93 Letters by a Chaplain in the 90th Ohio Infantry For Sale
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93 Letters by a Chaplain in the 90th Ohio Infantry :
Lot of 93 letters by William C. Holliday, Chaplain in the 90th Ohio Infantry, Co. S, a young 25 year-old man whose correspondence shows a nice balance of humor and evocative content as he describes the war to his family back home, including battles fought by the regiment. The 90th Ohio was particularly active during the Atlanta Campaign, with coverage here of the Battles of Resaca - including driving the retreating rebels, as well as Dallas, Marietta and Atlanta. The regiment was active again later in 1864 during the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, and later fought in the Battle of Asheville, just days before the war ended. Written mostly to his wife and mother, many of Holliday's letters are diary-style - especially when he was engaged in fighting, covering several days of activity, and also include sketches of camp and maps of the area.
In his first day of service on 1 February 1864, Holliday remarks, "This letter exhibits the state of my mind kind of confused. Feel like a 'cat in a strange gaunt'", after seeing thousands of dead horses and graves on the roads. He soon becomes accustomed to dead bodies though, and remarks often on the sights, including even seeing a Confederate hanging from a tree in an apparent suicide. Writing the day before the Battle of Resaca, Holliday describes skirmishing on 12 May 1864, "…While I write our artillery is shelling the rebel works. A few minutes ago they opened out on us with their battery on a high hill south of us, but they could not reach us…The bugle called to fall in…& our Brigade move rapidly across the open field & were soon at the foot of the mountain. I feared that many would be wounded by Sharpshooters on the mountain who have been annoying us ever since we have been here…as the Brigade moved farther up near the rebel works, we moved further up the valley all the time within gunshot of the sharpshooters. Several Indiana boys came back wounded, some walking, some being carried by or on the stretchers, but none of our boys were brought back & as it was getting dark & I feared that some of our boys might be wounded up in the woods & unable to get back, I went up looking carefully for them as I went. Found two Indiana boys & got them on the way to the surgeons & went up to where General Crump & staff were. He said they were ordered back so I halted. When the regiment came down I found that not one of our boys was hurt while in other regiments there were seven or eight killed & 30 or 40 wounded. We were marvelously favored. All that saved our regiment was that it was lying down when the grape & canister passed over them rattling against the trees. Some of the wounded were very cheerful. One boy struck in three places was laughing & bragging about what he had done. Poor fellow!…"
The next letter - spanning 5 days from 14-18 May, Holliday writes to his wife about the Battle of Resaca and pursuing the retreating Confederate army: "…Yesterday was an interesting day. We found the rebels about two miles from where I wrote last. We were first in line of battle. Breastworks were thrown up & about the middle of the afternoon our brigade (Whitakers) ascended the hill driving the enemy. Hooker's corps was operating on the right flank. Our brigade advanced up a little valley by the extreme left wounded & dead men were brought back rapidly from Whitaker's Brig. Our left was left all exposed & the rebels took advantage of it & threw a whole division in against us, which compelled us to fall back in perfect disorder except our regiment. It is said that they came off in good order except two companies which were cut off from the rest & they went North with the other regiments …Every man for himself. The rebels harassing with a battery which was posted on a little hill in an open field proved a murderous fire into them driving them back with great confusion…About as I was retreating the bullets came whizzing right past where I was. I got behind a big tree but it became evident that the enemy was throwing a large force against us, firing became rapidly. Others were going back when I started leading my horse but he did not lead fast enough so I got on & he didn't walk fast enough so I made him gallop. The bullets whizzed by, I went back to a battery which had been planted on a little hill…Our troops in the meantime were retreating in great confusion. As soon as they got out of the way the battery opened on them. I was back of the battery on an elevation & I could see the shells fall & burst right in amongst them. Mercy, but it swept them off. They advancing into an open field & six pieces of Cannon throwing shell grape & canister & among them. I could see their ranks open about 20 feet every shot. The firing of artillery only continued about half hour when it is said they left 300 dead in the field."
