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Eloquent group of letters by Charles R. Codman, Colonel of the 45th Massachusetts Infantry, who led his men through the Battles of Kingston and White Hall, as well as defending the Confederate assault against New Bern in 1863. In four diary-style letters home to his wife, Codman writes over 40 pages of highly articulate descriptions of the battles, his men, deserters and troop movements. He also makes two drawings of the Kingston battlefield, and another drawing of the Union and Confederate troops when the Rebels tried to take New Bern in March 1863. The Battle of Kingston begins Codman's first 11 page letter on 22 December 1863, in part, "…The battle at Kingston was a severe initiation for them into the perils of the field. We bore the brunt of it. I firmly believe that it was our fire that first sent the enemy to the right, about here is the position. [Drawn Map Included] When we entered the word to advance upon the enemy, [Henry W.] Wessel's brigade of N.Y. & Penn troops was on our right and the 28th Conn up in our rear after we had entered the wood. I wanted to advance through the wood & find out the enemy. This was done by advancing in line firing at where we supposed the enemy to be (for we could not see them) and when we were tired & the fire was very hot lying down and letting the balls pass over us. The enemy, however, must have known our position well as many men were hit lying down. One man was killed at my side and many were hit all around me. We were under fire about an hour and a half & when assisted by the 10th Conn we penetrated the wood & found that the enemy had retired. We had lost 10 men killed & 44 wounded, a very severe loss for so short a time. The 10th Conn lost even more with three officers whereas we had but one officer (Lt. Emmons) slightly wounded…In advancing through the wood I found it impossible to give orders to the whole regiment and therefore confined myself to the right wing, leaving the left to the Lieut. Col., and indeed in many instances the captains were obliged to manage their companions themselves. When we came out of the wood we were of course all separated & I was obliged to halt & form the regiment anew. No troops could have behaved better and I believe that there were fewer skulkers from our regiment than from any other (old or new) that was in the fight. Com. Theodore Parkman told me (for I had left him a little in the rear in an open place in the wood) with his guard that he saw some skulking even from the famous 10th Connecticut, but none whatever from our regiment. It is providential that no officers were killed or wounded. They were as much exposed as the men and all behaved well, although some showed themselves more efficient & valuable than others. I pick out as among the best. Lt. Col & Adjt Captains Rich Daland & Denny Tappan, Lieut. Hollis & Hurd. Others that I did not see I might add and as I said before there was no fault to find with any of them. Capt. Harmans, I am told by the Lt. Col, behaved bravely. The first men killed were from his company just as we entered the wood & before we had fired a shot, our man was killed by a shell, in an appalling manner. It staggered the men for a moment, but they immediately went on…" He then continues, describing the Battle of White Hall, "…On the 10th day but one after, the skirmish occurred at Whitehall. [Drawn Map Included] Here the enemy fired upon us across the river. Our regiment lay down in the road to rise up if required & support the 23 which had gone into the wood. We were not needed & did not fire a shot all day and yet we lost 3 men killed and 10 wounded. The enemy were throwing shell across the river & a fragment from one killed Theodore Parkman as he was lying on the ground just in front of me. We were not in sight of the enemy and consequently Theodore's being color bearer had nothing to do with his being hit. He never spoke after he was struck and died soon afterwards having been unconscious all the time. We were so far in the enemy's country that it was impossible to take the body to Newbern and poor Theodore lies in N. Carolina far from his native soil. When the corporal next to him called to me, 'Col, the Sgt. is hit,' I felt my heart sink. When the men returned who had borne him from the field, they referred to me that the wound was mortal. I had no difficulty while the action continued in doing my duty, but as soon as it was over & I went to see Theodore, I fairly broke down and cried like a child. It was a sad sight to see this fine vigorous young man thus struck down, to think that he was an only son, and to remember how brave and devoted he was. He had been perfectly cool during the action, and his perfectly steady courage was remarked by every one. Everyone loved & respected him…From Whitehall we proceeded towards Goldsboro always on the south side of the Neuse, and burnt the railroad bridge that crosses the river thus cutting off the communication by rail with Washington which was the object of our expedition. On our return the enemy attacked our rear, but our artillery repulsed them with great loss. Gen. [John G.] Foster has shown judgment & skill, I think, in the management of the whole affair. For myself, dearest Lucy, I have been preserved when others have been killed or wounded…" Codman writes next on 13-14 March 1863 in a letter totaling 10 pages to his wife, describing an attack by Confederate forces on the Neuse River, including a detailed map. He begins, "…You are, I believe, 30 yrs old to day. It is a turning point for you my dearest, and you are now the mature and capable woman. I felt as if I had turned a corner when I was thirty & I suppose you do…" He continues the following day, "…We are having an exciting day to day. Last evening upon returning