The Civil War Letters of John E. Richardson
January - April 1863
"The next day [January 19th] we started for Young's Point, situated opposite Vicksburg, where we arrived on the 21st.
The same day we disembarked, and marched three miles down the river, and camped along the levee.
Our time was occupied in digging the canal across the bend of the river... The object of the canal was to let the boats pass through, and thus avoid the batteries in front of Vicksburg.
Young's Point, at that time of the year, presented a dark and gloomy aspect. In our front was the Mississippi river; in the rear, a dreary swamp, covered with water, from one to two feet deep, leaving us but a narrow strip of dry land along the levee, on which to set our tents. The winter winds and heavy rains had unobstructed play on our canvas dwellings, and it was a common occurrence for the men to emerge from underneath their prostrate tents, after a heavy storm of wind and rain, as it swept down the Mississippi."
John A. Bering & Thomas Montgomery, 1880
"we ar in camp now in site of vicksburg. it is a very pretty place to look at at a distance and i exspect it would look better clocer to it but i dont know as i will ever get to see it..."
John E. Richardson
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Six Miles From Vicksburg February 8th 1863
Mi Dear wife i received your letter of the 25 of Jan to day. i was very glad to her from you for it has ben about three weaks sence i got a letter from you. i had begun to think that somthing was rong somwhar for i had ritten about every weeak since we left memphis. but i guess that it is al rite. of corse you would not like to rite if thair was danger of the rebels geting the leter before i got it but thar is no danger. the mail cums strat to caro by rale road and from thar her by steemboat and a gunboat with them. wal i guess that i had better tel you that i am alive and well and was very glad to her that you was al well. it dos me agood eal of good to her from home once in a while i tel you. i had a copel shakes of the ague when we was up white river. sence then i have been al rite exseptting the diaree which i have about al the time but not very bad. about the same as it was when i was at home last spring. sometimes worse and somtimes better but i feal pretty wel generaley. we ar in camp now in site of vicksburg. it is a very pretty place to look at at a distance and i exspect it would look better clocer to it but i dont know as i will ever get to see it for the talk is now that we will move back up the river to hellena in a few days. we will have to go somwhar in less than weak for the river will drive us out of her if it rases 2 feeat mor. it rases very slow but ceeps cuming. i sopoes you have heard about that ragen[?] canal that we ar diging. wal i was down thar at work on it one day last weak. i should col it a dich. it is about 8 or 10 feat wide and from 6 to 10 feet deep but i dont think that it is deep anuf. i am afraid it wont work but i hope it will. a weak ago last friday night we was orderd out with one days rasions on a fatigue duty. we had to go up the river about 3 miles to report on a stameboat. when we got thar we was orderd to go back and get two days rasions but we concluded that we had anuf hard crackers and sow belley to last us so we staid on the boat and started up the river the next day about 10 oclock after wood and was gon 4 days and we got rather hungry before[?] we got back agane i tel you. but we got a few crackers and kiled a few hoggs and cows so we did not quite starve to deth but i got rather hungrey once or twice and it rand one day but i did not get wet much. we got back tuesday about noon and the next morning was orderd out to work on the canal. went down thar and it commenst raning. worked til about noon and quit. yesterday we went on pickit and got back to day at ten oclock. your letter came yesterday but i did not get it until we cum back from the woods. it is not very dangerous standing pickit for i dont beleve thar is a rebel on this side of the river. at lest i have not sean or herd of any. when we was cuming down her we stopt severel times to get wood and if thar was a house neer it was generalley ransacked from top to botom. i was out one day and got som chickens hunney and a summer coat big anuf for old John Sanford. it is very fin lining check and would make ophelia two or thre dreses. i am agoin to send it home the first chance i get. i got a nise fin coshin. the stand is coverd with smal shels and a large silk cord and tassel. it would do to hang on the loocking glass or hen hous. about bying a mar[mare]. i dont know hardley what to think. i gess better wate aspel for i dont know when i will get paid agane. you mite look around and see whar you could get one that would sute you and perhaps you could trad that cittle[kettle] and pan for one if you dont make any mor block salts. i guess you can get along without a team this spring and summer and perhaps i wil be at home mi self before seding. i am agoing to try to anyhow. Jake Snider George trostel isack ridenour ugean[Eugene] brant runaway when we was cuming down the river. have you herd anything about them? but i ant agoing to runaway. i wil take a diferent plan from that. thay mite ketch and then i would not have the name of diserting for a good deal. i beleve it would be a good plan to get another cow and som hoggs if you can get them cheep. i cant send you much monney next payday for i wil have to pay the capt for mi boots which wil be five dollars and i ow about six dollars besides and i want to ceep mor than i did before. if i had ten dollars now i could make fifty dollars in less than a weak. the capt is on the boat yet sick. i have not sean him for a weak and dont know how he is. i thot that i could fil this sheet when i commenst but i cant. i whish i was thar to her ophelia talk an see her runaround. wal kiss her for me. giv mi luv to al. rite son and often and oblige your affectionate husband