He continues in the letter, "I rode around all over the neighborhood hunting my regt. could only find two or three little squads when I completed they were nearly all captured as they were almost surrounded. The other regiments of our Brigade were Gathering up their men & I found General Ross told me where our regiment was. I found them away after dark on the hill is the right of where the engagement took place. This morning we went up at daylight. While we were eating breakfast the bullet came feeling for us. It sounded as though it were feeling for me. I cut breakfast off & got back in a battery just behind our Brigade & began writing this when some bullets came…Heard skirmishing & cannonading has began this morning making the Earth tremble. I saw General Sherman & Hooker last night…May 16th - No General engagement yesterday the constant firing was kept up. In the afternoon however there was quite a brisk engagement when some of Hooker's corps charged a Rebel fort & is said took it. In the night there was quite a little battle in front of our Brigade which as I suppose was for the purpose of making us believe that they were still here in force which was in fact only to cover their retreat…May 17th south of Resaca about 4 miles - Immediately after writing the above we moved through the rebel works down to Resaca oh, a small village on a little river. I had an opportunity of going over the battlefield or a portion of it. In several places where the heaviest fighting had been dead men of both sides lay all around. It was a terrible sight indeed. The rebels left in a great hurry. They were strongly fortified & they could have held that place if any. They left their dead & part of their wounded. There had been a much greater battle than I supposed. Our shells had done terrible execution. As we passed above toward the river we saw between 50 & 100 of their badly wounded lying in the bushes. What a sight met my eyes! Their wounds had not been dressed. No one is left to care for them. The dead were scattered all along through the woods. One Rebel major was lying dead by the road down near the village. Then this side of the river we found what they had used for hospital. They have no tents. Had made a shelter of pine tree tops. There was one dead man had our uniform & one Rebel dying left all alone. In fact everybody has left the country but a few old Negroes. The rebel wounded were kindly cared for by us…The Village was nearly destroyed by our Cannon. The railroad bridge was burning, but our men got over & cut it into when it was prevented from burning more. We crossed on a pontoon bridge made of canvas. One of the inventions of the Yankees. May 18th - Came about 8 miles yesterday. Pressed the rear guard of the enemy closely. Found wounded & some dead along the Wall. Came through what has been a good town Calhoun. Women were crying. Rebels had taken their husbands at the point of bayonet…"
On 21 May 1864, Holliday describes the destruction of towns in the path of the armies: "…We are within 1/2 Mile of Cassville, a nice Village. The rebels in their Retreat always go through these towns & consequently the towns have to be shelled to drive the rebels out. Here the people all leave & the soldiers plunder at a desperate rate. Not infrequently on our march we see large splendid homes & barns in flames. So far only 15 of our men have been wounded & then killed. This is rather remarkable as we have been under fire to some extent for 10 days. Every few miles we see dead or wounded men on the march. Men who are shot on the Skirmish line & it is a fact that there is about as many remarks made about dead horses as dead men. Some of our men have made narrow escapes. One man's gun was stuck just before his heart glaced from the gun to his breast & did but little damage. Another was struck on the side of the head then struck his gun showering the woodworks & flattening itself around the ramrod. How near bullets have come to me I know not but I have heard them say as they passed me 'Where is you?' God is good…" A week later he reports, "…We are driving the rebels before us. Yesterday gave indications of spite. Our lines were soon formed but rebs would not stand. We could see them in an open field retiring rapidly before us. It was a magnificent sight to see perhaps 50,000 Union Soldiers marching through open fields…"
Holliday then writes in the middle of the Battle of Dallas on 29 May 1864, writing from the "Battlefield near Dallas GA", "…Now we begin to ascend a mountain…the lightning flash, the thunders roar. It is terribly grand. Dark as Egypt. A fence is set on fire to give us life. One soldier remarks that 'this is a hard way to serve the Lord.' Up up we go. Missed the road. We holler at each other to find where we are. Many fall out by the way. Can't go any further. We finally go into Camp about midnight on a rocky side hill. We pitch our tent & sleep. Chimney was nearly given out. Would have been entirely so if he had slightly, but some with arms & legs off. Oh it is awful. It makes the heart sick. I have no doubt but that we will whip them effectively. But many will be slain. In all of our battle I have been with the regiment every night but two until day before yesterday. On that day I did not feel might well…Our Brigade has not been engaged yet, but stray balls fly around pretty thick. As I was going out whiz went a minnie ball seemed to be pretty close. I got off of my horse & walked to get nearer the ground. Just as I got there a shell passed by just over our regiment apparently low enough to have hit a man if he had been in its way. I got back to the rear & have been here since. I am determined, God willing, to see the end of this war & get home again. So you see that I am not as brave as you thought I was. I have heard as many shells & balls passed by as I want to hear…Only one has been wounded in our regiment yet & he's slightly. It's the rebels should be badly defeated here…" He then tells his mother, perhaps unintentionally alarming her, "…Congress had passed a new law regarding chaplains. If taken prisoner or absent from regiment &c get pay as other officers. Pay same as before if totally disabled a pension of $20 per month. Killed goes to families…"
