Charles Oscar Torrey,
Ambulance Corps, 27th Iowa Infantry,
Second Brigade, Second Division, XVI Corps.
Letter No. 33, March 30th, 1865.
Source: Sellers, John R., Civil War Manuscripts.
Library of Congress, Washington, D. C., 1986.
Submitted by Camille Corte
Archivist, Historic Blakeley State Park
Near Mobile Bay Ala March 30th 1865.
My Dear Mira,
Accordingly as I promised you in my last, I haste to write you the first possible chance after arriving here. I wrote you on Saturday expecting we would shurely (sic) go next morning but Sunday was a very buisy (sic) day loading the boat with stores that came down rather late from the City and we (sic) not all loaded till Sunday night. But before I go on farther on that subject let [me] tell you I am well & have been tolerably well all the time since I wrote you before with the exception of tooth ache. I had a severe siege of that which resulted in the total rout of the enemy yesterday morning but not till after much serious trouble & vexation of spirit. My tooth (one of my front ones) was so very sore I could not eat any for several meals to amount to much. I have had sore teeth before but none that beyond (?) with that. I would have had it out sooner but our Dr. had no irons with him. So I had to wait till we landed 8 miles from here where I hunted up a man that tried his arm and my nerve on it. The iron sliped (sic) off once. The man thought he laid out his whole strength the first time but managed to bring it the second time. I was over to the Reg't short time ago & got three letters. No. 24 & 25 & one from Mary Roe. You can bet I was glad to get a letter once more and especialy (sic) to learn that you wer (sic) so well & fat. I guess it must agree with you for me to be away don't it. Mary wrote Charles had met with an accident. Cuting (sic) his face near his eye. He has terable (sic) times with his eyes. Co. F. I found all well I believe. I believe they have only skirmished with the Rebels little and picket firing etc. But the 13th Corps on our left & the 1st Divis. of the 16th Crops in our front is having quite a warm time since yesterday morning. In fact ever since they came here the Rebs contesting every inch of the ground as mulish as you could well imagine. They have a strong fort on this side of the Bay which they seem determined to hold. Our line of skirmishers are up within 15 or 20 rods of their works & manage to pick of (sic) their gunners so they can hardly work their guns. I don't know the extent of our loss but it is considerable. I hear yesterday we had 180 killed & wounded. I saw them cary (sic) our wounded for two hours at the Landing yesterday. I guess they are to [be] taken to Dauphine Island or perhaps may be taken back to New Orleans. I hope they will be taken where they will be well cared for. Poor fellows.
We left New Orleans Landing on Lake Ponchatrain Sunday morning before daylight, passed through the lake then through a narrow pass into Lake Borgne from there across the Gulf & took in behind Ship, Cat & Horne Islands. Some of the way across the Gulf & between the islands our little boat would rare & pitch till some of our men was nearly scared out of their witts (sic). There was prospect fare (?) of being wrecked. They talked very seriously of throwing our ambulances & wagons overboard & cutting away the Guards but we finally got behind Horne Island & anchored.
The winds blew hard off the Gulf, but we had [a] little narrow strip of land to stop those mountain like waves that came in from the Gulf & would have swallowed us in three minutes. The rain poured down in torants (sic). It was then Monday noon. We remained anchored till (sic) Tuesday & started with a pretty good breeze off [the] Gulf but got along finely till (sic) we found plaices (sic) in the island where the waves broke over & crossing these plaices (sic) we came nearer than ever to swamping but did not lose anything at all. Got over all right, passed through Grant's Pass into Mobile Bay. There reported at Fort Gains (sic) then went up above Fort Morgan & unloaded some cavelry (sic) we had. Then came around some Rebel torpedoes & struck for Sykes [Starke's?] landing where we anchored about eleven that night.
The next morning at daylight we found ourselves in sight of the City of Mobile with a line of Rebel boats around the front of the City. Then still nearer us was a line of our Blackbirds anchored out opposite of us. We could see one or two of our monitors paying their respects to the Rebel land battery. Our boats would run up much nearer if it was not for their torpedoes that they have sunk all over the bay. They blew up one of our monitors the other day but her turret is still above water so she can give them fitts (sic) yet. Our boats raised 14 of these "infernal machines" yesterday. If it was not for them our boats would run up behind this fort in front of the 13th Corp & cut its communication with the city. We could see their boats running back & forth all day. -----We commenced to unload our stuff about noon yesterday with four pontoon boats tied together. We would take on a wagon or two ambulances & tow them to shore. Once we came near to going to Mobile to (sic) soon to suit us. We got one six mule wagon & one ambulance on at once. The wind was blowing stiff from the shore & as we unloosed the lines commenced to drift us out into the Bay in spite of all we could do with the oars. We would have drifted over to the rebs in short time if had not run foul of one of their machines. If mate had not sent out some men in yawl & taken our head line to the stern of a boat lying at anchor -- we would have run the wagons of[f] & cut one pontoon lose[e] before we would have been captured. It commenced to rain sweetly (?) about the time we were well begun & you can bet we was wet when we got through. I expect to take cold in my jaw but did not. We hitched up & came out about a mile & made nice little camp of our own. 8 ambulances & 3 six mules teams & five mounted gentlemen (?) like myself with several pedestrians constituted our command. All under 2nd Lieut. Stevenson. We rolled out this morning at four o'ck & soon after sunup was on our way out here. Our camp is in a nice pine grove. Soil sandy & dry & is really a delightful camp. The wind blowing through the pine tops make gentle music while the cannon along the line come in for chorus every few moments with a vengeance. I don't exactly like the chorus to (sic) loud a sound on one note & don't exactly chord with love of life. As we came along the lines this morning there was a continual firing of musketry but this P.M. the cannon has kept booming & we hear no muskets. They were bringing out some 32 lb. parrots & ten inch mortars as we came out this A.M. They will make things git when they get them in position. They will make music tomorrow, I guess. Oh dear, I dread thees (sic) offul (sic) fights where so many men are mangled torn & killed. It is strange men of sense would come together in this style for no other purpose than to kill & conquer but such is man in his sin. I have heard several times that we had demanded this fort & had given them three days to surrender but then I suppose it will have to be charged if they don't see fit to surrender. I here (sic) it have ditches 20 feet wide & 20 feet deep around it & fixed so they can fill it with water from the bay. They have several lines of earth works out side of the main fort. We may lay around here a month or more (Potomac style) and we may rush things, time will tell. In the mean time entertain no fears fore (sic) me. I will write often as possible--Oh dear, I have a pain under the waistcoat. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, I was seasick. I won't try to describe how I felt. Only tolerable offull (sic). Don't comence (sic) (?). Our reg't was nearly all sick coming around the Gulf. The 21 Iowa is in 13 Corp. I saw the grave of one of them as I came out. I will answer your letters in my next letters. My sheet is now full so I must close hoping this will find you all well. Give my respects to all the folks & remember me as ever.
Your C. O. Torrey