1863: Dolphus Skinner Damuth to Maria Damuth

Dolphus S. Damuth in later years, supplied by Jim Gorman

This letter was written by Dolphus Skinner Damuth (1839-1913), the son of George Damuth (1799-1872) and Elizabeth Tarbell (1808-1902) of Ft. Atkinson, Wisconsin. Dolphus was born in Jefferson county, New York, but came to Wisconsin with his parents in 1840. He wrote the letter to his sister Maria E. Damuth (1843-1911).

Dolphus enlisted on 15 August 1862 in Co. D, 29th Wisconsin Infantry where he rose in rank to Orderly Sergeant. He was later offered a commission as 2nd Lieutenant of Co. I, 48th Wisconsin Infantry, but he declined. He mustered out of the regiment in June 1865. His obituary indicates that he fought in several battles with his regiment including Port Gibson, Champion Hills, the siege of Vicksburg, Sabine Cross Roads, and the taking of Mobile. Regrettably, his older brother Samuel was drafted into the regiment in January 1864 and died of disease in May 1865 at Mobile, Alabama. Dolphus had two other older brothers that served in the war; John C. Damuth in the 40th Wisconsin, and George Damuth in the 58th Illinois.

Dolph’s letter with tintype of Jacob Learn of Co. K wearing the uniform of 29th Wisconsin [Wisconsin Historical Society]

Addressed to Maria Damuth, Ft. Atkinson, Jeff. Co., Wisconsin

Rear of Vicksburg
June 14, 1863

Dear Sister,

I have just returned from our regular two hours duty sharpshooting. I didn’t see any Rebels this morning but have seen a great many last week. I heard our men talking with the rebels. The captain [Gustavus H. Bryant] heard what the rebels said. The conversation was all blackguard. Our men work every night digging rifle pits. They keep getting closer all the time. The Battery keep to work slowly—just enough to let the Rebels know that we are around. At night the gunboats gives it to them. I have watched for hours to see them come over. It is fun. It is as good to see as fireworks on the 4th of July. What effect they have on the Rebels is more than I know but it must make a scattering among them sometimes. I know we don’t like to see their coming over here to see us and they don’t shoot one where we do 500.

I don’t get any letters from home but keep writing and suppose you do the same. I am very anxious to hear from home but I suppose no more so than you are to hear from me. I am well and can eat my regular rations.

Our wounded and all the men left to care for them at Champion Hills have all gone up the river and John [R.] Tyler & Will[is W.] Wilson that were taking care of them come to the company yesterday. J[ohn] B. Meise had his arm taken off and bled to death. Ed[win] Skinner had his leg taken off and died on the way to the river. Drum Major [Frederick A.] Dyke died at Milliken’s Bend. He was a very old man and ought to have went home. That makes 8 men we have lost since we crossed the river—3 killed in battle, 3 died of wounds received there, and two by sickness. As you have a record of the company, I will send you a list of the names of those that have died and all about the men in the company. Then you can see what a change there has been in our company since we left Camp Randall.

I think we will need some of those drafted men to fill up our ranks but I had rather they would keep them away from us. I don’t like the idea of sending down a lot of green men for us to drill. We are drilled so that we don’t have to do any of that kind of business. Now we have to put in practice what we have learned.

Wilson & Tyler start today for the Capitol of Indiana where they will stay until they are exchanged. ¹ I think they will get a chance to come home. I hope so for they are both good boys & have had a hard time taking care of our wounded but they had plenty to eat I suppose. Blackberries are very plenty out there. I have had a good many cups of ripe ones since we have been here but there is so many to pick them that there is not many for a man. Some of the boys were out on picket. They say corn is seven feet high. They saw three acres of water melons all in the blow. They looked nice. I suppose the owner was going to sell them to the soldiers in Vicksburg but now if there is any, we will take them in welcome.

I am acting as Orderly and make it go well. We have got one of the best captains that ever lived. He buys lots of things for the boys. The other day he got some pickles for the whole company and paid for it himself. He never gets anything good but what he calls me into his tent to get some. I have always tried to please him and believe I always have. When I wanted to go into the negro regiment, he told me enough so that I knew that I had better stay where I was. The boys all think everything of him as much as they do of [Lt. David W.] Curtis. Curtis has been unwell for a few days past but is getting better now.

Our Orderly don’t seem to gain much. If he don’t look out, he never will. It is hard work for a man to get up if he once gets down. The Division that the Tarbell boys are in are out to Black River bridge. I suppose there is an army of 160,000 men around here now. I would like to see the Rebel army that can whip us or drive us out of here. The thing can’t be done. Gen. Grant is in no sweat about Vicksburg. It don’t cost anymore to board us here than anywhere else. We know that they can’t always live in there and know that they never can get out. I think when we get this place, we will see a little better times. I think we shall go up the river.

I wrote a letter to Sate [Sadie] some time ago. I don’t see why she don’t answer it. I hope you will all write as often as twice a week so you will hear from me often. I expect uncle Joy will be down here to see his boys but I don’t expect to see him. I can’t think of anything more to write just now so I will close for this time.

From Dolph

¹ Corp. John R Tyler and Corp. Willis W. Wilson were both taken prisoner by the Confederates when they stayed with their wounded comrades on the battlefield at Champion’s Hill. Though released, they were compelled to remain out of action for a prescribed period of time in a Northern prison camp. 


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