49th Indiana Volunteers
September 1862 - September 1863
The letters which appear below are part of a set of letters written by or on the behalf Capt. John A. Ritter during his service in the 49th Indiana Volunteers in the Civil War. The letters on this page cover the period from September 1862 to September 1863. The letters were transcribed from the original letters or copies of the original letters in the possession of descendents of Capt. John A. Ritter. The letters appear exactly as written. No effort was made to correct apparent misspelled words. Many of these apparent errors may be the result of differences between modern styles of handwriting and styles in use during the 19th century. Blanks were inserted where words or phrases were totally illegible and underlining was used for words or phrases for which the correct interpretation was questionable.
September 6, 1862 from Desotoville, OH
Sept 6 1862
My Dear wife,
I take the present opportunity to write you a line. We arrived at this vilage yestrday and are awaiting the _____?. Where our destination is is some what uncertain. I understand that the secretary of war has orderd us to stop here of to go into camp at _________? and the last Rumer is that we go to Covington Ky. We will Know soon where we are destined. We are tired & worn out and kneid rest and we will have to have clothing. Our men are raged & barefooted. We are out of tents and willhave to be refited out before we can go in to the service? again.
The people in __________? verry Kind but it was imposible for them to do much. 10,000 men takes a great deal of provision. We worked our way from the gap the Ohio River _____? the country as we came. We made grates? out of tin cups tin plaits etc made mush & Bread out of grated meal. Every fellow grating for himself after marching often for 20 hours we would have to go a mile or two miles after corn to grate. Ducks geese & chickens suffered and acasionaly a hog was skined and by this means we worked through. I am truly glad that we have got in to the land of _____? _____? and where we are in communication with the world. We have to pleasure of tenting to _____? to our friends. I have longed to here from home. I would like to see you but when that will be I am not able to say. If we go to covington or Denison I want you to come and see me if I do not get the opportunity to come home. Col. Keigwin told me that I should go home the verry first excuse that he could make to send me. I want you to write and let me Know all the news that has happened since communication was stopt. What has come of the men that was coming to to my company? Where is Billy & what is he doing? If you come up I want you to bring little Billy with you. I did expect that I sould have got to a telegraph office at the Ohio but there is none here.
The citizens of Wheelesville gave all the soldiers a breakfast. They treated? verry Kind and seamed to simpathyse? with us very much but it is quite different in this little vill. They are thieves. I paid 20 cents a lb? for beef yestrday. They are selling loaf of Bred at 12 1/2 cts a loaf that is only worth 5. I told them that they were thievs and if the soldiers? took what they had without paying them that my men should not be molested that it was _____?. I am in good heath. I have 64 men with me. I was verry ____? & sick at times on the march but dare not stop. The Reb caveraly followed after us all the way and was in our advance?. They Blockaded the road at many places and shot at us where ever they had an opportunity. The attack us at three different times but soon got out of our ____?. They were on horses &? we afoot. Many of our men made the trip barefooted and many are so destitute of clothing that they show the naked reality of war. _____? your letters to Cin? 49 Ind.
John A Ritter
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October 14, 1862 Letter to Governor Morton
Camp near Oak Hill, Ohio
Oct. 14, 1862
To his Excellency
Oliver P. Morton
Gov. of State of Indiana
Enclosed please find two recommendations Signed by the line officers of this Regiment, they are in favor of Dr. John A. Ritter for appointment as Surgeon, & the other in favor of Dr. John A.? B. Widner for appointment as 1st Assistant Surgeon of the 49th REgt. Ind. Vols. I can fully corobate all the statements _____? these recommendations as to the faithful and Self-sacrificing labors of Drs. Ritter & Widner in attending on the sick of our Regiment during our affliction last winter & spring. And without desiring to be understood as dictating to your excellency, I would say if the appointment of these two positions has not been made So as be _____?, you could not confer a greater favor on this Regiment-nor one which would be more gratefully acknowledged-by the officers & privates of this Regiment that the appointment as ____? _____? of Drs. Ritters adn Widner. And in this recommendation Col. Keigwin authroizes ____? say to your Excellency he fully concurs.
Respectfully your friend & _____?
Jo. A. N. Showton?
Major 49 Reg. Ind. Vols.
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November 4, 1862 from Coal Point, VA
Coal Point Va Nov 4th 1862
I take up my pen to write you a line. We came to this place on the 2nd Inst. and find lots of sesesh. Some of she devils yet we have some union men and women some of them verry strong. There are but few men here that is to be seen except old men or cripples they having all feld to one side or the other or in one army or the other. The sesesh that are here are quite clever. I got my dinner on Sunday at a house where the ladys husband was in the sesesh army. She was strong union woman. She was living with her Father in Law, her Father in Law mother, & sistes in Law were strong sesesh. I thought that she was playing off on me but upon inquiry I learn that she has been union all the time poor women I felt sorry for her. She was sharp, she pitched in to the sesesh right & left. Our boys went out scouting last night & brought in seven that is said to be Bushwhackers. The sesesh are verry much elated at the turn that the elections have taken in Ohio, Indiana, & Illinois. They bost that the Bullernuts?? have carried? these states. Coal Mouth is a little vilage at the mouth of a River called Coal River. A short distance up coal river is the little vilage of Philips where one one among the first Battles of Va was fought or where we made them skeaddle on Sunday last. As we came up on the other side of the Kanawa River some Reb beat a drum, the Reb caveraly rode up on a hill & looked at us. We crossed over the river but they had fled to partes to us unknown. We have had peacible times since our arrival here but it is some what agrivating to see sesesh runing loose and we cannot tuch them. They acknowledge that they are southern men as they terme it but peaceble citizens. Till government turns a new leaf this rebelion will not be put down. If they would turne the 49th loose here with their present offices with out any tramels? of government orders to comply with or to check them I believe that they could clearne out the Kanawkea? valley from this point to the mouth. They would move all the sesesh Breed? before them beyond our lines not leaving any thing behind but true Loyal men & women and when they be came convinsed that it was all right to be loyal citizens they could come back or when they could whip us back. If I had the management of things I would make all sesesh sympathyses move in to the Reb lines. They might take all their property with them and when they could whip us back or when they would submit to the Laws & the constitution & the Constitutional orthorty then they might return.
I am well. I bought me a pr of Boots yestrday. The Boots that I orderd have not arrived. I have herd nothing of them. I paid 11.00 for my Boots. If the Boots come on I can sell them but not for $11.00 I expect. Also got a gum coat, gum leggins cost 8.00 shoulder straps 3.00 cap & cover 5.50 spirs? 2.00 1 shirt 3.00. I have a Hand trunk coming on 12.00. These are stiff prices but is the best that can be done up in this land of ____?. I have the nestes candle stick that you ever saw. If I can I want to bring it home with me. It can all be taken a part and put in the packet & looks like a ___? box something like a snuff Box. It makes two candle sticks on a stick for two candles.
Thus fare I have been getting a long in my new position. So fare as I know with satisfaction to all. Where there is any dissatisfaction I shall vacate the place. I have always Kept up the dignity of the profession and will never compromise it for any body or any place.
I Recd your letter of the 23rd Oct? the only word that I have had from home since I saw you except a letter from J G Hoff? is all. My ____? _____?. I love to get letters and have done a good share of writing since I have been in the service. We are detached from the balance of the Breg and get a mail once and a while. The mail goes on to head Quartes and then is distributed to the different troops. We being stationed a way some distance we do not get the mail regular. I hope to heare from you soon.
As ever yours
John A Ritter
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November 9, 1862 from Coals Mouth, WV
Coals Mouth Nov 9th 1862
Once more I take up my pen to adress you a few lines. I wrote you one letter since we came tothis place which was one week ago. I am not so closly ingaged as I have been from the fact that there is not so many sick. We are generaly ingaged till noon each day and from that time till night we have leasure. Thus fare I have had quite a pleasant time and I hope it will continue so. I have got one letter from you since you went home. We have verry iregular mails. We are 12 miles below Charlestown. Our mail goes to Charlestown then comes back to us. We got two mails last week. If you do not get my letters more regular than I do yours I Know that it annoys you verry much. You wished to Know wheather we were doomed to spend an other winter in the Mountains. I think that we are not to spend this winter in western Va. Col Keigwin is gone to Charlestown at this time. I resume to see something about the matter. The word is that we go out of Carters Brigade and that we are to forme a part of a Brigade composed of Indianians comanded by an Indiana General. Probily Gen Bass? or some Col that has been or is to be promoted Brig General from Indiana. It is the talk that we will go to Murforasburrow Ky the place where the 50 Reb was taken prisners and that our Brig is to be composed of new Reg latly formed in Ind. Gen Carter Brigade goes to Summerset Ky. This valley is a Paradise to the country that we were in the past year. We live fine here. We have _____? regular. Dr Thomas & myself Sleep together & ocupy one tent, we mess with Liut Charles & Faucett. We each pay our part of the expences. Mr Sharks still cooks for us. I feel more at home with them than any other place in the Reg save my own qrs?. We will present our Col with a find sword & sash that will make him feel proud for the love that one has for a sword presented no none Knows except those that have them. I have one that I desire to send home the first oportunity and I want it Kept in the family for ever and thus fare I have never disgraced it. I shall also send my sash home. The Regulations Require me to carry a sword and sash but a different sword & a green sash. I shall get the sash most of the surgs have green ____? that they wear in an engagement or while on the March. This might save a fellow from being shot at some time but not always for a good deal. Two company went out foraging last week. Dr Thomas went with them. He was mounted & had his sash on the only mounted man & the only sash in the ____?. The Natives took him to be a Maj Gen or at leas that he had command of the troops and if they had aimed to Kill the commander he would have been the man that would have gone up. I see a good many good looking fashionable dress ladys in this country & on our March up the River most of the people about this place are sesesh. There are a few union people all that remain here are verry Kind and treat us verry fienly but they are deceitfull as soon as we are gone. They will show their cloven foot or as soon as we are gone and the sesesh get the power they will bare down on the union men. We run the Reb caveralry from here when we came to this place or a squad of Horse thieves there is sayed to be about 60 that lived in & arround this place left by some fellows by the name of Chapman that are taking all the horses belonging to union men. They run off when we came up. They are about 40 miles form here. I had a chat with a find dressed Lady whe thought the yankeys were ____? fellows that we would steal all the negros and that we would go into the fields and free them out at thepoint of the Bayonet and that it had been done etc. She sayed also that she had not seen a news paper since the war comensed. The people do not take papers or read as do our people. They believe all the hard? yarnes about abolitionist. We have to content with their ignorance. I told the lady if the people of the south wanted their negros they must stop fighting that we were in to put down rebelion and that while we were fighting the white man of the south the negro was making corn Bacon etc to feed the soldier and that he was used to build fortifications to fight us behind & if they ahd any use for the negro that they had better stop that some body would be whiped & that we were out to get whiped or to whip some one. I also told her that we had no use for the negro that we did not want them had no use for them in the world but they could not use them to prolong or Keep up the war and if they did not lay down their armes that we would turn them loose on the 1st of Jan next and that they ahd dare warning. I expect that we will go down the river Cincinati perhaps Louisville. I am in good health.
John A Ritter
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December 13, 1862 from Memphis, TN
Dec.? 13, 1862
I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines. I have been sick so that I could not write to you sooner. I had a letter writen to send in which I state, which was true, that I well but I was taken sick that night and did not send it. I have been sick Tuesday and this is the first time that I have been out. I think that I am convelesent though I feel week and feble. I will Keep you posted as to the state of my health. I think that I shall now get a long. I am boarding at a private house at 6.00 a week. The price of boarding in this place verry common at that.
I have recd. two letters from you. When you write direct 49th Ind. Vols., Morgan's Division. You wished me to come home. I am not prepared to give you a positive answer. I always have only to be satisfied of the path of duty. Your request places me in a tight place. I cannot come before spring unless my health fails. We will leave Memphis soon but when I do not know. If we should go out a cross the country it will be verry difficult about mail matter. I got a letter stating that you had started to Orleans to see me. I was verry sadly disappointed at not meting you.
Jack Keynan tells little Billy had got seriously hurt. Write to me about it and let me know the worst. I have not got a letter for a week and I am fearful that perhaps that is the cause that you have not writen to me. We all dote on Billy perhaps to much. My good wife I want you to be cheerful and do the best that you can. I hope the war will soon be over. We are not Brigaded at present. We have been shifted several times and where we will fall is some what uncertain. We in Deconely's? but the men and officers cut up so much at it that we are not likly to go their. The 3rd Ky. is as hard down on DeCourey? as we are. He is not likey by any.
The widow lady & daughter with whome I am boarding are verry strong seseshs especialy the daughter but they treat me Kind but the young lady who is well education and sharp spouts her sheesh at pleasure but I put in a rejoinder all the time. I told her to left her self out and that I would take not insult at any thing that she said and that she must allow me the same privilige and with that _____? to pitch in. Thus far I think that she has not held her own. She sings her Rebbel songs. I can't sing but a pretty fair talker & some times I can ____? pretty well so if she beats me _____? I believe that beat her _____?. I have been to church twist to day. I herd a Babtist, a preacher of Memphis, preach this forenoon, a chaplin of an Illinois Reg. this after noon. There are a large no. of troops consintrating at this point. I Ocasionaly fall in with an old acquaintance. I will close by invoking the protection of him that ruls all things to you & our children.
John A. Ritter
James Higgins paid me 30.00 dollars on his bill. Did you every pay Hurrl? for my boots?
I got two prs Boots in Aug. at 15.75 pr for Faucett that I wrote you to pary for.
Faucett has Resigned on account of his health. If his resignation is accepted he will be at home soon. I do not Know that a Resignation would be Recd. only on account of health.
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December 19, 1862 from Memphis, TN
Decr. 19, 1862
My Dear Wife,
I take up my pen to write you a line. I have been sick but an in tolerable good health at present. When I am unwell I think more of home & the comforts than when I am well & harty. We have been at this place near three weeks. There has nothing happened out of the ordinary rotien of camp life that becomes common to one acustomed to it and it looses it interest. While I was sick I Boarded at a private house. They were verry Kind to me although they were sesesh to the morrow. They expressed their regrets that I had to leave them. I have been in camp this two day attending to my buisness.
Whilst I write the fire bells are ringing and the heavens are lighten up with a fire of to our right. This is a common acurrence. There was eleven fires here one night not long ago. We are fixing to move perhaps to Vicksburg. I think that the Rebs will not stand at that place though they may. I cannot get any news from home. I got a letter yestrdy from Harriett that was written the 30 of Nov. I hope that you get my letters more regular.
Faucett started home yestrday. He will be to see you. He can tell you perhaps more than I can write. All of the boys from about Orangeville are in tolerable health. Some of them are complaining a little. None in the hospital.
I have a negro to wait on me and expect to keep one as long as I stay in the serivce?. I have been busy to day packing up my medicins? for a move but do not Know what way we are going. I have been so acostom to moving that it does not bother me much. I can sleep sound to night if the order was to move at daylight. I had my whiskers blacked at Cincenati that makes me look ten years younger. I had my hair & whiskers trimed and tryed to look as fine as possible to meet with you. I try to look nicer to meet you than any other but we are doomed to many disapointements in this world. I am getting to bare them patinly?. I think that I shall try to come home in the spring but how this will be time only can tell. I shall trust in him that ruleth all things and hope that you will do the same. There is an emence amount of cotton coming in to Memphis from the country that is bought up & shiped up the River but buisness is dull here to what it was in former times. I sent a comunication to the Eagle that I do not Know wheather it was published or not. If it was I well Sen an other but this I do not want to get out. I have a find mare that I am well pleased with. I Bought me a fine military over coat at Louisville. I have no news to write. You have much better chance to be posted in the war news than I. The indications are that Burnside did not Suceed at Fredricksburg.