John E Richardson to Rosetty Richardson
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feb 22th 1863
Dear companion i received your letter of the 12th of this month to night and was very glad to her from you. glad to her that you was al well and able to be about. i am well as usual. i had a good dinner to day on the boat. it is the first time that i have set down to a table to a good dinner sence i left home. we herd that thar was a man down her that we got aquanted with in memphis so me and the capt went down thar to day and found him and he gave us our dinner and we had a good visit. we got back to camp about 3 oclock and found the capt leafe of absence had cum and he thot that he could get started to night so i fixt up thoes things i roat about. they are in somthings of freds and you will find them thar but the boat will not go until to morrow. then the mail cum about dark. i got your letter and i thot i had better send you a few lines by him. but i have not time to say much as it is geting along towards midnight and we have to go on pickit to morrow morning at seven oclock so you see i have not much to rite or much time to rite it in. tel anna anything you’ve amindto about me and i wil make it cum tru. tel her that i have lost Seths letters and i have forgoten his address as i should of ritten to him long ago.
wal i beleve i mus try and get a little slep. you must excues this short letter. i wil do better next time. rite son and some[?]. i exspect the capt will be cuming back in a few days and if you have any little thing to send he wil fetch it. dont be concerned about me. i think by being carful i wil liv through it if i hav to stay mi three years out but i stil think that we will get home this spring.
wal good by for a short time. kiss the baby. give mi luv to al and oblige your true husband
John E Richardson
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Youngs Point Louisan March 3th 1863
Mi Dear wife as i am looking for a letter from you every day i thot that i would commens and rite a good long letter. the last one i sent was very short inded. i exspect you will get it to day. wal to commens. this paper i found in the trunck. you will som figers on one page but thay wont hurt the paper much and thar will be anuf left for me to rite on. the clothing acount was figard up on it. i am as well as usual. i have ben able for duty every day since we have ben her and i on duty to day as sergent of the gard. the rebels hav commenst firing thar big guns. i can her them boming and must go and see whatt thay ar firing at. the darnd rebels ar firing at our men that ar at work on the canal. i dont know whether anybody is hurt or not but i will know to night. i was down thar at work yesterday and exspect wil have to go agane day after tomorrow if it dont rane and if thay dont finishit tomorrow. i hope thay wil for i dont care about going down thar to be shot at and no chance to return the compliment. last sunday the rebels sent a flag of truce over her but i dont know what thay wanted and one ov our little boats went over thar last night i sopoes to cary the answer back. i think thay wanted us to serrender but i dont beleve we did and so thay commenst firing to day. in about two days mor we would of had the canal finished and then thay mite fier as much as thay want to. for one i am geting about tiard of this war and would like to cum home if i could stay thar but if i had to cum back down her agan i would not take a furlow if i could get one. i dont know how this war is agoing to end but it is mi firm convicktion that it will end in a short time one way or the other and i dont car much only i had a little rather not get whipt. cum to think it al over i had rather stay in the army 2 years longer and fight them every other day than to let them whip us and i think that you would to for the same prinsabal that wil enslave a black man wil enslave a por white man and before i would work with them or over them i would emagrat north whar they would freze to deth. i beleve the nigers ought to be set free and sent so far south thay would never never find thar way back.
March 4/62 i take mi pen agane this evening to inform you that i am well and that i was a little disapointed to day becos i did not get a letter from you. it has ben almost three weaks since i hav herd from you and i begin to feal very unesey about you. i am afraid that you or ophelia ar sick or that somthing else has hapend. perhaps i dont rite as often as i should and then agane perhaps you dont get what i do rite. the last letter i sent by the capt i think you will get that and the package i sent with it. the letter was so very small that i put a himboock[hymn book] in it to make it loock respectabal. it is to cold to rite any mor to night so happy dreams.
