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"THE AWFULEST TIME I EVER SEEN": A LETTER FROM SHERMAN'S ARMY Edited by Howard Norman Monnett Many eye-witness accounts exist of the inexorable march of General William T. Sherman's army through South and North Carolina in early 1865, but none is more vigorously told than that of an Iowa farm boy named Henry Wright. Of special interest is his version of the controversial taking and occupation of Columbia, South Carolina—a fascinating combination of frankness, naïveté, and humor. First Sergeant Henry H. Wright, Company D, 6th Iowa Infantry, was twenty-one years old when he enlisted on May 11, 1861. Four years later, on July 21, 1865, he was mustered out of the service as a second lieutenant of his company. During those years he fought in most of the important battles of the western theater of operations—Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg, Missionary Ridge, Resaca, Kenesaw Mountain, Atlanta, Jonesboro, Columbia, Bentonville—yet never during that time was he wounded or even taken sick. Six feet, three inches tall, of fair complexion , with blue eyes and light brown hair, Sergeant Wright thoroughly enjoyed soldiering and truly believed Sherman's high-spirited force to be "the grandest army that was ever in the knowen world." After the war Wright returned to his home town of Centerville, Iowa, where he served for ten years as sheriff of Appanoose County. He married soon after his return home—not, incidentally, to that "perfect beauty" Miss Mollie Hook of Columbia, S.C., whose abundant charms he tells of in his letter. Enrolling in the Iowa National Guard, he was appointed adjutant general of the state in 1896 with the rank of major general. Wright died in Centerville in 1905. A regimental history of the 6th Iowa which he wrote was published posthumously by the State Historical Society of Iowa. During the war, despite the press of his army duties, Sergeant Wright did not neglect the folks back home in Iowa. He wrote to them, he said, whenever he found the opportunity. Although that was not too often, his Howard Norman Monnett, assistant dean of the Junior College of Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri, is a former newspaperman and past president of the Civil War Round Table of Kansas City. 283 284HOWARD NORMAN MONNETT letters nevertheless were long and informative, and worth the wait. Henry's ability to express himself vividly and accurately, his wealth of detail, his sparkling humor, and sharp, penetrating word-portraits make his letters among the best of soldier communications. All these qualities are to be found in the following letter, which is printed through the courtesy of his granddaughter, Miss Mildred Wright of Kansas City, Missouri. Except for one minor deletion, it is reproduced here exactly as Henry Wright wrote it. Camp of 6th Iowa Infty.1 Goldsboro, N. C. March 28th 1865 Dear Folks at Home: I am seated now for the purpose of writing you a long letter. But I am afraid I will fail it has been so long since I wrote I have almost forgot how. We left Beaufort on the 27th day of Jan.2 The 17th Corps had taken Pocotaligo when we got there and we passed quietly through the place. There was skirmishing in front all the time, until we reached the Charleston and Augusta R. R. There we had quite a little fight. The army was occupied some three days in destroying the road, and we moved over and crossed the two Edistows,3 without much opposition. The march was quite pleasant until we arrived in the neighborhood of Columbia. The enemy resisted our advance stoutly. But the 2nd Brigade was put in front and with Col. Katerson, Geni. Wood[s] and Geni. Logan at the head of the column we soon made them climb out for [from] their strong positions. We drove them from a number of rail barricades and about noon we found the main force in their main works some five miles from the city. The whole division was brought up and placed in line of battle and the 2nd Brigade advance[d] and opened the ball. The fighting was pretty severe for an hour or so and...


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