Farewell Dear Margarett
John A. Ritter
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December 25, 1862 from Millikins Bend, LA
Milikins Bend, Louisana
December 25, 1862
I take the present opportunity to write you a line. I am in tolerable health, much better than when I last wrote you. I had two chills at Memphis but took medicine & stoped them imedialy. I am able for duty all the time. We left Memphis on Saturday 20 about 9 o'clock at night. We lay all day Sunday at ______?, Arkansas where I met with many old friends & acquaintances of the 24 Ind. Capt. _____? old Co., Capt. Spicelys old co. I felt more like I was at home Sunday than any day that I have passed for a long time. We left their Sunday night for Dixie which we have been gradually approaching ever since. Thus fare we have had no axident of any caracter. The guirilles fired in to one of our Boats but done no damage. We were sent back up the river some 12 or 13 miles to the place where the shooting was done with Orders to Burne all the houses and to take all the property of the citizens. We burned a few out houses, took about 20 mules, 25 head of cattle, one wagon. I was sorry for the folks. The woman cryed, the man pled inosent and by so doing he came off much lighter than other wise would have done. We have burned up several farme houses etc. since we left ______?.
I have but a moment to write to you. I hope that you are well and that you have the consolations of friends at home and of him that ruleth all things for good. I do not Know when I shall have an opportunity to write to you a gain. I get no news from Home. How glad I would be to get one letter. I am on the War Eagle. The health of the Reg. is good. Give my love to all the children. Keynon told me that little Billy was badly hurt. I have not herd a word since. I am anxious to heare from him.
I will write to you every opportunity. The weather is warm & pleasant hear. I expect that you have cold weather at home.
Farewell for the present. This is a dull Chrismass to me, hope you a pleasant one.
Yours as ever
John A. Ritter
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January 3, 1863 from Aboard the War Eagle at Millikin's Bend, LA
Milikins Bend, Louisana
Jan. 3, 1863
I take up my pen to write you a line. We have been through quite stiring events since I last wrote you. We landed on friday last 12 miles up the Yazoo River and marched out three miles to a range of hills back of Vicksburg where we found the enemy strongly fortified. We had skirmishing during Friday & Saturday. Sunday we had a general engagement which lasted all day and was renewed monday morning and lasted all day monday. Tuesday we spent in ocasional firing at different points. Morgan's division was in the center & done most of fighting & suffered the most. Our Reg. had seven Men Killed & 41 Wounded. Among the Killed was Capt. Keck of Martin County. He fell waving his soward over his head urging and incouraging his men. He was a good man, beloved by all that Knew him. Bazil B. Decker fell Mortaly wounded since died. He was good man, a Christian, a Gentleman & a good Soldier. Elish T. Owen badly wounded, Moses A. Spear wounded in hip, John B. Smith hip, Joel Halbert in arm, no bones broke, James H. Mathens slightly in breast, struck with spent ball. He is not able for duty. Own & Smith are the only verry bad wounded of Co. G. Spear will likly be a cripple for life. James McCraken in shoulder. Two of the 49 had their Leg amputated. For 5 days we fought and lay on the ground at night. On Sunday was the hardest time with us. Our Reg. marched a cross a bayou in front of a rifle pit within 200 yds and opened fire on it and Kept up the fire full an hour till the men in the pit dare not show them selves above the pit. They were completely silenced but we could not get to the pit on a count of a swampy bottom lying between us. We run out of amunition and had to with draw our forces which we did on the 2nd taking all of our artilery and every thing of with us. It was expected that Grant & Banks would forme a Junction with us but in this they failed. I do not Know how many was Killed & wounded on our side. A part of our forces made a charge which was the most destructive to us in which we lost the most of our men that was lost during the five days. We buried 79 men that was Killed in that charge. The Reb say that they buried 270. If so, 349 Killed in that charge. The most of the wounded that was wound in that charge were taken prisner. All of our dead that fell within reach of or in the enemys lines were strip? of their cloghing. Their Boots were taken, their pockets _____? of their contents. The wounded were robed even of their Haversacks containing their scanty rations. The wounded were Killed whilst trying to crall of of the field. They had sharp shooters posted at avalable points and as long as a wounded man layed Still he was not shot at but when he moved he was shot at. A number of our men took advantage of the night & cralled of of the field. We got off all of our men that was Killed or wounded except those that were in the charge. These men fell arround the enemys Brestwork & rifle pits. We had a hard fight & a long fight and did not accomplish our object. One of the reasons we were funing out of amunition and others the other troops that were to cooperate with us did not come up to our assistance.
My dear wife I am not well. I am able to be about and have been on duty. Ever since we left Memphis the water does not agree with me. I am troubled with diarah. If my health does not get better I will Resign soon. I cannot see so much to do and such a nesesity to do it & not attempt to do it. I have thus fare made a hand but I think when one fails or is unable to do his duty he should then quit. I have thus far served my country faith all the time that I have been in the service?. I got two letters from you to day. Hope you are well.
John A. Ritter
(margin, page 4) The 49 behaved well, fought like Heroes.
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January 18, 1863 from Aboard the Steamer Belle Peoria
Steamer Belle Peorie
Jan 18th 1863
Missippi River below the mouth of Arkasas River
I wrote you a short note this morning?. I had not time to write any particulars. We camped down the river from the purpose of getting wood. It is now night. The shads of darkness have mantelen? all nature but the lights of stars? that can be seen in great numbers. I have been cut of from the means of communications for some day. I do not Know how or when I shall have an opportunity to send you this sheet. I am not in good health yet and able to be up and attend to buisness but I have come to the conculsion that I will try to get in to a position where I can rest? from leighbor. When I am not able to performe leighbor when I expect in a short time to offer my resignation and come home. I have not been well since a short time ____? our arrival at Memphis. I was confined a few day to my bed at Memphis before Faucett left for homw which I suppose that he gave you a full history as I learne from a letter from him that he spent a day with you. I have had diarah some times better & some times worse. Nothing that I eat seames to agree with me. We have seen a hard time since I saw you. We have been on the _____? __? ___? also some hard fighting. I have seen some of my esteamed friends fall. 7 men of the 49th fell dead in the field at Vicksburg on the 28.
Dear I Recd a letter from you dated the 28 in which you stated that you had been attending church that day at Wesley Chappel?. When I read it I thought how different was our buisness that day from early in the morning till dark the thunder of Artilery the sharp crack of the rifls was ______? through the air. About 2 Oclock in the after noon the 49th marched up on to a rifle pit and opened fire in it and continue to pore in a dedly fire for near an houre till the rebs ceased to fire a gun from the pit. There was a slough in front of the pit that our men could get to it. There was 7 Killed 44 wounded. Several have since died. I do not Know how many as the Boat that has the wounded on have seperated from our fleet but Moses A Spear, John B. Smith, ____? T _____?, & B B Decker have died of their wounds. I am of the opinion that there will not likly any more of my old company ____?. ____? Halbest? was shot in the arme entering at the wrist & coming out near the elbow but no bones broken. A lucky thing for ____?. James McCraken wound in the shoulder. The ball still in the shoulder. All of the men that fell or mortally wound were good fellows. How my hear aches to think of the seanes that I have went through from Sunday eveng for two day I was buisy ingaged in dressing wounds of every conseiveable ______?. There were about 350? wound. I used the Knife the needle & bandages? till I was compleetly worked down cutting of Legs Armes feet hand fingers toes etc was the work of the surgs?. I was up with the Reg in the fight of the 28. They had an other fight the 29 none Killed. I was not present I was detailed to take charge of the Field Hospital Sunday Evening and contineud theire till Thursday night. All the wounded were first send to this field Hospital to receive such attending? as they might need before being sent back to Hospital boat. Decker and Owen were shot through the Bowels, Spear in the Hip, _____? in the thigh near the hip joint. There are ____? to regret the Brave fellows that fell but is a satisfaction Know that the 49 whiped every thing that came against them and they fought like old regulars. Scarcly a man faulted. All done their duty except I might say my self. I acted imprudent which I will never do a gain. I was not in my place. My place is at a safe and convenient distance in the rear but I was up with the men so was both of my assistant surgs. If either of us had fell their woudl have been nothing gain but perhaps a great loss of to the Reg.
We reembarked on Bord our transports on thursday and steamed up the Mississipi till we came to the mouth of White River. The Army took up to a cut? off that _____? with Arkansas River. We went a cross to Arkansas River and landed up on that river on the 9th Jan near the Arkansas Post a strong fortified point which which we had prety completely surround. We had a few shoet on Saturday the 10. The 11 a general ingagment in sued in which we completely ______? well. We seased the Arkansas Post with all it munitions of war. We captured at is sayed between 7 & 8,000 good men, 8<000 stands of Armes, 20 Cannon wagons, Horses, mules, ____? __? number?. We could not bring off all the horses or mules or wagons. We burnd the wagons and left a number of mules runing ____?. This will be ____? ____? to the rebs. It Rained verry hard the 14 turned up? with snow at night. Near morning the snow was some 5 inchs deep a thing not common in this country. We had quite a disagreeable time for a few day. The prisners have been sent up the irver. I do not Know waht will be next. My opinion is that we will go down the River and go in to camp perhaps at Milican's Bend but this is only guessing. We change Boats at the Arkansas Post. We are verry much crowded on our boat at present. I believe that I have given you all the news that I can think of. We have a great deal of sickness in the army. John Mathews & B Smith are ____? sick. Cal Lindsay of Kentucky is out acting Brig Generals. He is quite a favorite. I think we have been fortunate in getting Brig generals over us. Carter was a _______? gentleman. So is Col Lindsey. He's a gentleman full of Honor a real Ky gentleman. Some of the prisners were quite sausy. Some were quite humble. Some verry sanguin. Others _____. They were mosly Taxes soldiers. They fought desperaly but it was no use. Some of them were glad to be taken. I will close for the present.
yours as ever
John A Ritter
(margin, page 1) Jan 22 1863 at the mouth Yazoo? nothing new only we have ____? down the River since I wrote. I am no better.
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January 18, 1863 from the Mouth of the Arkansas River
Mouth Arkansas River
Jan. 18, 1863
I take the present oportunity to write you a line. I am not verry well but still continue to go. I have diarah which continues to Keep me down week. We have Just Returned from a trip up the Arkansas River wheare we had a considerable Battle at a place called Arkansas Post. We Killed, wounded, & captured the whole arsenal? -- about 8,000 in all. We were not verry much exposed. The mail is Just starting and I have Just got up and have but time to write a few lines. We took 20 guns, 8,000 Stands? small arms waggons, mules, horses without _____?. I expect to Resigne if my health is not Better.
I hope you are well. I must close for the want of time. We came here yestrdy eveng. Where or what next I do not Knowe. Perhaps Vicksburg. The health of the Reg. not verry good.
John A. Ritter
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February 9, 1863 from Young's Point, LA
Youngs Point, La.
Feb. 9th, 1863
Mr. John A. Ritter, Jr., Sir,
Your Kind letter of the 25 of Jan. was duly received and I take the present opportunity to write to you a few lines. Youngs Point our present location is not likly layed down on any map. It is opposite the mouth of the Yazoo river. It was large plantation owned by a Mr. Young. From all appearances Mr. Young was wealthy and had a good many negros but he has gone and left his home to go to rack. There is an old negro man & woman is all that is left of the former ocupants. The negro say that they were doing well and was satisfied but that the sesesh made his master move because he was to friendly to the Yankeys but all the people have left their homes & farms in the same way generaly all along the shaors of the Mississippi river to Memphis. Large farmes with negro quarters like little town are all destroyed? their houses left to go to ruin -- all the effects of Rebelion.
Not only that this Rebelion has caused me to leave home and be absent for so long. I would like to be at home with you all. If I was it would save me of much hardships & toil not only that but to see the vast amount of suffering there is in an army but if there was no hardships or suffering the pleasantes place to be on earth is home. I hope that I shall be spared to get back to live with you as in days that are past. We have been at this place about two weeks. We have quite a pleasant camp but we do not Know but we will have to get out of here on a count of high water. The river is verry high & still raising. We will have to go aboard of steam boats if the water should run us out as there is no higher ground near here. We have been travling most of the time on Boats since the 17th day November last. We left Point Pleasant on that day at the mouth of Kanahau River, Va. It was a tiresome trip to be so crowded on Boats. We had a verry bad chance to cook on the Boats. Men, horses, & mules were crowded as long as there was room to take them. At Arkansas Post we could not bring them with us & we Burned lots of good wagons & various other things. I say lots of _____? laying over the Battle field. I wished that I could have sent one to each one of you Boys but there was no room for them. The spur that you wrote about is one that was taken off of a dead Rebs foot -- Aid to Gen. Kirby Smith & was presented to me by old Stud? Reynolds. I wanted to keepit but you can have it & use it till I come home but be carefull not to loose it. I want to Keep it as a relic of the war. Our men are regaining their health since we have got out on land. John Buskirk is not verry well. Tom has been sick but is well. We had but one man die of disease last month -- John F. Mathews. We had a man drowned to day by the name? of _____?. He lived a bout _____?, Ind. James Denny has the Flux.
Our men are campt from here to some distance below Vicksburg. We had a gun Boat (call a Ram) that run by Vicksburg a short time a go. The Ram had cotton Bails lashed on her sides to Keep the Balls from entering. She started down about day light. The Battery opened fire on the Ram and when nearly oposite the warfe the ram steard strait for the shore. The Rebs thought that it had surrendered and was coming a shore but it run in to a steam bat at the warfe & backed out & opened fire with grape and canister shot on the rebbels that had come out to see her surrender. That made them skidadl. There was 160 shots at the boad, 12 shot struck the boat but did not Kill a man or hurt any body or do any damage to the boat though some of the Balls passed through the boat. This Ram is blow Vicksburg. It has captured three steam boats loaded with supplys for the army at Vicksburg, also sunk an other Boat. I must close. My health is much better that it has been. I have a sore on my leg that I cannot wear my Boot. It looks a good deal like Erisipetys?. Write to me often, your affectionate father,
John A. Ritter
(margin, page 1) in your letter you said that you was a school. I hope you are improving fast as I learn that you have a good school.
(margin, page 4) Johnny be a good boy. Give my respects to all the children and tell them to write to me. It does me a great deal of good to get a letter from any one of you.
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February 12, 1863 from Young's Point, LA
Youngs Point, La.
Feb. 12th, 1863
I take up my pen to write you a line. We are at the same place. Nothing new going on since I last wrote you. The River is very high and still raising a little. It was thought that it would get over the bottoms but it is thought now that it will not so we will not likly have to move on acount of high water. We have considerable sickness in the Reg. There are none of the boy from our imediate neighborhood much sick except James Denny. He is much better than he has been. He has had the Flux. I think he will likly recover. We have had several deaths in our Reg. in the last few day. G. G. Denny died verry sudenly the night of the 10th. He had been puny and seamed to be disponding for some time past. He got up and stood around the fire a while, walked out in to a porch and Fainted or fell dead. This was an unexpected death to us. We are living in comparative peace. The Rebs on one side of the river and we ocupy the other. We a casionaly get a Vicksburg paper but how I do not know.
