1863 Apr 10

 

Camps Gordon
April 10, 1863

My dear wife,

It is with pleasure that I seat myself to drop you a few lines which will inform you that I am well at this time, hoping these lines may reach and find you and Mollie well, and also all the rest of the family connection.

I have just got back from town where I have been called upon to witness one of the most horrid scenes that I ever beheld in my life.  It is that of a seeing a man shot.

The scene was awful and terrible to behold.  We were marched out in an old field and drawn up in long lines of battle:  two regiments of infantry, two of cavalry, and some artillery forming an oblong square.  And soon after we were formed, that is about one o’clock, the guard brought out from the jail the condemned man.

The Catholic priest was with him.  His hands were tied in front and then his elbows in the rear.  His dress was a common gray uniform.  He was then marched around inside the square in the following order:  the Captain in front, a band of music playing “Hark, From The Tombs A Doleful Sound” next, twelve men who were guards came next, and then four men came with the coffin on their shoulders.  Next came the prisoner with the priest, side by side, and them came twelve more men guarding in the rear.  The Catholic priest had on a long black dress like that of a woman’s, with a robe of white with purple and scarlet borders.

In this manner, they marched around the lines inside and then to the center at one end next to a graveyard.  Here they stopped and the priest had a long ceremony.

Then the man knelt down ten paces from the guard in front, and the priest knelt in the rear.  The command was then give:  “Ready, aim, fire!” and the man fell dead, pierced through by eight or twelve balls.

We were then marched around him under the sound of doleful music and back to our camps where I am now writing.

The man had deserted twice and had attempted to kill his officers.  For this offense, they killed him.  He belonged to a company of sharpshooters who are stationed here.

I have been studying tactics very hard.  I have to be examined on the fifteenth of this month to see if I am competent to fill the place of a Corporal.  All our officers have to be examined on or about that time.

We do not have much war news here.  I reckon you all have more than you know what to do with.  When you hear that we are about to get into a fight, you may know that there is more excitement in the country about it than there is here, for we make out like we ain’t afraid.

Dear Jane, I wish I could see you and Mollie once more.  I think I will try to come home before long if I can get a furlough, and I think I have most got a trick fixed up by which I can get a furlough.  If I do not get a furlough I cannot come, for the penalty might be death if I was to leave without one.  I want you to be cheerful and happy until I come home.  I think I will get there sometime.

I do not believe that we will ever fight any at Savannah.  But they will have it at Charleston, I reckon.  They have taken nearly all the troops away from here and carried them to Charleston.  They come in one of getting us off to Charleston, but Gen. Mercer said Gordon’s Regiment would not leave Savannah until the Yankees drove them off.  Gen. Mercer and Col. Gordon are cousins and Mercer would not let him go to fight.  We are Mercer’s “Pet Lambs.”

I will finish writing after a while.

Mr. Benson and Mr. Orear and Mr. Whatley and Mr. Brookins are all well at this time and doing well.  Mr. Benson and Mr. Whatley swapped caps just now and I think they both got cheated.

I expect I will be on guard next Sunday as I am on nearly every Sunday.  If I am not, I think I will go to the Roman Catholic Church and see how they do.

Our sick boys are all getting better.  There is no more new cases of the mumps here.

I will finish in the morning before the mail comes, so good night as I have to go out about supper.

I will not buy any more postage stamps here.  You can pay for them there, and if you do not get them, no money will be out.

April 11

I am still well this morning and hope that you are the same.

There is now news this morning.

Jane, you must tell Uncle John Smith I have not forgot him and that I would be glad to see him and Aunt Betsy and Mary and Varchus and Jim and Ellen.  I would be glad to see them all.  Give them my respects.  Give my love and respects to our parents and brothers and sisters.  Give my respects to Mrs. Lynch.  Tell Sammy and Sarah that I would have written to them but I have not written to any person, only you, except it be on business.

I know when I write to you they can hear.  And when you write to me, tell me about them.  I think just as much of them as if I was to write every day to them.

So, I will close.  May God bless you, my dear, and make you happy is my prayer.  So, I will close.  Good-bye.

I remain yours in love as ever,

William H. Harden