The Civil War Letters of William J. Srofe
January - April 1863
Miliken's Bend & Young's Point
"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 are encamped on the opposite side of the river and about seven miles above Vicksburg. We have a plain view of the enemies strong hold. Can see the city very plainly & by the aid of a glass can see the people crowding its streets."
W. J. Srofe
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[Jan?] 29th, 1862
Once more I seat myself to write you lines to let you know that I am well at present, hoping this may find you enjoying the same. We are encamped on the opposite side of the river and about seven miles above Vicksburg [Young's Point]. We have a plain view of the enemies strong hold. Can see the city very plainly & by the aid of a glass can see the people crowding its streets. The lines of our army extend from opposite the mouth of the yazoo river on to the Mississippi River fifteen miles below Vicksburg. The two hostile armies can look into each others camp the great river being between them. There is little or no skirmishing. Thou long we will without [a] fight[?] I have no idea. Banks[?] Expedition is below on the mississippi. As soon as he arrives it is thought the ball will open. [next page missing part of 3 lines, 4th line down starts] money by giving them a souther[n?] Confedeacy. Our army is becoming more and more disorganized & discouraged every day. The most of the new regiments (or as we call them) county men are but of little account. One old soldier is worth ten of them for all purposes. They are not fighting for love of country, but for money & because the[y?] have [to] fight. I am not whiped nor am I discoraged like some, but don't know where we will [be] whiped or not. My honest opinion is that it is a little doubtfull who will conquer. Wer we suported by the north as a people should support an army the contest would soon end. But those who are at thome lounging[?] around there peacefull firesides & enjoying the comforts of there home [and] its pleasures [?] look upon us as a an army of desperadoes & thives. This is enough to discourage any one. And many a good soldier has deserted the army on that account. I think I can stay a little longer. [next page missing 2 or 3 lines, then] New Hope are all well. [?] My opinion. I have nothing more to write only I would be glad to know where John Srofe is. Give my respects to all my enquiring friends. Your affectionate son
Direct to me Co. K. 48 O.V.I. [?]Brig 10th Division 13 Army Corps via Memphis Tenn.
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[Letter from J. V. Srofe, William's brother]
Fe 8th, 1863
With pleasure I take this opportunity of penning you a few lines to let you know that I am well hoping this may find you enjoying the same. I have nothing very strange to write you at present. We have had a very severe winter so far. However our Co. Has not suffered very much as we have been in good quarters ever since we left Camp Ripley although we have seen some tollerable[?] hard servis[?] in scouting over the country and around about the vicinity of this place. We have been a very fortunate comp. of men by the way of getting nice little jobs of work to do. We was ordered to this place the next day after we arrived at Danville. Since that time we have been quartered in the Epsom Springs cottages. each of those cottages will accomadate about 16 men. Each room has two [?] and two doors and a good fireplace. We can live about as comfortable here as if we was at home although we are deprived of a great many privileges. Although we have a great man[y?] more than soldiers have in large armies. But a man must expect when he goes a soldiering to lose a great many comforts and blessing of a citizens life. Although I have been in the army a good while and have seen a great deal of hard service I never have got tired of the cause in which I am engaged in. Nor have I ever been disheartened or had any fears but what we will finally come of victorious in the end. Sometimes our cause loo[k?]es gloomy[?] when we look toward the north and see what a division the butternuts and ultra[?] Abolitionast is trying to get up. Sometimes it looks like we are a going [to] have a fire in our [r?]ear but I hope that before any thing serious turns up we will have threshed the rebels in the south and be then able to close the mouth of secesh sympathisers of the north. But enough of this. Well Sally as you have changed your name again I hope that you will get along pleasantly smoothily. If you do you can get along much better than by living by yourself. If not you will have new troubles upon you. But I hope better than this for I always took the Esq. [?] For a very smooth tempered man and if you can get along with any men you surely can with him. I received your presents to me about a week ago. The socks are a fine article [and] the butter was superb. For those favors I am very thankful to you as always I am for like favors. Well I must close this as it is getting late at night. I hope you will answer this promptly. Direct to me as follows. [?][?][?] Harrodsburg, Ky. I got a letter from Budgeon [nickname for W.J. Srofe] a few weeks ago. He was well at the time of writing. Give my respects to those that enquire about me but [?] others from your affectionate son as ever.
