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Incredible collection of 240 Civil War letters by Edwin J. Barden, a soldier in the 7th Connecticut Infantry, Co. G. The number of letters in the collection is only matched by their descriptive and interesting content, with most letters running approximately seven pages, the longest 22 pages. An excellent storyteller, Barden recounts various battles to his wife Sara back home, including the Siege of Fort Pulaski, the Battle of Secessionville, the Second Battle of Pocotaligo, the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, the Battle of Olustee, the Battle of Drewry's Bluff, fighting near Cold Harbor, and many more skirmishes. Barden also confides unusual events in camp to his wife, such as various accidents that occur, a deserter shot on order of President Lincoln, an officer committing suicide, and Confederates performing gruesome amputations on Union soldiers so they couldn't fight again. After Barden's three-year service from September 1861-1864, he also served for approximately nine months as a civilian clerk in General Ulysses S. Grant's headquarters, where he encountered Grant on several occasions and even accompanied him to the front lines towards the end of the war. Barden's mention of other notables includes Clara Barton whom he saw several times in the hospital.

In a twenty-page letter dated 13 April 1862, Barden describes the Siege of Fort Pulaski and then the taking of the fort, in small part, ''...We wer up with the earliest streak of daybreak before the stars wer gone. Everything was got in readiness and we wer soon impatiently waiting the order to fire. Soon the generals aid went galloping by towards Goat Point and shortly after a boat with a flag of truce went over from there to the fort demanding it surrender which of course was refused. The commandant replying that he was placed there to defend the fort not to surrender it. Soon the boat returned. The aid went hurrying back past to head quarters to report and in a few moments agan rode up this time to our battery with the message to the captain that the general presented his compliment to the captain and wished him to open the ball immediately. The men quickly sprang to their places and in a few moments the first shot was screaming through the air towards the fort. The batteries on our right immediately opened fire. Those on our left at Goat's Point being ordered to withhold their fire untill after the enemy had replied to us. In a short time the fort returned our compliment and soon the fireing became general all along our line and from the enemy the roar of the guns became almost incessant. It was splendid. A more beautiful day never dawned. The air was perfectly clear and we could trace our shells through the air almost to the fort and seldom failed to see the strike, sometimes in the fort, sometimes on the parapet making the walls crumble and the dust to fly and agan outside in the water or on the land sending the water and dirt high into the air then a cloud of smoke would rise from the fort and directly a shot or shell would come whistling through the air, sometimes over our heads then falling short and agan bursting in the air almost over our heads. I tell you it was exciting...The fireing was continuous through the night at intervals of twenty minutes...''

He continues, ''...I forgot to mention that the first day about noon we shot away the rebel flag...The fire from the fort was more brisk the second day and at one o'clock when our relief left the morters, I thought it quite likely that we should have two or three days work before we should bring them to terms...I ran out and was just in time to see the rebel flag hauled down and there sure enough was the white flag. This was about three o'clock. I think the wildest hurrahing that wer ever proceeded from human throats was to be heard on the shore of what Whitter calls 'lone Tybee' for the next fifteen minutes. Soon the generals aid went galloping by waveing his hat in response to our cheers...The rebels could stand it no longer, at any moment a shot might go through the magazine and blow the whole garrison into eternity. They had made a good though ineffectual resistance and it was worse than useless to attempt to hold out longer. They claim not to have had any killed, there are wounded and in the hospital. But we do not hardly believe that there wer none killed. Some of the wounded I believe have acknowledged that there wer ten killed the first day. I do not suppose the truth will ever be known. But it seems incredable that three hundred and eighty three men could remain in the fort during such a perfect hail as there must have been of shot, fragments of shell, bricks, and splinters for thirty eight hours and only three be wounded. Our loss was one killed and three slightly wounded...The prisoners wer removed on Sunday...Some of them wer rabid secesh and pretty firey, but most of them that I talked with wer quite moderate and willing to talk...There was one company composed mostly of the natives, poor whites. They seemed to be a kind of harmless creatures if lef to themselves, most of them had enlisted because they had nothing to do and wer told that if they did not they would be drafted and would not get any pay and so of the two evils, choose the least...''

