23 June 1864: “How strange it is that where there is most danger there should be most wickedness, but so it is.”

Item description: Letter, dated 23 June 1864, from George Hovey Cadman, a soldier in the 39th Ohio Infantry Regiment, to his wife Esther.

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Item citation: From folder 10 in George Hovey Cadman Papers (#122), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

June 23rd.

The general impression now is that this is the last day of fighting here and that the enemy’s display of force yesterday was made merely to cover his retreat. If they leave, I suppose our division will go to the rear and get a little rest. I am sure the men need it.

Last night was a lovely night. The moon and stars shone brightly, and I enjoyed myself very much, lying on the ground talking with my friend George R. Gear on religious subjects. Oh, Esther, I often fear that my thoughts and feelings on these subjects may vanish! I pray God they may prove lasting. I have been much happier since I have been under their influence, but the army is a poor school. How strange it is that where there is most danger there should be most wickedness, but so it is.

I hope, my dear, that you are getting my letters regularly. It must be a comfort to you to know that I am safe so far. I forgot to tell you that with all their cannonading yesterday, not a man was hurt by it in our regiment.

12 at noon, June 23.

We have just been having an artillery duel. Early this morning the bugles ordered our skirmishers to advance. They did so and are now I believe, some three hundred yards up the mountain. The Rebs thought to play a trick on them and sneaked down a few men at a time till they had fully a regiment, with the kind intention of taking some of our men in out of the wet. All this time they kept up a cannonading at one of our forts to draw attention from their design. But they had been close watched and just as their men were ready to fall on ours, some twelve or fourteen guns opened with shell full upon them. You should have seen the Johnnies go up the hill at double quick. This made them mad and they trailed one of their guns on our regiment, which lay in full sight. The first shell burst over our heads and we all thought it was caused by cutting the fuse too short, but the next came closer and we found they had us in fair range. Our officers sent us into the rifle pits to keep us out of harm’s way as much as possible. I had made some beef soup and was getting my dinner, so I stuck in out till I had done eating. Some of their shot were well aimed, but in consequence of our earthworks, no damage was done except breaking two rifles for Uncle Sam, hitting Gen. Dodge’s saddle, and making a hole through the blanket of a Company A. boy. I was not sorry when they tired of their sport at last, for it was too hot to lie crowded in the trenches.

Notice has just been given to send mail in to Head Quarters, so I must close.

Believe me, my dearest love, 

Your affectionate husband,

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