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Outstanding collection of 190 Civil War dated letters by Dr. Abraham Landis (father of the first baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis), an assistant surgeon in the 35th Ohio Infantry, who took part in dozens of battles and skirmishes with his regiment, including Hoover's Gap, the Atlanta Campaign, Resaca, Chickamauga, Dallas, and Kennesaw Mountain where he was WIA. In addition to graphic battle content, Landis' pens interesting stories in these letters to his wife Mary: treating the wounded from Shiloh, Hartsville and Stone's River, his short time at Libby Prison when he was captured after Chickamauga, and the overall effect of the war, never losing his humanity in describing the terrible conditions, often writing that he would "weep like an infant" after particularly difficult days. Landis' prose is some of the most enjoyable we've encountered, both sweeping and detailed in its tone, with amusing anecdotes about his beloved horse Lucy, and the southern landscape he observed during his 2.5 year enlistment.
Letters are presented here in chronological order. The first year of Landis' service, from April 1862-63, he attended to the wounded, with a trial by fire initiation in caring for the Shiloh survivors during a brief stint with the 18th Missouri Infantry before he was transferred to the 35th Ohio. His second letter home to his wife is dated 7 April from Savannah, Tennessee, describing the aftermath of Shiloh: "…There has been a terrible battle at Pittsburg 8 Miles up the river. It commenced yesterday morning and raged until about an hour ago the firing ceased. We could hear the booming of cannon on our boat for 20 miles. The loss of life is said to be terrible on both sides but thank God the rebels are retreating. The wounded have been brought to this town by the boatload until every house in town is a hospital. Since writing the above I have learned that the number of killed and wounded on both sides is 10,000. Some regiments are said to be annihilated. We are now on the way to the battlefield and we'll reach it in about an hour. I have just seen a man who was in the fight. he says the dead lay in some places three feet deep…" He continues in 11 April and 15 April letters, "…I saw 85 men buried in one grave. They had died of their wounds…This past week will ever be the most eventful epoch in my history. During that time I have witnessed events that will be communicated upon by the historian centuries after I am dead and gone. My transition from home to the battle field was so sudden that I sometimes am at a loss to know whether it is a reality or a dream. My taste for military surgery has been perfectly satiated. I hope and trust and pray that I may never see another wounded man especially under such circumstances. Hundreds died of their wounds that could have been saved could they have been comfortably situated and properly attended to. Immediately on arriving here the medical director detailed me & several others to go to a cluster of tents near the landing and attend to about 600 whose wounds had never been dressed. It was raining at the time in torrents and as the tents were upon a flat piece of ground the whole surface was made water and although the wounded were placed upon straw or hay nearly everyone of the poor fellows was laying in the water. Many died who never recovered from the collapse which always follows a severe gun shot wound. In one large hospital tent were about thirty four of whom were dead the next morning. Of the 600 about 150 died in about 4 days. One Surgeon Dr. Rice of the 76th Ohio told me that he amputated 28 limbs on Monday. When night came he was so exhausted that he lay down upon the ground without any shelter and slept. You have no idea, Mary, how inconvenient it was to attend to the wounded. They were so crowded that the only way the surgeons could dress their wounds was to get down on his knees by the side of the patient. It was the hardest labor I ever performed in my life. A number of times I became so exhausted that I had to go to a tent and lay down and rest myself. If I had a dollar for every time I asked the question, 'Where are you hit,' I would have enough spending money to do well for a long time."
He continues, "A large majority of the wounds were in the thighs and legs & feet. In many instances the bones were not only broken but crushed to fragments. In such cases amputation was the only remedy, and that was a forlorn hope as most of those who had amputations performed upon them have died. Some of the most heart rending cases that I saw were boys from 15 to 20 years of age, who were either killed or badly wounded…One case in particular an Ohio boy named Silas Roby made an impression upon my mind that time can never erase. The poor boy asked me to write to his mother in case he died. Amidst all the blood and carnage, we have a set of scoundrels here who would disgrace the regions of the damned. There are a pack of thieves here who not only steal from the living but pick the pockets of the dead. Watches, gold rings, money, &c have in many instances been taken from the dead…You know as much about the number of killed and wounded here during the fight as we do. Our loss is estimated at from four to seven thousand killed and wounded. That of the rebels is much greater…"
In late 1862, Landis was stationed in Gallatin, Tennessee, controlled by the notorious Union General Eleazar A. Paine, who Landis often mentions. On 9 December, he writes about a Union surrender, "…I suppose you will hear of the shameful surrender of three of our regiments at Huntsville, 18 miles east of this. The body of Capt. G. Holson of Cincinatti, who was killed on the occasion, was brought to my hospital last evening. He was shot through the chest & must have died instantly. Oh the horrors of war!…Some of them related incidents of the battle & laughed heartily although suffering severely at the time…"