March 6th 1863
Good morning rosy. i hope that you ar well this morning. i feal pretty well mi self and want every boddy else to. i was down on the canall at work yesterday and the boys[?] have gon agane to day. i think that thay will finish it to day. the rebels only fierd at us once yesterday and then they did not hurt anybody. i have not herd any gunes this morning yet but thay ma open them after awhile when the fog clears of a little. wal i herd som good news when we got back from work last knight in that thar was a mail yesterday and when i got back i went strate to the trimck[?] thinkin that i would find a letter from you but i dident. the male has not ben distribited yet but i found the pay roles for the months of september and october with orders to have them sind right of so i had mi hands ful last night you had better beleve but i got it don at last and i think that we will get paid to morrow. i have a goodeal to do. sence the capt and bill Smith got sick it is freds plase to do it but he is a duckman you know and cant tel B from a brom handle but he tryes hard to lern and that makes it harder for me for i have to correct his misstakes. i was in hops that we would get paid for four months this time but we wil have to put up with what we can get. i sopoes i can get along well anuf with it and send you sum besides but not mush for i must pay for mi boots this time. i must pay fred what i o him or he wil go crazy or dirty his pants. i wil pay him waht munney i got of him but the pay for that work he own he must wate until i get home and then i owe Jack todd som for tobackco and i want to ceep mor than i did befor for i mite get sick you know. accidents wil happen and thar is a good manney things that i would want that i could not get unless i had the monney.
Mi Dear rosa i am afraid that i never wil get this letter finished but i will try and do it to day or bust. i was plaing ball yesterday and mi arm is very soar and mi fingers cramp so bad that i dont know whether you can read it or not but i guess that you can. i dont feel very well to day and one reson is i am out of tobacco and another is mi mouth is soar and the other is i cant her from you and ophelia. i cant think what the reson is that your letters dont cum mor regular for i beleve you write once a weak. i begin to think that somboddy is sick but i hope not. perhaps i wil get 2 or 3 letters to day or to morrow. that will exsplane everything. we had a nice shour of rane last knight and to day is warm and plesent. we have got our gob[job] on canall don but som of the rest ar not don yet. i guess that thay will al be don in a day or to and then i exspect that we wil have to moov somwhar but perhaps not. we her al kinds of news from the north but i dont beleve al that i read in the papers. thar is one thing that i do beleve tho and that is this. thar is a good menney rebels in the north that ought to be hung for thay ar sending al cinds[kinds] of stores down her to the soldgers triing to get them to disert. now such men had aught to be shot and i beleve that i could do it as easy as i could eat mi dinner when i am hungry. wal i have gest eat mi dinner and feal pretty well and i have gest heard that the dam as broke and let the watter in to the canall and stoped the men from work. i think that i will go down and see for miself.
wal rosa i have gest got back back from the canal and feal rather tiard. it is about 2 miles from her thar. lieutenent Gonsaullous[Gunsaullus] went down with me. we found the watter runing through like a mill rase but it dont appeer to wash much and i am afraid that it will be a faleyer. it ma turn out al rite yet. i hope so anyhow. when the river is up high it is higher than the land is and thay have to throw up an embanckment to ceep the watter from runing al over the country. it is cold[called] a levey. our camp is rite by the side of the levey and the river is about four feet higher than the ground is whare we ar encampt so you see if the levey should brake neer us and we ar loocking for it every day thar would be som tal walking for dry ground. it makes me laf to think of it.
