Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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Civil War Letters and Diary of Charles Berry Senior

Charles Berry SENIOR was born in England in 1845, and moved to the United States, near Rock Falls, Iowa, when he was 12-years-old. At the age of 19, he enlisted in Company B of the Seventh Iowa Infantry, at Plymouth, Iowa, in February of 1864. Charles remained in service for a year and a half, participating in General SHERMAN'Ss four-month campaign against Atlanta in the summer of 1864. As part of the Western Army, Charles fought in a total of twelve battles, including engagements at Reseca, Lays Ferry, Rome Crossroads, Kenesaw Mountain, Dallas, Knick Jack Gap, one battle near Atlanta, plus a five week siege of Atlanta, Jonesboro, Allatoona, Marietta, Savannah, Columbia and Bentonville.

In the summer of 1865, Charles was discharged and mustered out on July 14, near Louisville, Kentucky. From there he was sent to Davenport, Iowa, and then returned home to a farm near Rock Falls, Iowa. He received a Civil War veteran pension on July 31, 1890 (application #835.600, certificate 598.166).

Following are transcriptions from letters Charles wrote to his father during the Civil War.

Civil War Mail Tent

  Dubuque, Feb, 21 1864
Dear Father, Brother & friends

Thinking that you might like to hear from me I concluded to write a few lines We started last Wednesday arrived at Charlescity on the same day. Next day we took the stage and got to Cedar Falls. Took the cars at Cedar Falls next morning and arrived at Dubuque in the afternoon on Friday. We have been staying here since then but expect to leave for Davenport tomorrow. We have got our uniforms excepting overcoat & dresscoat our knapsack haversack blanket & canteen we have got. the rest of our uniform our arms & our first installment of bounty we shall receive at Davenport. We board at one of the hotels here & report to roll call [ ... ] 9 & 2. You will understand the nature of the enclosed certificate. [unclear: we] are all in good health & excellent spirits. Yesterday Wahington's birthday was celebrated here the home guards marched through the street behind the fife & drum. [unclear: There] was target shooting in the afternoon in the evening there was a grand supper free for all soldiers in the Union League Hall after supper speaking, then dancing by the young folks, 2 violins 1 clarinet-& one double bass, were the instruments -- the performers were all germans but they were verry excellent players I am in haste & have not any more time to write at present. I shall write again from Davenport [ ... ] to write to me

I remain
your son

Charles B. Senior

  Nashville March 6, 1864
Dear Father;

I am standing by a window here in the soldiers' home and the boys are just singing the Star-Spangled Banner. Long may it wave' You may be somewhat surprised at my delay in writing to you. me reason was that I couldn't give you the directions to write tome until now. So far I haveenjoyed the very best of health. The boys are, I believe, all well, at least in Co. B. The weather here is quite warm. This southern sun shines in at this window this morning with the warmth of amid-summers sun at the north, it looks to be at about the same altitude. The water we have here is not of the best quality, it is the water of the Cumberland River and is very nearly the color of clay.The Cumberland river is quite a stream, being navigable for the largest steamboats. The railroad bridges [ ... ] [unclear: are] on a swing, that is [ ... ] the boats come to it, it is made to separate in the middle and one-half swings to the side. We had the opportunity of seeing this on the evening of our arrival here from Louisville, Ky. A number of us boys went to a theatre, last night, in this place, it was the first that I have ever seen. I thought that I was well paid for my quarter. The principle play was Shakespeare's "Macbeth." I am of course no judge of theatres but I was well satisfied with what I saw and heard. The instrumental music was good 3 violins, harp, one clarinet, one brass instrument, I think a bugle & Double Bass. You talk about singing and such like, but there was a girl here last night that I think would beat your Mrs. Sunderland decidedly. I expect that you have received by this time some money that I sent [ ... ] American Express Co. ($60) [unclear: You] may send me word that you receivedit, for if not, I have a certificate that insures its loss. I expect that we shall leave here tomorrow, probably for the front, Pulaski. We expected to go today, but some accident or another that happened yesterday between here and Chattanooga pre vented us. I am tiredof stand ing and writing, so write to me as soon as possible & direct to me Co. B 7 Reg. Iowa Vol. Pulaski Ten, care of Cap. Reiniger. . . .