On 3 January 1863, he attends to soldiers wounded during the Battle of Stone's River, "…We have had a terrible battle there, more bloody from accounts than Pittsburgh Landing. We heard the cannonading here for three days. Col. Minou Millikin of the First Ohio Cavalry was killed. Poor fellow! I came from Louisville to Mitchellville on the same train with him on my way down here. This morning being at depot where the train went south. I saw the coffin containing his lifeless body. I could have wept like an infant. He was a noble specimen of humanity and as brave as a tiger. The 69th and 93rd Ohio were in the battle. Col. Casulby of the 69th was wounded and adjutant Boynton killed. Col. Anderson of the 93 was wounded. This is about all I have heard of those regiments. In all human probability some poor fellows whom we know are among the killed and wounded…Every breeze brings tidings of death & bloodshed…"
Landis relates some interesting anecdotes about Gallatin in a pair of letters dated 27 December 1862 and 14 January 1863: "…A terrible casualty happened here a few evenings ago to one of our soldiers. A drunken orderly sergeant ordered one of his men to do something and he refused, whereupon the orderly shot him. The ball entered his chest and lodged in the region of the spine. The man is yet alive, but in all probability will die. A few weeks ago one of the guards of our hospital took his gun & stired the fire with it holding the barrel in one hand & the bayonet with the other. The gun went off and the bullet, a minnie ball, passed through his wrist. Another had his gun loaded, but no cap on. He cocked the gun and pointed it towards one of his comrades remarking, 'I will shoot you.' The gun went off and hit the poor fellow in the hip. He died in two or three days…Gen. Payne [sic] who commanded the post here had all the approaches to town blockaded with army wagons during the night and the few troops that were here were in line of battle all night. How do you think I felt under such circumstances? I slept as soundly as if I had been on a feather bed in our own bedroom with you and the children. Such is the nature of war. During the terrible fight at Murfreesboro we could listen to the booming of the cannon during the day and sleep soundly at night. The person soon becomes accustomed to the terrible realities of war…" He comments again about General Paine on 24 January, "…Gen. Paine is commander of the sport. He is from Illinois, is very much of a gentleman, but I think he is a little too easy scared. Whenever he hears of Morgan being in the vicinity he has the streets blockaded with wagons. We have had rumors of Morgan being about when he was not within a hundred miles, but I suppose it is best to err on the safe side and not be caught napping as our men have been on so many occasions…Dan Zeller told me in his letter that some of the rebels in Butler were elated over the failure of Burnside at Fredericksburg. Oh what a rotten shame! I am almost ashamed to acknowledge that I am from Butler County. No one but a double-dyed traitor could rejoice over such a calamity…"
After the Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January, Landis tells a story about a slave refusing the entreaties of her owner to come home: "…A rich scene occurred at my hospital this morning. We have a black woman employed as cook whose mistress lives two miles from this place. This morning the mistress came to the hospital and inquired of me for her servant. I told her if her servant was willing to go with her she was welcome to do so, but if you chose to remain she should remain. So I went to the kitchen for the black woman and her mistress coaxed her a long time to go with her but it was no go. The Contraband was set in her way. She says she is bound to inhale free air the balance of her days. This is but one specimen and thousands that are occurring down here in Dixie. We have all the contrabands we can use here and according to a law of Congress slaves who come within our lines are forever free…There is some talk of Gen. Ward being appointed commander of the post in the place of Gen. Paine and Gen. Ward's loyalty has long since been questioned. Gen. Ward has in several instances returned fugitive slaves to their masters which has made him very unpopular in the army…"
In a poignant letter dated 5 May 1863, Landis recounts "One of the most affecting scenes that I have witnessed since I came into the service took place here this morning". He continues, "The soldier belonging to the 129th Illinois was brought to the hospital about 10 days ago with inflammation of the lungs. His case was pronounced hopeless by the surgeons and the wife telegraphed to asking her to come and see him. She arrived several days ago and last evening the poor man died. He was buried today. The funeral procession consisted of two ambulances, four musicians, an escort of soldiers and the man's wife and baby, a child about two years of age. As I listened to the funeral dirge and saw that poor heart-broken woman hundreds of miles from home among strangers following her husband's lifeless body to its last resting-place, my feelings were indescribable. I went to my room and wept like an infant…"
Beginning in June 1863, Landis begins to see action on the battlefield with his regiment. Following a skirmish in early June, on 21 June he describes a more intense fight just before the Battle of Hoover's Gap: "…We moved very slowly and cautiously not knowing what minute the enemy would open on us. At length we reached the Pikes Landing from Murfreesboro to Shelbyville. We started down the pike towards Shelbyville and have gone but a short distance when all of a sudden the rebs opened on our skirmishers with shell and musketry not more than a mile ahead of us. The forces were demolished in a few seconds on both sides of the road and a line of battle formed. You have no idea how quick the boys can get into line. When the word is given everyone drops into his proper place like clockwork. Just after we had formed into line we saw a regiment of bluecoats falling back on our right on the run. It was the 36th Indiana. They were in the advance and came near being ransacked by the rebs. We could see the enemy on the pike plainly with the naked eye. We remained in line about two hours during which the firing was kept up between the rebs and our skirmishers. It finally slackened and we were ordered to proceed…" He ominously concludes, "It is my general impression that we are on the eve of a big battle."
