Letters by Howard Stevens
Company H, 20th Illinois Infantry

Two Letters Home Informing the Family of His Brother's Death

May 31, 1863
Camped in the field near Vicksburg

My Dear Cousin Em,

It is with sad feelings that I inform you of Victor's death. He was shot through the head, killing him instantly while galantly leading his men on to the charge. He was killed at the battle of Pine Hills near Raymond, Miss. He died without a groan or strugle. I succeeded in getting every thing he had,and shall send them home the first opportunity. The Old 20th Ill. Inf. has been in 6 hotly contested battles since the first of May, and I have been with them every time. The battle of Pine hills was fought May 12. I could not get an opportunity of sending Victor's remains home, or get even lumber enough to make a box to bury him in. So we wraped him in his blanket, & laid him in his grave. I am well at the present time. Grant has been laying around Vicksburg for 12 days. Vicksburg will be ours in a few days. No more for this time. When we get into camp, I will write you all of the particulars in regard to Victor, marches, & fighting. So excuse my haste Give my love to all and keep a share your self.

Direct as before.

The letter written by Pvt. Howard Stevens, 20th Illinois Infantry, informing the family back home that his brother,
Capt. Victor Stevens (right), had been killed during the Battle of Raymond.

~ Letter Regarding Burying Victor on the Raymond Battlefield ~

17 A.C.
First Brigade Third Div.
Vicksburg, Miss. July 21, 1863

Dear Uncle,

Private Howard Stevens
Co. H, 20th Illinois Infantry
Vicksburg, the Gibraltar Of the South, was surrendered July 4th 1863 by Gen.Pemberton, with 31,000 prisoners and all the munitions of war to Gen. Grant. That was a pretty good haul wasn't it? The prisoners have all been paroled and sent outside our lines. Grant, after the surrender of Vicksburg, sent nearly all of his army back to attend to Old Johnston who was hovering in our rear. Gen. Osterhaus had an engagement with him. Whipped him, and sent him back to Jackson, Miss. where they surrounded him. But the old devil cut his way out by attacking our lines where a portion of our cavalry was stationed. He left 1,000 dead on the field besides the wounded, and about 1,000 prisoners and all of his artillery. Among the prisoners taken there was about 20 of the same that was taken here at Vicksburg and had joined Johnston at Jackson with their paroles in their pockets. The report is, that they are going to be shot. And I think they will. Uncle John came down the last of June after Victor's remains, but it was impossible to get to where he was buried. For the Rebs would not let even a flag of truce pass through their lines. So he concluded to stay until after the 4th. And by doing so he had the pleasure of going into Vicksburg with us. He started for home the 8th on the steamer Ruth on the same day you wrote to me. Had father recd. my letter stating to him the impossibilities of sending Victors body home I think he would not have telegraphed to uncle. I have been advised by my superiors not to attempt to send his body home until cool weather. For now he would be nothing but a perfect mess of corruption. And finally I think it would be best to let him rest where he is. I know it would be pleasant for his parents and relatives to have his remains sent home and buried where his grave could be visited by them. I know it seems hard to leave him buried in a traitorous land. But the blood of our fallen heroes will purify and place an indellible stamp of true patriotism upon this curssed soil and every hero that falls will be as a nail driven in a sure place rendering the Union one and inseparable forever here- after. Aunt Sarah is going East and will take all of Victors things to his home with her. I saved all of his papers and everything he had. It is impossible for me to get a furlough now, for over 30 days. That would not give me time enough to go East and make the visit that I should want to. But never mind, I have only to the first of next April to serve for the old 20th. Time is out then. I hope to see you all again. I shall stick to my old fife and let those carry the musket that are better able to. I used to go out sharp shooting almost every day during the seige, and I got many a splendid shot at the D--M rascals when they would bob their heads up to look over their breastworks. I had a rifle that was sure and delivered a bead every time. What the results of my shots were I shall not say but I am very well satisfied.

The weather is almighty hot here, but not very sickly now. The health of Grants army is good and all are in fine spirits. My health is also very good. I take good care of myself. Bath very day in the Old Miss. river. Our regt. and the 45th Ill. Inf. are provost guards of the city. The 45th is camped in the city and our regt. about l,000 yards out of town on the bank of the river where we have a fine breeze most of the time. The citizens of V were in great danger during the seige of our shells. Many a 15 inch mortar shell went crushing down through the roofs of houses bursting on the inside killing women and children while quietly slumbering in their beds. Nearly every house in town bears the marks of our shots. They had to dig caves in the sides of banks and live in them. During the siege, all the Rebel soldiers had to eat was one biscuit per day, and a very small piece of mule meat. For they had no other meat to eat. There was but a very little flour in the town. What there was was selling at $450.00 per bbl. Sugar, tea and coffee $50.00 per lb. Shoes (Ladies) 30.00 per pr. And everything else in the same proportion. Calico enough for a ladies dress pattern $75.00. What do you think of that? I should like to be E (East) and help you hay, so to cut you out of your swath (Over the left I guess). Everyth1ng is getting lively. Trade will soon be started. Logan is commanding the post. There is now 87 steamers laying at the landing at V. All heavy loaded with store goods, provisions & etc. Please give my love to all. I hope this will find you all well.

Excuse the poor writing, for I wrote in haste.

From your nephew,

Co. H 20 Ill. Inf.
1st Brig. 3 Div. Logans
17 A.C. Vicksburg Via Cairo


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