Civil War Archive of John David Bozeman, 29th Georgia Volu...
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DescriptionCivil War Archive of John David Bozeman, 29th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. An extensive family archive of approximately 250 letters from the Bozeman and Lewis families during the Civil War. They date from early May 1862 to April 2, 1865 and include around 185 letters from Private John David Bozeman to his wife, Sarah Blanche Lewis, as well as 35 letters from Blanche to John and 30 letters from extended family members and friends. There are also several copies of military documents relating to Bozeman's service, a tintype of Bozeman in his uniform [2.25" x 2.5"], a book titled Sketches of the Bozeman Family by Loraine Bozeman Walker, which outlines the history of the Bozeman family, his obituary and his holographic tune book [119 pages, 4.25" x 1.75"].
The letters are written in pencil and ink and are composed of news of his health, his views on the Confederacy, camp life, love for his wife and children, and war news. After he was taken ill in 1864, he was sent to Fairgrounds Hospital No. 2 where he spent several months as both a patient and nurse. The archive provides a fascinating look at the day to day drudgery of camp life as well as the abhorrent conditions present in a Civil War hospital. Throughout Bozeman's letters are numerous spelling and grammatical errors.
John David Bozeman was born October 26, 1836 in Jefferson, Florida. He married Sarah Blanche Lewis in 1858 before moving his family to the recently platted town of Quitman, Georgia in 1859. John worked as a carpenter before mustering into service after the 29th was reorganized on May 7, 1862 following the passage of the Conscription Act. He enlisted from Thomas county, in Company C, known as the "Seventeenth Patriot's," under Captain Hiram C. Bowen, which became a part of the western army. He fought under General Bragg, Johnston, and Hood. After the battle of Nashville, the regiment was sent to Virginia and then to North Carolina, where, on April 26, 1865, at Greensboro, it surrendered.
In 1862 Bozeman was camped at various places in southern Georgia and northern Florida including Savanah and Lake City. While in Savanah on June 9, 1862, he wrote to Blanche about his admiration for Stonewall Jackson. "...you will see that Stone Wall Jackson is agoing it about Right it would be Better if we had more such men in the field if we did the war would soon be over...thear has bin more troops ordered to leave hear theare going to Stone Wall Jackson and those that I spoke of before went to him also you will not see anything in the papers about it Beleave it would not do to Publish it..." [One page, recto and verso, 3.75" x 4.75"]. As the situation in Vicksburg began to deteriorate for the Confederacy, the 29th were called upon to proceed to Jackson, Mississippi in April of 1863. Bozeman wrote to his wife on the 4th, the day before they began their long march, "...I hope to live to see you again on earth though it may bee that I never shall god onley knows theay say that we have to leave tomorrow...we are going to Jackson Miss. My dear Blanche this is the most trying houre of my life it wert hard to leave home but nothing to this god grant that we may meat again take the best care of the babys and yourself you can if I never get back do the best you can the future looks dark..." [One page, recto and verso, 5" x 7.5"]. Travel delays meant that Bozeman arrived too late to aid in the Battle of Jackson and was instead camped at Yazoo City. He kept Blanche updated on the movements, writing on June 7, "...we have done some as hard marching as any army I don't care whare theay come from I will give you a history of oure travils from Savannah up to this palace...onley big guns at VicksBurg which is evidence that the Yankeys have not taken it yet. I hope they never will get it...we got within 30 miles of Jackson and heard the fighting within 5 miles of Jackson we met a train and sent us back fore the citty was taken..." [Eight pages of bifolia, 3.75" x 5.5"].
