St. Helena’s Island, S. C. [BCF]
My dear Charley,
Before I proceed to any other subject, let me ask you, if I ever sent you the $5.00 which you paid Brangle for me, & if you know of any other debts of mine in the Second. I don’t remember when I last wrote to you, but think it was just after I took dinner at your Father’s.
Since then I have seen your letters to your Brother describing the Chancellorsville fights, which I read with a great deal of interest. Harry and I couldn’t help feeling blue, when we heard the 2d was at work again, and we away from our old posts. I was very glad to hear that you liked Slocum so much, & had such confidence in him. It will, no doubt, be one of the Division or Corps Generals who will be the great man of the war.
I wish I knew where you were now; we have had no late news from the North, and what we have had, has served mostly to confuse my mind very decidedly, as to the whereabouts of the two armies.
So the 1st Mass. Cavalry has had a regular shindy at last. I was glad to hear that Henry Hig’s wounds were not dangerous. What a bloody-looking boy he must be, with a scar across his face.
Remember me to Curtis, if you see or write to him.
You may have heard that the passage of the 54th Mass through Boston was a great success. I never saw such a heavy turn-out there before. We came down to Hilton Head in a very nice Steamer, though a slow one, for we were six days en route.
We landed at Beaufort, and went into camp there. Hearing that Col. Montgomery the Kansas man, was going farther South, I asked permission to join him. So we remained only two days at Beaufort, and then sailed for St. Simon’s Island, on the coast of Georgia. The day after we arrived there, Montgomery started us off, up the Altamaha River, and after capturing a little schooner full of cotton & burning the town of Darien, we returned to the Island, having been absent two days.
The destruction of Darien disgusted me very much, and as soon as Montgomery told me he was going to burn it, I said I didn’t want to have anything to do with [it] and he was glad to take the responsibility. It was done by Genl Huntet’s order, however. We remained at St. Simon’s for about ten days after this.
I had a large plantation to myself & lived very comfortably in the former owner’s house—the regt being encamped in an adjacent field.
The island is very beautiful, and [is] traversed in all directions by excellent roads. We had splendid rides every day & explored the place from one end to the other. It has been uninhabited for so long, that it is completely full of birds of all kinds, and on the neighbouring Islands, there is good deer-shooting. There were a great many fine plantations & country seats there, and the people must have had a very jolly time. We found the records of a Yacht Race Club — and other signs of fun. Fanny Kemble’s husband, Pierce Butler, has a very large place, six or seven miles long, there, and another near Darien. We left St. Simon’s on the 25th & ret’d here by order of General Gillmore.
Montgomery is a strange sort of man. At first sight one would think him a parson or a school-master. He is a very quiet gentlemanlike sort of person — very careful to speak grammatically & not in the least like a Western man. He is religious, & never drinks, smokes, chews or swears. He shoots his men with perfect looseness, for a slight disobedience of orders, but is very kind & indulgent to those who behave themselves properly. The other night on board the steamer, he shot at and wounded a man for talking after taps, when he had twice ordered him to be quiet. He told me that he had intended to kill him & throw him overboard, & was much astonished at having missed his aim.
Last Sunday he caught a deserter — and had him executed without trial by Court Martial, or referring the case to any one (Strange to say the General has not taken any notice of it). Montgomery says he doesn’t like the red-tape way of doing things.
He is a very attractive man, and it is very interesting to sit & hear him relate his experiences.
Everything here indicates that there is to be another attack on Charleston. I trust we shall have a share in it — and indeed, we have been given to understand, that we should go with the army, wherever it went.
I want to hear from you, very much, Charley. Tell me as much as you can of your movements since you left Stafford C. H. this last time — and how the old regt is. I have been expecting to hear of your promotion. Good-bye, my dear fellow, for the present. I often long to be with you fellows. When you & Harry & I bunked together, from Sharpsburg to Fairfax, we hardly expected to be so far separated as we are now. I wonder where the deuce you are.
Give my love to Tom R, Jim Francis, Brown, the Foxes & Mudge.
