Cpt. Hugh William Henry, Company K, 22nd Alabama Infantry. This letter has been published, but I doubt it was been widely seen. It was published as part of a regular journal by the Pintlala Historical Association. Just a local historical journal type thing for the association which held monthly meetings and published the journal for its members in Pintlala, Alabama.
Letter written by Cpt. Hugh William Henry, Company K, 22nd Alabama Infantry. Also a picture of Hugh Henry, seated center while a student at Princeton College, Class of 1851, and also a few images of his sword.
“Corinth, Miss., April 10, 1862
Dear Father and Mother,
I received yoru letter yesterday, the day after we reached here from the battlefield of the Tennessee river.
I would give anything could I be with you now, even for a few days. I have so much tot ell you, and such great cause of joining in expressions of gratitude to the merciful God who has preserved us through so many dangers, and I felt dear Mother, through all those two days of danger and suffering, that it was the Lord’s hand that sustained us, and his shield that was over us; and oh, when I think of the many I saw fall on my right and left, I could not but feel that the prayers of our good mothers at home had found a hearing with the Merciful Father of us all. Just think of us then, Ben, Robert, and myself, being under perhaps the most terrible fire of musketry, rifles, boms, and rifled cannon, for two whole days, nearly the whole time, and that we escaped without harm. I assure you that we are not mindful of the gratittude we owe a Merciful Father, his protection and guidance. I wish I could give you an account of the battle. But forgive me if I pass over much of the horrible sufferings and dreadful scenes of the battlefield. The remembrance sickens me, and I know such things are not suited for you to hear of.
I will try and give you some idea though of what we passed through, that you may know what great cause we have to return our thanks to the merciful God who has brought us out of it all unharmed. Last Thursday our Brigade received orders to cook five days’ rations and to march to Monterey. Owing to a delay in getting up the rations we only got two day’s provisions cooked, and the balance was loaded on a wagon. The wagon overturned and we lost three days’ rations. Some days we eat but a mouthful or two, and that such as we picked up in the Yankee camp, crackers, and raw ham. Of course we were half famished, and weak as water. The regiment marched out about four hundred strong. The first day we marched about twelve miles and camped beyond Monterey. That night it rained upon us all night nearly, and we were as wet and miserable as possible. The next morning it still rained, and we marched through the mud and water with a cold north wind blowing, only some three or four miles, and encamped on the side of the road in the mud. That night it hailed, rained and thundered all night long. At three in the morning we formed for an advance, the rain pouring down in torrents, and so dark that you could not see the man in front of you. There we waited till daylight, when we took up the march at about 10 A.M. We formed a line of battle in front of the yankee camp, and endeavorded to draw them out by skirmishers, but it was a no go. There was fighting all that day, Saturday, but our brigade was not in it.
That night we lay on our arms. The next morning before breakfast, we advanced in line of battle on the enemy. Our Brigade, under Gen. Gladden, advanced upon a camp of Ohio volunteers. Our company was forty-two men, with noncommissioned officers. We got within one hundred yards of them before they opened fire upon us. Our company was in an open space, and they seemed to concentrate their fire upon us. The bullets, bombs, and cannon shot flying round us thick as hail. We were under this fire for half an hour, and lost one of our company; six killed and seven wounded. Our General lost an arm, our Major, R. B. Armistead, was killed. Col. Adams, who was next in command of the brigade was killed, and our officers fall in every direction. Our men waivered, of course, or course, under such a severe fire, but soon rallied, silenced the enemy’s battery, and our artillery coming up and playing into them, we charged, drove them out of their camps, and a half a mile beyond. Here they planted some batteries and shelled us hotly, the shell frequently bursting within a few feet of us. We had formed a square, thinking their cavalry was about to charge us, but the shall soon made us deploy into line again. Our company was now thrown forward to reconnoitre. We went up near enough to see them very plainly, even to their trimmings. They fired on us and we returned it, with good effect, too, I think, as there was a gun left there with all the horses killed.
Our Brigade then advanced in line up the hill, the enemy retreating, but playing on us heavily with their cannon, the shell bursting all around us and the bullets cutting down our men now and then. We then were ordered to advance through an open field upon the enemy who were in an orcharg and some old houses. We soon drove them out down into a bottom, we lay down along the fence and fired for half an hour, they returning the fire. We then charged down the hill into a bottom, and lay down undre and aweful fire, returning it as best we could until we were ordered to cease, as we were firin on our own men.
This was a mistake, as the Yankees soon advanced and the regiments giving away on our left, we had to run for a hundred yards or more under a severe fire, many of our officers falling and losing many of our men. We soon rallied, though, and a Tennessee regiment coming up on our right, we shoon charged and drove the enemy through their camps and back to the river. When we had them completely routed, had taken all their camps, any quantity of forage, provisions and clothing, most of their artillery and five thousand prisoners. Gen. Breckenridge’s brigade then pursued them and drove them on their boats.