That big battle would come a few days later. Writing from the "Battlefield Friday Evening June 26th '63", he describes the Battle of Hoover's Gap to his wife Mary, "After a long day of excitement and anxiety I sit down before retiring to drop you a line…This morning at 4 we were ordered onward and by 8 we reached Hoover's Gap where the enemy were said to be enforced. Our division consisting of three brigades were ordered forward and we left the turnpike and commenced climbing some of the loftiest hills you ever heard of. If you could see the hills we went over you would not think artillery wagons ever climbed them and to make the matter still worse it had rained nearly all the time for 2 days and nights but onward we went slowly and cautiously. After we had advanced about a mile all of a sudden boom went one of our cannon ahead of us. One of our batteries had got inside of the rebs and opened out over them. I could see the smoke of our gun when it went off as it was not more than a quarter of a mile ahead of us. The Infantry regiments advanced as fast as possible and when they got to the higher position a line of battle was formed and we advanced towards the Rebels. The country is so terribly hilly that we could be but a short distance ahead. Our skirmishers soon ran against the rebel skirmishers and there the way the musketry roared for half an hour was a caution. Then our skirmishers soon drove in the rebel skirmishers and then our artillery having advanced and found out the rebs position opened on them with shells. The rebels returned the fire and you had better think there was music for an hour or more. I could see the smoke of the Rebel cannon whenever they went off. I was about 100 yards behind my regiment and my duty was to attend to those on the field should any get wounded…Our line was two or three miles long and at one time the cannon was booming all around us. We had about 40 killed and wounded in the 31 and 17th Ohio Walker's Brigade…"
On 30 June 1863 Landis describes another hot skirmish in the Tullahoma campaign, "…Yesterday at 9 in the morning General Branson our division Commander was ordered by General Rosecrans to send our Brigade in the advance to feel of the enemy. Our Brigade consisting of our regiment 9th Ohio second Minnesota and 87th Indiana were sent forward with two cannon…We had gone only a mile or so when the muskets of our skirmishers told us they had found the rebs. As we advanced they fell back but they contested every inch of ground. We drove them nearly a mile when we fell back about half a mile. As soon as we fell back they followed us up. When we advanced on them again and drove them another half mile. When they became so stubborn that we opened on them with one of our cannon. They responded with a parrot gun. One shell and a cannonball passed over our heads. Another cannonball killed one of our horses. It struck him in the breast and went through him mangling him in the most frightful manner. One shell passed over the regiment and exploded about 20 yards behind us. Captain Leonard…of our regiment was wounded in the thigh by a brick shot. One of the 2nd Minnesota boys was wounded in the arm. We found one rebel mortally wounded. He was shot through the liver and belongs to the first Alabama. We found three or four Rebel hats. I found one with two bullet holes through it. We also found four dead horses…" A few days later he reports, "…I have just seen a number of the Chattanooga Rebel which acknowledge is a loss of 500 and killed and wounded at Hoover's Gap. If this be correct they were terribly worsted as we did not lose over one hundred…"
On 8 July 1863, Landis pens a jubilant letter following the victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg: "…I have been drunk, gloriously drunk for the last 24 hours. Not on whiskey, nor large beer, but over the good news. Yesterday we heard that Lee had been well thrashed at Gettisburg, Pennsylvania. Gen. Rosecrans ordered a salute of 35 guns to be fired in each division…This morning before I had got up I heard someone remark that Vicksburg had surrendered on the fourth of July and in a few minutes one of our batteries began to roar in honor of the glorious news…Col. Webb of the 51st Alabama the Rebel col. who received Vallandingham when he was taken beyond our lines was dangerously wounded in a skirmish at Elk River bridge and fell into our hands. He is laying at house with in half a mile of our camp. He says he is tired of secesh and is determined to have nothing more to do with the war…"
On 22 July, Landis vents his frustration over Ohio men scared of Morgan's Raid, "…If those men who were so terribly frightened over the Morgan raid in Ohio would spend a campaign in the army, sometimes on half rations and sometimes no rations, ride or walk all day through a drenching rain and lay on the wet ground at night and have lizards to crawl over them and wood ticks to bite them, they would know something about war…" He then recounts a battlefield story to his wife, "…You ask whether one of the surgeons had his horse killed under him. Such a thing did happen. In the skirmish near Tullahoma where Capt. Lavadieu was wounded. Dr. Wright the other assistant surgeon in our regiment had his horse killed. The Rebs were firing on us with a parrot gun. The first time they fired the ball a six pounder struck the doctors horse in the breast and killed the horse instantly. I was within about 20 yards of him at the time. The next time they fired a shell and it exploded just as it struck the ground. I was within ten or twelve yards of it when it exploded. I was on Lucy at the time. Poor dumb brute! She was not frightened a particle…"
On 1 September 1863, Landis describes crossing the Tennessee River, and how his horse Lucy reacted, "…You have no idea what a job it is to take an army across such a river. The horses were taken across in the following manner. Two large canoes were lashed together and the horses taken in the water three on each ride when the canoes were paddled across. The horses had to swim and the way some of them cut-up was funny. When Lucy's turn came she did tolerably well until she got nearly halfway across when she became unmanageable and the man that was holding her had to let her go and she swam back. The next time she was so tired she came over without much trouble…The news from Charleston is glorious. Sumpter is a mass of rubbish and I trust before this The nest where the egg of rebellion was laid and hatched is a heap of ashes…"
On 7 September 1863, Landis describes "poor white trash" when writing in "Lookout Valley Near Georgia", "…We see any number of specimens of poor white trash in this country. It is painful to see how degraded some people are in this country. They are not all of this class. Some are intelligent and civilized, but many are the most degraded white people I have ever seen. Yesterday I was called into a house by the roadside to see a soldier that belongs to an Indiana regiment and oh what sights! I have no idea that any of the family ever thinks of washing themselves. Their clothing was so dirty that it was difficult to tell what the original color of their clothing was…We saw a woman yesterday whose husband has been hiding in the mountains for two years to avoid the conscription…"
In mid-September, just days before Chickamauga, Landis predicts "we are on the eve of a terrible battle". From "Away down in Georgia", he describes the Army preparing for battle, "…Negley's division had crossed Lookout Mountain ahead of us and was against a large rebel force and was in danger of being captured. Our boys were so elated at the prospect of getting into a fight that they yelled like Indians. The night was so dark and the road so terribly rough that we only could advance about 2 miles when we had to stop and wait until the return of day. There is something terribly Sublime seeing a long line of muskets moving in by starlight mingled with the rumbling of the artillery wagons going over the rocks…We learned that Negley had been driven back one day before 2 miles. 35 of his men were killed and wounded. Negley was compelled to fall back or his whole division would have been captured. The rebs came very near flanking him as it was. The rebel loss must have been heavy…the skirmishers generally fell back until the rebel Cavalry came within 75 yd of here they gave them a volley which captured a great many saddles…" In a letter spanning several days, he writes that "nine of our boys" were captured by the Rebels, and "We are still in the face of the enemy" on Friday morning 18 September.
