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Doc. 19.-capture of Brashear City.

Private letters from a member of the one hundred and Seventy-Sixth New-York volunteers, (Ironsides.)

Brashear, June 22, 1863.
dear----: I write, as the Irishman would say, to tell you that you need not be surprised if you do not get this letter, as all communication is cut off. We, that is, the remnant still left of the once gallant One Hundred and Seventy-sixth, are in hourly expectation of being taken prisoners, yet strange to say the general tendency is to laugh and joke over our interesting situation, and [76] to regard rather the comical than the lugubrious side of the question. I will, however, commence the history from the beginning, and proceed as far as the progress of events will allow me, leaving the still dubious conclusion for another edition.

Yesterday morning at three o'clock, our men were waked up for an expedition; as I have already written to you, we have had an enormous number of false alarms and bogus expeditions of late, and there being fair reason to suppose that this affair belonged to the same category, every one staid behind who could possibly find a pretext for doing so, and those who had to go turned out growling at nervous commandants in general, and at Lieutenant-Colonel Stickney, of “Bosting,” in particular. The troops were marched down to the depot, and shortly afterward we heard the train bearing them eastward. Pretty soon followed another, loaded with our rivals, the Twenty-third Connecticut. You will perhaps remember Bayou Lafourche, one of the largest in the parish, about midway between Brashear and Algiers; Thibodeau, the capital of the parish, lies three miles to the north of the railroad, on this bayou.

The first news we heard, was that a body of rebel cavalry, from two thousand to three thousand strong, had taken Thibodeau, defeating the provost-guard, (company D,) and capturing the Provost-Marshal, Captain Howe. This has been mostly confirmed. The rebels then marched upon the railroad bridge at Lafourche, where were stationed three Connecticut companies, and two or three field-pieces. It was at this time that our men were sent for from Brashear, and they arrived in time to take part in the battle fought for the possession of the bridge, which continued about all day. As soon as these telegrams were received, of course many of the officers and men who had managed to remain behind when they thought the affair was a mere sham, were anxious to join their companies, and have their share of the fun. I obtained permission to go down with them, and shouldered a musket, and strapped on accoutrements for the first time in seven or eight months. Even the drummers caught the infection, and borrowing sick men's guns, fell into the ranks. Woful was the disappointment when we found that all the available rolling stock had already been sent off, and that we could not get down. Meanwhile the wires were cut; the last news received from our operator at Lafourche being, that the fight was still progressing, and that our men were doing well. Rumors of course came in thick and fast, and all speaking of defeat and disaster.

A cautious locomotive was sent down in the afternoon on a scouting trip, and came back with the intelligence that the stronghold at Terre Bonne had fallen, and that Lieutenant Lyon was a prisoner; that the bridge at Lafourche was burnt, and our forces were on the New-Orleans side of the bayou; that the artillery there had been taken, and was on its way up to assist in the reduction of Brashear; that in consequence we were cut off from all assistance by land, and unless we could get reinforcements by water, would be compelled to evacuate the place, and skedaddle on our tug-boat. This latter, however, is not big enough to hold us all, and would probably be riddled before she reached the Gulf. So the Quartermaster's hair stood up on end, as usual, and Shelly, Beveridge and I went to packing, in case boats should come around to take us off in a hurry.

. . . . . . . .

There are one million five hundred thousand dollars' worth of United States stores in this place, consisting in rations, tents, guns, ammunition, etc. To protect them we have about a hundred and twenty available men in our two regiments, two or three hundred convalescents, a small gunboat, and two or three pieces of artillery. Most of the men are, however, sick, and all are fagged out with extra guard-duty. At Bayou Boeuf, ten or twelve miles below, we have two or three companies, and two guns.

All the regular drum-calls were beat yesterday, to give the “rebs” on the other side the idea that we still had men in camp; it was comical to see the drummers go through dress parade alone. Last night we burnt Berwick, the town opposite us, and as I was on guard all night, I had a fine opportunity of witnessing the blaze. A boat's crew from the gunboat applied the torches, exchanging volleys with some hidden rascals as they did so. There was a high wind, and the sight was magnificent. The dry frame buildings blazed like tinder, throwing up enormous piles of flame and smoke, that must have been visible in Thibodeau. The sight would probably not improve the state of rebel temper toward us. The houses have long been empty, and are by the Confiscation Act the property of Uncle Sam, so the measure was not so barbarous as the rebel papers will probably represent, although I am by no means sure that it was necessary.

Colonel Duganne is sick, and we have a live major of cavalry in command of the post, and I expect if there is a resistance to be made, he will make it.

To-day, Sunday, it has rained heavily all day, probably impeding the rebel advance, especially if they have field-pieces to drag. I have my “duds” all ready to move at a moment's notice, and have arranged a plan to blow up my twenty-eight thousand rounds cartridge and forty rifles, if the rascals succeed in gaining a foothold on the island. I will await the developments of the morrow, before continuing my letter.

