St. Simon’s Island, Ga. [BCF]
My dear Charley,
I received your kind letter before I left Readville—and beg you will excuse my long delay in answering you. Besides other matters to occupy my attention, you will appreciate the fact of my having a more voluminous private correspondence than ever before. You may have heard from Effie of our doings, since we left Boston‚ — though, to be sure, I don’t know how many of my letters have reached home. We have only heard from there once.
I am totally in the dark as to what has been going on in other parts of the country for two weeks past. The last paper I saw, was of June 6. I should like to ask your opinion on a subject, which has troubled me a little lately. On a late expedition we made with Montgomery—he burnt the town of Darien about 20 miles from here. We had met with no resistance there & the only men to be seen were some horsemen at a great distance. There were a few women & darkeys in the place and a great many more had gone off in vehicles on our approach. It was never known to be a refuge for guerillas, and our gunboats have been in the habit of running by it at will & without opposition. Don’t you think that unless it is a settled policy of the Government to destroy all the property in rebeldom, the desttuction of a defenceless town, containing only a few non-combatants, is unjustifiable, and contrary to all rules of warfare?
Harry writes me that you have been transferred to Heintzelman, so I suppose there is a good chance of your remaining for some time, near Washington. Good, for Effie.
Now you are so near Headquarters, can’t you do something towards getting Barlow for us? I have just heard from him under date of May 21. He says he had just received yours of March 20 & regrets very much not having got it before. He still wishes to command a colored Brigade & I have no doubt we should do something under him.
Montgomery who seems the only active man in this Department, is enormously energetic, and devoted to the cause, but he is a bush-whacker—in his fighting, and a perfect fanatic in other respects. He never drinks, smokes or swears, & considers that praying, shooting, burning & hanging are the true means to put down the Rebellion. If he had been educated as a military man in rather a different school, I think he would accomplish a great deal, & he may yet in a certain way. He is very prompt & active, never lying idle, if he can help it, for more than three days at a time. When delayed and disappointed, he is wonderfully patient & calm, never letting a word escape him & putting through what he undertakes in spite of everything. I never met a man who impressed me as being more conscientious.
Isn’t it strange, being back at the old work again under such different circumstances. I shan’t realize until about two years after the war is over, that I am married.
I have often thought since I left, of our meetings at Harper’s Ferry, and how little I supposed then that we should be so intimately connected. I hope this war will not finish one or both of us, and that we shall live to know each other well. I had a note from Effie a week ago. I remember, at Susie’s, just after you were engaged you said to me: “Am not I a lucky fellow?” And I must say, I think you are. There are not many girls like Effie; though she is my sister, I may say it.
Hoping to hear from you occasionally, believe me, dear Charley.
Your afftc brother,
R. G. S.
Archive for June, 2010
St. Simon’s Island [BCF]
June 18 1863
We have received nothing since our first mail, which I mentioned in my last to you. Captain Rand arrived at Beaufort after we had left there, and your second note arrived at the same time with the first. I am very glad you feel so happy and contented about my course in taking the black regiment and besides that cause for satisfaction—I have never had to regret it, for material reasons.
There is no doubt that all the black troops in the country should be gathered into one or two armies — as in small bodies they can never make themselves felt much. It was quite astonishing to be received as we were at Beaufort. The Commander of the Post, there, Col. Davis, is almost a Copperhead — as well as a good many of his subordinates — and I was told, at Hilton Head, that they might not be very cordial. But, on the contrary, they treated me with the greatest consideration and there was no end to the offers of services from all the Colonels, Quartermasters & Commissaries of the place. Some, who had been very violent in their opposition to the enlistment of negroes, seemed glad of this chance to back out, by degrees, and say there was a vast difference between contrabands & free negroes &c, &c.
I am placed in a position where, if I were a man of real strength and ability, I might do a great deal, but where, under present circumstances, I am afraid I shall show that I am not of much account. Ned Hooper at Beaufort is the head of the whole Contraband Department. Every one there has the highest opinion of him. I should like to have stayed where I could see him every day.
Annie has sent you, I hope, my letter about the Darien expedition. I have not yet discovered if Col. Montgomety has Hunter’s orders to burn every thing, but expect to hear soon from Hilton Head. M. has not yet returned from there, so I remain still in command here. I have no doubt you may think at home that Col. M’s action is perfectly proper, but you would change your mind if you had to assist in it.
Frank Barlow still wishes to get command of a coloured Brigade, and I think it would be a great piece of good fortune for us if we could get him —& for the cause, as well. If Father can do anything towards it, I wish he would.
