These two letters were written by Mills H. Barnard (1838-1914), the son of S. Grove Barnard (1808-1890) and Sarah [ ] (1817-1847) of Bloomfield, Hartford county, Connecticut. Mills wrote both letters to his wife, Anna M. Osborn (1836-1909).
Mills enlisted as a sergeant in Co. E, 25th Connecticut Infantry (a 9-months regiment) in the fall of 1862. The 25th Connecticut was mustered into the service 11 November 1862, and on the 14th sailed from Hartford for Centerville, L.I., to join at that rendezvous the Banks Expedition. The muster-roll showed 811 men thoroughly drilled and well appointed, except that they were without rifles which were later served to them on the ship after their arrival on the Mississippi River. The regiment embarked 29 November 1862, in two divisions—one division of five companies under command of Colonel Bissell on the Steamer Mary Boardman; and the remainder under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Stevens on the Steamer Empire City. The destination of the expedition was unknown when the vessels sailed as the sealed orders were not to be opened until they had sailed 24 hours to the southward and eastward. The orders, when opened, were found to be simply to report at Ship Island, off the mouth of the Mississippi River, allowing a stop at Dry Tortugas for coal if necessary. The ships duly arrived at Ship Island and proceeded at once up the river to New Orleans where they arrived on the 14th of December, 1862. On the 16th, the Mary Boardman, with several of the other ships proceeded to Baton Rouge, where they arrived the next day. The Empire City landed the left wing of the regiment at Camp Parapet, just above New Orleans. The forces landed at Baton Rouge after a brief bombardment of the city and the 25th Connecticut (five companies), went into camp first on the United States Arsenal ground in the city and later near the cemetery, back of the city.
During May and June the regiment was actively engaged in the siege of Port Hudson, and was almost constantly under fire in the trenches and in the various assaults on that stronghold, leading the advance on the 23rd of May when a junction was formed with General Auger’s column which completed the investment of the place. During all the siege the regiment was constantly in the front and finally participated in the glories of the surrender of the fortress on the 8th of July, having been in almost constant, arduous duty, marching and fighting since early in March.
After the surrender of Port Hudson, the regiment returned to Donaldsonville, where it encamped till the expiration of term of service. Colonel Bissell sent to General Banks and offered himself and his command to remain longer in the department if our services were needed; but he replied that there would probably be no more fighting, and thanking us for our offer, he issued an order returning us to our homes. The regiment was finally mustered out at Hartford, August 26, 1863.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Mrs. Annie M. Barnard, Bloomfield, Hartford county, Connecticut
Postmarked New Orleans, La.
Baton Rouge [Louisiana]
January 2nd 1863
I have taken my pen this beautiful morning to say a few words to you. I intended to write yesterday & wish you a happy new year, but we moved our camp yesterday & I was at work pretty hard & did not get time. We are now about two miles east of the city in the woods which makes it very pleasant for it is very warm here. We are on the very spot where the Indiana boys were encamped last August. The rebels drove them from their camp & burned it, but they were well paid for it. The Indiana boys drove them back at the point of the bayonet killing some 300 of them in about 20 minutes. It must have been warm work. The trees here are filled with balls. I saw one not larger than my leg that had 12 balls in it. The graves are thick. Some they that helped bury them have got 75 rebels in them. ¹
We are in a very unhealthy country & a great many of our men are sick but nothing alarming. It is colds & loose bowels. I have got a touch of loose bowels today but not bad. It is by drinking this Mississippi river water. It is a very muddy stream. It looks like the water running in the road in a thunder shower, but I should like to live here. It is is the most splendid country I ever saw. The land is rich and level. The roads are laid out straight & wide running parallel, which makes the country look splendid. I would like to go to farming here at the prices everything is bringing here. Sweet potatoes $2 per bushel, flour $75 per barrel, beef 25 cents per pound, molasses $1.50 per gallon, &c. Everything is high. There is no use in having money here unless you have a pile. I have not used a cent since I came here except for a little tobacco & writing paper & I have sent home for some of these things. There is some half dozen of us sent to have a box sent with all of our stuff in. Tobacco is $2 per lb. & writing paper 5 cents a sheet. I did stop chewing for two weeks but the doctor told me it was a bad plan. He said he thought it kept off diseases in this country more than all the other precautions put together.
I have been well since I left. Never was better but I am sick waiting for a letter from you (you old smut). I have just taken your picture & kissed it, but it did not smile & return it as you used to do. If I could have a kiss & one sweet smile from you this morning, I should be the happiest man in this camp (& I think I am now). I have felt nicely for a few days back. We feel now pretty sure that our time commenced the 10th of September & will be out the 10th of June. That will give me my place at the Griswold’s again. I shall write to him as soon as I find out for certain & I think that will be when we are paid off. We have not received a cent yet & may not for some time yet. But I shall write to him soon.
I have had a good long nap & eat my dinner. Now I am sitting under a large tree where there is two graves with a board set up at the head of each. One is marked Major; the other a federal soldier. There is some nice looking trees here. The one I am under is as large as the old Elm up by the Sam Pinney place & the leaves spread out like this [sketch] on the end of every little twig. The trees grows very tall & in the shape of a sugar loaf. It is the most splendid tree I ever saw. The leaves are so thick that you can not see up through & see the sun. I will send you a part of a leaf. There is another kind here that grows very large & not a leaf on it but there is moss on it bunches of which are four & six feet long. They say it is what we at the North stuff wagon cushions with & call it hair.
