Charles Oscar Torrey,
Ambulance Corps, 27th Iowa Infantry,
Second Brigade, Second Division, XVI Corps.
Letter of April 9, 1865
Source: Sellers, John R., Civil War Manuscripts.
Library of Congress, Washington, D. C., 1986.
Submitted by Camille Corte
Archivist, Historic Blakeley State Park
Mobile Bay Ala
April 9, 1865
My Ever Remembered Mira.
It is now several days since I wrote you. So I will commence the task once more this morning while I have few moments leasure for fear I may not have time in the future from some cause that I cannot now see. I have just had my breakfast & got my detals made & sent to the front. It is cloudy this morning looks considerably like rain. It rained some yesterday & considerable the day before. The air is full of smoke from cannon, musketry, and pine knots. Every sound seems to roar for a long time through these tall pine trees. Oh yes I will tell you I am well Physcecly at least, but rather ill-at-ease in mind from the continued roar of cannonading mixed with musketry which sounds from a distance like corn poping the biggest kind in a skillet while the Cannon puts in the double bass loud & heavy on quick time & 16th notes, but occasionally a rest to give the Musikers a chance to get breff . About 5 o'c yesterday it was between our land batteries & their Fort & gunboats with strong force of infantry on both sides. We could hear musketry poaring in their deadly lead whenever the cannon did not fill up the time complete. I do not know the result but have heard the report that the Spanish Fort surrendered but have some doubts, and more fears that it is not so than doubts. I know that the firing ceased rather suddenly & soon after & this morning also we heard drums beat at different points down that way for the first time since we came here. Drums & fifes have maintained a profound silence for fear of exposing our location. Our Division is all within shelling distance of their Forts & gunboats & if they knew where we are they would "play hob with our ducks."
They have thrown few shells into the camps & several over the camp this side. But our boys make no noise & fire (?) over it so the Rebs cannot find out exactly where to drop them. One man Co. "C" 27 [Iowa] was wounded in the toes yesterday, in his tent, I guess, with a piece of shell. He was the first man we have had wounded enough so as to be brought to hospital. Unless they were wounded last night I have not heard of eny of the 27 [Iowa] being wounded but a corporal of 34 N.J. was killed that I have heard of. I think the loss of our Divis. so far has been about 7 or 8 killed or died from wounds & about 25 wounded. There are several of the wounds are bad. May prove mortal in this climate. I think wounds through the body & thickest part of the legs will stand poor show in this climate as is to far south. But the weather has not seemed so very warm yet to me. The nights are cool enough to sleep first rate. I believe this is as healthy plaice as ever we have been in down in this Dixie. The soil is warm sandy & dry with plenty of good springs of clear nice water (after being dug out & fixed some) furnishing us with all we want handy to camp. There is but little timber but pitch pine on all the dry lands & small trees & brush of every kind in the low & swampy lands. Our camp is not near any swamp of any size. Several large yellow bellyed rattle snakes have been killed here & day before yesterday a large buck deer came close up to our camp. I was surprised to hear of deer so close to Mobile.
