DescriptionUnion Soldier Frederick Milo Clemons, Company D, 23rd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, Archive of Letters. The archive consists of 59 letters, including 56, mostly written in ink, various sizes, from Clemons to his wife Emily during the Civil War, dating from October 22, 1862 to September 2, 1863 In addition to the these Civil War letters, the archive includes a sixteen-page, 5" x 8", undated document that appears to be an attempt at a dairy in Clemons' hand; two letters from Clemons to Emily, one, two pages, 5" x 8" on Rome Iron Works letterhead, Rome, New York, dated July 29, 1869, and the other, a four page bifolium, 5" x 8", Topeka, Kansas, dated June 29, 1873; a letter from Edith G. Clemons to "Dear Aunt," 5" x 8", Birmingham, Connecticut, dated December 9, 1893; Clemons' official appointment, 13.75" x 8.75", dated October 1, 1862, as a colonel in the 23rd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry regiment, as well as a photocopy of same; one cabinet card photograph, 4" x 6" albumen print on a 4" x 6.25" mount, , of Clemons, by [William Skler?], Birmingham, Connecticut; Clemons' copy of The Soldier's Hymn Book (New York: Young Men's Christian Association, [1861?]), 2.75" x 4.25", in paper cover pasted over boards; a free ticket on the Union Pacific Railroad, 4.75" x 2.5", dated October 21, 1875, from Omaha [Nebraska] to Laramie [Wyoming], for a "Mrs. Clemons"; an attachment to a Pension Certificate, 8" x 3.5", dated October 2, 1916, for Emily G. Clemons, that states that as a result of an act of Congress the pension for widows of a soldier who served in the Civil War is increased to $20 per month; and other family-related documents.
Clemons' Civil War letters, averaging three pages in length, offer a glimpse into the daily life of a Union soldier during his one year term of service in the war. He mentions the weather, his health, rations, daily routines in camp, military news, and descriptions of camp locations, days left in his enlistment, and descriptions of occasional encounters with Confederate troops. In one his earliest letters, written on December 9, 1862, as his regiment is sailing off the coast of Florida on its way to Ship Island, Mississippi, Clemons complains of shipboard life and of the soldier's ill-treatment by the army.
"I never supposed I should have to live as I have lived on board this boat. Our pigs at home are fed better than we are. When we first started we had fresh beef but last Friday night when we had the Storm the ice was thrown over board and the meat slated. The cooking apparatus got deranged and we had nothing but hard bread until Sunday and since then we have had salt beef boiled in salt water (and so salt[y] that we can hardly eat it) and a small potato sometimes, This is all we have had except a little stuff they call coffee....I would like to have the good folks of Conn. know how her Soldiers are used on this transport."
After staying a short time on Ship Island, Clemons' regiment moved to Camp Parapet, Louisiana. In a January 5, 1863 letter to his wife, Clemons wrote of a visit to the camp by General Nathaniel Banks, indicating that he was not impressed by military pomp of any sort. "Our Regiment has been over in the Parapet this afternoon to receive Gen. Banks. He came up from the city [New Orleans] and reviewed the troops and rode around the Parapet. The Artillery fired a Major Generals Salute of 13 guns (all folderol). This Military is all form and show."
The 23rd Connecticut Infantry moved from Camp Parapet to Jefferson Station, Louisiana, where on March 12, 1863 Clemons wrote of his observations on the brutality of slavery and on the need for education for freedmen. "Tell Mrs. Perry that a negro came here to day with a great gash cut in his head with a club by the overseer on a plantation 2 miles above here. His coat was all blood. One come here in the same condition 2 days ago. And one was shot on the plantation 3 weeks ago where this one was hurt today. Tell her I saw this with my own eyes and if I should tell this to some people in the north they would disbelieve it. Bad luck to Slavery it is the greatest curse to this country. There are negroes here that would make smart men if they had education. We have learned some of the men to spell out words of 3 sylables [sic] and only had a book 3 weeks." In the same letter, Clemons noted that he was in danger of being court martialed due to his involvement with a petition that was drawn up and signed by the men of Company D against having officers brought in from other companies instead of promoting within the company. The petition was sent directly to letter to Emily, dated March 15, Clemons reported that Weitzel sent the petition back to Colonel Charles E. L. Holmes of the 23rd Connecticut with order to "put us under arrest...we have not been put under arrest yet. I suppose our Lieutenants will be tried first, for they have charges against them, and then we (the Non Commissioned Officers) will be tried under a Court-Martial, but I think they will acquit us. If they don't our punishment will be a reduction to the ranks. Our whole Co. signed it, so if they do that, I don't know where they will get new ones." In an April 10 letter, Clemons informed his wife that his company's "Officers went up to the Court Martial. The 2 Lieutenants were to be tried....On Wednesday at 9 oclock I was called the Court as a witness in the case of Lieut. Plumb [Charles E. Plumb] (but I think they will not prove anything against him)." It appeared that the two Lieutenants were the only officers charged and arrested. In a May 6 letter to Emily, "Our Capt. Is here. Our 2 Lieutenants are under arrest they are at Head quarters...they have been tried but can not get a decision until the Army stopes and the Court Martial convenes again & tries all the cases before it. So they have nothing to do until that is decided." The Court Martial proceedings were later "squashed" according to a July 2, 1863 letter.
