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    Union Soldier Henry B. Ingalls of Company B, 76th Illinois Infantry, Archive of Letters. An extensive and remarkable archive consisting of 233, includes 208 from Ingalls to his wife and children; 8 letters from Mary Ingalls to her husband; 8 letters from Thomas W. McKenzie, of the 20th Illinois Infantry to his aunt, Mary Ingalls; 5 letters from Samuel McKenzie, possibly of the 14th Illinois Infantry, to his aunt, Mary Ingalls; and 4 Ingalls family letters from the late 19th century. The group also includes a post-war kepi and shot bag.

    Henry B. Ingalls (1821-?), born in Indiana, was mustered in as a private on August 22, 1862 and was mustered out of service on July 22, 1865. A painter by trade, Ingalls lived in Urbana, Champaign, Illinois, after the war. The 76th Illinois Infantry was organized in Kankakee, Illinois, in August, 1862 and mustered on August 22, 1862. Almost immediately, the infantry was ordered to Columbus, Kentucky, remaining there until early October 1862, when it was ordered to Bolivar, Tennessee. At the end of November, it accompanied General Ulysses S. Grant on his campaign along the Mississippi Central Railroad and in the spring and summer of 1863, the infantry participated in Grant's siege of Vicksburg. The Infantry also participated in General Sherman's movements against Jackson, Mississippi, seeing action at the Big Black River and at Champion's Hill. The infantry also saw action in the battles of Benton, Vaughn's Station, and Deasonville. Later in the war, the 76th Illinois Infantry was stationed at Mobile, Alabama, and Galveston, Texas. It was mustered out on July 22, 1865 and ordered to Chicago, where it was disbanded on August 4, 1865.

    Ingalls' 208 letters to his wife and children date from August 9, 1862, soon after he enlisted, to July 9, 1865, weeks before he mustered out of service. His letters vary in length, though most are between 3-4 pages in length, and various sizes, though most 4.5" x 9.5" and 7.25" x 9.25." Seven letters are on patriotic letterhead and 23 are on U.S. Christian Commission letterhead. Ingalls' letters offer a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a Union soldier during three critical years in the Civil War including the siege of Vicksburg and the many engagements his regiment fought in.

    Soon after he was mustered in, Ingalls and his regiment were ordered to Columbus, Kentucky. In his third letter to his wife from there, dated September 2, 1862, Ingalls complained about not having arms or ammunition. "I think it A Shame to put us here in the Enemy's Country And give us nothing to defend our Selves with." By his next letter, on September 9, Ingalls mentioned that the men had received Enfield rifles, which were "very god [sic] guns," along with "twenty pounds of Ammunition." In a September 17 letter from Columbus, Ingalls, who had a low opinion of blacks, complains about the many runaway slaves in camp. "There is About nine hundred negroes in this place And more coming in Every day. And i tell you what it is they have. A great deal More privilege than we do for they Can Come And go when And where they please. And if one of the Soldiers is Caught down town without A pass he is put in the guard house. And that is not the worst for our Men Are detailed Every day to do fateague [sic] duty which is to go to the river And unload Boats And the negroes Stand And look on. It is degrading in the Extreme."

    After spending time in Columbus, Kentucky, the 76th Illinois Infantry moved to Bolivar, Tennessee. Ingalls wrote home on October 8 from Bolivar, reporting on the recent engagement at Corinth, where Union forces under General William Rosecrans defeated Confederate forces. "Price [Confederate Major General Sterling Price] is Completely Cleaned out. They whipped him At Corinth And he Started to Retreat this way And general hurlbert [Union General Stephen A. Hurlbut] left this place And Met him And whipped him Again. And general Rosecrans is After him yet. And we got news this Morning that he had taken Eight thousand More prisoners. We have About Seven hundred of them here And looking for More this Evening." In an October 14, 1862 letter Ingalls confided to his wife his belief that the war would soon be over, because "we Are whiping [sic] them on Every Side And Because they have not Much to Eat." His optimism on an early end to the war, however, did not extend to army life. Writing to his wife on November 2 from Bolivar, Ingalls claimed that had he known "what i do now they Might have drafted Me But i never would have went of My own Acord But then the thing is done And it Cant Bee helped. But Mary it is A Shame the way we Are treated By our officers. But we will Remember them when we get home. Some of them May want Some favor And then we will See who has Command."

