DescriptionCivil War Letter Archive of Charles M. Grant, 59th Ohio Infantry. An extensive and remarkable archive consisting of 108 letters from Grant to his wife, Sallie Grant, dating from June 24, 1859 to October 17, 1864. The letters are various sizes and from various locations, with 15 canceled postal covers, 7 with stamps. In addition, there are 8 partial letters.
The earliest letters (10) in the archive date from 1859 and 1861 before Grant's enlistment in the 59th Ohio Infantry. He was mustered into the regiment as a private on October 12, 1861. Grant's war letters discuss camp life, the weather, the location, his health, military news, and how much he misses his wife and family. The regiment's first campaign was the Big Sandy expedition in the Big Sandy region of Eastern Kentucky to disperse Confederate forces in the region. In a November 7 letter to his wife Sallie from camp near Prestonburg, Grant writes, "we have been on the march...and in hot pursuit of the Enemy. We received order this morning to prepare three days rations immediately and start in pursuit of the Enemy who are reported to be in force about 20 miles of Big Sandy. We arrived yesterday...and spent the day in transporting artillery and supplies across the River." The Confederate forces were defeated at Ivy Mountain, which Grant describes in a November 11 letter. "We have met the Enemy in deadly struggle and drove them like Chaf before the Wind. I have seen the death struggle between man and man. I have gazed upon the Wounded and the dieing [sic]. I have given my last drop of Water from my canteen to the thirsty wounded Enemy....We came up with the enemy last Friday about 19 miles below Piketon on the West Branch of the Big Sandy. The rebels were in force on both sides of the river part of them on a big high cliff and the rest in a corn field on the oposite [sic] side of the river...our regiment came up just in time to save...utter destruction. We came...double quick about two miles and poured one deafening volley in to them and they took to their heels and we pursuing." After the successful Big Sandy expedition, the 59th Ohio remained in winter quarters in Columbia, Kentucky. Writing to his wife from Columbia on February 1, 1862 Grant mentions that his unit put his woodworking skills to use, which raised his wages "to about $41 Dollars per month which is more than I could realize at home." He also reported on the escape of two prisoners. "There was two prisoners broke jail last knight [sic]. One of them was a political prisoner and the other a deserter. They bore with an inch auger the flanges of the door. Tore up there [sic] blankets and let them selves down out of the window and cleared them selves. The military is in hot pursuit of them and will probably catch them." The 59th Ohio subsequently moved to Nashville, Tennessee and then on to Pittsburg Landing. On March 28, 1862, in camp outside of Nashville, Grant writes, "If I get out side of our Brigade line I am liable to be arrested and court martialed without a written pass....This is done for a good purpose to keep soldiers from marauding thru [sic] the country robbing and stealing which they duo [sic] if allowed to run at large. Our officers are so particular that we dare not burn a fence rail nor shoot a squirrel....I see a good many slaves on my way here. They look pretty well but are poorly clad....They are all mostly sesech [sic] here and the women make wry faces and shake there [sic] fists at us as we go by." The 59th Ohio arrived at Pittsburg Landing on the evening of April 6 and participated in the Battle of Shiloh, which had begun that day. Two days later, on April 8, Grant wrote to his wife "I know that you are anxious to hear from me after the Terrible battle that has been fought here and which I done my share and hope my duty. Our regiment...arrived at Pittsburg Landing...at about eleven oclock and took our position...a quarter of a mile back of landing in the Woods where we stayed until daylight....At daylight our Brigade was formed into line of Battle...and formed the centre of the line...which embraced as near as I can judge with other divisions a distance in circuit of Five miles....It was a terrible conflict and the rebels fought desperately for near ten hours and I must say that we fought with equal desperation. Our regiment was in the thickest of the fight for we wer [sic] in immediate range of several Batteries which sent there [sic] shell and grape as thick as hail...we had to lie flat on our faces for some time until our Batteries opened up on them....I escaped without a scratch. One ball went through thru [sic] my pantaloons...but did not touch me. Another went uncomfortably close to the side of my head but did not quite touch me. In fact they were flying all about us as thick as hail....May I never witness another such a day. It was horrible to see the dead and wounded lying all around us and we could not render them any immediate assistance." The Confederate forces were driven from the battlefield.