Barden then describes a gruesome explosion at Fort Pulaski: ''...Yesterday a most terrible and disturbing accident occured on the parapet of the fort...numerous unexploded shells that wer lying about the fort had burst and some one was injured. Running out, paper and pencil in hand, I saw where the accident had occured and running up the parapet, saw a sight that I shall not soon forget. Five men torn and bleeding from ghastly wounds lay within a space of ten feet square. Two wer dead, killed instantly, and three others torn and bleeding, legs shattered, arms broken, hands blown off and faces terribly mangled. Two of them died during thr night, they wer so badly injured that they wer not taken down, but wat could be done for them was done where they lay. One poor fellow a lad sixteen years old, had one arm broken, the other blown off at the wrist, his right shoulder all blown away. The lower part of his face blown away and his whole face blown so full of powder that you could push your fingers right through the flesh and yet he lived untill late at night and could and did talk considerable. The fifth one lost his leg. He stands a small chance to recover. It seems they were around cleaning up around the guns and picking up loose shells. Their captain had removed the cap from the shell and taken it down to show to the colonel. The men had emptied the powder out and wer knocking the shall against a piece of granite to jar out a little that remained when the shell exploded. One piece of the shell flew clear across the fort, strikeing aganst a brick furnace for heating shot and near which William Reid and others wer standing. Bounding back, it struck Reid in the back knocking the breath out of him and leaving to imprint in black and blue on his skin. He saw the piece comeing and dodged it...Several others had narrow escapes from pieces of the same shell...The shells was one of the most destructive kind called the James projectile...''

In two separate letters on 10 June and 17 June 1862, Barden recounts the Battle of Secessionville, where the regiment suffered nearly 100 in killed and wounded. He describes a total rout trying to take the fort, which was well defended by the Rebels; in fact, Union General Henry Benham was court martialed for trying to take the Island against orders. Letter reads in part, ''Our regiment has...been severely repulsed with considerable loss. Today we are mourning for the brave men who fell and fell without accomplishing the object for which they sacrifice their lives...Pitt was struck on the catridge box by a piece of shell that but for that obstruction would doubtless have finished him. Others of the boys had very narrow escapes for they wer in the advance some of the time of the colors where the grape and canister wer ploughing through our ranks. I will try to give you some account of the fight though I know I shall fail to convey a very correct idea of it. The attack was ment to be a surprise and in that it partiall successful. We wer aroused about one o'clock and immediately fell in line...The distance from our camp to the rebel battery is I should judge about three miles. A long time was consumed in awaiting orders and in getting the other troops in order. We advance slowly stopping at intervals until we got beyond our pickets when the remaining distance nearly a mile was made mostly at a double quick. Until we came in sight of the battery none of us privates knew anything what was required of us. Soon after we left our camp. We wer ordered to load then shortly after came the order 'that not a shot was to be fired but that we wer to go to our work with cold steel.' All this sounds very well or would if we had been successful but the storming of what is about the same as a casemated fort without a scaling ladder or anything to assist men in crossing the ditch and climbing the stockade is worse than 'requiring brick without straw.' After passing our outposts we advanced rapidly and soon our skirmishers came upon the enemy outposts which they put to rout, capturing a few prisoners. Here a few of our men wer killed or wounded. I could not tell which. We passed them being carred back on litters or lying on the ground where they fell. This occurred at a house and the outbuilding belonging there to which was situated at the edge of a large plantation we had crossed. This place was afterwards used as a hospital by our folks and after we wer repulsed we burned it. First removeing our dead and wounded so that it could not agan become a cover for the enemys advance. After leaving the house we went through a narrow piece of woods and came out on the battle field. As we entered the open field we formed in line of battle as well as possible. It came very hard on us who wer on the left of the line for as the right kept on at double quick we had to run in order to bring our line out straight and by the time it was accomplished we wer very much out of breath...When our line was formed we continued our advance at a double quick. The skirmishers in advance driveing before them the flying rebels from the outpost. As soon as they would shelter themselves in the fort, the rebels opened their fire upon us. Musketry, grape, canister, and shrapnel came plunging through our ranks makeing a clean sweep wherever they struck. As we neared the fort on left came upon a marsh which at high tide must be covered three or four feet deep with water. There was no water in at the time but the soft mud was very deep. The bank was lined with fallen trees and brush purposely placed there to obstruct an advance. A howitzer was placed so that its fire completely raked this bank so that many who sought protections there met the fate they were trying to avoid. My position was in the centre of our company and one other, Co B. was to the left of us. As the advance continued my course was straight ahead through the marsh but I could not see what good we wer to do that way as by this time onley the right and centre or our column was faceing the fort, but as my onley business was to obey orders, we kept on. We sank in the mud nearly knee deep and it was worse and worse the further we went. An order came for us to come out of the march which we made haste to obey. Norton was with me in the marsh but nearer the bank and got out and sooner. Many others wer in there struggling in the mud. Just as 3 gained, the brush which lined the bank, a terrific charge of grape and canister came cracking amongst us, strikeing all around us and wounding others near me. I never shall forget the ring with which they charge came about my ears. I gained the bank soon as possible and looked around for the rest of our company. I could find but few of them. Our captain with a part of the company had gone a head into the thickest of the fight where he was soon struck down by a ball. The regiment was now sadley disorganized. Three companies wer all huddled together on the bank of the marsh into which grape and canister of the enemy was makeing sad havock at every discharge.''