Monday, June 23.
This morning we sent down a skirmishing train to investigate things. Two dirt-cars were rendered defensible by parapets of logs, and filled with about fifty sharp-shooters. I tried ha rd to get off, but had to confess I was not much of a shot, and was rejected with about fifty other aspirants to glory. “Never mind, boys,” said Major Anthony, “we will soon have work for you all.” The Major, who belongs to a cavalry regiment, [77] is a good fellow, and we have great confidence in him.

We sent our train off with a “God speed,” with instructions to go as far as they could, and investigate statu quo. They got through to Terre Bonne without mishap, and were there hospitably welcomed by the two guns which once belonged to that miserable stockade. The twenty-four pounders whistled about the locomotive, and as our boys were not prepared to resist artillery, they were obliged to put back. They described Terre Bonne as well garrisoned by the rebels, but as to the state of the road beyond, or what has become of our reginent at Lafourche, they can of course say nothing.

One thing is evident — that we are isolated, blocked in, and that unless we can get a seaworthy boat from New-Orleans, we must either fight our way through, starve, or surrender.

This afternoon, having nothing better to do, we took a tug, and to the number of fifteen, plus half a dozen negroes, started down the bay to look for rebels and molasses. The former were not to be seen, but we obtained eight or ten casks of half-boiled syrup from a deserted sugar-house. We had got the stuff about half on board when an alarm was raised from the upper deck, that the rebels were advancing through the woods, and I was ordered to take five or six men and see if the rascals really were there. So I deployed my little force as skirmishers, and we advanced across the clearing as fast as the swampy ground and tall grass would permit, expecting every moment to be fired at from the woods. Nothing was found, however, but the glistening edges of the palmetto leaves, which the boat's captain had mistaken for bayonets, so we loaded our syrup, and steamed back to port, covered with glory and mud.

In the sugar-house, a dirty, dilapidated old shed, a poor family had taken shelter when Berwick was first shelled, and had night before last seen their home there burnt to ashes. There was a mother, down with the fever, two very pretty girls between sixteen and twenty, four or five little ones, and a sickly-looking father, with no work and no money. They were, according to their own account, good unionists, and had suffered at the hands of the “rebs” in consequence, and now were losing their last remaining property by the hands of the Federals. The husband had done some work for the United States, but had, as usual, received no pay, for you must know it is the very hardest thing in the world to get pay from the Government for stray jobs. The quartermasters are supposed to discharge such bills, but are seldom provided with funds for the purpose, so that the poor applicant may wait and want a long time before he gets his due. Persecuted and hunted like dogs by the rebels, suspected, worried, and cheated by the Federals, and plundered by both sides and the darkeys, the fate of the Union men of the South is not one to be envied.

I am writing down this account of the occurrences of each day, rather because, every thing being packed, and the regiment absent, I have nothing else to do, than in the thought that such details can be of much interest to you, however important they may be to me. The grand denouement is what you will want to hear, and that I may be able to give you in to-morrow's journal. Good night.

July 1, 1863.
. . . . . . . .

Although we had a week of suspense and anticipation, the shock was still a great one. The Ironsides regiment is no more; its officers are killed and captured, its men cut to pieces and prisoners on parole. The post given us to hold is in the hands of the rebels, and the lone star of Texas floats over the road from Brashear almost to Algiers.

I write in durance vile, and in considerable doubt whether my letter will ever reach its destination. I will now attempt to relate how the above unfortunate state of affairs was brought about.

We were awakened at dawn on the morning of the twenty-third by the screeching of shells, and the whistling of Minie balls, and soon found that our camp and town was being bombarded from the other side. There was naturally considerable excitement at this discovery, an excitement differing somewhat from that which you had an opportunity of witnessing, for I assure you there is a great difference between being shelled and shelling. The two guns that yet remained to us had been placed in position down the railroad, as we expected the attack from the direction of Terre Bonne, but they were speedily brought back and brought into action, and our men in camp, taking advantage of trees, little embankments, corners of houses, etc., for shelter, commenced using their muskets with considerable effect. By the united efforts of our artillery and infantry, after a sharp interchange of fire of a couple of hours, the rebels were fairly driven from their guns, with a loss, by their own admission, of from ten to fifteen men, while we had lost but one.

I fired two or three shots, but am ignorant whether or not I am guilty of manslaughter. I was principally exercised to get my ammunition into a place of safety, for if a shell had struck it, the results might have been most disastrous.

Almost all our darkeys had fled on the mules when the first shot was fired, and I could get hold of but one team, and would you believe it, . . . but I managed to stow the official papers into the cart, and off he rode, and I didn't see him for a day or two, till he was brought back a prisoner.

Our men were still drawn up in a straggling line along the shore answering the rebel musketry, when shot were suddenly poured in upon us from behind, and from the orange grove on the left, while the firing from the other shore redoubled in vigor.

