This letter was written by Thomas Rutledge (1841-1864), the orphaned son of stone mason Robert Rutledge (1810-1855) and his wife Jane Colly (1812-1853) who both emigrated from Ireland about 1840 and married in St. Louis in January 1841.
Thomas served in the 33rd Missouri Infantry. He entered the service in September 1862 as a sergeant in Co. K and was serving as 1st Lieutenant of Co. G. when he died on 28 December 1864 from wounds received at the Battle of Nashville.
Years after the war, Surgeon Aurelius T. Bartlett of the 33rd Missouri Infantry wrote of treating Lieutenant Rutledge’s wound:
“Lieutenant Rutledge’s wound though severe was not at first considered very dangerous by any except himself, but the thought that he could not survive it it appeared to take possession of him and no assurances seemed to inspire a ray of hope or have any effect in relieving his despondency. I removed the bullet from his leg, resected the small bone, and left him with the other wounded, hoping that we might meet again in this life. But after a few days it was announced that his sufferings were at an end—that he had succombed to blood poisoning. This officer was absent from the regiment when I joined [in spring of 1863], hence my acquaintance with him was of shorter duration that with other members, but long enough for me to become strongly attached to him. He was of Irish extraction, possessed much of the wit and warm-heartedness peculiar to that nationality which made him an unusually pleasant companion. Misfortunate seemed to attend Rutledge for prior to our acquaintance he contracted small pox which disfigured him not a little, but he was nevertheless a fine-looking officer. Previous to enlistment he was a bookkeeper in the office of the Missouri Democrat.”
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Saint Louis, Missouri
Finding myself once more at home, I have thought best to drop you a line. Our regiment after a three months campaign in S. W. Mo. had returned to Saint Louis and ordered from here down the river to Columbus [Kentucky]. Of course I went along but in less than a week, I was ordered to st. Louis on Special Duty (arresting deserters).
I was here in time for the Lodge Ball [on] New Year’s Eve. It was by far the best ball we ever had. Nearly three hundred persons were present. It reminded me of old times. There was [Col. Joseph Chambers] McKibben as cool as usual with all the old color back in his face and his wife looking a shade or two paler than of old; McFadden looking as well as could be expected after his camp sickness; Captain [George W.] Bransford of the conscript militia looking as of old but a trifle more military. Rose was there as gay as of old; Smithus (Wm. G.) and Lady blushing in the freshness of their new taken duties. Grandy, Wientge and McKim all busy. Your Dear (!!!) Sallie and Sister looking as lovely as May’s first blossoms. No faces lacking to make the picture complete but those of Nile McClure Black and Hopper (killed at Iuka). Mrs. Kreager (Kitty Simpson) is now a mother. Also Mrs. Alexander (Belle McFadden).
Tom Kelly was married last night. Has got a widow, two children, horses, houses, teams &c. Stoney is again collecting for the Democrat. He thinks you should have written to him. Have this moment seen Willie Goodfellow’s wife. She is well. Cottnam is getting better of the rheumatism with which he has been afflicted for months past. He is treated by the same doctor that is treating McKibben. This doctor is certainly a very singular creature but he has performed some miracles in the way of cures; as I take it “success is the best criterion.” Fay and Carrie are not yet linked. Thayer is giving his almost entire attention to the study of medicine. Will Waters was well when I left the Regiment. The old man is about the same as usual. Jennie is saleswoman in Franklin (4th Street). Mrs. McQuaid (7th Street) died a few days since. Sam Frame is in town recruiting. Mrs. Story wishes to know Uncle Edrid’s address. Henry Goodfellow, brother to Uncle David, has just arrived from the Emerald Isle.
Money appears to be quite plenty but very few buildings are going up. Times are better in St. Louis now than at any time since the Panic.
I will leave Monday to join the regiment at Memphis. Tell Nell that I will write to him from Memphis. He must pardon my past neglect. I hope to come safe through this war and to see you both again.
Politics has taken a strange turn in Missouri. The Emancipation Party is triumphant and will elect either Gratz Brown or Glover to the U. S. Senate. Missouri will be a Free State in less than five years. All good Union men here are radical upon the slavery question. All believe Slavery to have been the cause of the war and almost all are in favor of its extermination. I am in favor of doing anything and everything that will inflict injury upon the rebels. Why should slavery be fostered when it is the means of feeding an Army of our enemies and thus giving a chance to all white men at the South to enter the Confederate Army? Why should not these men be received within our lines and placed in a position where they may yield the same service to Uncle Sam that they have been giving to our foes. Sincerely do I hope that an army of contrabands will be raised to battle for the Union.
Hoping soon to hear from you, I remain yours truly, — Thos. Rutledge
Direct to Sergeant Thos. Rutledge, Co. K, 33d Mo. Vols, Saint Louis, MO or in the field
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Headquarters Co. G, 33rd Missouri Vols.
In camp near Memphis, Tennessee
June 12, 1864
Although I wrote you a letter only a few days ago, I write again to acknowledge receipt of yours of February 18. Your letter reached the company long ago but I was not present and it was laid aside to await my coming. The regiment came up the river two days ago and I reported for duty yesterday. In a fight on the way up the river, our regiment lost 41 men in about 15 minutes out of 200 engaged. The regiment has participated in five general engagements and twenty-three skirmishes since I left them.
