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

December 13, 1863

Hd. qrs 11th Corps
Charleston (on the Hiwassee) Tenn.

My dear brother

If Capt Stinson had not just upset my little pocket ink-stand I should have written you a tremendously long letter upon this stupendous sheet. The paper was captured from the office of the Athens Post – a flourishing Rebel paper publication as its name indicates – of the town 14 miles above here. I believe I did not write you but I wrote mother a brief letter from there. It is the County-town of McMinn Co. There are many warm union citizens – men, women and children there. Sherman caught the Editor of the Athens Post running away into the mountains, trying to get off toward North Carolina or Georgia. He was originally from New Jersey but told Sherman he was a Secessionist. So Sherman says he shall advise his banishment to the Coast of Africa since that is the only place where Secession can be allowed. Some old copies of the Athens Post show that the Editor was a rank Rebel. He had some pretty daughters and Gilbreth (Lieut.) who boarded there had most vivacious discussions with them to use a mild term.

You perceive we are wending our way back. The Rebels, while we were gone, got at and destroyed this Charleston R.R. Bridge which we spent a whole night in repairing on our way up. So we had to rebuild it – taking another day and night’s work. Continue reading

December 10, 1863

Hd. qrs. 11th Corps Athens – McMinn Co. Tenn

My dear Mother

I will have an opportunity to send a letter to Chattanooga by an officer we are to send there for Coffee & Sugar & Shoes for our troops. He will start at 11 tonight and now it is ten o’clock.

We have been listening to music from the 33d Mass Band. Gen. Sherman is in town and has been here (at Mr. Claige’s) where our Hd. qrs. are. We came to town yesterday. He came today and we gave up our Hd. qrs at the Hotel to him and have <Camped> here. Mr. Claige is a union man and his wife is very much of a lady. We took Supper & will take all our meals with them. They have plenty of Negro servants. He is the cashier of the Planters Bank of Tennessee – quite wealthy. Athens is a pleasant town. We may remain several days waiting orders from Gen. Grant.

I wrote you at Loudon on our way up and mailed the letter last Sunday at Knoxville. We hear by Gen. Sherman that Burnside moved out in pursuit of Longstreet after we left but with what result we do not know. The force under Foster at Cumberland Gap moved also upon Longstreet’s flanks and is said to have a portion of the Rebel Army in a tight place to use a phraze. I think we will move down to Charleston on the Hiwassee River soon. This will bring us 15 miles nearer Chattanooga. We wish to keep East Tennessee entirely clear of Rebels while we are here at any rate. Continue reading

December 9, 1863

Hd. qrs. 11th Corps Athens (Tenn.)

My dear Sister Ella

This is rather a delicate sheet upon which to begin a letter to a young lady I acknowledge but besides the fact that this is the only kind of paper I have and the last of that, you will find before I get through (if your patience holds out) that I have enough to tell you even to fill a “foolscap” sheet.

Hd. qrs. are at the hotel of this town – the county seat and most considerable place in the vicinity. […] Athens is partially at least a merry town tonight. There are quite a goodly no. of Union families and besides the natural exhilaration from the presence of U.S. troops. I have had the 33d Mass Band playing up on the balcony of this house all the evening until a few moments ago and I now hear there is a distant quarter giving bad dreams to Miss Secession by playing “Yankee Doodle” that most detestable of all tunes to the genuine Rebel. […]

Did I mention coffee and sugar? It weighs upon my mind – not the coffee and sugar but the astounding announcement made by our mess-man tonight that it was all gone from our larder (ambulance). We have taken most of our meals with the good union people or other choice families on the march in hopes to keep up our supply. The people have wheat coffee or sweet milk and some few have a little coffee with a great deal of dried sweet-potato – but that our right royally loyal family I have mentioned at sweet Sweewater had the genuine article of coffee – the real old-fashioned Rio. You might know they belonged to the Constitution as it was and the Union that shall be. But the inquisitive mind of my sister must be satisfied – and know that Mr. H. was wise enough to get a quantum sufficit of coffee and like luxuries from Louisville at an early stage of the war and the supply still holds good. Continue reading

December 4, 1863

[Mailed at Crab Orchard Ky. Dec. 15, 1863 ] Headquarters Eleventh Corps,  Loudon Tenn.

