Sunday, February 10, 2013

1863 February 8 Parish St. Jean the Baptiste

                                                      Parish St. Jean the Baptiste
                                                      Bonnet Carri  Feb 8, 1863
Brother Samuel
            The last time I wrote you, we were, I think, at Carrollton
or at Camp Williams, for I have forgotten whether I wrote you
before or after I was sick; if after, it was a Carrollton.  Since that
time, as you may have learned, we have left that place and are
now, and have been since the middle of Dec., at this point on the
river.  It is about forty miles from New Orleans at a bend of the river.  The
importance of having troops at this point is said to be this, at this point 'tis
but eight or ten miles to the lake.  Besides the lake, runs the N.O. and Jackson
railroad.  At this place there is an opening through the swamp to the
lake, also another about ten miles up.  This would be a good place
for an army to dross did they design an attack on New Orleans.  At
these paths we throw out strong pickets, but all they have to
do now is to take care of the straggler that came down the
railroad.  We have a Brigade at this point.  Col. [Franklin S.] Nickerson is in
command.  It is a good healthy location, but rather too far
from the city to get the paper often.  But we get used
to that.  Still we get news that are at times rather unpleasant.
For instance, about ten days before We got news of Rosecrans'
victory, Bragg's victory came to us, "A great victory, the yankees
ran six miles" they, the rebels were in full pursuit.  But it
turned out that he, (Bragg) forgot to mention that he was
checked in pursuit and driven back with great slaughter (actu-
ally, Bragg was losing then.) At Vicksburg we for a time had
bad luck, were, as you know, beaten, but at this second
trial, it seems we are doing better, we have it from
the rebels themselves, that the Williams Cut, that they

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laughed at so much, is now cutting its way through in splendid
style.  Larson, who has been on the rear for a long time ,says that
the river will make a permanent channel through the cut, so that
the good people of Vicksburg will have a chance to repent at their
leasure[sic] of the folly of seceding.  On the whole I feel more hopeful
than for some time past.  The ball is rolling on.  One good victory
with the Army of the Potomac would be worth a great dealt o the
country and to foreign nations.  All eyes are turned to it from the
fact that so near to the capital of the United States they (the
Rebels) have dared to establish their government, and up to this time
they have succeeded in defending it.  It seems to me that a victory,
however great in itself, in any other part of the country would not
have the moral effect that would accompany one on the Potomac,
or with the army of the Potomac.  All others seem to be cutting at
the branches, while the tree itself stands fast with roots untouched.
But I hope we have seen the darkest days.  May the New Year
bring us new victories.  The proclamation, you will have seen, has no
effect in the parishes on the banks of the river for some eight
miles or more above New Orleans. The reason of their being exempt,
I suppose, is from the fact that the parishes elected Representatives
to Congress, but the vote, as every one knows, was very small, not
one in five voting at all, the fact is, and every one here who looks
around him can see it, that not one of the planters on the
river is a Union Man - some - many - are sick of the war, but
you cannot find one who, in heart, does not exalt as much over a
Federal defeat as over a Rebel victory.  And this is the only
part of the country where the slave owners have suffered very

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severely. For miles along the banks of the river more than
one half of the slaves here have run away.  When we landed
at the place in Dec., the slaves came in by twos and threes
till at one time, about two weeks after we landed, we had
fifty or more.  Now we feed some three hundred men,
women and children, and have sent away as many more to
New Orleans and Carrollton.  We sent away fifty stout, able men
at one tome to enlist under Gen. [Thomas S.] Sherman.  Quite a number of men
are required to man the heavy guns at the parapet.  Gen. Sher-
man proposes enlisting contrabands (Negro slave brought within Union
lines) as heavy Artillery, and has one or two batteries maned[sic] by
black men.  All say they make good soldiers.  The best part of all is
that they can never again be slaves, it seems to me impossible if they
have one spark of manliness in them to suffer themselves to again be
enslaved.  A great many of them are as ignorant as brutes, but again
some among them are quite intelligent, they will act as leaven.  Some
months ago, in the Atlantic, I read with much interest an article on the
overthrow of serfdom in India, and as the serfs were described I could
not help comparing them with the plantation slaves that we have been
in contact with for the last six or eight months.  The slaves, as I said
before, are down almost to the level of the brute, but for that we
must thank slavery.  And it would be almost impossible to elevate
and educate the adults, but the children can learn as well as the
children of white parents.  I know this from the fact that a large
part of the free colored population of the city know how to read,
and are anxious that their children should learn.  Also, you will
remember,when I had my fever last fall I stopped at the house

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of a free colored woman.  the lady who owned the  house was
very intelligent.  She told me something about the free people of color
in the city. Many of them own property, some are rich, yet all feel
the importance of educating their children.  She told me that although
they they[sic] paid taxes for the support of schools, yet they had no privilege
and are obliged to send their children to private schools. This they do,
and the question has come up, if the children of fee blacks learn to
read and write, why cannot the children of the slaves.  Of course they
can and if they are free, they will.  Many of the contrabands wish to
learn to read but at their age they are rather dull scholars.  Gen. Banks'
forces have not started as yet from Baton Rouge, but are soon to move.
Gen. Sherman is in command of the troops for the defence of the city
of N.O.  We are in his division, how long we are to stay at this point no
one knows but the Gen. commanding -  He will not take the trouble to let
us know.
     We have had quite a pleasant winter so far, not more than a
fortnight of cold weather all told.  some days have been quite hot, as hot
as June days at home (Maine), roses have been in bloom all winter,
though some frosts of late have almost spoiled them.  Accept my
thanks for your picture.  I prize it much.  Jasper Hutching is at Baton
Rouge, Lt. in the 22d Me. (Maine)  I have not seen him yet.
                                      Write often, Afc. Brother
                                                    Henry (Gardner)

Later copy of a letter from [William] Henry Gardiner/Gardner of the 14th Maine to Samuel Gardner of Brewer, Maine, with the words in parentheses supplied by the copyist.

MSS 5533-k

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