Milo Grow's Letters from
The Battle of Charleston
Ranicowles Coleton Dist-S.C., May 24, 1862
[James Island, near Charleston, S.C.]. June 20, 1862
James Island June 26th 1862
[Date unknown, after June 16th]
|Your spirit is certainly much superior, more heroic than that of many who trifle away their time and pine because their husbands are in the war--waiting for charity and the county to support them. Your conduct is worthy of you and me as well as fitting the times. You know very well that I do not believe in a life of inactivity for any rich or poor.|
In this Library of Congress photo of Private Sampson Altman, of a different Georgia regiment (Company C, 29th Regiment of Georgia Volunteers), the worn, fading uniform tells a story that is more difficult than the gilded hopes of the frame that almost dwarfs him.
High fashion of 1861 -- from Godey's Ladies' Book magazine, hand-colored as part of publication.
1858 Ironstone Pitcher
1850 Redware bowl
Gentlemen's fashions of the day, as seen in this picture of the contemporary mayor of New York.
I received your letter by Capt Hopkins yesterday and read it with the greatest interest. Capt H. says you appear to be in good health which pleases me very much. You say you are displeased because we do not write more regularly. It is impossible in camp to be regular about anything. It is difficult to write at all. We have to write sitting on the ground in the tent and it is so hot there in the last part of the day that we can not write in any comfort.
The regiment moves about a good deal and goes on picket and stays 8 or 10 days and then it is a [ poor?] chance if we can write at all. Our mail facilities are very bad--not having mail coming to the Reg. but twice a week and that not regular. Many letters sent do not go. I hear Buly complaining that 3 or 4 of his letters have not been received.
We are all in tolerable health now though none of us are very well. I had an attack of bilious fever three days ago but am nearly over it now. Buly has not been entirely well since he had the measles though he is up and apparently well. He complains of being weak and has a cough. It is what is called Camp Cough and is very common here. Some have it very badly. It wears off after while.
None of us are doing duty now. We are not required to do duty unless in good health.
The things you sent came like a bright ray of sunshine into our camp. They were fresh from your hands and then we had seen nothing like them for so long. The butter and eggs were peculiarly refreshing. The cake was excellent. We had ham eggs beef steak light bread butter several times. Sheffield left the box sent by him to be forwarded by the railroad officials and it was all spoiled before it reached here. The railroads are very unobliging about every thing pertaining to soldiers.
You say you are very much interested in the Bunyans Holy War. It has great reputation but I have never read it. The Pilgrim's Progress is very interesting. The two books have a very peculiar history and Bunyan has established for himself a very high reputation by them. I am very much pleased by the manner in which you spend your time as well as with the little flower you sent with its analysis. I wish you would send one every time. I have seen another work on botany more extensive since I have been here. I will try and get it for you. I saw it in Col. Rockwell's Office in Savannah.
If you read the history of the Reformation you will need to make free use of the Dictionary. Find out the peculiar points of doctrine on which Luther, Malanction and Zwingle differed from the Catholics. What enormity of the Catholics led Luther first to denounce them. What are the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. What is "transubstantiation the real presence."
Dr. Hopkins has all the volumes of that history. You can borrow them. Some of the greatest and most stirring events of history are contained in those volumes.
You can learn simple tunes in the singing books and after practicing you will be able to learn more difficult ones. The arithmetic is the most difficult study you now have. You will be able to master it though with care and with the assistance you can get from Uncle Richard. I will explain the principle you mentioned.
Let me caution you my dear not to over task yourself and lose your health. I rather you would do nothing than for that to happen. Your life and health is far more precious to me than knowledge.
I am really proud when I know the position you are taking in Colquitt as foremost in Sabbath school as well as your day school. Your spirit is certainly much superior, more heroic than that of many who trifle away their time and pine because their husbands are in the war--waiting for charity and the county to support them. Your conduct is worthy of you and me as well as fitting the times. You know very well that I do not believe in a life of inactivity for any rich or poor.
You cannot tell how much I was disappointed in not being able to come home when I started with George Collier. I started with an eager anticipation of seeing you and all the others. I was detailed as nurse and could go no further by Rail Road than my patient went. He could not go further than Savannah so I had to content myself. I left him then believing he would die. I learn however that there are hopes of recovery. I believe he would have died if he had gone on. He had pneumonia and the physician at Savannah said it had turned into quick consumption.
Ned Smith the old Shoemaker Smith's son died here three days ago. Sheffield made an effort to have me carry his corpse home, but the Gen would not allow any one to go with it and so it had to stay.
