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After Successfully Taking Fort Wagner with the Help of African American Troops, Union Consolidates Firepower on Fort Sumter and Charleston
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Fts Wagner & Gregg are being put in a state of defence & a new one of large size commenced at this end of the Island so that a small force can hold it against anything the Rebs can do; that will leave the remainder of the Troops for service at some other point.

CALVIN SHEDD. Autograph Letter, to his wife Sarah A. Shedd, with original envelope, General Hospital, Hilton Head, South Carolina, September 20, 1863. 4 pp. 4vo.

Inventory #21265.07       Price: $275

Complete Transcript

                       Gen Hospital Hilton Head,

                      Sunday Sept 20th 1863

My Dear Wife,

            I am feeling a little better than when I wrote last. My strength has increased somewhat and Bowells in better working order. There is no news of interest, appearances indicate that our Forces will be withdrawn mostly from Morris leaving only enough to hold the Forts  Fts Wagner & Gregg are being put in a state of defence & a new one of large size commenced at this end of the Island so that a small force can hold it against anything the Rebs can do; that will leave the remainder of the Troops for service at some other point. they have been moving the spare Guns to this end of Morris for several days. Yesterday Frank Shannon called on me on his way home, being one of the lucky 7, who drew a prize, it was decided by Lottery, 2 perct of the men present go, that, is calling our number 350; I think however that there are less than 200 for duty. Lts Ham & Taylor started yesterday for Augustine. I should have tried to go with them if I had been able. they have a Pass for 10 days. C. A. Dow went in the same Boat <2> he to join his Co. at Fernandina (Davis, Co. “C” 4th S. C.) Charly looks first-rate as an Officer. I hear that Burrell is about being discharged he has been examined & the papers made out, probably will leave shortly, (trouble Hernia). We are having a cold “snap,” quite a blow wind north I was not too warm last night with a blanket on my bed, the men that left yesterday north must have had a rough night. I have not walked out door for nearly two weeks till yesterday put my Pants on today to keep warm. I am the only Officer left in the Ward, two have gone to their Regts, two to Augustine; so I am alone with the “lonely”. I think there must be a letter or two somewhere, dated between the 31st & the 8th those two dates I recd together. Monday 21st another cold night I expect you have got a cold chill up north & the shiver reaches all over the U.S.  the Arago is coming up the harbor, all hands are on the [quie via?] for letters. I am still better this morning, this cool weather is doing me good I think. I suppose the frost has made a raid on your garden by this time, as I hear it has been very destructive in many places. I wish I could sit down to one good Boiled Dish such as I remember  it seems to me that I have not had one good wholes mean since leaving N.H. I have enjoyed such poor health I suppose is one reason. <3>

for my own personal convenience I hope our regt may be put in Garrison this winter, if the efforts against Charleston are to be stoped, I am, or hope to be shortly, able to do ordinary garrison duty. they had ought to give me a leave of Absence  the Governt has put me in this climate & got me sick; now they had ought to give me a chance to get well, so as to do Duty. I think that is the wish of the Govnt, but the D—nd Officials counteract all good things in their power Seemingly. We are surprised today to hear that Gen. Gilmore has tendered his resignation; we are in the dark where the trouble is; but surmise it is with the Navy, or Admiral Dahlgren. there have been complaints of the Navy, in the Dept for some time, “Gen G.” is liked & spoken well of by both Officers & men “always” so far as I have heard. if there is a change of commanders things will drag another three months or more. “heigh-ho! there is a good time coming” I suppose! “When?” “dunno”; so like “Micawber”[1] must wait for them to turn up. Later; a Salute of 13 guns has just been fired, “Said” to be for Gen. G. that he has been commissioned “Maj Gen” this is all old to you of course. the Arago & other vesels are decked out with flags in honor of “Somebody” & that is all we know positively about it. the N.Y. Times says Farragut is to supercede Dahlgren. “So mote it be” <4> It is no use guessing we have got so we don’t know anything in this Dept

Historical Background

Organized late in 1861, the 7th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry left the state in January 1862 for drills in New York City. After training, the regiment was sent to the Dry Tortugas at the end of the Florida keys, about 70 miles west of Key West. Fort Jefferson served as a key depot for the distribution of rations and munitions to Union forces throughout the coastal South. After three and a half months at Fort Jefferson, the 7th New Hampshire transferred to Beaufort, South Carolina, where the regiment’s health worsened. In late August, the regiment moved to St. Augustine, Florida, where some of the soldiers regained their health, and the regiment added new recruits. However, Shedd was too ill to travel and remained in Beaufort until September, when he rejoined his regiment, which remained in St. Augustine for the next seven months. After a brief time in Fernandina, Florida, in April and May 1863, the 7th New Hampshire returned to Hilton Head, South Carolina in June.