Barden continues, ''The ground was beginning to be quite thickly strewn with the fallen in spite of the constant labors of those who wer all the time at work carrying them from the field. A desperate attempt to rally the men on the colors around which stood a group of brave men as ever drew breath, their number was being rapidly trimmed out but they never flinched untill the order to retire was given when they moved off the field in good order. In the mean time the other regiments came up cursing us for our cowardice, crying out to give them room, but I notice they got no nearer the fort than we did and then broke much worse, many of them throwing away their guns in their retreat. I do not think a man in our regiment who was able to come off the field alone failed to bring his rifle with him. About this time our light field batteries came up and began to play upon the fort and Bright's brigade made an attack on the left of the fort on the other side of the marsh that I have mentioned, our comeing through the advance. Here protected by a ditch, we rallied what we could and rested. Soon Gen. Stevens rode up and wished us to make another advance and support a regiment that was then trying to storm the fort...We again advanced in good order. I should think half way to the fort until we came to an intrenchment thrown up for the protection of infantry I should think. Here we wer ordered to lie down and keep under cover. Soon a section of the Conn. battery consisting of two pieces came up and unlimbering opened fire on the fort. Fireing right over our heads this soon drew the fire of the fort upon it and our situation was anything but pleasant. Crowded down into a ditch our battery fireing over our heads deafining us with its thunder while we wer obliged to hug the ground to avoid the shot and shell which was falling around us. Our battery kept up its fire untill its ammunition was all gone and two of the horses killed, then they were ordered off the field and when they wer safely off the, order came for us to retire also, which we did in good order. General Wright had been repulsed from the attack he made on the rebels right and it was evidant that nothing more could be done towards takeing the fort...Our forces engaged and with great loss and no advantage gained. Our captain was shot soon after the action commenced. He was brave, even to rashness and with a few men of his company among whom wer Dexter, Norton, & Hawthorn had got in the advance of the regiment and partially sheltered by the bank of the marsh and some bushes. They were fireing away as fast they could get sight of a rebel. The captain had fired several times and had raised himself to fire agan when he was hit by a musket ball. It is supposed in the month the boys attempted to bring him away and got a short distance when Dexter was hit and a sergeant who was assisting was shot in the arm. They could not help any more and after going a short distance further another man who was helping got frightened and left onley Norton and Hawthorn with him. They were completely fatigued out, could not carry him no further, but they succeeded in getting him out of range of the fire and then placeing him in the best situation they could, wer obliged to leave him. He was not dead at the time, but was senseless and doubtless mortally wounded...The loss of the regiment in killed wounded and missing was ninty, onley four are missing and they are doubtless among the slain. Probably many of the wounded will die...The rebel position was a strong one and it seems hardly possible to take it at the point of the bayonet...''

