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7th Connecticut Infantry - The Best Battle of Secessionville Letter We Have Read!



If you wanted a great battle of Secessionville letter, you would want one written by either the 8th Michigan or the 7th Connecticut.  Our writer John G. Rowley was a member of Company E of the 7th Connecticut Volunteer.  Rowley enlisted in September of 1861 and served 3 years with his regiment.  The letter he writes is 6 full pages written in nice clear pencil.  It comes with its original envelope addressed to his parents in Winsted, Litchfield County, Connecticut. 

The letter, headed “James Island S. Carolina, Tuesday June 17, 1862”, has an additional page that Rowley adds probably the next day.  The cover has a “Port Royal, S.C. June 20th” cancelation.  Here is some of that wonderful content:

  • “…At 10 am one in six were killed, wounded or missing on average.  Says nothing of the 8th Mich. Regt. which I think lost more than the 7th C. V.  These two Regiments suffered more than others being in advance of the Brigade (Col.) acting Brigadier General Fenton.” 
  • “It appears that on the strength of some of the officers and aids about the rank of Lieut. and Captain that went up near the Rebel battery on a reconnoitering expedition on Sunday and were allowed to go very near without being fired upon by the pickets that the rebels were almost harmless and that to take their battery would require but little exertion.  Accordingly Monday morning at 1 o’clock Fenton’s & Stevens Brigades were ordered to march and at 2 ½ moved forward.  We knew not where.  At daylight we drove in the Rebel pickets about ¾ of a mile from the battery.  They killed and wounded three or four of our men.  We marched on through a cornfield (all silked out) and into an open field where there battery was immediately forming in battle line, were ordered not to fire, made a charge.  Their rifle pits were filled with Rebels that fired and mowed down our men like sheep.  Immediately they shot grape & canister during still greater execution from their battery.  Regiment after regt. of the two Brigades came up and were mowed down by grape and canister.  The shells bursting all about us at the same time.  It was a time of peril.  I saw neither looked at anything but the place I stepped and watched the flash of the enemies cannon.  We were all broke up and formed again on the colors in good order.  Soon Wright’s Genl. Brigade assisted by Hamilton’s Battery marched to help us but to no avail.  They came up only to be slaughtered for it was a well contrived plan.  They were strongly entrenched and had other batteries to fire into that one if we succeeded in taking it.  We built a battery to the right of theirs had it in working order.” 
  • “Friday morning shots were exchanged during the day and night until 12 o’c when the rebels ceased to fire.  The next day (Sunday) our battery fired all day Parrot & James projectiles.  It was thought by many they had evacuated it therefore a reconnaissance was made.  They went very near and thought they were tame but far from it.  We have got the hot head of succession to contend with.  They drawed us in completely a regular trap.”  
  • “Capt. Palmer won great credit for his coolness and bravery.  Lieut. Dempsey was wounded the first thing, shot through the shoulder, I think not mortal.  All the boys from Winsted are well.  Chas. Gilbert of Norfolk had his leg shot off, two others wounded and one shot dead from our Com. none from 7th.  It is thought to be Gen. Benhams fault.” 
  • “This regiment lost killed 11, wounded 75, missing 4, total 90.”
  • “They have worked well to draw us into this trap.  Our forces drove them from where we are now encamped with quite a loss of life after which they made another attack on us and were again repulsed and driven back with a great loss of life considering their numbers and with the aid of our gun boats.  It surprises me to think our General in Command Benham did not ascertain their strength first and if finding a weak spot did not use some stratagem.  But it was a bold movement calculating to scare them out of it. Just what they (Secesh) wanted.  It is said not to be in accordance with the other Generals views.”

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Transcription:


                                                            James Island S. Carolina
                                                                               
Tuesday June 17, 1862

Dear Parents,

 I write to you today feeling in tolerable good spirits.  I wrote to you just before leaving Edisto a week ago.  I found the regiment encamped where I now write.  Yesterday morning all quiet and well and at 10 am one in six were killed, wounded or missing on average.  Say nothing of the 8th Mich. Regt. which I think lost more than the 7th C. V.  These two Regiments suffered more than others being in advance of the Brigade (Col.) acting Brigadier General Fenton.  It appears that on the strength of some of the officers and aids about the rank of Lieut. and Captain that went up near the rebel battery on a reconnoitering expedition on Sunday and were allowed to go very near without being fired upon by the pickets that the rebels were almost harmless and that to take their battery would require but little exertion.  Accordingly Monday morning at 1 o’clock Fenton’s & Stevens Brigades were ordered to march and at 2 ½ moved forward.  We knew not where.  At daylight we drove in the rebel pickets about ¾ of a mile from the battery.  They killed and wounded three or four of our men.  We marched on through a cornfield (all silked out) and into an open field where there battery was immediately forming in battle line, were ordered not to fire, made a charge.  Their rifle pits were filled with rebels that fired and mowed down our men like sheep.  Immediately they shot grape & canister during still greater execution from their battery.  Regiment after regt. of the two Brigades came up and were mowed down by grape & canister.  The shells bursting all about us at the same time.  It was a time of peril.  I saw neither looked at anything but the place I stepped and watched the flash of the enemies cannon.  We were all broke up and formed again on the colors in good order.  Soon Wright’s Genl. Brigade assisted by Hamilton’s Battery marched to help us but to no avail.  They came up only to be slaughtered for it was a well contrived plan.  They were strongly entrenched and had other batteries to fire into that one if we succeeded in taking it.  We built a battery to the right of theirs had it in working order.  Friday morning shots were exchanged during the day and night until 12 o’c when the rebels ceased to fire.  The next day (Sunday)our battery fired all day Parrot & James projectiles.  It was thought by many they had evacuated it therefore a reconnaissance was made.  They went very near and thought they were tame but far from it.  We have got the hot head of succession to contend with.  They drawed us in completely a regular trap.  Henry’s foot pained him some from marching over the cotton.  Now we both came out right side up.  Capt. Palmer won great credit for his coolness and bravery.  Lieut. Dempsey was wounded the first thing, shot through the shoulder, I think not mortal.  All the boys from Winsted are well.  Chas. Gilbert of Norfolk had his leg shot off, two others wounded and one shot dead from our Com. none from 7th.  It is thought to be Gen. Benhams fault. 

 I have no ink.                           
                                                       Y
ours Truly, 
                                                                                     J. G. Rowley
                                                                                     Co. E 7th C.V.
                                                                                     Hilton Head, S.C.


This regiment lost killed 11, wounded 75, missing 4, total 90.  
They have worked well to draw us into this trap.  Our forces drove them from where we are now encamped with quite a loss of life after which they made another attack on us and were again repulsed and driven back with a great loss of life considering their numbers and with the aid of our gun boats.  It surprises me to think our General in Command Benham did not ascertain their strength first and if finding a weak spot did not use some stratagem.  But it was a bold movement calculating to scare them out of it. Just what they (Secesh) wanted.  It is said not to be in accordance with the other Generals views.  General Wright especially as most of the soldiers and officers that I hear speak of him place great confidence in him and have since we left Washington.  He is a well proportioned man rather more than medium size and never disgraced West Point.  Henry is going to write to you soon.  I am heartily obliged to Mr. A. M. Rice for his gift (Weavers Syrup).  Also, all others and shall remember them with feelings and a due sense of gratitude.

                                                   John G. Rowley
                                                          Co. E. 7th Regt. C.V.
                                                          Hilton Head, S.C.