  Prospect Tennessee, April 13 1864
Dear Father

I Take my pen & paper to write to you again. I am still in the enjoyment of good health & hope that this may find you all the same. We are still here but it is probable that we shall move in some direction before long appearances at least indicate as much. One thing our veteran soldiers have been called out to drill the orders are that we shall drill 6 hours a day so as to perfect us in the drill immediately & target shooting one hour each day for the recruits. Another thing they are making fortifications here One large block house here is nearly finished & I understand that they are going to build another one a short distance from here across the river. So that one hundred men with the aid of these fortifications can withstand as much as one thousand without them It is the prevailing opinion that when they are completed that we shall leave here for more active service. There is also great activity commenced on the railroad that runs through here. a short time since there was not more than one train each day Now there is as many as six each way to carry provisions & stores ammunition etc. to the army south it is likely that the spring campaign will soon be opened vigorous[ly] very soon. It is about time to do something or the heat of the season will be stronger than either of the contending parties & compel them to lay inactive till another fall. There are some days now that were it as warm north you would say this will make the corn grow. We dont know as much here about the operations of the army as you do where you get the regular papers at the north, but we know more about a soldiers life I am not disappointed I have not had to suffer half the inconvenience yet that I expected to or may even have to do in future but our worst enemy or the one that I fear most is sickness & as long as I can avoid that why all right. There has been a noted rebel guerilla caught not far from here called Moore he has played about these parts considerable robbing army wagons plundering killing etc. since we came here he gobbled up two of our boys who had got outside the picket line in search of a cow that belonged to the regimental hospital but they gave him the slip & got back to camp here again There has been some deserters come to our camp from the rebel army they give a deplo rable account of the condition of the rebel army say that they were pressed into it etc. but no reliance can be put upon them I think that the government are too easy upon those rebels that are not in arms against them. I don't believe that there is one good rebel or union citizen in Giles Co Ten but they are allowed to come within the lines with with passes which the got from the regimental officers signed by the Colonel we have quiet achance to find out their principal when we go on picket truly many of them have lost their last cow & pig & would just as soon shoot a picket as not but they ought to swing too it makes some of the boys curse & swear to see them round with their butternut-colored clothes & brass buttons as near rebel uniform as they dare come & durst not pull a trigger on them. I have had but one letter from you & I dont know why I dont get more I want to hear at least once a week or oftener & another thing I want some postage stamps I have to borrow & it will soon run out on that score. I must say that H. J. Smith is promoted to first Lieutenant - I conclude Direct the same as before

Charles B Senior

to all at Home


  Prospect Tennessee, April 14, 1864
Dear Father

I received your letter last night which is the second one that I have had from you since I left. If I had one each day I should not get tired of opening them & reading them if they are from Iowa they are very welcome visitors but like angels visits few & far between I wrote a letter to you yesterday but after I received this I thought that I must write again I have wrote quiet a number to different persons in the country but have received no answers We get mail here every day It is then taken to headquarters & each company's mail given to that company's orderly & then distributed by him. You Perhaps remember Stewart the man that went with Vanness when he thrashed our grain some years ago he stays in our shanty & is very sick it is probably the measles that is coming upon him if that proves to be the case he will of course removed to the hospital until he recovers James Campbell & Uriah A Wilson have both had them but they have got about well again I received the postage stamps that you sent me but they were so stuck together that I had to steam them to get them separated they should be doubled face to face to prevent them sticking. You said something about Leonard Parker having sold out did he ever say anything to you about some money that he owed to me for rail making I made him 1880 rails & he only paid me for 1500 when he counted them There was a deep snow & he did not find them all & he promised if he found the rest he would hand the balance of the money to you I know that the rails are there & he should have paid to you 3 dollars & 80 cents perhaps he has but the next time you write let me know I have got with a good mess of boys 8 of us they are not a swearing blackguarding set at all with Stewart excepted They are quiet thereverse more inclined to study & improve their mental faculties we have had several debating schools in our shanty since we came here. & we study grammar some & arithmetic one of our mess sent to Fowler & Wells & got a couple of Phonographic Books & we are just beginning to see a dawn of sense in that branch We have had them only 4 or 5 days & were entirely ignorant of it all of us so we are not advanced in reading or writing it yet Altogether we have received the name of the literary squad which sounds blackguarding shanty just below us which is known by the name of Gambling Saloon I have just been down to the guard house & saw one from the aforesaid place with his arms tied & fastened in a standing position &:I thought that I would sooner be studying grammar or Frognogra[ phy] by which they try to ridicule us than to be in his place for running the picket lines or some other misdemeanor. I am perfectly well & hope that this may find you all the same