Writing "Near Battlefield Altoona Mts." on 7 June 1864, Holliday prematurely reports to his wife that "The rebels are defeated splendidly" before humorously writing, "When the rebels run I like to be after them, but when they stop & shoot at a fellow, I then feel like advancing back to the rear." He then writes to his wife on 12 June, describing the fighting around Marietta, "…Our regiment has been & still is right in front. Day before yesterday we had two companies on the skirmish line. One of our boys was killed instantly, shot through the breast [John Hoskins]. You will remember the boy's family when I tell you that he was a son of Job Hoskins…We dug a grave about 3 ft deep, wrapped him in his blanket, put his gun blanket over him oh, & after I offered a short prayer, the grave was filled. A rough board was placed at the head of the grave with name, company & regt on it. Sad very sad indeed. No tears were shed over his grave. I could not shed any. It has become so common an occurrence. I will write to his father the sad news…" He continues the letter later that afternoon, "…On the front line not more than 1/2 mile from Rebel Works. They worked nearly all night, throwing up earth works. The ground is very level, no place to hide. Had not been there but a little while till whiz came a ball over the regiment. We got some dinner & by the time I was done eating I concluded that it was safer back further. So I thought I would just get back around a little elevation in the wood & put up my tent, but here come a mini ball, rattling among the leaves, so I came back where we were last night…All that has been done right here is constant skirmishing & a gradual advance of our lines…"
In a two-day letter from 15-16 June 1864, Holliday writes to his wife, describing the Battle of Marietta and the death of Confederate General Leonidas Polk. Letter reads in part, "…While I write our artillery is shelling the rebels like every thing. Don't know whether they are falling back on Atlanta or not. We have not got into position yet…This is quite a high hill. The rebels had very strong fortifications all around the top of the hill. They also had a masked battery which they expected us to approach & give them an opportunity to mow us down by the hundred but we did not see proper to advance until our lines were extended & advanced so as to compel them to fall back here without fighting them. Our cannon are still shelling them. There is a very large hill in front of us just this side of Marietta. The rebels have the hill fortified, from this hill we can see them. They have batteries there but they do not harm us much. They can't throw shell this far. It is about 2 miles…There is a magnificent building beyond & to the right of the hill. It is a military academy…One soldier's grave I saw killed yesterday. 5 Rebels were captured by our Brigade last night. They report that the rebel Gen. Polk was killed by a shell yesterday near where I write…Just after I was done writing yesterday every preparation was made for battle. Our corps was marred & moved down into this woodland in line of battle & we concluded to go in our brigade & our regiment was in front. There was pretty heavy fighting for about 1 hour & 1/2 I tell you it sounded vicious. The Stray shots come back feeling after us pretty thick. The fighting appeared to be right in our front & indeed there was pretty heavy skirmishing, but the principal skirmishing was on the left of us. We halted right here & there & threw up breastworks. The men have worked all night on their works. Several men were wounded in our brigade but none killed or hurt in our regiment. I think the rebels are trying to get away…"
The next day on 17 June 1864, he continues to describe the relentless fighting, "…Yesterday there was considerable skirmishing & on some parts of the line rather warm times. Our lines were advanced considerably. In the afternoon we had a nice little time. The rebels shelled us. I was back of the regiment with the surgeons & others when the shelling began. I was lying on the ground. My horse was not saddled. I did that in a hurry, but while I was doing that there must have been a half-dozen shells bursting over our heads. They were so high however that they did not do much harm. One Lieutenant was struck by a piece in one of our regiments & broke his arm…Captain Chief of artillery in our division was killed yesterday in front of our regiment. Shot in the head. Was an excellent officer…I stood on the very spot. The blood was yet visible on the ground. He was a bishop of the Episcopal Church. The rebels were flanked on the right last night & compelled to fall back in front of us. So this morning we moved into their Works. They were very strong indeed. Trees were cut down in front so that it would have been almost impossible to have approached them. They also had marked batteries. We have been driving them all the forenoon & noon while I write tremendous cannonading is going. I have never heard so much at once before. I would not be surprised if there