    Ingalls got his first taste of battle at the end of November 1862. In a November 22 letter he wrote of a skirmish involving Confederate troops under General Sterling Price. His regiment "had to March for Holly Springs wel [sic] we had one hard days March when we were halted our Advance having come up to the Enemy. We were drawn up in line of Battle. Our Advance had A Skirmish with prices [Price's] out posts And we captured one hundred prisoners." In a few weeks, Ingalls' regiment moved into Mississippi to join the forces under General Grant. Ingalls had high praise for Grant, which is clearly evident in his December 9 letter to his wife from Camp Cowan, Mississippi. "Mary the News is glorious from grant [Grant]. He is the Man to push things. He has gave [sic] Brag [Bragg] what he needed A good thrashing. They think the Rebs will Come here And try to take this place Again ...well let them come they will Receive A warm Reception here for the Boys Are highly Elated with the Success of their old Commander And they will first just As well As if he was here...we All think that grant is the Right Man in the Right place And if they will let him Alone he will Soon finish the Job."

    On March 3, 1863, Congress passed the Enrollment Act or Military Draft Act in order to provide fresh manpower for the Union armies. Four days later, on March 7, Ingalls wrote home from Lafayette, Tennessee, and reported that "there is a "great deal Said here About the Conscription Act....The Soldiers like it for we think it will fetch out Some of them fellows that like the South so well. We would like to get Some of them down here And put them through And then we think that it will End the war."

    Ingalls' regiment participated in General Grant's siege of Vicksburg. Writing from Young's Point, Louisiana, on May 17, 1863, Ingalls recounts being under fire from Confederate guns in Vicksburg. "We had a fine view of our gun Boats Shelling the City last knight [sic]. We had A Bought [sic] trip down the river the first knight [sic]. We had to Anchor out in the River on Acount [sic] of the fog And the next knight [sic] we were the hind Most Boat And were Running very nice when we Run Close to Shore And the first thing we knew we were fired into By the Rebs on Shore. Well Mary you had Better Believe the Balls flew thick i was laying on the upper deck i had My gun By Me And i went to Shooting But i Could not See only when the Rebels would fire AT us...our Boat unshiped [sic] her ruder [sic] And then we Could not do Any thing with her So we had to Signal of distress And it was not long till one of the gunboats came to our Relief." Vicksburg surrendered to General Grant's army on July 4, 1863 and four days later Ingalls wrote to his wife, describing the end of the successful siege. "We have Been forty seven days in front of this place And we have Been toiling incesantly [sic] day And knight [sic]. At knight [sic] we would Advance our lines And dig new Rifle pits And through the day it would Bee [sic] death to the Reb that would Show his head And we Advanced in that way till we got So Close that we could throw over in to their forts....So on the third they Sent out A flag of truce to General grant And wanted to Surrender on Conditions But general grant told them that it Must Bee [sic] An unconditional Surrender And gave them till 9 o Clock the fourth to give up the place....At 9 o Clock the white flags went up And their flag Came down And then Mary Sick Shouts As Rent the Air And the glorious fourth." On July 17 Ingalls wrote of the condition of the many Confederate prisoners in camp. "Thousands of the prisoners here Say they will never fight Against the old flag Again And i think they Ment [sic] what they Said. Why Mary they Acted like hogs After they surendred [sic]. They Came to our Camp And Just to See [sic] them go Round And gather up ole Crackers that we had thrown Away And Eat them. They Said it was A luxury to get officers Bread for they Said that was the kind of Bread their officers get. The Bread they had was Made of Beans And Rice ground together."

