Charleston Has Fallen! Letter written by T.L. O'Brion aboa...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionCharleston Has Fallen! Letter written by T.L. O'Brion aboard the 1st Gunboat to enter Charleston, the U.S. Steamer "Chenango", February 27th, 1865. "Such a scene of Desolation I never saw!"
This four-page letter is on legal-size stationery, and written by T. L. O'Brion who was an officer on the USS "Chenango." That ship has the distinction of having one of the greatest losses of U.S. Navy lives in the Civil War. Leaving Hampton Roads, Virginia on April 15th, 1864, one of her boilers exploded, fatally scalding 33 men. When repaired she was "re-commissioned" on Feb. 1st, 1865 and headed for Charleston. She arrived with officer O'Brion on board, and that is described in this letter as O'Brion writes home to his wife. Reads in part:
"...such a scene of desolation I never saw! Almost every house in the lower and middle section of the city has one or more holes in the sides or roof from shells; there you can see where they went crashing through walls, from one side to the other: holes as large as a barrel; and some struck the roof coming out through the side walls in every direction."
"Churches, Public Buildings and private houses; others entirely demolished and ready to fall. About one third (it seemed to me) has been destroyed by the extensive conflagrations we read of some two years ago; whole streets in ruins, and holes in the streets from the shells, from six to ten feet deep."
"A great many people remained in the city and are moving back to the lower portions which have long been deserted, opening their places of business, and endeavoring to start something."
"The Negroes are very bad, saucy and thieving, but have a great regard for Naval Officers, as indeed do all the people, or seem to at least."
"Wednesday being the 22nd all the Ships in the Squadron were dressed with all the flags we could muster. Our Ship taking the shine off them all; (as in fact she did in everything: being the first Gunboat that went up to the city & being the first to fire a salute [11 guns]);"
"... in the evening all the Ships were dressed with Lights and burnt all the fireworks they could muster for fifteen minutes, our Rockets going higher and farther than any of the rest."
"At noon we fired a salute of 21 guns, and the way the bricks, mortar, slate, etc. rattled about my head (I was in Charleston then) was a caution."
"On Friday, having received information of a sloop load of cotton up at Beach Inlet, from a "Native," we proceeded in 3 boats, the Capt. taking the lead, piloted by the "Native," and of course he took me along, so I buckled on my sword and pistol and jumped in. We took two days' rations with us, and all well armed."
"You ought to see the Negroes flock at the banks, singing, shouting, and manifesting the wildest delight at our appearance, bringing in pigs, chickens, ducks, etc. at the lowest prices....Your affectionate Husband, T. L. O'Brion"
Letter is in very good condition with minor toning at folds and one archival fold repair. From the Calvin Packard Civil War Battlefield Letter Collection
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