Our men thus hemmed in between three fires, naturally broke and fell into disorder, which moment the Texas improved by charging with the [78] bayonet, yelling and whooping at .the tops of their voices as they did so. Captain Thomason, the only officer excepting our sick Colonel left in camp, succeeded in forming a line in front of the Twenty-third Connecticut camp along the road, but after delivering two or three volleys, it was found impossible to stand under the concentrated fire, and then it was sauve qui peut. The cooler heads retired slowly, stopping behind each tree to deliver a shot at the advancing enemy, and loading as they ran. One little squad, commanded by a corporal of the One Hundred and Fourteenth, especially distinguished themselves by the steadiness with which they retreated, delivering their fire in two directions at once. A large portion, however, rushed pellmell down the road to the depot, offering as they passed a fair mark both to the guns from the other side, and to the rebels already occupying a parallel road but a few hundred feet distant.

Our Colonel, nerved to exertion by the exigency of the moment, managed to mount his horse, and calling to those nearest to follow him, started for the depot, intending to make a stand there, or if that were impossible, to run a locomotive through to Bayou Boeuf, and escape with the men there on the gunboat. His strength was not equal to his will, however; he fainted and fell from his horse on reaching the hospital, after passing through a perfect hailstorm of bullets unharmed. As soon as I heard the shouts behind us, I concluded we were lost, and tried with Shelly to get the ammunition into the bay.

But the boxes were heavy, and there were too many of them, and we could get no help, so after moving a couple we gave it up. I then piled up some straw, and set fire to the building, and seeing the Colonel start off, took my gun and followed, when he fell, struck as I thought by a bullet. Seeing that all was lost, and finding it impossible to reach the depot, as we were being fired upon from there by our own men, I turned into the camp of the Fourth Massachusetts, and surrendered myself to the first halfdozen of ragged rascals who ran up.

The prisoners were marched back to our camp as they were picked up, and I was provoked to find that my fire had blazed out, and the small stores and cartridges were still unharmed. Perhaps the most gallant stand of the day was made by a portion of the provost-guard defending our twenty-four pounder. Out of the five defenders, four, including the Lieutenant (L. W., Stephenson) and the Sergeant (Deming) were shot down; it is hoped all will recover. Captain Cutter, who, on account of illness had his quarters in the village, came out on hearing the tumult, and on being told to deliver up his sword, replied, “I never surrender,” and fell immediately, shot through the head.

He was one of the best men among our officers, a gentleman, a scholar, and a soldier, and his loss is much deplored by all who knew him.

We lost from the portion of our regiment here, five or six killed, and fifteen or eighteen wounded; from the whole post about fifty killed and wounded. The larger part of this loss occurred in the convalescent camp, as it was on that side that the attack was made; and although the men there were partly unarmed, had no officers, were all more or less sick, and made no resistance, they were for the first few moments shot down without mercy, from a misapprehension on the part of the rebels as to the nature of the camp.

Our regiment and the remnant of the One Hundred and Fourteenth were the only ones which did any fighting at all, the Twenty-Third Connecticut and the Fourth Massachusetts succumbing almost immediately.

After the town had been captured, the fort of course could make no resistance, as it has no defences on the land side; and the guns, being mounted en barbette, could not be turned against the assailing party. It was surrendered unconditionally. After the prisoners had been collected in our camp, we were marched up to the fort, and huddled up within the narrow precincts of the camp there. They numbered in all about one thousand two hundred, of whom full eight hundred were sick. Our own regiment lost about two hundred. Our captors were the most ragged, dirty-looking set of rascals I had ever seen. There was plenty of pluck and spirit among them, but a great want of order and discipline. The only thing uniform about them was dirt-shirts, pants, and skin being all of a fine mud color. They all carried pistols and dirks, but while the greater number had Enfields, the rest were armed with carbines and buck-shot guns. The officers had little or nothing to distinguish them from the privates, though sometimes a suit of gray made its appearance. There appeared, however, to be a great abundance of them, as every third man was addressed as captain or lieutenant, and at least every tenth as major or colonel. They formed the advanced-guard of a force of four brigades, ten thousand men, under General Moerton, which occupied a couple of days in coming up and crossing. There was a very large proportion of cavalry, for as one of the men said to me: “Texans won't walk.” They were on the whole, a good-natured, jolly set of country boys, many of them only just entered into the service, and they treated us with considerable kindness and humanity, although our fare was for some days four hard tacks per diem, and our beds the bare ground. However, they gave us what they had, and enjoyed little better quarters themselves.

The party which had attacked us behind had passed over Flat Lake in scows and small boats, and lay concealed in the swamp in the rear of the camps a day or two, until they heard their guns open upon us from the other side. They were to have made the attack at four in the morning, in which case the carnage would have been much greater. As it was, our surprise was complete, for the swamps had been pronounced by our engineers to be impassable, (and so I [79] believe they would be to any but Texans,) and we feared nothing in the rear, except from down the railroad in case Bayou Boeuf should be taken by force in possession of Terre Bonne. As it was, with our men scattered through half-a-dozen camps, the greater part sick, and without organization or officers, I don't know that we could have done much better than we did, though if we had had a little more time we could have destroyed the stores. But although our regiment was not disgraced, it was a sad sight to see the Stars and Stripes trailing in the dust, and our regimental colors carried off in triumph, and many of our men vowed they would have another crack at the rascals, and avenge the insult before going home.

