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Kehrwecker Family Papers - MS 641

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On board the Steamer Hiawatha
Wednesday, Jan. 7, 1863

Mr. Maxwell, Dear Sir,

I received yours of the 19th last Sunday, which was quite unexpected at that time & plase, but it was as welcome as it was unexpected at the same time, finding me on the retreat from the defeat at Vicksburg, but I am happy to inform you that I enjoy good health & have ever sinse I have ben in the servise. Hoping that these few lines may find you the same.

Nov. [Dec?] 20th, 1862 we imbarked on the Steamer Hiawatha at Memphis, on the 21st our Regt., or Division rather, started for Vicksburg. I beleave we were the last that started. We left in the morning. The most of the boats left in the night. Our Division has 14 boats. I had charge of our colors, so I had the privelege of staying on the uper deck, next to the pilethouse, where I could [see] everything that was going on.

We did not run much after night. The next day it was nearly noon before we got started. We were then at or near our proper plase. We belong to the First Brigade & First Division, six Regts. to the Brigade & two Brigades to the Division and our Regt. was on the left of the senter of our Brigade that morning. I could see forty boats steaming out at once, all coverd with soldiers. We run on then untill nine or ten o'clock p.m. & all landed. In the morning we would cook our rashions & take fewl aboard & go on. At severel plases where we stoped there were litle towns. They were generly distroyed. We never landed at eny plase, but what there would some buildings be on fire about the first thing. Every thing all along as far as I could see indicated ruination. I could see large plantations laying idle. I mite almost say hundreds of lonly chimleys standing all along the river. Once in a while a field of cotten and as we got down the river farther it was corn instead of cotten.

On the night of the 24th we landed about 25 mi. above Vicksburg at Generel Lovels Plantation. The nix day being Christmas, for our Christmas gift our Brigade went ashore and marched about 27 mi. to the V.S. & T. R.R. to Dallis Station. We got ther about nine o'clock at night. The next morning we burnt a bridge about 2 hundred feet long and severl other smaler ones & tore up the track & burnt the ties for more than a mile and what litle cavelry we had went out on the road some seven miles and distroyed another bridge and captures a lot of tobacco. At 11 o'clock we started back for the boats and then we commenst to burn cotten. The stationhouse was full of cotten. It was burnt and severel large cribs of corn & cotten gin, a mill for seperating the seed from the cotten was there, it was all set on fire. The cotten was dun up in large bales and marked C.S.A. and on our road back we burnt severel large barnes that were full of cotten & severel more smaller buildings that wer full of cotten all suffered the same fate. Just at a gess I estimated the number of bales at 2000, valued at $250.00 each. We also captured 30 or 40 mules, which we took to the boats & 3 or fore yoke of catel and the negroes to drive them. It was about twelve o'clock when our regt got to the boats. About sundown it commenst raining and the boys not being use to marching with all the teams that were captured and hauling those that give out there were some that did not get in untill the next morning. It then being the 27th the rest of the fleet being ahead of us, we then started down to & about 10 or 12 mi. up the Asue [Yazoo] River to where the rest of the fleet lay. We got there about one o'clock. The 17th Ohio Batry was on our boat. They unloaded, which took till dark.

At the mouth of White River, Jan. 8th

I have agan set down to write a few more lines. It seams as tho I can hardly get time to write eny at all. This is my first sins the day before Christmas.

The 17th O. Batry & our Regt are all on this boat. Comidations are quite limited & work is plenty. On Saturday night Nov. [Dec.] 27th, after the batry had all got ashore and started, then we were called up with two days rashions in our haversacks & sixty rounds of cartridges. We then marched out about 7 mi. into Miss. swamps. It, however, was dry and there we lay on the ground untill morning. About five we herd the first sound of batle, these were only signals. About sunrise it begun on our left. [Battle of Chickasaw Bayou, Miss.] It lasted untill about 10 o'clock a.m., when a charge was maid. Then the yeling & holering began\r & the brisk firing seased. Our men took their rifle pits, but to their sorrow. I think it was the 16th Ohio that was all cut to peases after they got into their rifel pits. The rebels got range on them with a howitzer & just mowed them down with canister & grape shot before they could get out of the way.

Long about 11 o'clock we were marched up in line to our proper plase on the rite and remained there untill Tuesday morning. Then five Co.s A.,C.,D.,I. & F. were sent in front as pickets or sharp shooters. We then were prety close to the rebels. There was only a byo between us, some 200 feet across. The side the rebels occupied was first a string of thick brush all along the byo, then an open field about a half a mi. in width & they had high hills & bluffs & we were back in a swamp whare the water has ben from 6 to 10 ft. deep in time of high water. Where we were station I could see the rebels all day whilst we were on picket siting round, but my gun would not reach them. The rebels would send over a shot once in a while to let us no that they were there. On Wednesday we were releaved and sent back to the rear & remained there untill New Years evening & then we all retreated to our boats.

We got in about 10 o'clock & left about 12 the next day for & up the Miss. River. At severel plases the litle boys out & holerd how do you like Vicksburg & hurawed for Jef Davis, etc.

We berid Wm. D. Barnhard on the bank of the Asue [Yazoo] River. He died Dec. 28th/62. Hampton Brown died New Years night, after we came to the boats, with Tighfoid fever. There are only about 30 in our Co. able for duty. It beats all how many there are sick & geting sick every day. We berid Brown & one of Co. D at Milican Bend, Miss. River. Another has died in Co.K, sinse other Regts. serve the same fate.

I had to stop writing last night. Some of the boys come in & said that Morris Barge was on shore, so I went out and saw him. He is in 34 Iowa & after he went back to his boat Norman Cady & [Ira B.] Grandy of the 42 O. [Co.I] came up to see us & that was quite a treet. They belong to the 3 divition. It was the one that was ingaged on Sunday & Munday. They had 3 killed & five wounded in the Co., 34 out of Regt. & 1280 out of the Breg. killed, wounded & mising. As near as I can learn our loss is between 2 & 3 thousand killed, wounded\r & mising. The hole fleet is now going up White River. Where our destintion is I can't tell.

Well, I must close. I have not tim to write eny more at present. Give my respect to Enis Rusel & Mr. Page. I sent him a litter some time ago. And also remember my folks if you have an opertunaty. Also remember yourself and lady. Write soon agan.

John Kehrwecker

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