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Youngs Point Louisiana
February 15th, 1863
Again I seat myself to write you a few lines, to let you know that I am well and sincerely hoping that this may find you enjoying the same. I have not received a letter from you for over two months. Why you do not write of [?] to me I do not know but if I cannot hear from you any more I shall surely trouble you with a letter now & then. I have not received a letter from John Srofe for three months. Where he is and why he does not write I am unable to say. I recieved a letter from Azubah a short time since which I answered immediately. You cannot imagine how it animates[?] a soldier to read a letter from a relative or a friend. However if you have all forgotten me I will not forget to write when it [?] the times. As I said in my last I understand that the people as a general thing are down on the war and denounce it as being an negro war[?] and go as far as to say that the U.S. Army is composed desperadoes, thieves and the offscowerings of the country. They can do us but little harm & I care but little about them but wish such people were in the ranks and forced into battle at the point of the bayonet. I hope that those who think so little and say so much about the soldiers will be drafted & made to fight. You may think that I speak in ridles and know not what I say but I swear that I would like to hear of the rebels commiting a rade[?] in Southern Ohio, Indiana & Illinois. It would do me good. Cheers would go up from every Brigade & Regt. on hearing such news. I am a soldier fighting for my country - fighting for to sustain our liberty (that which they are now enjoying). I am not fighting for honor. Fighting for honor is entirely played out. I am simply fighting for the love of my country and for the downfall of rebel[ion?] I care not what my friends at home think of me. If they do not support me I shall over look upon them as enemies [this word is underlined]. I am not tired of fighting, when I think of the cause I feel more like it than ever. Two years is no time to fight. I have only got my hand[?] in. If I am fortunate I can surely fight ten years to enjoy american liberty. The remainder of my life let that be long or short. We must subjigate[?] them or they will us. If I die in this cause I will not die in any other (as death is certain sooner or later it can be no worse in the army.) And one life is little to loose for our country. Our camp is very muddy and wet. The river is up to the levy & still raising. Weather is rainy. Last night it rained very hard & still raining to day. If the river keeps raising we will have to hunt higher ground. One of our gun boats [ran?] the blockade [night?] before last and is below Vicksburg. This is the second one that has ran by there since we have been here this time. When there will be any movement of our troops I am unable to say but not soon I think. The canal is washing slowly it will perhaps wash so as to allow transports to pass perhaps in a month. As soon as we get transports below we expect to cross over and attack them immediately. I expect to participate in this fight if I keep my health. We look for a bloody time of it, but we intend to take it and with it we expect the fall of Dixie. If we capture Vicksburg their last hold is gone in the west and restoration of peace soon. It is getting late. I must close. Give my respects to all my enquiring friends if. Write soon. Your affectionate son
P.S. all the boys from New Hope are well. Direct to me as follows: Co. K. 48th Regt. O.V.I. 2nd Brig, 10th Division 13 Army Corps, Army of Tennessee.
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Youngs Point Louisiana
February 28, 1863
Army before Vicksburg
Your very welcome letter came to hand a few days since. It found me in very good health. Every thing is quiet except occasionaly the report of a [?] from the enemies batteries can be heard. Considerable excitement existed yesterday owing to a report (which are always current in camp) that the rebel rams were coming down the Yazoo River to destroy our transports. The levy was crowded with soldiers looking anxiously for their appearance. Yesterday is gone. To day is another day and the rebel rams have not as yet made their appearance. They know when they are safe & should they ever attack us our gunn[?] boats will sink them in less time than I have been writing about them. Our troops are still working on the canal. They have commenced to dig it sixty feet wide. This will be sufficient in width to allow the larger size transports to pass through unobstructed. The mouth of the canal is commanded by the rebels batteries but at such long range that they cannot affect our operations but little. If we are favoured with good weather for five or ten days it will be complete. We have had heavy rains on an average of every other day for four weeks. Everything is covered with water. One of our rams & one gun boat have ran the blockade a past Vicksburg. [?] say that the ram ground and was captured by the rebels & that she sunk the gunn boat. I cannot [?] it though it may be true. Almost every pestilence and disease contractable in the human system has found its way into our camp. Our Regiment so far has been very fortunate. There is only two men in the hospital. We receive papers from Cincinnati & other points in the north. Every paper is crowded with politics. Many are denouncing the war & the administration & praying for the success of the rebels. I saw a letter from the vicinity of New Hope a few days ago from an old friend of my own. I was suprised to find every line contained something traitorous. He said that the war would last as long as Abe Lincoln was president. This may be true but it will be because we are not able to whip the rebels sooner. One thing is certain that should any[?] Peace Democrat be elected when Abes time is up he had better be dead than advocate his principals in favor of compromise. He was so impudent to add that Valandingham[?] would be the next governor of the State of Ohio. This last remark convinces me that the old mans mind is not right and that he is a more[?] fit subject for the lu[n]atic asilum than a member of a peceble[?] neighborhood and respectable family. I do not wish traitors at home any more harm than those in Dixie but as they are too big cowards to fight us as Confederates I hope & my earnest prayers are that they will not live to see the rebel flag float in any northern city or state. And if it could do any good I would pray for the last imp of them to die before sinning any more. They call it an abolition war & as often as they call this abolition war they lie. I do not think that we are fighting for negroes, but if it is necessary to free them I say do it. I love the cause better than ever. It is the last struggle for national existence. This country can never be divided. All must be federal & confederate. We have the cause the men & the [?], why not the country. Shame on any man who cries peace at this hour. He has not the pluck nor is he good to hold on when he has hold[?]. Capt. Peterson[?] Has resigned & is now on his way home. Les[Lt.?] Geer[?] has sent in his resignation. If his is excepted[?] it will leave us only [?] one comm[?] officer. The boys are well from New Hope. Give my respects to all my enquiring friends. Write soon. Direct to Co. K. 48 Regt Ohio Vols Inf. 10th Division 13th Army Corps. We are looking for pay. Should I send any money I will express it John McColg[?][?] Georgetown, Ohio. I remain your affectionate son
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Millikens Bend. Louisiana
March. 19th 1863.