In his letter dated 23 October 1862 from Hilton Head, Barden describes the Second Battle of Pocotaligo with his usual attention to detail, bringing the reader into the fight with him. Letter reads in part, ''...Shorty after sunrise we landed on a point of land formed by another narrow creek or river entering the one we had come up...We had with us two twelve pound parrot guns said to belong to the Hamilton battery and three light howitzers from off the gun boats maned by sailors. These last pieces wer drawn by hand and a part of one company wer detailed to assist in drawing them. We wer in motion about the middle of the forenoon. I do not know exactly how many regiments there wer in all. Several proceeded ours and two wer in rear of us. The enemy wer encountered about four miles from the landing by our advance and after makeing a short resistance, fell back and took up a new position, perhaps half a mile in the rear of the first. When the enemy wer first encountered we wer orderd on a double quick. The day was quite warm and it took the starch out fast. An comeing up to where the enemy wer first met. We began to receive the fire of the rebel battery which had obtained a new position and had a good range on our line of advance. Agan, it was double quick at first over sweet potatoe fields then over cotten fields, for a while we lay down on the ridges, Though this was back in the potatoe fields, and the shot and shell played over and around us beautifully occasionly a shell would burst in the ground near us covering us with mother earth those who happend to be near...After being driven from their third position, they retreated for nearly two miles through the woods, then across a marsh some five or six hundred yards wide. Through the marsh ran a small creek, the bridge over which the rebels destroyed as they crossed. On the opposite side of this marsh, the rebels took up thier position and being heavily reenforced maintained it, although our boys kept up such a well directed fire with their rifles that the rebels could use their artillery but little, but sheltered in a house and by some woods, they kept up a continual fire of musketry. The ammunition for our artillery was all expanded and it was taken to the rear shortly after the enemy wer engaged in this last position. Had there been a supply of ammunition, I have no doubt that our men would have driven them from this place, bridged the creek, and followed them still further, but whether we could have accomplished the object for which we wer sent with the force we had, I think doubtless. The object of expedition was to reach the railroad and burn a bridge destroying as much as possible of the road and property. I am told that the bridge was still some three or four miles off through the road, must have run much nearer the battlefield for we could hear the whistle of the engine and very shortly after the cheers and yells of the fresh rebels they had brought on to help their brethren...Three men from our company wer wounded, one of them very severely. I have not been able to learn yet how many our regiment lost, but think it will not exceed fifty in killed and wounded...After the fighting was over and we had commenced to fall back, they commenced carrying off our wounded. This was a hard job. There was not over four or five stretchers to a regiment and onley two ambulances in all and not a wagon along or to be had and the wounded had to be carred by their comrads in their blankets and on pieces of board laid across small poles or their guns, six or seven miles to the landing...I went back with him and assisted five others in bringing one poor fellow to the landing, a distance of about five miles. At first we had nothing but a rubber blanket but finely made a rude litter by knocking off a few boards from a building and laying them loosley together. In this way we brought him the long weary distance. We wer all much fatigued ourselves and could only carry him a little way at a time, then lay him down and rest. The poor fellow was in great pain and almost every jolt forced a groan from him. For a while the road was full of men carrying off the wounded, but finely most of them past us and the last of the way we had but few companies. It was nearly two o'clock when we got our man to the hospital and delivered him to the surgeons care. One regiment that was not in the fight was sent out to bring in the wounded and I think they wer all brought off though some of the dead wer burried in the field...''