I wish you would remember me to all your friends. I appreciate highly their uniform and delicate kindness towards me. They treat me truly like a brother and a son. Give my thanks to Sister for her cake. It came in good order and was excellent. I received a letter from Cousin Suzie. I intend to answer it tomorrow.
I am not much pleased with Col Slaughter though he has shown me kindness. I think he has another object besides the welfare of his regiment. I may be mistaken, however. Who told you I did not like him? Many in the Reg. think as I do.
I am writing this at night in the Captain's tent and it is late. My greatest wish is to get back to you and leettle Lee again. I want to get there to stay. Cousin S. says he is the smartest boy in the world. You must kiss him for me.
I received the books that you sent. They were the right ones. I hope Uncle Richard will not volunteer as private soldier in any company thinking to get any post. He might not get it and it would trouble him to get out. Capt Kendrick can not do much for him if he is disposed. Col Harkin may have a favorite to appoint.
Oh I went down South for to see my Sal,
Canon defending Ft. Moultrie, Charleston.
(Library of Congress)
|Our officers are in a worse condition that the men. They have to support themselves at a heavy cost and have never got a dollar from the government yet. They have borrowed all the money from the men they could get. There will be mutiny among them if they are not paid soon.|
The rising cost of paper that Milo mentions here is an example of the inflation that was to increase throughout the war. As reported by Williams (p. 83), here is what a bushel of corn cost in the South during the war:
1862 - $1.10
1863 - $2.50
1864 - $5.00
1865 - $15.00
Milo discreetly omits to mention that his haversack came from the body of a Union soldier. As the war went on, the underequipped Confederates turned increasingly to Union dead for supplies and even uniforms.
(Library of Congress)
My Dearest Wife,
It affords me great pleasure to be able to write a few lines to you though they must be few. We have been absent from our camp now about two weeks and I have not before had opportunity to get paper and pen. We are now on James Island about five miles from Charleston by the road but two miles by direct course. We are in sight of Charleston and the view across the water is very beautiful.
I received your long and affectionate letter by Sient Ivey and read it with greatest pleasure. I wish I had a chance to answer it. Mr. Ivey did not get the money, he says. Paper is very scarce and constantly rising. I will get some before long however. Your ink is very good I think. Is it boiled linseed oil that you will want? If so let me know, as you can not boil it. The cloth ought to be black glazed.
We shall draw money before long and I will send you the things you require. We ought to have drawn two months ago. Our officers are in a worse condition that the men. They have to support themselves at a heavy cost and have never got a dollar from the government yet. They have borrowed all the money from the men they could get. There will be mutiny among them if they are not paid soon. When they are paid we shall be.
We do not know when we shall return to camp. We hope before long. Our things are not with us. Some of our tents are here.
We are now in what is called active service. You will have seen before now an account of the fight at Secessionville. Our regiment was in the battle though not under fire. We were stationed to defend certain points which the enemy did not try to pass. We were in full hearing and first on the battle field after the battle was over.
We picked up many little mementoes. I got a haversack which is a complete thing of its kind. The enemy all have such. The boys each got one. They are well.
We received a box of provisions from our Baker, all of which was spoiled except some eggs. I do not think it best to send anything that will spoil, as we are moving about so much that we do not get them often for a week after they arrive. It is a pity for it to spoil after so much trouble.
I dreamed that I heard leettle Lee saying Pa to me the other night. I would like so much to see him. He must have grown very much. I am glad he is so healthy. There is nothing I desire so much as to come home again and live with you and him. I cherish life for this more than all else. I hope that time will come ere long.
I hope you will not let any opportunity pass to write to me. I have not got stamps nor can I get them unless I could go to Charleston. We cannot go out of camp without a pass from the Col. He will not let men go on his own business. We are kept very close and have very little liberty.
Your father can get the syrup from Grimes by going after it. 10 gallons.
Your Loving Husband -
You might get envelope paper through George D. from the Columbus Paper Manufactory. There is no manufactory here. Send for "paper to make letter envelopes."
|Fare thee well, fare thee well,
fare thee well my fairy Fay,
For I'm off to Lou'siana for to see my Susy Anna
Singin' Polly Wolly Doodle all the day.
|A scene from life in the South, as imagined in the Northern press (Harper's Weekly, 1859)|
|A soldier gives up every conceivable liberty. John Sheffield went home without leave-- or in other words is what military law calls a deserter. He will probably be punished. Cashiered at least, that is deprived of his office. It would be well not to mention what I say about him. He has treated me kindly and I do not wish to interfere in his acts. He in his ignorance cursed the government and everything connected with it. I am fully sick of the manner in which the government is administered through it is useless to speak more of it.|
As Williams relates in Rich Man's War, another Confederate soldier wrote home that it was "an everyday occurrence for men to get letters from home stating that their families are on the point of starvation. Many a poor soldier has deserted and gone home in answer to that appeal, to be brought back and shot for desertion." (128)
I sit down this evening to have a little chat with you on paper through I cannot tell whether I shall have time, as orders come so frequently that we cannot say the next minute is our own.
