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6th Vermont Infantry
Letter to the Editor
From the Eleventh Regiment.
FT. SLOCUM, JUNE 9, 1863
Dear Sir-Having a few leisure moments I will employ them in writing you. What I have to say will not probably be very interesting, but as you say you are always glad to hear from soldiers I will take it for granted that this will not be unwelcome.
My own health is good and has been since I came out here. I have not required the services of the surgeon but three times since we left Brattleboro. The health of the company is improving. We are very well situated here, have plenty to eat, and our duties are not very hard. We have fatigue from 6 to 11 A. M., and nothing to do after that until four, then drill an hour and a half, then dress parade. We are having target practice with the big guns for the fort. We practice Tuesdays and Fridays of each week through this month; each company is allowed twenty five shots per month for the months of May and June, but we did not use any in May, so we shall have 50 shots each this month. Companies E and F fired last Friday and G and H are firing to day. Company F made the best shots, but to day company H is ahead, but we shall try it again next Friday. We have seven new rifled cannon, 23 pounders; they are called the Rodman Gun. I don't know what gives them that name; I can't see any difference between them and Parrott guns; they are a nice gun-are mounted on siege carriages, and shoot very accurately from one to two miles; the old guns are mostly barbette, and are not calculated for long ranges, but are just the things where the object is less than point blank range, with grape and canister, but the small field pieces are what suit me; these can be fired from five to seven times an hour. There is life in working light artillery, the motions of all the pieces are made on double quick. Corporal Bailey and myself tried Mr. Shank's horse and rode over to chain bridge the other day. It is about seven miles from here in a westerly direction, and as I have seen nothing in any letter from this regiment in relation to this bridge or the forts between here and there, I will write of what we saw. The first fort after we passed Stevens'-late Massachusetts-is Derusa; there are two pretty strong batteries between Stevens and Derusa, as there is between most all the forts along the line; next after Derusa is Kearney, then Reno-late Pennsylvania. This is built on higher land than the rest, and is quite a commanding position; it is situated on the main road leading from Washington to Harper's Ferry, near the village of Tentle Town. Next on the direct line to the Potomac is Fort Gaines; this is a small fort mounting only six guns; between this and the bridge there is only one small battery, but up the river about two miles is Fort Alexander and two other strong works. There has not been a chain bridge across the Potomac for sixty years; the one that stands there now is the third that has been built since the chain bridge was destroyed; this is eighty rods and some yards in length; it rests on eleven stone piers, is made like our tressle work bridges in Vermont. At the east end and on a level with it is a small battery; 2 mountain howitzers are mounted so as to rake the bridge lengthwise. On the bluff 75 feet above the bridge is another battery mounting three barbette 24 pounders and several field pieces; on the other side of the river, opposite, are two forts, and up and down the river as far as you can see are more fortifications. I think if the rebels should attempt to get into Washington through this line of forts they would find bloody work. We have cheering news from the southwest. Gen. Grant is doing the work assigned him in a workmanlike manner, and we may consider Vicksburg as ours-as it must inevitably be. Gen. Grant is a man that will not undertake a job and then give it up.
Our regiment is ready to take the field any time they are needed. We are ready and willing to suffer and if need be to die in defence of our national flag. All is at stake. If we cannot put down this unholy and unnatural rebellion we may as well die here. I for one had rather my bones would bleach unburied on the soil here than have this settled by the north giving the south an iota of what she has demanded. Let her throw down her arms and surrender unconditionally, return to her allegiance and submit to the constitutional authority of the United Sates, or fight it out.
We probably have not had as warm weather here this spring as you have had in Vermont. We have not had a real hot day this spring. It is not strange to see the guards walking their beats with their overcoats on-I have noticed that within three days. The people tell us that sometimes a man needs his overcoat on when he is ploughing in the month of August.
I like this part of the country well; it is the greatest country for fruit that I ever saw; the soil seems to be natural for fruit trees of almost every description. Every thing that a farmer can raise finds a ready market in the city; our kind of potatoes bring one dollar per bushel in the fall; sweet potatoes from two fifty to three dollars; flat English turnips bring fifty cents per bushel; cabbage 25 cents per head and everything else in proportion. They keep but little stock and consequently have but little manure to enrich their lands; in a short time it runs out and is thrown aside and left to recover itself and a new piece taken up.
But I shall tire your patience if I write more, so I will close. My respects to all enquiring friends, and to yourself and family in particular.
WM. C. TALLMAN