Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Benjamin Boring, a veteran soldier of the 30th Illinois by the Vicksburg Campaign, wrote several letters to his friend Will from May to July 1863. He gives several interesting examples of life along the siege lines, and never shows any sign of a lack of confidence in the success of the army. Boring survived the war and returned to Illinois, where he frequently wrote for the National Tribune, the Union veterans publication. Boring wrote a plethora of letters throughout the war, including some that relate to the Battle of Belmont and Fort Donelson, and even some from the spring of 1864. This particular post will only showcase the letters from the Vicksburg Campaign. If you would like to see the scans of the original letters, click HERE.
The original spelling and grammar has not been changed, and you might even notice a word spelled multiple ways in the same letter. However, the lack of imperfect writing does not keep the reader from understanding his message.
Black River Mississippi May 6th 1863
Willie "C" Jones.
Dear Sir --I thought I would write you a letter this evening that you may know where I am what we are doing, etc. We have been on a long chase after the Secesh - we captured their fort and all their cannon at Grand Gulf Miss. and near 1000 prisoners. we are camped now on Big Black River 15 miles from the Gulf and 20 miles below Vicksburg. Will I have sad news to tell you two of our Boys are badly wounded and I fear will never get well. John "H" Murphy and James "H" Wright. Murphy was shot in the neck the ball came out just blow his shoulder blade. Wright was shot through the thigh and through his privats. They were wounded on picket-Company D" was detailed for Picket and Stationed at a Bridge across Black River a small stream not much larger than Hutson creek. we were on one side and the Rebels on the other. they fired on us after dark awhile and the firing was kept up near all night. the boys are both sent off to a Hospital. I wish they could be at home they would be more likely to get well-If Murphy dies I will loose one of the best friends I ever had he is a good Soldier and feels as near to me as if he was a Brother. The balance of the Boys are well. Our 2 are the only ones that has been hurt in our Regt" during this Campaign. The Secesh have been runing from us ever since we landed. we have kept close to their heels and have killed and captured a great many of them--We have a large fleet below the Vicksburg Blockade both of Gunboats and of Transports there is a large Army here and it is not Idle--I do not know how long we will remain here or where we will go to when we leave here--We have received no mail for a long time there is plenty of mail going out of Camp but none comes in I have not saw a letter from home for some time. I received a 2 letters from you while up at Miliken Bend containing some stamps. I am much obliged for your favors and hope some day to repay them all.
Remember me to your friends and believe me as ever Yours B "F" Boring
Rear of Vicksburg. June 10" 1863
W 'C' Jones. Dear Sir. I thought probably you would be glad to hear from a Vicksburger and have therefore concluded to drop you a line. I dont Remember where I was when last wrote you but, think it was Black River. I dont know where I was when I last received a letter from you but think it was at Lake Providence about 2 months ago. I am enjoying good health but have in some very unhealthy places since last I wrote you. The old 30th has been doing some fighting during the past month or so. We fought the rebs. at Raymond on the 12" of May- at Jackson (Capitol of the State) on the 14" at Champion hills on the 16" and have been under fire here since the 19". Company D" has lost 2 more of her Brave Boys killed and 4 wounded since we crossed the Mississippi on the 3d of May.
John Murphy killed and James Wright wounded at Black river Bridge on the 3d of May. Alfred Perkins was killed-Captain Meily and Sergeant Laynecker wounded at the battle of Champion hills on the 16". Frank Winter and Oscar Beers wer left with the wounded there and have since been taken prisoner and Paroled Capt" Meily was Paroled also and all our wounded. we had one Capt wounded here on the 24" (M. L. James). We now have 23 men reported for duty and Co "D" is under command of Lieut Polk of Co "A". Will I shall not attempt giving you a detailed account of what is transpiring here it would be useless for me to attempt it. besides I presume you get all the news from the dailies better than I could give it and a great deal sooner. We stormed their works here twice but unable to carry them. was both times repulsed and driven back. Our first charge we came to the ditches found them 16 feet deep and 14 feet across them of course we could not get over and the best thing we could do was to get away from there quick as possible.