    Ingalls did get home on a furlough in August of 1863. He returned to his regiment, which was then stationed on Natchez, Mississippi, in middle of September. On October 13 he wrote home, informing his wife that he had been appointed Commissary Sergeant of his company. "My business is to draw And issue Rations to the Boys And it also Relieves Me from All other duty So you see i do not have to Stand guard these dark wet knights [sic] nor do I have to Stand on the lonly [sic] picket post....My duty is comparatively nothing for it only takes Me half A day in Every five to draw And issue rations the Balance of the time i Can do as i like." From October through January 1864 things were quiet for Ingalls and his regiment. Then during the month of February 1864, his regiment was employed in a long march. On March 5, writing from a camp outside of Vicksburg, Ingalls apologized to his wife or his long silence, explaining that "we had no Communication with our Rear. We Started on the third of February And got Back on the fourth of March. We were out one Month. We have Marched About four hundred Miles Since we left And destroyed About Sixty Miles of Railroad Besides Burning About ten or twelve towns." Two days later, March 7, Ingalls offered more details concerning the march, including several skirmishes with Confederate forces. His description of these engagements included this one incident in which an innocent civilian was killed. "[O]ne of the Sadest [sic] things of the trip hapened [sic] the Rebs got Behind A house And there was A woman And Six Children in the house. They kept Shooting out from Behind the house And of Course we kept firing Back And just At this time the woman opened the door And She was Shot dead in the door And it was A Sad Sight to See [sic] her laying there And her Little Children Around her."

    In an April 22, 1863 letter from a camp near the Big Black River in Mississippi, Ingalls expresses his fear to his wife that Union General Elias S. Dennis was a traitor. "You need not Bee [sic] Surprised if you hear of our All Being taken prisoners Some of these Mornings for i Believe the Man that has Command of this part is A Rebel At hart And i will tell you why i think So. He Lets the Rebs Come in here to Buy provisions. Why Mary there will Bee [sic] As Many As A hundred Men And women Come in of A day And not only that But he Lets Rebel officers Come in under A flag of truce. He takes them to his head quarters And they have high times i Believe they would Come in with out A flag of truce if they were not Afraid of the pickets But he has not got them under his thumb. He make the Men take them too [sic] and fro Across the River in A Boat....There is A Store here where they trade At And the Boys went to him And told him if he did not quit Selling to the Rebels they would tear his house down But he paid no Attention...So the other knight [sic] there was About one thousand of them went over And cleaned him out. The guards tried Stop them But they Could not do any thing with them And then they told general dennis if he did not Stop the Rebs from Coming over here they would hang him."

    Camped near Vicksburg in July 11, 1864, Ingalls recounted for his wife an engagement his regiment was involved in a week before around the towns of Clinton and Jackson, Mississippi. July 4 was spent marching "in the hot Sun...we got to Clinton on the Evening of the fourth and Commenced Skirmishing But it did not Amount to Much for the Rebs Soon fell Back. The next Morning there was Another Slight Skirmish they did not trouble us Any More till in the next After noon when they gave us Some More trouble But we got to Jackson that Evening. We Staid there till the next Evening and Started Back And got About three Miles from Jackson when the Rebs Came out in force And we were pushed A head to Support A Batery [sic]. Well we Lay under fire for About two hours till darkness put a Stop to the fighting...the next Morning we Are Brought out in Line Again And Are pushed to the front And kept there for five hours And then we had to Retreat. Our Regiment was Left with out Any Support And had to hold three times our number So As to Save our train And we did it But oh My god what a Storm of Balls And Shells we had to face Mary...thank god we Are Safe....The Loss in the Regiment is 105 kiled [sic] wounded And Missing." In a subsequent letter, dated July 20, Ingalls described killing a Confederate soldier. "Mary it Seems Like A hard thing to Shoot A Man But when you Are Shot At All you think of is to Shoot. Well i Shot Sixty four times during the Battle And i Emtied [sic] one Saddle for when we were Retreating there was one officer that was urging on his Men And Some of our Boys Caled [sic] to Me Shoot him. Well i Stoped [sic] turned And fired And he went head formost [sic] out of his Saddle."