Ordered north to Folly Island just south of the entrance to Charleston Harbor, the 7th New Hampshire saw its first real combat beginning in July 1863. The regiment took part in two assaults on the Confederate Fort Wagner on Morris Island. In the second assault, it lost 216 men, including its colonel and several other officers. Shedd, ill again, did not participate in the attack. Union forces settled into a siege, which resulted in the Confederate abandonment of Fort Wagner and loss of Fort Gregg on Morris Island in September. With the capture of these forts on Morris Island, the Union forces bombarded Fort Sumter for 13 months from August 1863 to September 1864, reducing the location of the start of the war to a pile of rubble. Still, Union forces could not retake Fort Sumter until the Confederates abandoned it late in the war.

While soldiers like those of the 7th New Hampshire built fortifications and tried to avoid succumbing to rampant disease, their commanders squabbled. Jealousies and egos in the Union army and navy collided. Both General Quincy A. Gillmore and Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren wanted the honor of taking Fort Sumter, and Gillmore insisted that a joint operation be under army command. Dahlgren refused, and Gillmore withdrew his support for a joint operation and moved forward with his own plans. The relationship between the proud general and proud admiral had deteriorated substantially by September 1863, when Shedd wrote this letter.

Calvin Shedd (1826-1891) was born in Massachusetts. In 1849, he married Sarah Augusta Burtt in Lowell, Massachusetts. By 1860, they and their three daughters lived in Enfield, New Hampshire, where he was a carpenter and joiner and owned $1,500 in real property. Shedd enlisted as a private in Company C of the 7th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry in November 1861, and was quickly appointed as a sergeant. From February 1862 to April 1863, he served at various posts in Florida. In July 1862, he received promotion to 2d lieutenant in Company A, but was plagued with illness. On December 31, 1863, he resigned his commission due to disability. He returned to New Hampshire, and after the Civil War, traveled to the Midwest to work as a carpenter to support his family. His wife Sarah died in 1877, and in 1880, he was living with his unmarried daughter in Tewksbury, Massachusetts.

Quincy A. Gillmore (1825-1888) was born in Ohio and graduated from the United States Military Academy as first in his class in 1849. He oversaw the construction of fortifications at Hampton Roads, Virginia, then returned to West Point as an engineering instructor. Beginning in 1856, Gillmore served as a purchasing agent for the U.S. Army in New York City. Early in the Civil War, he took charge of successful siege operations against Fort Pulaski in the Savannah River. After assignments elsewhere, he returned to command the Department of the South, consisting of North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, from his headquarters at Hilton Head, South Carolina. After two failed assaults on Fort Wagner on Morris Island at the mouth of Charleston harbor, he settled into a siege that forced the Confederates to abandon Fort Wagner in September 1863. He then turned his attention to bombarding Fort Sumter. Although he reduced the brick fort to rubble, the Confederates did not abandon it until near the end of the war.

Gillmore remained in command of the Department from June 1863 to May 1864, and returned to command it from February to November 1865. After the war, he returned to New York City and became a successful civil engineer.

John A. Dahlgren (1809-1870) founded the U.S. Navy’s ordnance department and made major advances in gunnery from his position at the Washington Navy Yard, beginning in 1847. Born in Philadelphia to the Swedish consul in the city, Dahlgren joined the U.S. Navy in 1826. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln promoted Dahlgren to captain and made him chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. Promoted to Rear Admiral in February 1863, Dahlgren took command of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, where he worked with General Gillmore on the siege of Charleston and with General William T. Sherman on the capture of Savannah in December 1864.

SS Arago (1855) was a wooden-hulled, sidewheel steamer built in 1855 in New York City. Originally a transatlantic mail steamer, the ship was chartered by the Union Army as a troop transport, it also served with the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. The Arago routinely transferred sick, wounded, and discharged soldiers from the South Atlantic coast to northern ports and returned with fresh troops and mail. In Aprl 1865, the Arago returned the United States flag to Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. Captain Henry Gadsden commanded the ship throughout the war.

Charles A. Dow (1838-1867) was born in Plaistow, New Hampshire. He enlisted as a private in Company C of the 7th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. Like other white soldiers, especially from New England, he took the opportunity to become an officer in one of the new African American regiments being organized from former slaves. In September 1863, Dow was appointed a 2d lieutenant in the 4th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry (African Descent), which merged with the 3rd South Carolina in March 1864 to form the 21st United States Colored Infantry. Dow received a promotion to 1st lieutenant in May 1865, and as adjutant in June 1865. He mustered out in April 1866, and died in Texas eighteen months later.

N.B.: The University of Miami holds 53 letters from Shedd to his wife and daughters; Dartmouth College holds 82 letters, and the University of South Carolina holds 38 letters, many of which are transcribed online at http://scholar.library.miami.edu/shedd/index.html. In 2000, the University of South Carolina acquired three more letters from September 1863, immediately preceding this one.


[1] Wilkins Micawber is a character in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield (1850). The term “Micawber” came to mean one who is poor but lives in optimistic expectation of better fortune.


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