The gunboats now opened upon us with shell and the cannonade was terrible. The shell fell all amongst us, and we had to file down the hollow to avoid the fire. We had one poor fellow in our company struck by a shell; he was badly wounded; we carried him that night about a mile to where we encamped. We camped in their tents; they were riddled with balls, and as it rained all night they were not of much use in keeping out the rain. The Yankees threw shells at us during the night, but we slept soundly in spite of them.
The next morning before we could get breakfast we were ordered to fall in; we formed and waited; the enemy opened on us with artillery, and our company was ordered forward to find their battery. We deployed and came near being surrounded and cut off by their cavalry; we retreated however to rejoin our regiment, but could not find it as it had been moved. A Lieutenant and two men who were sent ouf to show us the way back are either killed or taken. Our Colonel supposed that we were all taken. We then fell in with a Tennessee regiment to support two batteries; we were lying directly between them; the rifled cannon shot, grape, and shell, which flew thick and fast within a foot or two of our heads as we lay down frequently falling amongst us. It was the most terrible cannonade I ever heard; the earth trembled, and the bushes and trees were swept all around us close to the ground.
We were ordered to charge the enemy when their fire became so severe that we were ordered to lie down. We were unable to return it, and had to lie there for half an hour, under a fire that had we stood up we would not had a man left. I lay behind a log and I could not count the bullets as they struck it above me. The cannon balls, too, came now and them amongst us unpleasantly near. After awhile the regiment on our right gave way and we were ordered to run. The enemy were then not more than forty yards rom us, and I expected that we would all be killed, as we had to run down into a hollow and up a hill, the enemy firing at us all the time. Here we lost two men wounded and probably taken prisoners. We then returned and found another Tennessee regiment and engaged the enemy. (Next few lines cut out). Here it was that Gen. Breckenridge seized the colors of a Louisiana regiment and advanced at its head.
The enemy though, were too numerous and outflanked us all around. Our troops though, made a desperate stand and kept the enemyat bayuntil we had formed two lines of battle in the rea. They were exhausted and disorganized, and it was impossible for them to fight longer against the fresh troops the enemy were bringing in. The enemy though, seemed as well satisfied as they could be, and did not advance. This this last fight, Lieut. Myrick, our 2nd. Lieut, Capt. was badly wounded, and I took him to the rear. We had to go up a hill exposed to a very heavy fire, and I confess I had but little hopes of getting him or myself out either.
Capt. Hart returned to see about Robert and the company, and I carried the Lieut. to the hospital. There they told us to on on as it was unsfafe. I had to lead him about two miles before we were out of danger, and before I could get him in a wagon. I finally got him in one, made him as comfortable as possible, and then went to get something to eat in a Yankee camp. While I was eating the wagon drove off and I was unable to find it again. My regiment coming along soon, I fell in that night, we marched through the mud knee deep, wading creeks and encamped at Monterey. We were unsheltered, and it poured down upon us all night, a most drenching rain which we had to lie and sleep in. The next day, Tuesday, we marched in here over the worst cut up road, through creeks and bogs, the most completely exhausted set of men there ever was. Our cavalry and artillery covered our retreat, and we came back in good order considering the disorganized condition of our troops.
Our cavalry and John C. Breckenridge’s brigade are now at Monterey, and the enemy as I can learn are not advancing beyond their old lines. If it had not been for their gunboats we would have killed or captured their whole force on this side. J. C. Breckenridge fought like a lion. He is a glorious man, brave and without fear. He was dressed in a grey hunting shirt, with a slouched hat and seemed everywhere. Our Colonel distinguished himself; got two or three wounds and had two horses killed under him. Nearly all of our officers had their horses shot under them. Col. Deas was as cool as possible under the heaviest fire. He says it was much more terrible than Manassas.
We fought Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois troops altogether, and I assure you they fired terribly with their best kind of weapons. The victory of Sunday cost us very dear; we have lost many a man of our most gallant officers. In our company, we lost, killed, Rabon Douglas, of Orion, J. H. Shaver, T. M. Greene, Fuller McLendon, W. H. Long, and Jas M. Wilson. Wounded, and come in, Henry Urquhart, David Gibson, B. S. Wilson, Hanibal McNeil, Joe Winters, Wm. Brown, Moses Dickey. Wounded and not brought in, A. J. Eilands, J. D. McLendon, Lieut. Myrick. Missing, George Athay and Sergeant S. A. Pilley. Our Company fought well, Capt. Hart made a hero of himself; Robert was as cool and calm as a man could be. Lieut. Myrick fought like a noble fellow—fell fighting bravely. Goodbye, Dear Mother, may a merciful Father spare us all to meet once more, if not on earth in Heaven
Your affectionate Son,
H. W. H.