Always your affectionate friend,
Robert G. Shaw
Posts Tagged Col James Montgomery
St. Helena Island S.C.[BCF]
July 1, 1863
In my last to Mother, I mentioned receipt of all your letters, and yesterday, your other two of the 22d ulto. came to hand, having gone first to Beaufort. The two boxes which, I heard, were at Hilton Head, did come in the “Arago” but are still enroute, on board of some brig. A box of Uncle George’s containing a beautiful English sword came all right.
Do you ever write to Dr. Bowditch? If so, I wish, you would mention to him that Lieutenant Reid (whom he recommended) is an excellent officer.
Do you know [four words crossed out and illegible] very well? He doesn’t strike me as being a very straightforward man.
You may have perhaps heard that the coloured troops are to receive $10 instead [of] $13 per mo. It is not yet decided that this regt comes under the order. If it does I shall refuse to allow them to be paid until I hear from Gov. Andrew. The regt ought, in that case, to be mustered out of service, as they were enlisted on the understanding that they were to be on the same footing as other Mass. Vols.
Another plan is to arm the negroes with pikes. I shall escape that, but Montgomery & Higginson, I am afraid, will have to come to it, unless the plan is given up. Of course, it will be the ruin of all spirit & courage in their men. Everyone who has been in any of our battles should know that Pikes against Minie balls is not fair play—especially in the hands of negroes whose great pride lies in being a soldier like white men. One of Col. Montgomery’s remarks is that it is folly to suppose that a race, which has been in bondage for 200 years can be as brave as freemen, and that all our energies must be devoted to making the most of them.
You will see from my letter to Mother that there is a good deal of exaggeration in the stories of Montgomery’s experience in Kansas. At any rate he says so himself.
Whom did you give those last letters (22 June) to? They had no post-mark & were sent to Beaufort.
Love to all,
Your most loving son
St. Helena’s Island, S.C. [BCF]
My dear Clem.,
Yours of the 23 d reached me day before yesterday, and I read it with a great deal of pleasure. I anticipated your and Annie’s indignation at the vandal policy of Hunter. (Please always remember that Hunter began it). . . .
General Gillmore and General Strong (the latter our immediate commander) are both excellent men, I should think. The former I have not seen, but judge from what I hear.
There is a late-order from Washington, cutting down the pay of coloured troops from $13 to $10 per month. They have not yet decided here whether we come under the order or not. If we do, I shall refuse to have the regiment paid off, until I hear from Governor Andrew.
Another bit of insanity is a proposition to arm the negroes with pikes instead of muskets. They might as well go back eighteen centuries as three, and give us bows and arrows. General Strong says the regiment shall retain their rifles; but Montgomery and Higginson are in a great stew about it; and, indeed, such an act would take all the spirit and pluck out of their men, and show them that the government didn’t consider them fit to be trusted with fire-arms; they would be ridiculed by the white soldiers, and made to feel their inferiority in every respect. The folly of some of our leaders is wonder-full! I can’t imagine who started the idea. I hope the gentleman has a book of drill for the pike all ready.
There is some movement on foot in this Department. We do not know exactly what will be done yet. I don’t believe Charleston will be taken without some hard knocks.
Give my best love and a kiss to the mamma from me. I imagine you will all soon be at Lenox again, among the cool mountains. I always think of Lenox as in a haze, for during my visits there I was in a haze myself.
Always, dear Clem., most affectionately,
…Brig.-Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore had relieved General Hunter. Admiral John A. Dahlgren was to replace Admiral Dupont. Tidings of these changes, of Lee having crossed the Rappahannock, the capture of Harper’s Ferry, and the investment of Port Hudson, were received by the “Harriet A. Weed,” on June 23. Orders also came for the Fifty-fourth to report at Hilton Head.