My general heath is much better than it has been for some time past. I have _____? quite a sore leg. So much so that I have not beenable to wear a Boot on my left foot for four day. My leg is mending verry fast. I had the good fortune to be presented with a pr. of cloth slippers that is large enough for two such feet as I usuly have. They answerd a good purpose in my case. I had Erisipelitus. Capt. Charles is sick. Old Abes proclimation or something else the negros are coming in to our lines verry fast. They come in packing their beds, clothing, etc. They make quite a show. If the southern people dont stop their country will go to waist verry much and they will loose a great of their Valuable property in the way of Negros. I have no stock invested in the negro and would be oposed to intifearing with them in any way. If the people that own them would stop this war and be loyal citizens but if they will fight I am for weaken them at every point. But will that weaken them. It is thought it will but at the same time it gives the cowards and Traitors at home strength and by that means the sesesh gather strength. But I am for the union all the way. If slavery is in the was? down with it. I am for the union with out any if and I am for it cost what it may. The People of New Orleans held a meeting a few days ago and Passed Resolutions that Louisana had never received? anything but protection from the government and that they would hail the day with joy when La. would again enrolled as a member of the union and recomended the government to use all and any means to put down the southern confederacy and also adopted an other Resolution saying that all the laws for the protection of slavery was never more faithfully executed than it was at the comensement of this war and that is was so Admited by Yancy, Rost, and Man in their Adress? to England when they were trying to get that nation to espouse their cause. The Vicksburg papers say that they cannot get any comunication from Fort Hudson?. They think that Banks has surround it. They may be so. We are looking for him to come up the River. We have a Ram blow Vicksburg. It has been out several days. When it Returns we will likly have reliable news from below. All the comuniaty by the river is cut off by the Ram to Red River. It run a steam Boat 25 miles up Red River.
I have an Idea that we will not try to take Vicksburg by storm. This is only my opinion. There is nothing Known out side of those in high places. They Keep all their plans to themselves. In fact, I think that there will not be any fight at Vicksburg. This only my opinion. At least if I had the management of things it would be so or at least they would have to come out to fight. They have but one rail road communication and I would cut off their feed but this is all speculation. Yours of the 27 is at hand. I am alway glad to get a letter from home. You sayd that Old _____? Billy was likly to find his lost Rib in the person of Miss Hardesty. I am some acquainted with Miss H. and from my acquaintance with her if I had the world to pick over he could not please me better but I have no faith in Billy marrying any body. I think it is all moon shine for him to talk about marring.
I took Tea thie evening the steamer Chancelor. She is a New Albany Boat. I never saw her crew till to day but they are clever. All that they wanted to know was that I was from Ind. Write to me often. Tell the boys to write. I have not got a letter form Theophilis, Tommy, or Molly for so long I have forgotten when the last on was. I wonder if they have not forgotten that they have a pa?
I will close for the present. Good night my Loving wife.
John A. Ritter
(margin, page 1) Send me a paper ocasionaly.
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February 23, 1863 from Young's Point, LA
Youngs Point, La.
Feb. 23, 1863
This leaves me in tolerable good health so much better than it has been since the first of Nov. My health has been gradually improving for some weeks & I might say that I am now well. My Direah has almost intirely stopt on me. It is rumerd that after tomorrow the 24 there will be no mail go out from this point for a while. I do not know wheather this is true. If it is I will be cut off from writing to you for a while till the restriction is taken off. This will be a great disapointment to you as well as myself but I understand that the mails will still come in. It will be a great satisfaction to me to heare from you.
I have nothing new to write. We still have some sickness. John H. Wear was Killed by lightning yestrday. He was stund to day before. I am of the opinion that some Blood vesel was ruptured inturnaly. He had considerable Hemerage at the time that he was stund. The lightning struck a tree a short distance from our camp. There were a number that was considerable shocked. I among the balance. It was quite cool here last night but it is clear & warme at this time in A. M. This is lovly day. All is quiet here. I shall send some of our sick up the River to a Gen. Hospital. I am busy but my dutys are light to what they have been but I would rather be at home and will likly come home but I cannot come for a while.
There is an order that all officers that are absent be reported at Head Quarters at noon to day & the nature of their absence & by what orthority absent. I am fearful that Faucett will get in to dificuty. I hope not. I cannot get my resignation accepted at this time. I shall have to await a more favorable oportunity. Capt. Charles was resigned. B. R. Smith has a discharge. They will start home in a few days. Col. Keigwin is at home on sick leave. Will remain their some 20 days. I left my watch with Kuphley New Albany to have repaired. Would like to have it or one that would run. The one did not for Some time before I left it. I do not want the gold watch but if you could Send me the watch that I left or an other one I would like to have a watch.
I shall need some pants & a Coat before long, also a vest, but I have enough to do me a while but if you have the favorable opportunity to send me a dress Coat & pants you may do so. I do not want any more pair of sky Blue pants. They are to easily soiled. If you have no opportunity to send my watch get it home and take care of it.
I do not Know what more to write at present. Hope that you are well. Recd. Harriets Letter of the 11 yestrdy, the Birth day of Washington. The Flaggs were flying all day. A Salute was fired by the gun Boats. I think our cause is better. I have more hope now than ever.
Yours as ever,
John A. Ritter
Mrs. Margarett Ritter
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March 13, 1863 from Milliken's Bend, LA
Milicans Bend, La.
March 13, 1863
James W. Webb called on me yestrday evening. I was truly glad to see him. We moved up to this point day before yestrday on acount of high waters. I am in tolerable heath. I shall try to get of or out of the service as soon as the paymaster comes a long. We are looking for him every day. If my resignation is accepted I will be at home before long. It takes a good deal of red tape to get through. I have nothing new to write. I have not seen a paper or had a letter two weeks. All is quiett in this department. I send a lot of our Boys up the River to hospital. I do not Know to what poing they will go to, some to Memphis & higher up the River. James Denny, Sam Mathews, Wm S. & Frank Wilson and several others have gone up the Rive to Recruit their heath. I have been looking for some news from Faucett. I expected that he would have returned to the Reg. by this time. His papers have been lost I expect and he will have to take a new start? before he can resigne. I do not Know where he is. If he is at Memphis & I Knew that he was there I would renew his papers but if they require a scirtificate? of his present condition it will be difficult to to fix up. I am at a loss to Know what to do in his case. I want to render him all the help that I can. He had better report him self at Memphis and he had better be their. I hope that you are well and in good spirits. Farewell.
Yours in haist,
John A. Ritter
(Appears at bottom of letter under signature.) Mis M. Ritter
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March 26, 1863 from Milliken's Bend, LA
Milikins Bend, La.
March 26, 1863
I take my pen to write you line. I am well in good health which I Know will be good news to you. All things are working well at the present. I have no news of importance to communicate to you. Faucett startes home today. He will come and see you soon. He can tell you more news than I can write.
I expect to stay here till the the end of this month then try to get home. I have a large amount of buisness to settle up. I have been making arrangements so that I could close up my affair with the army and I have then so arranged that I can soon close them up at the end of the present month.
I hope you are well. I would be glad to see you and the children. The health of the Reg. is improving. We have no verry sick men at the present. Dr. Thomas will not be able to stand the field service. He is declining fast. I think that he will not live Long. Jas. W. Higgins has resigned. He is a sneaking low life fellow. Beware of him. I will close for the present leaving to Faucett to tell you all that I have not written.
As ever yours,
John A. Ritter
Mrs. Margarett Ritter
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March 31, 1863 from Camp McClerand, Millikin's Bend, LA
Millikins Bend, La.
March 31, 1863
I take the present opportunity to write you a few lines. I am well and hearty and doing well. All things are looking more prosperous than they have for some time past. The boys seame more cheerful. We have had some quite Cold days and nights for a few days past. It rained, it hailed, we have had high winds during the hail storm. My tent ablowed down went my bed clothes etc. I had a cold damp place to sleep that night but I have been use to take things rough and it made me fell thank full that I had a shelter to protect me from the pelting storme and I felt thank full that you and the children was not so much exposed. I expect that I shall be better prepared to appreciate the comforts of home than I was before I left home & its comforts and I shall be more greatfull to a Kind providence for the many benefits & comforts bestowed on one so unworthy as I. I shall look to him as the some of all my happyness. I am making arrangements to try to get home. How I shall suceed I do not Know. I had a talk with the medical director of the division. He is opposed to my leaving but I think that he will approve my resignation. If he does not I cannot get away.
It has been a long time since I herd from home. The last letter that I got was from Harriet. Faucett & Robert Higgins started home a few day ago. I sent a letter my Higgins that I expect that you have recd. before this time.
I am verry busy at this time. I have to make out monthly reports of the sick & wounded, a report of all the medicins, Hospital property recd. and the amount on hand. I want to get my reports up then I shall start my papers. I shall come home to be satisfied. If I cannot get through I shall be disappointed but I Know that I shall not be the only one that is disappointed. I hope that you are well and injoying life to the full extent as fare as any one that has an absent Husband. I must stop for the present and go to making up my reports.
We are a way from where we News? is plentifull. A paper is a rarity. The lates dates that I have seen is the 25 St. Louis paper. All things are quiet about this place. It is rumerd that the Rebs are making an other raid in to Kentucky that they are at Danville, Ky. but I think that Burnside will wake them up.
April 1. I did not conclude my letter last night. I am well and have put in the last few day close fixing up my monthly Reports. Nothing further at present, but as ever yours,
John A. Ritter
(margins, page 1) All is quiet in this part of the service and has been for some time. Old U. S. Grant keep all his plans to himself. He is in fine spirits, a jolly old fellow.
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April 8, 1863 from Smith's Plantation Near New Carthage, LA
Near New Carthage, Louisiana
April 8th, 1863
I was cut short in a letter that I was writing to you yestoday by orders to move. I had been left behind for Four days. When I came up to Richmon the Reg. had moved on to this place leaving only a camp guard. It was expected that the Reg. would have been back to Richmond in two days they only having taken with them but two days rations. They did not come back but we were ordered up to them. We started at 4 o clock last evening and traveled 10 miles & staid all night. The people that we staid at the folks was at home. The woman claimed Kin with me. I was acquainted with a number of her relatives. Say sayed that she had a sister that was named Malida? Ritter Renfro after a second cous? of myself. She was verry that I should stay at the house for fear that the soldiers would do some harme etc. By some considerable persuasion I staid all night, got supper & Breakfast in the morning. I asked what my bill was and it was the moderate sum of two dollars. The people was much surprised that an army passing through the way that we were going. We are in two miles of Carthage, 25 miles below Vicksburg. Our men have been in to Carthage. On my way to this place yestrday I stopt at a farme house or rather a negro Quarter to get a drink. A black wench drawed up a bucket of water. I asked her where her master. She sayed that he was in the woods. I saw a child that was nearly white. I asked where it mother was & she answerd that she was in the woods. I wanted to Know if its mother was not nearly white. She sayed that she was as black as she was herself. She as black as negros are generaly. I asked her how the child come to be so white. She answerd that it took after some white gentlman.
This is a beautifull country, flowers, trees, taistfully aranged. Some of the levelest land that I ever saw but it has one great fault, it is too low, it overflows. There are signs of cotton burning every once and a while. This is a verry foolish notion or at least I think so. The people are bitter sesesh but most of them ar tired of the war and well? they may be the thing is coming home. The war is in their own country. They are not theorising on an abstract question now, it is a reality and a steam? reality, some thing that is ______?. The soldiers often do things that is not wright, but if they want these things to stop let them come to terms. Our Reg. has been at this place a week and they have had but two days Rations from government the the boys say that they have lived better than they have ever lived since they have been in the service. They have had chickens, Mutton, fresh pork, fresh beef, goats, young Piggeons etc. Honey the Col. has a milk cow tied to a stake.
A barrell of Flour is worth $100.00 dollars, beef is a bout 23 cts. a lb. That is what the sesesh have to pay for them. I have not heard from home since I Recd. a letter from Harriet a bout the 20 of March. I would like to Know how you all are. We have but one man sick _____? with us consequnly I have not much to do. Three doctors, one patient. The doctors are not verry Stout but I expect that they will be enough for one patient. This country is cut up with Bayos and them seam to run in all directions. We are in Headison Parish. We have had a peacible time. Thus far Gen. Ostehaus is quite a favorite. He is a Dutchman, a verry plain man, quite Socible. We have a good deal of confidence in Gen. Grant. My heath is good, I am in better heath than I have been for a long time. My mare is with foald. I am sorry that she is not at home. We have been paid of for two two months to 31 of Oct., 62 and the paymaster is here paying of the troops for 4 months. I remain yours as ever.
John A. Ritter
(margins, page 1) I was to see the Boys at the Van Buren Hospital. Jim Higgins, Wm. Stein?, is their. We are about 25 to 30 miles form their.
(page 4) B_____? Verdet is where we are, two miles from New Carthage on the Mis. River. I have no stamp to put on this letter. You can pay the postage at home.
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April 18, 1863 from James Plantation, LA
James Plantation La
30 Miles below Vicksburg
April 18th 1863
It is with pleasure that I sit down to write you a few lines. We have geen in a tight place. We did not Know when or how soon we would have to go up. We were in the advance. Our Reg left Millikin Bend on the 2nd went to Richmond 12 miles the next morning the 3rd they went out on a scout? went 20 miles to Smiths Plantation on Bayo Videl where Round away Bayo conects with Videll. On the 13th we embarked in Flats skifts canoes etc went out to the Mississippi River at New Carthage. Here we had a verry small piece of dry land to camp on. The levee up and and down the River and he small piece of land that we ocupied was all the dry land as fare as the eye could see except down the River about 5 miles where the land is out of water. The Rebs ocupied the high land down the River. Their pickets were in sight all the time. We had no Artilery except two Mountain Howitzers one of them disabled. We threw up Breast works a cross the Levee below and by that means held them in check & they could not get at us by land only by the Levee but if they had planted? their artilery they could have shelled us out and been out of any danger from us as our better Howitser? are short range guns not any longer than our Rifles. We had no means of retreat. In this way we remained on the 16. A rebble Boat have in sight but fortunately for us did not come up. We did not sleep sound on the night of the 16th. Early on the morning of the 17th the River was strowin? with flooding Rick Barrels Bails of Hay & cotton & Hay Bails on fire soon a Barge that had been laden with Hay three coal Barges two of them ______? & a Barge laden with camp equipage came in sight. We mande? all the skifts & Boarde them they showed signs that they had been in a tight place. They had a number of holes in them. We succeeded in landing the Hay & camp equipage the coal. Out men stuck to them till they came almost in rifle shot of the enemy. They ______? the coal & left but the last that we saw of them they were still alfoat. Gen McClerand & Osterhaus was present. They having come over the night previous about 10 AM. A black smoke could bee see up the River and from that time on Gen Osterhaus seamed to be highly delighted about two hours. The Boats have in sight coming down the River with the stars & stripes furld to the Breese. There had been 8 gunboats & three transports run the Blockade at Vicksburg and came through with but little loss. One transport, the Henry Clay, was set on fire & sunk and it was from her deck that the Hay & cotton Bails etc had come. The Forest Queen an other transport was damage some. She has not yet got down. She is up the river reparing. We have at this place 8 gun Boats, one transport, the Silver Wave so we feel all safe and it was delightful to see the Rebs skedadle when the Boats cam in sight.
(letter assumed to be a continuation of this letter)
We sent some troops down the River while the gun boats went down but the Rebs Kept out of the way. We could have been taken at any time if the Rebs had tryed but fortune was in our favor and to day we feel like that Vicksburg has got the hardes lick that she has ever received. We have controll of the River a bove and below and they are cut off from all communication from _____?. I do not Know what will be the programe but if we can Keep up supplys we have got the thing broke in two. There was one of the biggest ______? that ever went up on the Mississippi when the Boats came down. There was no one Killed that could be assertained certain. Three (3) Negros are suposed to be Killed. One man lost a leg, twelve wounded is all the damage done us but as to the Rebs they suffered a grat deal they had a house fixed to set on fire filled with pine saturated with Terpentine. They set in on fire and made the River and town as light as day. All the Boats pourd in a continual Fire on them. The Layfeet?? starked? steam and floated till till it almost struck shore. The Rebs thought that she was disabled. They crowded down on the warf to Board her waiving their hats & hollowing when she opened fire a Broad side of grape and canister in the crowd. The men say that the shore was lined with the dead & wounded.
