Tag Archives: Union Army

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.

Letters From E–The Civil War Letters of Erasmus Anderson

Letters From Private Erasmus Anderson, Union Army, Ohio 16th Volunteer Infantry, and the end of his part of the war.  If you missed this Civil War series, here is an easy guide to lead you through the sequence.

Erasmus Anderson Civil War Letter

One of the letters from Erasmus Anderson to his wife “Suzi” 1862

Letter One:Cheerful Beginnings, Cincinnati, Ohio, September 10, 1862

In a Bad Humor at Camp Dennison, Camp Dennison, near Cincinnati, Ohio, October 7, 1862

Hard March to Kanawha Valley, Kanawha Valley Virginia (now West Virginia), October 26, 1862

November in Charleston, Charleston Virginia (now West Virginia), November 5, 1862

December in Memphis, Memphis Tennessee. Undated, but army camped twenty-three days, starting November 26, 1862.

The Civil War Wounded and The Hospital Ship Red Rover , Mississippi River, January 5, 1863

Civil War Deserters, Mississippi River, January 20, 1863

Politics and Peaches, Army of the Mississippi, February 17, 1863

In the Dark Woods of the Mississippi, No location, Undated letter, could have been between January 13 and 20 on boat on White River.

Vicksburg Campaign Starts ,Richmond Louisiana, April 8, 1863

Water, Water Everwhere on March to Vicksburg, Carthage, Louisiana, April 20, 1863

At the Perkins Plantation , Louisiana, April 27. The last existing letter.

The Union Army Marches into Battle in Mississippi April-May 1863

From Battle to Battle Fighting through Mississippi to Vicksburg May 16-22, 1863

The End of the Erasmus Story May 22, 1863

Union Army Marches into Battle in Mississippi

Our last letter from “E” (Erasmus Anderson) was written on April 28, 1863, just over 151 years ago. It is clear that Pvt. Erasmus Anderson had his hands full during the remainder of April and the month of May. It is no surprise that we have no extant letters from that period, as the army was, at long last on the march. Today and next week, we will follow as the Union Army marches and fights its way toward Vicksville, Mississippi.

Battle of Champion Hill

“This painting of the Battle of Champion’s Hill was made by Kurz and Allison, copyrighted in 1887.” mkwe.com

The day after Erasmus finished that last letter to his wife, the Union army started south in a large loop that would take them across the Mississippi River and up the East side toward Vicksburg, Mississippi, General Grant’s major objective. Before they got there, they would fight the Battle of Thompson’s HIll, The Battle of Champion’s Hill and The Battle of Big Black River Bridge.

While “E” correctly surmised that the Union Army plan was to go from the Perkins Plantation in Louisiana to Grand Gulf MS, that goal turned out to be impossible. The soldiers heard four solid hours of thundering shooting during which, according to Theodore Walbach, gunboats “engaged in a furious fight with no profitable result on our side.” The troops marched still farther south on the Louisiana side of the river.

On the next day, April 30, all available boats gathered to ferry the troops farther south, where they landed at Bruinsberg Mississippi. According to Wolbach, they drew five days of rations in preparation for the next trek, and set off marching East, up and away from the loathesome, malarial swamps into forested highland. Along with apprehension of what lay ahead, there was satisfaction in seeing the abandoned plantations, finding buildings to sleep in and hidden stores,helpfully pointed out by slaves who had been left behind.

Wolbach shows the contrast of hardship and pleasure that could be had on this march. “Before entering fairly into this campaign, the regiment had been stripped of every sick, or convalescent man.  Every unnecessary encumbrance had been left behind.”  They marched all day, “Ofen passing between long rows of rose hedges that were now in bloom and filled the air with its baking fragrance.”

The objective was Thompson’s hill, about two or three miles west of Port Gibson. For a colorful, detailed report of that night and the next day, see Cpl. Wolbach’s Camp and Field.