Since Clemons participated in little action himself, he could only describe encounters with the enemy that occurred close by his camp and what was described to him by others. For example, in an April 20, 1863 letter to Emily, he recounted recent action by Union forces under General Banks near Bayou Leche. "General Banks has been very successful since he started up Bayou Leche ....The enemy have met our forces at every crook and turn and been as often defeated. The 13th & 23rd Conn. have suffered as much as any....Our army has taken and destroyed 4 Gun Boats and quite a number of transports....Yesterday we heard that Gen. Banks had got to Opelousas the rebel Capital of La. and had taken the Salt Works and 1500 prisoners. A train loaded with them went by here yesterday. They are a ragged looking set of beings." Writing from Brashear City, Louisiana, on May 31, Clemons had praise for the black Union soldiers, stating that "there is about 1800 colored Soldiers here drilling....I think they are enlisting fast now. We heard that the Colored troops in the fight at [Fort] Hudson had done the best of any. They charged on a battery and took it. The Rebels shot them down as they come up, but they kept on. I think they will find that they can fight."
Clemons finally participated in a minor skirmish on the early morning house of June 1, 1863. In a letter dated the next day, Clemons related the details to his wife, which included a detailed drawing of the camp at Brashear City and barracks across the bay that had separated the campsite.
"Our forces have all been withdrawn from the other side the Bay. There were three Hospitals left there. 2 companies of the 23rd were sent across on picket. Sunday night about 3 oc. in the morn there was an alarm give and we turned out under arms....We went down to the depot and could not find out as there was any danger so we returned to the camp. On Monday morning I was detailed for guard with 18 men of our Co to guard the depot....Well I had been on guard but a little while...we discovered Rebel horsemen coming right from the woods toward the Hospital. They rode up near the hospital and fired some shots at it but done no damage. Their happened to be 3 or 4 muskets there (we never take guns to hospital) and the soldiers turned out with those and returned the fire which kept them in check until we threw a Co of men across. They might have taken the hospital if they had known there were no guard there. We had only 4 Cos here...so they all went a crost [sic]. The rebels began to fall back to the woods and drive the Cattle off that we had captured from them. We had no cavalry our boys picked up what horses they could get and rode when our boys got over the rebels run too fast."
Due stomach problems, Clemons spent time in a Union hospital at LaFourche Crossing in mid-late June. While there he had a close call during a brief skirmish with Confederate soldiers, which he related in a June 21 letter. "Well after dinner an orderly came down and reported the Rebels were coming on as fast as they could....I will tell you that our Hospital was a half mile above the railroad facing the Bayou the road between the bayou and house our infantry & artillery were stationed at the rail road bridge and the Hospital was right in range. About 4 oclock the advance guard of the Rebs came by the Hospital 8 or 10 of them chasing up some of our boys that was on plantations. They took some of them prisoners. We were all in the front yard and could see all that was going on, but they took no notice of us. There was a red flag out (Hospital flag) when they got a little past us the 23rd fired on them and they put back, pretty quick a bout 60 or 70 of them came on by us a little ways, and discovered our Infantry. They halted and formed in line of battle ready for a charge, but just as they got ready to move our Artillery opened on them...and they broke right in the road." This encounter turned out to be the prelude to the Battle of LaFourche Crossing. Clemons gave a brief description of the battle on an ending paragraph in pencil (the letter up to that point was in ink): "there was a battle here last night. There is 8 killed and 40 wounded on our side. They have found 114 Rebel dead and some wounded. They attacked our boys, but was drove off. " In a subsequent letter, dated June 23, Clemons provided more provided additional information of the encounter. "The fought well they come up within 2 rods of our line. Our boys took aim every time and made the shot tell. The prisoners say they had no idea of being repulsed here, and that we fought like Bull Dogs. It was a hard fight for so few engaged. It lasted 55 minutes...we have over 200 of their killed wounded & prisoners."
Clemons took advantage of an opportunity to use his skills as a pattern maker or draftsman for the army with pay of $3.50 a day plus his pay as a soldier. In a July 27, 1863 letter to his wife from Algiers, Louisiana, he wrote of his decision. "I concluded to go to work in the shop, rather than expose myself any more in this country. I went to N.O. Thursday, and got my tools, and got ready to go to work, and Friday & Saturday I worked at pattern making."
Condition: Two letters, dated December 20, 1862 and February 14, 1863, are split in half at the center vertical fold. A four page bifolium letter, dated July 6, 1863, had a portion of the right had upper edge torn off, affecting text on pages 3-4. Most of the letters are in good to fine condition. Clemons' appointment as colonel has horizontal and vertical folds, with dome weakness evident at the intersection of the folds and along the bottom horizontal fold. The cabinet card photograph of Clemons shows signs of water stains on lower left hand edge of albumin print and minor loss to the print at the upper corners, without affecting image. The mount is worn at the edges. The text block of the The Soldier's Hymn Book has come loose from the binding, with the title page separated from the text block. Otherwise, the text block itself is in good condition.
Frederick Milo Clemons, a pattern maker or draftsman from the town of Huntington, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, mustered into Company D of the 23rd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry on August 30, 1862. He was appointed a colonel on September 4, 1862 (he received his official appointment on October 1, 1862). He was honorably discharged from the regiment on August 31, 1863. The 23 Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was organized in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 14, 1862. Company D was largely formed by men from Fairfield County. On November 17 the regiment left Connecticut for East New York, and then on November 29 sailed for Ship Island, Mississippi, and later New Orleans, arriving there on December 17. The 23rd Connecticut was attached to defenses of New Orleans and District of La Fourche, Department of the Gulf. The 23rd Connecticut was mustered out August 31, 1863. The regiment lost during service 1 officer and 10 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 officers and 46 enlisted men by disease.
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