Beloit College
Banner Image

William J. Evans

Head Quarters, Artilery Brigade, 4th A. C.
Camp Marker, Nashville, June, 8th 1865

Pres. A.L. Chapin.
          Rev. Sir: having in mind at various times to pen a few times to you -- to inform you of my success and misfortunes since I left Beloit College, I have for some reason or other delayed until now -- owing partly to the various vicissitudes in my life. I really ask you pardon for such an uncalled for delinquency on my part, -- as I have at all times cherished the fondest feeling and respect towards the President and all the professors of Beloit College.
     Since I left Beloit, I have often been present in the spirit, although absent in the body -- I suppose you have heard more or less of my whereabouts since I left there. I went first as anticipated to Oberlin College, and thence near the close of the fall term I engaged in teaching district school till New Years, -- when for various reasons and considerations I proffered my service to my country's cause - As I was somewhat embarrassed in my course of study, and wished to facilitate it And furthermore that my country needed my hearty co-operation in its defense and preservation
     I enlisted under favorable inducements at Erie city Pa., on the fifth day of Jan./64, and in Battery B. Indpt. Pa. Light-artillery. I enlisted in the Artillery because that I understood that this branch of service was prefferable [sic] to the Infantry or Cavalry   As I have since found out by experience.
     My associates and companions in the army, were very different indeed from those I had been in contact with in Beloit College and Oberlin   At first it seemed quite strange to me -- as I never had imagined that there was a class of persons so devoid and destitute of morality and so disrespectful of Religion -- its teachings, and every thing pertaining to the Spiritual Life - - [Ravon] found out that the army was quite a trying place for a Christian as he is looked on and judged of by most every body --- It is sad to thing [sic], that many young men become corrupt in morrals [sic] and disregardful of their early instructions at home - - It was quite an unusual thing for me to hear profane swearing and oaths uttered so frequent in most every sentence, that at the first impulse of thought some oath would present itself before my my [sic] mind, -- but under the second consideration I would not utter it -- nor did I ever in the least felt an inclination to take in vain the name of my Maker or to abandon my Religion -- although I feel often that my life is not consecrated to God as it ought to be, and therefore my example as a Christian is not the honor to religion it should be. There is no more than two or three Christians in the Battery, I have often wished to be in the society of some Christians and to be away sometime from the noise and sight of the camp with its manner and vices and enticements -- where I could converse pray -- and think on some subjects of real pleasure and have my soul fed with the bread of Life
     I do not all consider that the time I have I have [sic] spent in the army has been spent entirely in vain or wasted -- The patriot and Christian, goes through [good] many experiences -- such as trials sufferings & the similar that may serve to him as important less on through the career of life -- Besides he has a good chance to see "what is in man" or to study human nature. In the army we see as every where else how frail is man, how liable to ere -- and how wicked the imaginations of his heart, and what a subject to put trust in [him].
     I have endeavored to improve my time as well as I could under the circumstances since I have been in the army. At times have had time to read more or less -- and I have read books that were instructive and beneficial to my well being and happiness in the future --------
     And I have become more acquainted with the english language as I have been reading and conversing in the language most all the time -- I have been reading books on Theology good [eel] besides the "book devine", [sic] Amused myself with some others in vocal Music at times, and the art of reading music -- Lately I have been studying Philosophy to some extend [sic] -- While we were pursuing the enemy, I have captured and taken from the ruins of [houses] valuable Books on Theology -- Chemistry -- History ancient -- and ____ -- and some valuable books in the Latin and Greek Language, which I have expressed home, when I had such a chance ---------------------------------------- From these books, I hope to obtain some pleasure in perusing their contents if God wants me life and health.
     I have mentioned before the time 5th of Jan/64 and place of my enlistment -- After staying in camp near Pittsburg Pa. about a month we left for Chattanooga Tennessee. Remained there about a month or a little over and went to camp near Cleveland (Tenn) -- where we stayed about the same amount of time -- when on the 3rd of May we left on the Georgia Campaign or Atlanta Campaign as sometimes called. I had the privilege to be present and at my post by the Gen in all the engagements in this campaign. I saw some narrow calls -- but God has seen for in his all wise providence to save my life to some purpose
     At Atlanta previous to our going to ______________________ Statim at the time of the evacuation of the place by the enemy, -- I was sent in company with some others on detached duty to Artillery Brigade Head Quarter's -- where I have been since. On the 8th Sept. 64 we returned in to Atlanta from the pursuit of the enemy -- where we remained in camp there between 3 or 4 weeks -- when we left again in pursuit of Rebel Gen. Hood who had come into our rear endeavoring to cut our line of communications with Chattanooga & Nashville _____ went in pursuit of the enemy and he done his best for most the time to keep out of our reach.
     We went in his pursuit along the Rail Road Chattanooga and Atlanta as far as Rasaca when we struck off through Snake creek Gap Summerville and Galesville Alabama, when we returned to Chattanooga -- stopped their [sic] a day -- when we heard of the enemy concentrating their forces near Decatur Alabama we went towards this place on the Rail Road as far as Amertoville and Athens Alabama From this place again we went to Pulaski (Tenn) a distance of 78 miles from Nashville -- when after the space of about 3 weeks again we retreated towards Nashville, where the enemy made an attempt again to make a dash into our Rear. We retreated towards Columbia where we first came in contact with the enemy -- and thence through Spring Hill and Franklin where the enemy made several attempts to break through our lines and were repulsed severely each time -- The loss of the enemy was very heavy here -- some of the rebel officers -- reckoned their loss at 8 thousand. We retreated then to Nashville.
     On the 15th of Dec. 64 our troops under Gen. Thomas made a charge on the whole line of the enemy near Nashville -- the enemy were compelled to treated and their whole line was entirely demoralized -- The fighting was very heavy on the 15th 16th and 17th of Dec.
     You remember the facts perhaps as well as I can relate them -- We went in pursuit of the enemy as far as the river Tennessee -- when we came back -- and put up our winter quarters at Huntsville Alabama Huntsville is a fine place and has been a place of importance in the south -- But most of the inhabitants there have been rebel sympathizers --
     On the 18th of March ('65) we broke up our winter quarters, and left on the cars towards East Tennessee through Stevenson Ala, Chattanooga & Knoxville, Tenn. and proceeded up as far as Greenevile on this R.R. towards Bristol [Via.] when the news of the evacuation of Richmond reached us, and so we did not go any further. The people of East Tennessee are most of them loyal people, and they have suffered much on account of their ____ principles during the four years of "cruel war" in our country
     On the 19th of Apr. (65) again we were ordered to leave Greeneville (the most pleasant little town we have been in) for Nashville We went on the waggon [sic] road as far as Knoxville a distance of 75 m's -- where we took the cars all the way to Nashville, which we reached on the 24th of Apr. -- were we remained in camp till the 15th of June -- when all (of us belonging to) the Veteran Organizations of the 4th A. Corps were ordered to leave for New Orleans and Galveston Texas. We took the waggon road to Johnsonville on the Tennessee river, and a distance of [85] m's from Nashville. The Cumberland river at Nashville was rather too low to afford transportation to the troops from this post. At Johnsonville (a small military post named after Gen. Johnson) a large number of boats was awaiting the arrival of the troops on the R.R. and the waggon road. Here we loaded the boats and went on board, and went down the the [sic] Tennessee river, and the Ohio to Cairo Ills -- which we reached at 2 o clock A.M. the 20th of June
     As soon as we awoke in the morning, large numbers of the soldiers made a rush for town regardless of the guards placed on board the different vessels and outside belonging to the city. Every soldier wanted to enjoy themselves the best they could for the first time they had come into any northern place -- for a long time -- and the consequence was that many got drunk, and during their great spree and "good times," got quarrelsome and confirmed in their [motions] that they were dependent on nobody -- and subject to our officer's power, military or civil. Many of the soldiers left their command or deserted at Cairo ------------- Because most of the V. V. soldiers don't see the consistency in sending them to Texas or to Mexico as sometimes supposed after the war is acknowledged to be over -- while others have been discharged who had not been in the service long and whose term of service was over-expired. About 8 o clock P.M. the 21st we came in sight of Memphis but anchored by the shore about 2 miles from the city so as not to leave opportunity for the soldiers to go in to town but many jumed [sic] over board and have stopped behind ---------------------

