Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Eve 1864 for a Notre Dame Student-Soldier

Just before Christmas Day 1864, Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman sent a famous telegram to President Abraham Lincoln:

"I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah with 150 heavy guns & plenty of ammunition & also about 25.000 bales of cotton."

In Sherman's army, camped outside the captured city with the 74th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, was Notre Dame student-soldier Orville T. Chamberlain. You can learn more about Chamberlain in a previous blog post (here).

In another previous post (here), I provided a detailed Bibliography of the sources used to write my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010).

Among those sources was a group of wartime letters written by Orville T. Chamberlain to family and friends. The letters are part of the "Joseph W. and Orville T. Chamberlain Papers, 1829–1932," held by the Indiana Historical Society.

A good number of these letters, from Orville's days as a student at Notre Dame to his final letter home describing news of the surrender of the Confederate forces and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, are quoted in the book.

In the spirit of Christmas, here is an excerpt from a letter in the collection, written by Chamberlain on Christmas Eve 1864, from outside Savannah. Note that he mentions a "Hardin Shutt"...Schutt was also a Notre Dame student-soldier! You can learn more about the "Pulaski Monument" here.

Enjoy...and Merry Christmas to You and Yours!

Christmas Eve, 1864

Dear Father:

I am well, but I am very anxious to hear that all the members of our family are ditto.

We are comfortably encamped 1 1/4 miles from Savannah. I visited the city today. It is about as large as Indianapolis. The streets are very narrow. I saw Pulaski's Monument, the old U. S. Battery, Public Squares, Parks, Churches, and etc.

Tell Mr. Schutt as soon as possible that Hardin (who by the way has been promoted to the Adjutancy of the Reg't) has the measles very badly. He has a private room at the residence of J.C. Sturtevant, and is well cared for. Although he has the measles hard, I do not think he is in a dangerous condition.

I had returned to my Comapny, but Adjutant Schutt's illness again left the Regiment without an Adjutant and Col. Morgan has again ordered me on duty as Acting Adj. We are preparing for a grand review by Maj. Gen. Sherman - "Crazy Bill," and I will have to work very hard...


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