Always dear Mother,
Your loving son
p.s. If we remain here for long we could entertain any number of visitors on our plantation, after the hot weather is over, & I hope Father & you & some
of the girls can come down & bring Annie for a [one word illegible] while I have no doubt some of the Hallowells may be persuaded to come.
St. Simon’s Island, Ga. [BCF]
My Dear Clem.,
You have probably heard from Annie of our adventures since we left Boston; that is, if my many letters reached her. We are entirely isolated here, and know nothing of what has been going on in other parts of the country for the last two weeks. We have only just heard that General Hunter, in our own Department, was relieved.2 It is such a short time since you and I have been so nearly related, that I hardly realize it as yet; and now I am back in the old track, and routine of camp-life again, the three months at home, with their great pleasures and little troubles, seem to have been passed in dream-land. I don’t believe I think much more of Annie than I used to, but the great difference in our relation to each other seems very strange.
Now that General Hunter is relieved, I may say, without danger of being overhauled for it, that I am very glad. He does not impress one as being a man of power. General Gillmore, I hear, is not a friend to black troops, but I don’t mind that, for as long as there are so few regiments of them here, they may as well lie quiet as not. These little miserable expeditions are of no account at all; that is, as regards their effect on the war; but they serve to keep up the spirits of our men, and when successful, do a good deal towards weakening the prejudice against black troops, especially in this department, where, hitherto, absolutely nothing has been done.
… I read Mr. Ward’s present (Thiers’ Waterloo) very carefully, on the way down, and found it very interesting. Since I came here I have been reading “The Campaigns of 1862 and 1863,” by Errul Schalk. He shows what he thinks are the mistakes that have been made, and lays out an imaginary campaign, which he thinks ought to be successful. It is a good thing to read, but I don’t know how much humbug or how much solid stuff it contains. A former book of his—”Summary of the Art of War”— is quite interesting. There, he makes several prophecies that have been fulfilled. I wish some one like Napier could give us his opinion of the war.
You can’t imagine what a spooney, home-sick set we are here, after our pleasant times at Readville. Major Hallowell lies on his back singing,—“No one to love, none to caress,
None to respond to this heart’s wretchedness”;
and we all feel just so. It is very demoralizing to be at home for so long a time. I felt quite sorry to deprive you of my old sword, but I wanted my Mother to have it, as I hadn’t given her any of my discarded shoulder-straps, sashes, &c, &c. I think of you every morning and evening when I put on my slippers; they are a great comfort. When you see your father, please give him my regards. I was sorry not to see him before I came away.
With much love to your Mother, and yourself, I am, dear Clem.,
your affectionate Brother
p.S. — If you read Thiers’ Waterloo, I advise you to get Jomini’s also, and compare them. The former is infinitely superior, I think, so much more clear and exact; there is something of the romance about it, though, which you never find in Napier. The latter seems to be the perfect historian.
St. Simon’s Island [BCF]
My Dear Effie,
I received yours of 31 May, day before yesterday. Before you receive this, you will know, from my letters to Mother and Father, our doings since we left Boston.
We are very pleasantly situated here; the island is beautiful, and my house is a very comfortable one for the climate. Fortunately, there is an excellent camping-ground for the regiment close to it; otherwise I shouldn’t have taken it. The Major and I might have half our two families here without inconvenience. The only objection is, that Montgomery never lies quiet for more than four days at a time, so we are likely to be constantly on the go, and may leave the place at any time.
In front of us is St. Simon’s River, full of alligators, and behind, a thick wood full of insects and snakes. The former make such a noise at night, that I, at first, thought it was a vessel blowing off steam. The house had a few chairs and tables left when we got here, and our late expedition supplied all deficiencies. Our most respectable acquisitions are a table-cloth, and two large maps of the United States and Georgia, which latter, hung up in the hall, give an air of solidity to the entrance.
The only troops on the island are Montgomery’s regiment and the Fifty-fourth. Montgomery being absent, I am in command of the post. Imagine me governor of an island fifteen miles long and six or seven broad. It is all that “Sancho Panza” could desire.Yesterday afternoon, in the course of a ride, the Major, Dr. Stone, and I came across a herd of cattle, and drove them in; so now we have fresh milk and meat in plenty. Some of them are very fine, and must have been the fancy stock of the former owners of the island. I am afraid we shan’t long have the island to ourselves, as there is some intention of sending more troops here, I believe.
What you say about Annie gives me a great deal of pleasure, as of course I like to hear her praised. Give my love to Charley, if you happen to be writing one of these days, and thank him for his letter to me. I shall write to him myself before long. I had a nice note from Alice Forbes yesteiday. As I have several letters to write, I must leave you here.