…About noon [on the 24th], Colonel Shaw reported his arrival and was ordered to St. Helena Island, across the harbor…
Rain was falling as the Fifty-fourth landed on the wharf. Marching for a mile or so, we camped in an old cotton-field near the water. Many regiments were on the island preparing for active operations. The post was commanded by Brig.-Gen. George C. Strong, a brilliant young officer who had recently arrived. The Fifty-fourth, with the Second South Carolina camped near by, constituted the “Colored Brigade,” under Colonel Montgomery. Although it rained very frequently, the moisture was speedily absorbed by the sandy soil. There was a terrible thunder-storm on the 28th, accompanied with such violent wind that many tents were blown down. One man was killed, and several stunned, by lightning, in adjoining camps…
A deserter from the Second South Carolina was brought by Lieut. George W. Brush of his regiment before Colonel Montgomery on June 28. After questioning him, the colonel ordered him to be taken away and shot, which was done at once. Montgomery was never taken to task for this illegal action.
Mercury, July 8, 1863 [OAF]
St. Helena Island, S.C., June 29
—Instead of going on another expedition, as we all expected and hoped, we find ourselves at the headquarters of the department, and great changes made in commanders; in fact, the changes had been made at least two weeks before we knew anything of them. It is probable that the change of commander has made some change in the operations in this department, for this summer at least. But from appearances there must be something definite in contemplation, from the fact that all the surplus troops are being concentrated on this island ready for a movement at the shortest notice; either to act on the offensive, at some weak point — as the force here is not large enough to make any grand movement — or to be transported wherever the urgency of the case may require out of this department; but it is safe to say the latter conjecture is the most probable one.
Yesterday there was a terrific thunder storm here. A man in the 76th Pa. regiment was killed by lightening, and 15 more were stunned at the same time, besides exploding 80 boxes of cartridges.
A sergeant in the 1st regiment S. C. Volunteers has been sentenced to be hung for mutiny, or inciting some of the men to mutinous conduct.
The rebel ram Atlanta, taken off the Savannah river, has been pronounced unseaworthy by the Naval Guard. It was the intention of the rebels to play hob with the Yankees. The plan was first, to pay a compliment to Col. Montgomery, then on St. Simon’s Island, and hang his whole force, then come up and clear out Port Royal harbour, raise the blockade at Charleston, and I don’t know but they would have gone on capturing till they reached Boston, according to their story. Probably that was one of the plans to assist in raising their volunteer navy. They have another ram underway at Savannah, but she will not be completed for some time.
J. H. G.
St. Helena’s Island, S.C.[BCF]
June 28 1863
Your note of the 20th came to me on board the “Benj. DeFord” just after I had sent my last ashore—also letters from Father of the 10, 13, 15, 18, 19 Inst. & others from Annie, Effie & Harry. Some of Annie’s have been lost, however.
We did not land at Hilton Head but were ordered to this Island that same afternoon. We landed and bivouacked for the night—and since then have been engaged in transporting our stores by hand from the landing, more than a mile.
Our whole experience, so far, has been in loading 8c discharging vessels.
There is nothing said about future plans. General Strong tells me that Admiral Foote’s illness will interfere materially with them. I hope and pray that we may go to Charleston. Strong, who was one of Butler’s staff officers, is very desirous to have the negro troops take their part in whatever is done.
Montgomery did a characteristic thing this morning. His men being near their homes have deserted rapidly since we returned from St. Simon’s. He sent word by their wives & others to the deserters that those who returned of their own free will should be pardoned — that those, whom he caught, he would shoot. This morning one of my sergeants captured one. At 8 o’cl. Col. Montgomery called him up & said: “Is there any reason why you should not be shot?” “No, Sir.” “Then, be ready to die at 9:30.” At 9:15 the man sent to ask permission to see the Colonel, but it was refused, and at 9:30 he was taken out and shot. There was no Court-Martial — and the case was not referred to a superior officer. Montgomery, who just told me the story, in his low voice, but with an occasional glare in his eye (which by the bye, is very extraordinary) thinks that this prompt action was the only way to stop desertion, and it only remains to be seen whether he will be pulled up for it. I wish you could see him. You would think at first sight that he was a school-master or parson. The only thing that shows the man, is that very queer roll or glare in his eye — and a contraction of the eyebrows every now & then, which gives him rather a fierce expression. He says he never had a fight until he went to Kansas, and was a very harmless creature formerly, though never a non-resistant.