from Brig Drill, I heard that our pickets on the Trent road had been driven in, and the enemy is undoubtedly in some force. This morning the camp of the 96th N.Y. across the Neuse River was attacked. This regiment is encamped alone on that side of the river. [Drawn Map Included] You will see its position. They were ordered to surrender and given half an hour to decide, they refaced & the enemy opened upon them with seventeen pieces of artillery. The gunboats soon come up and drove the enemy off. The 95th were behind breastworks. It is now 2 o'clock PM and firing has ceased entirely. In the mean time we hear that the enemy are in force on the Trent Road and it may be so. They may attack us if they have enough force and if so it will be tomorrow I think. Our position is very strong and it seems to me that it is almost impossible for them to succeed unless their force is much larger than we suppose. It may be that the whole thing is a demonstration to prevent our sending troops away from here. Today is the anniversary of the battle of Newberne and all the troops were to have passed in review in front of Gen. Foster's house, but that is postponed for the present. I had no countermanding orders so I had the regiment out this morning in full dress for the Rev, although I heard the firing, but Col. Avery rode up & told me to send the men to their quarters with orders to remain there in readiness to turn out at a moment's warning. We are all therefore now in our rooms waiting for orders…we shall probably remain as a sort of reserve and shall not be in action unless the enemy seriously attack. I will keep a kind of diary for the next few days until this affair blows over. I can't hear that the 95th NY sustained any loss to day. They are said to have had a few wounded but none killed. We of course do not know if the enemy sustained any loss. Some few of their shells fell on this side of the river into the camp of the 44th (which I have marked on the plan), but did no damage…" He continues later that evening, "…5 1/2 PM. I have been to the Provost marshal and heard Capt. Messenger examine a deserter. The man says that the rebs have a pretty large force. They were driven back with slight loss this morning & threaten to even the attack to night. This man escaped by pretending to go & see the wounded, but slipt down to the shore & waved his shirt to the gun-boat who sent down a boat & took him in. He was an Irishmen and I thought him intelligent. I should not be surprised if the troops on the other side of the Neuse were again attacked to night. The gunboats will not be able to help them then. Gen. Foster sent another regiment over this morning, the 85th New York. I don't myself see this use of having troops over there and I should be despised quietly to withdraw the whole force to night. Perhaps that will be done. Colonel Avery has gone out on the Trent road with two regiments, the 43rd & 40th Mass. to spend the night. It would not surprise me if there were fighting to night and to morrow…" Over the course of four days, from 1-4 April 1863, he shares his thoughts on the defense of Washington D.C. with his wife in a lengthy 14 page letter, "…news arrived that put us all in the 'que vive' again. Our forces at Washington are supposed to be attacked in force by the enemy. I learnt that General Foster in his progress up the Pamlico River was brought up by a rebel battery. His gunboats could not come to the aid of the transports which contained reinforcements for Washington on account of the wind having blown the water off shore. For this same reason, the gunboats now at Newberne cannot get away. Washington is well fortified for & garrisoned by the 24th & 44th Massachusetts Regmts. It is said that heavy firing has been heard in that direction, but it is not certainly known that an attack has been made. As soon as the wind lulls Gen F. will be able to go to their assistance, but news is anxiously looked for…" He writes again at midnight, "…the firing heard to day was from Washington. It was very heavy about noon which it is supposed that the gunboats have gotten into action…" He continues the next day on 2 April, "…We learn that General Foster is besieged. The Rebels have a battery in the south side of the river below Washington and thus far they have succeeded in preventing our reinforcements from coming up the river. A desperate sailboat however ran the blockade yesterday through a furious fire, and Gen. Foster has this communicated with the outside world. It is said to day that Gen. Anderson has gone to Fortress Monroe for reinforcements. General Prince is in command of the troops who are trying to get up to General Foster. I am informed that one of our gunboats stationed at Washington has been partially disabled by the Rebel battery…" With much more content concerning the fighting near New Bern and Washington. Lastly, on 4 June 1863, Codman writes 7 pages regarding a variety of subjects, including the colored troops commanded by Colonel James Chaplin Beecher, the half-brother of Harriett Beecher Stowe. He writes in part, "…The negro brigade is doing well. About 600 are encamped near us under Colonel Beecher. There has not been the least trouble on their account…war is uncertain, we may be stirred up yet by some alarm. Now that the 44th are going, the enemy may come down and will not be restrained by the same motives of humanity that influenced them at Washington. There (some wicked people say) [Maj. Gen. Daniel H.] Hill sent word to Gen. Foster that he was going to bombard the place & that he wished the women, children, & the 44th to be removed…" An unusually lengthy and eloquent set of letters by a commanding Colonel, all four with their original envelopes and transcriptions. In very good condition.
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