After the Battle of Shiloh the 59th was involved in the siege of Corinth, Mississippi. On May 20, 1862 Grant wrote home from a camp on the outskirts of the city. "We are marching slow and steady...towards the rebel city and they are getting very uneasy. There [sic] pickets and ours as was yesterday popping away at each other all day. And a few rounds of shell from our Batteries soon silenced our neighbors of the Sesech [sic] persuasion. We have any quantity of cannon and some heavy siege guns which was put in position yesterday. Some of our guns are so large that it takes from five to six yoke of Oxen to draw them." Four days later, May 24, Grant writes of Confederate pickets, "We have become so used to each other that we have become more friendly and reserve our fire for bigger game. Since we have ceased firing there has been a good many deserters come over to our side which they were afraid to do before on account of so much firing." Union forces eventually captured Corinth by the end of May.
By the fall of 1862, the 59th Ohio was in Nashville, Tennessee. On December 23, 1862, Grant wrote to his wife of soldiers in his regiment being court martialed for various infractions. "Colonel Howard is Provo martial of the Regiment and they are bringing up all the cases of absentees without leave before him for trial. Yesterday before dress paraid [sic] there was no less than 21 martialed before the regiment to hear there [sic] sentence. Some had there [sic] pay stopped others sentenced to hard labour and to carry a rail two hours each day while others wer [sic] reduced to the ranks." The Battle of Stones River (or the Second Battle of Murfreesboro) took place December 31 to January 2, 1863, and the 59th Ohio participated in the engagement, which resulted in Confederate forces retreating from the field. As Grant wrote in a January 5 letter, "I have again passed through safely two severe Battles with out a scratch. We have again drove the Rebels from there [sic] strong hold and the field is ours....Our heavy Artillery opened upon them last night at sunset and they shook the very Earth with there [sic] terrible thunder. Meanwhile our Infantry poured in into them and drove them from there [sic] strong hold. I cannot tell you but little for this is all paper I have." Five days later, on January 10, Grant wrote that he had a narrow escape during the recent battle. "You may get the word that I am either killed or wounded., but such is not the case altho the boys and all our Officers thought I was. In retreating after our first charge we were obliged to retreat thru a dense cedar thicket and I stumbled and fell and all supposed that I was killed or wounded. I gathered myself up as soon as possible and got out of there in a hurry for the balls of the Enemy wer [sic] flying most uncomfortably thick, so much so that I got two ball holes thru my overcoat." He then provided more details about the Battle of Stones River. "The Rebels made there [sic] furious dash upon us and they came like a Hurricane column after column and swept down upon us...we were obliged to retreat or be captured for the Rebels wer [sic] on our right left and front bearing down upon us with ball shell grape and canister, Such another shower of bullets I never witnessed and may never again...but it was a sad charge for them for Old Rosy [General William S. Rosecrans] was well prepared for them. Column after column filed into line to meet them and our artillery from the opposite side of the river poured there [sic] deadly contents into them such another noise I never conceived of. The whole earth trimbled [sic] and the smoke of battle covered the earth and filled the heavens."
In an April 15 letter from Murfreesboro, Grant writes of receiving a letter that mentioned a Copperhead meeting in Batavia, Ohio, which stirred up his anger. "Things are coming to beautiful pass when Traitors are allowed to promulgate these venomous and Traitorous sentiments in our Glorious Land. Thank God we have the Army of the Union have the preservation of this Union in our own hands. We have no Copperheads here but all are willing to shed our best blood for the Union of this blest and favoured land." By July 1863, the 59th Ohio was stationed in McMinnville, Tennessee, and it appears from his letters that Grant was living outside of camp as a boarder in a private house since he was working as a carpenter for the regiment and needed work space. In a July 16 letter, Grant describes (with a pencil drawing) how the Union forts are constructed. "I think you have a wrong impression about Forts being under ground. Our forts here are lines of Earthworks thrown up for the protection of Infantry and Artillery. Consisting of a deep ditch on the one side and a pile of earth thrown up breast high lined inside by...twiggs [sic] of trees roled [sic] up in a long roles and tied by wire bands and horizontally one upon the other breast high to keep the dirt from caving in....A redout [sic] is a square Earth work containing a Block house Magazine and Cistern and four guns one at each corner. These redouts [sic] are placed in commanding positions within the main line of defences [sic] and commanding each other or in other words in supporting distance of each other in case the enemy should take one or more of them the guns of the others could be brought to bear against them. These Block houses are built of sollid [sic] timber two feet thick and pierced with port holes for musketry. They are covered with heavy plank and upon that several feet of earth."