Our next charge (May 22d) we came provided with scailing ladders and crossed the ditches but unable to climb a perpendicular Parapet 12 feet high and enter the fort at the mouth of blazing cannon we had to withdraw the second time as before leaving the ditches filled and the ground covered with our dead and wounded comrades. General Grant has I think abandoned the Idea of taking Vicksburg by Storm and has gone to work fortifying and making prepairations to besiege the Rebel Strong hold. We are building our Breastworks close up to theirs so close we can talk with the Rebs" and throw Stones at them. Our Sharp Shooters keep all their cannon silenced and not a Butternut dare put his head above his breastworks lest some of our Sharp Shooters take his top not. There is but little firing going on now except a few Shells from our morters at the River, an occassional shot from a cannon and the Skirmushing kept up by the Sharp Shooters in the Rifle Pits who are protecting our Boys while at work.
We are camped in the hollows between the high hills protected from the Bullets and Shells we have no tents but have nice little Boweries made of cane. The weather is very warm and dry too much so to be comfortable. it is quite hard on our wounded who are at present numerous but are being as well cared for as could be expected on so large a field where there are so many to see to-- those who are severely wounded are being sent North as fast as Transportation can be obtained for them.
The Rebs captured some of our Boys here the other day took them into Vicksburg Paroled them and sent them out. General Grant refused to recognize their Parole and would not send them North. he claims the Rebel army in there to all be his Prisoners and have no right to Parole our Boys. A good joke on the Paroles isent it Will ? They have tried to cut out several times but they meet with the same fate we do in Storming their works we send them back to their dens howling. They say Old Joe Johnson is coming with reenforcements to attack us in the rear and bring in supplies-but we have the trump card for him and would as leave he would come as not and if any difference a little [leaves?] Our army is completely around them from River to River above and below them General McClennand [McClernand] (13th Army Corps) occupies the left and Joins to the river below General Sherman (15th Army corps) occupies the right and joins to the river above General J.B. McPherson (17th Army Corps) occupies the center. Our rear fire cuts a line of Battle the same as our front. I could write you more but will not now--Write to me as often as convenient--Remember me to your Pa and Ma and Believe me as ever Yours B. F. Boring
Rear of Vicksburg June 18" 1863. Willie. C. Jones. I received a letter from you today-was glad as usual to hear from you and am very thankful for those Stamps you sent me they are a cash article here and cannot be obtained for that. I believe I have written you once since I came here, dont Remember exactly if I have or not. I have just come in from the Riflepits--the Regiment was out there yesterday and last night Sharp Shooting. We had a gay old time. Shooting at the Rebs all day and talking with them all night. Our pits are some places in 40 yards of the Rebels and in other places they are 80 and a 100 yards apart. My pit is about 60 yards from the Rebel fort. My Enfield will kill a Reb 900 yards too dead to Skin so you can imagine what it would do at 60 and a 100. The Rebs are scarce of ammunition and seldom reply to our guns. they keep very close behind their works and it is a rare chance that we get to see even an old hat show its self from behind their works.
