(Note: These letters from Joseph L. Hallett I to his Mother, Brother, cousin Judah and Aunt “E Ann” were transcribed from scans of the handwritten originals by Cliff McCarthy and Stan Prager in October and November 2019. In some places, spelling and punctuation have been modified for readability. The original letters are currently in the possession of Joseph Hallett III. He has graciously provided scans for use in this project and all inquiries about the original letters should be directed to Mr. Hallett.)
Sea Brook Isle Tuesday March 11th 1862
Conforming with your request to write often I improve the opportunity this morning which I think will give me sufficient time to finish and tell you about all that has happened since writing last. I guess you will be surprised to learn that the steamer Mississippi is again in a bad fix and as the mate said the devil must be in her. I think no less than true and the Mississippi an ill fated vessel. And we may as well attempt to go to China in her as to Ship Island. It rains today and we lay on a sand bar with the Mississippi on her beam end which makes a slant of the tables very convenient writing accommodations. I closed my last letter Thursday the 6th. I was sent onto the Mississippi to take charge of a gang of men in unloading the freight and getting out water from the hole that the leak might be stopped and we got ready for sea. There were five lieutenants each of us had charge of twenty men. We worked through the day and at night were relieved once in two hours, but it was not very pleasant I assure you, to have to be aroused from sleep and go to work in the night and especially for the men who grunted considerable in that they had to be both soldiers and sailors. They say they did not enlist for sailors but they have had to do work on the ship ever since we left Fortress Monroe. There are good many that sigh for home, I reckon. The men have been relieved every twenty-four hours but I have been on until this morning and feel pretty tired. The weather has been fine though some of the times it has been very warm and on shore the sand has blown making it very disagreeable. We have loaded some 150 tons of coal onto the steamer since I came on and I have been dirty as a pig without a chance to get clean until yesterday afternoon when I took time, although subject to arrest when away from my men without leave. You know we are under strict military discipline now and it won’t do to disobey. Capt. Nettleton and several of the officers have been arrested for most trivial things such as leaving the Camp for ten minutes and sent to their quarters while we have frequently men in irons for little or nothing.
The ship was cleared of water and the hole in the bulkhead stopped Saturday by some Navy officers from Hilton Head and as a matter of course Gen. Butler must have the freight put onto the steamer again forthwith, so that I was obliged to keep my men at work all day Sunday. By the way Gen. Butler and Staff and the Maine companies that came with us in the Mississippi were to go to Ship Island in another steamer the Matansas which would make more room for the 31st Regt. and greatly lighten the vessel. So I was ordered to see to the transferring of the General’s baggage (and there was a lot of it) and the ammunition from the Mississippi to the Matansas. Lieutenant Hayden got the baggage and ammunition out of the Mississippi and I saw that it was properly loaded in the Matansas. We worked hard and long and at night had loaded at least 25,000 pounds of stuff including cartridges, shells and cannon. It was the General’s intention to leave Sunday but the Maine boys were not ready until night so that they could not get off. Monday at 11 am the most of the freight being loaded onto the Mississippi the tents were struck and the men began to come aboard and we were to get off with the tide but at 4 o’clock there was some 200 still on shore and the tide going out so that we were obliged to leave them to be taken off by a tug while we got into deep water. The engine began to work and we were moving off rapidly when the tiller rod broke. The helm became unmanageable and the steamer was driven onto a sand bar within 20 feet of the shore at low tide and here we are immovable. You may imagine how we all looked as this was not the first but third or fourth disaster and delay. Here we are 21 days from Boston and half way to Ship Island when we should have been there 10 days ago and for what I know in New Orleans.
Last night at high tide two heavy tugboats were attached to the Mississippi to try and get her off but in vain and I do not know what will be done though it is evident that one more effort will be made to get off and if that fails we must wait for other transports. We have a good table set on the steamer but very poor water which is condensed from salt water and many are made sick by it. There has been a battle at Savanah [sic] only 18 miles from us and we could hear the firing at Sea Brook. Gen. Sherman is in command at Hilton Head. quite a number of our men have been down there. my time has been so occupied or I should have gone to the fort or to Beaufort.
Had I known how long we were to stay at Sea Brook I could have got a mail as it comes from Hilton Head once a day and they get a mail there quite often. But I presume I shall get one at Ship Island and if we start tomorrow with good luck we shall be there in 6 days. Our pay rolls have been made out and the Col. says as soon as we get to Ship Island we shall get our pay.
I know of nothing more to write of importance. Shall write to Abby and Mary today.
with love to all I remain your aff. son
Joseph L. Hallett
At Sea March 16th 1862
It is the Sabbath and while the bells are ringing you for church in cloaks and coats I am writing in the cabin of the Mississippi sweating as on Fourth of July in Massachusetts and it is much warmer on deck for there the hot sun beats down and the warm air strikes one incessantly. The steamer is heading for the much talked of Ship Island and our cruise is now off Great Bahama Bank and as nigh as I can learn 50 miles from Key West and 450 or 500 miles from our destination. We have had a very pleasant trip thus far from Port Royal which we left Thursday noon and I do hope that a bad beginning may form a good ending to the expedition.
When I closed my last letter we lay on a sand bar at Sea Brook Landing and as I thought never should get afloat again, but contra to expectation, having discharged part of the cargo and the men placed on to other boats by the help of three powerful steamers, the Mississippi was hauled into deep water Wednesday morning having been on the bar 40 hours. Having got off, we went to Hilton Head where we lay at anchor waiting for fair weather till Thursday noon when we started for sea. The steamer Susquehanna lay in the harbor and as we passed she fired a salute to Gen. Butler and the band played ”Hail Columbia”, “Dixie”, etc. which sounded beautifully and was responded to from the Mississippi by hearty cheers. There was scarce a ripple in the water and the sail down the harbor was delightful. The weather on Friday was warm and muggy and the sea rolling as now we entered the Gulf Stream and as we had a strong current and tradewinds to contend with the steamer made but 3 knots an hour much of the time. Saturday was cloudy and it rained a little toward night. I have spent much of my time on deck and have enjoyed myself finely. The quarter deck is for the officers [illegible] and we gather there between meals and sit and read and talk and watch the waves and when we get tired of reading and talking, etc. we think of home. The idea is we try to keep home out of our minds as much as possible for we know that the steamer is caring us farther and farther away and home is the last thing to think of. Friday and Saturday evening the moon shone brightly and the salt air floated over the deck. We even gathered a few of us on deck to sing and play. Lieut. Smith played the guitar while the others sang. We have recitations in tactics before the Col. every evening and I am of the opinion that we shall make thorough military soldiers if any we abide by the discipline of the regular Army wholly. This morning I got out on deck at 7 o’clock. we were running out sight of the land but our course was toward it. At 8 o’clock the bell called us to breakfast. I thought how I would like to sit down to brown bread and beans instead of the hash and [illegible] bread and crackers which we have had every meal for breakfast on board since we left Boston. At 9 o’clock each company was called in line for inspection, when the officers had to appear in full uniform. After inspection a quarter before eleven the companies were marched onto the quarter deck to listen to a sermon by the Chaplain from Romans 5th chapter 1st verse. The sermon was a good one but the getting to it was tedious, singing and then reading so many prayers. There is an awning shadowing the deck and you would have smiled to see the men sitting “spoon fashion” arranged of tier after tier. The Chaplain stood up the capstan covered by the stars and stripes for his pulpit while the officers sat at the stern of the boat facing toward the men and constituted the choir. Sermon ended, the companies were marched to their quarters while we sat around until dinnertime when we went below. I will tell you which we had for dinner just for varieties [sic] sake and which is generally the same with little change. First soup, which is brought to us by waiters. Then we help ourselves to what is on the table, roast beef, mutton, boiled ham, chicken or turkey, mashed potatoes, turnips, beats, pickles, bread and crackers, and when we get through the meats our plates are taken. So much for that.