Charles B Senior

Co B7 Iowa Inf Via Nashville Tennessee
not volunteers but infantry or the letters may go to the 7 cavalry
Charles B Senior

  Near Reseca, Georgia May 17, 1864
Dear Father

I take another opportunity of writing to you the chances that we have of sending letters is very limited. The mails leave here now just when it happens I am still in the enjoyment of good health & strength & hope that all of you at home can say the same Perhaps you have received the last letter I wrote if so you will see that we were then expecting some hard fighting. Some of it we have had I have not seen a part of what is called the horrors of war luckily I have not been called upon to suffer myself but alas how many of our brave boys have. I still have but very narrowly escaped almost miraculously been spared my life I have heard the hissing of bullets the shrieking of shells & the loud bellowing of artillery I think that the fighting has for some time subsided The rebels as far as we know have retreated all except a rear guard of them which they have left to harass us & prevent us from rapidly pursuing them I heard our Lieutenant say that it was believed that their main army has left for Richmond but it is not surely known for 8 days there has been more or less fighting Our regiment has been principally here at Calhoun Ferry the heavist fighting has been at Resaca Last Saturday our regiment was put to support a battery that was planted to shell the rebels out of their fort down here & we were very much exposed to the replies of rebel shell five of our regiment suffered [unclear: &] killed & 3 wounded with a shell one of the killed had both of his legs ripped from his body We were ordered to lay flat down face to the ground & while we were in that position a whole or large piece of shell struck the ground about [four] [ 8] feet from my head in a direct line plowed a ditch in the ground on the top for 6 feet Then only four feet from us it richocheted & just marvelously glanced over our heads all done of course with the quickness of lightning the only harm that it did it almost drove the dirt into the pores of our skin making a sharp burning sensetion if it had not glanced it must unavoid[ ably] have struck[illeg.] my head or shoulder on sunday morning we crossed the river on pontoon bridges & found the rebels close on the other side our Company was sent out skirmishing & only one man wounded while we were out The rest of the regiment were engaged & lost 54 killed & wounded They drove the rebels however & killed & wounded full as many of them we were skirmishing by the flank & when the battle was going on we were nearly in rear of the rebels the brush was so thick where we was that we could not see far ahead & we got too far round to the right It is a wonder that when The rebels retreated they did not happen to come upon us & take us all prisoners there was nothing in the world to prevent them If they had known where we were only one company of us we could have offered but very little resistance we were so much in the rear of them that the bullets of our men came over the rebels & whistled around us we came out of the wood to an opening & the rebels had retreated Then came the scene of the killed & wounded I can not describe it so I will not attempt but if it may be called satisfaction I saw many of the rebels in their death agonies one poor fellow begged of us to kill him he said he would rather be dead than laying there Though they had been fighting against us I thought it was enough to soften the heart of the hardest man to see even a rebel in such a condition. Paper is very scarce I must stop I could fill one volume nearly I shall not be able to write home regular but you have the chance of writing regular to me & I wish you to do it

C B Senior

Direct as before

  Near Atlanta July 31st 64
Dear Father

I take the opportunity of writing to you again We are here in sight of Atlanta's spires but do not yet occupy the city it appears that the rebs are going to stand a siege I am well I think that all their railroad are cut all except the Macon road is at least & that is reported to be. So I think that a successful campaign is commencing on Atlanta We have got very good breastworks & so have the enemy. I think there will be a short delay here until the completion of the railroad bridge across the Chattahoochie & the [ arrival] of heavy ordnance which is on the way Our Corps has changed position since I wrote last we evacuated our works on the left & came here on the right & on the west side of Atlanta You asked me whose command I was under I am in the 1st Brigade 2nd Div 16 Arm Corps Gen Dodge Corps Commander Div Gen Coarse Brigade Gen Rice. The rebels have amused themselves by trying to shell us with their siege guns but I have not heard of their hurting anything much with their 84 pound shell which is occasionally thrown over us I think it will not be long before they get some pills of their own bigness & more than they want. Gov Stone was here the other day making stump speeches to the boys I would have liked to have heard him but we were on the skirmish line We heard a good deal of cheering & thought there must be some good news so when we were relieved at night we found out the cause. I have seen the call for 500000 more men & if they can be raised it is just what we want to knock down the staggering Confederacy It is time for this thing to come to an end & now is the time The soldiers are getting exceeding anxious if we have not men enough let the country do its utmost to furnish them & and help put on the finishing touch to the rebellion Write soon I can write no more at present