We were up nearly all night last night and standing on the color line in front of our camp to be ready is case an attack is made. We are up two or three nights in a week, though I do not stand regular guard. The Captain has relieved me from that in consideration of my doing the writing for the company.
I received a long and very affectionate letter from you by mail a few days since. I have carried it in my pocket ever since and read it twenty times. I see others tear up the letters received form their wives, saying they do not wish the Yankees to get them in case they should be taken prisoners or should fall on the field. But I always have one or two of yours with me, not anticipating such a contingency.
I have stood on picket guard two nights within half a mile of the enemy's camp, so near that some of our boys said they could hear the word of command uttered by them, and both times I had your letters with me. I did not anticipate being taken or shot but I knew there was danger enough to keep me on the alert. I watched all night and should have made the best fight possible if they had shown themselves.
Your affectionate words are so sweet to me and I long to be with you and have you for my Lyra once more. You shall be my bride once more, and I think it will be more pleasant than at first, not having so many restraints.
It is as uncertain when I can return as the wind. We have to get the signature of the Capt., Col., and two superior officers to even go to Charleston. 4 miles. and I have not been since I have been here. though I have tried. If I could get sick and remain so a while I could go home on sick furlough.
A soldier gives up every conceivable liberty. John Sheffield went home without leave-- or in other words is what military law calls a deserter. He will probably be punished. Cashiered at least, that is deprived of his office. It would be well not to mention what I say about him. He has treated me kindly and I do not wish to interfere in his acts. He in his ignorance cursed the government and everything connected with it. I am fully sick of the manner in which the government is administered through it is useless to speak more of it.
I am very sorry to learn of your bad cough and sickness. I am anxious to hear how you are. I sympathize with Zoueri in her affliction. I hope she is well before now. Your thread is very good. I am afraid you are undertaking too much and will come down sick.
I could not come home if my going would save your life and our superior officers knew it. I do not believe that military law is executed so vigorously any where in the world as in S. C. Such tyranny gets up a spirit of rebellion in me. I could not even be allowed to state may case to the Gen. I could not even speak to him though he might come up into our camp. Capt. H. will do all that lies in his power though he is nearly powerless. Col. Slaughter could do more if he would.
I was glad to hear from the cows and all the things. And especially leettle Lee. I am very anxious to see him and hear him Hurrah for the soldiers and Generals. I send you by Mr. McMullen a knife picked up on the battle field which you can use as a butter knife. It belonged to S.C. Spence of the 8 Michigan Regiment. It will be a memento or sort of a curiosity of the battlefield of Secessionville. I have got a tin cup belonging to the same man.
I am anxious to see the oilcloth which you are about to send. I am beginning to need another shirt-like these checked shirts. Perhaps you could buy some cloth and make one. I shall pay you back the money you pay out for such things, if we ever draw any.
I learn from letters received by others here that you are well liked in your school. Every body is satisfied. I am very glad to hear it.
|We are encamped on this island in full view of Charleston across the water in a cotton field and live in the dust and dirt. The roar of the cannon often reaches our ears from the enemy's boats or from our own guns.|
|[Date unknown, but after "the 16th"--presumably of June]||
I received a letter from Cousin S. a few days ago and shall answer it soon. You ink is brighter. I am glad you can make it. Capt. Hop. says they make good ink in Virginia by putting the rind of pomegranate in a pint of water and letting it stand. A very little vinegar and sugar makes it better. Have you ever got the vinegar barrel from Grimeses? It must not be lost.
The boys are well. We are encamped on this island in full view of Charleston across the water in a cotton field and live in the dust and dirt. The roar of the cannon often reaches our ears from the enemy's boats or from our own guns. They throw shells at the Island and sometimes our guns reply. We are encamped out of reach of shells.
The enemy will find it very hard to take this island. It is now believed that they lost nearly 1,000 men in the fight of the 16th. Prisoners taken by our pickets since the battle say so. It was very destructive to them as it did not last more than 2 1/2 hours. It is reported that they have evacuated the Island, though we do not know it to be so. An English ship came into Charleston a few days ago with 10 thousand [...] of arms and ammunition and a good many cannon.
Give my love to Mother, Pick, Nelly, Zoueri, Willie, and Father, and Uncle Richard, and his family. Write to me as soon as possible my dear and receive this from
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