application for veteran’s tombstone (from Ancestry.com) and personal visit to St. Luke’s cemetery in Danville, Ohio.

This is the 2nd in my 2015 stories in the 52 Ancestor’s Challenge.