20 February 1862: “…we can easily tell when a shell comes from a rifled gun as it comes whistling all sort of tunes…”

Item description: Letter from Henry L. Sturges, a Massachusetts soldier serving on the United States Navy steamer “Mount Vernon,” to an unidentified friend.

At the time of the letter, the “Mount Vernon” was operating in the waters near Wilmington, N.C. Sturges sends his condolences to his friend, due to the loss of the friend’s child, he comments on his personal religious beliefs, and also details several skirmishes near Fort Caswell.

[Transcription available below images.]

Item citation: From the Federal Soldiers’ Letters #3185, Unit #40, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

US Steamer “Mount Vernon”
off Wilmington N.C.
Febry 20th 1862

Dear Friend

Your kind regards of 23rd ult. came to hand Jnry 13th it affords me much pleasure to hear from you but it makes my heart sad to hear of the death of your child I can deeply sympathize with you by haveing had to pass through those trying moments myself. But its the Lord that giveth and taketh and all we can say is his Holy will be done. We can always feel happy to know that they are with Jesus, and are awaiting to welcome us home to that happy happy shore where trials and troubles are o[v]er. Oh what great inducements are held out to us to reach that Heavenly home, Christ is there. dear friends are there. Blessings are there. and I trust that we will be there, I pray that Jesus will not forsake us but will give us the full assurance that we are accepted of him. I can but say precious Jesus thou art mine, its hard work for me to write my feelings, if I was only with you in person I could then unfold the love to my dear dear Jesus from a sailors heart. pray for me dear Brother and Christ will reward you openly.

Owing to our sailing so soon from Hampton Roads I did not get the package of Books, but trust I shall get them when we go back wich will be about 11th March. I should like to have been at the dedication, it dont seem to me as I can ever give up the Old South Church it will appear strange to me to pass by it. One thing I got clear of hearing, and, that was your letter of resignation. I do hope and pray that you will not leave Bridgeport if you do the South Church, I cannot hear the idea of parting from one who has done me so much good. do try and hold on somehow. I am well aware of youre troubles. but still I cannot let you go.

We was cheated in our expectation to join the Burnside Expedition. I’ve never detailed for that purpose but on examination we found that our ship’s draft of water was about five feet too much, so you may well judge our feelings. within a few days we have had two little skirmishes with the rebels. we opened the Balls on both occasions and fired the last shot. we do it to draw their fire and test the size and quality of their guns, we are satisfied that they have no rifled guns on “Fort Caswell,” we can easily tell when a shell comes from a rifled gun as it comes whistling all sort of tunes. it makes a fellow feel streaked when the shell begin to burst around him at first, but after a few shots we go at it like sawing logs and think nothing about danger.

By the appearance of things ashore they must expect an attack as they are reinforcing the Fort, and placing obstructions in the Channell. We lay anchored about three miles from the town of Smithville and if the Department would allow us we could knock it all to pieces in three hours, it is a small town of about 200 Houses and about 1200 inhabitants. we have positive orders not to molest it. it will be a very easy fort to take. these Forts at the entrance of Wilmington and at Beaufort N.C. The rebel flag has been hoisted about nine hours during the last seventy days on Fort Caswell. we know they have one and think they cannot feel very proud of it or they would show it more. I think you must be getting tired of reading my letter. but there is nothing else to write about just now.

Please remember me to [inquiring?] friends and accept those with my best wishes for youre future welfare.

Yours truly
Henry L. Sturges

More about Henry L. Sturges:

(From the American Civil War Database)

Biographical data and notes:
- Born in Massachusetts

Enlistment:
- Residing in Massachusetts at time of enlistment
- Enlisted on Oct 28 1861 as Acting Master

Mustering information:
- Commissioned into Navy (U.S. Navy) on Oct 28 1861
- Discharged from Navy (U.S. Navy) on Sep 29 1865

Naval postings:
- USS OHIO
- USS JAMES ADGER
- South Atlantic Squadron

Sources for the above information:
- Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War, (Adjutant General)

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