I am at present commanding my company. McFadden has been engaged in all the recent fight in Georgia and was O. K. at last accounts. I am tired writing to him and never receiving an answer. He has sent me two letters since he has been in service. It was a slip of the pen if I said McKibben cleared $6,000. I meant Grandy. Stoddard’s wife was a New York woman. I do not know her name. I do not believe that Carrie cares a dam[n] for Fay. She married him for his money. No young McKibben’s as yet and no prospect. Have not seen Mary for a year. Lucy is a brick. She told me she married to escape the unbearable tyranny of her Aunt. Says your unworthy cousin Tom is her first choice. How is it that the day of my marriage seems further distant than ever?
The Allens and I have split. Eliza Allen still unmarried. Bill Mc writes to her. Willie is in good health. He received a letter from Maggie.
I got acquainted with a gay fancy woman from St. Louis a few weeks ago. She has been sitting up to the boy, swears eternal fidelity and won’t take money and insists on my staying with her every second night. With my usual generosity, I have accepted.
Three soldiers were shot here for committing rape upon an old lady in this vicinity. St. Louis matters remain in status quo. I expect to see some heavy fighting this summer. Our regiment has made a good reputation. I think our stay here will be very short. McClure is O. K.
Direct to me.
33rd Regt. Mo. Vols.
3rd Brigade, 1st Division
16th Army Corps
Write soon. Fraternally yours, Tom [Rutledge]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Camp of 33rd Regt. Missouri Vols.
Near Memphis, Tennessee
July 29th 1864
This afternoon I received yours of the 4th inst.
I have on hand just nine letters awaiting my attention which in the press of business I have been unable to notice. Your letter has precedence and the others must wait.
I had a very dull Fourth of July—the dullest I ever spent. We were then at LaGrange 50 miles from Memphis on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. On the 5th, Gen. A. J. Smith (of Red River fame) left LaGrange at the head of 13,000 men on an expedition into Mississippi for the purpose of meeting Forrest and also destroying a portion of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. The 33rd [Missouri] accompanied him. We marched very hard and fast until the 13th when near Tupelo—a town on the railroad where the negroes and our train were attacked—the blacks fought well as they always do and the Rebs were for the time repulsed. We moved on steadily and our advance of Cavalry entered the town and forthwith set to work to destroy the railroad track and succeeded in tearing up several miles with but little trouble.
We had then chosen a good position and on the 14th the enemy, after a feint on our left, suddenly massed on the right held by our division but they were handsomely repulsed and our Brigade were ordered to charge which was done with promptness and the Johnnies were driven again. The 15th was but a repetition of the 14th. Willie was wounded in the throat on the 14th and came very near going up. He is now doing well and is I think out of danger. He will get a furlough as soon as he can move around with ease.
Our regiment’s loss was forty in killed and wounded out of 250 engaged. The total loss on our side was about five hundred against a Rebel loss of over two thousand. The Reb’s might have been much more severely used up had it not been for the fact that our rations were exhausted and we had no communications open with our base of supplies.
You have been reading McClellan’s report. To see the matter clearly, you should now read the review of “Little Mac” by the Committee on the Conduct of the War. The General fights poor battles and makes up for his lack in this respect by penning glowing reports of what everyone else sees as his failures—these so highly colored that they read as victories even though history tells a reverse story. McClellan (I think) is either a traitor or an imbecile. Pray don’t set down every man who is a first class scholar as a No. 1 General. All the fine scholars in this war have made poor men for practice—Gillmore, Pemberton, Fremont, &c. &c. Compare these men with Grant or Stonewall Jackson, or Sherman, all poor scholars. The facts which today stare us in the face prove that peace never could be lasting while slavery disgraced the Nation. Slavery was a giant wrong and no amount of legislation could have allayed the agitation. Slavery was not a local institution at least in its results. The people outside the slave states did have a great deal of right to meddle with the divine institution. Did it not necessarily and for its own safety exercise a dangerous censorship in the press amounting to complete prohibition of any free soil sentiment? Did it not deny freedom of speech and attempt almost to hinder free thought? Had slavery never existed, all this blood might have been saved. What better than treason could we expect from a race of slave breeders? Sooner or later this war must have come. As well, perhaps, that it comes today as in a century from now. No other remedy could have cured the Nation of its leprosy. No pro-slavery man that is a Union man lives. It is a moral impossibility. Unjust conclusions are drawn from Gov. Andrews’ letters, &c. He is the truest of the true. The Union with slavery would not be worth a single drop of Negro blood.
[remainder of letter is missing]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
[Beginning of letter is missing; uncertain date and location]
…4th, 5th, 6th & 7th Wards. I have read the names of all the conscripts but think none now whom you are interested in. I see the name of John Anderson but hardly think it can be “Our John” who by the way has resigned from the Order. Frank Parson and Charley Wientge are also out of the Lodge. Thayer’s Regiment is here. My impression is that Thayer is in Vicksburg. McClure is in St. Louis and is in government employ as watchman at Waddingham’s warehouse. Whitten was in St. Louis lately in charge of prisoners. His time must be nearly expired. Bransford is out of his situation as deputy inspector of tobacco. I think this was occasioned by the removal of Col. Harrington. Willie Waters is still on duty in Overton Hospital. He looks much better than he ever did. He is very hearty and don’t look the same boy.
Sorry and family were well at last accounts. I suppose Billy is at home and out of service by this time. Young Jim Glenn of Griggsville, who you perhaps recollect was killed while in the hundred day’s service. Maggie McQuiggen writes to Willie regularly.
The Lodge is getting along but slowly. Grandy is doing well. Our regiment has lost more men in battle in the past year than any other regiment in the field.
I think in a few days I will be permitted to join the regiment. We have seven convalescent officers and seventy-five men in camp here. Write soon.
Yours truly, — Tom