Center for Archival Collections
Kehrwecker Family Papers
Transcripts: German Civil War Letters
Best Friend Kehrwecker, [J.G. Kehrwecker]
I hope these few simple lines will find you and your wife and children well, it will make me happy if that is so. I am well so far and I do hope that this will continue so. I have been hoping for a letter from you for sometime, so far I have not received a letter from you, but I ask that when you get his letter from me you will write to me right away. Please write right away so I can know something about the North. I would write more often, but we don't have much time. We have been marching since February 26th, and there was no opportunity to mail any letters.
Dear Friend Kehrwecker, I would like you to know that we fought a hard battle in Mansfield, La. We marched 18 miles that day, and arrived in the afternoon at 1 o'clock. The 13 Army Corps was in battle immediately. Our Brigade came to the right wing, which had already suffered heavy losses. In one place it took 5 minutes before there was any action. Then we found forces of the 96, 83, 48 Ohio, 77, 130 Ill., and 19 Kentucky Regiment. We had a battle where many from both sides were left slain. Because we were so weak the Army Corps was pushed back. The 19th Army Corps was six miles behind us.
I cannot describe it more exactly where the bullets hit, because it was like a hailstorm. We had to retreat a quarter mile on the open field until we reached the woods, where we could take cover behind trees. Myself and three others had to carry a wounded man from Company K and you will understand that I could not run as fast as my other comrades. I thought every minute I'd be hit by a bullet. I saw so many of my comrades both in front and in back of me fall. But the dear Lord was with me and protected me. I cannot be thankful enough to him and will never forget his love for all my life. This was the biggest battle I ever took part in. We had to retreat on the doublequick three miles with the enemy no more than 200 steps behind us and I was afraid every minute I might be shot, but I was lucky and got away from them. I had to jump over ditches twice and fell in both of them, because they were so wide.
We lost a lot of people, I think about 2000 in all. We also lost 70 wagons and 14 cannons. Our regiment lost 5 officers and 50 men, 7 of whom are dead, 20 are wounded. Colonel Wenz [Joseph W. Vance] from our regiment is wounded. Some say that he is dead. His horse has a wound on the left front leg, but we took it back with us, nevertheless. Comp. B has 2 wounded men. Wilzen and Gerkeson [Peter D. Wilson and James J. Gilkison] and two other men were captured. On that very day we marched back on the same route we had come. It was January 8th, and on the morning of the 9th we arrived at our old camp. We learned that General Schmidt, with 12,000 men had taken position there. We cooked ourselves a stew and then had to march back towards the river again. We marched until 12 midnight and then had 3 hours of rest. We continued our march and arrived in the afternoon of the 12th at 3 o'clock in camp one mile from the river. You will understand how tired we were, since we had had no rest for three days and nights. But I have to tell you that on January 10th General Schmidt not only gained all the cannons back, but captured four additional ones and 2700 prisoners. He retreated with his army on the same way we came, and the rebels were all the time behind us fighting.
Dear Friend Kehrwecker, I wish you would do me a favor and ask Stark what he did with my letter that my Captain had. I would like you to send it back to the commander, as I've gotten his letter since I've come to Columbus. I also ask you to hang my things in the sun so that they do not get bad.
I will finish my letter now. Please give my regards to Fritz Renz and his parents, and to Maier, in case you should go to Cardington. Tell him not to be mad at me. Kindest regards also to your brother-in-law and his family and Mr. Cratt. Scofield [Alpheus Schofield] is still fine. He is now my roommate. Take care. I remain your sincere friend,
P.S. I have not had the opportunity to send you 50 dollars, but I will do it as soon as possible.
Dearest friend Kehrwecker,
I would be very happy to know that my letter reaches and your family in good health. Thank God I am so far quite well and I am looking forward to seeing you and your family soon, because I think that it will be over soon with the rebels. As they say here, it is still going on in Texas, but I think that our regiment will have nothing to do with that.
On Wednesday we received the order that all recruits who still have more than 10 months to serve will be transferred to another regiment, and I also heard that from our corps 12 regiments will be discharged, of which the 96th Ohio is supposed to be second. I wish the order came tomorrow, believe me, Mr. Kehrwecker, because every day feels as along as a week and I am thinking the whole time about home.
We are stationed about two miles outside of Mobile. It is very hot, the water is bad, and a lot of people are getting sick. I go to Mobile shopping almost every day, but one hardly can get anything for five to ten dollars, because everything is so expensive. The money-changer is still thinking in terms of the old money, and the rebels are running around in the streets so that it is almost impossible to get through. Yesterday, around 3 o'clock, a powder magazine exploded, causing a lot of damage. A number of homes were destroyed and also two hospitals filled with Black soldiers. They say that about 1200 people are dead or injured. The exact number is not known yet, since the debris has not been cleared away. It is hard to describe what the streets looked like.
Dearest friend Kehrwecker, one says here that a lot of troops will be sent to Mexico.
Well, dear friend Kehrwecker, have something to drink ready, since I and Pvt. Schofield [Alpheus Schofield] will be very thirsty, and hungry, too.
I now wish that my turn for discharge would come fast and I will be near you soon. Then we shall smoke a good cigar and have a nice conversation. Best regards to your lovely wife and your children. Please give also my kindest regards to S. Renz and to the parents. I will come to an end now and remain your sincere friend,
John G. H. Metzner
[Postscripts - inverted]
Is your son-in-law home, too? Write to me immediately. I think I will
be home in about four weeks, that's what I heard today.