i guess that we wil not get paid until next monday. som of the roles was not rite but ours was for i maid them with a little help from the capt. wal i cant think of anything mor to rite now but i wil rite agane next weak and tel you what i forgot this time. i sopoes that you have plenty of snow and cold wether away up thar whar you liv. wal i exspect tht it would seam strang to go from her whar it is warm and plesent up thar whar it is cold and stormmy wether but i should like to try it but i should not like to cum back agane. the woods begin to look quit green a reddy. wal no mor this tim. rite as often as you can and tel me al your tryels and trubels. al of your good luck and al your back luck and give mi luve – that is what you dont want yourself – to al the friends and oblige your affectionate husband John E. Richardson
Ps if i send you any monney and i think i wil for i sopoes you need it mor than i do i wil send it in mi next letter if thar is no other chance. good by. rite son. kiss the baby and remember J E R
[Remainder of sheet is filled with mathematical additions. Some of the columns are headed by names: Branan, Butler, Corrall, Davis, Edwards, Faris, Helmich, Hockman, Harmer, Hopkins]
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Millikens Bend March 13th 1863
My Dear wife i received your letter of the 23 of feb last knight about twelve oclock and you had better beleve i am glad to her from you once more for it was a month yesterday sence the last letter that i got was riten by you and i was getting very unesy about you and ophelia. i was afraid that one or the other was sick and you did not want to let me know it. but i beleve that i had rather her that you was sick than not her from you at al. but i will forgive you if you wil me for it seams that mi letters dont get home any faster than your cumes away down south in dixsy. wal i am glad that thar is nothing ales you worse than bad colds and that is bad anuf for i know what it is. i have had one al winter until i got that peper you sent me. that helpt me and i hardley notis it now. i had a very soar mouth but that is pretty ner well now and mi diaree dont bother me much onley when i eat to much sower bacon and that is not often for i dont like it when i can get anything else to eat. we have moved our camp sence i roat about 12 miles up the river and have just got fixed up for compney and would be very happy if you would take your work and com over and spend the evening. but i sopes you think that it is mi place to make the first col[call]. wal i exspect it is and i wil try and do it this spring sometim if i can do it honerabley. but i wil stay mi time out before i wil cum like some of the boys have. and i dont believe that you would want me to runaway would you? whi i could not rest easy. i should be exspecting every minit to see a sergt and a file of men cuming after me. but i shal not try it and how the rest of them can i dont see. thar has non runaway sence Jake Snyder and thoes that went whent whith him and we have not heard anything from them. have you? if thay ar ever caught thay wil be courtmarcheld and probeley shot for so the late order reads. wal let that pas. i am glad that you like your new plase of resedence and i whish that i was thar to help fix things for i beleve that i could content miself to work on a farm if i had you me and ophelia. i declar i came very neer forgetting that little young lady. not so very little nether i exspect by this time. O i would give ten cents to hear her preach to a dead chicken. no wonder she get exsited. i think that would to and i am a little older than she is. i beleve that i could preach a good sermon over a dead chicken if i oneley had one but i tel you what it is. thay ar scarce along this river. thar is plenty of them back 3 or 4 miles but we have not had time to go that far sence we moved up hear. i see the cavelrey cary them past her every day so i know what thay look like but i have almost forgotten how thay tast. the last one i had i got away up the river somwar when i got thoes things that i sent you by the capt and i stole it from the nigers. now that was to bad wasent it? i know that you dont like that way of doing bisness but it was steal or go without a chicken for mi supper. i was gest getting over the ague and had not much apetite for hard crackers and sowbelley as the boys coles that meat that we get but we get better meat now than we did then. by the way hav you got thoes things yet and if you hav how do you like them? i think that coat would make a very good duster for you. perhaps the sleves ar to short or to small. if thay ar you can cut a pease from the collar and put on them and that cord and tassel would make you a nise apron string for every day war and tar. i have not herd anything from vicksburg latley onley that our men had got them surrounded and exspect every day thay will serrender but thay ma hold out a long time yet. i dont think our generals intend to fight them unless thay attact us first and thar is no danger of that for we have dubel the men her that thay have and could whip them so quick thay would not know it. i think thay will get starved out in about a month at the most. i herd yesterday that the river was taring the canol al to plases and making channel for itself 20 or 30 feat deap and doing it better and faster than we could do it with our spads and whealbarros. i exspect that some of our gunboats will be runing through next weak if thay have not before this time. thar was an old darkey came in from woods today and it was fun to her him talk. he wonderd whar in de nam of de good lod you whit folks al cum from. whar yous al stay when yous al at home. i never sead so manny whit gemmen before in al mi born days.
wal i have fild this paper and have not told you half that i want to so i wil not send this until tomorrow and rite some more as it is getting rather late and i am on gard tonight and it is pretty neer time to col out the guard. i wil say good by for to knight and i hope you will hav happy dreams.
