The Waukesha Freeman
April 12, 1863
The Twenty-Eighth Regiment
On Board St'r. St. Louis at Dr.
Curtiss' Plantation, 3 miles above
Fort Pemberton, March 23d, 1863
FRIEND H : - In my hastily written letter of the 21st inst., I promised to resume my brief summary of our operations before Fort Pemberton. If I remember I had written the items up to Saturday, the 14th inst. About 10 a.m. of that day I received orders to go immediately aboard the steamer Wenona and take command of the boat and two companies of the 46th Indiana Infantry, and proceed up the river on a foraging expedition. After steaming up the tortuous course of the Tallahatchie about 15 miles, I saw a mile ahead a large drove of cattle standing upon the shore. As I was after beef among other articles of subsistence, I told the Captain when he reached the designated spot to land.
As we approached, I noticed that negroes were driving them off down a lane leading from the river to the timber and canebrake some 80 rods back. It instantly occurred to me that the proprietor suspected the object of our mission, and if I got any cattle out of that lot I would have to act promptly. As soon as the boat touched land I went ashore and upon walking 5 or 6 rods met a man with a long cane - asked him if those cattle belonged to him, he answered 'yes,' in a very surly tone and with a very menacing air. I said - "you will have them drove back immediately." - Throwing himself back on his dignity, he said he would like to know upon what authority I talked to him in that manner. I told him that I had not time to discuss the little matter of authority with him just that moment, but was terribly hungry for some fresh beef. He attempted a reply, but I stopped his utterance with the somewhat startling announcement that unless my order was instantly obeyed I would send him aboard the boat. He looked at me and then at my escort of half a dozen stalwart soldiers with fixed bayonets, and after a moment's silent deliberation, with trembling voice called out to an old decrepid 'colored gemman" to go and drive up the "stock."
As soon as I saw the old cripple start I said, "you start on the run, that one, and that one (pointing to two smart boys among a group of a dozen or more) after the cattle, with instructions to overtake them and turn them back before they get into the woods." He came to quite promptly, gave the required orders and the boys took to their heels finely, and in about three minutes I had the satisfaction of seeing the cattle on the back track and standing before me a very indignant and outraged citizen of the State of Mississippi, which of course put me in good humor. Accordingly dismissing the stern expression which I presume my countenance wore during my rather unceremonious introduction, and clothing my face in the blandest habiliments I could muster, considering the state of my health, I opened a conversation with him in reference to his plantation, and it was not long before he became good natured and freely gave me his personal history and his views concerning the rebellion, and before half an hour had expired, gave me a very pressing invitation to dine with him, which of course under the peculiar circumstances of the case, declined.
Rev. Consider Parish (for that is his name) is now 60 years of age, was born in Massachusetts, graduated at Williams College, and at the age of 23 years came South as a teacher, and in the course of a few years went at the laudable business of preaching the gospel according to the Presbyterian faith, and a few years after married a wife and a lot of niggers. For the past 20 years he has divided his time between raising cotton and human ebattels and preaching, giving to the former six days of the week and to the latter one.
He is the vilest specimen of secess'n I have yet seen. He abjures and curses the land of his birth and his kinsman, and regrets that he was not born beneath a southern sky. He believes that before the first of January '64, the Southern Confederacy will be acknowledged by the Northern portion of the old Union as an independent Nation, because the Democrats, he says, will have control of the House of Representatives, and to prove it produced a copy of the Chicago Times. He knows the speeches of Vallandingham by heart, and thinks Gov. Seymour will array the whole power of the Empire State against the General Government, and on the side of the South. He talked eloquently about interests of the North-west and the Southern Confederacy being identical or reciprocal' - that is, the one raise niggers, cotton and sugar; and the other raise corn and bacon to feed niggers on, and wear cotton and eat the sugar, and enterchange of these staples, would give life to an immense commerce on the "Great Father of Waters." He wanted me to note in my memorandum book his prediction that within the year the independence would be acknowledged, and that another year would not elapse before a Northwestern Confederacy would be established and asking for a treaty of peace and commerce with the Cotton States.
These are the delusive hopes of the people of this section of the country - hopes they never would have indulged in for a moment had there never been any 'Copperheads' at the North. - Northern sympathy has already added millions to our National debt and prolonged the war for months. The rebels admit that if the North was a unit in sustaining the Administration the rebellion could not hold out much longer. It rejoices our hearts to learn that the 'Copperheads' are carrying with them in their traitorous schemes but a small portion of people. - We have an abiding faith that we left at home loyal men enough to take care of the traitors in their midst. I don't think it will be safe for a 'copperhead' to show his fangs after the army returns home.
