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May 31, 2013

Letters from William Christie of the 1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery, to his father, James Christie, and from Charles Goddard, from camp near Falmouth depot, to his mother – May 31, 1863

Filed under: Civil War Daybook — Lori Williamson @ 9:00 am

Christie letter about the battle for Vicksburg:
May 31st [1863] Camp close By Vicksburgh
Dear Father [James Christie,]  I will try in this letter, to de[s]cribe one of the Grandest sights, I ever saw.
This morning at three oclock, the Batteries of Gen. Grants Army at his Place, oppenned at once on the doomed city of Vicksburgh. And the effects of such a sight allmost defies description.  The line extends some eight miles round the Beseiged town.  There is Artillery enough on this line to shoot from one to the other. Now just stand with me on the Point where our Battery is Placed, and see the vivid flashes of the Guns, like lightning, and the showers of shell, as they made there quick curves through the air, hissing and hurtling, and finally explodding with a report almost as loud as the Gun.  The air waved like the sea, and vibratted with a hoarse murmuring sound, While the valleys were filled with the loud thundering sound of the detonation of the firing of the mortars. Boats, on the River and the flash of there shots, were seen on the Backgroun[d] exactly like lightening.  But still there is one phase of the scene I have not spoken of and that is the Burning of the fuse, in each shell, while they are going through the air. The fuse burns, with a blue light, and looks to say the least[,] very Devilish. and I have no doubt the secesh [rebels] thought so. we kept up the connonadeing for over an hour, and made some excellent shots. Tom and I worked on the gun together[,] he as four, and I as three, so you see when there is anything going on we are generally close together and we were volunteers at that. there was not much danger in the dark from the Rebel sharp shooters, But we have to stand our ground in the daytime, and the[n] we have to dodge the Bullets frequently. I have been doing the duties of Driver No. 3. Ditto also on the gun, and I don’t see as there [w]as much danger at the gun as there is driving.
[…]
William G Christie


See the whole Christie letter here: 1863-05-31_Christie_combined

Goddard letter about the dusty, dry weather, his pay and recent events at camp:
Camp Near F. [Falmouth] Depot
May 31st 1[8]63
Dear Mother your kind letter was duly received this evening. it was dated May 26th. We have been having any thing but nice weather lately, not rainy, but so dry and dusty that a fellow can hardly breathe. I suppose that a citizan would call it fine, but it hath no charms for me. we have to do so much marching, reviewing, and Parading that such weather is very disagreeable. a little rain would make it very pleasant.
When I read your letter to whare the lot had been taken to pay for the tax I was ripping mad but when I come to whare it was redeemed I was all right again. We have been paid again, two months pay this time $26.00 twenty six Dollars, ($15.00) fifteen of which I inclose to you, and then I have for my self $12.00, but will send you part of this if you need it bad. it may be some time before we get paid again. although the report is current that here-after we are going to be paid every 2 months[.] if so I can send more.
Every time I think of old Finn I have to laugh. he presented rather a comical looking picture when he attempted to clime [climb] a greeced pool one fourth July, with his pockets full of sand and would keep applying the sand to his hands to keep from slipping down. I guess he had been partaking to freely of intoxicatering drinks. he is very fond of fireing salutes but it costs him something once and a while. I suppose you remember the time he shook all the glass out of the brick bank windows with that old six pound brass piece and then paid damages[.]
I was on picket yesterday at the Lacy house. the Rebs are very quiet about talking across. they did yell over some after Joe Hooker had recrossed the river but I think they don’t much like the way Grant is coming the giraff[e*] on them in the west. The Sanitary Commission Depot is at the Lacy house and Mrs. Lee makes [her] + head Quarters their. Old Gen. Hancock is in command of this Corps now, but I think only awhile Couch goes home on a furlough. he probably will be back soon[.]
Ely recd [received] a letter from his mother to night; but, he complains of no news. I dont want to complement you for I dont like to be complimented my self, but I do think you wright more news than most of the people writing from their. some how some people will write to a fellow and devote the whole of his or her letter to reminding you that they want all the news that you can possably pick up, but I am very fortunate not to have any such coraspondents. Hancock reviewed our Division the other day, rideing past with more dashing young officers tied to his heels than old Gen Hooker and that is useless.
I got a letter from Cousin Smith Goddard now in Navada Territory and he sais he don’t like the country, but that wedges [wages?] are very high from $3.00 to $4.00 per day. he also said that provisions wer high in proportion to wedges. He thinks he will come back to the States in about 18 months or two years and take the world easy as long as he lives. I think from what he said that he is sick of the new country[.]
Well Mother[,] Give my respects to all of my friend[s.] love to Brother
C.E. Goddard


See whole Goddard letter here: 1863-05-31_Smith_combined

*“coming the giraffe”:
Possibly meaning wasting time on a pointless task, from the French phrase peigner la giraffe (combing the giraffe), though this doesn’t seem to be what Goddard intends.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/mind-your-language/2013/jan/04/mind-your-language-idioms
An 1861 New York Times article uses the phrase in a way similar to Goddard’s usage.

Citations:
May 31, 1863, Letter from William Christie to his father James, Civil War correspondence, May 1863-February 1864. James C. Christie and Family Papers, 1823-1849. Minnesota Historical Society. [P1281 box A]

May 31, 1863, Letter from Charles Goddard to his mother, Correspondence 1863-1929. Smith, Orrin Fruit and Family Papers, 1829-1932. Minnesota Historical Society. [P1434 box 1]

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