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Letter to the Editor
From Lt. Jonathan O'Brien, Co. H

The Waukesha Freeman
June 16, 1863

Camp in Helena, Ark.
June 3d, 1863

Mr. Editor: I write you this communication not for the purpose of giving you any great information, for there is no news of importance, so far as I know at present, and nothing transpiring worthy of notice., except a vast number of transports that are traveling up and down the river both day and night. Large numbers of soldiers are daily going down to Vicksburg; and let me tell you that our Regiment would be glad to go there instead of staying here, working hard every day, and performing so much picket and guard duty; and worst of all, staying in such a sickly place as this, with those most dear to us being placed in mother earth, without even having consolation of thinking that they died while protecting the flag of our country. Oh, there is nothing that disheartens the soldier more than this! How good it would seem to us, and to all, to think that our brother soldiers instead of lingering out their lives in the Hospital, could start, full of life and vigor for such a place as Vicksburg, and die, if need be, to protect the constitution and flag of our Government.

Soldiers take delight in talking about the heroes who fell while in battle, but none ever like to think of the sad way men die in Hospital.

Would it not be a blessing to the northern soldiers if 'Old Abe' could get slaves enough to hold the sickly places and protect our commissary stores, and such like, and allow the brave soldiers to go forward and trample Rebellion under foot. Yes, it would be a blessing, and all the soldiers would be willing and feel happy to be relieved by them. I care not, perhaps, as much as some about the freedom of the slave, but while we are at war with rebels, and they using all means in their power, I think we at least should use a portion of ours.

Some people in the North clamor a great deal, saying that the soldiers are not willing to go into battle and fight with the negro by his side. When such folks have been in the service as long as we have, they will see that the soldiers are willing to cooperate with anybody to defeat the enemy and gain a victory.

While out on our scout towards Cotton Plant, and during a conversation with some of our prisoners, one of them quietly remarked to me that he did not consider it right for our Government to send negroes to fight against them - that we ought to come out in an open field and have a fair fight, &c. Such is the way he talked; and he was one of the guerillas whom we caught and was found in a wheat field, with a revolver in each hand, trying to get a shot at our scouts. This reminds me, to a certain extent, of the way some people in the North talk. They say, like that guerilla, that we should go out in a fair field and fight the rebels, while they are the ones who dare not go into a fair field, but will prowl around and do all the injury they can. They will also - like the guerilla - tell you that it is unfair and unjust to arm the negro and enforce the Conscription act, and, in fact, when you come to the point, they believe it is wrong to whip the rebels.

If such persons only knew what they are thought of by the soldiers, and could hear the threats that some of the soldiers make to such and such persons living in their neighborhood, they would not speak their minds so freely before contemplating their own personal safety.

I am sorry to announce the death of Sergeant T.J. Johnson, Co. G; also Robert Killips, of Co. B, whose father came down here to see to his welfare, but did not arrive until after his death.

Yours, &c.,
J.L. O'Brien
Co. H, 28th Reg. W.V.


Information transcribed from the Waukesha Freeman newspaper of 16 June 1863 and generously shared by Bruce Laine, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.