Union Army march

Route of boats and march from Perkins Plantation to Thompson’s Hill. Photo from mkwe.com

The Union Army marched into the night, until at about 2:00 a.m. of May 1st, they heard firing. Everyone dropped to the ground to wait for daylight. Given what was coming the next day, one hopes they were able to get some rest.

In award-winning understatement, Wolbach says,

When it was light enough to find water, many of the boys commenced making coffee in their tin cups and little cans.  But the situation was getting a little too exciting for elaborate breakfast.”

At 8:45, the 16th Ohio along with other regiments were order to the front–center of the line. Throughout the day, the 22,000 Union Soldiers fought their way up the hill as 6,000 Confederate Soldiers tried to defend their territory.  By nightfall, it was clear that, as the Civil War Wiki Net says, “Grant was loose on the the Mississippi.”

General Grant showed up to observe the battle, riding a borrowed mule because most horses had been left behind.  His twelve year old son, Fred, was with him, and volunteered to help pick up the wounded and the dead.  He found he wasn’t up to the task, and later wrote about the experience, callling himself “the most woebegone twelve-year-old boy in America.”

Battle of Thompson's Hill

Port Gibson Historic Marker

The next morning, Union generals, prepared to fight on, discovered that the Rebels had abandoned the bridge crossing Bayou Pierre and evacuated Grand Gulf.  Grant indeed had a toehold, finally, in the heart of the South.

Erasmus escaped injury. He was not among the 131 Union Army soldiers killed, or 719 wounded.


Union Army March

Union Army march route from Thompson Hill to Rocky Springs, MS. Map from mkwe.com

On May 3 the soldiers marched through the scent of magnolias in blossom and the sight of mutilated corpses of Southern bodies to a spot just east of Rocky Springs, MS, where they camped and rested all day on May 4. Erasmus would no doubt have noted the beautiful weather and the fine farmland they were in, and noticed as did Cpl Wolbach that the farmers had a problem with erosion. The soldiers take advantage of the respite to forage, and for some that means looting, according to Wolbach.

They continue on marches toward Fourteen Mile Creek with a few high points along the way. Mail received. Generals Grant and McClelland reviewed the troops, and as they were bivouaced along the Jackson Road, they watched General Sherman’s troops march by.


Union Army March

Union Army Route from Rocky Springs toward Bolton MS. Map from mkwe.com

By May 13 they have reached Raymond Mississippi and spend a rainy night. They march at midnight and spend another day in the rain. There are skirmishes along the way, and they have to loop back to take a different road. Another serious battle comes at Champion Hill on May 16. Wolback says they face the enemy with a Union force of 10,000 muskets and eight batteries of field artillery, now nearly due East of Vicksburg.

In General Grant’s memoirs he says “We had 15,000 men absolutely engaged.” The Civil War Trust’s website says 32,000 Union men faced 23,000 Confederate soldiers. On the Union side there were 410 killed and 1844 wounded.   2000 Confederate soldiers were taken prisoner. Once again, although Erasmus would have been ‘absolutely engaged’ for several hours of skirmishing and four hours of heated battle, he escaped personal damage.


Civil WarHistorical Marker

Battle of Champion Hill Historic Marker

At the end of the day, the 16th OVI moved on to Edward’s Station,a railroad station where they slept for the night. From Edward’s Station, they would follow the enemy and fight one more battle before finally reaching their goal–Vicksburg.

See Erasmus Anderson’s last surviving letter:At the Perkins Plantation

See the next step of the War: From Battle to Battle E Marches to Vicksburg

See A Summary of the series of letters:The End of the Erasmus Story


Once again, I have relied on the 16th OVI website maintained by Michael K. Woods. From that site, I get the reports of Cpl. Wolbach, called Camp and Field, which were published some twenty years after the war in the Holmes County Republican.  For this report, I also took advantage of Wood’s collection of narratives about various battles, and his detailed maps.