Monday 17th 2 pm. We are off Key West. A pilot is coming to us by which we can send letters so I hasten to add a few lines that I neglected to yesterday. Capt. Fulton who had command of the Mississippi from Boston to North Carolina is a southern man and it was thought strange by some in Boston than he should have charge of the steamer and his ill management of the boat from the time we started either proved him incompetent to manage the Mississippi or else to get us into the hands of the rebels. He professed to have been master of vessels for a number of years and thought it strange that an accusation of that kind should be brought against him. I think that he has proved himself a traitor. Gen. Butler arrested him after we got off the sandbar at Sea Brook and he was transferred to the Matansas and the Mississippi put in charge of Lieut. Sturgis of the Navy who piloted us to Sea Brook from Cape Fear and who has brought us safely to Key West and will pilot us to Ship Island. We do not stop at Key West but should continue on and I hope get to the island by Wednesday. I have heard it stated though not very generally known that we are to go to Texas.
The pilot is waiting.
Love to all,
Ship Island Saturday, March 29, 1862
Dear Friends at Home.
My last letter was written on board the Steam Ship Mississippi as we lay off the island and we did not get ashore until Tuesday forenoon. Monday afternoon an order was given by Col. Gooding for the men to pack knapsacks and take two days rations start at sunrise from the boat. The order was promptly obeyed and the men filled with delight at the prospect of getting on land again. Early in the morning a tug came alongside of the Mississippi and one company after another disembarked and were landed on the wharf, formed in line, and marched to the ground selected for our Camp about 2 miles up the island. The sand is very light and fine resembling blotting sand and as we marched the feet sank several inches and such a getting up stairs I never did see, one step forward and two back. I was glad when halted. There is one thing about Ship Island to its credit and worth remarking. There is nothing green (save the 31st), not a speck of grass or tree to be seen around camp, but water is abundant and as soon as the men stacked arms before pitching tents they took their tin cups and by digging 3 or 4 feet found water and it is the case all over the island. The surface for a foot down is light and dry below which it is damp and I can account for the heavy dew nights in this warm climate only by this. I wake up mornings and find my coat quite wet and think it must be very unhealthy here. We pitched our tents about noon but what to do for dinner I knew not. The men had rations of meat and crackers but our officers what to do we knew not. All that Capt. Bridgman, Lieut. Darling and myself had was two sandwiches and nothing could be got only by orders on the Port Commissary. While we sat thinking what it was best to do Capt. Barrett of the Michigan 6th came to where we were and introducing himself kindly invited us to dine at his tent which invitation we gladly accepted, went with him and sat down around a chest and ate of preserved sausages, potatoes, boiled rice and bread. good enough for anyone. In the afternoon I was invited to dinner by a Lieut. in the Indiana regiment and as we found it difficult to get any thing ourselves I went and made a meal of bread and molasses. At 8 o’clock I returned to my quarters and made my bed. I do not find here the moss for filling ticks that we did at Sea Brook but spread the quilts down and one over me which answered very well. In the morning were awakened by the beat of drums and light at 5 o’clock. did not lay long after I awoke and was glad to be relieved from the [illegible] the prints of which I felt for several hours afterwards. Jimmie was sent to the baker’s for some bread and I borrowed a cup of molasses which constituted our morning repast. Borrowing three tin plates of our company we sat on our chests poured some molasses on them, broke off a piece of bread and didn’t we make a hearty meal. Who wouldn’t be a soldier in the Army of the North. We had bread and molasses for dinner, supper and breakfast the next morning, being unable to get anything else. At 10 the Captain started down to the Port Commissaries and said that if there was anything to be had he would have it, returning in an hour with some sugar rice coffee and a ham. We cooked the ham and some rice and made a fine meal and with molasses is all the variety we have since or expect to get while on Ship Island. I often think of home and should not mind a bit of Aunt’s pie now and then and a beer come Saturday night! We hain’t many dainty officers or privates in our regiment [illegible] a day. We have no floor to our tents and the sand being light blows into our [illegible] and for one feel that I have nearly ate my peck of dirt and such gritty fellows as we shall make to fight the rebels must make their mark. Although Ship Island is so breezy yet in many things we are pleasantly situated. You can judge by the [illegible] I send our [illegible] on the island. On either side is the surf rolling upon on the beach continually which we can see from our tents door and is convenient for a wash. We can also see a portion of the main land. Cat Island is plainly seen and in clear weather Mississippi City. The weather is much like dry days warm the mornings and evenings damp and oppressive. We are much focused in hours of drill from 7 to 10 am & 4 to 6 pm which gives us the heat of the day to lay still in. Our parade ground is [illegible] about a mile up the island and the only difficulty is in getting to it through the sand. The companies form on the beach and march as near the sea as they can but find it very bad walking the whole way.
Sunday afternoon 30th. It is exceedingly warm hot as mid-summer . I have been reading hymns for some time and the Tract Journal of Feby 1861 and for an hour or two been in the Sergeant’s tent singing. The regiment was out this morning for instruction which took little time and the sun being so warm our church services will not take place until 6 o’clock. As we sat eating our potatoes ham and rice this morning a great many remarks were made about home and what the folks would think to see us sitting around in the sand eating food which the style we live would be no temptation to beg in New England. And yet who wouldn’t be a soldier.
And now a few lines in reference to our fighting prospects. Our regiment has been placed in Gen. Williams Brigade, including the 26th Mass. formerly the 6th famous in Baltimore Col. Jones, 21st Indiana, 6th Michigan, 4th Wisconsin, and crack regiments they are too. Their movements are like clockwork. Yesterday morning we received an order from headquarters that our brigade was to embark on transports for some point on the mainland. And we felt delighted at the prospect of getting a foothold on secesh ground. Our regiment went on board and the others are going on board today to sail tomorrow. You can’t imagine our chagrin and disappointment as we were told that the 31st would not go on account of its inproficiency in drill. Col. Gooding felt awful to think that we had been detained on the Mississippi were it not for that we should be able to go and see the first fighting of the expedition. As near as I can learn, and you can’t tell much what will be done by what one hears, the place for point of landing is 12 miles from N[ew] O[rleans]. I hope that we shall be ready to go ourselves in a few days and I think the plan is to set us all (I hear) on the march soon.