I am quarterd with Mr James in a verry fine house three storys high with a porch two story high running all around the house. Mr James I think much of a gentleman but a rebbel. He has three sons in the Reb army. One of them but 15 years old. Mrs James I think is a Christian. She is in trouble so much so that I feel for her. James is an inteligent well informed man open frank and bares our company like a phylosipher? he reamined at home not like most of the southern planters. He wants to go to see his sons but we will not let pass our lines. He is a verry Kind & acomodating to all and converses _____?.
I must close as the mail will soon start out. I am well and harty. I shall come home as soon as I can. The Reg is trying to Keep me but the first favorable opportunity I shall come home. It may be that I may come home by the way of New York if Vicksburg is not taken and we get below Port Hudson I shall come by way of NY.
I must ask you to write to yours? I have not herd from home _____? since the 23 of March.
Yours as ever write soon to
John A Ritter
I have $135.00 & the paymaster is to be here to day to pay us for a 8 months. I do not Know what to do with the money. I have no use for it here & no chance to send it home.
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April 24, 1863 from Perkins' Plantation, LA
Perkins Plantation, La.
April 24, 1863
I take the present opportunity to write you a few lines. I hope that you get the letters that I write to you. I get none from you. The last that I have received was on the 23 of March from Harriett. I am in good heath. My heath has not been better for years except that I have the Rheumatism in my Knees slightly acasionaly. We are some 35 miles below Vicksburg. We are campt on a Rebel Congress mans plantation. He was a congressman in the Federal Congress but went of like the south generaly. At the fall of New Orleans he returned from Richmond, set fire to his house, burned his cotton etc. to keep it from falling in the hands of the enemy as he expressed it. He has or is vasly weathy but there will not be much left but the land when the soldiers are all passed it. The Rebs are feeling the effects of this war. We are in their country and an army is a curse to any country that it may pass over. The people are generaly moving before us taking their Negros. They are leaving a great deal of their plunder. A grave with a toom stones was found the other day. On examination it was found to contain Chiny ware (it was suposed to contain money). The boys do things often that is roug?. A Maj. & Assistant Surg. of the 49 Brought in a lot of Ladys ware, swis muslin, Muslin ______?, Based _____?, plain ______? Ladys silk stocking, etc., quite a lot of dry goods mosly in patterns. The Boys have Chairs, Beds, Tables etc. This all is hard but if they want it to stop let them stop fighting. I have been staying with a Mr. James. He was about as clever as a Rebel could be. He had quite an intelligent Lady. He has four sons in the Reb Army and when we were at his house we were in four miles of the force that his sons were in. One of them a boy fifteen years of age. When we started to advance She came to me and asked me to let her Know the fate of her children if captured or Killed them. Also asking me that if her boy was captured to try to get him home to her. I told her that if I came across her boy that I would take all the care of him that I could, but this war was a reality an some one had to be conquered and that was what we were trying and the question was to be settled by the fortunes of war, and if she wanted her son the best thing that he could do was to lay down his arms and sease to fight. She sayed that she never wanted for any thing before this rebelion comensed but she was now in want. I gave her some 3 or 4 lb. of coffee. She informed me the the last coffee that they bought they paid $5.00 per lb.
We have a lot of gun boats that run the blockade at Vicksburg & Grand Gulllf. We are 25 miles above Grand Gullf. The Rebs Ocupy Grand Gullf in force. It is thought that all the Rebs that was encampt her have retreated to G. Gullf. We learn from the negros that the rebs were a going to attack us on the 17th but the gun boats run the blockade and they (the rebs) run the other way. We are acupying their encampment. They had a Breastwork & other preparations her for a fight and the negros say that they sayd that they would fight till the last man was dead but they took an other notion, that was not the last ditch. I am glad to heare of the transcript. If that had been passed a year sooner it would have been better and it is imusing to see the Diserters or those that wer captured, pay rolled?, & went home coming in and it is annoying to ahve the great Lazy hulks seaking discharges. The _____? & the lame are coming in. I shall indever to do my duty and let them take the consequence and when a move is made toward the enemy to see the men coming up to be excused form duty, pain in the Back, hip, side, or Knee, but it dont win. Those that have been laying at hospitals & playing old soldier have to come in.
I shall come home as soon as I can. They are not willing for me to leave. The assistant surg. got drunk and came in to my quartes to give me a cursing. I put him out and I Kicked him as he went out. They suposed that I would be Court martialed and cashierd and in order to avoid that they thought that I had better resigne, but I let them Know that I was ready for a court martial or any thing that they wanted to bring. They are trying to Keep me here, but I am coming home as soon as I can get our of the army. The Medical director will not approve my resignation at present and I do not Know wheather he ever will or not. He says that I cannot be spared from the service Just at this time, that my place cannot be filled. Dr. Thomas is sick. I think that he will not live long. He has consumption. He is as much of a gentleman as I ever had anything to do with. We started a package of money home yestoday to be express to Buskirk, $3288.00 - $600.00 I Send to you. If you want anything but it. I sent the money for your use, do as you like with it. You Know how I am with money. If I want any thing and can get if I buy it, you do the same. I am getting scarce of good cloths but I expect that what I have will last me as long as I stay in the army. There is no clothing to be bought here except such as is furnished by government, a common solders cloths. I have a new pr. of caveraly pants ______? (up at the top)(*). I am tired of wearing soldiers cloths. I want to come home and dress in citizens clothing but while I stay in this country caveralry pants is good enough for me as I am not courting the favor of any nor do I expect to marry in this country.
John A. Ritter
(margins, page 2) My negro wants to come home with me. He says that he will never leave me as long as I will keep him.
Margarett be of good cheer. I hope that the day is not fare distant when I will see you at home. Ther are a great many thing that I might write but I must stop for present.
(page 3) We were orderd night before last to be ready to move at 4 oclock P.M. We did not go, however, till 7 A.M. We then went on board transports and remained their till sundow when we were orderd back to camp.
This is the warmes day that we have had. Verry warm.
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May 5, 1863 from Ten Miles North of Port Gibson, MS
Ten miles North of Port Gibson
Dear wife it is with more than ordinary pleasure that I take the present opportunity to write to you. I am still on the land among the living in tolerable good heath verry much fatigued nearly worn out but have been _____? for the last 26 hours. The 49 Ind & 114 Ohio left Perkins plantation on the Mis River on the 25 of April was out 5 day had two Fights built 4 Bridges and arrived at Hard times Landing three miles above Grand Gulf at 8 AM. The gun boats comensed bombarding Grand Gulf at 9 AM & continued 5 hours without any intermisson. I was on a Transport wheare I could see it all all the guns? was _______? but three. The infantry was on th transports ready to land as soon as the guns could be Silanced but the gun Boats halted of at 2 PM. The Infantry landed at the same place where they embarked marched by land to a point below Grand Gulf. The transports run _____?. The Reb _____? at night.
Early on the morning of the 30 we embarked on gun boats. Transports steamed down the River to Bayou Peer landed took up the line of march toward Port Gibson Mis. We marched all day & all night. About 12 at night the Rebs attacked us with Artilery we soon opened on them with Artilery which was kept up till 3 o clock AM. When the Rebs advanced? in nearly day when we were halted and allowed to rest one hour we started and at 6 AM we were in a general engagement with the Rebbels this the 1st day of May will be a day long remembered by many as one of the hardest fought battles of this war. The Rebs fought with desperation but they were met by the same kind of mettle. The 49th Brought on the engagement? & for one hour 10 minutes held the rebbles in check. They fought the 31st Alabama Reg. Prisners say that at Roll call after the action there was but 7? to answer to their names. The 49 was relieved by the 42 Ohio Reg & Reg after Reg was relieved? whilst the Reg ingaged was resting. Thus the fight continued till near sun down. When the 49 Ind 114 Ohio was orderd to charge which was done most galantly? the Rebs broking? & Running? in every diection perfectly Routed? the 6 Missouri the Brag Reg of the south was drawn up to meet the 49 but they could not stand. Gen Osterhaus say that it was the most galant charge he ever saw. After the Rebs were ______? he almost lifted Col Keigwin of of the gorund. All of our men vehaved well. The 42 Ohio that took the place of the 49 sufferd very severly and the mistery of the whole matter was why the 49 lost? so few men. There was a Reb Battery playing on them the wholl time & the infantry pouring in as they thought a ____? fire. The prisners say that they thought that they had Killed nearly all of the first Reg that attacked them but we had but 14 men wounded 1 Killed. This one Killed was detail with a battery. This is our list of Killed & wounded 1 Killed not a ____? ____? of Co G Liut Thos B Buskirk flesh wound in neck Capt Joseph Duncan? slight on Rist not stopt form duty corp Andrew Walker flesh wound face? private Jno W Simmons spent Bull chest we have taken a large lot of prinses perhaps 1000 ____? Rebs ____? 13 guns. I do not Know the amount of them Killed & wounded but it was verry heavy. Our forces have posesion Grand Gulf with a large lot of Artilery. Our gun boats are up Black River?. Our forces have advanced to warn Black River to the rear of Vicksburg. It is the general opinion that Vicksburg will be evacuated. The Boy are generaly well some sick back at the Hospital. I have got this letter in a great hurry. The 24, 69, 8, 18, 46, 47, 48, 49 Indana Reg were in the ingagement. It is sayed that the 24 was cut up considrable so was the 49 & 15. I got a Letter from T P Carter. I will answer it as soon as I can. I have been on duty constantly since the 25 April. I dont think that I ever was as tired in my life as I was on the night of the 1st of May 1863. I expect to come home a soon as I can if they let me. I hope and think they will but the 49 gained a reptuation in the Battle that might be envey by any troops so did its sugeons. We are in an enemys country and we are living of of the country. I was at _____? Braxton son of ____? Braxton of Paoli. He & family are well. He wished me to so informe his ____? family that he had not herd from them for two ____?. He had not been in the service. One of S. Millicans? Boy is in the army. I shall have to close. I think that none of the wounded of the 49 will die from their wounds.
John A Ritter
(margin, page 2) in the charge on the 49th did not have a man _______? though a ______? was in ____? ____? _____? a _____? at them the Rebs shot too low it struck the ground.
(margin, page 3) the Battle was fought 8 miles from Port Gibson on the ____? road at Shapes plantation.
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May 27, 1863 from Black River Bridge in the Rear of Vicksburg, MS
Black River Bridge in Rear of
May 27, 1863
At a time like this I Know you are anxious to heare from me and I shall improve every opportunity to write to you. I do not Know how or when I shall have an opportunity to send this to you but I shall write a few lines and have it ready. We are at this time 13 miles from Vicksburg. The Infantry are not ingaged. It generaly supposed that they have not much to eat in the city. It is supposed the commander of Vicksburg sent out a dispach to Johnston that if he not reinforced in two or three days that he would have to surrender. The barrer of this dispach was captured so the report goes. Wheather this is true or not I can't say. The rebs tryed to cut their way out but were compelled to fall back in their works. We are out at Black River to cut off any reinforcement. We have done some hard fighting since we landed on the Mississipi soil. We have the pleasure (though mixt with pain) to know that we have defeated them at every point. They have fallen back to Vicksburg, the Last ditch, and to all human appearance we will get them at that point. We find more men here dissatisfied with the war than any other place that I have been. More conscripts, more that do not want to be exchanged, that want to go north. The Rebs as reported by the caveralry that two Reg. of Infantry came over and gave themselves up as prisners. They report that they are suffering for water as the gun boats Keep them from going to the river. They have sent over several Flags of truce for permision to burry their dead which was granted. Some of the party did not return perfiring to stay in our lines. I have no doubt but that the revs will try to cut their way out or that they will try to reinforce them. In either case there will be a sevear fight. We have them surrounded and and will try hard to take what is left of them. There are various reports as to the amount of their forces. If we succeed as well in the future as we have in the past, we will have destroyed the army of the Mis. I have been for the last two day erecting a Hospital at a Episcopalian Church, a verry neat church. During the leasure time that have had, I have been spending it with a couple of Sesesh Ladys. The most bitter, rabid of any that I ever met. There wer originaly as I understand form Maine?. The down Easters? that have imigrated here as a general rule are the most rabid Sesesh, but I met with an honorable exception. An old gentleman by the name of Sweet, a hardware merchant of Vicksburg formily a Connecticut man. We had our hospital at his country house. While we found him a firm southern man with it we found in him a perfect gentleman. His son in Law had been an officer in the Reb army had been wounded was at home. The whole family treated us as Kind as they could, renderd all the? assistance in their power to the wounded. I love to meet a true hearted man or woman any wheare but when these down Easters southern Aristocracy is a little the lowes of all gods creation being that they seame to have but little of the milk of human Kindness. The Air that they breath seames to be offensive & some of those coyotes? call call of god to assist them in their Diabolical purposes. There is a marked difference betwene them and the true southern man. With rare exception there is none of this codfish Atistocracy. I gave the ladys referd to a few practible Lessons but I fear that they will not profit much by it.
William Z. Smith was back to Champion Hill, the Battle ground of the 16th. Meridth Charles is shot in the Knee, the joint fractured. His leg was not amputated it will likly Kill him. Dr. Williamson will likly die from his wound. The ball penetrated the Lungs. Hovey lost a great many men in that fight. He has neare 600 wounded. Our Killed, wounded, and missing since we crost the River in the 9th Division (Osterhaus) (consisting of 14 Reg. I believe) amounts to less than 300. Hovey done some as hard as history records?. We had as hard a fight at the same time but it did not last so long. I had to quit writing and hold up my tent to Keep it from blowing over. We have just had a shower which makes the air much more pleasant. I sent you $600.00 some time ago. I have not herd wheather it got to you or not. We have our caveralry on the other side of Black River. Champion Hill is 8 miles from Black river. We had a fight on the 16 at Champion Hill & on the 17 at Black River Bridge. The Bridge a cross Black river is a Rail Road an Trussell nearly 40 feet high for a distance of two miles or more. The Rebs run across this bridge or a part of it tht spand the stream which is narrow. They also had a Steam Boat with a plank extending from the Boat to the bank making a pontoon Bridge. They set the Bridge & Boat on fire together six steam Boats. The River is full of the reck of the old boats. The fire consumed some 500 yds of the trusel work. This was their own work. It saved us of the trouble or at least I expect that old U. S. Grant would have burned it. He has orderd the rail road as fare as they can and to bring in all the cotton that they can & to burn the balance. I have not herd of Tom Buskirk since a few day after he was wounded. I do not Know where he is. I expect that he is at James plantation about 25 miles below Vicksburg. I am anxious about him. I expect that he has writen home. I have not herd of any of our wounded form Thompsons Hill that were wounded on the 1st of May. These were nont of our Reg. verry seriously injured. I will close for the present. If I do not get an opportunity to send this of I will add to it. I have lost my horse which I expect will be a deare loss to me. I was verry much attached to my horse. I regret the Loss. I have got acquainted with several Reb Sarg.?, some of them verry clever fellows, some that are not. I am well.
Yours as ever,
John A. Ritter
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June 2, 1863 form Black River Bridge, MS
Black River Bridge, Miss.