After the regiment moved to Virginia - calling it ''the vast slaughter pen for soldiers'' and ''The Grand Moveing Slaughter House of the Potomac'' - Barden describes to Sara the Battle of Drewry's Bluff in his letter dated 16 May 1864, ''...Today has been a sad day for us. The rebels largely reinforced fell upon us at daylight, in such overwhelming numbers as to drive us from the hard earned vantage ground we had taken from them on Friday and Saturday. Their attempts to crush us out by hurling upon us a vastly superior force, has failed. Desperately contesting every foot of ground we have retired from the bloody field bringing off our wounded preventing the broken and shattered fragments of our regiments from falling into the enemies hands, and not allowing the defeat to become a rout. We are this evening behind our intrenchments, and are doubtless secure. I have no doubt of our ability to hold our present position. The rebels took advantage of a dense fog this morning to approach within easy range of our forces and daylight found them strongly posted with artillery all in position all along our front. They at once charged and...were twice repulsed with great slaughter. but some regiments on our flank gave way. The rebels opened a cross fire upon us and flesh and blood could stand it no longer. We were obliged to retreat. The 7th Regt. was in the center or nearly so as I learn. They held their ground as long as it was possible for men to do so until their ammunition expended and overwhelmed by superior numbers they were obliged to retreat. They have suffered severly but it is utterly impossible to form any estimate of their loss. Many are probably taken prisoners. Our little party has been called upon to furnish another sufferer. Reid has lost his right hand. It was taken off by a round shot as he was coming off the field. Amputation was performed just above the wrist. I saw him this afternoon soon after his arrival in camp. He is in good spirits and I think his chance for recovery very favorable. He is to remain in camp tonight where we did the little that we could to make him comfortable...There can be but little doubt, I think but what the rebel loss in killed and wounded equals, if not exceeds our own. They have doubtless taken many more prisoners than we though we have taken a good number...''

In a letter dated 2 June 1864 from ''In the field near Hatchers'', Barden describes fighting just outside the Cold Harbor battlefield, writing in part, ''...The rebel made an attack on our picket line where our regiment was posted and succeeded in driving them out of their rifle pits with much loss...I believe the enemy are now in possession of the rifle pits from which they drove us...Our regiment is encamped under fire of the enemy and whenever they open on us, are obliged to hasten to the entrenchments for cover. Many of the little shelter tents are torn by the pieces of shells and bullets which have passed through them where they stand. Three days since a sergeant of our Co was mortally wounded by a fragment of a shell while in camp. He died the next day. Two days since, our second lieutenant and a private of our co were killed by a shell while going to the entrenchments...There is no probability of our being driven away from here unless Lee should succeed in defeating Grant and then suddenly throw a large force upon and overwhelm us...We shall get NY papers of the 1st tonight. I hope we have good news. We have been so roughly used by the rebels of late, that I have lost all confidence and await the news with much anxiety. While writing I can hear the dull sullen roar of distant guns which must come from where Grant is fighting...Everything seems to hang upon Grant's success. I have much confidence in his ability, and patriotism, but he has fearful, and tremendous odds to contend with...The rebels are fighting with an energy and determination. Which had it been shown by our own armies, would long ago have swept the last rebel out of the Confederacy...''