Most every day [illegible] with men and women who profess to be northerners escaping from the South come to the island. They assist our troops at New Orleans but they are all looked upon as spies, we treat them as friend. The gunboats in the harbor come in every day with rebel vessels they have captured. I have not got any mail yet and the cry steamer in with a mail has become a cry of disappointment often. One of our men got a Republican of July 15 and that is the latest news. If I could get a letter and paper often I should like soldiering first-rate, and wouldn’t give up as it is for money. There are many privations and dangers to contend with in a soldier life but I like it. Nims’ famous battery is attached to our brigade.
Wednesday, April 2 Yesterday I thought of Springfield and how much moving there was going [in and] After drill in the p.m. the Col. gave Capt. B[ridgman]’s office a new tent which we put up and moved into. wonder where I shall be next April. The troops are most all onboard ships. The Capt. of the Mississippi told Lieut. Rice that he had a chart marked out for the Southwest Pass ready to sail any time. Forts Jackson and St. Philips are on this Pass. I understand that the mortar fleet that went from here about two weeks ago have taken Fort Jackson which is the strongest of the two. We are making good proficiency in drill and shall be ready to ship any time. Col. Weldon’s Regiment 13th Maine is to remain as guard on the island.
There are 3 or 4 brass bands in our brigade and we have music enough.
There is a funeral of someone most every day which is very solemn on the desert island. the other day as I lay resting on my chest, I heard band playing in slow time the [illegible] hymn in which are the words “Come to Jesus Christ and Live” and looking out of my tent saw a company headed by a band following one of its members to the burying ground. Visiting the cemetery one morning I saw many graves with a very few with plain boards with their initials carved on them to mark where they lay.
We have but a few sick belonging to our company. Those that are sick I look after visiting the hospital nearly every day and talking with them encouragingly and sending them a mouthful from our table. I can’t but laugh to hear them say sometimes how could I have enlisted.
Mr. Chubbuck the chaplain of the 31st is not popular at all. Not an officer as I can learn likes him and and the men are tired of hearing him read the same prayers over and over again. It is evident that he is not the man for the place. I wish we had a good earnest and interested preacher.
Our head surgeon Dr. Sanborn is crazy and a guard is placed over him. Dr. Bidwell assistant surgeon is a fine man, stands over 6 feet in his stockings.
Thursday, April 3 Every day brings something new. Major Strong, of General Butler’s staff, and Capt. Conant of the Springfield company were sent in a boat with flag of truce to carry a boy that was picked up at sea from a foundered English vessel, the boy having friends at Biloxi, a small town about 8 miles from Ship Island. The Major and Capt. did their errand and were returning when they got aground and a party of Mississippi mounted riflemen came down and ordered them to surrender and gave them 20 minutes to do it in. Major Strong said that he should not surrender and would fight till the last. They were in a large sailboat and had permission[?]. The Mississippians went to get more men to assist but when they got back the boat was off and the Major got back safe. He told General Butler what reception he met with, which made him so mad that he sent three gunboats yesterday to shell the town. I saw the boats as they moved away from the island and about two hours after could hear the reports of cannon, it sounding like the continued roar of thunder, which kept up until dark. Have not heard the result but have no fears.
I make it a practice every morning at 5:30 to take a bath which I find very beneficial. I have not had but one sick day since I came to Ship Island. I wish I had brought some sauce such as pickled horseradish, etc. we can’t get anything scarcely here and what the sutlers have they ask enormous price for. No kind of fruit can we get not even a raisin.
The steward on the steamer Mississippi said that he was steward on the South Carolina and ran with Rodney Baxter and that Rodney left his position as sailing master on the South Carolina expecting the command of the Mississippi and he told the steward one day that he expected a new ship and wanted him as steward. I presume that he will be sent to take the ship since Capt. Fuller has turned traitor.
A mail is to leave here for the North this week and we are expecting one. doubtless ours will go but I shall not be disappointed if we do not get any. I am told that we shall not get our pay at present and not before July, which makes it very inconvenient. I don’t want any myself from the fact that there is nothing to sell, but should like to send a few dollars home.
Our company cook Mr. Richardson cooks for our needs and we pay him extra. Our company is allowed so many pounds of rice potatoes bread etc. which is more than they can consume and we pay them cash. what we [give them] they buy what little notions they want such as pie and nut cake.
I will endeavor to draw a view of our tent and how we enter at meal time. There is much that I could write if I could think what it is. What I don’t write now I shall in my next. Will send letters as often as the mail leaves. Remember me to [ illegible] and family and also to all of my friends. Trusting that you and I will continue to enjoy the blessings of the kind Provider and never be sent to such a dry place as Ship Island is the best [something] off, your son brother and friend,
I have not used much medicine myself but I have cured one of our men from my medicine box. I prize it highly.
Ship Island, April 10, 1862
Dear Brother, I send home my overcoat because it is nicer than I require for “the business” and the weather too warm to carry it where we are going, so I send it home and shall get a privates’ overcoat which I can lay down and have a nice one when I return from the war. I want it cleaned and pressed and put away with my other “old duds,” which will be worn when I get home, for I don’t see any prospect of the Government’s paying us any money. When it comes pay day won’t there be a pile though. I draw pay from the time we had 80 men which is January 10 and have received one month at Camp Seward. I can send money for home from here by Adams Express for 1% at my risk or 2 1/2% at their risk. The Box will come to $2.00 to Boston and I would pay it here if I had the means. Please keep an account of things and when I get home we will straighten things. Capt. Bridgman puts his coat in the same box and his folks will call for it and pay half the charges when they take it.
We are enjoying first-rate weather though pretty warm. do not mind the sand as I did at first. have been sick a little since we came here but enjoy good health now. We live regular and plain. Get up at Reveille 5 o’clock and attend roll call, take a bath when the weather will permit, breakfast at 6, Battalion Drill at 7 until 10, Dinner at 12 M., Battalion Drill again at 3:30, Retreat at sunset, Tattoo at 9 and Taps at 9:10 when all lights are extinguished. We live better than when we first came on the Island, but find about the same sprinkling of sand in our victuals.
