Sunday, November 28, 2010

Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing) :: Letter from the 9th

During the Civil War, like many hometown newspapers, The Times of Goshen, Indiana published letters sent home by soldiers in the field. You can read the official reports from the battle to get a general idea of what took place on the battlefield, but with these letters you "experience" it through the eyes of the common soldier out on the field. To me, that has a much greater impact and brings home the horrors of war, any war.

I've transcribed two letters for posting. This first letter was written by Jno. H. Violett on April 10, 1862. He was with the 9th Indiana Regiment at Shiloh, the same regiment in which Jacob Berlin, my 2nd Great Grand Uncle, served. Jacob was 25 years old when he was killed during the fighting on the second day of the battle.

Paragraph breaks were added to make it a bit easier to read, otherwise it has been transcribed as it was published.
The Times. Goshen, Elkhart County, Indiana
Thursday, May 1, 1862

Letter from the 9th. Pittsburg Landing, April 10, 1862.

Dear Bro: -- While you are rejoiced to learn of the great victory gained by us on the 6th and 7th inst. you probably feel an interest as regards my personal safety. The battle raged furiously all day on Sunday, while we were within hearing distance of the cannon and small-arms, enroute to join General Grant. We reached the river opposite the battle field just before dark; crossed over soon after on steamers to join in the conflict.

Our men under Gen. Grant had given way; and at dark when the firing ceased, prospects looked gloomy on our side. We drew up in line of battle, about one half mile from the landing, and came to a parade rest; -- stood there and sat down occasionally during the night. Soon as day began to dawn we took up our march to confront our enemy. Shortly the woods commenced ringing with the sound of cannon and musketry. The enemy fell back to a strong position and the Ninth came to a halt near a line of rail fence. We poured into them volley after volley while their deadly missiles were being hurled at us. A large shell struck the ground about fifty yards in front of us, and came bounding along the ground. McConnell and myself, standing side by side, quickly stepped aside and let it pass. Sergeant Lewis Keller not observing it in time, was struck, breaking his leg.

Soon after McConnel was struck with a shell, carrying away his right arm. We stood meantime with our elbows together; his arm was dressed on the ground by the surgeon; I learn, at this time he is doing well. The same ball took off one side of private Folsom's head, scattering the blood and brains and pieces of flesh over myself and others near by. A piece of his skull struck Chris King and came near knocking him down.

The next discharge from the same cannon killed our Adjutant and his horse; also private Lathrop near me. Four of our company and 20 of our Reg. were killed. Twenty eight of our Company and 147 of our Reg. wounded. During the heat of the fight, I took a rebel corporal prisoner while charging bayonets upon them. The rascal stood behind a tree shooting -- I made at him -- he threw down his gun. I gave him command to "bout face -- double quick -- March" -- and thus took him into Camp. He was of the "Crescent city Reg.," New Orleans.

I will leave you to read the newpaper accounts in regard to the desperate battle. I think you will find those of the Ninth Ind. have acquited themselves well. We opened the battle on Monday morning and fired the first gun, -- stood longest in the field without relief. I learn there were two killed in the 29 Reg. It is shocking to pass over the battle field and witness so many mangled bodies. Bark is torn from trees and tops cut off.

Yours,
Jno. H. Violett.

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