The next day, the Battle of Chickamauga took place; Landis writes, "Sept 19th 1863 near Chattanooga…We have had a terrible battle today…and this morning at light the fighting commenced…From what I can learn this evening we have lost about a hundred killed and wounded…" He then writes the names of about 50 men wounded, before continuing, "…We sent out a white flag…The cannonading was terrible until two when it ceased for two hours when they commenced again. The fighting continued all day with little intermission. Andrew Kunler was wounded in the arm, I cut out the ball…Sunday morning the sun arose beautifully and I hoped the battle was over, not a gun was fired until 8 when it commenced again in good lament and continued with little intermission until two when it ceased for two hours when it commenced again and continued until dark. It was terrible…About 11 today our left was driven back and our hospital was in the line the shells blew over our heads. A squad of Forests men came up and made a favorable call. When they learned it was a hospital they treated us very kindly. One colonel was in the crowd. They only remained a short time as Grainger's Corps came in from Chattanooga and drove them back. When the shells begin to pass over us I never saw such a sight. Men who were badly wounded got up and jumped off and others were scared about to death. Over twenty of the surgeons of our division were at the hospital and all ran off but four. I concluded to stand my ground…The whole earth was soon covered with Rebels. With a few exceptions they treated us very kindly. The rebel army began to move towards Chat. and the road was filled with them all day. I counted over a dozen of their regiments as they passed and only two numbered over 200. The average was not over 150. One Reb tried to get my hat. Another tried to get my overcoat but they missed it…I saw a boy today in Forrest's Cavalry only 14 years old and he has been in the service two years and a half. Today I was out over the battlefield. Many of the dead are unburied. I found twelve of our regiment who were wounded and have had nothing done for them and they were nearly starved. I did what I could for them and got one of them on my horse and took him two miles to our hospital. I forgot to tell you I lost Lucy last Saturday night. The boy that takes care of her took her away to feed and I have never heard of either of them since Wednesday. Today I took a rise after attending to some of the wounded. To see if I could find some more of our boys. I did not find anyone. I saw Gen. Cheatham's Hospital. There are three hundred wounded nearly all Rebels. I must have seen several hundred of our men unburied. Also any number of dead horses and cannonballs and shells by the wagonload…while at Cheatham's hospital I was introduced to the medical director of Bragg's Army also a number of Rebel surgeons. Took dinner with them…"
Several days later, while attending to the wounded, Landis writes from "Chickamauga Battle Field Sept. 28th 1863" regarding his capture as a POW: "…I write to you under rather irregular circumstances I am a prisoner of war in the hands of the rebs. I remained…voluntarily with the wounded. I could [take] my escape easily, but I preferred to remain with the poor boys that got hurt. I was at our division Hospital during the spikes and when the rebs turned our left flank on Sunday we were under a terrible fire of shell. Several wounded men were killed and one hospital tent burned. I have no idea how are any of my regiment were killed and wounded. I have the names of 70 whose wounds I examined and dressed but most of those made their escape on Sunday. About 30 are here yet. The wounded are being paroled and will be sent to within our lines. The rebs talked of holding us, the surgeons as prisoners but I have no idea they will keep us long. They can take me to Libby Prison if they choose. I am prepared for the sacrifice. I expect to live through it. God being my helper, my health is excellent, I feel as though I was in the discharge of my duties. Don't fret about me. I believe without the shadow of a doubt that we will all meet again on unbroken land. I was shot at three times on Sunday by a rebel skirmisher but thanks be to God he did not hit me…" Four days later he writes from Libby Prison, inquiring about his horse, "…Write to Simon Kimber and ask him what has become of Lucy. I got separated from John Davis who had charge of her Saturday evening and have heard nothing of either since. I fear both were for Landis, he had to endure Libby Prison only a short while, writing from Baltimore on 26 November 1863 to his wife: "With feelings of gratitude to heaven I inform you that I am out of Libby Prison. 94 of us all surgeons reached here this morning. After enduring the insults and indignities of the Rebels for over two months, I am once more a free man. I will not particularize as I have only a few moments to write, but I will say that I have seen the hardest times since Sept. 20th that ever fell to my lot…Our food at times was scarcely fit for a hog to eat and the lice came very near eating us alive. I may not be home for a week as we are going to Washington City in a body to report to President Lincoln the treatment of our prisoners by the Rebels at Richmond and we may be detained several days. My treatment while a prisoner has not abated my zeal a particle. I feel more like fighting until the last Rebel gun shall have been spiked than ever. I want to go to Atlanta and Richmond once more, but under different circumstances. I want to go with a line of bayonets. Oh how I would like to apply the torch to Libby Prison."