June 2nd, 1863
I have nothing of importance to write. I am in good health at present. We came to this place on the 24 day of May to prevent any reinforcement getting in to Vicksburg. We are as an out post pickett. I do not think that there are any considerable force coming up in our rear. We are 13 miles from Vicksburg, 12 miles from Champion Hill, at the Bridge on Big _______? Black is the place that we fought on the 17 May. We have distroyed all the Bridges on the road from here to Jackson. Our caveralry are encampt at this place and patroll the country for a distance of 12 miles every day. No enemy has been nearer to us than the Hospitals at champion hill. They Sliped in and payrolled all our wounded & nurses at the hospitals at Raymon, Jackson, & champion hill. There were none of our division at Jackson or Raymon. They were not in these fights. The Rebs acted verry badly to our men at Raymond. They took all that they had to eat, took the blankets of the Sick and wounded. They had of their confederate Soldier wounded also at Raymond. They took all that they had to eat as well as our men. Poor D_____? I think they must have been hungry. They also took money from some of our wounded, watches etc. They took the surgeon's horses that were left with them. The Rebs at champions hill were a different sort of fellows. They were as hard down on the men at at Raymon as our men were. It is prety generaly understood that the Rebs at Raymond were home guards, citizens of Miss. The rebs that came in to champion hill were Kentuckians. They told our Boys that they felt like they were not doing a verry Brave act to charge on a hospital, but they would have to do it. I think that they have one division in our rear between this place and Jackson. That is all the troops that we can heare of. That was a division that got cut off at champion hill & marched about 65 miles to get out of our way. We did not Know that they were cut off till they got out of our reach or we would have captured all of them and I presume that they have gathered up all the stragles they could of the defeated & Retreating army but it will be usless for them to bring up such soldiers to the rear of Vicksburg to rais the seige and futher if they attempt Such a thing they will have to have a powerful army more than I think they can raise.
The 49th Killed a general at Thompsons hill, Gen. Stacy of Alabama. Gen. Tillman, Reb, was Killed at Champion hill. We have lost but few officers. One Col. is all the field officers that I Know of. He belonged to the 83 Ohio I believe. I have forgotten his name. I recollect the man well. The day of the Battle at Thompsons hill I herd him caution his Reg. not to shute any of the boys that wore blue cloths, but to give it to the gray backs. He was Killed at Raymond on the 12. In our Brigade we have lost two Capts Killed--Capt Olds, 42nd Ohio, May 1st, Capt Wilson 7 Ky. May 16. I was intimally acquainted Capt. Wilson. He had his Leg shot off clost to the Body by a canon ball. He was a brave good man. He met his fate calm, cool. He died in a few hours after Receiving his wound. I was trying to do something for him. He told me that it was not worth while to do any thing for him for I as good as dead, I shall die in a few moments. He called the sarg of his Reg., gave him his pocket book, gave some directions about his affairs, sent some word to his wife, and died. Poor fellow. We were together at Cumberland Gap and have been verry intimate. I have also had a slight acquaintance with his wife, poor woman. I understand that Jack Keynan has been wounded. He is not with Reg. He is with Pioneers Corps. I understand that his Arme has been Amputated at the elbow. If so, poor Jack, he is done soldiering and a better soldier than Jack never shoulders a muskett.
I have been attending an old Gentleman by the name of Townsen who was shot by one of his own negros. He is at his sons near our camp. His son and family are verry agreeable. I have never met a nicer gentleman or a finer Lady than Mr. and Mrs. Townsen. If all the people were like them that reside in the south there would be no war. They are of the true southern stripe. I never have been treated Kinder by any one. I often get out among the people. They are generaly cortius? & Kind but many of them, if they had the power, they would act different.
Dr. Thomas Has sent in his Resignation. He is in verry bad health. He will start home in a few days. Also, Capt. McConehay is wound and has asked to leave to come home till. I will send some things home by him if he goes which I think he will. I have $80.00 dollars of John Carters that I will send, also a Ring & some other littletraps. I think that it will not be long till Vicksburg will be in our posesion. The Boys say they are still debating the question. The arguments are quite formable?. At least they make a great deal of noise. The roar of the Cannon is a familiar sound. Hope you are well.
John A. Ritter
(margin, page 4) The dead horses that float down the River average 16 per hour. They are killed in side? the fortifications are are thrown into the river to get clere of the stench.
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June 8, 1863 from Black River Bridge, MS
Black River Bridge, Miss.
June 8, 1863
Late at night when all should be at rest I devote a few moments for the perpose to write you a few lines. I am in good health. I have been out to day through the picket lines some two miles to get a tent -- a Reb tent. My tent was left at Perkins Plantation. It has not yet come up & I do not Know wheather it ever will but I succeeded in getting an old tent and I shall soon set up to house Keeping. I have a large hospital tent but while I am ocupying it I have to many customers. Some gray backs, if you do not Know what a grayback is call some soldier for an explination. I think that if I can get off to myself that I get clear of that part of my customers. While I write the cannon Roar seames to be louder than ever at Vicksburg. We are 13 miles from their but no night the cannonading is going on verry regular but with what effect I am not able to learn?. I was at Azoo River yestrdy at Chickasaw Bayou at the place wheare Sherman had his fight in December last. I visited sport that brought back sad recollections of the past & of Friends that I was one associated with that now sleep in a soldiers grave. I went down to get transportation for Dr. Thomas. He is verry sick and is on his way to Indiana. He took passage on the Sultana. I sent my servant with him to take care of him. He was a free negro that had hired to a horse drover to come south but when the drover got here he sold him for $1100 & he has been here 19 years in servitude. He was a good cook. Could wash & sew equil to a woman. I hated to give him up but I thought of the golden Rule do unto other as you would like to be done unto in like circumstances. He was the best negro that I ever saw and Dr. Thomas needed some one to take care of him and I gave him up for that purpose. Our Reg. is in good health but few sick. We are having tolerable easy time. If the enemy does not come up in our rear we have no service to do any it is thought that they cannot bring a verry considerable force to attack us. We have distroyed all that an army couldlive on prety much from Jaackson to this place. If they come in they have to bring their provision with them and they have not the rail roads in transport troops or provisions on. I bought me a fine pr pants at Azoo. If my trunk is not captured I shall have a plenty of clothing to do me for some time. My carpet sack was left behind. All my papers & a great many things that are valuable to me was in it. I doubt verry much wheather I shall ever see it. Your Likness & little Billys were in it. Our Boys are out on picket to night. It is reported that there are some Reb caveralry with in 8 miles of this place. I find a great many clever people have familys in our lines with their women and children.
If the rebs do come up on us I pity the poor children. They would be as likly to be hurt as any one. A lady asked me for some advice as reguarded their sick child which I freely gave her -- after which she asked me if I would give some other advice. I told her I would then she asked me if I would advise her when danger was approaching that she had no where to go & that if a fight should take place that she thought that she was in as much danger as any one in the ranks. I told he that I would let her Know if I Knew it my self time enough to be any service to her. Some of the people would be glad to see Vicksburg fall so that the Theater of war would be removed. Where an army is their is trouble but the people are feeling the effects of this war. It is in their own country. I find more union people here than I expected to find. Onemade his way to our camp to day that has been confined in Jail in Jackson for 7 months. The people say that the county of Warren went largly for the union and that the ajoining countys did likewise but in the county in the interior went strongly sesesh. They called many of the Abolisunist Traitors etc. but the citizens say that they have not been allowed to express their sentiments for a long time. All hope that the war may close. Peace is verry much desired by all. All of the soldiers are satisfied fighting that is all that I have seent. All of the prisners are satisfied to quit. Many of them desire to go north so that they will not be exchanged. From Thompsons Hill to this place every neighborhood is filled with wounded sesesh soldiers. Gen. Grant has managed this campaign admirable displaying great generalship. If Vicksburg shoule not fall I am satisfied that Grant is one of the great military men of the present age but I think that the fall of Vicksburg is only a matter of time. I think that it will fall. I am sure unless the Rebs send force sufficient to raise the siege and it will take a large force to do that. Grant has a large Army here and still receiving reinforcements and the men are determined they will fight desperaly & I presume that there has been as hard fighting since the first of May in Miss as was ever done by any soldiers and on as enty stomachs. As for the Rebs they have indured as much as we perhaps in some respects more. I now attending a sick confederate that fought at Thompson hill that says that he had not had any thing to eat for five days & that he fought 9 hours without ever being relieved.
I will close for the present, perhaps I may add a line to morrow. I shall do so if any news. Yours as ever,
John A. Ritter
Mrs. Margarett Ritter
(margin, page 1) June 9 12 noon?. Hope you are well.
(in large letters opposite margin) Come Home
(margin, page 4) Tom Buskirk is here and on duty. Sam Masters, John ______? is with Reg, improving soon be well.
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June 11, 1863 from Black River Bridge, MS
Black River Bridge, Miss.
June 11, 1863
I have just finished my dinner and I will devote a few moments to write you a few lines. I have nothing new to write. We are still on out post duty at Black River Bridge where it is supposed that the enemy will approach if at all. The seige of Vicksburg still continues. We are shooting a great amount of shot in the enemys works. The gunboats in front, the Artillery all around. The shell are often hurled in at the same time but with what effect we are not able to tell. We will surly take Vicksburg if there does not come a force in our rear. They will have to come in considerable fource which I think thay they cannot bring. We had an order from a confederate Col. to evacuate Black river by 8 A. M. on the 10 (yestrday). Also a request that a Lady with her B______? be permitted to pass through our lines to Vicksburg & Return with her wounded Husband to Jackson. Gen Osterhaus replyed that he was sorry that he could not acomodate the Lady at present as we were not passing Citizens through our lines to Vicksburg but the way would open in a few days. But as to Black River, if the Col wanted it just? come over & take it. We have various? rumers? but nothing reliable. It is Reported that there is a rebel force in our rear about 20000. A great many of the stragles that strayed from the different fights that have ocured since have been on this side of the River. It is also reported that there has been a fight at Millikins Bend and said to be the most desparate little fight that has ocurd since the war. It is reported that the Rebs charged on the 33 Ill & 800 negros & drove out our men, captured two companys of the negros & that as soon as the Rebs got the Negros they Comensed Killing the Negros. The negros turnd on them with the Butts of their guns etc. The 33 & the Negros that were not taken prisners turd on them & it was a hand to hand fight that the Rebs left 133 dead on the ground and that they were running their Ambulances all the time of the ingagement. The 33 lost 33 men Killed. I did not learn the Number of negros Killed but there may be that there is not any truth in any of the above.
Rumers if we were to take rumer we would have had Vicksburg long ago. We have had several rumers that Vicksburg was taken but in this we did not have long to wait in suspense. When the Loud roar of the cannon is herd the Boys say that they are debating the question as to the right of the navigation of the Miss. River and it is not long when we heare that Vicksburg has surrendered that we hear the belching roar of the cannon that admonish us that the Rebs are not convinced with our argument but I think that we are using some strong Argument. They sent out a flag of truce to get time to burry their dead. Whilst the flag was out our boys sent up into their Brest works & the Reb soldiers came out and was quite frienly. One little surcumstance hapened. A Missisipian told our boys that if the Teneseeans had not shown the white feather? that they would have whiped us at champion hill but they acted the coward. At this a big Tenessean stept up to him & told him to take it all back for he would maul him right their, that is was from Ten. The fellow took it back so the affair was amically settled.
The other night a confederate bellowed over to one of our boys, "Hellow? yank, have you got any coffee?" Yank answered, "Yes." "Then will you give me a cup if I come over?" "Yes." "But will you let me come back again?" "Yes." "But you want to shoot me yank?" "No, I wont shoot you, if you will come over I will give you a cup of coffee & after you have drank if you may return." Well yank, I will try you. You say you wont shoot now yank. If you was to shoot me you would be a verry mean fellow." "Now honor bright come on & get the coffee." The two pickets drank the coffee together had quite a nice little chat. When Confed went to his post but when he started he request Mr. yank not to shoot him in the back, to wait till he got to his post. There are many imusing incidents that acur. Some think to fall in to the hands of the yankeys as they call us is death. They are getting out of that notion. Near champion hill a family started to run in a wagon. They were overtaken by our soldiers. They drove out by the side of the road the woman weeping, the children ______? to th____?. All healed? up as close as they could get in this way. If we had been savages they could not have been more frightened but when we passed on without molesting them their fears subsided.
Jno. A. Ritter
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June 14, 1863 from Black River Bridge, MS
Black River Bridge
June 14 1863
Yours of the 31 of May has come to hand. I have been getting some letters from you which affords me great satisfaction. As the caption will show I am still as Black river Bridge. All is quiet here as yet. It is reported that there are squads of Rebel caveralry in 6 or 8 miles of us. We have many reports as to the approach of Rebels but as yet none have come up in our rear. We are looking for the fall of Vicksburg. We have been largley? reinforced and still reinforcement continues to come. It is verry doubtful how long that Vicksburg can hold out. We have desertes coming out every day or night. Some say that they are on the point of stavation while others say that they have a plenty to eat. It is hard to find out the true state of affairs here. We cannot learn but little more than those at a distance. We can scarcly believe what we heare for we heare so many conflicting storys. We are all in fine spirits and hope for the best and are well satisfied with Grant.
Our men continue heathy. We have had a hard laborious time since we crossed the Miss River but our division since we came to Black river have had some rest but we have done a great deal of picketing & some fortifications and if we are attacked we will fight but I am of the opinion that there will not be much fighting here at this place. We have distroyed all the lines of rail road from here to Jackson & twenty miles beyond Jackson an army would have to transport all the provisions ______? some 75 miles & that is a large item so much so that I think they cannot ____? time enough to relieve Vickburg. All that an army could subsist on is destroyed for miles in fact but little is left where we passed over the country. I have been writing to you frequently lately not so much that I had any thing to write, but I am well in good heath. This climate seames to agree with me verry well. Capt McCanehay? started? home yestrday on sick leave. He sayed that he would call and see you. I sent by him a Ring a little shell box & some other little traps a musket ball that struck me on the Boot leg. It was spent. It did not hurt me any. I have carried it since the chickesaw fight Decr 29. A _______? that I picked up ar Arkansas post. Also I sent a large Box a writing desk & for the ______? of carrying paper etc. Also, I send $80.00 dollars for John Carter. You can let his mother Know that you have it. He did not say what to do with only that to send it home. He sayd that it would be safe if it got to his uncle Billy Grand ma or Ma. I was glad to meet with an opportunity to send it. I could have sent it by Dr. Thomas but I thought that he was hardly to take care of himself. He started home a week ago to day. There are a number that will try to get home as soon as Vicksburg is out of the way will try to come home. Some on sick leave & some resigned. How we will all succeed I do not Know. I could get a leave of Absence for twenty day but I think that there would be but little pay? in such a leave as that it would take 15 days to go & Return if I should meet with any bad luck in transportation it would take me _____? _____? ____?.
I have seen papers Cin St Louis & Chicage to the 8 inst. They give a prety fare acount of affares but they leave untold may thing but the half will never be told. I have mingled freely with the prisners. They are all satisfied. I asked them what they think about whiping five to one they say that they never ____? western troops. They are quite friendly. They want to quit fighting. They want to go home & that bad. I have been attending a sick Alabanian who wants to be paroled so that he can get home. A great many of them want to be sent north. I have clothing to do me at present. I have a verry fare suit of cloths that is pants & coat. I could use some cotton drawers if I had them but I have as many clothes as I can carry. My carpet sack has been left behind. I think likly that I shall never see it again. Most of my socks dirty clothes _____? _____? & a number of little things that are valuable to me and will be nearly worthless to others. I shall expect a letter for you soon.