Bozeman was present at the Jackson Expedition following the surrender of Vicksburg and wrote to Blanche about the death of his friend, George Atwell, on July 16, 1863. "...we are in line of Battle and have since yesterday morning the enemy are advancing 40 or 50 thousand strong theare is men in the Rifle pits and wee are behind the Rifle pits...we can heare once and a while the firing of theare artiliry at oure cavlry as theay are skirmishing with them if theay come this time theay will get a thrashing...I have some bad news to write that is George Atwell is dead he left us when we was at Vernon a coming to Jackson we never new that he was dead until we found his grave heare close to wheare we are in line of battle. Some of the Boys found his grave...Peace to his ashes – I am very Sorry he has bin my mess mate ever Since I bin in the service mainly he was a good solider and a clever man but a useful one if we have any fight heare you will heare it before or by the time you get this..." [Four pages of a bifolium, 3.75" x 6"]. By the end of the summer, the 29th was sent back to Georgia, and later Tennessee, to take part in the Chickamauga and Chattanooga campaigns. However, Bozeman was taken ill and sent to a hospital in Kingston, Georgia before both of these events. Writing to Blanche on September 10, he informs her that he "wasnot able to stomach the...marches." This was the first time Bozeman would fall ill with the mysterious disease that would cause him several relapses over the next two years. It is difficult to know exactly what illness Bozeman was experiencing, but it is presumed to be malaria or dysentery based on his descriptions of his symptoms. Regardless, it would not be the last time he was admitted to the hospital.
The army wintered in Dalton, Georgia and by spring of 1864 Bozeman was called back to his company to help with the Atlanta campaign, though Bozeman joined them with low spirits. He wrote to Blanche on May 27, 1864, "I leave heare this eavening at 5 oclock fore my company theay are making every one that is able to go so you see that I am obliged to go I am able I think to stand it any how now do the best you can I will write agane soon if I live and nothing happens if I get wounded or killed you must get along with it the Best you can..." [One page, 3.5" x 5.5"]. Five days later, the fighting began to pick up following the Battle of Pickett's Mill. "...wee all went out to Skirmish with the Yankeys day before yesterday morning...nobody hirt on oure side wee asked the yankeys how long before theay thought theay would get to Atlanta and theay said theay would bee theare in two weeks theare was part of oure Brigade...whipped the yanks and taken some few prisoners theare was but one of them hirt that I heard of wee have bin sucsekful in driving theme back in every atemept theay have made on this position and I think wee will bee able to continue to do so I hope so at any Rate god granit that we may bee sucsekful and that I may live to get home safe. While I am now writing I see the Skirmishes Bringing in a Yankey prisoner and the Skirmisher say theay have Bin to the Yankeys Breastworks Right in the front of us and theay say theare is no yankeys in theare they are trying to catch us But we will watch them..." [One page, recto and verso, 5.75" x 5.25"].
On June 14, 1864, Bozeman witnessed lieutenant-General Leonidas Polk's death at the Battle of Pine Mountain. He described the scene to his wife in a letter the next day. "...we are looking fore the yankeys to give us a shelling today as theay have posesion of every commanding position and they can over look oure times for three or foure miles wehen theay come to take us though theay will catch it...we have got the best Brigider General in the Confederat Service the Boys have got so theay all love him very much you must not bee uneasy if I do not write Regular as my chanceses are So Bad General Polke was killed yesterday by a Shell it poked through him and then Bursted the Skirmishing has commenced..." [One page, recto and verso, 5.5" x 5"].
By the end of June 1864, Bozeman was back in the hospital. This time he was in the Fairground Hospital No. 2 outside of Atlanta, but the hospital would move around the south as the Union forces continued to advance. He would remain there until March of 1865 and his letters provide a fascinating look into the inner workings of a Civil War hospital during his long convalescence. On June 26th he informed Blanche of his admittance. "...I am in a very Bad condition...I am in a very bad place...theare is so many wounded heare I hope theay will send us farther South I am now at the fairgrounds hospital division no 2 Tent Department I cannot write no more..." [One page, 6.5" x 6.75"]. Two weeks later, Bozeman was still very ill and wrote to his wife to describe his poor treatment at the hands of the Confederate doctors. He also discussed how officials were coming to the hospitals looking for any man well enough to send to the front. "...theay are talking of sending several off I am not able to go though if a man has any life at all theay do not excuse him...you may make yourself easey about it fore I never will come as neare killing myself when I am so bad off agane I say I will never try hard to keep the yankeys from getting me theay cannot treat me any worse than I have bin treated by the Confederate Doctors though you can keep this in the family as it is not nessasry fore any body else to see..." [Two pages, recto and verso, 5.75" x 9.25"]. Bozeman himself later escaped being sent to the front after a Dr. Sloan refused to have him examined. On August 31, 1864 he wrote, "...you must excuse my more than shorter letter this time as the Board of Drs from the front have come around to examine us all and send off all that can go out all my Dr Stood up fore me like a man and would not let them examine me at all afore he said he knew they would send me off and he said they should not do it so he would not let me go before the Boards so I will remain... I think I will be apt to stay heare fore a while yet..." [One page, recto and verso, 5.75" x 4.75"].