would be heavy fighting this afternoon. I hear nothing but boom boom boom. The proper way to do when shells are falling about us is to lie down. They are filled with powder & are so made that they can be made to burst just wear the gunner intend to. Some of them do not explode & hence pass over & high…I find the shell coming in the direction of me is the most alarming thing that I've ever heard. Then the burst with the great whine almost as loud as the cannon shell, then the pieces fly in every direction. But when the shells are fired at the rebels they don't sound so bad…We had two men wounded slightly as today. My curiosity as to warfare is satisfied. Everyday I become more & more bitter in my feeling toward it. There is nothing that I can see in killing persons that affords me any pleasure. But when I have to see the dead & dying I want them to be our enemies. Oh how it makes my heart ache to see our Union Soldiers slain in battle. Mercy how that cannonading does roar. It sounds as loud as the loudest thunder. Dozens of pieces discharge at once. The intention is no doubt to drive the rebels back with artillery as far as possible. That is the best way for us & the most destructive to them. They have not done much in the way of shelling us today, Hence I'm supposed to think that they are retreating or else they may be trying to draw us into a trap but they're filled & wood are full of troops…"
On 19 June 1864, Holliday writes of the fighting at Kennesaw Mountain just before the Battle, "…We have been in line of battle all the time though not in front. The rebels were flanked on the right & consequently were compelled [to] fall back in front of us. So yesterday morning we advanced into their works. There were two lines splendid fortifications. We moved about 1 mile when we found the rebels in position again. There was considerable fighting especially artillery. There was a continuous roar of artillery that has only been surpassed by that that received today. Such a sight as I saw today is rare indeed. We are within one mile of Lost Mountain. We have their batteries or more within 1/2 mile from it. The rebels have artillery in it. They opened on us today when our batteries let out on them. They must have thrown 200 shells on the mountain. Since then the rebels do not disturb us…" And then on 22 June, he recounts the dead and wounded in his regiment: "…Day before yesterday the skirmish line advanced in front of our brigade but were driven back. We had four wounded that day. Yesterday our regt & another was in front & advanced in force, took a strong position & held it. We had one killed [William Eby] & seven or eight wounded…"
On 23 June 1864, he writes to his wife, referring to her as "Mrs. Holliday", "I had a notion to say my dear &c but that would be against regulations. Well I feel that way when I don't say so. You know that I am a great lover of the ladies…What suffering have I seen in the few days just passed. It is indescribable. Three poor men died in the ambulances while we were coming to the station. My next reason for coming back here [to Big Shanty, where a union base was located] which is about seven or eight miles from the regiment was to get where I could not see & smell dead men. I am sick at heart with the sights &c. Then to get out of hearing those everlasting guns. For the last 15 days I have heard every minute the cracking of guns & every hour the war of artillery. Also to get my horse shed & corn for him…our regiment was pretty heavily engaged & on the 21 did Noble work, advanced & held their position. Gen. Howard was right there & complimented them. The boys say the shells burst right in among them. Our regiment fared remarkably well only one man killed & in 600, eight wounded. One wounded yesterday & died last night…A chaplain has more privileges than any other man in the army. No man can come back here without a pass or permission from his Col., but I can go when I please. I don't feel right so far away. I like to be in the neighborhood of the regt. so that if my services were needed I could be there. This morning when I went to the regiment there were more than a dozen stray balls that fell in among us…" Holliday makes his way back to his regiment, writing on 24-25 June 1864 in part, "…I came on to the hospital. It had been moved about two miles further to the right. I found two of our men there. One is Captain Witherspoon, shot in the hip. The ball remains in his leg…"
On 6 July 1864, Holliday describes a gruesome sight, a Confederate soldier who had hung himself: "…Stone Mountain can be seen away in the distance raising prominently above all the country. But of all the sights yet was the man, a Rebel hanging to a tree. Had been there several days I think that he must have hung himself. His feet reached ground, was hanging with the strip of bark, but I will not sicken you with the description. I could however sit down & eat beside of the victim. I have become used to seeing sights…I also knelt & prayed in the woods, then more than ever do I think of the loved ones at home…"