I tell you, Anna, I am seeing something that I never expected to see & some things that are worth going a great ways to see. If I ever get back, I shall feel well paid for my soldiering although it is pretty tuff sometimes. We have not tasted of a bit of fresh beef since we left New York before today. For dinner we had some fresh beef steak. Our principle living has been salt horse & hard bread with something that is called coffee.
I don’t know as I have ever written you any account of our journey. I have written a part of it to some of the folks but I don’t know who but I guess you will hear all about it. When I have written home or to Fitzroy, I have told them to send you the letter. I have not had but one letter since I left New York & that was from you & Sarah written December 2nd. I don’t know as you have ever got the letters I have written to you. If you have, I think I must have some on the road somewhere. I wrote 2 on board the boat at New York, 1 at Tortugas, 1 at Ship Island, 1 at New Orleans, and this makes 3 since we came here. I have written to Fitzroy, Father, Sarah, George, & John & I am getting anxious to get an answer to some of them.
We don’t know anything that is going on around the country. We don’t know half as much about the war as we did when we were at home. We have heard that the news North was that the 25th [Connecticut] Regiment was all cut to pieces but we did not know anything about it. There is a story here today that we were going up the Red River into Texas but I cannot believe it. But I hope it is so. The more we travel, the better it suits me. There is a big expedition gathering here for what purpose I don’t know, but it seems to me that when they move there will be something done. It is surprising to me when I think how these expenses are to be paid. Those that have never seen anything of it can have no idea of what the expense of this war is or how the money is used & I have only a small idea about it. This is but a small part of the army. I don’t know how many troops there is here but I know there is a pile of them & they are coming every day.
I want you to write as often as you can. Write all the news & send me some papers. I would give $10 to get a letter from you tonight & may get one, but you don’t know how anxious I feel about you although I don’t worry for I know you are taken care of. But write often & I will do the same. I must close. Give my love to all the folks & tell them to write. I will answer all the letters I can. This from your dearest husband, — Mills H. Barnard
I will wish you a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year. Always direct 25th Regt., Co. E, Banks Expedition via Washington or New York
¹ This is a reference to the Battle of Baton Rouge that took place on 5 August 1862. Major Benjamin Hays of the 21st Indiana was severely wounded in the fighting that day but survived and later temporarily led the regiment so he could not have been the “Major” buried near the encampment of the 25th Connecticut. It was most likely the grave of a Confederate officer.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Springfield Landing, La.
July 1, 1863
My own dear wife,
I have just received your most welcome letter of June 14th. I will try to say a few words in reply. I think this letter will have to be short and of very little interest but I shall keep writing a little at a time until I have a chance to send it down the river. I say it will not be interesting for there is no news here to write but the old story. Port Hudson is not taken. There is the same roar of cannon there today that there has been for over 6 weeks past. And there are ambulance trains running in here with the sick and wounded the same. How much our troops are gaining towards taking the place, I can’t say, but they are gaining ground every day. They are so close together that they talk with each other and our boys give them coffee for whiskey. The Rebs have no coffee but plenty of whiskey.
July 2nd. Our troops are on the outside of, just under the Reb’s works while they are on the other side. Sometimes they agree not to fire on each other and then they get up on the works and talk and have a good time generally. But when there is no such agreement, the first man that shews his head of either party is very apt to lose it.
3 o’clock. Anna, we have had a little excitement here since I was writing this morning. The Rebs have made us a visit. [Col. John L.] Logan’s Cavalry made a dash in here with the intention of burning the Commissary Stores and blowing up the ammunition but they did not do much. They burned a lot of clothing—2000 suits—but we drove them off. Killed 4, wounded 6, and took 4 prisoners. We did not have a man killed and but 3 wounded, and some 12 or 15 taken prisoners. The most of these have got away and got back here. It was a warm time while it lasted. They went from here on the Port Hudson road. When about a mile from here, they met 115 of the Rhode Island Cavalry and they—the Rebs—took 60 of them prisoners. There was between 4 and 5 hundred of the Rebs killed. [There] was one captain, one lieutenant, and 5 privates, as I have heard since writing the above, and 5 taken prisoners. They carried off some of their wounded—how many we do not know. We have the gunboat Essex here now so you may rest easy. There is no danger now.
July 3rd. I will close this. I have got this paper very dirty but as it is going to old smut, I don’t care. Yesterday when the rebs came, I put it in my pocket and all the receipts for stores I had. Then I got a gun and was ready for them. Annie, I never was more pleased with a letter from you than I was with your last. You seemed to be in good spirits. I am glad you was pleased with the things I sent you. And if I can find anything for Mother and the girls, they shall have it. That spread you spoke of I thin is Mrs. G. I sent you one with a border but if you like hers so well, I will try and find you one.
Osborne Smith is here with us yet. He says he would like to have you see his wife or write her a line telling her he is well. He is going to stay here the rest of his time which I hope will not be long. Gen. Banks says he shall take his 4th of July dinner inside of Port Hudson. If he does, we will soon be on the road home. I must close.
Love to all. Tell Hatt she has done enough. Your husband, — M. H. Barnard