Camp near New Orleans La.
June 29th 1865

     I proceed to add a few more remarks of our march to New Orleans Louisiana
     We passed in rotation on the Mississippi river Helena (Arkansas) Vicksburg (Miss) where Gen Grant displayed himself as an able general We saw here the canal dug by him. Passed again Natches (Miss) Natches is one of the most beautiful cities we have passed on the Mississippi
     It is all beautifully shaded by fine green Locust Trees and the similar. The greatest part of the city is beyond the edge of the high banks of the river here, and so out of sight for a person going down the river It is generally called "Natches under the hill" -- Passed again fort Adams Francisville and Baton Rouche [sic] La. and New Orleans. New Orleans is a large city (as you well know) situated a short distance from the right banks of the river (to a person going down -- the stream) It is situated also on a track of land as level as table almost When passing New Orleans on the boat and viewing the city extending far and wide, as on a plain -- I was reminded of "Babylon the Great"
     It is expected that we will leave New Orleans again in a few days for Texas -- I have nothing of importance to write about If we shall go to Texas I may have something more interesting to write about
     Louisiana is one of the most beautiful country I ever saw and besides has the most fertile and fruitful soil. As the summers are long here all kinds of fruit grow naturally and abundantly everywhere. The land is well adapted for sugar raising from which the people depends mostly for their subsistence
      Dear sir:-- I have written already a long letter longer altogether than necessary As I have neither, any thing very interesting about the country manners or customs of the people to write about at present as I have had many times last summer during our camp-sign.
     I have been intent on finishing my course in Education or go through a partial course -- since I am in the service -- when precisely or where I can not answer yet
     And my vow to God is the same -- if my means and ability to do good in God's Kingdom -- be small -- it is sufficient if the heart is consecrated to his work
     As I have mentioned before I do not consider my time in the army entirely wasted or spent to no purpose And I hope to employ it in accomplishing some good object in the future
     I would be very glad to hear from you any time, and to learn of your own well fare and that of the College. And I hope, (if you will find my [letters] _____) that you will favor me with a few lines sent to my address, and so greatly oblige your friend and well-wisher
                Wm J. Evans
     And I shall endeavor to be punctually in response next time
                          Yours Most Respectfully
                               William J. Evans
                                    Head Quarters
                                          Artillery Brigade 4th A. Corps
                                                New Orleans La.