June 29 — To continue the subject of Col. Montgomery, I went over last evening, after writing the above, & sat two hours with him. He gave me his whole history, which interested me very much. I wish I could tell you all he said of his life during the last ten years. He has been in such a state of excitement all that time that he says it seems as if the whole were compressed into a few days — and he could hardly help crying when he talked of the state of utter desperation & hopelessness in which they began their fight against the Border Ruffians, and compared it with present times which seem to him bright & cheerful. He believes that nothing happens by chance & is full of faith in Providence. His account of the abject manner in which he had seen some Missourians whom he had taken prisoners, beg for their lives was very interesting. He says that without exception, under such circumstances, their manhood forsook them completely —& he compared their conduct with that of the negro, who was shot yesterday, and who never flinched from it. I said above that M. looked like a schoolmaster, & he says he did teach school in Kentucky for many years, and learnt more about managing men there, than at any other time.
He strikes me as being a very simple-minded man — and seems to be pleased at any little attention — perhaps because he has been so much abused. You will see that he is very attractive to me, and indeed I have taken a great fancy to him.
I have just got your letter of the 21 Inst. & Father’s of 23d — his other two written after receipt of mine from St. Simon’s have not yet come to hand. What you say of Montgomery’s wife amused me very much, after hearing his account of it last evening. He said his wife saw an article in the paper stating what you say, and that all the punishment he ever wishes the writer to receive, is to come within reach of her broom-stick. Then he laughed very loud & long. Besides this, he assured me that no property of his was ever touched by a Border-Ruffian, being protected by his pro-slavery neighbours, whom he held responsible for it. He also said “To give the Devil his due” that he never, during his whole experience in Kansas heard of a well-authenticated case of a Border Ruffian having offered violence to a white woman, in any way — and he thinks that courtesy towards women is characteristic of the Southerners, good & bad. His wife is the daughter of a Kentucky Slave-holder.
I see by the papers, what is thought of the destruction of Darien, and it provokes me to have it laid on Montgomery’s shoulders, when he acted under orders from Hunter. I, myself, saw Hunter’s letters referring to it. I am sorry if it is going to harm the negro troops, but I think myself it will soon be forgotten.
The two boxes Father sent arrived tonight. Mr. Pierce has been up here today. I hope Father wrote to Gov. Andrew, after receiving my late letters, about Darien, & told him that Hunter, only, was to blame. I was so sorry & provoked at getting no word from Annie tonight, that I didn’t know what to do. I have only heard from her 3 times & the latest date is the 18th. After the number of letters I have written her, I thought it was pretty “steep.”
Uncle George has sent me an English sword, & a flask, knife, fork, spoon &c. They have not yet come.
My warmest love to Father & the girls.
Always dearest Mother,
your loving son
p.s. I suppose Annie is with you by this time. If so give my love to her
June 1863. [VT]
—Our regiment has been on the move ever since our arrival at Beaufort. Our active and brave leader, Col. Montgomery, gives none under his command time to rot, sicken and die in camp. No sooner does he accomplish one object than he has already inaugurated the necessary steps for the accomplishment of another. The 54th, as you, no doubt, have been apprised ere this, has made a successful raid on the coast of this State, capturing and burning the town of Darien and spreading terror to the hearts of the rebels throughout this region. The expedition which accomplished this, consisted of the U.S. steamer John Adams, Harriet A. Weed and two transports, having on board part of the 2nd S. C. Vol. and eight companies of the 54th Mass. Vol.
We left here on the 10th, reached Darien on the 11th, about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The John Adams led the way, approaching the town cautiously, shelling the suburbs to the right, left and rear of it. A considerable number of rebel cavalry appeared in sight, but the guns of the J. A. and Weed put them to flight. The town was found to be almost entirely deserted by its inhabitants. The 2nd South Carolina were the first to land and the 54th followed. Cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, and many things of use and comfort were secured. One rebel was killed by a shell, and the only persons we saw were one old colored woman and two whites, who requested to be left behind. When we left at sundown the whole town was enveloped in flames, and as we steamed gaily down the river, the Weed greeted the outbuildings with sundry iron missiles.