The privates and non-commissioned officers were paroled, while the commissioned were taken off to a Dixian prison, probably in Houston, Texas.

Getting tired of doing nothing at the “prisoners' camp,” I volunteered with three or four others to help nurse our sick and wounded at the hospital, as nurses were much needed. I expected only to stay till the paroled men were sent across our lines, but when they left, the Doctor pressed me so hard to remain, that I decided I ought to do so, only hesitating at the thought that you would be anxious at not hearing from me.

Having expected to go till the last moment, I had not even time to send a line by a friend, and don't know when you will get this.

The Colonel had deputed me to bear the intelligence of the capture of the post to General Emory, and to give the General such information as I could about the numbers and designs of the enemy. He had also requested me to write an account of the affair to Mr. B-for publication. These two commissions I regretted much not to be able to fulfil; but as almost all our nurses seized the opportunity to go, I didn't like to desert our wounded, and with two others, decided to stay.

Our doctors have worked like Trojans the whole time. The balls whistled through the house during the engagement, as our red hospital flag was mistaken for an ordnance flag, and two sick men and one negro woman were killed, but the two doctors went on amputating and cutting out balls with perfect sang froid during the whole storm; and their work was capitally done, and all our wounded are now in a fair way for recovery. The Surgeon of the Fourth Massachusetts ran away early in the action, and the confederate doctors are a lazy, and, I believe, an ignorant set, so that all the work is thrown upon the hands of our men.

Nursing is quite new work for me, and I can't say I like the occupation, but I am getting used to it, and it is better than doing nothing in a parole camp.

Bayou Boeuf, surrounded on all sides, fell without a struggle, which added Colonel Duganne, two Lieutenants, and company I, to the number of prisoners. I had almost forgotten the Quartermaster, who was also taken there.

The men at Lafourche succeeded in repulsing the rebels three times, with considerable loss, but the fourth attack being made with a larger force, the place was taken and the One Hundred and Seventy-Sixth regiment wiped out of existence. Although it has not achieved the triumphs that fond friends hoped for it, it has not fallen ingloriously, but remained at its post to the last, and was lost not through the fault of its men or officers, but owing to the mistaken generalship which left it a prey to a much superior force.

We know not as yet what friends or comrades we have lost at the battle of Lafourche, but according to all accounts the carnage was great. The enemy was again repulsed at Raceland, but after repeated efforts, succeeded in storming the place. From thence they made an attack yesterterday on Donaldsonville, where they were defeated. I understand they intend to make a dash at New-Orleans, and they are confident that Banks will be compelled to raise the siege of Port Hudson in order to save the capital of his department.

Of further movements you will be better informed than I, as I can hear but little here, and that through rebel sources.

I must not forget to tell you that Mrs.----has been unremitting in her attentions to our sick and wounded, and comes almost every day with Miss----to the hospital, with sheets, drawers, shirts, socks, etc., which are much needed. She is certainly a most kind-hearted woman. I lost almost all my personal baggage, but she has given me a mattress, mosquito-bar, pillows, socks, etc., so that I can get along pretty well. Her husband is home, and has beer placed in charge of the road, so she is happy, but she has seen enough of fighting. Several bullets passed through her house, and two or three men were killed in the garden. I was under severe fire two or three times, but escaped unhurt, and am in a fair state of health.

Brashear City, La., July 7, 1863.
dear mother: I managed to send off a long letter to M — about a week ago, relating the sad capture of this place, and the complete disorganization of our regiment, in consequence of the loss of its officers and the cutting up and capture of our men. I also stated that I had remained behind to help care for our wounded, instead of proceeding with the rest of our paroled men to our own lines.

I have now been two weeks here in the hospital, and matters have changed but little. The gunboats have not yet arrived to recapture the place, nor has the flag of truce boat come to bear us all to New-Orleans. We can hear but little of what is occurring between us and the city, but there are indistinct murmurs to the effect that the rebel advance has received a severe check at Donaldsonville, about fifty miles from New-Or [80] leans, and has halted there, awaiting reenforcements. The stake the rebels are playing for is the capture of the Crescent City itself, and to effect this they are rapidly massing all their forces upon the one point. The Texan brigades were poured rapidly across the frontier and thrown against our feeble defences along this railroad, with what effect I have already told you. We delayed their advance one week, however, according to their own account, by the bold front put on by our almost empty camps, and by fortifying Bayou Boeuf and other places along the road. A fragment of the One Hundred and Seventy-sixth, assisted by a part of the Twenty-third Connecticut, held them at bay four or five days more at Lafourche, a little further down the road, with considerable loss of life on both sides. So that we did our share toward resisting the invasion of the Vandals; and if New-Orleans is not prepared, it is not our fault.

A column of eight thousand men, from the rebel army in Arkansas, is daily expected to cross at this place and support the Texans, while General Kirby Smith is said to be advancing down the east bank of the Mississippi with the troops from Mississippi and Alabama. According to their own accounts they have risked all on this last attempt, and are bound to regain possession of the Department of the Gulf or perish in the struggle. I think they are in earnest, and I do hope Banks and his advisers are aware of and are equal to the exigency of the moment.

