Description

    Extensive Archive of Letters by Two Brothers With Content About Roanoke Island, Antietam, and Fredericksburg

    Union Soldiers' Archive of Letters by Brothers Alonzo and Oliver Case with related papers. An archive that includes more than forty letters from Alonzo Case to his wife spanning from September 1862 to May 1865, including letters during Case's internment as a P.O.W. Together with ten letters from Oliver Case to his brother Alonso, dated from November 1861 to July 1862.

    Oliver Case mustered into Company B, 8th Connecticut Infantry as a private, and was killed in action at Antietam on September 17, 1862. Alonzo was mustered into Company E, 16th Connecticut Infantry and also fought Antietam, where he was wounded. He recovered, and continued to serve until his capture at Plymouth (N.C.) on April 20, 1864. He was first confined at Andersonville and later transferred to prisons in Savannah and Georgia.

    This is an extensive archive, and what follows are partial transcripts of a handful of letters. Additional transcripts and document listings can be found online at: www.ha.com/6154*XXXXX.

    All of Oliver's letters are written to his brother, his first nine letters total 38 pages, varying sizes, but mainly 5" x 8". His last letter letter dated July 31, 1862 is little more than a brief enclosing two bounty checks. Oliver was a great storyteller, and his letters include battle content as well observations of life in the camp and interactions with fellow soldiers.

    Two letters written after the Battle of Roanoke Island have great content and rich narrative about events leading up to the fight and the subsequent days: "[On Steamer Chassuer off Roanoke Island, N. C., Feb. 11, 1862]... We left Hatteras Inlet last wednesday but owing to the unfavorable blessings of the weather and from the very cautious manner in which we proceeded we did not arrive here until friday morning when a bombardment of the enemy's fort immediately commenced. The day was clear and warm and it was a splendid sight to see one after another hurl their shell into the fort. It reminds me of a thunder storm where the lighting struck within sight every time. As the fire continued the replies from the fort grew less and less frequent as gun after gun were silenced and before night every gun but one was dismounted. Our loss during the day was 4 killed & 12 wounded. At midnight our boys were landed and left standing in the mud until morning when the action commenced. The 24 Mass. & 8th Conn. were held as reserve and were not in. The rebels retreated to their fortifications and did good execution. Our boys tried to turn the entrance but were not successful when Hawkins Zouaves took the lead and scaled the fort and drove the rebels out at the point of the bayonet. The action continued until 2 P. M. when the whole Island was unconditionally surrendered. We took 3000 prisoners, 35 pieces of artillery, 5000 stand of arms besides ammunition, baggage etc. The pieces was all but 5 32 pounders, 1 100 pounder, many of them were rifled. The soldiers are around picking up prisoners all over the island. They bring in a great many each day. There are five forts strongly fortified upon the island which fell into our hands. We think here it is a big thing. I do not know what will be thought of it north. Our loss is about 50 killed and about 75 wounded, principally from the 10th [Conn.] & 25th Mass. The prisoners are to be sent to N. Y. as soon as possible...I have been sick for about 10 days with fever & ague. I am much better now, shall be well enough in 3 or 4 days and have the promise of being taken ashore today...[I] have been on board over 6 weeks. It is a pretty tough place for a person that is unwell. The 8th & 4th R. I. are to be left here. The fleet expects soon to attack Elizabethtown & New Bern. Our gunboats have gone up to Elizabeth now. The rebels have 7 gunboats which have also gone there. They have given orders to burn them rather than have them fall into our hands. We learn this from a deserter. The rebels burnt their fort upon the main land the night after the battle. The reason for so doing we can not conjecture as their is no connection between that and the island...the Col. [Russell] of the 10th [Conn.] is killed & the Lieut. Col. of the Zouaves. O. Jennings Wise son of the ex-governor was killed. His last words, 'Oh that I could only kill another d-d Yankee before I die.'...direct Burnside's Coast Division...O. C. Case."
    "[Roanoke Island, N.C. February 18, 1862]... The regiment landed...Friday night the 7th about 12 o'clock and waited until morning when the action commenced...the island is covered with woods with the exception of here and there a clearing with a house upon it. The soil is sandy except where it is swampy and is easily cultivated and with proper cultivation and fertilizers would produce good crops...the woods are filled with underbrush so thickly that it is almost an impossibility for a person to get through...after the battle the troops licked up about 30 bushels of sweet potatoes, chickens, hogs, calves and every thing else that was eatable. The Zouaves stole a man's chickens carried them in and made them cook them for them. Pigs were taken out of the pen killed and skinned in short order... Our encampment is about four miles from the battleground and but a short distance from the fort that was bombarded by our gunboats... The rebel prisoners are still upon the island. What is to be done with them I know not. Those that have seen them describe most of them as a hard looking set but with some fine looking men. The Georgia regiment were tigers to fight, but those from N. C. were not over brave. The Georgia prisoners say they will fight again if they get the chance. They are very insolent calling their guard anything but honest men. A black flag was found and also an agreement signed by the Georgia rebels to give no quarter nor ask any. If the Zouaves had found this before the battle ended it would have gone hard with them. Our camp is situated near were a secesh camp was. We find envelopes and pieces of paper with many of their names. There is a rumor that the regiment is to leave on the wheelbarrow (a steam wheel steamer) in light marching order with 3 days rations...to attack New Bern which is said to be strongly fortified... we shall have a sharp time of it for a rebels are concentrating there and are going to defend it at all hazards. The reasons we got possession of the island so easily was that the troops landed in a swamp where the rebels thought it was impossible for us to march through. Wise was upon the island 3 or four days before and said that there was one fault with the batteries. They did not command the swamp. They said that was impossible. Wise said that those d-d Yankees would wade through water to their necks if they could get at them no other way... There was some flags of distress flying but I heard of no suffering..."