John A. Ritter
Mrs. Margarett Ritter
(margin, page 2) This is Sunday a bright beautiful day not so warme as it has been. Had first rain a few day a go. I wish that I could send this day with you.
(margin, page 4) A Reb hollowed over to one of our to one of our men. We have got a new general. Did you Know it have his name is General Stavation?.
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June 22, 1863 from Big Black River, MS
Big Black River
June 22 1863
I shall devote a few leasure moments to you?. I am well and hope you are. I have but little news to write there are so many reports that you do not Know what to believe. We have been here nearly a month watching the move of the enemy. They have not appeared in any force. There are some reble Caveralry that come up to our pickets but to this time there has scarcly been a gun fired. Some of our men went to chicksaw Bayou and reported that Osterhaus had been fighting for a week that he had been in three ingagements. This was all false but it is only a sample of the camp rumers. It is reported taht Kimble had a fight at Azoo with Johnson that Kimble Killed & wounded 3000 & took 3000. I presume that there has been a fight but the result is only a rumer as above stated. It? is also reported that our men have taken some of the fortications at Vicksburg. This I presume is true yet it may not. It is true that we have _____? lines close to theirs. Some days a go we had lines with in twenty feet of theirs. At some places our men are digging down their fortifications. I have no doubt but that Vicksburg will have to be taken by the _____? or by stavation. The agents are at work.
It is reported taht there is a force at Champions Hill. I presume that there are some force their but wheather they will attempt to come to attack us I think if they are sharp they will not unless they can get arround us. If would be as easy to get in to Vicksburg as to cross Black River at this point. We have been doing things a little different since we have been here the Counterbands have done the work whilst the soldiers is taking his rest. They are felling the timber making Rifle pitts Fortifications and if they do no other good they have saved our soldiers form any drops of sweat but from all acounts they have done some good fighting. There is an order to take up all negros that have no imployment and put them under some officer. They are formed into squads to do the _____? etc. We have some sickness but nothing serious. A number of our men are chilling?. My heath is verry good. I am trying to pass the time as pleasant as posible but my mind is homeward. I am as well satisfied as I could be under the circomstances and if I cnnot get to come home I shall be some what disapointed. I talked with the Director and after laying my case before him he told that whole familys was in the same fix but that he would attend to it when Vicksburg fell.
The weather has been warm but not much hotter than at home. It has been much cooler & more pleasant for a few days. I hope that Vicksburg will soon fall. They hold out well?. We have a dispach that Johnson & Shearman are fighting up Azoo to ward Azoo City.
I Received a letter form Theophilus of the 11 answerd it yestrday. All is quiett at Vicksburg to day that is there is no Cannonading. Some days it is verry heavy & for hours the roar of Artilery is as fast that it can scarcly be counted and so heavy as to shake the ground. This has been one of the campaigns of the war I think it will terminate in our favor. I still think Vicksburg a doomed city but from what I can learn it is a petty? for many of the inhabitants of the place in the county that Vicksburg is in they gave a large majority against sesesh. The county only gave 150 votes for sesesh at the time that the state secede. There are a number of union men here yet but they have been compelled supress their Sentiments. I have not doubt but that many of them are offering up their secret prayers for a restoration of the union. We are all full of hope and every day we are expecting some disivive change.
Wm __? Smith will likly be appointed Assistant Surg in Dr. Thomas place. I have not herd from Dr. Thomas since he left. I hope that he got home. He was quite feble when he left. I have just Recd a roll of bandages from the Ladys of Warrick Co Indiana. God bless the women. Their thoughts are all toward devising means to make suffering humanity more comfortable. They never forget the soldiers their Kind offices are not for gotten by the Soldier it nerves? him for the battle and many are the blessings that will rest on their devoted heads.
My negro still stays with me. He has been with me over 8 months. He wants to come home with me. I think he really loves me. He was taken up and taken off by a General order but I got him back again. He was verry glad to see me and verry anxious to get back to me. I think that I shall Keep him as long as I stay in the army and if I could I would bring him home with me. His master was Killed at the Battle of Shilo. I have been ______? at _____? during the day. Supper is about ready. I have for supper ____? fish Bacon ham Corn bread coffee sugar. This is about my bill of fare. I have had some Butter & milk but none to day.
Farewell for the present,
John A Ritter
(margin, page 1) I have lost my carpet sack. Your likness & little Billys with many other things.
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June 23, 1863 from Big Black River Bridge, MS
Big Black Bridge
June 23 1863
I Recd yours of the 15 last night come in quick time sooner than any that I have got. I have nothing new this morning. Our caveralry had a little brush with the Reb Caveralry yestrday about 8 miles from this place in which our men came out the worst. They were on out post picket. The rebs suprised them and came on to them when they were not looking for them.
If you can purchase Powels land at a fare rate I think it would be a good investment. There is two 40 that Joins ours that would make ours square. If you could get both fortys it would make us a farme of 160 Acres in a square. (diagram appears in text) Anything that you may think would be of advantage _____?. You are there and see and Know more how things are than I.
I am well. Hope you are cleare of the ________?.
John A. Ritter
June 24, 1863 from Big Black River Bridge, MS
Big Black Bridge Miss
June 24 1863
I wrote you a letter yesdrday. I have Just been over to the Col Quartes. He has presented me with a photograph? that I wish send home to you to take care of till I come home. The Col is a man that I verry much respect and he told me that it was for the respect that he had for me that he present it to me.
I have no news except the reported fall of Port Hudson which was received from Gen? Grant. I presume it is true. If so it will have a tendency to weaken Vicksburg as in a case of pinch we can run troop (page cut off??)
Port Hudson is 240 miles by the river. We have transports sufficient to transport them to this point but I hope and think that we will not kned? them. It is also reported taht Banks has landed apart of his forces at Rodney and marching by land toward Black river. This news confirmed. Rodney is ten miles below Grand Gulf. There has been a verry constant firing at Vicksburg during last night and to day. It has usualy been the practice to ____? firing about 10 or 11 AM till 4 or 6 PM. It has been some cooler to day than common cloudy. This may be one of the reasons for the continuation of the fire. We anxiously look for the fall of Vicksburg ____? ____?.
I do not Know how the removal? of McClearand is agoing to settle on the troops of his command. Some of them do not like it verry well though they do not Know the cause of his removal but only conjecture. If they are right perhaps McM? was guilty of a breach of some military _____? or ____?. It is supposed that he made a report that should have emenated from a superior officer and that the report was sent to a paper and was printed at St Louis. This is only suposition perhaps I should not write such suppositions for they may be intirely incorrect. We are having the chills & fevers in our Reg. We have no serious sickness. We have but few men but what can stir arround a _____? of _____?.
There is news that the rebs are in Pensylvania. I think tjat there is something rong about that Potomac army if the arkives of the nation was removed I think it would be a god send. If that Rebs would burn down Washington then the army could do something besides guard the city. I expect that the army of the west will have to go to the Potomac yet I think that if they will let us alone and there is not to much jealousy get up between the commanding officers that we will clean out the Missippi River. It is cleare at present except Vicksburg and I hope that it will not be long till it is out of the way. The mail may not leave till tomorrow. If so I will write more.
As ever yours
John A Ritter
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June 25, 1863 from Big Black River Bridge, MS
Big Black Bridge
All is still wuiet at this point but at Vicksburg they stil Keep bumping away. We can heare the report of the artilery and at night when all is still we can hear the report of small arms. The night of 22 7 23 the rebs tryed to come out of Vicksburg. The 23 they drove our pickets to our mane line. They were finaly driven back into their fortifications. They lost a good many Killed & wounded. I saw some rebbels prisners yestrday. They were discusing the question wheather the southern people would have to pay their individual debts if the south _____? succeed. They come to the conclusion that they would not and then it turned on the honesty of the matter. Some sayd that they never would pay all agreed? that they would not pay during the war but some sayd that after the war was over tat every honest man would pay if he could but that the south would be so impoverished that but little could be paid and as for what the Individual States owed that they never could pay. I was at the house of two old maids. They were the most rabid sesesh that I have met with they were hoping that they could hear the roar of Johnsons guns in our rear that they wanted to turn out and keep and that they hoped that they would give the yankeys their Just dues a welcome _____? to a ____? of _____? and these same she Devils are drawing rations from our comisary. They bosted that at the time that Shearman made a feint at chickesaw Bayou that they cooked and sent a dinner to a company so that they would more able to fight but they did not have any fighting to do on that ocasion. They were down Osterhaus because he would not let them in his lines but they do not make much of of the Dutchman his head Quarters is at a widow Ladys a strong sesesh. When the dispach was received by him of the fall of Port Hudson it was in the night the Lady was asleep. He woke her up and sayed Maham that strong sesesh hole of yours has gone up.
There is a deserter came in last night form Johnson's Army. He says that Johnson claims to have 35000 men about 20 miles from here that he has but little transportaion that their rations are cornmeal & Beef. The Beef procured on the roads? that they are good troops but not much Artilery. There is but little confidence in a deserter. This deserter belonged to a Texas? Reg. He was formily from New Albany Ind. His uncle has been shiriff of Floyd (Akin) he has a brother in the 23 Indiana Reg.
I have been scribbling at intervals?. I hope that you may find some thing in tis to imuse or interest you. I hope that it will not be long till I can come home but things will Keep me if they can. This is private.
As ever yours
John A Ritter
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June 30, 1863 from Big Black River Bridge, MS
Big Black Bridge
June 30 1863
I Recd your of the 19th & 21 Inst. I was truly glad to hear from you. I have been getting your letters regular which for some time past this is a great satisfaction to me. I am truly glad that the Rebs came in to Indiana for they believe that they have a latent strength in the north. Some of the most Inteligent men that I have talked to in the south admit that their only hope is on a certain power in the north that will develope it self. Now if they have _____? a power the sooner they Know it the better let them athem at once be undeceived. I am of the opinion that they would begin to quake in their Boots if they did not feel like they would get help from the north and they realy believe that they will get it. They talk about the detentions in the north the resistances of the draft that this is all the men that can be brought out that the present? army is all that they will have to fight and their Leaders keep the people blinded keep them deceived and when you tell them that they will get no help from the north they say they had as well give up that they cannot keep up their army to it present status.
We are still all quiett at our old camp making Rifle pitts Brest works etc. all Quiet no appearance of any rebels neare us. It is thought that grub? is getting short in the city of Vicksburg. We expect to starve them out. We are fixing to Keep them In and to Keep any others from getting in to them. The boys are in good spirits. Deserters came out last night and affirme that they are out of provision and it generaly believed along the line our men have ____? paralel lines till they have got so clost that they can thrugh shells by hand into their rifle pitts. The fuse of the shell is set on fire and the shell thrown by hand in to the pitts in sted of being thrown by a gun and if they should happen to set the fuse a little to long the rebs will ____? it up and though it back. This is close proximity for such hostile ______? to be. I have been of for two months March and April. I have something upwards of $400.00. I will send you some of it the first opportunity. I started a gun home. It is verry doubtful wheather it ever reaches home. If it does take good care of it as I shall prise it for the associations connected with it. I am well. I wrote a letter to Brother Hicks. The mail starts. I must close. I am well. This is some what shorter than I usualy? write.
J A Ritter
[margin page 2) Keep in good spirits. I hope you are well. I have considrable buisness to attend to. It Keeps we imployd. By that means I pass the time.
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July 3, 1863 from Big Black River Bridge, MS
Big Black Bridge, Mississippi
July 3, 1863
I take up my pen at this late hour to write you a few lines. It is after 12 oclock, it is indeed the 4th. I am very tired. I have Just returnd from the Azoo River which is some 18 miles from this place. I am verry tired. Today I passed along our lines in the rear of Vicksburg. There was a Flag of truce out asking for a sesesion of hostility for Eight hours and that comissioner? be appointed to settle terms of Capitulations. The hostilitys part was agreed to by U. S. but the commissions part was refused. There was but one suffender that unconditional. At 4 P. M. the guns opened on them but from a while before dark all has been quiett. How calm. Nothing but the ______? disturbe the stillness of the night. It is the general impression that Vicksburg is about gone up. I saw to day the Union and the Confederate standing guard not ten steps a part. Our workes are in many places up to theirs. Some of their Fortifications are undiminden?. We blew up one of their Fortificaitons on the 1st. It blue 6 men over in to our lines some 100 yards, one negro. The negro lived till last night. He sayed that he thought that he went up about two mile and his master went much higher than he did. Our men have holes in the bank that they sleep in to protect then from the explosin of shell & other misels. We had some boys that started home yestrday. I sent by C. C. More two shells? that he was to leave at mothers or ______?. Also, I sent by Luit. Whitcomb 23 Dollars for Arthur Peckthall?, 31 for Francis Shaw & and I sent what I thought $300.00 for you but I expect you will find 295.00. The balance of the two former acounts is for you. The Boat was Just in the eve of pushing out & I had not the means of counting it correctly or writing to you anything in regard to it. It is in an Envelope directed to you in care of J. G. ______? pay to the order of _______? 23.00, Shaw 31.00. Shaw wife lives at Paoli, if you can send it to her --
I hope before this letter getts of I will have the gratifing news to say that Vicksburg is ours.
I am well but tired. We have quite a peacable time out here. We often hear of rumrs? of the approach of the Rebs but we have got so use to such ____? that we sleep sound and expect to be waked up if they come == but usualy they do not come? - they are verry clere? of fighting unlys they think they have the advantage. I will close for the night by wishing you a good nights rest. Pleasant dreams.
J. A. Ritter
The musketoes are busing so that I shall have to get sleepy before I can rest. As old Joseph sayd _______? in the musketoes.
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July 4, 1863
July 4th, 1863
Vicksburg is ours. Our troops ocupy the city. An other stare? to make the 4th more glorious. We are under orders to march at a moments warnings, perhaps this evening. _____? the Reb General Pemberton went to the Rebel on the 4th day of July, 1861 two years ago. Today he surrendered his forces. The campaigne in Miss. is a success in every particular. The next news you may look out for Jackson or Chatinuga. This is only guess work with me. I am well. I must close. I have many things to attend to to get ready to move. I wish you a happy forth. I wish that we had a telegraph communication. I do not know when I can come home.
John A. Ritter
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July 13, 1863 from Near Jackson, MS
Near Jackson, Miss.
July 13, 1863
I wrote you a note on the 3rd or 4th Inst. The last that I had an opportunity to write since we left Black River on the 5th to ward Jackson. We arrived at Jackson on the l0 where we have been ever since pecking away at the Rebs as the boys term it. We met the Reb pickets about 8 miles from Jackson on the l0 and slowly approached the place. In fact we approached the place slowly from the time we started. Their caveralry was at Edwards Station 18 miles from Jackson. We had several littler skirmishes, some Artilery fighting but as fare as I Know no one was hurt. We drive in their pickets on the 11 and from that time to the present we have had some Kind of fighting every day verry much like the siege of Vicksburg but I believe that the Rebs can get out as they have the use of the Eastern rail road and if we suceeed all that we can do is to drive them a way from Jackson. I am rather of the opinion that this is rather a wild move under the existing circumstances but I hope that it will be successful. We have a great many men sick (chilling).Such men are not fit for service. I did not go to see the city of Vicksburg. There are a great many sick Rebbels in Vicksburg and I expect a Desolate place. I had my horse caught and fixed up to go see the place when an order came for is to prepare to march Imedialy. So I had to Abandon the trip. Some went and came on and overtook us the next day. Thus fare in 3 or 4 days in our division we have had some 20 wounded, 3 killed. One in the 7 Ky., 1 69th Ind., 1 49th Ind. 49 Wm.? Mawery lived near Leavensworth, wounded Edward W. More of Co. G, a verry severe Flesh wound with a shell taking of the skin. Also he was shot in the leg above the knee with Miney Ball. I think he may recover but it is a severe wound. More is a good fellow. If we had all such soldiers as he in this war it would have been over before this. I have been up in sight of the city of Jackson. I saw the state house. I am at the Division hospital one and half miles in the rear of our forces. All of the Boy from our town & vacinity are not hurt. Some of them sick. Wm. C. Sherly? has a rising on his leg so that he cannot march. F. M. Shaw is chilling. I am in tolerable heath, some what fatigued but as yet we have not had verry much to do and I will be glad if we do not in the way of surgery. We have taken of three Legs, one Arm. I do not know when I will have an opportunity to send this sheat?. Perhaps I may add more. I Recd. yours of 28 June yestrday. Your letters begin to come in regular. I want to come home soon.
