1864: John Bascom to Hubert Treat Bushnell

Hardee Hat worn by the Iron Brigade

This letter was written by John Bascom (1833-1864), the son of James Bascom (1773-1856) and Sally Webb (1790-1878) of Trumbull county, Ohio. John and his older brother, Linus Bascom (1831-1862) both served in Co. A, 7th Wisconsin Infantry—part of the famed Iron Brigade or the “Black Hat Brigade.” Linus enlisted in July 1861 and rose to the rank of 1st Sergeant before receiving a mortal wound in the fighting at South Mountain; he died on 31 December 1862 at Middletown, Maryland. John enlisted in December 1863 as a private in Co. A. He was one among many who helped to replenish the ranks of the regiment that had seen its ranks woefully thinned in the fighting at Gettysburg. John fought on with the regiment through the Overland Campaign and the siege of Petersburg but by July was plagued with sickness. “If I had been at home, I should have called myself sick. But a man has no business to be sick here,” he wrote in mid-July 1864. He died of disease on 19 November 1864 in Mauston, Juneau county, Wisconsin.

Bascom wrote the letter to Hubert Treat Bushnell (1843-1934), the son of Lewis Bushnell, Jr. (1818-1903) and Elizabeth Ann Treat (1821-1894) of Trumbull county, Ohio. Hubert enlisted in Co. B, 87th Ohio Infantry in June 1862 but served less than four months. Some six weeks after this letter was written, Hubert reenlisted as a private in the 2nd Ohio Cavalry.


Addressed to Mr. Hubert T. Bushnell, Johnstonville, Trumbull Co., Ohio
Postmarked Old Point Comfort, Va.

Petersburg [Virginia]
July 11th 1864

Friend Hubert,

I received yours of the 1st two days since & was glad as ever to hear from you. And having nothing to do today but lay low—head down, I will try to answer it.

I have not been feeling very well for the last week. In fact, the worst I have since I came to the army so that had I been at home, I should have called myself sick. But as a man has no business to be sick here. I won’t [be] sick & now I am feeling considerable better. I presume full as well as if I had called on the doctor. I had quite a bad diarrhea & sore  stomach &c. I could not eat. Have not eaten one days rations in eight.

We have been laying here in pretty much the same position since the 18th of June although now we do not have to lay in the entrenchments all the while as at first, but are relieved every 3 days & fall back to a piece of timber & wash, rest & hunt gray backs &c. So we are 3 days off & 3 on. We relieve one another at dark as we are within rifle range of the rebs’ lines. There is not much firing going on now on either side except occasional cannonading & mortar shelling. ¹

What movements are being made on other parts of the line, I cannot say, but have full faith to believe that we will make the rebs get up & get out of this in some way. There is various rumors afloat here as to the rebel raid that is being made now in Maryland & Pennsylvania but nothing definite as to the extent or amount of their force but it shows at least they are possessed of no mean force having enough to extend their lines as long as ours here, an army in Georgia that is nearly a match for Sherman, with numerous other small forces & guerrilla bands in the West & still some to spare to make a raid unto Pennsylvania. But I hope & trust that they will get all the raiding they will want before they get out of that. If they don’t, I hope they will clean Pennsylvania out in good earnest & go up into York State & give Gov. Seymour a call. I want a good thing one way or t’other for if the people won’t turn out when their own states are invaded, they ought to be whipped.

Hubert T. Bushnell in GAR Uniform

I was somewhat surprised to hear that you had left Finney but should not wonder if it proved a good thing for you for I guess you had most too much to do there for one of your health. And now you ought to be careful & not be too ambitious & pitch in to another place just as hard. You spoke of coming into the army if your health was a little better. Wait till the hardest kind of farming won’t faze you for lugging knapsack, [cartridge] box, & gum [blanket] is harder work than farming. You say all the young men have gone to war that is your old associates & you don’t care about going to the forts as there are no young men with whom you could enjoy yourself. Now if all the young men have gone to war, it can’t be that all the young ladies have & I should suppose that you could enjoy yourself first rate in the society of some of the fair sexes & I doubt not but what some of them would both appreciate & enjoy your company if you would give them an opportunity unless the young fellows that have gone to war stole away the hearts of all the fair creatured before they left.

It is very dry & dusty here now as we have had no rain since about the first of June & it seems to be a general thing as in the West. It has been very dry since the first of May so that there will not be more than half a crop of grain.

How was politics run there now? Is there much of a split in the Union Party in favor of Fremont? There is more in the army than I supposed there would be. Please send me an opposition paper once in awhile that is opposed to the Administration so I can see what they have to say on the other side. With my best respects to all—yourself always included—I remain as ever, — Uncle John

¹ Henry F. Young of the 7th Wisconsin wrote a letter to his wife Delia on 15 July 1864 in which he also described the regiment’s activities: “We still spend half our time in the trenches. In our front, there has been no firing of infantry for the last ten days—both sides became tired of it and quit it. But we have plenty of artillery and mortar shelling.”  He went on to write, “There will be a terrible battle here soon. It will probably be the greatest fight the world has ever yet seen. Many will unavoidably fall for in many places the guns of the two armies are not more than four or five hundred yards apart. We have artillery enough to fill the air with hissing grape & bursting shells, and the rebs have apparently the same.” [Letter 15 July 1864, Henry F. Young, The Siege of Petersburg Online]

The Bascom Brothers—both served in Co. A, 7th Wisconsin Infantry—both gave their lives in the service of their country.

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