    All of Alonzo's letters are written to his, and the majority are four or more pages in length. One of his earliest letters describes the fighting at Antietam, and death of his brother Oliver: "Camp about 3 miles west of Sharpsburg about 9 miles north of Harpers Ferry, [n. d., but Sept. 20, 1862]... It is now just 3 weeks yesterday since we left Hartford and wednesday we passed through the hottest fight that has been in this war. The artillery commenced about 5 o'clock A. M. and our guns being heavier than the enemy they were compelled to move their positions every little while. We were under cover of woods and hills where we could see the whole on both sides. Soon after noon we were moved over hills & wales until in the afternoon when we were ordered under cover of the hill and round shot and shell flew around us too thick for pleasure. Two captains [Newton Manross & Samuel Brown] and several privates were killed when we were ordered into a cornfield with the 4th Rhode Island, we being on the left. The 8th & 11th Conn. were on our right...farther to the right were Ohio troops and still farther some miles distant was McClellan with the right wing. We had driven the rebels all day. We had gained about 2 miles of ground up to the time that we were ordered into the cornfield and then the bullets flew thicker than ever you saw hail in a hail storm. We were in the field about two hours when the Rhode Island reg. broke and ran in front of us and told us that the rebels were driving us. At this many of our men fell back and run and so you see the rebels were trying to flank us and as soon as our regiment broke what men [that] did stand stood no chance of escaping. The captain [Charles Babcock] lay by my side and said men stand fast remember country. I lay by a corn hill sentil [?]... there was a dozen bullets cut the tops of the hill...not over two feet from my head. I looked around and saw two rebel flags flying not twenty rods from me and at the same time could not see a man from Co. E. I thought that it would not do for men to lie there much longer and I made the best of my way out of that corn patch but there was a hotter place when we got out than when we were in the corn. Here was where the regiment got cut up. I had not got far when I saw captain lying on his face and supposed he was dead but I found he was badly wounded. A ball passed through his shoulder on the right side and come out on the left side of his neck...three of our boys come up and helped him off, he telling me to call the company when I could find them, but I could not find over 15 or 20 of our men. We were soon marched off and so you see that by our falling back we left the 8th & 11th under a cross fire besides a fire in front. This was the fatal time that Oliver my youngest brother was killed. We supposed he was killed him that moment, but did not go on the field until Friday when we found his body. The ball passed through his head killing him instantly. We had him burried near the dead of the 16th so that we can go to his grave any time. We buried 36 of the 16th besides 42 Johnnies that were killed. We do not know of only two that were killed in Co. E. One was Corp. Jesse O. Barnes. The other man was James McGrath of Collinsville. Michael Holland & Joseph Dusham were made prisoners. We have about 10 wounded in our company besides a few missing. All the rest from Simsbury are well except John E. Case who is mortally wounded, he being hit 3 times, but I believe all of the wound are in his legs. I wish you would tell his parents. I would write to them but have no paper and cannot write to you all...A. G. Case."

