Baton Rouge, July 8th, 1863
My Dear Mother
I dont know as you will expect me to write so often but I feel pretty well today and reading an old Sab-Sch-Advocate1 made me think so much of you that I will write for I know you think oftener of me now Luther has got home and are glad to hear from me though I do not write anything new or interesting. I know just how you act and feel when they bring in a Letter from Hen and I often think of you all as you used to sit when I came home from Boston.
I have never felt homesick and it surprises me that I am so contented but I think anything I undertake or ever shall voluntarily you wont know it if I am dissatisfied. It wore on me considerable working in Boston and if I had had my way I should have gone off but Father knew better than anyone about it. I have often said that when I got out of this I would do as I felt and thought best. I have been little better than a Slave ever since I left School and I am an Abolitionist now.2
I said I felt pretty well today. I have left the Old Hospital and am now in the old Camp of the 116th N.Y. who are now at Port Hudson. Corporal Weston and I thought we had been there long enough so we went to the Medical Director and got a pass to come here yesterday afternoon. We have got a tent to our selves and have a real good time. We are front of the Deaf & Dumb Institute and up a few Rods from the River and have a nice breeze all the time.
We have very little to do but attend two Roll calls the rest of the time move round. This morning we went to a place just below here and had a long talk with the Negroes, got some green Corn to roast and climbed up some Trees as large as Cherry Trees and filled our Shirts with nice ripe Figs. I have got a lot here front of me now and I wish you could have some of them. We shall go down there every day and anywhere else where we can get anything. The Corn went good too, roasted in the Ashes. If we ever do get paid off we wont depend much on Uncle Sam for a living for a few weeks at least. They say the Paymaster is here now. I hope so.
Charlie Graham is here now and Weston has just cut a Buck Shot out of his Arm below the Elbow, it went nearly up to the Shoulder and glanced down below the joint. The Boys were wounded all sorts of ways and have many narrow escapes.3 I shall carry that Shot in my side as long as I live. I dont believe it will ever trouble me much. I have not got over the hurt yet but it has heald up so that I dont put anything on to it now. Just missed the Bread Basket and if it hadnt been for my Letters it would have been worse.
There was a dispatch came down that Vicksburg is taken. If it is so you probably heard of it as soon as I did. Now for Port Hudson and then the worst of the fighting is over but the Guerillas will have to be seen to. I think they will "dry up" now but if not I want to see them all shot. It would pay for Government to imprison them and feed them on Beef Steaks and Plum Cake rather than Parole them. It would be just like them to Parole all the Men taken at Vicksburg.4
I think our Regt. will go to New Orleans and do Provost Duty. then I can hear and get things from you often We have not had a Mail for a long time and no knowing when we shall. Hyrum Nye is here and has not heard from home these two Months. he looks pretty well but is rather weak yet. I make him stay in my tent half the time and the time is passed off more cheerfully Hyrum thinks Lute must be having great time's and I think so too. How you can enjoy yourself now for Lute will ride considerable and you can go with him. If I were you I would go all I could for I think you have worked about hard enough to enjoy yourself for some time to come and I wish Father would take it easier but I'll bet he's haying it as hard as the rest of them
— Thursday afternoon
I could not finish your Letter yesterday for the wind and Rain came near demolishing our Tents and drowning us out You have no idea what terrible Thunder & Lightening we have and the rain comes down in better style than it does up north. Today it is awful hot and I go round Shirt and Pants open. Barefoot, looking saucy as you please.
I ate 4 ears of Corn this noon and have nothing to do but wait for Supper. We shall have Baked Beans tomorrow morning & again Sunday. Wont I lay in ? We have every reason to believe that Port Hudson as well as Vicksburg has been taken and the 9 Months Men have had orders to be ready to leave & join their Regts when they come down. I dont feel very bad because I aren't going. perhaps I shall be up that way yet. We shant stay here much longer but join the Regt. and then for a good rest through the hot weather.
I have not had a Letter for a long time but I have written most every day. I wrote to Mr Haynes5 and expect an answer. What he will do for me when I go back I dont know but I'm sure I shant worry much about it for I dont relish the idea of going there again and perhaps I shant. We will see what turns up between now and then and then talk it over.
I dont want you to write if you have to get up so early, take your time and write me how Lute enjoys himself & what he finds to do. Does Father work very hard this Summer? I wish I could be with him & help him. I guess I could keep out in the Sun with him if I could'nt load quite so well. How do you get along with Johnny—Charlie and the Girls. Write me all about them and tell Father to write me a good long Letter. Give my Love to all the little ones and to Father Lute and Johnny.
With my Love and wishing you health & happiness
Co I 38th Mass
Three Yrs Vols
1 The Moulton collection includes two newspapers, one is The Well-Spring, published by the Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, Boston, Friday, July 30, 1847. The fact that it survives perhaps hints at the depth of Henry's religious convictions and deep emotion to his mother.
2 This is a revealing paragraph deserving explanation. Henry continues to harp about his clerk's job at Ditson's music company where he was "treated little better than a slave." You may recall Henry's negative comments in his May 9th letter regarding the plantation slaves and the abolitionists — his tone has changed for he states "I am now an abolitionist." During the first assault on Port Hudson, when the committed Union regiments were stalled and being decimated by Confederate crossfire the First and Third Louisiana Native Guard, two all black regiments, were called into action. They had been deployed previously to work on a pontoon bridge — black troops were not intended to take part in attacks due to general prejudice against Negro troops in the Union high command. The Native Guard was in the worst possible position for a frontal assault yet they attacked fearlessly, taking heavy losses and drawing some of the Confederate focus away from the stalled white Union regiments.
3 Henry shares more details about his wound and alludes to the actions of his comrades (see also July 2nd letter, footnote 3). Alfred Weston enlisted at age 18 from Ossipee, NH. He was a corporal in Company I and like Henry was wounded June 14, 1863 at Port Hudson. He survived the war and mustered out a sergeant.
4 Vicksburg surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant and his union forces on July 4, 1863 the day after Robert E. Lee met defeat at Gettysburg. Less than a week later, July 9th, Port Hudson surrendered. By May of 1864 Grant had risen to Command the entire Union Army and he instituted a policy in which there would be no more paroling of Confederate prisoners. He realized it was now a war of attrition and like Henry saw the folly of the prisoner parole system.
5 Mr. Haynes (John C. Haynes) was a partner in the firm Oliver Ditson & Company where Henry worked.