On 2 December, Landis writes to the Editor's Gazette newspaper in Millville, Ohio, reporting on Chickamauga and stating, "I found the dead bodies of the following officers. / Col. Rockingham 6th KY / Capt. Duran 29th Ind / Capt. Parchall 35th Ohio / I had them buried in separate graves and the graves marked. I was afterwards with the other surgeons taken to Libby in Richmond and lodged in Libby Prison…"
From Chattanooga on 8 January 1864, Landis writes about identifying the bodies (perhaps exhuming the graves) of two soldiers in the 35th killed at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. Letter reads in part, "…Yesterday we took up Simon Kumler, and William Stokes. I had a great deal of trouble getting the thing accomplished but I finally succeeded. It was a sad sight to look at their mangled bodies. They were so changed in appearance that I would not have known them. It was fortunate that I went with the undertaker as he had the wrong grave on his book in Simon's case. Jo Zeller, Abrene Kunder, & Sam Hibberd were present. They were all very confident that it was Simon as they knew him from his clothes. You inquired about Lucy in your letter. Poor animal she has had a hard time of it. Forage has been so scarce that hundreds of horses and mules have starved to death. At the Battle of Chickamauga she came very near being killed by a cannonball. Joshua Davis was riding another horse and leading her when a cannonball passed between the horses and so near Lucy's head that she staggered for a few minutes…Our ranks have been terribly thinned the last six months. During that time between 60 and 70 of the boys have either been killed or have died of wounds or disease and two captains have been killed…"
On 14 January 1864 Landis revisits the Chickamauga battlefield, writing poignantly about it in a letter to his wife: "…Today I was out on the Chickamauga Battlefield. I walked over the ground where I spent that awful and long to be remembered Saturday and Sunday when I heard those terrible volleys of musketry and where Uncle Sam's artillery convulsed the Earth to its Center…I saw the spot where Captain Pervell was killed also the place where poor Lieut Harlin received the fatal shot. I also saw the spot where those officers were buried. Some of our men were buried so near the surface that some parts of their bodies are visible. Many houses on the field have been burned. Cloud's dwelling house near the spot where I had those officers buried has been reduced to ashes, also McDaniel's house which was used for a hospital by our Brigade where they did the terrible fighting on Sunday morning. The church that we used as a hospital near our division hospital and which you no doubt heard me speak of has been knocked to flinders by our soldiers to make winter quarters. There is nothing left of it but the foundation. I noticed the spot where the rebel skirmishers fired at me on Sunday, also the place where I came so near riding into the line of Rebel skirmishers. Wagon loads of trophies have been removed from the field. In riding the distance over the field I did today immediately after the battle I think I could have picked up a wagonload of shells and cannonballs, also broken muskets, bayonets, canteens, cartridge boxes, dismounted artillery wagons &c. Today I saw but two shells and one ball. I picked up a canteen that had a bullet hole through it…I don't want to see another Chickamauga. God knows I have seen all the battlefields I want to see…"
The next few letters contain interesting content about life for residents of Tennessee, and other anecdotes. On 24 January 1864 Landis writes, "…Two or three days ago I was reading in my tent and I heard someone inquire outside if Dr. Landis was about. I looked out and lo it was Lieut. Carlin of the 18th Ohio. He was badly wounded at Chickamauga and brought to our hospital and I attended to him while he remained there. Poor fellow. A minnie ball passed through one of his thighs and lodged in the other. It is now over four months since he was wounded and he still runs two crutches. Evry few days I meet someone whom I saw during those trying hours where was in the hands of the rebels…" And on 28 January, he describes the destruction in Chattanooga, "…I spent the day in the town and became acquainted with some of the citizens who know something of the terrible realities of war. I made the acquaintance of Doctors Rhodes and Clark and the County Register a man by the name of Moore. They are all unconditional Union men and have had to suffer nearly everything but death for their opinions. One Union man named Little told me he did not pretend to go to bed unless some of our forces were about and whenever he heard the rattling of horses feet, he hid himself. The night before we got there the rebel cavalry made a dash into the tower and robbed one man of seventy dollars and shot another who it was thought would die, but the poor fellow will probably recover. The rebs entered the courthouse sometime since and mutilated and destroyed nearly all the court records. I was in one of the rooms of the courthouse where the papers were nearly knee deep scattered all over the floor. A number of houses have been burned in the town, nearly every horse has been stolen. All the grain has been consumed, fences have been burned, and this year nothing will be raised for the simple reason that there are neither hands nor horses to farm with…" On 31 January 1864 he writes about battle: "…The fatality among troops that never see a battlefield is frightful, but there is an excitement and novelty about it that most of the boys enjoy…"
Landis develops a certain respect and affection for "darkies" as the war progresses. In February he describes how "two of our boys were taken at Chickamauga arrived today from Richmond [Libby Prison]" and how they were directed to the Union line by "the Negroes…God bless the darkies. I hope evry last one of them will be liberated before this war closes." Later in February he describes the 14th USCT on dress parade, "Did I tell you in my last of seeing a Darkey regiment on dress parade? The 14th United States Colored Infantry are in Camp here and a few days ago I went over to their camp to see them drill. They drill as well as white soldiers and have their camp as neat and clean as any camp in the army. Four generals were on hand to see them drill. Thomas, Johnson, Palmer and Whipple…I suppose you have seen the account of the prisoners escaping from Libby. Their escape was certainly a great feat. I saw the lot under which they tunneled and the tobacco shed where they came out. But the richest thing about it was Colonel Straught getting fast and having to be pulled out. No wonder he is nearly as large as Captain Dick…"
In April 1864, Landis writes from Ringgold, Georgia, "…Yesterday I was to see Col. Ward of the 17th Ohio who was so badly wounded at Chickamauga. I suppose you heard me speak of him when I was at home. I saw him on the battlefield in a few minutes after he was wounded and examined his wound. Poor fellow! He was shot through the lungs and has lost the use of his left arm and will be an invalid for life. But he is determined to remain in the service, mutilated as he is…" He then predicts, "…there are still three hundred thousand armed Rebels, and army formidable enough to make any Nation on Earth tremble. I fear the Waterloo of the war is yet to be fought…we may have a scene of blood and Carnage that will leave Gettysburg, Shiloh, and Chickamauga in the shade…" So begins the Atlanta Campaign, the next portion of Landis' letters.
