The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War, but coinciding with this Pennsylvania conflict was the end of the Vicksburg Campaign, which gave the Union army control of the Mississippi River. Fought on Southern soil, this campaign was also a major turning point of the War, cutting the South off from Texas and Arkansas and the supplies that flowed from those western states. From the eve of the General Ulysses S. Grant’s “Operations Against Vicksburg” campaign, comes this original letter written by a rank and file recruit.
Dated 12/8/1862, this single folded sheet of lined paper contains three pages of writing signed by Private Christopher Tryon of the 100th Indiana Infantry Regiment. Grant divided his army into two factions for the pivotal Vicksburg siege, with one force under him attacking from west across the Mississippi River and the other sweeping south across the Mississippi Delta under General William Tecumseh Sherman. While writing a fairly routine letter to an undisclosed family member, little did Tryon know he would soon be involved in this important campaign as part of Sherman’s force. The Vicksburg Campaign started in late December, 1862 and resolved with the surrender of Confederate General John C. Pemberton on July 4, 1863, one day after General Robert E. Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg.
This period letter remains complete and intact with supple quality and clearly legible writing. Age appropriate wear takes the form of light to moderate staining/foxing, for the most part along the original period compacting fold lines, including very small holes at the central fold junctions. Otherwise this ancient document is appealing and actually somewhat better than expected of a paper item of such considerable age. At some later date a “Union” header in red, white and blue stars and stripes was added to the top of the first page, overlapping the handwritten date “December 8, 1862” only and leaving no doubt as which side the letter’s author fought for.
The letter’s complete content has been typed in full on an included plain white sheet of stationery for convenience. The best passages positively identify the trooper’s location at the time of writing with “we are marched eight hundred miles from home” (which was near Ft. Wayne, IN) and “we are now seventy five miles towards Jac(k)son, Mississippi from Memphis” (Memphis is about 200 miles due north of Jackson) and the signature sign-off “Dec. 8, 1862 Mississippi Valley”. Vicksburg is located at the bottom of the Mississippi Delta between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, 45 miles due west of Jackson and the letter’s details leave no doubt that Tryon and 100th Indiana were in the northwest quadrant of the State Mississippi, just prior to the Northern attacks on the vitally located Vicksburg fortress, nicknamed “the Gibraltar of the Confederacy” for its imposing location on a high bluff.
Other interesting passages are “there is about two hundred thousand soldiers marching in this part of the world” and “we are in hope they will surrender immediately, they will suffer greatly if they stand a fight” and “it is rumored that two hundred rebels came to our Army for protection saying they were tired of this war”. Christopher Tryon is reported as having enlisted in the Union Army on 8/12/1862 and was mustered out on 6/8/1865, meaning that he was also part of Sherman’s "March to the Sea" later in the war.