Biloxi, the small town opposite on the main land was shelled by our gunboats a few days since. The Connecticut 9th landed and made a charge on the rebels who fled and left their tents and all that was in them. The men brought away guns, pistols, swords, and some Confederate money that they took from them. Capt. Lee had a two dollar Confederate bill given him, which is of the poorest quality of paper and very bad print. When I get a shinplaster you shall have it. I have mentioned in my letters that soon we shall be in New Orleans and now we are under marching orders and shall leave within 48 hours. Yesterday we had orders to furnish the men with shoes, canteens, haversacks, and the cooks have been ordered to furnish 10 days’ rations to the men. Our improvement in military discipline has been so great that Gen. Williams has concluded to take us with his brigade. The guns are all put in repair and we are ready for a fight. I shall pack my chest with every thing that I do not carry and all that I shall take will be what I can carry on my back. There are no wagons in the Regt. and few on the island, only enough to take the General’s traps. I shall take a haversack with hard bread, a canteen with water or coffee, and blankets, which with my sword and pistol will constitute about what I shall take. The fact is we shall make an attack as soon as we get to the S[outh]west Pass. The Mortar Fleet is to engage the forts while we make an attack on some part. I hardly know where myself and we must bivouac for a few days. I have marked my chest “Send to HWHallet Springfield Mass.” in case of accident or we get where we can’t get them. Our baggage will be placed under guard and if we get in quarters where we shall stay any length of time it will be forwarded. Lieut. Smith of Capt. Lee’s company has resigned and returns on the first vessel to his friends. I can’t say what reason he has for resigning but if I were in his place think I would wait until after the battle. I would not resign now if I knew that I should be shot, just as we are going to make the first strike for our country in these parts. I enlisted to fight and to back out is cowardice. He says that he will call on you and you can learn more about us than my writing 40 pages.
Yesterday preparatory to leaving there was a “grand review” of Gen. Phelps the 1st, Gen. Williams’ 2d and Gen. Shipley the 3rd brigades, 17 regiments in all. The line was formed on the South Beach and was near if not quite 5 miles long. The regiment was looking fine and as Gen. Butler and Staff rode by all came to “present arms” and when he had rode by the regiments [illegible] ranks and wheeled into columns by company and [illegible] in review. It was sunset before we got through and were pretty tired. There were two artists present and I understand that the review will be sketched in Harper’s Weekly and New York Illustrated probably in a couple of weeks. Our company’s position is the second on the right of the Regiment, a first-rate position, and our company is second best to none in the regiment. I feel proud to go into the Field with them. They are men that won’t run from the enemy. Our surgeon has been in here. Gen. Williams told him that for the next 30 days we should have a hard time and suffer much, that we should be off as soon as we could get onto Transports. You need not feel anxious if you do not hear from me again for some days as I think it will be impossible to send a letter after we get on the Main land. I fear not but am thankful that I am able to bear a hand with my brother officers in putting down the rebellion and believe that kind Providence that has been with me thus far will watch over me in days to come. Love to all interested in your affectionate brother,
Joseph L Hallett
[postscript across the top margin of the first page]
I hear that the General Washington a sailing vessel from New York has a large mail for the 31st. I have seen the Republican up to March 10 which was brought by a private mail. See that Corning[?] has an addition to his family. I should feel the better to hear from home before we leave. until further notice address Ship Island and it will be forwarded to me
Mr. Furbush a private in our company has been discharged and has agreed to go to Springfield and see you. I am sorry to have him leave us. He is a good soldier. has a blood vessel on the calf of his leg which unfits him for a soldier.
Ship Island, Gulf of Mexico, April 12, ‘62
The bearer is a member of our Company and has been for the past four months, but on account of disability will be discharged from service and returned to Massachusetts by the first Transport. I sent you a letter yesterday but the bearer Mr. Fawcett can tell you more than I have time to write. by kindness he has volunteered to go direct to Springfield and call on you.
Last night was the most severe one with the exception of the gale off Hatteras I ever passed. A terrific thunderstorm lay over us all night. The wind blew down tents & the waves rolled up on the beach furiously. The lightning was quick and sharp blinding the eye and keeping us awake, but sad to relate a tent was struck by lightning and 3 instantly killed and others are just living.
I spent last evening with the Chaplain who says that he shall organize prayer meetings immediately. He has been to Fort Pickens and gave me an account of the Fort and surroundings. There are few rebels there. Most have moved to Mobile & New Orleans.
We are to go on the Mississippi with Gen. Butler to New Orleans. Provisions are being taken on board today and we shall go on board it is thought tomorrow. I think likely that our regiment will be sent to garrison the fort when taken, either Jackson or Fort St. Phillip. It is however a camp story and little is known of the future.
Wm. Stockwell of Co. F is brought before a Court Marshall [sic] for sleeping on his Post. Though he says he was not asleep, I was Officer of the Guard and [illegible] on evidence of the Corporal.
It is reported that the George Washington which had a mail for our island, two of her boats having been found this morning adrift.
Your aff. brother,
P.S. Since writing the above a mail has been received but no letter from any of our folks. John Matson got one from you. Mine will probably be along by and by.
[written on the reverse]
I haven’t got any postage stamps & can’t get any on the Island. wish you would send me a dozen.
Onboard steam ship Mississippi, Mississippi River
Friday, April 18, 1862
Dear Mother Brothers Sisters Aunt and Friends,
I am going to commence a letter home but when I should be able to send it I cannot tell. You see by the above that we have left Ship Island and are in the world renowned Mississippi River near the city of New Orleans which we hope soon to take and to raise in triumph over its walls the Stars & Stripes. With what opposition we shall meet I am unable to say, but let me assure you the Massachusetts men are ready to do their part in gaining a foothold and wait only for word from our Maj. General to advance.
Last Tuesday at 2 pm the drum beat the assembly and with loaded knapsacks haversacks and canteens strung over our shoulders the Regiment formed in line and at 4 were on the steam tug Lewis. The Lewis is a Mississippi steam boat, sidewheels, high as a two-story house with three or four decks, high pressure engine, large black smokestacks, and when she moves puffs and blows like an old horse. The 26th Col. Jones and Col. Gooding regiments were on board and as we started from the wharf she tipped clean down into the water frightening us most to death. Lucky for us she kept right side up and in twenty minutes more we were alongside the steamer Mississippi which was to convey us to the South-West Pass. One thing worth mentioning, and as an officer remarked, the narrowest escape we had met with yet that endangered our lives is the knocking down of the pipes of the Lewis by the yard arms of the Mississippi as she came alongside and but for the precaution of Col. Weldon must have swamped us all. I was on the lower deck with my men when I heard the crash and supposed the upper deck had broken down but seeing nothing, remained still and told the man to keep where they were as they were making a rush for the other steamer and had all got on one side she must have gone over. We have to thank Providence that thus a second time by the pipes catching a wire the boat was saved from fire and I daresay many lives from death.
At 7 o’clock we were safely on the Mississippi but extremely crowded so much so that some of the men had to take up quarters on the deck and some of the officers on the floor of the cabins. I was in luck in securing the bunk in a number one state room with Lieutenants Darling, Cushing and Covey.
I had put four days rations of hard bread and boiled ham in my haversack but found that the ship was to furnish rations to the officers so I gave the ham to Corporal Lamby [Canby?]. it was expected when we came on board that we should sail that night but General Butler did not come aboard and we could not sail. We left on the island Sgt. Church and three sick privates, one Charles King of Wilbraham dangerously sick. The chaplain stayed also in charge of the camp and will not join us until we get a foothold somewhere. Our Col. is not much of a chaplain’s man. Capt. Lee will officiate in Mr. Chubbuck’s stead.