In some of the first skirmishes of the Atlanta Campaign, Landis writes on 24 April 1864 mentioning the "take no prisoners" Confederate "black flag" disputed by some historians, "…We have been having some pretty heavy skirmishing since I wrote last. Yesterday morning at daylight one of our outposts was captured. Eight of our boys were killed and between fifty and sixty wounded and taken prisoners. Some of our boys were murdered after they had surrendered. I saw the dead body of one poor fellow put aboard the cars today who was brutally murdered after he was wounded and taken prisoner. The rebs are becoming desperate. I reckon you have heard of the terrible massacre at Fort Pillow. They may get black flag enough before this war is over. This morning at daylight they made a dash at our pickets almost within gunshot of our camp and the muskets rattled pretty briskly for a short time…You need not be surprised if you hear of a forward movement. Everything looks in that direction and when we do move we may expect to smell gunpowder from the word go as we are almost within sight of Johnson's Army…"
Another skirmish occurred on 1 May, "…I saw quite a little fight with the rebs since I last wrote. On Friday last our regiment, the 9th and 105th Ohio and 2nd Minnesota and the 92nd Illinois Mounted Infantry and a part of the 10th Ohio Cavalry were ordered to make a reconnaissance in the direction of Tunnel Hill. We started in the morning at three. The Cavalry and mounted infantry were in the advanced and before we were out of sight of our pickets the carbines of the cavalry told us that the advance had found the rebels. It kept getting hotter and hotter. The rebs disputing every inch of ground. Finally it was found that the rebels had blockaded the roads so much with fallen timber that it was impossible for the cavalry to proceed any further and General Kilpatrick who was in command ordered us back to camp. We had not gone far until the rebel cavalry pitched into our rear and the cavalry fell back about half a mile and then formed in line and had the prettiest cavalry fight I have seen since I came into the service…The bullets whistled like sixty for half an hour when the rebs fell back and our regiment and the 9th Ohio came up and concealed themselves in a pine grove and an attempt was made to draw the rebs out again but they didn't wish any…We had eleven men wounded all cavalry and mounted infantry, two of them mortally, one poor fellow was shot through the neck and died in the ambulance. Another through the liver and died before night. It looked more like Chickamauga than anything I've seen since…" He continues in the letter, "…I forgot one incident connected with the battle. I was about one hundred and fifty yards behind our lines and could see all that was going on. Just after our men charged on the Rebs and drove them back, I noticed three refugees coming towards me and as they came nearer and nearer I found there was an old lady, a half grown girl, and a little boy about the size of Jonny…As soon as the old lady came within speaking distance of me, she exclaimed, 'Do you think they will commence firing before we get to that house,' pointing to a house a few rods ahead of her. I told her not to be frightened that the Rebs were falling back and I thought the fight was over. She was badly scared and I never will forget the ludicrous appearance of the physiognomy. Gen. Kilpatrick had his house hit in the fray…"
One day before the Battle of Resaca, on 13 May "in Dixie", Landis writes, "…We have scurried around in so many directions since we left Ringgold that I scarcely know where we are…inside of the Rebel fortifications…all we could do was to watch our cannon and the rise of the rebels as she belched forth their missiles of death. I watched our sharpshooters and those of the rebels by the hour as they pecked at each other. It was really diverting to the looker on, but not so funny to those engaged as from one to two hundred of our boys were killed and wounded in this way. The rebels were concealed in the bushes and behind fallen timber and it was seldom that we could see them, but we could see the smoke from their rifles…I saw one of our shells explode inside the rebel works and the way they did scamper was really funny…"
The Battle of Resaca explodes the next day on 15 May 1864, with Landis writing on the battlefield: "…We are in the midst of another terrible battle. Yesterday morning at 9 o clock it commenced in good earnest and from that time until dark there was one incessant roar of musketry and cannon. We had been feeling of the rebs for two days and finally found them strongly fortified. They have a line of intrenchment on the crest of a hill running parallel with the railroad and they are holding them with a death grasp. We have our artillery, mostly parrot guns, planted on a hill facing them and only from three to four hundred yards from them. Our regiment was sent out as skirmishers and we had a fine opportunity to see…There was an open field between us and the rebs and whenever one of them would rain his head above the breastworks our boys would let him have it. I saw shells and solid shot from our parrots strike and fall inside their works by the hundred. Our guns were behind us and we were along a creek on low ground and those missiles of death went screaming through the air immediately over our heads. The rebs had a battery planted a little to our left near a log house and an attempt was made to take it by our men. I saw our men go up the hill one of them carrying the flag. At the same time our batteries were shelling them. When our flag was bourne up the hill by our noble boys I thought it was the prettiest sight I ever witnessed. But it became too hot for our boys and they had to fall back."