Our wounded have not been badly treated by our captors; they give them what they have, but that is often very little. The weather has been very hot for the last few days, and the poor fellows have suffered much, and we have lost several.

To-day little Newlan died; he was a German boy, not more than seventeen years old, but a good soldier and a brave fellow.

He, with three others and a lieutenant, stood by one of our two cannons till the last moment.

Three of the five were struck down, and his comrades, scattered by the fire, fled to the depot and called upon him to follow, but he would not leave his lieutenant. In another moment they fell together; Lieutenant S----with a bullet through his foot, and poor little Newlan with his arm fractured, a ball through his body, and a charge of buckshot in the head.

He stood his wounds bravely, but this hot weather proved too much for him, and he died in great pain, babbling about his home in the “vaterland.”

There are many other pitiful cases in our hospital, and it makes one's heart sick to witness so much misery. But I suppose it is good discipline for a man.

We did not, as you may suppose, pass a very joyous Fourth. I never expected to celebrate it in captivity, where, among greater troubles, champagne and fire-crackers are an impossibility. Yesterday our colonel, lieutenant-colonel, and two lieutenants, who have been here on the sick list, were carried off up to Franklin, a town farther inland, where there is less danger of recapture.

Colonel Nott was as dignified, graceful, and self-possessed as ever, and appeared confident that this reverse was but temporary, and that our arms would soon recover their ascendency.

Brashear looks dreary enough at present; our long line of deserted and pillaged encampments, the closed and empty houses, the vacant railroad depot, once so busy, the cars standing idly on the track, the cessation of all business, the desolation and disorder everywhere apparent, contrast most painfully with the animation, busy life, and neatness of the scene a fortnight ago.

The view from my window of those fatal woods, of the disaster-bringing orange groves, and of the ruins of our once beautiful camp, is hateful to me, and it will be an immense relief to get rid of it.

One of the most melancholy features of the recapture I have omitted to notice — the hundreds of poor negroes who, taken with our troops, are doomed to a harsher fate, to a worse captivity than they ever before experienced. Oh! it is bitter to see them look half-reproachfully, half-imploringly to us, as they are driven off like sheep to the slaughter, as if to say: “How could you betray us, promising us liberty and safety, and now abandoning us to slavery and misery worse than death?” It makes my blood boil to see (as I saw yesterday) three cowardly ruffians driving before them a poor tottering old woman, and not to be able to strike a blow in her defence; to see my own faithful and intelligent servitor, lame and unfit for work, led off, separated from his wife, to hard labor, and to be obliged to disregard his appealing glance for help; to see able-bodied men on horseback driving before them at the point of the bayonet old and young, sick and well, all weary and starving so that they can hardly stand.

God must give us strength and victory to rescue these poor creatures, and I believe yet, in spite of the dark clouds about us, that he will do it.

During the attack many of the negroes escaped to the swamps, and some of the men probably succeeded in getting through to our lines. Many, however, as I was told by eye-witnesses, were shot down like dogs by the rebel pickets; and others, old women and mothers with babes in their arms, unable longer to stand the pangs of hunger and want of rest, have come in day after day, covered with mud, emaciated, and in rags, and surrendered themselves to the Texans. If you had seen these swamps, and could picture to yourself the horrors of exposure to the darkness, mire, alligators, snakes, flies, and mosquitoes, the wandering without food and without hope, you would form some idea of the fear with which these poor creatures regard their former masters, which induces them to dare all dangers rather than be again enslaved.

July 11.--I am still a prisoner and a hospital nurse, and shall hail with relief being freed from both positions, which I hope soon to be. My duties [81] as nurse are not as arduous now as they were at first, as those of my comrades most severely wounded have died, while the others are rapidly approaching recovery, and can almost take care of themselves. I am too seldom reminded that I am a prisoner, and as the hospital is not wholly destitute of books, I am able to while away the leisure hours. Besides several novels and English reviews, I have found a “Life of Jefferson,” which is, under the circumstances, a treasure. I also have had opportunities of talking with the rebel doctors, officers, and privates, and find it interesting to hear their side of the question, while at the same time I am by no means backward in stating and defending ours. One of the rebel captains appeared to take quite a fancy to me, and wanted me to go home with him to Texas, where he said he would direct my energies and my spunk into better courses than the defence of abolitionism. He thought I must have been raised in a perfect hot-bed of radicalism, which is a compliment to you and father.

I find these Southern champions are more doughty in the use of the sword than of the tongue, and their logic is easy to controvert. Unfortunately, this very want of logic renders them unable to see when they are discomfited, and by dint of frequent reiterations in a loud tone of voice, interrupting their opponent whenever he is about to say any thing provoking, and breaking off the contest with the sound of their own voice still ringing in their ears, they often leave off with the impression that they have been very successful.

This mode of arguing does not arise so much from want of courtesy as from ungovernable impetuosity of temperament.

