Description

    Battle of Roanoke Island Letter with Map

    [Battle of Roanoke Island]. Union Soldier's Letter by Arthur White, a private in Company H, 25th Massachusetts Volunteers. 16 pages on four bifolia, including 4 pages cross-hatched (so 20 pages of content). 5" x 8", Roanoke Island, February 15, 1862. A letter to his parents with great content and a map of the battle. White provides a detailed account of their approach by water, and landing. His narrative continues: "... as she neared the shore...the boats all started to make the landing, each boat striving to be the first. Those that were nearest the steamer got their first...Capt. Picket [later bvt. brig. gen. WIA Cold Harbor 6/3/64] of Co. A, 25th was on shore the first man...we could see the bayonets of the Rebels glisten through the trees...but we soon saw them run...a few shells from the gunboats cleared the woods... we had to wade up to our knees in mud... we formed in order and were continually reinforced by troops from the fleet... I stood guard three hours during the night... our regt. taking the lead we past the 21st Regt... we also past our field cannon manned by sailors who fell in behind us...at a cross road sat Gen. Foster on a stump...(by the way. He is a splendid officer)...we halted and faced to the left and...forward into the wood. We dove in but got stuck in the thickest tangle...the firing commenced on our right...after considerable scratching and tearing we got...not the road...and was ordered to deploy to the extreme left...the order came to advance which we did. The firing commenced on the right...and returned by the Rebels with cannon and musketry...we afterwards found to be a masked battery. We advanced through the wood up to our knees in water ...we were glad enough to bring our rifles to bare on the rebels...I have read how battles seemed to others, but now it came my turn...I was surprised at...the strange feeling that seemed to prevade our whole company. There was not one that I could see but...was as cool as they ever were. All they seemed to care for was to get sight of a rebel and when they did they would draw on him as cooly as if they were firing at a tree...when we first went into action Geo. Kent and I was side by side but we got separated each one trying to get a better sight at the gunners who manned the cannon...I got sight on the gun nearest us and kept blazing away...most of Co. H's fire was directed to this gun...it did not discharge but a few times after... Braman [Pvt. Braman Grout] and I were near each other when word was brot to us that Kent and Mann [Pvt. Randall Mann, MWIA dying 2/10/62] were wounded and that they wanted help to carry them out of the swamp. The Capt. excused us and we found Kent and took him to... where the surgeons were... we found Randall he having been brought there by some of the boys... the surgeon examined them both and pronounced Randall's wounds fatal. I returned to find our Regt and found it in the fort, the enemy's position having been flanked by the Mass. 21st, Penn. 51st on the left and the Mass. 23rd...on the right who all charged in with the Zouaves [9th N. Y.] and N. Y. 51st in front. The rebels left the battery as soon as they saw our troops coming...we found six or seven dead rebels in the fort. We took all the guns, three in number, the rebels loss at this place must have been greater for Jim Bell [Pvt. Co. B, 21st Mass. Vols., KIA Chantilly, Va., 9/1/62] ...he...looked out of a hole to the left of the battery [and saw] sixty dead bodies and buried them. They were covered with water in the swamp and we could not see them...he belongs to the 21st Regt...the 25th had done most of the fighting...Bra. & I were excused to tend to our wounded comrades whom we carried to a farm house...we had to leave them the next morn...a miserable hole that battery is...the boys suffered considerably...our only aim now was to get a place to lay our heads. After driving out some of the rebels who occupied one of the houses we got a place into which we crowded our Co...we found that the rebels had given [?] remarkably thick lately for I could hardly meet two persons hit what one would be a rebel soldier...they are mostly inferior looking men I ever saw of all colors and descriptions...we found the Mass. 25th, 24th & 23rd quartered in this lot...guarding about a thousand rebel prisoners. The rebels had their liberty of the camp...the next day we heard of Randall's death...he died while being carried from the building where we carried him...we mad him a nice box of what we could get near by and buried him under a large oak tree by the sea shore directly north of the fort...we marked the spot well so that we might know it again...the Genl. complimented us on our gallant induct in the fight..." White's original double-sided map (5" x 3") is present; one side shows a full lay out of Roanoke Island including the position of the Rebel fort, light house, sunken ships, Albemarle & Pamlico Sounds, the position of the US fleet during the attack and also Pvt. Randall Grout's burial site. On the verso is a close up of the battlefield, including the 25th Mass. position, and Co. H's, during their charge upon the three guns mentioned in the letter during the attack on the fort.

    The group includes two additional letters dated March 2-3, 1862, written from Camp Foster on Roanoke Island, and describing the reburial of Randall Grout's body.

    Together with a letter from musician Arthur W. Palmer, Company E, 8th Connecticut Volunteers, writing to his friend "Edgar". Palmer is also writing from the same area:
    Palmer writes two letters on a single bifolium 94.5" x 7.5"), filling all 4 pages. The first letter is written on March 11, 1862 and fills the first three pages, concerning their advance upon New Bern, in part: "Croatan Sound off Roanoke Island on board the armed transport 'Sentinel' ...our forces have captured Roanoke Island...and...the fleet has started on an other expedition where to I do not know. The fleet has been starting all the morning. Our fleet being in the rear left about...half an hour ago. The whole fleet is in motion...there has [been] 4 or perhaps five of our boys died since we left Annapolis...we have about 12 new officers in our Regt. We like our Col. [Edward Harland (1832-1915) former Connecticut bank president and future brigadier general] very well but we all are down on our Lt. Col. [Andrew] Terry [resigned March 28, 1862]... we live high and sleep in the garret...we have drawed rations...the commissary growls and mutters but that is all he can do." The fourth page of the bifolium contains a second letter dated April 1st, 1862, Beaufort, N. C.]: "... I have not had a chance to send any letters...you have heard of the victory at Newbern Co. E is now at Beaufort. In the last battle our regiment lost 3 killed and 4 wounded, none in Co. E. Our forces are going to reduce Fort Macon as soon as they can..."

    Condition: Dampstaining and light soiling throughout.


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    April, 2016
    5th Tuesday
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