He continues, "The carnage was terrible. Our regiment the 118th Ohio lost 211 men in less than half an hour. Our wounded had to stay on the field and be brought in under cover of night. It was an awful sight to see the poor fellows attempt to crawl away. At one time it got so hot for the rebs that they commenced running and our boys were so situated that they could see them running and whenever they got sight of one of the graybacks, a dozen or two of our muskets would be leveled at him…I saw one rebel fall to run no more. For four hours I watched our shells and cannonballs and saw them plow up the ground in front of and inside of the rebel works. I saw two pine trees cut off and fall within a few yards of one of the rebel guns. We were under a hot fire most of the time and had to lay down for safety. We were relieved at dark…I am writing this about 300 yards from the rebel fortifications. One of our batteries is about 30 paces in front of us and is shelling the rebel works and the rebel sharpshooters are firing at the artillerists. We are on low ground and the bullets are whistling over our heads like hell…It is really diverting to hear the minnie balls cutting their way through the limbs and leaves of the trees. It is now 9 o clock and we just received orders to move a mile to the right…"
The next day, on 16 May, Landis continues, "…about 15 of us held a prayer meeting in the forest just in the rear of our camp and while we were singing and offering our petitions to him who rules In The Arms Of Heaven, the rebel cannon and the sharpshooters rifleman belching the iron and letting hail…About 11 just after we had gotten into a nice sweet snooze wrapped in the arms of slumber, nature's wet restorer, all at once, as under as a clap of thunder cannonading commenced off to our left that would have done honor to Chickamauga…Just about this time one of our boys, Proctor of Co. A came to me and implored me for assistance saying that his shoulder was out of place…The rebs were retreating all night across the river and made an advance towards our lines in the night as a blind to cover their retreat. This morning at daylight the whole Rebel Army was across the river retreating south. They burned the railroad bridge and set fire to the wagon bridge but our boys were so close at their heels that they put out the fire and saved it and before noon Sherman had a pontoon across the river and Hookers corps were on their winding way after Joe Johnson. The town of Resacea on the river contains about 20 houses and the way it was used up was a caution. There is one church in the place and it was hit by either shells, cannon shot, or bullets 116 times. This morning as we were within 2 miles of Resacea I rode to the town and took a look at it. I saw the remains of the railroad bridge. It has fallen into the river and what was not under water was still burning…"
He writes another letter to his wife the same day, on 16 May, this one diary-style spanning five days. It reads, "…I never saw a collection of generals since I came into the army. I counted 24. I saw Hooker, Thomas, Sherman, Sickles, Howard, Baird, Palmer, Stanley, &c. The rebs left many of their dead unburied. Dead rebels are scattered all over the country. One terribly mangled lays within three or four rods of where we have to eat and sleep. At one place they made breastworks of their dead. This is no fiction. I saw the feet of one dead rebel sticking out of the embankment which they had thrown up. The ground over which we had to advance against the enemy is terribly broken, nearly all woods covered with thick underbrush. Sometimes we had to leave our horses and climb over the hills and through the underbrush as best we could. The 69th got into a hornet's nest on Saturday the 14th. They were on our left and I attended to five or six of their wounded. One poor fellow, Wallace of Riley, had half of his lower jaw shattered into fragments…Tuesday May 17th - This morning at daylight we crossed the river and started south after the retreating Rebels. I have seen about 300 prisoners. Yesterday I had a talk with the rebel captain and a colonel…"
On 30 May 1864 Landis describes the Battle of Dallas, "…I was out near the front Saturday and saw a large number of dead and wounded. General Johnson who commands the first division of our corps was wounded in the side by a shell. I saw him and talked with him. He was in an ambulance accompanied by several of his staff officers. I saw the shell that struck him. It did not explode. It was round and about twice as large as the ball I brought from Shiloh. Johnson is one of our best generals and a man from the ground up and I think not seriously injured, although he will be disabled for some time. General Howard who lost an arm at Fair Oaks was wounded in the leg. I saw the surgeons taking off an arm for Col. Nibbling of the 21st Ohio. One of the ugliest wounds I ever saw the major of the 53rd Ohio received. His whole lower jaw was shot away…"
During the month of June 1864, Landis describes advancing on Atlanta in a series of six letters, with carnage along the way. On 3 June: "…We are 12 miles from Marietta and 35 from Atlanta. The country is very broken and mostly woods covered with thick underbrush and the only way to advance in the face of the enemy over such a country is to move by inches. Our corps inspector was killed today near our quarters. He was shot through the head and died instantly…" And on 7 June, "…The 69th has lost 60 in killed and wounded since they left Ringgold, in the 93rd about 75…we have lived more like dogs and hogs than like human beings. But I can stand it as long as I keep well and my health is excellent. If this hell born rebellion was crushed Uncle Sam hasn't got gold enough to hire me to go through what I have gone through the last two years…"