Wednesday afternoon at 5 o’clock the General and staff came on board and was greeted with music by the band of the 26th and shortly after, we steamed out of the harbor and on our course to New Orleans. The expedition comprises General Williams brigade of 8000 troops. The Mississippi had the ship North America in tow. Matanzas, the [illegible], steamer Jackson, the Great Republic. With such big ships to tow our progress was exceedingly slow so that we did not make [illegible] until 12 o’clock the next noon. Here we met a blockading ship and learned that there was not water enough for the Mississippi to venture in and we were obliged to sail for the South-West Pass. The Captain of the blockading vessel told General Butler that Fort Jackson was attacked that morning at 8 o’clock by the Mortar Fleet and there had been heavy firing all day. The hawser’s were let loose from the North America and the Mississippi went puffing away for the scene of the action. It was now three in the afternoon and the distance to the fort not far from 40 miles. It would not answer to run up the river in the night and at sundown the steamer came to anchor just out side of the bar, where she lay during the night. Early this morning or at 7:30 getting a pilot we went over the bar at 8, passed Pilottown a pretty little village on the right. The houses are low buildings and not a tree to be seen anywhere in the town, A river or creek runs through the village with houses on either bank. I enjoyed the sail up the river very much, passing here and there a farm, but what was raised on the land I am puzzled to tell. All that could be seen is course grass. I daresay however that they find something for the niggers to do, as I saw several peeking at us, half frightened to death I suppose of the Yankees.
Reaching the bend of the river we came to an anchor 18 miles from the forts. I can’t say why we stopped here, other than by order of the General. We were very anxious to get to the forts and witness the bombardment. From where we lay at anchor we could distinctly see columns of smoke rising up and knew that there must be hot work going on. General Butler went ashore to see about planting a couple of Sawyers guns which we brought with us to form battery. The Saxon came up and Maj. Strong was sent up the river to see how matters were at the fort, it being the intention, if I understand right, to put the troops into them as soon as they surrender or evacuate them, and he was to send word in that event.
The afternoon passed away rather heavily. Every old paper that could be gathered was read and reread. The soldiers stood gazing at the smoke and drifts of flood wood, old trees, and snags as they floated down the river and thus the day has passed. I have spent many moments thinking of home but home is far away.
Sunday forenoon the 20th — it rains and how very lonesome. We have not moved since we came to an anchor but still lie at the head of the Passes. The river here is but a mile and a half wide and the water dark and muddy as often heard told. The storm drives us below and the breakfast which is of late ever reminds one of Sunday morning breakfast at home, a capital meal of baked beans and corn cake and the beans were done up brown. I think I enjoyed the breakfast best of any since I left home. I have read a chapter in the testament and a couple of letters from Europe which I borrowed from the Purser of the boat and now as we shall probably have no services I shall devote the rest of the morning in writing.
Meeting Capt. Lee on the quarter deck a short time ago I remarked I should like to attend church in New Orleans today whatever the preaching and would give considerable for last week’s Herald. He said yes and that is all the reply he made. I pity him for he has much to contend with among such unchristian officers. I would like to go to church at Union Street today and hear the new minister. Who can he be? Know of none to judge from but Oramel Peck. My mind is that Bro. Steele will be getting married and the society in luck to get one to fill his shoes. He has sent me reading for the soldiers. I think Pynchon St. has a new minister too and hope you may get a Mark Trafton. I saw by the paper that John [illegible] was wounded at Roanoke. You remember that I was going in the same company. A man that I enlisted (Bosquet) was wounded.
General Butler went up to the Mortar Fleet yesterday in the Jackson and returned at midnight. The Fort still holds out and to my mind is likely to. it is a very strong fort under the pattern of Fort Sumter. A heavy chain lays across the river below the fort so that our boats cannot get within two miles of the fort. Above the chain is 10 acres of logs. An effort is being made to destroy the chain by [illegible] and then, says I, just look out for the flood wood and Secesh mind [illegible] your guns. It is rumored that they have the best of us as yet, have sunk one of the vessels and killed some of our men.
We should land and charge on the forts but for the marshes. It is impossible to march the Regiment and draw the field pieces any distance. If the forts are not taken we shall go back to Ship Island and with a larger force move towards the city from Mississippi City or a point nearby. I hope that the Mortar Fleet will be successful and ‘ere long will be in our possession. A hospital steamer that has been with the fleet ran down this morning for some medicine. It had several wounded ones on board. She is going down to Pilottown and then return. The big rifled Sawyer gun which was brought out on the bow of the Mississippi weighing over 8000 pounds is to be loaded onto a gunboat to operate against the forts. 300 rounds are to be taken with it and it can make good firing at 4 miles. It is the identical gun that brought down the Mount Vernon as we lay on Frying Pan Shoals.
Opposite to where we now lie is a frenchman’s. The river is very high and the house is surrounded by water. He has quite a plantation and a number of slaves. The Chief Officer having been over to his place (of course us Lieutenants can’t take such privileges) and got oysters and milk and suchlike and given provisions from the ship in exchange. The milk was put on the table to put in our tea and coffee and wasn’t it delicious. Secession milk is not so bad after all. Though I think the Frenchman must be Union man. the milk was mighty thin, not much like that you get at Mr. Golplins.
I hope we shall soon be in the city or in camp and some pleasant locality. The men are crowded on the ship and many have to sleep on deck. Them that have quarters in the hole are little better off. It is hard to ventilate between decks and the air is close and suffocating. Poor fellows. they make a sacrifice of health and run a risk of life which you know little of. Orderly Barnes does laundry better than I expected he would. He is ever pleasant and does the best he can for the company. He wears false teeth and when others would grumble he soaks his cracker in coffee and laughs. I promised him a good dinner when we get home to Springfield.
John Matson I am somewhat disappointed in. He is inclined to peevish fretful disposition, finding fault with his victuals. Were it not for this disposition, which manifested itself one day in a peculiar way, he would have got a Sergeancy in Capt. Pages company. I will relate the case when I come home. John tries to do right.
Tuesday afternoon April 22 — Still on board the Mississippi but with fine prospects of victory and advance. A soldier is not busy 24 hours in one place. Let us be moving and we are happy. Yankee soldiers can’t lay idle. If they are not busy they are miserable and in mischief. Lucky for the 31st we have moved and are anchored 12 miles nearer the Forts, 12 miles nearer New Orleans. The firing continues and never was a battle more hotly contested. only think this is the fifth day that the fleet has been pouring shells into the Forts and yet the battle continues with no cessation. night and day has there been a column of smoke rising to heaven.