The Battle of Atlanta is described in a pair of letters written 23 and 24 July 1864, just outside the city. In the first letter, Holliday writes, "…They resisted our advance here pretty strongly. They have heavy works here but last night they fall back from our front & we are expecting to move any minute. There was pretty heavy fighting on parts of the line yesterday & the day before. We have been in reserve here rather behind a hill & have been shielded from straggling shots. Many of them have passed over us. Some apparently pretty close. Again I must acknowledge the protection of providence…About noon - We advanced about 2 miles. I think we are within 3 miles of Atlanta. As we moved around to our present position we passed in full view of the Rebels for it's about one mile distant in the suburbs of the city. They shell considerably but most all of them went in another direction. A few came towards us…Our lines are being extended around the city. While I write I hear heavy cannonading on our right & left like heavy distant thunder. I did not think the rebels would fight us right in the city, but I believe they now intend to do so. I hope they will feel confident of complete success. They may hold us off several days or weeks, but my opinion is before that this reaches you our army will triumphantly hold Atlanta…"
On 24 July "Near Atlanta GA", Holliday writes to his wife, "…When I wrote you day before yesterday there was a terrible battle raging about 1 mile & a half on the left of us in the 17 Corps. We did not know but that it might extend along the line until it would reach us, but it did not. The 17 corps was advancing & before the lines were formed or any breastworks thrown up & indeed before the corps commenced on to the 16 corps the rebels attacked them in heavy columns. Drove our men about 1/2 mile took 12 pieces of artillery & about 400 of our men prisoners. Our troops were reinforced by the 16th corps & drove the Rebels, reoccupied the best ground & we procured the artillery except four pieces & took about 1,200 prisoners. Gen. McPherson commander in the army…was killed in the engagement. This is quite a loss to us. He was an able General. We could hear the roar of artillery & the volleys of musketry here & could follow the sounds very distinctly realizing the fact that our troops were repulsed. It was terrible…A good many of our men were killed & wounded but many more Rebels. A man told me that he had just seen the prisoners passing to our rear. He thinks there were 12 or 13 hundred of them. The report is current that one of their ablest generals was killed. All things taken into consideration it resulted in quite a victory to our side. All our generals ask them is to fight us here. This their new general Hood seems determined to do. General Johnson refused to command the Army any longer because Jeff Davis told him to hold Atlanta which he said could not be done with the forces he had & hence refused to command it any longer. Hood is a young darken fellow & may lose his army. Our generals are very much pleased with the charge of command. Johnson is there ablest general in my opinion. Our army will gradually mine around the city to fortify as it advances, so that it in the course of days, Atlanta will be nearly surrounded. For several days we have not heard the whistling of locomotives & it is said our cavalry have cut them off…accounts of the battle of the 22 put our loss at about 3,000, Rebels lost 9000. General Hardy (Rebel) is said to have been wounded & to have fallen into our hands & died. This will balance our loss in McPherson. It was a desperate battle. The rebels have been rather quiet since…" They move closer to the city, with Holliday writing on 3 August, "…on the 1st, we moved. The 23rd corps moved to the extreme right & we took a place on the left. We only came about 2 miles & it took us till about 11 at night to get into position. It looked like a dangerous plan, terrible fortifications, running in almost every direction. Holes were dug in the ground & everything went to show that the rebels had done some heavy shelling here. We piled down on the ground & slept…We are within 1 mile of the town, can see a large part of it by getting on the breastworks…There is a vast amount of property destroyed here. The nigh Rebels run off & leave their houses & our boys help themselves. They just literally tear houses down…"
In a letter spanning two days from 4-5 August 1864, Holliday describes advancing on the city and how his horse was shot, "…The Skirmish line was advanced last evening & there was pretty sharp shooting for a while…My horse was shot last night. I stated before that occasional shots passed over us here & it was one of those stragglers that struck him. He was standing right where he had been since we have been here. He was facing the rebel works. The mini ball struck his hind leg on the posterior joint burying itself in the bone. Our surgeon worked at it a half hour trying to get it loose but failing to do so. I had a man shoot him. After which I cut the ball out & will bring or send it home to remember him by…" And on 7 August, he describes a ruse to trick the Confederates, "…Yesterday evening the rebels tried to get up some excitement by charging our picket line for about 1 mile. It extended up to us…When the enemy began to advance last evening, will you play it a little strategy by the regiments of the Brigade, marching out in full view of the rebels & then returning so that they would think we have a heavy Force here. When really our line is weak, but our works are strong…" On 11 August, he describes the advance on Atlanta in a "babyish" letter, "…Our lines are gradually expanding around the town. Last night shells could be seen bursting into town thrown from the other side opposite us. It requires patience but I think all things are going well…Now as I feel a little babyish this evening, (that is I would like to see my babies) I must pass the time by putting some flubber dubs on this letter, such as running a little lines under each word. What a sickening letter. Yours as always, W.C. Holliday / P.S. Don't show this. People might think that I have lost what little brains I used to have."