Ever your loving brother,
Mercury, June 30, 1863 [OAF]
St. Simon’s Island, Ga., June 14, 1863
—As intimated in my last letter, we left Beaufort last Monday morning. We did not know where we were going, and never found out until we dropped anchor off this Island on the morning of the 9th. After being transferred to a steamer of lighter draught, we were landed about nine miles up the river from the anchorage. Here I may say, I could hardly determine whether we were bound up or down the river, it is so crooked. The next day, after we arrived here, the 2nd South Carolina regiment, the 2nd R.I. battery, and 8 companies of the 54th started on an expedition. We landed on the main land, at a small town, named Darien, about 50 miles from here by water, but only about 20 miles over land. The force took the water route, as it is impracticable to get to it over land, the country being so marshy, crossed by numberless little creeks running through it. The rebels must have left the place when they saw such a large force concentrating on St. Simon’s Island the day before, supposing they would be attacked. After our forces landed, there was not more than 20 inhabitants to be seen in the place, the most of those were slaves and women; so there was no chance to show what sort of fighting material the Fifty-Fourth is made of. The fruits of the expedition are the capture of one schooner and a flat boat, loaded with cotton, about 20 barrels of turpentine, eight hogsheads of rosin, about a dozen cows, 50 or 60 sheep and 20 head of beeves; books, pictures, furniture and household property were burned. The town of Darien is now no more; the flames could be distinctly seen from the camp on the Island from three o’clock in the afternoon till daylight the next morning.
We are to go on another expedition next week, into the interior. It is rumored we are to try to take possession of a railroad between Savannah and some point south, probably Mobile. We all hope the rebels will make a stand, so that we may have a good chance to empty our cartridge boxes.
Talking about Southern scenery! Well, all I have seen of it yet is not calculated to make me eulogize its beauties. If a person were to ask me what I saw South, I should tell him stink weed, sand, rattlesnakes, and alligators. To tell the honest truth, our boys out on picket look sharper for snakes than they do for rebels.
In a church yard here, I saw a stone bearing this inscription, “James Gould, born at Granville, Mass., 1806, died 1862″; another was, “Lieut. Col. Wardrobe, of his B[ritish] Mfajesty’s] service, died 1812″; another, “James Wyley, born at Fitchburg, Mass., 1822, died February, 1863.”
J. H. G.
St. Simon’s Island [BCF]
June 13 1863
Last evening I received your two letters of the 31st May, & 1st June—one from Annie, two from Father & one from Effie. This is the first news I have had since I left home. I hope you have received all mine. This should have gone this morning, but the steamer went off before her time, and my letter will consequently reach you a few days later. I am very sorry about it, as you have had nothing from me since we came here. We arrived at camp near Mr. Pierce Butler’s plantation Tuesday evening.
Today is Saturday — and in the mean time, we have been with Montgomery on an expedition up the Altamaha, and burned the town of Darien — much to my disgust — for we met with no resistance & no good reason can be given for doing such a thing. I have written Annie an account of this, and asked her to send it to you, if she is not with you, as I suppose she may be, from what she wrote.
Today I went over to Mr. Butler’s plantation & talked with some of the old negroes. There are about 10 left from his great sale of three years ago. Though he had sold their sons & daughters they said he was a good Marst’r. Some of them had lived there for 70 & 80 years. I feel like writing you a long account of our doings as I have to Annie, but it would be only a repetition of that, so I think it better to employ the time with my necessary correspondence with Gov. Andrew & other great men.
I couldn’t help thinking today, at Mr. Butler’s of Mrs. Kemble that summer at Sorrento, & what she told you of the paying the houseservants wages. I little thought then, I should ever visit the place under such circumstances. In regard to the burning of Darien, I am going to write to Genl Hunter’s A.A.G. for unless Montgomery has orders from headquarters to lay the country in ruins, I am determined to refuse to obey his orders in that respect.1 You will see from my letter to Annie, how I feel about it. Montgomery told me he did it because he thought it his duty. I asked him if it wasn’t partly from pure hatred of everything Southern. He said no —& that he only hated them as being enemies of liberty & he had good reason to hate every enemy of liberty. I can’t help feeling a great respect for him. He is quiet, gentlemanly, full of determination, but convinced that the South should be devastated with fire & sword. His perfect calmness at all times is very impressive. My objection is to firing into houses occupied by noncombatants, 8c burning down dwellings which shelter only women & children. It is most barbarous — more so than would be the hanging of every man we take in arms. This strikes one very forcibly, when one is engaged in it, propria persona.
I find a steamer is going this morning quite unexpectedly & send this without finishing it.
Your loving son