Wednesday 12 M. — I was Officer of the Guard yesterday and unable to write much. was up the greater part of the night and have just had a nap and while I am waiting for dinner will tell what to me has been of the greatest interest during my experience in military life. I mentioned above that we had moved 12 miles nearer the Forts which brought us within 8 miles [of] it. As we were going, a gunboat passed us coming down at a rapid rate and when the boat got near her Captain hails us with the glad news “The Chain is Cut” whereupon such a cheering from officers and men you never heard. It was glad and welcome news I assure you. The great feat of cutting the chain had been accomplished and we were so much nearer the close of the battle. During the afternoon Maj. Strong, who is a mighty smart man, Chief on the staff, came from the Fleet and said that at 12 at night, Commodore Porter was to get his boats in line and together they were to make an effort to take the Forts, At which we were to be ready to sail in. Accordingly at sundown the Mississippi up with anchor again and away she went upstream and did not stop until within sight of the Forts among the fleet.
The night was dark though not cloudy. The stars twinkled in the firmament above. The air cool, but not chilly and all still as death through the ship. The men were all sent below while only the Guard and those that for want of room were forced to make their bed on deck remained above, and they were obliged to lie down and keep perfectly silent. My instructions to the Guard was to hail every boat with Who Goes There? and if belonging to a gunboat to have them come alongside. In this way several were stopped and not permitted to go on by until they had reported. The officers were most of them on the quarter deck and in the rigging with their glasses watching the bombardment. Part of the time I spent on deck, part in the rigging, and with my poor eyesight could see the shells as they Shot into the air, I should think over a mile at any rate. They appeared to go far above the stars, be it a mile or more, and then rapidly descending strike the Fort or into the water with a report doubly that of two heavy cannon. In fact the report was so great that at the bursting of a shell it jarred the steamer.
What would you have given could you have stood with me on the Mississippi and witnessed the scenes of last night? Sure I never expected to see the bombardment of the Fort and probably never shall again, for it is the last one we shall have to capture probably during this war, and I hope the very last war America will ever see. Words cannot express either picture to the mind the grandeur of the night.
The Forts have fired but few shot or shell, the cause of which I am unable to tell. Maybe they have little ammunition or else are reserving it for some definite object. There were counted eleven steamboats back of the Forts this morning, probably excursion boats from the city with folks to see the bombardment. A shell from our fleet struck one of the steamboats tearing it to pieces. The loss of life on the rebel side must be great. On our side we have killed I judge a dozen and many wounded. They are carried to Pilottown every day where there is hospital. A great feature of the night is the fire rafts that the rebels sent down among us. These rafts of logs a hundred feet long are loaded with cotton, turpentine, pitch and when lighted are set adrift and come rushing down endangering the ships and often doing much damage. Last night we saw one coming directly ahead of us, nearer and nearer it approached and considerable excitement [illegible] on the ship lest it would strike. It got within a half-mile when it was caught by a gunboat and towed ashore to the right bank. The Mississippi lay by the left. The illumination from the fire was so great that the ships in the river could be distinctly seen and the decks of the Mississippi light as day. At sunrise the raft was still burning.
You perceive that what I write is fact as far as I know with a great deal of hearsay. When I get home I can tell you more plainly and in better language then it is possible for me to write. You will not therefore criticize my writing remembering that it comes from [illegible].
I almost forgot to mention how pleasant it is on the bank by where we are anchored. There is quite a little forest of shrubs and trees, which are green as green can be, and the birds sing sweetly all the day long. There are flowers too, but we can’t land to pick them. A number of alligators have been seen basking in the sun. Maybe we shall have some fresh meat for breakfast or soup. We had turtle soup the other day. An old fellow weighed “a bucket full” was brought from Key West. Being on the Flag Ship with the General we get many a dainty bit that we should not otherwise get.
Thursday afternoon 24th — I wrote yesterday as though I had witnessed a bombardment but bless my stars it was the firing of a pop gun to a cannon to what took place last night. You would have thought the whole artillery of heaven was opened upon us. The night before I thought was wonderful but not to be compared to last. The grand move and attack on the Forts was made and I will try to give you an idea, though words never can give an accurate one of the bombardment. By the plan on the opposite side of the sheet, which is correct, you will see the position of the fleet and where the Mississippi lay which is only 2 1/2 miles from the Forts. In fact we lay so near that shall and shot from the rebels struck around us.
The mortar boats and gunboats got in line of battle just after sundown for the attack. The chain had been cut and it was the intention of the gunboats to run by the Fort so as to cut off the rebels’ supplies and reinforcements. Capt. Bridgman came to my room at 4 this morning and said the bombardment had commenced and they were at work merrily on both sides. I hurried on deck and such a racket I never heard. Such a site I never saw before. The sky was brilliant from the light of the mortars and cannon and there was continual bang bang bang for two hours and the best figure I can say to describe it is a box of fire crackers on fire with a report to be heard for miles. The firing ceased at sunrise and the rebel flags still waived over the Forts. Our gunboats however are above Fort [St.] Phillips and will keep the Forts from reinforcements. We also see Fort Jackson on fire and destroyed several of their steamers. what the loss on either side in dead and wounded is not known and you will probably hear through the southern papers as soon as I will.
It is feared that in passing the Forts, which you see by the plan is hazardous, one or more of our gunboats were sunk. The firing from the Forts was great, as was ours. Rafts, shellboxes, and a powder keg have been floating down the river all the morning. The position of fleet is one before the line we formed last night.
Am well and hearty.
We are bound down the river to take some other position. You shall know again at first opportunity. have met a boat which is to take a letter thus my haste in closing. yours affectionately,
Joseph L Hallett
Customhouse New Orleans May 2, 1862
Dear friends at home.
I wrote in my last sent a week ago that the next letter I was in hopes to date from New Orleans and to my word we are now in possession of the Star City of the South. New Orleans is taken and the American flag the Stars & Stripes waves over its public buildings.
The steamer Mississippi with the 31st Regiment on board followed by the North America with the 30th Col. Dudley’s Regiment and other vessels which I need not mention came up the river yesterday and anchored off the levees at 11 a.m. The Mississippi was the first to arrive and passing the gunboats were cheered heartily by the men on board. Preparations were immediately made for us to land and the Mississippi being hauled clear to the wharf. having supplied ourselves with Thursday’s rations, and the men loaded their muskets, began to disembark. Our company was the second and proudly did I feel as I set foot on the soil of New Orleans. Whatever the principals [sic] of its citizens, I know there were one hundred and ten times that number of patriots, United States soldiers, with me who cared as little for the mean low sneaking secessionists that gathered around, as they would of dogs and waited patiently for the command from Col. Gooding “forward march.” It was four o’clock when the regiment was all on shore and the wharf was crowded with men women and children talking, hurrahing for Beauregard and Jeff Davis, calling us the damned Yankees, Lincolnites and I don’t know what and crowding in upon us unwilling that we should hold a foot of ground. Many were dressed in uniform which I took to be Jeff’s soldiers. Some had cudgels and I expected every minute to get a sap over the head or see stones flying among us. I felt like knocking some of them down or shooting some that were so very saucy, but Gen. Butler told us to cause no provocation so I kept quiet and had no words with them or allowed the men to.