Later in August, Holliday describes intense shelling that killed one man whose body Holliday tried to take back home. In part, "…Day before yesterday night Atlanta received a terrible shelling. Our battery opened on the town about dark & so did an artillery all along the line. We could see the shells bursting all over the town & they could be heard passing through the houses, making a terrible racket. Several houses were set fire & burned down. They rang the fire bells all over town. The rebels shelled us too but they did not silence our guns. They threw a good many over here killing one man & wounding another back of us, the shells nearly all passed over us. We were behind our works, in fact I did not get out of my bed until I got up to see the shells bursting in town. When the Rebel cannon would go off, down we would get & let them whiz over us. The shelling on our side continued nearly all night but the rebels quit in a couple of hours. They are evidently scarce of ammunition…" Continuing in a letter on 22 August, he writes from Chattanooga, "…Captain [Thomas] Rains of Circleville OH was shot on the morning of the 19. His dying request was that his body should be sent home. The colonel wished me to take it home. I started, got here, & could not take it further in consequence of being poorly embalmed & having no cement for the cars…The body had become rather offensive & I buried it & telegraphed to his friends…"
He returns to his regiment in September after Atlanta was taken. On the 23rd, he writes from inside the city, "…The town of Atlanta is all riddled with bullets & shells. I was much mistaken in supposing that the town was destitute of women & children. It is full of them, or rather was full of them. They're all ordered a Way North or South…My sympathies were aroused for the destitute women & children, especially the latter. And then I think of the thousands of widows & orphans in the land I loved so well in my sympathies are more stirred for them…" In the same letter, following General Sheridan's victories at Third Winchester and Fisher's Hill, Holliday writes, "…We received the news of Sheridan's Victory yesterday evening. We heard the regiments around us as giving 3 roaring cheers & included something with it. Pretty soon here comes our orderly in haste with a paper in his hand. In 5 minutes the regiment is out to hear the news while the heavens let down rain. The order is read. It is official, Sheridan has driven the rebel Army 80 miles, captured 5,000 prisoners &. We give three cheers making the air ring with our music. Driven the rebel Army's 30 miles? Why such a thing has not occurred before in the war. It must be a grand Affair. God be praised…" In another letter on the 23rd, he writes to his wife, "…We see a great many men riding around over the battlefield, men who were engaged in the battle, all looking over the ground under far different circumstances than on the 22nd of July [Battle of Atlanta]. We all encamped right on the ground where there was the heaviest fighting, Graves marked & unmarked are scattered all around. Here one then 10 yonder 20 & so on until they can be counted by thousands. The trees are all marked with bullets & cannonballs…"
The 90th Ohio left Atlanta shortly thereafter, and Holliday writes on 9 October 1864, "…There was quite a little battle at Atlanta past 2 or 3 days ago. The rebels demanded the surrender of the peace which was refused. They then tried to take it by storm but failed & fled leaving 200 dead & 400 badly wounded on the field. We are now about 5 miles from them. It is said that we have 500,000 rations those which the rebels wanted for no doubt they are hungry, as they have scarcely anything but cornmeal…" In leaving the city, they retraced their steps towards Atlanta, with Holliday writing on 14 October from "Old battlefield of Resacea Georgia" where he first tasted battle: "…We are camped on the very ground that our regt. retreated over…the rebels came here to, well we were after them at Rome 25 miles distant. They demanded the surrender of the place but no surrender so they banged away a while & left. They are beyond Dalton. Have destroyed the railroad completely…The rebels are one day in advance of us. Where they will go at last I don't know, but we will pursue them to the bitter end. I was sorry to see Charles Chessington was among the wounded in the late battle…"
