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Civil War Letters of the Christie Family

Author: William G. Christie
Date: May 31, 1863
Location: Vicksburg, Mississippi
Addressee: James C. Christie
Description: William describes the siege of Vicksburg, and admits to his insecurities with regards to bravery and self-sacrifice.

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May 31st [1863] Camp Close by Vicksburgh

Dear Father I will try in this letter, to describe one of the Grandest sights, I ever saw. This morning at three o'clock, the Batteries of Gen. Grants Army at his Place, oppenned at once on the doommed city of Vicksburgh, And the effects of such a sight allmost defies description. The line extends some eight miles round the Beseiged town. There is Artillery enough on this line to shoot from one to the other. Now just stand with me on the Point where our Battery is Placed, and see the vivid flashes of the Guns, like lightining, and the showers of shell, as they made there quick curves through the air, hissing and hurtling, and finnally explodding with a report almost as loud as the Gun. The air waved like the sea, and vibratted with a horse murmuring sound, while the valleys were filled with the loud thundering sound of the detonation of the firing of the motors Boats, on the River and the flash of there shots, were seen on the Backgroun exactly like lightening, But still there is one phase of the scene I have not spoken of and that is the Burning of the fuse, in each shell, while they are going through the air. The fuse burns, with a blue light, and looks to say the least very Devilish. and I have no doubt the secesh thought so, we kept up the Cannonading for over an hour, and made some ecellent shots. Tom and I worked on the gun together he as four, and I as three, so you see when there is anything going on we are generally close together and we were volunteers at that. There was not much danger in the dark from the Rebel sharp shooters, But we have to stand our ground in the daytime, and then we have to dodge the Bullets frequently, I have been doing the duties of Driver no. 3, ditto also on the gun, and I don't see as there is much danger at the gun as there is driving. Now you must think me a coward But I will try to give you and the Boys an insight, in my feelinks, on the occasion of my first ride full in sight of the Rebel fortifacations, within rifle range. On the first day of the seige, we were ordered to a Point on the left of the main Road, from Jackson to Vicksburgh, and in front of the largest fort on the works Now I had stood my ground on the oppen field, and did not feel very shakey on the legs, But to be mounted on the back of a horse and know that there was not only hundreds of men that would shoot at you, like they were shooting at a Turkey, with a cool deliberate aim, But at the same time just such a think as you were drawing after you, only larger, if anything, made me feel very nervous, I assure you. But still there was not a man near me would have thought that. I really would have liked to have run away, I drove my own team with Precission, and even drected the other drivers, how I thought we could get along over some parts of the ground, (it being very rough) to the Best advantage. We had got our guns in position and got our horses and limbers under shelter of the hill, and beginning to feel that we had not so much to fear, when we found out that our officers in command had not got our Howitzers in the right Place, so we had to take the same ride over again, and ride up to within five or six hundred yards of the enemy works, in the oppen range of his Batteries and sharpshooters Father, I was desperate, Desperately afraid ( But Thank God,) only of myself. you know my Bump of Firmness, is large and it is well for the Christies, it is so, or I really am sure I would have run away, could you have seen my inner self, you would have seen a very strange trial of strength. How I reasoned with myself, about my duties as a soldier. how a deep trust in the goodness and mercy of God would speak up in me to keep me true to myself and Country. I can only give you a faint idea, of what I felt, and really suffered in that ride, But the Battle was fought, and Praise be to God he gained the victory, over me and I am considered good coin anywhere, as far as soldiers is concerned, and really now I do not think I will ever feel so again. So now you see the confessions not of a great man, but of a Poor weak fellow that scarsely knows how to live after trieing it now for nearly thirtithree years. In my letter to A. D. Christie, I gave you an account of the appearance of the country, and so I have nothing new to say about that, Therefore I will have to fill up the Balance of this sheet the Best way I know how. lately I have been in the habit of digging away down intoo myself, to see what I was, what I thought and how or why I generally thought just as I did. I often ask myself, are all men like me, in any one respect as far as thinking is concerned or the methods of thinking, is every one as erratic in there modes, not that [ I ] am in the least excentric that is, to be noticeable, But at the same time, I am so well aware of my weakneses; and yet it seems I do so little in the way of mastering them. There must be some thing Fundamentally wrong in a character such as mine or at least in my surroundings, when I was more easily impressed with greater or lesser good, than I am now. Not that I can say anyone is to Blame. for me being just as I am. so much as I am myself, For in looking over the Past, I see nothing But a great many shortcomings, in every Respect on my own part, in all circumstances, and a wonderfull forbearance on the Part of all with whom I have come in contact. Tis true I have been often Missjudged, through mistakes of others, and my own. And it must be that there must have been some reason on account of my own action or they would not have not judged just as they did and acting accordingly. Now about that money I am really sorry that I have caused you to feel just as it seems to me you must have done when you wrote that Letter to Tom in which you abuse me so unmercifully, and talked so foolishly about me and Poor Cousin Jessie, It surely cant be Mother saw that letter before you mailed it. Now you may not relish this little bit of advice much, but still it is about all the scolding I will give you. Whenever you feele again, (which I hope wont be very soon, for our own sake) just as you did when you wrote that letter, just ask Mother what she thinks you had Best do, and I'll be bound you will do well to take her advice. Do with the money just as seems Best to you don't loose a cent on your wheat if you can help it on my account, and if you do make yourself whole out of my funds, I regretted having asked you the question about David Bertie, in connection with anything of mine before. the sunset on the day it was written Not that I thought of the Past, or what he has been to Both of us, But I saw the folly of it in annother way alltogether, Now when you write to me give me Bread, even if you have to think to do it for I am very hungry, I will certainly write to Mother soon. Father give me some clue to my self if you can for as sure as you live, I am at fault, or wont give way to the solution. write soon give my love to all and believe me you Affectionate son Wm G. Christie.

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