Captain Henry C. Kellogg:
His Final Letter Home
This letter was written by Captain Henry C. Kellogg to his
on May 6, 1863. He led Company C of the 33rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He was
killed in combat at Vicksburg, Mississippi on May 20, 1863.
His letter is followed by a condolence letter written by 1st Lieutenant Edward J. Lewis, also of Company C, to Kellogg's wife.
Camp on Bayou Piere, Miss.
Wednesday morn, May 6th
My dear Wife & boy,
At length the prohibition of letter writing has been removed by General Grant & mail is to go out 8 o'clock this morning. I hasten to improve the first opportunity I have had for more than two weeks in talking with my wife & boy. I last wrote your Apr 25th from Perkin's Plantation, La., though I doubt whether you received the letters, I am informed that our letters have been stopped at Memphis fore some time past. I wrote you again the 26th but finding no letters were allowed to go north, I put his letter in my trunk. Since that time we have witnessed & participated in stirring scenes. The battle of "Magnolia Hills"
has been fought & a glorious victory won. Hundreds have fallen on my every side but I am still spared unharmed to my wife & boy. I have not sufficient paper to enable me to give a detailed account of the fight, but I will hereafter. We were in the fight from early in the morning till dark. The enemy's first shot was fired at Co. C. (we with three other companies were skirmishing in front of our left) the shell struck the ground & burst at the very feet of several men in my second platoon. The second shell I saw was aimed higher. I instantly ordered the boys to lie down & did so myself, but not a moment too soon, for the shell passed directly over me so near as to force my cap upon the back of my head, this to when it was strapped tightly under my chin. The shock made my head fairly numb for an instant. I then brought my boys more to the front nearer the enemy but when we were protected by a slight rise of ground in front. Here we were comparatively safe till we were relieved by Gen. Osterhaus, when we rejoined our regiment on the right. Soon after we were again in the thickest of the fight. Our brigade (Benton's) gained the first success of the day as we soon forced back the troops opposed to us, taking many prisoners. two excellent cannon & caissons, ammunition trains, horses &c besides killing their General Stacey which they say was the work of the 33rd. But I was not going to particulars in this letter. Our loss in killed & wounded was about 1000. No one in my company was hurt but Bush. He was struck twice though but slightly hurt. When you consider he stands directly behind me in the ranks you will see that it was rather narrow dodging for me.
That we were pretty well tired out when night came you can well imagine. I think I never knew hunger, thirst & fatigue before--but I lay down that night under one of our faithful guns & blessed God that He had given success to our arms & spared your husband & father to his darling wife & boy. He has been very good to us--let us love & praise him more than ever before.
With the early light of the next day we again advanced skirmishing through dense canebrake but no enemy could be found. They fled in confusion through Port Gibson. & were far on the road back to Vicksburg to make the city quake with the doleful tale. Hundreds of prisoners they had left in our hands & hundreds of dead & wounded on the bloody field.
We are now slowly & surely closing up behind the doomed city & in a few days it will be ours. Then the Mississippi will be opened to the commerce of the north & a bright day will dawn upon our afflicted country.
I have received no letters from you__ Continue to write & direct as before (only is Carr's instead of Karr's Division--the mistake was mine). Do not be too anxious about me. Trust in God he is good & will do right. Harry, Papa often thinks of his little boy & would love to be with him & Mama & walk out with him this pleasant morning. But Papa must stay & help "shoot the rebels" a little longer. Someday Papa hopes he can come home & stay with Harry & Mama. Harry will be a good boy & love & take care of Mama won't he?
Give lots of love to Daniel & Phila & Mr. & Mrs. Henley. Also to John & Villa when you see them. Doubtless before this reaches you all cause for further writing will be removed for Vicksburg will be ours. Take good care of yourself. Walk out often with Harry & do not let anxiety on my account depress you spirits. I sent you a flower which I plucked on the battle field while skirmishing with the enemy. God bless you in all things my darling wife & boy.
Regt. at Vicksburg, May 26th/63
I would fain hope that I am not the first bearer of the tidings which it is my painful duty to communicate. If unhappily I be so, I can only bid you summon all your fortitude to read the next words I shall write, and may God soften the terrible blow; your noble husband is no more, he died the death of a brave man on the 20th while leading his company, sword in hand, in an important advance to a close position under the fire of the enemy’s works. The fatal blow from a piece of shell in the head was at least merciful, in so far as that he died quietly and without suffering. His comrades were especially around him, but he never spoke after the shot. We have made every effort, by his special request before his fall, to send his body to you; but as no boats are allowed to assault the river at present, we have been compelled to postpone this purpose for the present. We design to fulfill it at the earliest providable time.
I enclose you his ring bearing your name and return your letter which has just been received. I will advise with you in regards to his effects left here, which are at present in the stores of our position. I will not intrude upon your emotions with heavy words of condolence but only ask that you accept assurances of sympathy from one whose long and close' intimacy with the deceased made me somewhat acquainted with his many endearing qualities and led me to feel towards him rather as a brother than as a comrade and subordinate officer. You will not sorrow alone over his early grave. Not only in his own Company but throughout the Regiment there is deep and earnest sorrow for his loss, and heartfelt sympathy with those who were nearest and dearest to him, in this unspeakable bereavement.
His name will be treasured among America's Patriotic dead and his orphan Boy will be proud to hear the name of a father who died bravely for his Country. For him and yourself accept once more the assurance of earnest sympathy.
Yours most sincerely,
Edward J. Lewis
1st Lt. Co. C33rd Ill. Regt.