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Civil War Letters of the Christie Family

Author: Thomas D. Christie
Date: July 4 – 7, 1862
Location: Corinth, Mississippi
Addressee: James C. Christie
Description: Thomas reports on celebrations for Independence Day. He also provides details about the artillery used by the Battery.

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Corinth, July 4, 1862

Dear Father,

I have put off writing to you for several days in hopes of receiving a letter from some of the family to answer. I do not understand the reason of your long silence: we have got nothing from home for 10 days and begin to think something is wrong in that quarter.

However, we hope to get a letter tonight and I will keep this open untill [sic] that time.

We have had a celebration here today that has convinced the citizens at least that we have not forgotten the Birthday of our Nation. The Batteries of our Division fired a National Salute of 34 guns at noon amid the cheers of the assembled Infantry. After this, our piece which had a Hotchkiss shell in it, put in on the evening of the 7th April, was discharged at a white oak 30 inches through and distant 100 yds. The shell passed into the heart of the tree and there burst, driving the forward half through and about 50 yds beyond, and leaving the base in the tree, it was a most splendid shot and showed the tremendous force and precision of this kind of projectile. The Hotchkiss shell is used exclusively for rifled [6 footers ?] and weighs 12 pounds being cylindrical for half its length and conical the other half. A heavy charge of powder fills a tube running the whole length of its interior and at the upper end this tube is capped with a large percussion cap. The hole in the upper end of the Shell is stopped by a large screw whose lower end nearly touches the percussion cap, a small piece of paper only intervening. To prepare the shell for firing this paper is taken out and the screw screwed tightly down. It will then explode the moment its motion is checked, by the throwing forward of the tube on the screw. It is coated with lead to prevent the rifles of the gun from being hurt by contact with the iron, there is also an arrangement by which the lead is forced into the grooves at the moment of explosion.

July 5

Your letter to William of the 30th ult. came to hand this evening, and on account of its excusable brevity we expect another soon. I am glad to hear of the Clover cutting, it reminds me more vividly and pleasingly of Home than any other thing you could have mentioned. Do you have as heavy a swath this year as we had last? I don't believe you have but hope there will be better success in curing it than attended our efforts last June. There must be a great demand for wool to run it up to such a good price. I expect that the vast manufactures of woolen goods for the army has something to do with it, “It is an ill wind that blows nobody good,” you know.

Clayton arrived here this afternoon looking fresh and ruddy as Minnesota winter faces, the ball has not been extracted from his leg but gives him no trouble. Gov. Ramsey came down with him to visit the Minnesota troops here. He is in Corinth now and will come up to see us in the morning. I will give the details of his visit in my next which will be in answer to the first epistle I get from Clyman. Clayton brings a great deal of news from our State which are interesting to us I assure you.

The weather here is extremely hot and dry compelling us to keep in the shade, (or take a Siesta) between the hours of 10 and 4 and to haul our water 2 miles in barrels. The ground is baked like marble and the roads are 10 inches deep in dust. The sky blazes through the day like red hot [illegible word] but the nights are beautiful, the moon shines with a brilliance and softness of lustre which I never saw equaled in the North. I see nothing of the Southern Cross yet though I expected to find it this far south. I begin now to think that this Constellation is seen only in the Tropics. I am detailed to take care of the sick in our Hospital tonight and so must stop writing at present.

July 7

This letter has been delayed by one of those accidents peculiar to this war. We got orders yesterday morning at daylight to be ready to move out of camp at 6, prepared for Action. Accordingly each one of us took 1 day's ration in haversack and a blanket, and at the time appointed were led out to a position 4 miles southwest of camp commanding a long bridge over the Tuscumbia creek.

We now learned that a body of the enemy's Cavalry had been encountered at Ripley, about 5 miles out, and they were expected to advance by this road. Our Battery was masked with bushes and we lay in wait all day but no Butternuts appeared. Towards night an expedition, consisting of 3 Companies of the Iowa 11th, 3 or 4 Co's of the 11th Ill's Cav., and the 2 howitzers of our Battery passed out to beat them up. Gen. Todd went out with it. Our 2 rifled pieces remained in position untill [sic] this morning when we were relieved by a section of the 5th Ohio and returned to Camp. We have since heard that the expedition went out 9 miles last night and bivouacked, having seen nothing of the enemy.

2 of our company deserted a few days ago taking with them 2 horses and saddles and about 50 dollars that did not belong to them.

Hoping that this will find you in as good health as it leaves us with, I remain, Yours,

T. D. Christie

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