Baton Rouge La
I am in receipt of your kind favor of the 26th ???. It was over three weeks on the way. I will have to make further inquires in regard to Mr Wright and hope I May send the result in this.
I have never yet written to you of our "trip" after we left Simmesport or anything about "Mrs. Simmes". Well Mrs Simmes lives on the banks of the Atchafalya River and has a husband, Capt. in the rebel service. She lives in fine style, and on account of her residence having been occupied by Gen. Banks while the main body of troops were here. We were then the rear guard of the army, she had retained possession of most of her stock and fences. These our boys were appropriating rapidly, when an oldies man came from the house exhibiting a paper signed by Gen Banks ordering that Mrs. Simmes property should be left unmolested. The old man proved to be her daughters tutor. The latter was invisible. Soon Mrs Simmes herself made her appearance, and coming through the camp enquired in a sharp voice for the commanding officer. Being near our tent, the captain, (who never let a chance go by to get into conversation with a lady) stepped out and politely saluting her, asked if she had any commands. Now the game taken from the place did not all remain in the hands of the original captors but in the natural "course of human events" two fine geese had found their way into our tent, (or rather "fly" being open on all sides, just affording top shelter) and were under a box scarce large enough to cover them and about six inches of a white wing could be seen sticking out between the edge of the box and the grass. As the lady talked she fidgeted and as she fidgeted she worked around toward the side where some of the protected rebel property was unconcealed. Your correspondent in order not to interrupt the apparent friendly relations of the captain with her, shifted, so that the lady should not see that the captain, while promising to prevent depredations by the men, was expecting goose for supper himself. I noticed also, that many of the men seemed both tired and cold, for although in the middle of the afternoon many had their blankets spread over them to take a nap and at the same time saving their poultry by keeping it from observation. The captain soon found Mrs Simmes had too much for him to do and not being really in command of the detachment politely informed her so, stating the "the commanding officer was Captain Hills, who he knew was fond of serving the ladies, and he feared, if he (himself) attempted to carry out her wishes he might take it as a usurpation of his rights". Capt Hills was summoned and standing bareheaded with her bonnet doubled up, and used to point with, this "tonguey" woman stood and directed him to have this thing restored and that thing replaced, this fence rebuilt and a guard put on that one etc etc. until poor Capt Hills wished Capt Cocheu had acted for the time as commander but having no one to put her off on, he promised to do the best he could when she finally left and cooking supper commenced. Later in the evening the tutor approached a group of us and formally announced Mrs. Simmes as wishing "to speak to the gentlemanly German Captain" "Not but that I find you all very gentlemanly" broke in Mrs Simmes with a low courtesy as Capt Hills stepped from among us. After conversing awhile she raised her voice and with many extravagant gestures and twists of her not over corpulent person she got off something like this: "For you know gentlemen" turning to us "that all my neighbors scattered at your approach, I alone have remained and it is my desire to be able to say to them on their return 'The Yankees have treated me with respect and far better than I had expected in fact better than our own army did' I would say so if I could see them tomorrow. Now gentlemen, I know you do not want to spoil a good opinion formed of yourselves, by one closely linked to a brave man who is opposed to you. Good night"
We could not but feel for her the next day, when a battery camped on her grounds, to see her much prized fence vanish and her stock run off and killed in large quantities before the tutor could find an officer to show Gen Banks protection paper to. This was after we had withdrawn our guard and were being put aboard a transport.
It must have been about the 24th May when we embarked at Simmesport and so near night that we had just turned into the Mississippi when darkness overtook us. The sail up the Atchafalaya afforded us no view but of the swampy banks thickly studded with trees and canebrakes and occasional alligator or a log covered with snapping turtles. When we reached Old River and passed the mouth of Red River a wish was made to see the blockade which consisted of two Ironclads and a river boat the latter concealed from up river by being lashed close to the bank. As we turned into the "Father of Waters" we headed down stream the left bank presenting an entirely different appearance from the lower Mississippi and the many bayous we have so long been among. It seemed almost odd for a river to have high hills for its bank. Soon it became dark- no not dark, for the moon shone out bright and I spent an hour or so on deck enjoying moonlight on the Mississippi. Toward midnight we landed at St. Francisville and immediately started on the march toward Port Hudson. Five miles, and sleep for the remainder of night. Next morning early we started and soon came up with signs of the army and after waiting awhile were assigned our place in the line surrounding the rebel stronghold. It is of no use to attempt to describe a battle as no conception can equal the reality. None but those engaged in one can form any idea of what a battle really is. But assaults are not the whole source of danger during a siege. If a stone should be thrown into the room in which you lay asleep, if not too much "scart" you would, starting from a sleep, jump up and not be able to go to sleep again until you became satisfied no more would be sent crashing through the window and endangering your life. Now just imagine that stone to be a shell of iron as large as the hub of a cart wheel and that when it struck it was sure to burst and that you knew more were sure to come crashing through the trees and wrenching off limbs, that formed the walls and roof respectively, of your room, that they were as likely to strike in one spot as another and bursting, send pieces in every direction, while the limbs falling, forms a cross fire. Do you think you could sleep then? Yet we have to, or not sleep at all. This is not overdrawn in the least, as anyone in the right wing at Port Hudson can testify. The big scare however was a gun of the rebels that threw 5in corned shells. The reserve of the skirmishers in our front occupied a ravine, whose mouth opens toward their breastworks, side ravines forming shelter, safe from any direct fire of the enemy, but- We had to be relieved by other troops, and the enemy knowing this had got this piece to bear directly over the ravine and at night during the hours we would relieve in, would set up a fire and "spill" shells into the ravine at a fearfull rate, bursting as they came on directly overhead, scattering pieces into our places of safety and making all places "hot" alike. At every explosion the tip of the shell would go screaming forward with a noise resembling the squeak of a rusty hinge of the largest size, a thousand times magnified. I have called this gun a "scare" because although its projectile is fearfull to meet and threatens to annihilate us all, I have heard of no one who has, as yet, been struck by any of its pieces.
One of the greatest difficulties that Banks had to contend against was the impossibility of drawing the enemys fire from his guns near the works. The enemy would use his big guns near the centre of his works but those nearest to us, or where our gunners could see if they were fired, would be kept quiet.
During the fore part of the siege they would mount guns behind breastworks in plain sight and did us much damage with them, but as soon as our Indiana battery came up the rebels guns were knocked over as fast as they could mount them. I saw a very good operation of that kind performed by a 30lb Parrot gun at a distance of about one mile. The 30lbder had been mounted and kept masked two days when Gen Grover went to see how it was as for position. While the Gen was there the gun opened on a rebel 42lbder across the ravine. The first shot struck somewhere behind the gun, inside of five miles, as the parrots are capable of throwing six miles. The second struck a little below
NOTE: A second full sheet of this letter is apparently missing.