M----may have mentioned to you, one of the reasons given her for secession is “the President's Emancipation Proclamation.” Ridiculous as it may seem, I have heard that and similar reasons assigned by many men who ought to know better. Many of the privates have very confused ideas of what they are fighting for, and in fact, being illiterate in the first degree, they have few opportunities of information, and have to believe what their officers tell them about the North and the war. One Texas captain to whom I offered some books told me there was not a man in his company could read. Testaments are almost unknown amongst them, and I have heard of but one regiment that had a chaplain. (Better even to have no chaplain than have one like ours.)

Both officers and men of course talk very confidently about their prospects in the war before us, but now and then, when caught off their guard, they don't speak so boldly, admit that it is impossible for them to fill up their ranks further, that they are short of clothing, food, and accoutrements, and that there is more or less discontent among their men. Many of the privates say openly they would give much if some accommodation could be made, in order to bring the war to an end, and give them a chance to see their homes again. We can only hear rumors of what is going on between Banks and Taylor, at Vicksburgh, on the Cumberland, and in Virginia, and the want of reliable news from the army and the impossibility of communicating with home are the principal causes of the irksomeness of our present position.

Yesterday a little fellow died whom I had had under my especial care, and whose loss is much felt by all of us. He was hardly eighteen, and had one of the purest, most beautiful faces I ever saw on a boy. He came from New-Haven, and spoke much of his happy home and good mother. Although he was severely wounded, he was always patient, and even cheerful. I think I hardly ever saw a boy who had gone through the temptations of camp life so unstained as he seemed to have done. He must have been well brought up, and I am afraid his mother will feel his loss deeply, as he was an only son — and such a lovable son! I wrote to her a few lines, which will be a softer way of breaking the news to her than the dry hospital report.

It is hard to think how many such lives have been lost in this cruel war, and it is fearful to think of the possibility of their being thrown away, of no great and good object being gained by this expenditure, of the war being a failure, and this carnage murder. I cannot believe that God will permit it. The longer the war lasts the more impossible does it seem that it should not be intended for the regeneration of the land. May God grant that such may be the result!

July 16.--I remember some years ago reading aloud to you “Eothen,” which I then considered a very dull book, and the only thing that struck me as sprightly was an account of a dervish who arrogated to himself the power of raising the devil at his will. Undertaking the experiment, however, before a large audience, he proved unsuccessful, and actually died of mortification. The comment of Sir Francis was: “As the mountain wouldn't come to Mohammed, Mohammed went to the mountain.”

It is even so with our captor, General Taylor, who, as his supporting force does not come up, must needs fall back to see what has become of it, and it is also so in another sense with us prisoners, who, as we can't go to our lines, are going to have the pleasure of seeing our lines come to us.

The simple truth is, that the rebels, discouraged by the loss of their two great strongholds on the Mississippi, and by the checks they received at Lafourche and Raceland, and their total defeat at Donaldsonville, have relinquished their ambitious designs upon the Crescent City, and are retreating bag and baggage toward Texas, pursued by Banks's victorious forces. Yesterday and to-day they have been crossing over their heavy stores and artillery, and in two or three days this place will be entirely evacuated. I only hope Banks comes up before they get through their work here and bags some of them. If they go, they leave our sick and wounded [82] here, and will only be too glad to be rid of them; but it is to be hoped there will be no long intermission between the pulling down of the stars and bars and the hoisting of the Stars and Stripes, for we should stand a fair chance of starving.

Of course, situated as we are, the news that we hear is vague and unsatisfactory, and it is only worth noting down in order to compare with the “original Jacobs,” of which we hope in a few days to be in possession.

It is probable that you, even as I write, know more of the campaign of the last month than I, who have been an actor in it. It is a fact that no one knows so little about a war, or even a great battle, as the soldier engaged.

We are told that Port Hudson fell on the twenty-seventh of June, the works being stormed by a last desperate charge of our men; and it is this sudden release of Banks's troops, the energy with which they have been brought down the river, and the non-arrival of the rebel force from Arkansas, which have put an end to Gen. Taylor's plans. Vicksburgh, according to the rebel account, was surrendered on the fourth of July, not to Grant, but to Admiral Farragut, and if one of the reported conditions be true, the worthy Admiral could not have acted with his usual judgment. I refer to the rebel officers being released on their parole, instead of being detained, as ours have been. We have a large number of officers in rebel hands, and, especially now that they are threatening to hang those belonging to negro regiments, it is important that we should be in a condition to retaliate if necessary.

Such are the reports of the day; to-morrow may witness a dashing of our hopes. Still the presentiment is strong with all of us that before many days we shall again be under the “good old flag.”

July 19.--This waiting and watching, now having our hopes fed by the downcast countenances and whispered rumors of disaster among the rebels about us, again having our fears excited by their triumphant and exaggerated reports of successes, is beginning to have an effect upon our nerves, especially with such of us who are not well. Every shock of thunder seems to herald the approach of our victorious gunboats, every drum-tap in the night is magnified by the excited fancy to the once dreaded, now longedfor sound of the “long roll,” and at every accidental gunshot from the neighboring camps we listen to the continuous fire of the attack of which it is hoped to be the alarm.