    In a letter dated October 1, 1862, he continues reflect on Antietam: "in camp near Antietam Iron Works... I think that my sword belt saved me from being wounded if nothing more. It struck me on my side, passed clear through my haversack, but when it struck my belt it stopped leaving black & blue spot on my hip. It smarted a few minutes, but was all over then. I do not know as there is anything new in regard to that old battlefield for we begin to look at that as a thing of the past...I have no doubt but the recollection of that 17th day of September will be in my mind for a long time. It being my first experiment on a battlefield... It is now the 3rd day of Oct. and we have just been out to a grand division review of troops and we have seen Abe Lincoln for the first time. He looks full as well as his pictures do. You wrote to me in regard to the proclamation, but I cannot give any very decided opinion... but at the same time I have changed my opinion in some respects since I came into the army. I think this affair will be closed between now... & spring. In this I have not changed but I now think there will be some compromise...this war will do a great deal of good for if it had been settled in the first place by compromise it would have been one of temporary duration, but now if it is settled it will be permanent...both parties have had war enough and they will let all things remain [?] that they cannot settle with ballots...they are coming together a strong nation again and then woe to any nation that should attempt to conquer us."

    About Fredericksburg, he writes: "In camp overlooking the City of Fredericksburg, Va., Nov. 20,1862... We are here near this city, the pride of Va., and the rebels are in the city in some force. They have been running cars out and into the city all yesterday afternoon and last night but whether it is running troops into or out of the city we know not. We have just been told that we can send a mail very soon... Capt. Babcock arrived with... a week ago tuesday being 8 days on the road. Capt. Marsh arrived night before last is very well. While I am writing our artillery is practicing on the Rebel trains of cars that are running in and out of the city. I expect they will soon have possession of the city as the boys have just been up looking...and they say our shells are dropping amongst them every time and those things are what no one can stand. We have an awful sight of troops within a mile probably 50,000. Burnside is here with us. Gen. Sumner now commands our division. Harland our brigade & Capt. [Edward] Mix [drowned Albemarle Sound, N. C., March 8, 1864] our regiment as Col. Beach has not commanded since the battle of Antietam. He is home on a furlough and many think it will be a long one. This city is the one that Burnside evacuated in August on account of the non-importance of it at that time [for] the want of troops but now it opens direct communication with the world. There is some chance of this brigade staying here some time [in order to] hold the place but of course we can not tell...Wm. Johnson has just come in and says that we have stopt the cars and the Rebels are leaving the city double quick...we are out of a thing to eat but the teams are on the road from Aquia Creek and will soon be here..."