Our cannon and mortars are working on them all the time droping their balls and shells in their Riflepits and along their lines of fortification. Some go clear over and explode in the city. Last night shortly after dark the Rebs hollowed over to us to cease firing they wanted to talk with us. Our company quit Shooting and presently the whole Regiment had ceased the boys commenced asking questions on miscellaneous subjects. One of them (A Georgian) asked us if we had any coffee we told him we had plenty of it--we told him if he would meet a couple of us half way we would give him some coffee and hard Bread. he agreed to come if we would pledge our honor we would not shoot at him- of course we done so and Montgomery and Alexander Anderson of our Company went out to meet him. They met in the hollow about half way and talked together some time. we gave him some coffee and some Hard tacks and a Newspaper. The boys did not get much out of him he was a pretty Sharp fellow and did not give them much information. they acknowledge our guns to be greatly superior to theirs-he was astonished at us shooting away so much ammunition at them said they had plenty of Provision such as it is. Rice-molasses-Sugar and meal made of corn and beans. They said they could live in there as long as we can outside but I believe as much of that as I please you Know. I think they will do well to live in there a week longer. They think Old Johnson is coming to attack us in the rear and compell us to raise the Siege. But in that they are as badly mistakened as the Boy was when he burned his Shirt. for we have about 60,000 troops and are well fortified back there. Our wings are also well guarded so let them come from where they please we can upon all occasions present to them an unbroken front. There are 3 Rebel forts here in front of our corps. our Division is working out the center one- we have 2 84 Pound Guns and two 32 Pounders mounted in 600 yards of the fort an a Batterry of 6 Pdns closer still the walls are all battered down by our cannon and the fort looks like nothing but a heap of ruins. We are diging a ditch into it 5 feet deep and 7 wide. Our Co" and Co" C' was detailed to dig in it day before yesterday. we dug about 10 feet and quit at night 30 feet from the fort who kept such a pecking away at them they could not get their heads high enough above their works to shoot at us--We throw the dirt out on each side of us and are protected in the front by Bales of cotten that we rolled along as we dug. About noon the Rebs" commenced throwing clod s of dirt and stones over into our ditch the Boys threw back at them, that gave the Rebs range of us and they commenced throwing hand granades (A small bombshell thrown by hand) 4 of them came close to the ditch 2 of them exploded and 2 did not. several of them came to the top of the fort and rolled back, inside. none of them came into our ditch-we all stood with our shouvels ready if they did to toss them back again. But we soon soured that on them like everything else we have an abundant supply of hand grenades of Kinds and sizes we brought a lot them in and lit them and tossed them over, as we threw them we would hollor over over it comes, we gave them 8 or 10 and went to work again and worked on until night we was not molested any more and I have not heared anything more about hand granades since. So you see we beat them at their own game.
I believe I will not tell you any more today--I could write you a great deal more if I had the patience and thought it was interesting for you to read--I wish you was here Will you could see and scense of this great drama and I think if you was here in the army a short time it would prove a valuable lesson to you you must write to me as often as convenient and Remember me to my friends if you should happen to stumble on any of them back in old Crawford. f Helen has given me the mitten I will wear it and not grumble I would not give a Fig for a Girl that could not wait 3 years-If she forsakes me I will lay my warrent some place else. I received all the Papers you sent me and will be glad to receive a copy of the new one.
Captain Meily. Frank Winter and D.E. Beers are Prisoners. Meily is severly wounded. I have not heard from them for several weeks. Lt" Pouk of Co" A" is commanding Co"D"
Yours as ever
Ben. F. Boring
Camp at Tiffin Mis.
14 miles in rear of Vicksburg July 6" 1863
W. C. Jones. Lest I should not have an opportunity again soon, I will this morning drop you a line, that you may know I still live, and witnessed the down fall of Vicksburg. the great Rebel Gibralter, which with its thirteen Generals. 28,000 men with all their arms both great and small Surrendered to us unconditionally on the morning of the 4" of July the 87th aniversary of our National American Independence. All praise to God, and a due reverence to General Grant for this great achievement. The Prisoners are all being Paroled and going to their homes. I dont know where we are going-but would not be surprised if we was going to cooperate with Banks at Port Hudson. Our mighty Army is spreading out The Programe is not yet closed. Port Hudson is doomed to the same fate of Vicksburg. if it has not all ready shared it- Old Braxton Bragg had better move his Head Quarter from Chatanoga because we are going to reinforce Rasucranes. cut off Johnson and in fact clean out this department of Davises Confederacy and restore our Banner to Mississippi. Louisiana. Georgia and Alabama. These broad fields of flourishing corn- beans-peas-and potatoes planted and cultivated for food for the Rebels are now ours, And when Rebeldom comes to reap their harvest, they will reap the fruits of Ribellion-not the products of the rich soil of those revolted States. Bully for General Grant. I have already hollowed for him until my throat is sore. The copperheads had better begin to hang their under Jaws for victory and vengence is ours.
I will write you no more this time Will- I wish I could see you, I feel like taking you by the hand and asking you how-do you feel. Tell Calahan to come down to Vicksburg and you come with him- Port Hudson will be taken by that time and if we are not at Vicksburg come on down. I want to see some body from home. I am tired seeing Rebel Soldiers and Rebel citazens.
Good day Will. Yours
2d Brigade of Logans Divisions.
P.S. Hurrah! for General Grant and the 4" of July