Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Letter From Vicksburg

As a nice bookend to the Gettysburg letter, this one was sent from Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 10, 1863. It gives a Western flavor to July of '63. Written by Adjutant Edward P. Stanfield, 48th Indiana Volunteer Infantry to his brother Howard. He is in the process of paroling the numerous Confederate prisoners that Ulysses Grants Army of the Tennessee had penned up and finally captured at that important town. The letter contains some interesting details about the surrender and the make up of the rebel forces. Again this appears as it was written save for paragraph breaks. Illegible words appear in [], to the nearest guess by the transcriber. (The Picket)

Stanfield writes:

Head Quarters, 48th Indiana Vols

In Vicksburg, Miss. July 10th

Dear How,

I've just received your letter of the 30th inst. yesterday. Doubtless the good news of the capture of Vicksburg has reached you on this. We are greatly elated by our success especially so because it happened on the 4th. That fact is galling to the rebels. On the 3rd about day light a flag of truce came out of their works and it soon was rumored that a negotiation was going on. Grant and Pemberton sat together under a peach tree and discussed the terms of surrender. Night closed in and nothing had been effected, for Pemberton tried to carry every thing with a high hand. His proposition was, to be permitted to march out of town with their colors, arms, etc. Grant would have nothing but an unconditional surrender. The night of the 3rd was so quiet and calm as if peace prevailed.
Artist rendering of the meeting published after the war.

Orders for the celebration of the 4th were issued. 34 rounds were to be fired by every battery in the line at [meridian] and 13 at sunrise. The rebels [dreaded] it and at day light they surrendered with the understanding that they would be paroled and sent home. Such an arrangement was much better than sending them North. Here it is six days since the surrender and the paroling isn't finished yet.

In the meantime the rebel soldiers dispirited and homesick have mingled freely with our men and been treated kindly by them. The effect has been wonderful. They have discovered that the Yankees are human beings and not the men they were represented to be. Two thirds of this rebel army is lost to the Secession cause. They will escape to their homes and defy the conscription. Hundreds of them are taking the oath of allegiance and going North. Many are escaping across the Mississippi river. I think Mr. Pemberton will have hard work to get such a large body of  un armed into a parole camp. When the paroling is finished they are all-- Pemberton at their head-- to march out. I suppose you know how many cannon and small arms we took. It is stated that there were here 50,000 stand of arms – which hadn't been taken out of the boxes – for Price's Army. These guns are perfectly new and hadn't been used. An order has yet been issued stating the number of prisoners but they are supposed to be 32,000 including sick and wounded. The history of the war cant show another such a success as this, from the beginning to the end.
As soon as Vicksburg fell six brigades, including ours were left here and the rest of the army under Sherman started across the Big Black for Jackson. I hear that there has been some little fighting with Johnston but it didn't amount to much as Johnston took good care to keep at a respectful distance. I expect we are in possession of Jackson by this time. We are rapidly repairing the railroad in that direction.

Among the rebels are a great many Indianians: Joshua Miller, son of the furniture Miller at South Bend is here. Alex La Pierre [?] our Serg't Major found a cousin and the Adjt. Of the 59th Indiana found his half brother.
[So your the world]-- I hope to get home sometime before Winter. Its about impossible for well man to get a leave. But I am bound to go before many months if I have to get “dismissed the service”. Capt Hart started day before yesterday. He was quite low and hardly fit to travel. The Colonel hasn't sent in his resignation and he will be out of the service in a few days I think.
Give my love to Ma and Eva and the young 'un,
Your affectionate brother
E.P. Stanfield [1]

The 48th was organized at Goshen, (Elkhart county) December 6, 1861. Up to the time of its participation around Vicksburg the regiment had been at the siege of Corinth, Battle of Iuka, Second Battle at Corinth, Jackson, Raymond and Champion Hill. During the siege of Vicksburg the regiment was part of the May 22 assault on the rebel works where they lost 38 men killed and wounded. [2] The men hailed mostly from the extreme northern end of the state, mostly from Elkhart, Jasper, and St. Joseph counties, with a fair sprinkling from Whitley, Marshall and Greene counties. It is this fact that makes Stanfield's discovery of “a great many Indianians among the rebs” so surprising, especially the man from South Bend.
I have always enjoyed old letters and diaries, and I really enjoy transcribing them. At times that task is quite difficult due to fading ink or the way the letters of alphabet were shaped in the 19th century as opposed to today’s standard. It is challenging at times but the value of the letter should not be overlooked. They often give us small details, such as the 50,000 muskets destined for Price's army, that may be brushed aside in more scholarly treatments of the events. In this case a fast check of the Official Records does not reveal anything about it. It does not mean that it is not true, but it does give a direction for further research. Although, in relating the musket story, it appears Stanfield is passing along second hand information. It does make sense though given Vicksburg's prominence as a shipping point.

I hope you have enjoyed the two letters posted here. More will come but I have no plans on becoming a transcribed letter blog. There will be just enough to be interesting without being tedious. That is unless my loyal readers request more. Then I will be happy to oblige!
The Picket
1- Indiana Historical Society, Transcribed from the original by Steven R. Gore
2- Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana, volume 2, 1865. page 480 Google books at
Drawing Credit

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