On 12 June, Landis describes retrieving a body with the father of the dead soldier: "…I suppose you have heard of the death of John Stewart son of Chambers Stewart of 7 Mile. He was killed May 27th. He belongs to the 37th Indiana. Mr. Stewart has lost three sons since the war commenced. One died at home of disease. One was wounded at Stone River and died and John the only one left was killed as above stated. Oh how affecting. Last Thursday Mr. Stewart came to our regiment and asked me to go with him after his son's body. We started as soon as we could get nearly accompanied by a squad of 13 men of Johnson's company. It turned out rather a dangerous undertaking. We had to go a mile beyond our lines and when we got within about four hundred yards of the grave we ran against two Rebel Cavalry men. We got within a hundred yards of them before we saw them. Our Lieutenant ordered the men to fire and they did in short meter and the way the rebs skedaddled was funny. Our Lieutenant thought it was not safe to go any further without reinforcements and Mr. Stewart and I rode back to General Schofield and asked if the 1st Brigade Commander we could find for two companies. The companies were furnished [to] us and we started back and when we got within about seventy-five yards of the grave, Mr. Stewart and I were advancing along around through a dense forest with William Scott of 7 Mile who was one of the skirmishers. We came to a bend in the road where we saw a rebel step out from behind a tree only about 40 yards ahead of us. Scott who is as Plucky as a bull dog raised his musket and was about to fire when the Rebel yelled 'Don't shoot! Don't shoot! I surrender!' He was a Texican. We then took up the body as soon as possible and return. While we were gone some Rebel Cavalry came near the road we went on and were fired at by some of our pickets. There is no doubt but they were watching for a chance to gobble us. We did not reach camp until midnight…"
More skirmishing on 15 June 1864, "…Yesterday we were after the rebs and the regiment was under fire nearly all day. We had three men wounded. Lieutenant Subin of Co. A through the bowels mortally…" And on 19 June from the "Battle Field" Landis writes, "…We have been after the rebs again the last 3 days. The loss has been heavy on both sides but not very heavy in our corps. My regiment was in yesterday and last Tuesday. We had 10 killed and wounded. Lt. Sabin and Sergeant Jackson were killed and Ferguson Company B mortally wounded and Bullard, McDonalds, Blair, Jackson, Samuels, and Anderson were wounded but will recover…" Again from the Battlefield on 21 June Landis writes, "…We are still in the face of the enemy and while I am writing this letter the earth under my feet is convulsed by the belching cannon…On the 18th my regiment was under a galling fire for several hours, but strange to say we only lost 10 and killed and wounded. It was there that Sergeant Jackson was killed poor fellow! He was shot through the heart and died in a few minutes. No man was ever killed in our regiment whose death was more universally regretted than his. He was as brave as a lion…Yesterday we had the heaviest cannonading I ever heard…I wish you could have heard it. It was beyond all description. At times there were five cannon shots per minute. We are now four miles from Marietta and 24 from Atlanta. There is a mountain about a mile ahead of us called Kennesaw Mountain and the range of Hills that connects with it where the rebels are entrenched. Lost Mountain is 7 miles to our rights. This mountain was taken by Schofield several days ago…"
A week later, Landis describes being wounded at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, so affecting it was to him that he named his son after the battle. Dated 28 June, Landis writes to his wife Mary, "…I was wounded, which happened last Wednesday June 22nd. Our Brigade was at the time 3 miles from Marietta and 23 from Atlanta. We were in the front line. The Rebels had a battery on Kennesaw Mountain about one mile in our front. Wednesday the 22nd about 4 oclock they opened on us a most terrific fire of shell and solid cannon shot. Nothing saved us from terrible carnage but our breastworks. About noon they quit firing for a short time and Major Budd and several other officers including myself went to our Quarters about 75 yards in the rear of the breastworks. We all got behind trees where we thought we were nearly as safe as in the breastworks. While we were thus situated twelve pounds solid shot fired from a Parrot gun struck a tree about 20 feet to my right behind which Major Budd was standing and bounced at nearly a right angle striking my left leg a little below the middle fracturing the bones…the limb could be saved. Oh what a precious drop of comfort this was! Up to that moment I feared I would have to suffer an amputation…" In a letter dated 10 August, he follows up, "…Twice I was placed on the operating table and put under the influence of chloroform to have the gangrene cut out of my wound. Gangrene is mortification. I tell you that was a serious time. A large percentage of those who had gangrene in their wounds died, but it pleased the good Lord to spare my life for which I trust I am thankful…Colonel Vanderveer paid quite a compliment to me while here in Fred's presence. He said no officer in the 35th stood higher than I did…"
With so much more thoughtful and interesting content not transcribed here, including stories of a 16 year old soldier who "blazed away on the rebels", burning buildings, the mindset of the Rebels who fight "like demons", military strategy, the city of Ringgold burning down and destroyed in battle, transporting Union families across enemy lines in a daring scouting mission that Landis participated in, another suspenseful mission attended by Landis to entrap Confederate pickets, and even the birth of Lucy's colt ("It is now only 3 days old and can run and jump just like its mama"). Overall an extraordinary Civil War archive written in a lively and descriptive style. With near full transcriptions for the 190 letters. Many letters are accompanied by original covers, and lot also includes approximately 150 non-war dated letters, as well as about 145 letters from his wife Mary to him during the war. Entire collection is in very good condition.PAYMENTS
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Titles of Distinction