In some of Barden's other letters, he discusses Negro regiments, including the 54th Massachusetts, and the quality of their fighting. He also writes about atrocities committed against slaves, including one plantation owner who came home and burned down his house with black families inside, so enraged was he that they were living there. In describing the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, Barden writes about the 54th MA: ''...Another desperate fight for the possession of Ft. Wagner took place last night. The works were again stormed by our forces, and as I learn the rebels driven out of them but such a destructive fire was opened upon them by Fort Sumpter. and battery Bee on Cummings Point that it was found impossible to remain in them and after holding possession for an hour and a half or two hours, we were obliged to leave them spikeing the guns. Our loss when compared with the number engaged has been terrible. The Cosmopolitan and the Mary Benton had in all six hundred and three dead wer taken off the Mary Benton here. The remainder are to be taken to Beaufort. The Cosmopolitan proceeded immediately to Beaufort with all her load. On board of a third boat I am told there are about one hundred and thirty more wounded making the loss in wounded alone eight hundred that we have taken off the field. The whole loss then cannot fall below twelve hundred...The dead taken off here were some that had died on the passage down. No correct, or authentic account of the battle can be had. As nearly as I can learn the attack was made late in the evening. The regiments engaged suffered severely. The 54th Mass. (colored) lost it is said nearly six hundred men. They are said to have fought bravely. Their Colonel was killed. His name was R.G. Shaw...Some think we have achieved a partial success. But I fear nothing commensurate with our loss...'' He continues in a letter a few days later, ''...You will probably have heard before this of the gallant conduct of the 5th Mass Regt (colored) Col. Shaw commanding them was killed in the exchange of prisoners the other day. Inquiries were made as to what had been done with his body. The rebels either could not or would not give and definite answer. A report is current that he was thrown into a trench with over fifty of his brave fellows over and about him and thus burried. It is more than suspected that he was not mortally wounded when he fell into their hands...''

Barden also writes about what he considers Rebel atrocities, including excessive amputations, and using poisonous bullets. He writes, ''...The rebels have filled the ground with torpedoes. Between fort Wagner and our works. The Engineers have dug out several in excavating the approaches to the Fort. I am told that to one of them a dead negro was attached by a cord in such a manner that in the attempt to move the negro the torpedo would be exploded. Fortunately the infernal machine was found by the workmen before the negro was discovered. And the hellish design of chivalric inventor frustrated...''

With much more content in what amounts to over 1,500 pages of writing during the Civil War, from one of the best scribes we've encountered. Barden opines on various commanders, including those he respects such as Quincy Gilmore and Ulysses S. Grant, and those he finds unfit, such as Benjamin Butler and lower ranking officers. Interesting stories of camp life, Rebels, southern culture, slaves, deserters, spies and more fill the letters. Written in both pen and pencil, with very legible handwriting. Very good condition. With near complete transcriptions.
240 Letters by a 7th Connecticut Infantryman -- ''a lad sixteen years old had...the lower part of his face blown could push your fingers right through the flesh and yet he lived untill...240 Letters by a 7th Connecticut Infantryman -- ''a lad sixteen years old had...the lower part of his face blown could push your fingers right through the flesh and yet he lived untill...240 Letters by a 7th Connecticut Infantryman -- ''a lad sixteen years old had...the lower part of his face blown could push your fingers right through the flesh and yet he lived untill...240 Letters by a 7th Connecticut Infantryman -- ''a lad sixteen years old had...the lower part of his face blown could push your fingers right through the flesh and yet he lived untill...
240 Letters by a 7th Connecticut Infantryman -- ''a lad sixteen years old had...the lower part of his face blown could push your fingers right through the flesh and yet he lived untill...240 Letters by a 7th Connecticut Infantryman -- ''a lad sixteen years old had...the lower part of his face blown could push your fingers right through the flesh and yet he lived untill...240 Letters by a 7th Connecticut Infantryman -- ''a lad sixteen years old had...the lower part of his face blown could push your fingers right through the flesh and yet he lived untill...240 Letters by a 7th Connecticut Infantryman -- ''a lad sixteen years old had...the lower part of his face blown could push your fingers right through the flesh and yet he lived untill...
240 Letters by a 7th Connecticut Infantryman -- ''a lad sixteen years old had...the lower part of his face blown could push your fingers right through the flesh and yet he lived untill...
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Auction closed on Thursday, May 26, 2022.
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