J. A. Ritter
(margin, page 1) We are fighting Joesph E. Johnson and John C. Brackenridge the latter that America once loved? to honor.
(margin, page 2) We have news of the fall of Port Hudson, that Lee is whip & retreating & that Price was whip at ______? and that old Rosey is after Bragg.
July 15. No news of important, tolerable well, have not time to write, all in fine spirits.
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July 19, 1863 from Near Jackson, MS
Near Jackson Miss
July 19th 1863
I wrote you a letter a few days ago but I expect that ikly it has not been sent out as mail facilitys have been not regular since we got out to Jackson. Our division was in the advance. We had to fight the reb caveralry almost all the way. They contested all the way from _______? Station 8 miles from Black River but there were no general fighting except skirmishing. We lost one man Killed by the ____? Texas caveralry. He was General Osterhaus Orderly. The Rebs were hid on the side of the road the when the orderly came up they haulted him which he did he dismounted gave up his soward. They took his money and valuables then shot him. He died in a farm house but lived long enough to tell all that had been done to him. This was wanton & willful murder. This was on the 10th. On the 11 we ______? the place on three sides and continue a regular seige or skirmish in front for five days. We were trying to get in the rear so that we could have captured them. We had nearly succeeded but they took the hint and ____? _____? with a getting away from their. They evacuated the place on the night of the 16th and made good their retreat across Pearl River leaving us in possession of their Capital. We have whipt the Rebs in every ingagement since we cross the Miss which on the 29 day of April. The fighting comesded? the next morning and it has been but one continual battle. While in this ingagement we lost but few men except in one division Lawmans?. He went contrary to orders he is relieved from his command & is under arrest. He lost over 400 Killed wounded & mising. Most of the mising are probily prisners. We had 5 men Killed in our division & about 35 wounded. Some 10? ____? tolerably badily wound the balance slight two Legs Amputated two Arms amputated one of the 49 was shot through both legs. We wanted to amputate one of his legs but he positively refused to have it done. He took the responsibilitya nd exhonerated the surgeons. If he does not get well I fear that in trying to save his leg he will loose his life. All of our sick that is our wound have been sent to Black river. They started yestrdy. It is understood tht we start for Black river in a short time in a few days and it is the opinion that the 9th Division will go up the River at least as fare as Memphis Columbus Hickman? or some other point up further North. Gen Osterhaus sayd he is agoing to ____? and from their he is a going to let his? boys go home and make some Babys as they are good stock. He says that he loves his boys. The Reb caveralry fired at him one day. He came riding leasurely back the Rebe firing out of a sort of wood. When he came up he say ____? Let them come now I am with my boys and when I have by boys with me I am not affraid of any thing. During the trip from Black River to Jackson he was with the advance guard all the time. We staid one night at a seseshes womans. The boys was catching her chickin __? she asked the General to stop them. He answerd madam you sent me word that you had sesesh enough to protect you. Just let them do it. The old woman was left to take care of her own chickens. I was in Jackson day before yestrdy. The town was on fire to a considerable extent. I expect that they will burn down the principal part of the town. There is a large Quantity of cotton here. It is all orderd to be burnd. The Rebs placed Torpedoes in the road. One of them blew up and Killed 7 men. The prisners were then compelled to dig them up. They placed them in the road that they retreated on. Also they placed one in a banking house that wounded several men one a Col and for such things is the cause of the Burning of the town. We are also tearing up the Rail Roads that concentrate? as this point. I think after this that the Rebs will not take so much trouble to place Torpedoes etc in the roads to distroy the unsuspecting. Johnson made a General Order to his men that they were the salvation of the South and that the eyes of th people were turnd to them, and he hoped that they would improve the acasin to chastise the invaders flushed with victory from Vicksburg send him back Humiliated and expell them from the soil of Miss but with all his boast he was soon saving his valerous Army by flight. The citizens say that he was making for the Tombigly? River. I think that the campaign is over for this season? in Miss. I have no Idea? that there will be any attempt to follow the rebs to Tombigly. Banks has a small Job to clean out Louisana but the Miss River is now cleare of all obstruction. I have no doubt but that it will be in fested with Guerillas for a time but if such be the case I hope that all such bands that can be _____? will be _____?. I have herd to day taht Morgan has made an other in to Indiana. If so I hope that he will meet a warm reception. This thing has been handled to easy from the start when the Government backs down from Hanging the Pirates it gave a license give them Hemp if there are any Rebbels in Indiana give them hemp and these men that talk and do nothing.
I have not seen any papers of late date?. It is reported that Lee is badly whip in the potomac. It that is true it is good news. It looks like that it was expected that Grant would succeed in his expedition in fact such was the feeling of every man I hever herd a doubt express the REbs Citizens told me several times that they never saw a federal but what was confident of taing of Vicksburg and the Rebs were was confident of holding it. If the Potomac Army has not whiped Lee if they will send Grant and his men with him that has been in the Department of Tenn he will clean them out but if they take Grant and give him a set of ____? ____? offices he cant fight he fights ___? that can ___? on the ground ____? rations and with out caviar?. Officers and men all in fine spirits ____? on hard crackers coffee & sugar but when they had the time they live of of the country as for transportation if did not amount to much. They use all they could get ______? crank? vehickle. Cols & other field officers on front others with mules with out saddles. This is ____? Col Thornton Bimet ____? all mounted? on mules with sadles who could conquer such men.
I have __? ____? ____? this Black River. I am well.
John A Ritter
I had almost condluded my letter but have been distrubed by an orderly balling out one man from the 49 to get the Mail. The Mail Received and a letter from you of July 5. I wrote you a letter the same day I believe and soon started for parts unknown but finaly turnd up at Jackson. You say that you want me to come home worse than I want t come but I shall not complain. Indeed I do not I think of the reports be true taht the Rebelion is in it last dieing straphs? and if _____? be I am willing to wear my self out in the service of my country. Home always has been the pleasant place to be and to ____? my feelings I should have been at home long ago. I think this that I ocupy a place that other would like to have. My position will be sought after an some poor Puke that never made a living at home would would ____? to get the place and I want them to have it. ___? I have had a large experience since I have been in the army but I want out. _____? is out of the service he resigned to Keep from being exposed. I am a lone so fare as the Medical department is concerned. I do not expect tha tI can Resigne till an assistant is appointed. I understand that Dr. Thomas is Dead. he was a a good man. I loved him dearly. He was beloved by all that Knew him.
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July 26, 1863 from Vicksburg, MS
July 26, 1863
I take the present opportunity to write you a few lines. Since I last wrote you we have been moving so that I had not the opportunity to write. We started from Black River for Jackson on the 6 and returned to this place yestrday. We were out 20 days. We did not expect to have been out more than four or five days. We had quite a weary sum? time. The weather was verry warm, roads dusty, water scarce, provisions scant. I felt like I was almost home when I got in the vacinity of Vicksburg. We have pretywell cleaned out the Rebs in Miss. I wrote several letters you from Jackson. I hope you got them. It is the opinion that we will be sent up the river but It not certain yet what we will do. From present appearances I think that a large portion of Grant's army will be moved some other point as their services will not be required at this place. We have lost some good men since we came in this department but I expect that there is a Reb undr ground for every one of them (and a few more). They talk about a ______? _______? in Miss. to pick of off our Steam boats. The way to treat them is to let them Know that we will burn up the country for a certain distance, say 25 miles, and do it and a few such lessons will do them. The people are tired of war, all that I have conversed with. The women and children will suffer if theres is not something done for them. I think that a part of the Reb army will have to return to take care of their wives and children. I have seen many things that ______? my sympathys. For some cause that I cannot explain the Rebs all seame to take liking to me and come to me to have favors done for them. The little girls anxiou inquiring to learn the fate of their pa whether we had them prisners of war etc. All such questions could not be answered with a verry few exceptions but they think that all in the army would know who was Killed, wounded, or taken prisner. Many times I have thought of home and my own children. I was in Jackson but once. That was the next day after the Rebs left. There wer but few citizens in the place. The the women wer generaly verry friendly. This I have observed to be the case with most of the citizens in Miss. I have made the acquaintance of many family in this state. They are generaly a genrous people, Kind to the sick and wounded. They done all in their power to make them comfortable though in many instances they but limited means. I visited Vicksburg yestrday for the first time since its fall. In many places the ground was torn up by the explosive of our shells but few houses were burned by the shells. It seames that it was a doomed city yet I think it can be repared up to a verry considerable extent. There are but few of the inhabitants of the place left in it. I presume that most of them went off with the Reb Army. There no confederates that I have seen except some offices. We had some of the same troops that has us surround at the gap. We took the Reb Gen. Steveson and Taylor that commanded the troops that has us pind up in the gap. I saw Taylor but did not Know him at the time. I was truly glad that we got the Tables turnd on them. They Kept us pind in the gap one month without bread seventeen day and on a march of 18 day all the bread that we eat we grated corn on tin plates etc. The Rebs Say that that was the grandes retreat? ever made and that Morgan ought to be made Maj. Gen. for it. That they thought that they would capture us certain, that the plan was laid that Smith was to come up on our left and ______? on our right, Steveson and Taylor in our rear and they counted us captured sure and that they followed us to West Liberty and never entertained an Idea that we could get out till we passed that place but Morgan moved so fast and by such unexpected routs that he fooled them completely. We were much luckyer than they. They had to surrender to the same retreating force and the 49th has never surrendered to any force. The boys call us the Lucky Reg. We have been in many ingagements and have lost fewer men than any other Reg. I saw the 49th hold the intire Reb force for over an hour with having a man Killed. A good deal of this depends on having good officrs. The best of officrs will get into places that they will loose men but oru Col. and General I think do the right thing at the right time oftener than any other man. The Reb works are verry extensive but thay had to strike collors to Grant.
I Recd. several letters from you ______?, one this evening since I commenced this letter of the 17th. It is a pleasure to me to get a letter from you. I sent a Box (mahogeny) and writing desk by Capt. McConehay and $80.00 for John Carter. I hope that will deliver them. Also, I sent a gun and some shells that you have received. I worte you about the gun some time ago. As to the money you have on hand do the best withit that you can. If Powels land is sold and you can get it at a fare price but it or any other land that may be for sale in country that is to say that I think that money invested in land is a safe investment. If Ann Austin wants to stay at our house I would say let her do so and help to get a long. I think that there is few such girls as Ann and she would be a help to you. I would like for Harriett and Mary to School is opportunity afords. Not only the girls but the boys also but you must manage that till I get home but do not Keep them from School on the acount of it costing money to school them.
I am in prety good heath but am prety well worn down with Fatigue but we have cleaned out the Rebs so completely that I bare it cheerfilly. The papers give an acount of the capture of the principal forces of the Reb. Morgan. That is pleasing news. I think the sandy foundations begin to tremble. We have some considerable sickness in the Reg. Intermitent Fevers is the prevailing disease. We have but few deaths by disease but one or two during the month. I want to come home but most of the men are trying to Keep me in the Reg. I begin to let them Know that they have to respect me and they are doing it. The Surgeons of the Division are as clever a set of fellows as I ever were associated with. I get a long with them finly. They want me to remain but I want to come home. I want rest. I have no Assistant at present. I am doing the leighbor of three men. I want rest. Edward W. More is dead. He died of the wounds received at Jackson. He was a verry good man, no better soldier. He leaves a young wife a widow and children Fathrless.
You sayed in one of your letters that little Billy was looking for a letter from me. I will have to write him a few lines. I read to the Col. your opinion of his portrate. He told me to give you his compliments but when it come to the part that you thought there was but one better looking man and that you claimed that one he sayed that he did not Know wheather he was flatterd or not but remarked that he would not give a cent for a woman that did not think her Husband was the best looking man of any others. I will close for the present hoping that the length of this letter will in a measur compensate for the length of time between my last and this.
As ever yours
John A. Ritter
Mrs. Margarett Ritter
To Billy Ritter,
Well my son how I Pete horse getting along? Does the boys feed him well or do they _____? him any more? How do you & the dogs make it? Will mage? drive up the cows or is he to lazy? What is Knap good for? Doese? he run the pigs any or doese? catch any Rats? How is the goats geting? Do you go to your uncle Buskirk any? Do you alway Keep in a good _____? _____? ____?.
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July 31, 1863 from Vicksburg, MS
July 31st 1863
How easy to say dear when the heart respond? it is no no empty? sound?. I have no news of Importance to write. We are campt just below the city of Vicksburg. Our Brigade is or was the 1st Brigade of the 9th division 13 Army Corps. Our Reg is or was the 1 Batalon of the 1 Brigade. That throws us on the right. We front the river. That places us next to town and for a long distance there is nothing but camps Tents Batterys Amulances wagons horses soldiers etc. all in regular? order. There is as much presision in a camp as any other thing conected with military affairs. All that is nesesary to find any man is to Know wher his Division is & to what corps Brigade & Reg & the Letter of his company or what office he holds and his marke? has its proper place. We are transferd to an other division & an other corps & Corps. I do not Know what is the number of Division. We are to be placed under a new General. Gen Washburn he takes command tomorrow. He is a new man to us. We do not like loosing Osterhaus or Peter Joseph as he is familiar Known he has gone home he Says that he has an other command and that he will be close by us. There are a number of men going home tomorrow. Capt Duncan has applyed for a Furlough. John Pinnick & Jim? Breeden will come home on furlough.
We have a good many men sick. Most of the Sickness is chills and fever. We have an Order to issue? ____? grs? Quinine & 11 oz whiskey to every well man in camp before brakefast every morning. I think this will be a good profelactic. Willlet Hamm is quite sick. We have had more to die of _____? since our return from Jackson. One man died with a congestive chill while we were out at Jackson. I have had but little time to look at the works about Vicksburg since we came in. I have been with the sick most of the time and it Keeps me busy. The houses shows signes of the seige. There are but few houses that are clere of holes in them by shot & shell. There are but few citizens in this place. Most of them left before it was attacked by our forces and have not returned. We have cleaned up Miss prety clean. Now the talk is taht we go to Natchize. It is sayed for a more heathy location. The pine riges in the rear of Nachize. I think it would be better to hunt a heathyer location further north. The late order comes down on surgeons and other offices of the Medical Department. No Resignations or Furloughs are to be granted to the account of sickness at present. When the commands are in a more heathy state then they are to have furlows etc. as other men.
