December 31, 1863

Hd. qrs. 11th Corps Lookout Valley Tenn

My dear Mother

I would like to transcribe for you my exact feelings and circumstances tonight – for they are altogether such that if you were to know them accurately you would certainly be relieved from all anxiety on my account – and more – for finding that I am actually contented and in good spirits and I might add the same of Otis and that our health is good – this goodness of God will I trust make you happy.

I am sitting in Otis’ tent by the same table with him. He is writing to Lizzie. It is almost midnight – the last day of 1863. I shall not attempt to review in this letter my life during the eventful year now so near its close. It is too crowded with momentous events. One year ago I was in our Camp of 2nd Divn 2nd Corps near Falmouth Va – Maj. Whittlesey was with us. Sometimes I fear we do not love God and think of Him so much now since we have come to this Corps – but I hope it is not so – And certainly He has manifested His goodness no less abundantly to us since we have been here.

I chose this paper because I have been writing upon it quite steadily all day and I wished to tell you that I have just completed twenty six pages of this kind – a kind of recreation – a sketch of Otis’ life which I have prepared for publication in accordance with the solicitation of a young man – an artist whose acquaintance I formed here recently. If the sketch is published I will send you a copy.

You will not be surprised if my handwriting shows marks of weariness of fingers – or if my fingers make marks indicative of weariness or indeed of my weariness of fingers make illegible marks. But I ought to be more serious as the old year is dying. Continue reading

December 22, 1863

Hd. qrs. 11th Corps
Lookout Valley

My dear Mother

I often write you hurried and I fear very unsatisfactory letters. I keep my own conscience clear by reasoning that if I waited for suitable opportunities always I would not write so frequently and that perhaps it is preferable to have poor letters often rather than have better ones much more seldom.

This afternoon I hope to have leisure to fill my long sheet – a confiscated sheet, by the way, from the office of the “Athens Post” – a Rebel newspaper formerly published at Athens where we spent several pleasant days in East Tennessee. We captured the Editor also and Otis is making the attempt to exchange him for our friend A. D. Richardson Correspondent of the N.Y. Tribune now in Libbey Prison Richmond if alive – captured in trying to run past Vicksburg last Summer.

It is a cloudy day and will probably end in rain. It is I suppose about time for the rainy season. We are fast getting ready for it. The men are at work making “the General” a new log house. They are also making new mess quarters for our little family. We have taken in Col. Hayes now so we have now six members. Colored people accumulated wonderfully in our recent campaign into East Tennessee and we have two colored women (and one of them has two children) in the service of our mess. One is cook – the other – a girl of 16 or 17 – is waitress.

Speaking of mess – I will enumerate the articles of food for dinner today (as far as I remember) that you my know how luxuriantly we fare – notwithstanding the dryness of this Country and the fact that the troops have only 3/4 rations. Continue reading

December 20, 1863

Headquarters Eleventh Corps, Lookout Valley

My dear Dellie,

I was sorry to learn by a letter from Ella that your health is so poor – and your own letters some of them alluded to the cause for it. If your health is not good and studying makes it worse (as it usually does) I am sure it is better that you suspend awhile – even one season. Perhaps if you remained at home reading a little generally and “choring” about with the diet and care mother could give you, you might get well and rugged by Spring and renew your studies with fresh vigor.

You know I suspended a year after leaving College and many young men find it necessary to do the same. Health first then you can look to studying, earning money or anything you choose – but without health our frail machines are useless and indeed might about as well be destroyed as to get out of “running order”.

I sent my last to you from Cleveland – adding a brief Postcript there. Two days after we reached our old camp here – last Thursday afternoon. Next day it became cold and for two nights water has frozen 1⁄2 inch thick in our water-pail. Continue reading

December 17, 1863

Hd. qrs. 11th Corps Lookout Valley

My dear brother

You will smile at my two story pink sheet [the letter is written on long pink paper]. It is some paper captured and confiscated from a Rebel newspaper Printing office – “The Athens Post”. We were glad enough to get back to our old camp and valley yesterday. Troops marched by way of the base and over a portion of the nose of Lookout Mountain – in coming from Chattanooga here. The night before we were at Tyner’s Station on the Knoxville & Chattanooga R.R. and the night and day before that were at
Cleveland. Thence I sent a letter to you adding a brief P.S. in pencil the morning it left. Now I shall take pleasure in answering the two letters from you which Col. Hiram Hayes brought me there, thus agreeably celebrating the event of his first joining the Corps.

It was the first mail since leaving the north end of Mission Ridge – where when the fight of Sherman in which one of our Brigades was engaged and in which I lament to add poor brave McAloon (formerly of our staff but at that time commanding his Regt.) was mortally wounded. When darkness had closed the fighting that day (Wednesday 25th Nov.) we were chased by a mail. A letter from you mailed the 16th Nov then reached me. From that time no mail nor newspaper save one till last Monday at Cleveland nearly three (3) weeks. Besides the brief letter enclosing Everetts oration at Gettysburg another Nov 29th & 30th when you had them of the battle. You were right in supposing our “Trains would not follow in the rapid pursit of the enemy”. My letters will have informed you how we even swung off from our base completely and still managed to supply our troops and to get on as comfortably almost as ever. Continue reading

November 15, 1863

Headquarters Eleventh Corps Lookout Valley

My dear brother,

[...] They fire every day more or less. Yesterday a Shell buried itself three feet in the ground within a dozen yards of where Otis & I were riding along. They possibly fired at a Wagon-train which was passing near us. As soon as we get the roads all corduroyed to Kelly’s Ferry, the wagons can go a route very little exposed. Our Head quarters are rather long range for them besides they are somewhat concealed by trees and we have no apprehensions that they will trouble us from Lookout though shells have struck within one quarter of a mile this morning.

I suppose this would be quite near enough for our peaceful people at home. I might say it is quite near enough for us but still we are so accustomed to the noise and so well aware of our safety when they are that distance from us that we have no more feeling of fear than father would have should he hear the sound of turning out a cart load of stones – which you know makes considerable noise.[...]

Your Affectionate brother C H Howard

November 12, 1863

Lookout Valley, Tenn.

My Dear boy,

I have just received a letter from Mamma. She says Guy has improved in reading. I am glad to hear this for a poor reader seems like a poor scholar. In this part of the country I have not met a little boy who can read or write. There are no school houses. Hardly any of the grown up people can read. They make their mark. […]

From the high mountain the rebels throw shells down every day with their guns: only one or two have done us any harm. They fire at us in the morning. […]

Lovingly, Papa

Oliver Otis Howard to his son, Jamie [Oliver Otis Howard Papers]