I forgot to mensian that we exspect to be paid to morrow or next serten. i guess that i will not send this until then. then i can tel you how much munney i send to you and how i send it and whar you will get it. goodby. JER
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Milegins Bend April 8th 1863
Mi Dear wife it is with plesure i take mi pen in hand to inform you that i am alive and well and feal first rate altho it is rather warm her for comfort. we have had very pleasent wether for about ten days without rane but i think we wil get som before long. i am on gard agane to day. i have ben on prety often for the last ten days. thar is one hundred men gon up the river scouting and that leves so few that we com on about every other day. but it is not hard work. i got mi likeness taken this morning. how do you like the lookes of it? i think it is to dark but the boys al tel me it is a good one but I know that i am not as black as that is. i ma be tho if i have to stay her this summer. it wil do for ophelia to play with. i got it for 50 cents while other ones have to pay 1.50. you see thay dont charge as much for good looking persons as thay do for commons ones. i sent mi overcoat home yesterday. i guess it wil get thar in about two weaks. you wil find it at John tuttles and you wil have to pay the freight on it from cincinnattia and the box is mine if father is amind to take it home. we herd that the capt started the 24th of last month but he has not got her yet. i exspect he wil com on the next boat if he has not resind and gon back home agane. if he has i hope that he wil be drafted or if he turns out to be a coperhead i hope he wil be sent acrost the lines with al the rest of them that want to be slaves. thay talk about stoping the draft and the war. thar is only one way to do that and that is to cum rite out with about 3.00.000 men and the war wil be stopt in less than a month. thar was a rumer yesterday that the rebels in vicksburg had ben fighting with one another and kild three hundred and about that menney had com over on our side and the rest of them was leving as fast as thay could. i dont know how true it is but i hope it is so. if it turns out to be true i exspect that we wil leve her in a few days but whar wil we go i dont know. wal rosa i wil have stop and get the gards out. i guess i wate until knight to finish this letter. perhaps i wil get one from you by that time.
April 10 well rosa deer i did not get time to finish this letter until to day. i have had a good deal to do sence i commenst it. we had three grand revews one rite after the other by general grant and had clothing to draw twise. once yesterday and once to day and the capt cum yesterday so thar was no chance to write that day or knight for thay staid up until one oclock and to day the wind blowes so hard that i dont beleve you can read it. the capt cum back a major and has tacen command of the regement. i hope that we wil have better times than we have had. he sead that he did not see you or anneybodey from that part of the world exsept Mr. Miers. he broght som things for the boys. i did not much exspect you would send enneything on acount of the roads being so bad. thar is onley one thing that i want and that is your likeness but you can send that enneytime. cerrintha sent me a short letter and a small cake of shoger. i exspect that i shal have to answer the letter. she informed that i had a cosin in the 23 wisconsin but he died about three months ago. his name was wilber hosford. i guess you never herd me mension him for i had forgotten al about them and i dont know whar thay live. i got mi likeness taken agane to day with a hat on. i think it looks better than a cap dont you?
April 11th i am afraid i never wil get this finished but i wil try hard this time anney how. i got your letter of the 29th of march last night and was both glad and sorrey. the next time you go to town go to docter moss and let him examon your eyes and if he can do anney thing for them tel him to do it. or perhaps he knows sombodey in fort wane or toledo that can cur them. if he does tel him to write to them and i wil pay him for his trubel. we wil get paid agane monday and i wil send you sommor monney the first chance i get. if the worst cums to the worst and you loos your eye site you wil be the same to me as ever but i dont beleve you wil loos thoes pretty eyes of yours that i have looket into so often. i cant beleve it. i think that i wil her that thay ar geting better after you have sean the doctter. wal about biing that farm. i am wiling if you can see anney way to pay for it for it appears to take al of mi wages and what he can ern to cep you in bread and potatoes but perhaps i wil get a commishion before long. then i wil get one hundred and ten dollars amonth. then i wil see about it. wal rosa dear dont borrow anney trubel about your eyes. if the almiti sees fit to deprive you of them i have nothing to say aganst his will and i wil luve you and take care of you better than i have before if posable. wal i must cloes this letter. i declar i have not roat anney thing about ophelia. tel her she must be a good girl and if her mother goes blind to take good car of her until i cum home. then we wil be happy once mor. good by write sone to John E Richardson
John E. Richardson's letters are published here with the generous permission
of Ralph Baughn, Rochester Hills, MI. Ralph owns the original letters and retains
the exclusive copyright to them. They may not be reproduced in any form
without his explicit permission.
Many thanks to Sue Boggs for providing the background
information on the Richardson family.
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