1862: Edward B. Sage to Calvin Sage

This letter was written by Edward B. Sage (1840-1864), the son of Lorenzo N. Sage (1808-1887) and Juliet Wilcox (1807-1890) of Sandisfield, Berkshire county, Massachusetts—formerly of Colebrook, Litchfield county, Connecticut. Edward wrote the letter to his brother, Calvin N. Sage (1838-1916).

Edward enlisted in Co. E, 7th Connecticut Infantry on 7 September 1861. He was killed in action on 14 May 1864 at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia.


James Island [South Carolina]
June 19th 1862

Brother Calvin,

I send you ten dollars more and will send more as I want to write. Sending it in a number of letters will not be running so much risk. I am out of stamps and it is hard work to get them here. Please send me a dozen.

Everything remains quiet here since the battle. ¹ We have found out their strength and can go to work accordingly. Last night we threw up battery right under their nose. Got up about ten rifled cannon. We can give them fits. They have probably got double our number of troops on this island. They use most anything to fill up their cannon—scraps of iron and bottles—anything to pull death. The air in front of the battery was filled with everything to cut and slay.

You must write often. Let me know how father gets along down in Jersey. Read what you can of this letter and guess at the rest. I will try to do better next time.

From your brother, — E. B. Sage

¹ The First Battle of James Island (a. k. a. Battle of Secessionville) was fought on 16 June 1862. This was the Union’s only attempt to capture Charleston by land. Another soldier in Co. E. named John G. Rowley wrote the following letter dated 17 June 1862 pertaining to the fighting at Secessionville:

“It appears that on the strength of some of the officers and aids about the rank of Lieut. and Captain that went up near the Rebel battery on a reconnoitering expedition on Sunday and were allowed to go very near without being fired upon by the pickets that the rebels were almost harmless and that to take their battery would require but little exertion. Accordingly Monday morning at 1 o’clock Fenton’s & Stevens Brigades were ordered to march and at 2 ½ moved forward—we knew not where. At daylight we drove in the Rebel pickets about ¾ of a mile from the battery. They killed and wounded three or four of our men. We marched on through a cornfield (all silked out) and into an open field where their battery was immediately forming in battle line, were ordered not to fire, made a charge. Their rifle pits were filled with Rebels that fired and mowed down our men like sheep. Immediately they shot grape & canister during still greater execution from their battery. Regiment after regt. of the two Brigades came up and were mowed down by grape and canister—the shells bursting all about us at the same time. It was a time of peril. I saw neither looked at anything but the place I stepped and watched the flash of the enemy’s cannon. We were all broke up and formed again on the colors in good order. Soon Wright’s Genl. Brigade assisted by Hamilton’s Battery marched to help us but to no avail. They came up only to be slaughtered for it was a well contrived plan. They were strongly entrenched and had other batteries to fire into that one if we succeeded in taking it. We built a battery to the right of theirs [and] had it in working order.” 

“Friday morning shots were exchanged during the day and night until 12 o’clock when the rebels ceased to fire. The next day (Sunday) our battery fired all day—Parrot & James projectiles. It was thought by many they had evacuated it therefore a reconnaissance was made. They went very near and thought they were tame but far from it.  We have got the hot head of succession to contend with. They drawed us in completely a regular trap.”  

“Capt. Palmer won great credit for his coolness and bravery. Lieut. Dempsey was wounded the first thing—shot through the shoulder; I think not mortal.  All the boys from Winsted are well. Chas. Gilbert of Norfolk had his leg shot off, two others wounded and one shot dead from our company; none from 7th.  It is thought to be Gen. Benhams fault.” 

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