Again I seat myself to write you a few lines first stating that I am well at present and sincerely hoping these few lines may find you enjoying the same. We are encamped in Millikins Bend about twenty miles above Vicksburg. We was formly encamped in sight of Vicksburg but the suden rise in the Mississippi River compelled us to move our quarters to higher land. Our camp is a very nice one at the present time. There has been also a great change in the wether. The dark & heavy clouds have cleard away & in the last few days genial sunshine has visted us. Spring is here – already the peach trees are in full bloom & the air perfumed by the blossoms of wild fruits trees figs – apples etc.
An order just came for us to hold ourselves in rediness to take the field at any time. From this I judge we will not be here long I supose. The people of the north will soon be wateing with ankxiety to hear of our possession of Vicksburg & the result of one of the most bloody battles every fought. I do not look for this battle soon. I believe some other point is in view not far from here which our Gens intend making a demonstration on soon.
Helth is very good in our Regt. Amos Keys is in the hospital but will soon be able to return to the Company. All the rest of the boys are in fine helth. I believe I stated in my other letter that Capt. Peterson had resigned and gone home. Since then Leieutenant John J. Geer has resigned. We have only one Comishined officer in our Company. I being orderly Sergeant will perhaps eventuly get a commision. I have been recommended to Gov. Tod for first Leiet. But it will be some time before we see the returns As it is getting late I must close by asking you to write. I have not rec a letter from you only one since the battle of Arkansas Post. Write and let me know how you are getting along. I remain your affectionate son as ever
Sarah Myers W. J. Srofe
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Millikins Bend La
April 6 1863
Again I seat myself to inform you that I am well & I hope when this reaches you it may find you enjoying the same. I have nothing important to write about only there is a great many troops moving in direction of Red River. What the plan of operations are I have not the slightest idea. The old morioty[?] of camp life is as ever[?]. Nothing to do. Nothing to read. Sit still & kill the time by telling tales or lay down and sleep it away. I consume my time principally in the former way though it is not a profitable business but I prefer it to the latter. I never could sleep while the sun shine if I am not the most industrious man living. This day one year ago we were first introduced to the rebels at Shiloh and we have had several similar introductions since but nothing so horrible or destructive. About this time in the evening (Sunday) one year ago, everything was excitement. Our army was all concentrated in a small semi-circle not exceeding three quarters of a mile and reduced by casualties & straglers[?] until we did not have half the number of fighting men that we had in the morning. All the artillery that we had left was planted in front. Never will I forget that hour of [time?]. Our regiment was ordered to support a battery. The clash of arms had ceased for a few minutes only to again be renewed with more fury & more destructive than ever. On [&] on came the victorious traitors threatening destruction at the point of the bayonett or a wating[?] grave & neat[wet?] bowells of the Tennessee. They charged within twenty yards of our artillery & front line when they received a rakeing fire from both small & large arms. They fell back & again & again renewed the fire change[?] but were as often compelled to retire. When at last our ears were delighted by the shout of -- Buells come! Buells come! It was indeed a happy moment when we cast our eyes to the rear & discovered the rear[?] of his column. Dark came on at last and the clash of arms subsided. The rebels fell back a short distance & went into to camp the calmness of the night only broken by the cheers of the secesh & they were soon calmed by a five minute gun[?] which sent one of its messingers[?] of death in direction of the cheers every five minutes. Early the next morning we advanced & made the attack & by two o'clock p.m. they were all schedaddleing. We expect to participate in one equally as bloody at Vicksburg & should I fall in the expected battle console yourself with the hope that I fell like a soldier, nobely and not cowardly. I had my picture taken today which I send with this & one also to Azubah. You will have to pay the postage for my stamps are played out. Give my respects to all my enquiring friends & write soon. I am your son as ever.
P.S. I have not received but two letters from you since I left Memphis. Direct to me Co. "K", 48 Regt. O.V.I. 2nd Brigade 10 Division 13 Army Corps via Memphis Tenn.
William J. Srofe 's letters, documents and photographs are published here with
the generous permission of Carolyn Srofe and Dan (EBAY ID CD112.4). They may not be reproduced
in any form without their explicit permission.
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