It pleased me much see those that stood near remark on the uniforms of our men which they thought were pretty nice and the muskets. I heard several remarks what a nice sword that officer has and got down to read “Ames Mfg. Co. Chicopee Mass.”
Saturday, May 3rd — I had written the first page when intelligence came that I was to be Officer of the Guard and had to leave writing, put on my sword, and go to guard mounting, and I have just come off duty having been up all night. But before I sleep, and there is a little for us anyhow, I will finish my letter to send by the first mail which may leave any hour and I have so much to write about. I will send the city paper which gives a very good account of the state of affairs. The papers are secesh and allowance must be made for them. The 31st has the honor of being the first regiment to land and head the column that marched through the city and to take possession. We made a circuitous march showing that we were not afraid of the rebels and at dark took possession of the Customhouse which have been our quarters since. I do not know whether we shall remain hear [sic] or be located in another part of the city. The Customhouse is a splendid building of fine stone. It is not yet finished but has already cost Uncle Sam a million and a half of money. The officers occupy the offices lately vacated by rebels. We found any quantity of secesh papers public and private, blank forms headed Confederate States of America and could send home many that would interest, but would make to [sic] large a bundle by mail. The soldiers are quartered all over the building which is a [illegible] some in the Post Office department. Quartermasters [illegible] etc. and rummaged every drawer and closet they could find. In the Post Office they opened mail bags and through the letters around which were opened and read. In many were found secesh money and trinkets which will find a wide circulation in Massachusetts. I tried to get some of the money but the men would not dispose of it for any consideration. I send you a one cent piece which is similar to those of higher denominations and passes readily anywhere in the city. I would buy a secesh bill but have not the cash to exchange. Presume I shall get some soon when you shall have it. It is miserable anyhow. In the Quartermasters rooms were found a lot of liquor which the men got hold of but were driven away, as it is forbidden to touch anything in the building. I was posting guard through the building when Colonel Weldon handed me a bottle of cologne and I have had a couple of bottles of nice London [illegible] which I mix with my water which comes from the Mississippi River and is improved by as the water is drawn from the pipes which extend over the entire building. It looks muddy though tastes very well. There is every convenience water gas [illegible] [illegible] and we may congratulate ourselves on such accommodations. General Butler and Staff are at the St. Charles one of the finest hotels I ever saw. A regiment is posted around the premises to quell all disturbances that may arise. The General’s Proclamation came out this morning of which I send a copy. There are now 8000 troops in the city and more have been sent for and are on their way from Ship Island. I understand also that a number of regiments have been sent for from Washington with the intention probably of going up the river. Thus far our troops have succeeded well and few lives lost. I think perhaps 50 or 60 on our side in meeting the grand object for which we left our homes, ie. the capture of New Orleans, and I believe that our army will be successful wherever we go. I apprehend no trouble whatever here in the city but am assured by the statements of residents that there is a strong Union sentiment among the citizens.
Last night at 12 o’clock a sentinel cried “Officer the Guard, Post Seven” I hurried to the spot where the sentinel was and found a man who wished to speak to me. I politely asked him what he wanted and he said “I am a particular friend. Give me your hand!” I of course did not know who he was and thought he might be a rogue especially when he put his hand to his side coat pocket and thought this might be mischief. However not easily frightened, I shook hands with him lightly taking the precaution to lay the other hand on my pistol at the same time. He said he was a Union man that he loved the Stars & Stripes and had come under cover of night to have a talk with a Union friend. He was happy that the old flag the best of flags waved over the Crescent City. Continued he, “my name is Clifford have been a wholesale merchant in New York and when the rebellion broke out was a sugar dealer here. I have been shamefully abused,” and showed the marks where he had been kicked and beaten by secessionists for his Union sentiments. He was twice strung up by his hands and had been in rebel prisons and yet stood firm for the Union and would gladly enlist as a private under Gen. Butler. He also said that a large majority of New Orleans is Union and expressed the belief that the American flag would in a few hours float over the entire city. We talked together for a few minutes when we shook hands heartily, bid him good night, and went to the barracks to post a relief guard. The citizens keep housed, few appearing on the streets and they are the low, the vile, and come out to [illegible] [illegible] with the troops. In walking the sidewalk I have heard them threaten to kill us, to poison the water, and not a few of the guard have had pistols and dirks drawn on them. They keep their guns loaded and when insulted by the mob charge bayonets which disperses them every which way. our men are brave as lions and will not give an inch of ground which they are to guard.
The streets around the Customhouse is strewed with burnt cotton, gun carriages, [illegible] shell spiked guns and machinery. The stores are closed and everything looks desolate enough. There are some fine buildings as nice as I ever saw which remind me of New York. Beebe & Co. that receive so many plums from Wilbraham have their storehouse opposite the Customhouse. Everything is very high in way of provisions. the officers get there meals at a Union restaurant and have paid as high as $1.85 for dinner. I went and got a breakfast this morning feeling the need of something hearty after a night’s exposure and fatigue. On the table was a beautiful bouquet of roses and other flowers. For victuals I had eggs (10 cents apiece), beefsteak, pork steak, bread and milk, radishes and coffee and as I ate the proprietor talked with me about affairs in the city and country. Speaking of the Yellow Jack he said we need have no fear whatever by avoiding vegetable, and irregularity[?].
Our trip up the Mississippi was delightful. did not pass a town but innumerable sugar plantations the likes of which I never saw in all my born days. Perfectly charming and when I get settled on one shall send for you to come and live with me. The fields are open while in the center of the plantation is the Master’s house and some were of beautiful architecture surrounded with rich shrubbery. I could see the ripe oranges and lemons hanging from the limbs of the tree and flowers in the gardens. The negro huts were very neat painted white and as we passed by they waved their hats and hands as much as to say “God speed you on to victory.” I noticed this however they were mighty shy and took the precaution to see that massa wasn’t looking. I tell you these darkies are no fools as has been demonstrated since we have been here in more than one instance. I think they rejoice to see us and think the day of their redemption draweth nigh.