Over the next six months the hospital would move to Corinth, Mississippi, Montgomery, Alabama and Opelika, Alabama with Bozeman accompanying the hospital with each move. His letters to Blanche during this time paint a harrowing picture of the worsening situation in the south. "thear is thousands of men that would give ten thousand Dollars if theay had it that they could get out of it theare is men that would give thear 50 dollars if theay could get to go home 20 days so you can see what kind of a spirret thear is among the Soldiers. What I write is I no to bee so I have seen it with eys how would you feel if you new that I would land home tomorrow night to stay and then think of three or foure hundred thousand...to see theare husbands sons brothers fathers come...no Blanche I don't have no idea when I should come to see you I hope it will not bee long though at any Rate if I could stay well I would not mind it so bad But you don't know what minute you are agoing to get sick. Though I think I have done first Rate everything smells Bad and tastes Bade and feall Bad and Realy I believe it is Bad and think if you could take peep in hear now you would think it was Bad a heap worse than it is and it Bad enough God [k]nows..." [One page, recto and verso, 4" x 6.25"].
On December 22, 1864 he wrote of General Sherman who was finishing his destructive, yet successful March to the Sea. "...I haven't any news from the army of Tenn nor we can't hear from Old Sharman I am in hoaps tha will Capture him and his army. This is the most desolate bad place that I ever saw it is nothing but brestwork and graves so you can guess how it looks..." [One page, recto and verso, 5.5" x 8.25"]. By February 19, 1865, Bozeman had lost faith in the Confederacy's chances. In an incredibly candid letter to Blanche, he admits to contemplating desertion and his belief that God will free the slaves within the year. "...how I wish I was at home...but it is impossible fore me to come without I runway and you and I recon you do not wish fore me to come that way though sometimes I am almost temted to risk it I think I could do it without being detected but when I come to think over the matter serious my heart fails though if I could get out of the Confedercy with you and the children I would do it quick theare is no chance or prospect fore the war to end I feare it will last 3 or 4 years yet I do not know what is the become of us all we must cheer up and get along the best wee can and try to endeavor to the end if this Confedercy gains his independence I shall be Badly fooled I think poore people will all bee starved out before that comes and rich ones all Brought to poverty I think the Almighty intends to free the negros and I think it will bee done before twelve months..." [Four pages of a bifolium, 8" x 4.5"].
His final letter to Blanche is from March 12, 1865 after Bozeman had been reunited with his unit and was marching to North Carolina. "...Well we are camped heare within 1 ½ miles of the city of Augusta without any shelter save the Star Spangled heavens, and no other Bed except Mother earth on whose quiet Bosom I have often Sought Repose when the physical man became fatigued by the man ardous elements of the care worne Soldiers life...I understand we leave heare tomorrow fore North Carolina we are going as a gard fore the wagon trains which has already arrived if wee do not leave heare then wee will leave in a few days I regret to Say the Spirits of the Troops are considirably depressed in fact Some of them say...we are gone under and that without Remedy..." [One page, recto and verso, 8" x 13"]. His troops were correct; the regiment surrendered at Greensboro, North Carolina on April 26, 1865.
After the war, Bozeman returned home to his family in Quitman, Georgia where he took up farming. He and Blanche raised eight children before her death in 1916. John passed away at the age of 83 on May 16, 1920.
References: Historical Sketch and Roster of the Georgia 29th Infantry Regiment by John C. Rigdon, Two Confederate Hospitals and Their Patients: Atlanta to Opelika by Jack D. Welsh, A History of Savannah and South Georgia by William Harden, and Sketches of the Bozeman Family by Loraine Bozeman Walker.
Condition: Letters range from good to fine with usual mail folds, toning and foxing. There is moderate to heavy edgewear with the occasional area of loss.
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