That the rebels are expecting an attack here in their rear is very evident, but whether they will try to evade it, or prepare to meet it, is still a question. Their sick, as fast as they are brought from their forces down the railroad, are moved up the Bayou Teche to Franklin and New-Iberia. The number is very considerable, and our surgeon gives it as his opinion that many of the men are merely shamming, to escape the toils of the campaign.

This Louisiana climate, however, seems to sicken Texans as fast or faster than it acts upon Northern troops, and loud and deep are the curses of the “Lone Star” men upon this “Godforsaken land.” Then the exposure to the heavy showers of this month, their utter want of clean-liness, and often of a change of clothing, and their poorly cooked food, must have damaging effects upon their constitutions. We have still fifty sick here, who are all doing well, but are still unable to travel without transportation ; and that the rebels can't furnish us. These rascals have pretty well cleaned out poor Lafourche Parish of all that is worth having — negroes, cattle, wagons, tools, etc., and if they escape without punishment, their raid may be termed a most successful one. But they have strong fears that they will not escape so freely. Our forces are reported to have reoccupied the Red River (which the late rains have swollen most opportunely) and cut off their retreat to Texas, and in that case, unless they can cut their way through, there is no resource but surrender.

Meanwhile they are occupied night and day in crossing over their ill-gotten plunder upon two or three antiquated-looking steamboats, which escaped capture when the country was first occupied by running far up the Red River. Horses are carried over in barges or flat-boats, while the cattle are compelled to swim the stream. This last sight is novel and amusing. A drove is collected where the bank is a little steep, and, if possible, the water deep. The cattle are then whipped up and spurred on from behind, and driven with much clamor into the water. Then it is the task of boats to keep behind and along the flanks of the drove, keeping their noses directed toward the opposite shore, and goading up the stragglers with sharp sticks and long whips. Sometimes, when the other shore is not far distant, and the leaders are old soldiers, and know it is useless to rebel, they swim over quietly en masse. But oftener, frightened at the broad expanse before them, they will scatter, and the greater fear overcoming the less, shove aside the boats and poles, make for the shore they have left, charge up the bank, scattering and upsetting the drivers, and gallop off to enjoy their temporary liberty. The whole scene is accompanied by the shouts, yells, and war-whoops, without which the true Texan can neither work nor fight; and add to this the roaring and lowing of the herd, the cracking of the enormous whips and the splashing of the water, and you have a very respectable hubbub. I have been told that this method was employed once or twice on dark nights, to victual Port Hudson during the late siege, but they must have made less noise about it.

It is at last, it seems, an established fact that Vicksburgh and Port Hudson are ours.

The capture of the first was the way old U. S. Grant took to celebrate the Fourth, while the last surrendered on the eighth to General Banks, just as the lists of volunteers for the morrow's storming party had been made up. Brave as [83] those volunteers must have been, it was undoubtedly a great relief to them to be spared the murderous duty. These two successes have placed thirty-three thousand prisoners in our hands, and released Grant's army just when it is most needed.

I can't help here recording what it seems to me he ought to do, in order to be able hereafter to compare my dictum with what he does do. After leaving a sufficient garrison in Vicksburgh, he should send fifteen thousand men to reenforce General Banks's worn-out army, by which means Banks could capture or annihilate Taylor and Sibley, and render his authority secure through the whole department.

Second. He should advance with the remainder of his army to attack Bragg in his rear, acting in cooperation with Rosecrans. Together they should be able to finish up Bragg, and then, while Grant was left to protect the Tennessee frontier and finish up the States of Mississippi and Alabama, Rosecrans should advance through West-Tennessee with all the troops that could be spared into Virginia, and, in cooperation with Dix and Hooker, put an end to the war there. Meanwhile, Grant, advancing through Alabama, could communicate by a cavalry raid with Hunter, and together they could overcome Georgia and South-Carolina, and take Savannah and Charleston. This would be the final stroke. Isn't that a fine plan? I only hope some part of it may be accomplished. Our rebel friends are telling us strange stories about the annihilation of Hooker, the capture of Philadelphia, etc., and although we don't believe them, of course, still we feel uneasy and anxious.

If Lee has penetrated into the Keystone State, I have faith enough in the militia of New-York, New-Jersey, and Pennsylvania, to trust that he will have to pay the piper dearly before he gets out again; and then it may be to find Richmond occupied by Dix and Foster, and Virginia no longer a secession State.

One of our negro girls has just come in, and informed me, in a cautious whisper, that the Yankees have far as “Bayou Boeuf,” only eight miles below here.

The crisis is coming, and something has got to burst.

July 22.--Yesterday the rebels completed their evacuation, and left us alone in our glory. The last able-bodied darkey was grabbed, the last straggling cattle swam over, the last crew of “ragged riders” embarked. As fast as they arrived on the west side of the bay they were sent off in long trains toward New-Iberia, and by two P. M. both shores were deserted, the last tent was struck, the last gun on the march, and the steamboats, having finished their work, were steaming up toward their former place of safety.