The 90th Ohio was next engaged during the Franklin-Nashville Campaign in late 1864. In a letter spanning 7-8 December 1864, Holliday writes to his wife about a skirmish preceding the Battle of Nashville, and also about a young girl, "…A black Negro woman apparently 26 years old with a little girl about as old as Lama and just about as white. As about the same color and as curly as long as used to be. She is very smart. Ask her who her father is. 'His name is Jones. He is a white man. In the rebel Army.' And so it is. That's the kind of children they sell in the South. Great God! What an institution is slavery…It is about 2 p.m. I went to the regt this morning. Had not been there more than an hour until the rebels advanced their skirmish lines and drove our skirmishers back more than 1/4 of a mile. Then our boys rally and drove them back. From where our regiment is we could see the whole thing. I looked fine to see our boys all along the line driving the rebel skirmishers. They would shoot and run. It appeared to be in advance of the rebels all along the line. One of the boys of my regiment was shot, poor fellow. I am afraid he will die. Shot in back, the ball coming out of the side of bowels. I rode down in the ambulance with him to the hospital…The rebels I think intended it as a faint, to cover some other movements. The day is quite cool. Coming in the ambulance the wounded boy was cold. I took off my overcoat and put over him…"
On 7 December his humor is on display in a letter to his mother, "…I will send you my photograph if you want or a thing that was taken for me, I don't like it very well, but I ought not to expect anything pretty, but Ma if it ain't pretty you know where the fault lies…" And then on 15 December 1864, he briskly describes the Battle of Nashville where the regiment lost 5 killed and 15 wounded, "Ma, A terrible battle today. We are victorious. About 20 casualties in my regt. Many of whom are yet to be cared for to night. I am well. God be praised."
He continues to describe the Battle of Nashville in a letter to his mother dated 18 December 1864, "…Yesterday morning we moved early in the AM. Our troops had moved rapidly after the panic stricken and fleeing rebels about four miles. It was night. They slept on the mud and under the rain. It rained all day, but this army is so flushed with victory that they did splendid marching though tired and worn from two days incesent fighting and almost sleepless nights. We came about fifteen miles. Rebels are still going. It is the greatest victory of the war. About fifty pieces of artillery captured. Rebels have but three or four cannon left. We have now over three hundred wounded who were left here at the battle of Franklin. Fifteen hundred Rebel wounded all here and have fallen into our hands. We have only lost about three thousand or four thousand in the battle at Nashville. I saw about 200 of our dead lying on about one acre of ground. They were our men…" And also on 18 December, in a letter to his wife, "…In Franklin I had an opportunity of riding over the battlefield. The rebels suffered terribly. They assaulted our works and were killed by the hundred. I counted on one side of the pike 350 graves. There were as many on the other side. I never saw a more joyful set of men then were our prisoners who had been in the hand of the Rebels for two weeks. The rebels came through Franklin and a great hurry. Our cavalry captured 5 pieces of artillery there. Quite a number of rebels have been captured…There were 30 casualties in our regiment. 5 killed, five or six mortally wounded. The regiment came off well in view of what they pass through. They and our whole army are in fine spirits. The rebels were badly whipped…"
On 21 December 1864, he writes about the Battle to his brother James, "…Our regiment Brigade Division and Corps, did nobly in Nashville. On the one day of the fight the 21 Indiana and 81, 101 Ohio and our regiment charged to fortified hill and took it. We lost about 25 Men. I think there were five killed and 25 wounded. Probably six or eight of them mortally. Killed - Jo Bond Co. C, Emmerich D, Sylvester Smith E…Segt. Harris shot through both thighs, one amputated. Must have died same night. Perry Edward H shot through face, tongue merely shot into. Could neither talk nor eat. Must Die. Walker H shot through side, fear he must die. There are several others who may die. Sergeant Thurman arm fractured…Dave. C. Connor leg amputated above knee. …Sergt. Parsons escaped death narrowly. Ball struck the plate on his belt. Would have gone through him but for that. The regiment added new Laurels to its name…On the second the rebels were completely flanked and were charged from several points. On the one day they were so flanked on the right that they had to fall back on the left and Centre leaving to very strong lines of works. There were nearly 60 pieces of artillery taken, about an equal number of each day. On the second day our Court took 13 pieces. I saw a nine of them. They left thousands of small arms. There were a few unsuccessful attacks or charges made. The rebels in fact left everything and went or rather were driven like a drove of cattle, for it is a strange fact that these mounted officers rode between the rebels and our men with drawn swords and compelled them to retreat. Was ever such a thing heard of before?…"