Darien, before the rebellion, was one of the principal outlets for the lumber trade of the State. I glanced at the books of the principal lumber-merchants here, Davis & Shina. They shipped their timber to French ports, principally.
The regiment or expedition did not lose a man. The regiment has enjoyed remarkably good health since our sojourn in this sickly portion of the Sunny South. We lost one man on the 4th inst., being the only death since the 1st of May and the fifth since the regiment was started in recruiting in March last.
Mr. Walton of our regiment has just informed me of the arrival of Miss C. L. Forten at Hilton Head. There is no telling when we shall return to Port Royal, our occupancy of St. Simon’s Island looks so much like a permanent one.
The first rebel flag captured was captured by the 54th, on 11th inst.,in Darien, by my company (B).
G. E. S.
St. Helena’s Island[BCF]
At Hilton Head we found our letters waiting, and I got two from you, of June 12th, and June 17th and 18th. As I have had nothing from May 31st to June 12th, I infer that one or more of yours have been lost. This is very disappointing, but I hope they will turn up finally. I was thankful to hear from you at all. Thank Clem, for hers; mine crossed hers on the way. You will have got my account of Mr. Butler’s plantation by this time, and from what you say, I see that it will have interested you. He has another large place, a rice plantation, opposite where Darien once was; but that I only saw from a distance.
The only persons responsible for the depravity of the negroes are their scoundrelly owners, who are, nevertheless, not ashamed to talk of the Christianizing influence of slavery. Whatever the condition of the slaves may be, it does not degrade them, as a bad life does most people, for their faces are generally good. I suppose this is owing to their utter ignorance, and innocence of evil.
. . . We landed on this island last night, and to-day are bringing everything to our camp, a mile from the landing, by hand. Having a great many stores, it is a long job. I am sitting on a box in the middle of a field of sand, under a tent-fly, and writing on my knee. I have not yet heard what is to be done with the forces here. General Strong tells me that Admiral Foote’s illness may interfere with their plans very much. . . .
June 27, 8 A.M.—General Strong (formerly of Butler’s staff), who commands on this island, I like very much; he came over to see me yesterday, and I must return his call to-morrow. The papers say there are about twenty thousand coloured troops in the service now. Just think what a change from six months since! . . .
10 P.M. — To-day I have been watching and talking with a good many of the negroes about here. Whatever their habits of life may be, they certainly are not bad or vicious; they are perfectly childlike, it seems to me, and are no more responsible for their actions than so many puppies.
Sunday, June 28 — We have just had a two hours’ thunder-storm, with such a wind that a good many of our tents were blown away, and the occupants of the rest sat in them in fear and trepidation. I think it is better, as you say, not to build too many Chateaux en Espagne, for they are sure to blow away (like our tents). For that reason, I am more uneasy in camp than ever before, and always wishing for a move and something to occupy my mind, in spite of myself. When we lie idle, as at present, I do nothing but think and think, until I am pretty home-sick.
. . . Shall we ever have a home of our own, do you suppose? I can’t help looking forward to that time, though I should not; for when there is so much for every man in the country to do, we ought hardly to long for ease and comfort. I wish I could do my share; i.e. that I had as much talent and ability to give to it as I want. …
Good bye for the present, my dearest.
Your faithful and affectionate Husband
p.s — Now that the conflagration policy is settled, I don’t mind your speaking of what I wrote about it. Though I would never justify such acts for a moment, there is a spark of truth in the reasoning that, if we are to be treated as brigands, if captured, we are not bound to observe the laws of war. But I think now, as I did at the time, that it is cruel, barbarous, impolitic, and degrading to ourselves and to our men; and I shall always rejoice that I expressed myself so at the time of the destruction of Darien. It is rather hard that my men, officers, and myself should have to bear part of the abuse for the destruction of Darien, isn’t it? — when they (at least the officers) all felt just as I did about it.
You see, darling, from our wanderings so far, that it is impossible to make any plans for the winter; so don’t set your heart upon it.
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.
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 [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,
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