The cars that had been captured were burnt, and the locomotive sent under full head of steam into the burning train. The concussion was tremendous, and the ruin complete.

They left for our hospital five days rations, a large portion of which were stolen, and sold by the cooks before the evacuation was over. They took all our negro nurses and cooks, as well as the cooking-stove, and even the wash-basins. As the doctor was sick, there was but one well man left in the building to do every thing, so he had rather a hard time of it. (I had been hours du combat myself for ten or twelve days.) Almost every atom of medicine, and even the bandages and lint, were cabbaged by the confederate doetors, so that our sick were left quite destitute. Fortunately, by this morning, we had obtained a reenforcement of darkeys, who had hid themselves in the swamps to escape being carried off, so that the work of the establishment can again be carried on. I could not help laughing at our situation, cast adrift, as it were, between the two armies, unable to help ourselves, and anxiously awaiting whatever fortune the surging tide of war might cast upon us. For a few hours the placid waters and deserted shores of the bay remained undisturbed by any thing warlike, when suddenly from behind the point, far down the bay, a puff of smoke was seen, and “boom!” a shell fell in the water a quarter of a mile below us, and then another, at a higher elevation, screeched over our heads and exploded in the woods behind us. “The gunboat!” was the general exclamation, and the gunboat it proved to be. A white flag was quickly run up on the tower of the depot, to show that there was no opposition in the place, and shortly afterward a boat landed, and Lieutenant----, of the gunboat Sachem, took possession of the town in the name of Uncle Sam. Four hours after the “lone star” had been hauled down, the Stars and Stripes waved triumphantly over the town. The rebel occupation had just lasted four weeks. The gunboat had been trying for two or three days to cross the bar, but for want of a pilot, had only just succeeded.

The most cheering news we had heard for a long time was that Washington and Philadelphia, which the rebels had assured us were taken, were still safe, and that Lee had been defeated instead of being overwhelmingly victorious. Hurrah for Meade! General Weitzel, with the advance of Banks's army, is expected here this afternoon.

A word before I close this epistle about the Texans, whose prisoners we had been for a month. I have called them half savages, and it is about true, but they have some of the noblest qualities of savages. They are brave to rashness, and will endure with patience any amount of exposure and suffering to accomplish their end. They are generous, good-natured, and treat their prisoners with much kindness. They are splendid horse-men, fine marksmen, and can go for days with but a morsel of uncooked food to eat. They are cheap troops to support, because they don't care for tents, will wear any kind of clothing, and will live on bacon and hoecake, or forage for them-selves and their horses.

But though brave, they are perfectly undisciplined and regardless of orders, and will fight every man on his own hook, breaking ranks as [84] soon as they commence firing. So that, although they are excellent bushwhackers, they are often scattered and routed in the open field. They consider themselves the equals of their officers, and it is a risky matter to punish them for insubordination. When there is no fighting going on they soon tire of the restraints of camp-life, and often leave for home, coming back when it suits them. Then they will steal, even from their own officers; they will brag beyond all the bounds of truth, and they won't wash themselves or their shirts. They don't consort readily with the Louisianians, whom they call “lazy, cowardly Creoles,” and by whom they are cordially hated and termed “Camanches and thieves,” and both charges have, I expect, some foundation. To give you an example of the Texan way of doing things: Two or three days ago some of them broke into the stores of their post quartermaster, and came riding past our hospital decked out with their spoils — captured Federal clothing. One long, lank country boy had a hat and a cap on his head and another cap in his hand. One of our wounded men, looking over the balcony, called out: “I wish you would give me one of those caps; I haven't got any!” Not expecting, however, that his request would be granted. “All right,” cried Texas, and chucked the cap up; it fortunately proved a good fit.

On the whole, I don't know as we could have fallen into better hands, and our month of captivity passed pretty pleasantly, considering the circumstances of our position.

I am staying at present at Mrs.----'s, who, since her husband has left, was desirous of having some one in the house to protect it from the thieves and prowlers who always infest an evacuated town. She and Miss----, her niece, have been very kind to our sick and wounded, and if any property should be protected, hers should.

The arrangement is a very pleasant one for me, as I am not well, and a comfortable bed and well-cooked meals are a great “desideratum.”

July 27.--The first detachment of our troops has at length arrived, and their fagged out and tattered appearance was a sufficient excuse for their not coming earlier. That fearful struggle at Port Hudson has worn out Banks's forces, and unless he is speedily reinforced he will have to rest on his oars for a while. It was right pleasant, after such a long dose of “Dixie” and the “Bonnie Blue flag,” to hear the splendid band of the Twelfth Connecticut playing “John Brown.” We heard, too, some good news about our boys. They were, it seems, not taken prisoners at Lafourche, but retreated in good order, after repulsing the rebels twice, and they were the first regiment to reoccupy Thibodeaux after the rebel evacuation. Hurrah for the Ironsides! their honor is not lost, though their flags are.

I have the opportunity of sending this by the transport Crescent to New-Orleans, but it may be some days on the road.

Your son,

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