I saw Jimmy Jourdon to day. We are campt near the 24. I have not seen John Carter since we left Jackson. Jimmy told me he was well. There is an offer to the soldiers if they weill volunteer in the regular service for three years that they will give them 60 days furlough. A number of the 24 talk of inlisting. Jimmy sayed that he should not that when he got through what he had undertaken that he should go and live with mamma. I see Lum Brown. He is verry well. He is the same old Lum on a gray mule. He drives the medicen wagon. Since I have been at Vicksburg I have met a number of my old Friends. I have quite a pleasant time in many respects. The surgeons of the division are gentlemen that I get a long with well. I have quite a pleasant time with them when free from the Leighbor but that is not often but when free from the toils of the day we spend a many evening. Dr. Stephenson went home from Jackson. I sent a letter by him to you. I told him to take it do any post office in civilization and mail it. I wrote several letters to you from Jackson but I expect that you did not get all of them. The Rebs captured one mail and it is sayed that they wer pay rolled prinsers from Vicksburg with the payrolls in the packets. It is ____? whisperd in some sircles that some of these selfsame fellows happened to fall in to the hands of the 6th Missouri? caveralry. We have the 6th M caveralry with us all through Miss. Well some of these parolled prinsers were found fighting and cutting up their _____? cut they dont do so any more but wheather this is true or not I do not Know. It is said that some of them wer so high that their feet would not touch the ground. I understand from the papers that John Morgan is captured. I wish that the 6th Mo. had to deal with him. He would have made his last raid. I am some what tired and it is about bed time. I will bring the letter to a close but the musketoes will have their time picking my bones the remainder of the night. I wish I was where the musketoes never come at is at the Ritter house. I have lost one horse and I expect if I get a chance to come home that I shall loose an other as they will not take him up the river. Did Capt McConehay ever pay over the money for John Carter and did he deliver the others articles. I think that if he has not done so he will do it. He promised to call and see you. He should have been back before this to his Reg. He left on 20 days Furlough.
John A Ritter
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August 5, 1863 from Vicksburg, MS
Aug. 5, 1863
I am in good heath, hope you are. This is a warme country. The heath of our Reg. is improving. I have a great deal to do. I have no assistant. Smith the Stuart? is unwell, Wm. S. Wilson helps me all he can. What he does not do falls on me. That Keeps me busy but I pass the time better when I am busy than at any other time. The hours do not drag so heavy. I want to leave this place. I think we will all be better. This place has been the camping ground of a large body of troops for a long time. The filth nesesary accumulating from ______? ______? make sickness, add to that the dead animals Killed in a battle of 46 days duration makes a considerable addition but with all our troops are tolerable heathy but not withstanding there is an Order that no medical officer will be permited to leave the department owing tot he increasing crease of sickness. There are a good many sick especialy in other Reg. A good many are dying. None have died in our Reg. We have several verry bad cases but they are getting better. Those that have been to Natchez say that there are lots of vegetables their. Peaches, Water melons, and ther has been some mellons brough to this place from their. They comenst selling at 23 cts. but they ran? up to $3.00 apiece. This was high but all articles of luxury cost a great deal where the soldiers are. I have seen fresh Fish sell for $5.00 apiece at this place. There are a great many fish caught here. They usually sell for $2 to 3.00. We have ice. This is quite a luxury as it makes the water tolerable good but I would rather have a drink out of the spring at Orangeville than any of their Icewater.
I took a ride last evening to the 53rd Reg. Saw John Vestal. He is sick, chills and fever. Also, I saw Frank Kimbley and some other boys from Orleans and Orange Co. L.D. Laferty, L. Ross & others. I often meet with old acquaintances. I have seen John Carter and Jimmy Jourden. They have gone to Natchez. The 13 Army Corps go that McClerands old command Now Ords go to Natchez. There is a verry stringent order as regards private property of the people of Natchez. But if they are much? rebs? if the 49th should be guilty of some overt acts I am of opinion that Col. Keigwin will not put himself to much trouble to find out but if he does I think he will not be verry hard but if a court martial gets after them they will suffer what ever pealty put on them. I hope that they will all get along well but they must talk sesesh to strong.
There are a number of our men going home on twenty days furlough. I sent to you $260.00 by F. A. Sears. He will leave it at your mas?. He called to see me on his way home. I tryed to get him to promise to see you but he sayed that he would have such a short time to stay that he could not promise to go to Orangeville. Capt. Duncan is at home. I see that Capt. McConehays? has married since he went home. We are looking for him back to the Reg. He is overstaying his time as well as some others that got leave about the same time. There are three capts. of the 49th that went of in June on 20 days furlough and have not Returned, McConehay, Luper, and Allis. By men going in that way it makes it hard on those that are left behind and also harder for us to get a leave of Absence. A twenty days Furlough would not be worth much to me at this remote distance but if I cannot do any better I expect to take one but I want a long Furlough, so long that I can stay till I reinlist. I wrote a letter to Betsy Vontrese? day before yestrdy. I have made out the discharge papers for Willitt? Nurm?. His has been quite sick. I expect that they will be approved and I expect that he will be at home before long.
I understand that we leave here tomorroe but you must understand that this is the 6th. I comensed this letter last night. The wind blow so so hard that I could not Keep my candle burning. I had to stop writing. I expect the next that you get from me will be from Natchez. I am still in tolerable heath. I hope that it may continue so. If all the time that I may have to stay. This climate seames to agree with me tolerable well. I would like to live here if everything is a social line was equil to the north but under present rule any other place for a residence. The orthintys? have orderd out in mass the intire population but I think that that move is only the means of making more widows and orphans. I think that they will get tired of if after a while. They have had the worst of the bargan since we got after them. I hope that they will Keep Morgan close and all of his followers. I was fearful that they would let him get away. As to the men that he had with him I do not look on them as honorable men ingaged in an honorable war. They are free bottes. If all such men had been so treated at the start of this war it would have been over long ago. I must close, yours as ever.
John A. Ritter
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August 10, 1863 from Port Hudson, LA
Port Hudson, La.
Aug. 10, 1863
I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines. We left Vicksburg, Miss. on the evening of the 8th, arived at this place yestrday evening. We were about 24 hours making the trip. We had quite a pleasant time. We shiped on the steamer Diana. It was a large boat, had quite agreeable and pleasant officers. We are at one of the strong hoads? that the Rebs quite recinly held, but like Vicksburg they had to yield to the influence of powder & Ball and that is the way this thing is to be settled and the sooner it is so understood the better and go at them. I have not had the time to look at this place. Those that have examined it think that it is not as Strong a place as Vicksburg which I think is true. We furloughed a number of the boys from Vicksburg. They will get home long before this reaches you or at leas I suppose they will. Willit Hann is discharged. He has been verry sick. He was some better when I left him at Vicksburg a waiting transportation. He will need great care or he will likly die yet. Joel Herbert, Wm. Sherly, & Elwood ______? have furloughs. I felt verry much like that I wanted one. There are but few Offices of the 49th that has not been home. There is one thing the Reg. has never been any place that I have not been with it. I had a leave of absence 48 hours while at Bardstown Ky. to go to Louisville on business for an other man. With that except since the Organization of the Reg. the Reports will I presume show me present. I have done my duty faithfully. The good of my country has prompted we but I am coming home the first opportunty. I cannot now tell when that will be. I may have to stay till I get sick. I do not want to get sick and hope that I may Keep well but if I get sick as I have been in the service, I think I can get a Resignation through. I have a good many friends in the profesion? in the army. They will do all they can for me. The heath of the Reg. is tolerable good. We have some Flux, a good quantity of dierrhea, a considerable quantity of Intermitent and Bemittent Fever. We lack Quinine. We do not have enough to answer the purpose and in this climate there is a greater demand for it. I think if the Sanitary Commision would turn their attention to this one thing there would some lives? saved?.
For some distance up the river the people are at home cultivating the land. They are raising corn instead of Cotton. The corn looks well generaly. Most of it seames to have been planted late. We have wattermellons but they cost verry high at Vicksburg. They sold for $3.00 but Old Grant put a stop to it. There is but few things that escapes his notice. He sayed that they should not extortion on the soldiers in that way that if he herd of Melons silling at that price that he would arrest the party selling. They usualy sold for 50 cts. to 1.50. He also isued an order that if he new of a daily paper silling for more than 15cts. that he would arrest the party. Papers usualy sold for 25 to 50 cts. a coppy. We eagerly look for Boats to bring fresh papers. We get New Orleans papes. Things has put on quite a different Style since as the nativs say the yankeys have control of the River. We have Steam boats plying regular. There are a few Gurillers still infesting the river but since the surrender of Vicksburg they have not been so plentifull or more Shigh. They will have to have a few Lessons yet. I hope that they will get a few. We have had Ice while at Vicksburg. It is said that there is Ice brought to this place by way of _____?.
We are in Banks Department. I cannot see what they are consintrating troops at this place for. It may be to threaten Mobeal or to attack Mobeal. I do not Know how Davis will get a long with his conscript. He has called out the people in? Miss.?. Since we have been in this department we have distroyed? a Great many rebel troops. At Arkansas Post we took 8000 prisnrs, at Thompson Hill 1000, at Champion Hill 5000, at Black River 3000, at Vicksburg 27000. There were some prisnes taken at Yazoo City I do not Know how many. At Jackson I do not Know how many some 6,000 which would make at leas 50000. Add to that the number Killed & wounded and you can begin to form some estimate of what old Grants army has been doing. At Vicksburg there was 16 000 stands of Arms that had never been unboxed in the original pack (English make). The Rebs have lost 500 pieces of artilery. This I think will give them a lick back. It is talked that Grant is going to the Patomic. I think he does not want to go unless he takes his western troops with him. If I reamined in the service I would likt to go East. I am as fare south as I wish to be at this time of the year.
I am in good heath. This country seames to agree with me verry well. Hope you are well. The mails have got rung a gain. Have not had a letter from you for 3 weeks.
J. A. Ritter
(margins, page 1) Though absent in body present in mind.
(page 4) I have your likness sitting before me. It reminds me of the past. You are not so young now as when it was taken. I would like to see the original. What has become of Billy & his School Marm?
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August 22, 1863 from Carolton, LA
Aug 22 1863
I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines. I am in tolerable heath much better than when I las wrote you. I had a chill at Port Hudson about two weeks ago. Since then I have been in tolerable heath. Our men are getting better generaly. We have a nice camp. We have had considerable rain since we came to this place but it was not verry muddy. Our camp is verry grassy so is the town. The houses are generaly small with trees peculiar? to this climate Figg Oranges & pine etc. but I would not like to live here. I think it much more unheathy than a more northern climate. There has been no yellow Fever here for three years. That may be oing in part to the stopage of imigration to this place since the war commensed. There has been but few ship in this port for two years. Most of the people of Carolton are Germans. They want to return to their country that is the Father land. The love of home seames to be a principle? implanted in the bussam of every one. Love of home & country. I was down at the city day before yestrdy. I was on business. I soon return?. Every body was strange & I found no interest only in the buisness. I soon returned to camp. I saw 20 Reb prisners on the streets guarded by Negro soldiers that was humiliating to the soldiers and it did not look right to me. I had never been use to seeing such things?. Poor deluded south. The only Protection that they had for their slave was in the old constitution. The thing that they repudiate and they are verry sharp. They Know all the places where we violate the constitution and claim it protection point out to them where they are violating the constitution they will not admit that they are under any obligation to the constitution that they repudiate it but you must stick to it. We are not in the U S but you are. You acknowledge allegiance to it. We do not but that wont win with old Grant or Osterhaus. I expect it there is a man on earth that has the eturnal & inveterate? hatred it is Osterhaus by the sesesh. It was reported that he was dead or Killed at Jackson. There was general __________? but he was not killed. I hope that he will live to fight as long as this rebelion continues. He has been assigne to an other command. There is a general complaint against his being separated from his old command. Neither does it set verry well to be transfered from Grants Department. We loved all our old commands but we have to make new acquaintances. They may be as well as our old officers but that is to try the others are tryed and true.
I must close. I hope you are well. I would be glad to see you and the children. Have the children to write to me. I read their letters with a great interest. I wrote Billy a letter. I am looking for an answer.
As ever yours
John A Ritter
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August 25, 1863 from Carolton, LA
Aug. 25, 1863
I take my pen to write you a few lines. I am not verry well at present. I had a chill to day that lasted for some 3 or 4? hours. That is I was lain up for 3 or 4 hours. I am able to be about this evening. I think by taking Quinine I will not have an other. I felt verry well this morning till about 11 then I took a chill. We have some men that will start home in a few day on sick leave & Furloughs etc. We have a lot of men that are over staying their time. We are looking for them back. They will have to be here by the last day of this month or they will be reported absent with out leave. That is the day that we muster for pay & every man has to be acounted for. I am Brigade Surgeon or senior surgeon of the brigade as they now term it. I still do the dutys of surg of the 49. I have no assitance yet. The country in La. is not in the condition that other places that I have seen. The planters are at home generaly cultivating their plantations. Our camp is infested with huxters with every thing imaginable to sell in the way of some thing to eat, cook up ?. The boys are trying a great many things to eat from them. There are many places of amusement here. I went out to the Lake is only place that I have been--only where duty called-- since I have been here. I went in a bathing in the Lake. I also say women in bathing trying to learn how to swim. The firs time I ever saw such a sight. The women had on shirt tail cloth gowns but their legs would acasionaly get above the water. The ______? left us. We hired a hack that brought us half way back and we had to foot it the balance of the way about 4 miles. We paid for the whisel that time. The lake is a great resort. We got supper out their. You call for any thing you want and pay for what you. There were 6 in the party. Col. Keigwin had the supper ordered. We had a fish that they catch out of the lake they call crockers and an other animal they call crabs. I could go the crockers verry well. The balance of the party braged verry much on the crabs but was willing to take their word for it. The crocker was good enough for me. The looks of the crabs satisfied me.
I commensed this letter on the 25 this is the 27. I had a chill on the 25. Took a big lit of quinine on the 26. Think that I will not have any more chills till about two weeks. I am much better to day. I got a letter from you dated 10. There is some neglect some where in the postal arrangements. I have written to you at leas once a week often twist. This is what I aim to do to write twice a week. I often do not get a letter from you for two & three weeks at a time then sometimes I get 3 or 4 at one time. The men are trying to get me to take a furlough and come home on a visit and not resigne but I shall try to resigne as soon as an assistant surgeon is appointed so that I make over the publick property in my hands. They want me to stay. I am not contented to stay under existing scircomstances. Yet I am to all appearances satisfied. I am not one to make a great to do about any thing. I sent a letter to you the day that capt Duncan started home. Also I sent $260 dollars by Maj. Sears? which I hope you have got. I coult get 20 day Furlough from here and it would take most of the time to go and come in that I would have but little time to spend at home. This is quite a pleasant place. The health of the army is tolerable good. Col. Keigwin starts home on Furlough to day with several others. I shall send this letter with some of them and they _____?.
I have no news of importance. The news is that Charlston has fallen. This needs confirmation. I hope that it is true. If so an other of the strong hols have gone up. The thing looks rather dark for the Rebs. I hope that it may still be darke. It looks like that they are generally done for a for a while. I hope that they may be satisfied. I hope you are well and and doing well. I would be glad to see you and the children & I hope that it will not be long till I see you. I think that it will be a happy time when we are together as in times past. I have changed in many things but my affections for home & the associations have not changed. I expect if I get my resignation through I shall come by New York.
Yours as ever,
John A. Ritter
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September 1, 1863 from Carrollton, LA
Sept. 1st, 1863
I have been tolerable sick. I shall start home in a few days, as soon as I can close up my business?. My papers have been accepted. I am a citizen once more. I. ______? and John Sears called to see me. John is going up the River this week. We? will go together. I am getting better. I was a well as usual till I took a chill some 7 day a go. I have had? Remitent Fever. It has run me down verry fast. I think the Fever is broke. I am quite week, but will.......
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