A Soldier's Story

In October of 1861, Charles H. Watson enlisted as a private in Co. E of the 52nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. A twenty-six year old farmer from Rockford, Illinois, Charles married his sweetheart, Libbie Brundige one month later and then, two days after his marriage, left to join his regiment as it headed south to save the Union. Throughout his three and a half years of valiant service in the army, Charles wrote faithfully to his wife and she lovingly and carefully saved his letters for posterity.

The following excerpts from the letters of Charles H. Watson have been transcribed purposely leaving his unique spelling, grammar style and punctuation intact.

Opposite Roswell 16th July 1864 


 "I don’t believe we shall be sorry for what we have done when this war is over and peace shall again reign in our country we shall feel that we have done our duty three years ago this summer we thought before this the war would be over we thought then that we could not be separated three years well we have had the privilege of meeting some during that time have had privileges that others have been deprived of many have been in the war three years and not had a chance to go home at all during that time and many others will never go home. . .will never hear the kind voices of friends they fell on the bloody battle field or perhaps died in the hospital with no kind hand to wipe the cold sweat from their foreheads. . .what the future holds forth I cannot tell but will trust in Him who holds our lives in His hands. . ."



In Camp near Sisters Ferry, GA

February 3, 1865


“. . .last Friday night there was a great fire in Savannah or rather two of them the first one broke out early in the evening in an old building the upper part of which was occupied by some families the fire was set in the lower part and before it was discovered all chances of escape by the stairway was shut off there was some two or three women in the house.  as soon as they were seen you may imagine the excitement was great the soldiers got a number of mattresses and told them to jump one woman a colored woman was in the 3rd story she jumped first was caught on the beds allright another woman was in the second story she had a babe in her arms and she looked out dreaded to jump she finally threw out the child then followed it and landed perfectly safe when it was found all was safe every soldier felt it his duty to test the strength of his lungs in charging the fire was finally subdued and all retired until about midnight the old Rebel magazine was found to be on fire and as that contained a lot of powder shot and shell the excitement throughout the city was very great the fire engines were soon on the spot but before they could stop the fire it got to the powder and the shell commenced flying the firemen had to leave their engine the fire then roared at will the shell were then flying in all directions keeping everyone away pieces of shell were thrown all over town into buildings wounding citizens and soldiers driving people from their houses the excitement was most entense in the vicinity of the fire men running women screaming children crying the cracking of the fire bursting of shell falling into buildings all together was one of the most exciting scenes I ever beheld it completely destroyed two squares at one time it was feared the Arsenal would get on fire a keg of powder had been set near the building the head of it knocked out the arsenal contained some thirty tons of powder and if the fire had of got into it that it would have blowed up the city there wouldn’t have been much of Savannah the next morning but by careful watch and great exertions the fire was prevented from spreading far the next morning I went over the ground of the fire it was a rough sight the ruins of the houses the crowd around here was a woman crying near the ruins of her house she had lost all she had there was a body of someone who had perished in the fire it was burned to a crisp the feet were entirely burned off the city reservoir had a hole knocked in it and the water was running out well I concluded A MAN IS IN DANGER EVERYWHERE in danger in battle in danger among spies and traitors. . .”

1st Lt. Charles H. Watson, Co. E., 52nd Illinois

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