CB Senior

  Camp 7th Iowa (Near East Point Ga) Sept 9th 64
Dear Father

It is some time since I wrote but I have not yet received any answer to my last letter I should have wrote before but we couldnt send away any mail & I was waiting for the taking of Atlanta I still continue to have the best of health & hope that you may be all well I have passed safely through this campaign for I suppose it is through now as we have been down 10 miles below Janesboro & have come back & taken our camp hero 6 miles from Atlanta You will see from the papers the splendid movement of Gen Sherman by which he so completely bamboosled the rebs out of their stronghold cut their communica[tion] & compelled them instead of their burying the yankee army here as they boasted as they intende to do to evacuate the town & make the best of their way southward The whole 16th corps worked on the Montgomery [ road] for one day quiet faithful the 7th Iowa had a fine time destroying that road out to Fairburn, 18 miles fron Atlanta. Itwas the first days work that I ever did on the railway & I liked it first rate. In the morning we went out without knapsacksalmost on the doublequick for 8 or 9 miles to the town where we went to work, and then went back at night. Next day, the2nd, 7th Iowa was ordered to report to Kilpatrick to go with the cavalryas a support We did, and started out with them when about noon we run into some of the Johnnys. We captured a negro that escaped from them &he said there were 1600 of them. They had a rail bar ricade in a largecornfield We fired a few shots with the 10 lb. Rodmans belonging to thecavalry, when the 2nd Iowa which was in advance, immediately formed & charged with a yell up tothe barricade & took it, the rebs flying like the wind, the 7th about40 rods behind as a support. The 2nd lost a numberof men but I never knew how many. In the afternoon we joined therest of ours and the 15th Corps which came in on another road,Then came the battle on the 31st when the rebels got so awfullyflaxed old Hood butting his brains out again upon our works.Hardees Corps coming again in front of the 16th which haswhipped them 3 times now There was over 44 deserters came inright in front of our regiment, or not exactly deserters but men that incharging across a field got into a ditch & did not retreat back with their comrades. Now all the soldiers want is tohave Old Abe for our next president & this thing will soon come to asuccessful end but if the copperheads elect McClellan or Freemont there will bedireful consequences I am afraid. If we get 500,000 more men the rebelscan be swept from the face of the earthanyhow before the end of Lincoln's Administration & I think that it will be done. Sherman has done his work well. I hope that Grant yetaccomplish his object take burg & Richmond & we get Mobile A. J. Smith clean out Mississippi and Alabama get our communication open fromthe gulf, & the rebellion is then played out, which I hope to God it may for this thing has been going on long enough. The report is here that we are going to camp for a month & prepare for a vigorous winter campaign.

As ever Affectionately

Charles Berry Senior

Now I want you to write soon and often for I don't know how soon we may have to go on another campaign.

  October 22, 1864

Synopsis of Contents of Letter:

Settled in quarters in Rome, Georgia, Charles now writes about the battle of Allatoona Pass (October 5, 1864) that his brigade missed participating in due to a railroad accident. However, Charles does witness the aftermath, describing the battlefield and the wounded in gruesome detail. He also complains of no pay and lack of paper and stamps.

