III. THE FIRST FIGHTS:
THE CIVIL WAR JOURNAL OF
You must tell the world the story; When the boys in Blue are gone.”
―John Hendricks, Union Civil War Veteran
Andrew's Scanned Handwritten Letters 11 through 12.
• Scanned Letter 12 ― 15 Feb 1863
On December 20, General William T. Sherman led his Army of 32,000 men, including Andrew, from Memphis to Vicksburg. After encountering minor fighting around Vicksburg shortly after Christmas Day, Sherman gathered his forces on the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg on December 27. On December 29, Sherman's forces made a concerted effort to break through the Confederate defenses at Chickasaw Bluffs (on the Yazoo) five miles northeast of Vicksburg. But the assaults were repulsed, and the operation was a failure. As a result of Chickasaw Bluffs, the Federals suffer 208 fatalities, 1005 wounded, and 563 missing. Southern losses tally 63 dead, 134 injured, and 10 missing.
General Sherman was ready and eager to try again. But on the last day of 1862, General John A. McClernand arrived on the scene with his new wife in tow, and a very different idea in mind. Seeking to deliver a Federal victory for President Lincoln, McClernand superseded Sherman, and took command of Sherman's Army on January 2, 1863. Andrew and the 114th Ohio were caught up in this organizational squabble between McClernand and Sherman. Grant was unable to intervene as he was still regrouping from the destruction of his supply depot in northern Mississippi.
Almost immediately, McClernand decided to attack Fort Hindman, Arkansas, or Arkansas Post, about 50 miles up the Arkansas River. McClernand saw this as a means of relieving a growing threat to the Federal right flank or rear, as the Confederates had been sending armed detachments down the Arkansas to harass Federal shipping on the Mississippi. In this unauthorized movement, McClernand began transporting 30,000 troops up the Arkansas on January 4.
On January 10, 1863, McClernand's troops, supported by 50 transports and gunboats under Rear Admiral David Porter, surrounded Fort Hindman and laid siege. As told by Andrew, "the gun boats give them hark on the river and the land forses by land". After the three-and-a-half-hour land and naval attack, Confederate General Churchill surrendered Fort Hindman to General McClernand on January 11, 1863. During the Battle, the Federals lose 134 men, suffer 898 wounded, and 29 missing, while the Confederates tally 28 killed, 81 wounded, and 4,270 prisoners taken. Although a Union victory, the operation failed to materially weaken the Confederate hold on the Vicksburg area.
However, both General Sherman and Rear Admiral Porter have become so disgusted with McClernand's overbearing manner and pompous military pronouncements that they begged Grant to come to Vicksburg and personally take command. Grant showed up on January 22, and was soon convinced that Sherman and Porter were correct in their assessment of McClernand. Despite McClernand's protest, Grant took command on January 30, and concentrated his forces on the Mississippi River for a campaign against Vicksburg. The army assembled here now numbered about 45,000, and was divided into three corps under McClernand (XIII Corps), Sherman (XV Corps), and General James B. McPherson (XVII Corps).
An observation from this group of letters is the emotional stress that Andrew appears to be suffering, perhaps as a result of depression, and the scenes that he has witnessed. He does not discuss these battles for over a month after his participation. In both letters, he tells Bell how hurt, even angry, he is that he has not heard from her for some time. For the first time, Andrew expresses to Bell concerns about his health, and complains of diarrhea. These letters confirm that Andrew has most indeed traveled "on to vixburgh".
January the 13 1863
My dears dear I have taken this opertunity of sending a few lines to you but I am all most out of hart for I have not had a leter from you for a long time the last I had was dated the 23 of November I did not no wheather you was dead or for got me or what had hapened you I tell you it made me feal bad to see the rest the boys a geting leters and I cood not hear from you nor th children I have seen many ups and downs since I left you but have had my heal th first rate we have ben down the mascipo river to the mouth of the azooz river and tride to rout the rebels but did not dew it we drove them back two miles ins to their forti fi cations and then we left them and came back up the river to the mouth of the white river and started up that and went a few miles to a place that is called the cutoff and went a cross to the arkansaw river and went up that to a fort they called arkansaw post and whaled them and got some five or six thousand priners the ar a goin to saint lewis we ar hear but how long we will stay hear I do not no nor whare we will go I cant tell
I have heard ther has a grate many of that regment deserted and went home I have heard that they have had a fite at nashville and we whaled them
now frank I dew want to hear from you if you intend to send me any more leters and tell me how the things sold at your sale and how you got a long in moving and all a bout it
direct your leters to memphis tenasee in the care of Capton abreham OVI
So farewell for a while A. J. Nickel to I. F. Nickel
February the 15 1863
My dear beloved wife I received a leter from you the 13 of this month for the first that I have received from you since the one dated November the 18 I beleave it was the last one that you sent to marietta and I have riten five or six I riten one at Cincinnata and one at Camp oliver and one at helena arcanses and as we went on to vixburgh and one at arcanses post and had got no answers so I had got all most out of hart about ever hearning from you anymore but still lived in hope Some time the first of this month but did not say whare you lived or how you got a long she ondwy said she had been up to see you and my sweet children and I told her to rite how you was a geting a long an whare you was a living but still keep a riten and I will one wance and while and I will dew the same I am out of envelops and stamps and we have not any mony yet if you cood send envelops with out two much expenses for your funds which I expect is small as well as my one for I cant get any hear nor stamps neather but I can send them with out stamps my heal th is pretty good now but not quite so good as when we left marietta it remaind good till we started up the river from the chicasaw bluffs whare we had the fight but their was none of our company hurt in the fite their was one of them shot him self in the hand with his own gun in the left hand but as we went up the river I got a bad coald and then I took the diaree but I got some beter and when we went out to arcanses post to take that place I went out with the reg ment but our division was cep on th west side of the river to per vent them from crosing the river and geting a way for the fort was on the other side but the gun boats give them hark on the river and the land forses by land so we had nothing to do so I was put out on picket and about three o clock in the morning it comensed raning and we was out till three in the after noon and it was raning all the time and hard and I took a very bad coald and then the diaree a gane and it got me down very weak but I have got a good apetite and feel some touter so I think that if we stay in camp a while I will get my heal th first rate a gane when we left arcansaes post our regment mite have went to memphes a gane if it was not fit for dewty but our drunken lewtenant cornel said that the 114 had not dun any thing yet and it must before it went up the river and so he got himself under arest and so he has resined since we landed hear we ar in a bout five miles from vixburgh and have ben hear we came in camp three weaks last friday and the health of the boys is geting beter but we had two to di hear one was bered to day and lew tenant rolend died to day he has ben sick ever since we was at vixburgh so I must close at presant right soon and direct your leters to the 114 regment by the way of caro Elinois in stid of memphis tenasee
Andrew J. Nickel to his dear beloved wife ) William hess is ded
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I. Andrew Becomes a Soldier... |
II. Headed South... |
III. The First Fights... |
"THE CIVIL WAR JOURNAL OF ANDREW JACKSON NICKELL"
"Battle Hymn of the Republic" -- U.S. Army Band -- Public Domain mp3