    There are a total of four letters from Fredericksburg; the most compelling is eight pages long and is dated December 20, 1862: "When I last wrote you it was previous to our occupation of the city of Fredericksburg. Thursday the 10th we were ordered to march at 5 o'clock A. M. with blankets rolled without tents... about that time we were started from our tents by the most terrific cannonading ever heard but all we did that day was to lie in camp & hear it until about sundown when we were ordered to fall in supposing we were to go to the city...we only marched about 1 mile when we were ordered back...remained until Friday morning when we started and marched down under our batteries and lay until about 4 p. m. when the enemy commenced dropping shells into our ranks killing 1 man [Pvt. Isaac B. Thompson, Co. B] in the 15th Conn. and wounding 2 [Pvts. James Breen and Willard F. Pardee, Co. B] making the commanders think it best to move their men. We were accordingly moved back indoor a hill out of range and lay there until dark when we were marched across the river and stacked arms in the main street...there was three lines of battle formed in the same street. The men were ordered to lie down in the street with traps...on ready to march any moment...we officers occupied houses...I was acting as Lieutenant...we passed that night all quiet as far as fighting was concerned...the room we occupied was in the second story and we had a gay time. There was in the room a nice mahogany bureau but there had been a shell right through it...there had [been] about 20 passed through the house as is the case all through the city...there never was a city so completely ruined since the days of Sodom...Saturday morning we were marched under the hill right back of the city, on the bank of the river and such a battle...that day of cannon & musketry never can be...imagined expect by those that are permitted to see & hear. We lay quiet until about sundown when we were ordered into a line and marched throughout the city in line of battle, passing under a raking fire of shot & shell for about a 1/2 mile when we came to a meadow within about 20 rods of the enemy's lines. Our boys behaved finely...we lay flat down and the bullets passed about...2 to 4 feet over us and it was here the [Lieut.] Colonel [Joseph B. Curtis] of the 4th R. I. was killed. There we lay until morning expecting...to be ordered up to the enemy's batteries...the men were prepared for it but instead of that we were ordered back to the city and cooked our breakfast...soon after the order came from generals and colonels [and] from Col. to captains...through the line that the ninth army corps was to storm those batteries at 10 o'clock A. M. at the point of the bayonet without cap on the pieces so you can imagine the feelings of the men somewhat knowing that we should take their works but should be likely to lose half of our men but 10 o'clock came and night finally came and still no more...after dark our regiment was brought into line and marched to the front, ordered to lie down and then two companies were sent on picket...the rest were left as a reserve...here we lay quite comfortably until morning with the exception of a few pickets firing through the night. Here we staid until Monday night after dark when we were relieved by the 13th New Hampshire, 89th N. Y. feeling that some new move was going on, but could not tell what...we were ordered into the city and every man that had a tin or anything on their haversacks that would rattle or make a noise was made to keep quiet. We formed in line of battle in the town...were soon on the move very quietly and soon were crossing the pontoon bridge then the idea of evacuation first entered our mind...we marched quick time back to our old camps reached it about 11 o'clock p. m...until that time I did not know that I was tired but when I came to my old tent I lay down and felt for the first time (Marsh bawls so I am disturbed he told me to write this) that I was somewhat dragged out. Ariel was not over the river until sunday morn when he came over and helped the surgeon until our retreat. He was not very well...we have slept almost ever since...any will not be able to see how that a move like this will not wear men but although we were not brought directly in the fight but...we were in suspense for 5 days. I have received a letter from father telling about his trip after Oliver's body. Was very glad to know that he succeeded so well. Was sorry that he could not come to us but if he had he would have had to stay until the fight was over...you can send me a box...direct 16th Reg. Conn. Vols., Co. E, 2nd brigade, 3rd division, 9th Army Corps, Falmouth, Va. Capt. Babcock left for home this morning. Emmons has not yet got his papers but he will in a few days. I have acted as Lieut. since the battle but my not get a commission. Time will determine. Capt. Marsh & Ariel are here with me. We are in a sibly tent [the] one that Capt. Marsh is occupying. His health is poor. He sent in his resignation yesterday. I think he will go home in a few days. Ask father if there was a board at the head of Oliver's grave with his name on it...your husband, A. G. Case." With the original transmittal cover stamped "Due 3".


    Also included are various documents such as Alonzo's military commission appointing him 1st Sergeant in the 16th Connecticut Volunteers, letters from his wife to Alonzo, letters to Alonzo's wife with news of Alonzo, a post-war photograph of Alonzo, and a GAR ribbon with 9 corps insignia at the top.

    Condition: Condition varies, with general toning and a few stray stains. Most letters include their original transmittal cover. Usual mail folds, but no evidence of separations or tears in most instances. Excellent condition.



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