1864: Abram V. Davis to Josiah Clinton Leonard

Officers of the 153rd New York Infantry, Library of Congress

This letter was written by Abram V. Davis who, at 23 years of age, enrolled at Johnstown, to serve three years, and mustered in as second lieutenant, Co. D, 153rd New York Volunteers on September 6, 1862; as first lieutenant, Co. B, May 1, 1863; as adjutant, May 24, 1864; mustered out with regiment, October 2,1865, at Savannah, Ga.; also borne as Abraham V. and F.

Abram was enumerated in 1855 at Johnstown, Fulton county, New York, boarding at the residence of shoemaker John and Harriet Lewis. His occupation at that time was given as “clerk.” In 1860, Abram was a farm laborer on the farm owned by Josiah Clinton Leonard (1813-1881) in Johnstown. It was to Josiah that Abram penned this letter in 1864. In 1875, he was living with his older brother, Joseph H. Davis, in Gloversville Village, Johnstown, Fulton county, New York. Both brothers were employed as glove salesmen.

This letter was penned on 9 March 1864, just prior to the regiment’s participation in the Red River Campaign or Red River Expedition (March 10 to May 22, 1864). It was a Union failure, characterized by poor planning and mismanagement, in which not a single objective was fully accomplished. Confederate Lt. General Richard Taylor successfully defended the Red River Valley with a smaller force.

Addressed to Mr. J. C. Leonard, Gloversville, Fulton county, New York

Headquarters 153rd Regiment
New York Volunteers
Franklin, Louisiana
March 9th 1864

Kind friends,

This is the fourth letter I have written you wince we first received marching orders at Washington. I have not heard from you since though there has been but one mail received for the regiment since that time. The last time I wrote you we were encamped at Algiers directly across the river from New Orleans. We took the cars at the above named place on the night of the 3rd inst. & arrived in Brashear City about 9 o’clock the next morning. Here we crossed over the Atchafalaya or Bayou Boeuf by a transport to Berwick. Here we halted and took refreshments of hard tack, pork, & coffee.

Brashear City is located on the east side of the bay though most maps have it on the west. In the afternoon we marched to Pattersonville—a distance of about (9) nine miles & bivouacked for the night. The next day we marched 18 miles & arrived at Franklin, our present location, about dark. Our march lay along the Bayou Teche near which the regiment is now encamped.

My tent stands next to the Colonel’s on the bank of the stream under the branches of a large live oak. Live oak is the principal timber here & makes a magnificent shade as it is covered with moss so thick that you can scarcely see through it. Moss grows naturally on all kinds of timber in this country, even in orange & nearly all kinds of fruit trees. The moss is not such as grows at the North but is the same that cushions are stuffed with that looks so much like block hair. It is not uncommon to see it hang from the branches of trees to the length of from 12 to 15 feet. Trees look magnificent covered with this moss & at a little distance resemble a weeping willow.

Negroes on the Bayou Teche Plantations

The country is the finest that I ever saw. The cypress swamps is all that there is to hinder you from looking as far as the eye can see. The Bayou Teche is a very fine stream of water & is navigable for small vessels up as far as New Iberia. There is a belt of land on either side ½ miles in width before the swamps commence. The plantations on the belts of land are said to be the finest of any in the South. They are very little cultivated now as the owners have mostly gone to Texas. They are generally left in charge of the old negroes who they did not consider worth moving. I thought when marching up that people were very foolish to waste their lives in the North while there was so beautiful a country almost uninhabited.

Our regiment is in the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 19th Army Corps. Brig. Gen. [Godfrey] Weitzel is assigned to the command of the brigade though he has not yet arrived. Brig. Gen. [William H.] Emory commands the division & Major Gen. [William B.] Franklin the Corps. We are about to start on an expedition up the Red River & will probably start in the course of three or four days. Gen. [Nathaniel P.] Banks will command the expedition in person. His body guard has already arrived. We will no doubt see some sharp fighting & no doubt many that start with the expedition will never return.

I will write whenever I can conveniently though I do not hear from you. My love to all the family and best respects to all inquiring friends. Respectfully yours, — A. V. D.

P. S. Direct to 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 19th Army Corps, New Orleans, La. — A. D.


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