  Rome, Ga. Oct. 22nd, 1864
Dear Father

I have not received a letter from you since we left East Point but suppose it must be from the stoppage of the mails. [unclear: ] We have got good quarters erected, we have a good house, good roof, logs, floor and fireplace and all fixed for winter but it is very doubt ful whether we shall remain here or not. We have been running round nearly all the time since we have been here and out into the country about every other day scouting round. You will see in the papers about the Allatoona fight we should have been in it but for a smash-up on the railroad between Rome and Kingston A train of cars that wascoming up to get our Brigade smashed all to pieces and thrown in every direction by the spreading of the track about 9 miles from Rome. Wearrived there about 2 hours too late. The contest was over, ending in a most bloody repulse of a hole division of rebels by a force not exceeding 2500 of our men; the Third Brigade of our division which left Rome the evening before us was in the battle and suffer ed severely. It was well for the rebels that our brigade that the accident happened, or we would have come up in their rear which to them would have been somewhat unpleasant. The sight of the battleground was shocking, worse than anything I ever saw before. It was not a greatbattle but for the number of men engaged it was as sharp as anything the present war has seen. The ground was literally thick with killed and wounded in many places, so that a man could stepfrom one to another. We got there at dark. It rained awfully & the groaning of the wounded could be heard all around us. I went to a springfor water to make coffee and nearly tumbled many times over the bodiesof men in the dark. I took a stroll next morning as soon as day and thesight was horrid. But enough of this. I would like to get letters from home if possible. We have had no pay yet and I am out of paper and stamps, If you could send me a little I would like it. There is some reason for our not getting paid but I do not know it. Probably theunsettled state of things makes it dangerous for paymasters to travel. You said you could send me the Tribune if I wanted it. Well, Iwould like to have it first rate. All the news we get about Grantis from the papers, & nearly all other news, and it would be a good thing to while away the hours of camp life if we are going to have any.Many of the boys get papers sent. Reading matter of any kind nearly isa comfort in the army.

It appears as if Hood intended to open another campaign, or they say Beauregard is in command now. There has several times expectations of his coming here. This place is strongly fortified and he has not yetmade us a visit. The report is that he is away up to Blue mountains inAlabama. But I think that he had better have staid on the other side of the Chatta hoochie. They havesucceeded by this unexpected move tore up a long strip of our railroad but they have not accomplished their object in driving Sherman back from Atlanta. 3 months now is fraught with very exciting, momentousevents. Hurrah for Lincoln is the unanimous cry of the army as far as I have seen. A man dare not open his mouth for McClellan. I hope the endis not distant. Watchword God Grant Victory

I remain, your son

Charles Berry Senior

Those flowers I got in Jonesboro in a garden and kept them ever since inmy testament.

  Camp 7th, Iowa Louisville, Ky.June 27th 65 (about two months after the surrender at Appomattox)
Dear Father

I will write a few lines to let you know I am well, and I hope you may all be in the enjoyment of good health. We are still at the same camp ground about 6 miles east of Louisville. I don't know how long we shall remain here but I hope we shall soon be permitted to go home. Six men of our company are gone home on furlough. The orders are to furlough 12 per cent of the army. I see that some of this army are to be mustered out. I don't venture to say who it may be, nor dont make any calculations. disappointment has already been deep enough but still I hope that we might be once lucky I hope that I shall get home sometime this summer. It is the general impression that our regiment stands a good chance as they are one of the oldest veteran organ izations, only one regiment from Iowa being older, the 2nd I had made calculations of spending the 4th of July somewhere in Iowa but that cannot be. They are making quiet extensive preparations at the Louisville fair grounds for celebrating the 4th I presume we will be nearer Louisville than Iowa I remember how we spent the last 4th down on the Chattahoochie, exposed to shell and bullets while we were throwing up breastworks we made remarks, and wondered where we would be next 4th. Well things are much changed for the better since then and I can spend this 4th more pleas antly probably than the last yet I think the next 4th will be better yet The weather is very warm here but here we have a good camp with splendid beech shade trees to lounge under on the grass, I have not heard from you since leaving Washington I have wrote a number of letters I suppose you were expecting me home, but never stop writing till I get there. There has happened quiet a slip between the cup and the lip.

We are camped near the Woodlawn race courses, where trotting matches are going on I have not been since the running races closed which was 2 weeks ago, trotting only commenced yesterday. I had the [unclear: luck] of seeing the fastest horses in America run, one Asteroid that has never been beat, but I must close, as I know of nothing more at present

I ever remain

Charles B. Senior

Co. B 7th Iowa Inf.
Louisville, Ky.

  SOURCES: First Person Collection of the University of Virginia: Civil War Letter and Diary of Charles Berry Senior

Collection donated by Anne Stinehart Tjaden

Transcription by Charles Senior's daughter, Esther Senior Stinehart and her son, James Senior Stinehart

Additional information from U.S. Civil War Soldier database, ancestry.com

Photographs courtesy of Library of Congress


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