Tag Archives: North Carolina

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.

Henry Butts’s Civil War Letter 2: After a Long March

This is the 2nd Civil War letter home from Pvt Henry Allen Butts, my great-grandfather and Union Army soldier, to his wife in Ohio. I have added some punctuations and paragraph breaks, but otherwise present the transcription as I received it. Note: I believe he is confused about the dates, because the troops would still have been engaged in battle on March 21 and not reached Goldsboro yet. And in his next letter, dated March 23, he refers to the letter he wrote “yesterday”

Goldsboro N.C.
March the 21, 1865

Dear wife, after a long march I am permited to anser your ever kind and welcom letter which came to hand yesterday.

Henry definitely plays down the fighting he is involved in. Following is a documentary showing what the 43rd Ohio, and Henry Allen Butts’ Company K were doing in addition to marching. After the Sherman march to the sea, they turned north and marched across South Carolina toward North Carolina. To get there, they had to take a crossing called River Bridges on February 23. You can see a documentary on YouTube explaining the River Bridges defense and showing you what the area looks like today.

i was glad to hear that you and Allen was well. your letter found me well and in good spirits. i was glad to hear from you once more for it has been a long time since i herd from you. you must not think hard wen you don’t get a letter from me for we have bin in such___ that we could not write and wen we___sent a letter we___out one we have bein out___from communication for ___three months but know we can send letters once more and we are all good you may bet.

On the three days preceding this letter, fierce fighting had taken place around Bentonville, as the troops moved toward Goldsboro, N.C. After Sherman’s Army had completed their march across Georgia, capture of Savannah, and battled their way north across South Carolina, you can imagine how relieved Henry Allen was to finally hear from his wife and get that tobacco he had requested in his previous letter.

i recieved letters from you yesterday. i got the shirt and tobacco.  i em very much—to you for them. i will give you a good kiss wen i come home for them. i hope that day will soon come.  send the other shirt as soon as you can. My dear, i can’t write much this time. the mail is going out at 8 o’clock and it is all most that time now.

On the three days preceding this letter, fierce fighting had taken place around  as the troops moved toward Goldsboro, N.C.  The men in Company K, the Ohio 43rd Volunteer Infantry Regiment were friends and neighbors from Knox County, Ohio.

i suppose you___herd before this time that Lary(?) Stull [Stuhl] was kiled. he was killed on the third of february about three o’clock in the evning. i em very sorry for his wife but it can’t be helped. i___he is at rest. i will—i em sorry i can’t write more. i will write tomorrow or next day and give you all the news.  i think we will stay hear some time. i hope we will. then i can write often. i will write wen ever i can. i hope theas few lines will find you and Allen and all the rest well. ___ _____ i will write her a letter. good by hoping to hear from you.


your husband and friend Henry A. Butts.

To my dear wife A. M. Butts. excus this for i wrote it [in] a hurry. the next letter i will tell you all about our travels thro South C. and North C.  Send me a fine comb. you can send it [in] a letter. 

“Allen” referred to in the first paragraph is his infant son Giles Allen who was born just before he left for the war. I believe the transcriber mistakenly says “Larry” Stall, when it should be Jerry, for Jeremiah Stahl, who is a member of the company.  Henry Allen’s mother’s maiden name was Stahl, so they may be cousins.

I am imagining that he needs a “fine comb” to get lice out of his beard by this time. All this marching and fighting (December through March), with probably no changes of clothing have turned the soldiers pretty grungy.  But you don’t hear any routine soldierly griping from Henry Allen. Indeed, he makes it sound like he’s been on a little vacation and he is going to share with his wife “our travels through South Carolina and North Carolina.”

I am also imagining what has been going through Anna’s mind back home since she has not heard from him since the end of 1864.  Particularly, if she has been getting word about deaths of men and boys from other families. Henry Allen, by the way, is no boy.  He was thirty when he re-enlisted, and since his birthday is late November, he is now 31.

The roster of the 43rd Ohio can be seen here.

Some anecdotes and interesting stories plus the calendar of actions of the Ohio 43rd can be found at this web site. That site is also the source of the following picture, taken around 1900 at a reunion of Henry Allen’s old company K.  Wonder if he was there?

Civil War Veterans

From the Lybargers Civil War site. Four old soldiers from Company K, 43rd Ohio, photographed in 1900. The one on the far right is a Blubaugh, a family that marries into the Butts family.

Photograph taken @ 1900. From left: EDWIN L. LYBARGER (enlisted 11/25/61 at age 21), JAMES DIAL (enlisted 11/4/61 at age 26), FRANCIS LOGSDON (enlisted 11/1/61, age 20), LEO BLUBAUGH (enlisted 12/12/61 at age 18). These Ohio veterans enlisted together at Camp Andrews (near Mount Vernon, Ohio) in late 1861, in a Knox County company being raised by William Walker, who served as captain until spring 1862. Company K joined the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry and left Ohio in Feb. 1862. With 3 other Ohio regiments, they formed the “Ohio Brigade,” commanded by Col. John Fuller. They served for the duration of the war, mustering out together on July 13, 1865.PHOTO from LybargersCivil War

See Henry’s first letter “Dear Wif”, here. See Henry’s Letter #3: “Water up to Our Nees,” here.