Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vicksburg: 'Glory enough for one Fourth of July'

In May 1862, John B. Hoit, a 22-year-old from Manchester, N.H., joined a company raised to garrison Fort Constitution on New Hampshire’s coast. A few months later, he and the rest of the company were ordered to Concord and transferred to a new infantry regiment just forming: the 9th New Hampshire.

Hoit served as a corporal in the 9th’s Company E. Because this company included a group of former schoolmates who wrote detailed accounts of their battle-wearying service, it is the subject of three chapters of Our War. There is also a fourth chapter on the capture of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, as seen through the experiences of George H. Chandler of Concord, the 9th's original adjutant and later its major.

Corporal Hoit also spent that momentous day at Vicksburg, and here is what he wrote home about it:

Snyders Bluffs, Miss
Saturday Evening, July 4th, 1863

Dear Brother & Sister Burnham,

Vicksburgh is ours at last, thank God. The Rebs defended it bravely but we forced them to hoist the White flag at 9 oclock this morning in order to save themselves from the Storm of Hellfire brimstone Iron & lead that we were agoing to hurl at them today. I was within easy musket shot of one of their forts when it was run up. The feeling of our men was not easily described, I assure you. The prisoners were estimated at 20,000. We have not had time yet to ascertain.

The 9th N.H. Regt. is camped about 10 miles in the rear. They marched at noon today toward the Blackwater River. All of our Troops are on the move tonight in that direction. They will give Jo Johnson [Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnson] hell unless he skedaddles.

Samuel & Henrys health is good and they seem in good spirits. We have visited several times in the course of the last fortnight. Samuel sent me a letter tonight Signed Niece Flora Bell, East Weare. I presume it is one of my relations, but I must confess I’m ignorant of who it is. But never mind. She says that Aunt Marthy’s health is better and the Bubby is fat as a pigg.

Well now, it looks as if you’ve been recruiting for the army I hope. But never mind. Since I have commenced to write I learn that the Rebel Adj General Reported 25,000 Rebels for duty this morning and 8,000 sick and wounded in the hospital.

If that statement is correct we have Glory enough for one 4th of July.

They say that they have lost 3,000 during the siege.

The stench arising from dead horses and mules killed in the forts was insufferable.

I have no Tent and the wind has nearly destroyed my candle, so I must close.

I would be pleased to hear from you.

My kindest regards to all,

Yours Truly,
J. B. Hoit

[Corporal Hoit served till the end of the war and lived afterward in Wilmot Flat, N.H. This letter is currently for sale on eBay. The asking price is $450.]

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