    Except for his comments on the federal conscription act, Ingalls had little to say concerning the political situation during the war. However, in a letter dated October 16, 1864, written from camp at the mouth of the White River in Arkansas, he offered his opinion on the upcoming presidential election between Abraham Lincoln and former General George B. McClellan. "My dear i do firmly Believe that if Lincoln is Re Elected we will have peace in the Spring But if Mclelan [sic] is Elected we will have to Stay our time out And then have A dishonorable peace But i feel Confident that old Abe will Bee [sic] the Man for Mary we have Lost too Many Men to Submit to a dishonorable peace...if the Soldiers were Alowed [sic] to vote old Abe would go in By A Big Majority for they All want him Re Elected." On a November 20 letter from DuValls Bluff, Arkansas, Ingalls expressed his pleasure at the outcome of the election. "My dear i hear that the Election has gone All Right. Well it Caused Some glad hearts here i tell well i think them Coperheads [sic] will hide themselves from this time forward And I hope we will Soon have peace Again."

    At the turn of 1865, Ingalls and his regiment were transferred to New Orleans, which did not impress Ingalls. In a January 19, 1865, letter to his wife and children, he mentioned that he visited the city, spending one day and night. He found the streets "very narrow not wider than Mercer St. in Cincinnati And then the houses Are old And Look Shabby But there is Some very nice places. Jackson Square is A Beautiful place And Clay's Monument is verry [sic] nice But the Most Attractive place to Mee [sic] is the River to See the Ships from the Man of war to the Small Schooner." After spending time in a camp outside of New Orleans, Ingall's regiment moved on to the Gulf Coast of Florida and then to Blakeley, Alabama, where it participated in the Battle of Fort Blakeley, which took place from April 2-9, 1865. In a letter dated April 5, Ingalls describes the intense siege of the fort. "My dear here we Are in the Midst of death Sieging this place. The Shells and Balls Are flying As think As hale [sic] But thank god there has none of our Company Been hirt [sic] yet. We have Been here four days we drove the Rebs in to their forts the first day And now we have got to Siege them out. This is one of the Main defenses to Mobile...And we have them Surrounded only on the River Side And our fleet is coming."

    In an April 17, 1865 letter from Mary Ingalls to her husband, she described the national mourning in the wake of President Lincoln's death. Written on a Sunday after the assassination, Mary noted that "every boddy [sic] had a sad and solome [sic] face every house was hung in morning [sic]. The flags was at half mast and drape in morning [sic] on acount [sic] of the death of our president. We had had Joy for one week but all our Joy was turned to morning [sic] we hurd [sic] that linken had bin [sic] shot we could not belive [sic] it until the bells told [sic] out the afful [sic] truth." Meanwhile, Ingalls, in his letter to Mary from Blakeley, Alabama, had not yet heard of the tragedy by April 19 when he wrote of the celebrating among the troops at the recent news of Lee's surrender at Appomattox. "The Boys they were perfectly wild with joy And Me with the Rest god Bless, Ingalls claimed, and he noted that the newspapers reported "great Rejoicing in the north when they heard of the Capture of Lee and Johnson And then the Capture of Mobile." Surprisingly, Ingalls never mentioned Lincoln's death in any of his letters from this time.

    Condition: Except for the usual folds, most of the letters in the archive, housed in four three-ring binders, are in good to fine condition. Most are written in ink and most are very legible. There are several that are either in fair condition and a few that are barely legible due to fading ink or pencil. The kepi had the initials "H I" stitched in the lining, but it is post-war and likely belonged to a son of the family. There is heavy moth damage above the brim; the buttons have an anchor design and read "Boys Brigade". The shot bag has heavy wear and was most likely used for hunting, and not during the war.







    More Information:

    Thomas W. McKenzie, a nephew of Mary Ingalls, wife of Henry Ingalls, served in Company A, 20th Illinois Infantry. He enlisted as a private on June 13, 1861 and was discharged on June 13, 1864. The 20th Illinois Infantry was engaged in several battles, including Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg, and the Atlanta Campaign. The 8 letters from this McKenzie to Mary Ingalls date from March 4, 1863 to December 2, 1863. Most of the letters are two pages in length and are of various sizes.

    Samuel McKenzie, another nephew of Mary Ingalls, may be the same Samuel McKenzie that served in Company H, 14th Illinois Infantry, though the roster of the infantry mentions that McKenzie committed suicide on May 25, 1863.  This is either incorrect information or it's a different McKenzie, since the last letter from him to his aunt is dated October 23, 1864. The five letters from this McKenzie to Mary Ingalls date from April 11, 1863 to October 23, 1864. Most of the letters are two pages in length and are of various sizes. 



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