Bully, they say that Spanish Fort did really run up the white flag lass night during a tremendous charge from our boys in blue & that it is now on the hands of the Yankees. The particulars I have not heard yet but hope I may before night or even before I finish this though you very likely see all in the news in the papers sooner than I can send it by letters. It seems from accounts that Grant & Sherman have been doing some big work. Report here is that Grant killed wounded & captured 7,000 men at Richmond and Sherman has used up Johnson capturing 10,000 men. That is the way to do up the work. They can't stand very many such blows & of course the weaker they get the faster they will "Play out" towards the last. If Gen. Thomas comes down through Selma & shuts the back door of Mobile so that thear Torpedo-Butternutts can't get out we will likely take considerable many of them "in out of the wet" "as the saying is" when we get them farely convinced we-ans Yankees are to much for them. I think we will gobble several hundred at that fort. We took 300 men there yesterday P.M. sometime before the fort surrendered. We have thought several times that they were trying to evacuate their fort but someone seems to be there to fire their usual salutes this morning. The Hospital & our Ambulance Corp is out of danger unless they should get in our rear & then they would have some Steel to run over first. I have not been to the front lines since we have been here. I have to keep myself here constantly on hand to send men & ambulances wherever & whenever they are required. I don't know as I am any bigger coward than most men but I am sensable on one fact that the farther I am from Rebel shot shell & lead the better it suits me. Still if my line of duty called me to the front I would as soon go there as remains behind for I think a man is safe doing his whole duty. Not but what a man will get hurt many times doing their duty but experience teaches me that they would, in shirking from duty, been liable to run into some danger that they did not expect. Our boys here when out on duty had much rather go to the extreme front than remain behind at the reserves. They are in less danger in consequence of the Rebs overshooting the missles of destruction droping at the reserve custers (?) of the front lines. I drew a little map of our position the other day which I will send you if I do not forget it. It is not correct in several things. Forts (?) Gains & Morgan is much to near Mobile & I guess the Ala. River is nearer our works than I have marked. You asked me who I ment by Tom. We have two that goes by that name in our Co. C Tom Smith & Tom Watters. I guess I ment Tom Watters. He was sick & brought to Hospital about the time (I guess) I wrote about it. Seems to me I said something about Tom Smith Also. His father is a Scotch preacher living near Greely. Malen Scarbough that had small pox is dead. I don't know where he died. Mr. Cog (?) a recruit in our Co. took the same disease from him & was left at Vicksburg when we came down where he has since died. Our boys left at New Orleans are doing well I here . D. S. Tafen (?) has charge of a ward in hospital & very likely will be in no hurry to come back to the command. Our chaplains with the help of some others are holding a protracted meeting between here & their camp. There is much interest manifested in them. I guess I must leave you for a while & wash and change cloathes & attend meeting if I can get permission to leave camp long enough & there is a meeting which I think there is. Do you remember where I was one year ago today?
Adieu for a "little minute" -- It is now about noon & I have my dinner but have not attended meeting. I think there is one at noon. One year ago tonight I laid under a tree on the ground at Pleasant Hill with signs of Rebel lead about my hind quarters but is all past now & I feel no effects of it any more. Oh yes, I must tell you some more about the fort I spoke about in the A. M. General Smith with his Pilgrims captured it with 559 men & all the artilery . He made the 13th Corps give receipt for everything before he would turn the fort over to them. I guess the Rebs are evacuating in our front. Good many of the rebels drowned trying to get away. Their boats laid out from the shore could not land. I guess Mobile will not last very long. I am afraid they will get away. I here the 13th Corps are going around today to come in the rear of the City to keep them in. I wish we could bag the the whole pile then as soon as U.S. [Grant] & W. T. [Sherman] get their respective foes vanquished we could "lay down our weapons of warfare" & return home in place. Boyton thinks that we will not have to serve our full terms. I heard today Gen. Lee had proposed to "give up" on condition of free pardon to all concerned. If he ever makes that proposition it will be granted I think but there will be many bands that will still keep together for the purpose of plundering & our force cannot be all taken away for that reason. Would we be glad when the thing is over so we can all go home to our families. I will I am shure for I am shure a change of condition & living would be very agreeable [to] me--yes, one of those leafs I sent was familiar. I have just seen a curiosity called Venus fly trap. If I had room I would tell you something about it. I must close now for the want of room. I hope this will find you all well. Give my respects to J. P. & Fannie. I also send my compliments to Lea & Susan & family. Do you know where Stillman Knight is? The 38th Iowa is with 13th Corps & are not far from here. It & 34 are consolidated & called 34 Iowa. It seems to me he has not ..?.. the Reg't was in hospital or discharged. I no what it was about him. I have looked with all my might for a letter from you for several days but it has not come yet. The last letter I got from you was No. 27 March 18th. There has been a mail since & I got mail before 22 or 23. I hope you will send me some stamps partly ..?.. to be had here nothing is to be brought here & sold. No suttler at all. Tobacco is issued to the men. It is issued same as other rations free to all. I sold mine. It will just about keep me in stamps if I could buy them. I have but little paper. Nearly half the men with [the] Reg't are out & consequently can't write. I don't know what you would do if I should get out so I could not write to you. How would you like it.