The 59th Ohio participated in the Battle of Chickamauga on September 18-20, 1863, with Union forces retreating to Chattanooga, where they were under siege by Confederate forces. The siege was ended when Union forces, including the 59th Ohio drove Confederate forces from Missionary Ridge on November 26, 1863. Three days before, on November 23, Grant wrote to his wife that the 59th Ohio had already begun its movement toward the enemy. "On Monday...we wer [sic] ordered to fall in and after receiving and distributing 100 round of ammunition to the men we started and formed a junction with the 13th Ohio forming one Regiment. Our Brigade formed in column outside of the works and marched direct for the rebel lines. As our line of skirmishers advanced we moved up ready at any moment to deploy into line of Battle. It was a beautiful sight to see our whole line advancing and rebels retreating. We pushed on and gained a good position and commenced throwing up rifle pitts [sic] and breastworks. The enemy opened out on us from Missionary Ridge with shot and shell which fell all around us and amongst us but fortunately none was hurt. Our line was now was about a mile and a quarter from the foot of the ridge. Here we spent the night....The morning broke....We were in full sight of the enemy who were martialing there [sic] forces on the top of the ridge....The air was full of shell...on we pushed for the ridge and up we went determined to have the hill or die in the attempt."
Sometime in late 1863 or early 1864, Grant was promoted to 1st sergeant in Company F. The 59th Ohio participated in General William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign and sometime on May 27, Grant was captured by Confederate troops and sent to Camp Sumter at Andersonville Prison. In a letter from the prison, dated June 20, Grant provides details of his capture and the prison. "I was very unwell the day I was taken and unfit for duty but I knew that we would have a brush with the Enemy and I nerved myself for the occasion. It was about nine oclock in the evening when the Rebels made a charge on our single line and we could neather [sic] tell friend from foe. I could not realize that I was a prisoner until they began to search me for arms. I gave up my sword which was all I had....I must say that with one exception they wer [sic] a very gentlemanly set of men and on our march...we became quite intimate and friendly....I entered the prison...on the 10th day of June....I have had excellent health since I have been here but that is more than I can say for a good many. The diareah [sic] and scurvy is taking a good many to there [sic] last resting place...there is here over 20,000 prisoners." The last letter in the archive is written on October 17 from Florence Military Prison in Florence, South Carolina. Grant was moved from Anderson in mid-October 1864. In his letter to his wife, he writes "we are enclosed by a stockade and strictly guarded....My health is only tolerable good. I have not the right kind of exercise to feel well neather [sic] the right kind of diet." He went on to ask his wife to send him food and clothing. Grant died on January 6, 1865 of disease as a prisoner of war.
The 59th Ohio Infantry was organized on October 1 at Camp Ammen at Ripley, Ohio and mustered in for three years service on September 12, 1861, under the command of Colonel James P. Fyffe. The regiment was recruited in Brown and Clermont counties. The regiment saw military action in a number of engagements and movements, including the Big Sandy Expedition, the Battle of Shiloh, the Siege of Corinth, the Battle of Stones River, the Battle of Chickamauga, the Siege of Chattanooga, the Battle of Missionary Ridge, and the Atlanta Campaign. The majority of 59th Ohio Infantry mustered out of service on October 31, 1864.
Condition: The letters have the usual folds; a handful of letters are split and are tearing and in fragile condition; overall the letters are in good condition.
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