The day after Christmas, Holliday writes from Pulaski, Tenneesse, where he describes skirmishing and the destruction of the city, "…The rebels are being closely followed and fighting occurs with our cavalry and theirs every day. They do not get time to burn bridges over the large streams. At Pulaski there is a large bridge which they fired in several places, but our cavalry was so close on to them that they prevented its destruction. At Pulaski we left our sick and stored about half our hospital stores and then struck out on a mud road. Emphatically such mud I never went through before…Where we are going I cannot tell. To the Tennessee River no doubt, but what point I know not. We follow the rebels. I saw great destruction that the rebels made yesterday which shows their desperate state. In Pulaski they piled up 18 wagon loads of ammunition and burned it. This side of town there were the remains of about 15 burned wagons with shot and shell, grape and canister scattered all around. They have destroyed in all near here nearly 50 wagon loads of fixed ammunition…I rather think we will return back after the rebels are pursued across the Tennessee…" On 18 January 1865, Holliday writes a heart-felt letter about a friend getting wounded, "…Today I rec'd a letter from a Mr. Monson Creamer, of course you do not know him…One of the most exemplary Christians I ever knew. He expects to be a Methodist itinerant. I love him much. He was struck on the left arm, his arm being against his side, with a spent cannon ball. The ball had been fired low, struck the ground, bounced and hit him knocking him over savagely. It broke one of the bones of his arm and bruised his side but he stopped the ball. It laid by his side. Somehow I can only manage to have a few special confidential friends at once and Monson Creamer is one of them…" On 19 January, Holliday shares with his wife the following letter, "…How many husbands do you suppose there are who tell their wives all they do?…I know a good deal about men in the Army. There are not an innumerable multitude who would be willing that their wives know all they do. But I try to avoid everything wrong. I believe that I do nothing that I would object to your knowing. In fact I am guilty of no habits that I had not at home. But I was not intending to boast of my integrity or virtue, but wanted an introduction to my letter…" On 14 March 1865, Holliday describes a freak accident while sitting "In a hog car" in Knoxville, Tennessee, "…Our train ran off the track, killed 3 men a few minutes ago. A man fell down between cars & was cut in two…But I must close. The men are laughing at me for writing under these circumstances…" And in an amusing letter to his mother dated 24 March 1865, Holliday writes in small part, "…I dreamed about you last night. The reason I suppose was because I went to sleep thinking of housekeeping…God bless you, mama, and pets. Yours W.C. Holliday".
In the last consequential letter of the collection, Holliday writes on 10 April 1865 following Lee's surrender and the Battle of Asheville, fought on 6 April in one of the last battles of the war. Writing to his wife, letter reads in part, "…O how grateful to God should I be and trust I am for the indescribably glorious news that awaited our arrival at this place this afternoon. 'R.E. Lee surrendered his army to Gen. Grant.' Tremendous cheering followed the announcement but many were incredulous, but a few minutes ago the news was given us officially. While I write the band is playing 'Hail Columbia,' 'Star Spangled Banner' &c. Men are cheering and shooting their guns, singing, throwing up hats and letting out generally. It is night, but how can I sleep over such glorious intelligence as this, 'Praise God from whom all blessings flow.' We have had a week of labor and hard marching and attended with some danger. I intended to write a full account of our expedition to Asheville North Carolina, but, dear me, I shall not do so unless I run out of something to write. I will just say now concerning it a few things. Asheville is away beyond The Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, 70 miles from here. All that distance is in the enemy's country. 40 miles of our way was along the edge of the water of the French Broad River. The mountains on either side were very high and much of the road had been blown out of the Rocks, narrative which projected over the road. 40 miles along that rapid little shallow River I do not think there are 100 acres of bottom land. For about 15 miles the road was blockaded by trees which the rebels had cut over the road and large rocks rolled down also. We found a few more Rebels there than we expected to find and they showed a bold front. Our instructions were not to take the place if it required any loss. After skirmishing a while, we retreated in the evening, about 10 miles making a march of 40 miles in less than 30 hours. Two of our men were wounded. They stood the journey back in an ambulance very well. I heard a few more shells and bullets than I expected to hear…"
Collection is nicely penned, very legible with drawings to further illustrate Holliday's letters, and with many on U.S. Christian Commission stationery. An unusually large archive, even more so from a Chaplain, with letters to Holliday also included, totaling approximately 35. In very good condition with near full transcriptions.
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