a pair of manuscript letters with a single cover written by Pvt. Porter to his sister and brother in Ohio. The first inked letter is 5pp dated March 11, 1862 (Porter meant April 11) and the second from April 14, 1862 is 4pp, picking up some material from the first. Porter recounts his journey from St. Louis, arriving at Fort Henry in the wake of the battle and noting that “everything was toren to stems.” He talks about arriving at “Savannah on the 27th (March)” and Grant “ordering us to camp 8 miles above the town at which we are now at,” adding, “I am happy to inform you that I have just passed through one of the Bloodiest and hard fought battles that was ever fought in America without the least wound.” From the perspective of the 8th Ohio Battery, Porter recounts the battle of Shiloh as he saw it beginning with the Rebel attack at daylight on Sunday, April 6, admitting that we were “not expecting an attack at all. But to our surprise we found them right in our Camp with 10 thousand strong and 3 of our regiments was thrown out immediately to a line of battle.” The battle line was forced to withdraw and “our men were so surprised and skaired at the sudden attack so that they would not fight.” The Federal line was pushed back, or as Porter says “retreated back 4 miles before they made a stand.” The battle raged until nightfall when “the rebels were compelled to retreat.” Of the 8th Ohio Battery at Shiloh Porter wrote, “Our battery was in the fight when they made one of there heaviest charges on Sunday afternoon. Bury Gard (Beauregard) was in command that time himself. There was three regiments came up with 3 hundred yards of our battery. We were on top of a hill and we just poreed the shells and canon balls into them without the loss of any of our men and drove them back.” Porter omits details of the next two days but says the “battle lasted three days before we whipped them but we having nothing to brag of. I have no time to give you the full details of it but shall in the future if I live.” The balance of the letter talks about weather and his dire need for postage stamps, the health and well-being of mutual Ohio friends in the army, ending with the usual expressions of love. In a lengthy postscript Porter asks his sister for a photograph, “have a miniature taken on paper and send it to me.” He writes that they expect to “have another battle here in a short time” claiming that the army now numbers “near 2 hundred thousand” men. Porter adds, incorrectly, that “we killed General Brags here in this battle” and then makes a wild statement saying, “I cut several buttons of his coat and a piece of his shirt.” Porter ends with the human tally, “We also killed Jonson and took his son Prisinor. The agitant reports today killed and wounded on the rebels side 11 thousand. On our side killed and wounded 7 thousand.”
In the April 14 letter to his brother, Porter says that “the 8th Battery did good service in this battle without the loss of a single man,” adding, “Our battery was in the fight when they made one of their most gallant charges attempting to drive us into the Tennessee River or take us all prisoners but they found it a little too heavy for the artillery…as they came up we first mowed them down. I was told afterwards by one of the prisoners that they lost more men on that one charge than they lost the hole day.” Too delicate a subject for his sister to read, Porters confided to his brother, “The most horrible scene that any mortal being ever witnessed is the battle field. To hear the pleading of the wounded and the groans of the dying and then those that have bin toren to pieces by shells and cannon balls. I volunteered my sirvises one whole day in hauling the dead and wounded from the field. Some places they lay as thick as cross ties. Some regiments would bury their own men in other places they would dig a hole about 3 feet deep and as long as they wished it and place them with their face down. Some time put one or two wagon loads in each place and then according to Army regulations fire over their graves.” Porter concludes by telling about a strange accident on the battlefield that killed an Ohio boy, a friend named Leonard Ulery. Ulery had been “boxing up some ammunition” when “some soldiers unloading a wagon load of muskets that had bin gathered up off the battlefield and was throwing them down on a pile out of the wagon (when) one happened to go off and shot him. The ball entered in his left side passed through his lung and was taken out his back.”
Twenty-one-year old Jacob M. Porter had enlisted as private in the 8th Ohio Battery in January 1862 and was promoted through the ranks. In September 1863 he became a captain in the 3rd U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery but for some unexplained reason was reduced to 2nd lieutenant in December 1863. Porter was discharged from service in December 1864. Typed transcriptions of both fine battle letters accompany.
Condition: Letters with fold lines but undamaged, clear, and easy to read, near VG. Single cover torn with piece loose.