But to return to my Rev. Secesh friend - we staid with him about 3 hours, taking aboard two milch cows and half a dozen beeves dressing about 3,000 pounds meat, a lot of corn meal, poultry, &c. I gave him receipt for the stuff upon which he can get his pay upon proof of loyalty to United States Government, which of course he can never do, and all of which will be clear gain on Uncle Sam's balance sheet.
We dropped down stream about 5 miles and paid our respects to a Mr. Henry Ferrandis, a gentleman of Spanish extraction tracing his lineage back through a dozen generations to the cavaliers of Spain who first settled in this country. He is very wealthy in lands and negroes, or rather was when the rebellion first broke out. He received me in the most gentlemanly manner, and after I had set the men to work putting on 200 bushels of corn, accepted an invitation to go into his house and had a very pleasant interview. I found him far more liberal and consistant in his views of the state of the country than the renegade yankee I had first left. Though he had a come to have a good deal faith in the final success of the rebellion he still would prefer the old Union. He said he made no professions of loyalty to the Government, for that was an impossibility in this section. I was welcome to take all the corn he had, over what was necessary to feed his negroes, which I did, and about sundown started for camp with a good load of supplies, arriving at headquarters made my report by eight o'clock p.m., thus ending my first Foraging Expedition, all of which I enjoyed hugely, as also a dinner the next day on a most excellent fat young turkey which was secured on Consider's Plantation.
Some few shots from the gun boats were exchanged with the rebels during the day without any special results.
On Sunday the 15th inst., not a gun was fired on either side. The weather was warm and pleasant. Just back of Dr. Curtiss' house is a beautiful Indian mound, rising in the shape of a cone to the height of 30 feet, the apex being about 25 feet in diameter. On this mound religous services were held. Gen. Fisk officiated as preacher. He is a Methodist, and used to follow the preaching business before he went to the wars. Monday passed without any excitement. The men are living on shore in their tents; not a gun fired on the 17th; a good deal of reconnoitering by both sides - the same on the 18th.
I went up the river a few miles after a load of rails for steamboat fuel. On Thursday, the 19th, all was quiet on the Tallahatchie until sundown, when the order was promulgated to immediately strike tents to go aboard the transports, which was done with great quietness and alacrity, and by 10p.m. all except those on guard and picket duty were asleep once more on the boats. About 4 o'clock the next morning all on the outposts were called in, and at the first streak of dawn the signal was given for the steamers to get under weigh in their assigned positions, and by sunrise the last transport bid adieu to the old plantation of Dr. Curtiss. We did not break the blockade of the river at this point, but our work up to this time is not without results valuable to our cause and disastrous to the rebels. It is estimated that up to the present, should we now retreat and abandon the river, the pecuniary damage to the country we have passed is not less than $5,000,000. This is the very heart of Southwestern rebeldom, a section the rebels had supposed could not be invaded. By course of the pass and the Cold Water and Tallahatchie we have already penetrated it 225 miles through, in an air line about 80 miles East of South from Helena. - Here the soil is of great fertility producing immense crops of cotton and corn. If we succeed in getting down the Yazoo and running up the Yallabosa and holding possession of these rivers, there will not be enough corn grown to sustain the people of this state for the coming year. I think we shall accomplish our mission, not, however, without hard fighting. The rebels I think have concluded to make here their "last ditch" in which to "die" or conquer in. We know nothing of what Banks is doing, or what progress is being made at Vicksburg. Immediately on our arrival here today the gunboat Chilcothe steamed down within 800 yards of Fort Pemberton and fired 7 rounds into the same without getting any reply.
Our troops on land surprised and took prisoners 14 men, who mistook our advance for their own men. - From them we learned that our firing on Friday, the 13th, did frightful execution among their men, and the opinion is entertained among our leading officers that had we pressed on we could have taken the Fort. Gen. Quinby is now Chief in Command, and he, in-turn will yield it to Major Gen. McPherson, when the whole force of 40,000 men are massed at this point. Our force now is about 9,000 men besides the gun boats.
March 24th, 7 p.m.
I have just learned that a hospital boat is going up tomorrow morning, so I close this letter to send on the same. It rained all last night and most of the day, and the weather is so cool that a fire to sit by is very comfortable. The 28th was out through the whole of it on picket duty.
I have been busy all day in getting 10 days rations for the regiment aboard the boat, hence I have not time to put into this epistle all I would like to. I am now quite well though not in my usual strength.
Hoping to hear from you often, and that this effusion will not exhaust your patience in the effort to read it.
I remain yours, ever E.E.