Dear Brother,

We are waiting here for other columns to get in position and cross the Little Tennessee, when we will all move forward to the relief of Burnside and against Longstreet if we can find him. The latter has about 30,000 men & made an unsuccessful though but a partial attack on Burnside last Tuesday. We can get no news since. The garrison here escaped but we captured flour & meal enough to feed our command two or three days. This morning we put a Regt. across the river and they drove off the Cavalry videttes of the Enemy and just now I learn they have found four cannon abandoned by the Rebels. In our advance the 15th Corps comd’d by F. P. Blair has the right Wing. The 4th Granger, the center and the 11th, (ours) the left. Today we have been building our bridges across the Little Tenn.

Sometimes we fear Burnside will not hold out (as he has only 15,000 and is probably short of provisions). Then again sometimes we fear Longstreet will get off to Va. In the latter case we will congratulate ourselves on Burnside’s relief and a campaign grandly successful and important in its results. But there still seems good reason to believe that Longstreet tarries. Not a quarter of an hour ago we learned that our cavalry Regt. left to guard the bridge at Charleston (the Hirvasee) had come away and that the Rebel Gen. Wheeler was approaching. It is a pity an Infantry Regt. had not been left there – still we chased a Rebel Infantry Regt from there. Wheeler will probably destroy the bridge and pick up some stragglers – possibly some wagons – but we are without trains and have none on the way to join us that we know of. So Wheeler will find the rear unusually dry. Continue reading

November 18, 1863

Lookout Valley, Tenn.

To the Editor of the Portland Press:

I notice in the Eastern Newspapers a great deal of misconception relative to the operations of that part of the Army of the Cumberland (including the recent reenforcement from the Army of the Potomac), which undertook and accomplished the opening of the Tennessee River and thereby relieve the starving forces at Chatanooga.

The enclosed order from Gen. Thomas gives so clear a statement of the results combined with a complimentary mention of prominent parties engaged that I hope you will find space for its publication.

The accompanying characteristic order of Gen. Howard was received with unusual marks of gratification by the officers & soldiers of his Command.

Please insert in large type in some conspicuous place in your Paper that the Rebels still hold Lookout Mountain. If some of the Editors of Northern Newspapers or some Correspondents who furnish vivid accounts of scenes and operations here, though themselves never nearer than Bridgeport, (30 miles off), could pass along this Valley during any one of the Day-light hours and have one of these air rending, earth-shattering shells come swooping down from the Upper Regions, past his head – he would appreciate both what is meant by Lookout and the possession of it; at if the lesson is not too dearly learnt – he will be able to inform his readers that the River is in our possession all the way to Chatanooga with the exception of about a mile opposite Lookout Point commanded by the guns of the Enemy not yet dislodged from the Mountain. The Peninsula across from the Pontoon bridge at Brown’s Ferry to that at Chatanooga is less than two (2) miles wide. Lookout Point is above three (3) miles from the city. So that there is an actual gain of distance in landing supplies at Brown’s Ferry. But the “Suck” (or shallows) between Kelly’s & Brown’s doesn’t permit <you> easy passage of the boats and so by crossing another peninsula formed by the Tennessee wagons can reach Kelly’s in a distance of five (5) miles from Brown’s, the boats usually leave their cargoes at Kelly’s. The Rebels did hold all of this portion of the Tennessee as also twenty miles more of it towards Bridgeport.

This was adroitly wrested from them by Gen. Hooker’s Command cooperating with forces from Chatanooga. The Southern papers say it is incomprehensible how the Federals got so complete possession of Lookout Valley in so short a time and not less so that Bragg should have suffered <there do so>.

Charles Henry Howard to Editor of the Portland Press [Charles Henry Howard Collection]

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