IV. LAYING IN CAMP:
THE CIVIL WAR JOURNAL OF
Although General Grant still believed that the best approach to attack Vicksburg was from the east, circumstances committed Grant to an attack from the River. Grant resigned himself to a campaign against Vicksburg with troops assembled in camps on the western side of the Mississippi at Milliken's Bend, Young's Point, and Lake Providence, Louisiana. His three corps of about equal size were commanded by McClernand, Sherman, and McPherson (with a fourth corps under Major Hurlbut guarding west Tennessee). Andrew and the 114th were assigned to the Ninth Division, Second Brigade of McClernand's XIII Corps.
Andrew's Letters #13 and #14 dated February 23 and February 27, 1863, are written from Young's Point, Louisiana near Grant's base. This was low, flat land, and Grant's Army had arrived during the wet season. The winter of 1862-63 was a period of especially heavy rains, causing the Mississippi to crest above its banks from December until mid-April. In his letter #13 of February 23, Andrew complained, "it tew low and swampy to be healthy". Grant's Army's primary challenge was the environment. The conditions were wet and deplorable: mud, rain, swamp, disease and lack of shelter. The health and morale of Grant's Army suffered greatly.
On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the final version of his Emancipation Proclamation* freeing the slaves within states and territory still in rebellion against the Federal government. With morale already low among the Federal troops near Vicksburg, Lincoln's Proclamation initially created additional dissatisfaction among men of the 114th who threatened to desert. Yet Andrew displays the true worth of his character when he writes Bell, "I dont like the idea of deserten so I will stick to it till I can get a way honerbel in the site of god."
In addition to the work done on "Grant's Canal", Andrew's Letter of February 27 is one of his most informational and interesting letters. In this letter, he gives a visual description of the food that the men ate, and the bartering that went on with the crews of the navy gunboats. But perhaps most importantly, Andrew goes on to relate the common soldier's attitude and perspective toward President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclimation.
* Important distinction: Unlike Mr. Obama's "Executive Orders," Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was during wartime, and intended to adversely impact States engaged in armed resistance against the United States ― not law abiding middle-class American's.
february the 23 1863
Well My dear beloved wife I have taken my pen in hand to let you no that I am in prety good heal th at presant I received your leter of January 30 on the 13 of this month and also the one dated January the 15 on the 16 of this monthe and the one of the 7 of this monthe the 22 I had got no leter for so long and when they started to come they come all at once but let them come for I was so glad to hear from you that I hardly new what to dew the first leter I got from martha Nic and I have got one from Margret harden I suppose the rebels got the one that you wrote on christ mas and the stamps for they captured a mail boat a bout new years at the mouth of the arcan saw river and when we toock arcanses post there was some of the rebels was telling the boys that they had some fine young ladies in the north and they said that their was one woman had writen to hur hus band and said that they was all well but the baby and it had a bile on its ass and I suppose that they got min tew well my dear I am sorrow that I can not get to go home for it is all im posabel to get a way for when lewtenant rolen was sent up the river siries wanted to go with him and the Generel said that he could ondly pass him to caro Elinois for that is as as far as our military lines went and he could pass him no further So it is hard to think that I can not go I recond but I would be aw ful glad to get home this spring and stay their for I am tired of this war and I don't like this flat hot cuntry for it tew low and swampy to be healthy for I think so well you said that William Mcafferty had ben out to see you and wanted you to moove back to monrou agane on his plase and you also sade that he had of ferd you a good ofer you now best for you no how you get a long whare you ar so I dont no what to say but if you would like to go in the matix house you no it is a bad house and no water nor no wood handy their is some things handy for when their is froot you cood have per haps what you wanted I expect but the bad house and no water is the worst but if you could go back whare you was I would like to have a chimley and a good fir place but the other house is open and would be cold in the winter and their is no chimley to it but you no what he promest you and I dew not no so you will have to dew the best you can but I will be home as soon as I can get to come I am in hopes that their will be peace made some time soon Jarome Shockley and felix hatfield is both dead but the heal th of the boys is geting beter since we came in camp here at youngs point So fare well for a while rite soon and I will dew the same Andrew J. Nickel to Isabela F. Nickel
february the 27 1863
My dear beloved wife I have taken my pen in hand to let you no how I am geting along my healthe is goo in every way ondly I am weak I received your kind leter of the 13 on the 24 and was glad to hear from you all we ar still a laing in camp hear at this place it is call youngs points in lusiana a bout three hundred + yards from the river we have not got any pay yet but it is reported that we ar a going to get a bout 16 dollars a peace in a few days that is to be pade up to the thirty first of october and that will be a bout 16 dolars so i dont no what to dew for I would like to send some money to you but I am a frade that it would not go for some times leters dont go any but I no you must nead some for I dont know how you have got a long as long as you have for you have never sade a word a bout how you get a long wheather you had a nuff to eat or not so I would like to no how you get a long you said that you wanted to no what we had to eat we have side bacon and pickeld pork and some fresh beaf and some barled beef put up at columbus ohio that is the kindes of meat we have and we have drawed some meal and the boys makes mush and fry it and some has kooked unins and leds and they can make them pones and we get lite bread and crackers our Company saved too barls of pickel pork and sold them to the boats for twenty dolars and we took the money and bought two barl of potatoes and we had to give six dolars and fifty cts a barl and our sutler had unions and we got some of them and we had some good messes so we fair first rate their is a grate deal of dis sates faction in the army a bout the proclimation that the President made last fall a bout the Emancip tion bill they have got to think that the war is Just to free the niger and nothing els they think that it is not for the union so they are not willing to be exposed for the sake of the niger they say if the polecy is not change they will desert and go home but I dont like the idea of deserten so I will stick to it till I can get a way honerbel in the site of god it is imposibel for m to get home this spring their is a grate many troops hear now and the say that their is still more a comen down the river but how trew it is I dont no we ar a making a canall a crost the bend of the river in frunt of Vixburg and when that is dun the gun boats can get be low very handy and can shell them on boath sides So fare well for a while
From Andrew J. Nickel
To his beloved wife Isabella F. Nickel
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