My last letter I left with the Flagship Colorado to be sent at first opportunity in which I mentioned that we were on our way to take a new position and that was to land above Fort Jackson and attempt to take the forts by storm. Going over the bar the steamer got aground but the Mississippi is a good boat and runs over sandbars and if it had wheels don’t know but it might run over dry land. The steamer was a long time getting around owing to the depth of water which in some places is a few inches deep. We anchored off Fort St. Phillip 8 miles from the shore where we lay until Monday afternoon April 28. In the morning at 10 o’clock I witnessed the explosion of a rebel floating magazine which was a grand site. It produced a column of smoke many feet high. I took a sketch of it in my memoranda and have many sketches which will be interesting when I get home to look at. The 26th Mass. regiment was the first to land and they took possession of Quarantine, 7 miles above Saint Phillip. The regiment had landed but a short time and the 31st embarked on the Lewis and got to the place when we were to disembark and were laying in the cabin and on deck and in fact we were gathered all over the boat when word came that the forts had surrendered and Gen. Butler wanted the 31st at Fort Jackson at 10 the next forenoon. It would have taken 24 hours to have landed as we should have had to go 5 miles in small rowboats. Accordingly the Lewis put back to the Mississippi when we boarded her and at sunrise Tuesday were steaming up for the forts. It is a long run from where we were to the forts having to go way around to the mouth of the river to the South West Pass. The day was beautiful and the steamer made good time passing over the bar at 5 p.m. and at sunset anchored at the head of Passes to wait for other troops. Went to bed early and in the morning (30th) the steamer was under headway and near the forts. Came to anchor between the two when I had a nice opportunity to see them. Our troops do not remember the regiments were in them and for one were glad as I did not care to go into a fort, but to go on to New Orleans.
Fort Jackson is a stronghold and am told that the army or navy never would have taken either but for a mutiny in St. Phillip. Neither of the forts were materially injured by the bombardment. It seems by the account of the prisoners which we took that when they saw us landing troops above them and knew that they would be cut off from supplies and reinforcements from the city that they would not stand it. And furthermore General Lovell in command told them that he never would surrender but would blow the fort up with all in it first, that they rose up, shot one of their officers and spiked the guns on one side of the fort and run. They were taken prisoners with the officers by the 26th Mass. The men will be released on patrol [parole] and the officers sent to New York or Boston. Thus you have an account of the surrender of the forts. We staid at the forts an hour or so when we had orders to proceed up to Quarantine and wait for further orders. In capturing the forts we captured two rebel steamers with a lot of officers on them. As we came near them the band struck up and played the Star-Spangled Banner. My heart was never so full as I listened to its patriotic strains under such circumstances.
When we anchored at Quarantine cheering was immense from the 26th . At 6 o’clock the Saxon from Ship Island with Mrs. Butler and yes a mail came along side and I had the pleasure of getting a letter from Henry and mother and one from Solomon — Henry’s March 14 mother and aunts 28th. I was very glad to get them and to know that mother was so comfortable and hope she will get entirely well. I received a weekly Republican of March 22. I want you to write often and all that is interesting. I presume that there will be a regular mail as there is a United States Postmaster here. There is any amount of news to communicate and you will get it some time. I felt under obligation to answer aunt’s repeated inquiry. So I bid you goodbye with love and regard to you all and I remain as
ever your dutiful son and brother. J.L. Hallett
Crescent City, La. Saturday May 4th 1862
2000 miles from home, what a long long way. I can hardly realize that the distance is so great only when I think what an adventurous voyage we have had, detail of which you already have. We came to this great city of the Confederacy the first day of May and have our quarters in a beautiful structure the U.S. Custom House. It’s not finished yet wholly and has cost our Government 3½ million of money, so says Lieut. Whitsell of the staff who with the rebel Beauregard were engineers in its building. There are single columns which cost $6000 apiece. The men are quartered in rooms with arm chairs and desks and the officers have nice carpeted floors some with Brussels carpets and nice writing desks. Quite a contrast from our close tents of Ship Island.
I see in the New Orleans directory the address of Hallett & Caswell and if matters turn as I think they will he can open his store again. Wish he were here that I might have someone to talk with. But let me tell you aunt he will have to change his politics before he can do business. This is not a secession city now but ruled by Union men under the U.S. flag and long may it wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave. I never thought more of it since risking life to defend it on the deep and on the land. As the regiment moved through the streets on landing my position in the regiment was directly in front of the flag and proudly did it wave over the heads of the color bearers.
Your letter which William handed to me at Burton I have read and reread and is all the news I have had until 4 days ago from home and now I will answer some of the inquiries that were overlooked when the cut disappeared from under the [illegible] and it was settled that I go to the wars. 6 months have gone by since I engaged in the service of my country and the desire to “peek” when you go on the hill must have become and old story and when you go to church your mind and eyes will be right at the preacher and not at the singers.
I am glad you are so “patriotic” but sincerely hope you will not die of the fever. The women in N. Orleans are very patriotic in the southern cause much more than the men and if they do not hush up woe betide them.
I must answer an enquiry of Henry’s as to our chaplain and divine instruction. Mr. Chubbuck is an Episcopal minister and of course we have the Episcopal service. I do not like to Comment but think that he will improve and observe that the soldiers need other stimulus for the growth of the heart and prepare their souls for heaven thru repeated prayers. The Army I find very demoralizing and one needs a constant watchfulness to keep from temptation. Thus far the Lord has led me on though I have not always done my duty, yet I trust in his grace and believe that he will keep me. I carry my Testament in my pocket and feast in the good things contained therein.
Edward Ames, Col. Ames’ son is in the Wisconsin 4th regiment. I knew him in Springfield Post Office had a good chat with him.
A secessionist uttered some strange ideas in my hearing today. He said that our intention is to free their negroes. that the plantations are to be confiscated and the [e]states divided into plantations of an acre in front and eighty deep — which are to be given to the wife of those that get killed and the wounded. [illegible] [illegible]? He said that the negroes were exulting in the idea that we had come to liberate them and would take oath that if he spoke harsh they reply we soon be free, and that Washington had been taken. Gen. McClellan & Beauregard were dead. Such are southern rumors.
It is getting late. I feel very tired and will close my letter hoping it may reach you safely and that you will write in every letter and as often as you can. I remain with best respects to Mr. and Mrs. Munn and the neighbors. I am enjoying very good health and sleep sound rolled up in my blanket on the floor.
Yours with much love.
The band as we marched through the city to the Custom House played by order of the General, “[illegible] a Butler’s coming coming. [illegible] a Butler coming to town.” A secesh tune.
Have not forgotten the gold watch. Send you a Secesh postage stamp to keep for your always.
Saint James Hospital
New Orleans May 13th 1862
Mr. Henry W. Hallett
Your brother requests me to address a brief note to you stating that since our arrival in this city he has not enjoyed his usual good health, but has been quite ill with Remitting Fever [malaria], although he is now nearly recovered and will we trust soon be able to resume his position in the company. Everything is being done for him that his case seems to require and he wished me to say that he was now quite comfortable and desires you to give yourselves no uneasiness about him. I suppose that before this you have heard of our successful attack upon the Forts and the surrender of this City. Our forces are running up the river and will no doubt soon be met by those coming down thus every day brings the end of this most unnatural rebellion nearer as we hope. Our troops are generally quite healthy and since this people do not seem inclined to exert themselves much for our comfort we have chosen for our use the most comfortable quarters the city affords. Thus this Hospital was one of their first hotels two weeks ago. But you will leave all this for the Journals [illegible] and more fully than I can give it. I am with best wishes for your happiness here and hereafter.
J.E.R Chubbuck, Chaplain
31st Reg Mass. Vol