The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain – Henry C. Laybourn, Company A, 66th Ohio Infantry Gives a Long Graphic Description – Confederate General Leonidas Polk is Killed – “WE HAD TO GO RIGHT OVER A HILL IN THE HOTTEST OF THE FIRE.” – “THE BULLETS JUST CUT ALL AROUND ME, BUT FORTUNATELY I DID NOT GET HIT” – “I USED MY OLD ENFIELD PRETTY BRISK.” – “THE REBS STUCK UP A FLAG IN THEIR WORKS IN PLAIN VIEW. I TOOK DEAD AIM AT IT SEVERAL TIMES & AM PRETTY CERTAIN THERE WAS MORE THAN ONE HOLE IN IT.”
Henry C. Laybourn was 19 years old when he enlisted in Company A of the 66th Ohio Infantry. He immediately headed to Alabama and then into Georgia and the Kennesaw Mountain Campaign. Our letter is 6 full pages written in nice dark ink. Here is the content:
- Camp on the Battlefield near the Chattahoochee River, Cobb Co., Georgia June 17th, 1864. Dear Mother & Friends, I seat myself this morning on my old knapsack to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated June 5th for which I was truly grateful to receive.
- IT FOUND ME CRACKING AWAY AT THE REBS WITH MY OLD ENFIELD IN OUR SKIRMISH BREASTWORKS WITHIN A HUNDRED YARDS OF THE JOHNNIES.
- I can say that I am still well & yet untouched, though WE HAVE BEEN FIGHTING HEAVY FOR THE LAST TWO DAYS & SOME 35 MORE OF THE OLD 66TH KILLED & WOUNDED.
- I am truly glad to hear that your health is so good & hope it may continue so. I have written a good many letters home lately & give you a pretty good history of our operations down in this benighted region, but I don’t think all of them reaches you. I am glad my letters prove so interesting to the natives around there & that they are glad to hear from me & believe my accounts. I always try to give a truthful account as near as I can.
- We have had another Battle in which the 66th played a conspicuous part. I will give you a short account of one or two days’ operations. June 15th, this was an exciting day for the 1st Brigade. We laid in camp until nearly noon & I was getting my dinner when the order ‘fall in’ came, so I lost my dinner & we moved out directly towards the front.
- RIGHT IN FRONT OF US IS A VERY HIGH HILL ON WHICH THE REBS WAS WELL FORTIFIED. YESTERDAY OLD LIEUT. GEN. LEONIDAS POLK WAS STANDING ON TOP OF THE HILL LOOKING AT US WHEN KNAPP’S BATTERY OPENED ON THEM & KILLED THE OLD RASCAL AT THE SECOND SHOT, SO OUR BRIGADE HAS THE HONOR OF KILLING HIM FOR THE BATTERY BELONGS TO US.
- I soon saw the way we was moving & the excitement the officers was in, there was going to be fighting. We went about one mile & stopped & loaded. We advanced up close to the Rebs & commenced building breastworks, but we was not in the right place & fell in & moved to another position while our skirmishers kept up a heavy fire.
- We again commenced works & got them nearly done & Old Geary came along & said to stop as the Rebs had fell back again. So all our work was of no avail. Then we advanced again & came to the Rebs works. Here we formed in line of battle again on the double quick. Our Regiment was put in the works to prevent a flank fire.
- SOON OLD JOE HOOKER CAME UP & ORDERED AN ADVANCE ON THE ENEMY. SOON WE CAME ON TO THEM & THE BATTLE BEGAN VERY HEAVY.
- The Rebs was in strong works & we had to take the open woods for it. Our Brigade was in two lines & the 66th in the 2nd line. OUR MEN ADVANCED TO WITHIN 75 YARDS OF THEM BUT COULD GO NO FURTHER. We kept up a heavy fire until dark.
- They threw several shells into us. ONE FELL IN THE 66TH & WOUNDED 8 AT ONE SHOT. The front line run out of ammunition & that they had to have, so Co. A was detailed to carry it up & supply them. Old Joe ordered up 100,000 rounds. It was a very dangerous job, but it had to be done. We took our gum blankets, & shelter tents & went at it. WE HAD TO GO RIGHT OVER A HILL IN THE HOTTEST OF THE FIRE.
- I took two loads to the 29th Ohio. THE BULLETS JUST CUT ALL AROUND ME, BUT FORTUNATELY I DID NOT GET HIT. We took them all they wanted & by that time it got dark. At dark both parties held their own ground. Our loss was pretty heavy in our Brigade. We did not get a bite to eat from breakfast.
- After dark they set us to building breastworks right under the enemy’s fire. WE WORKED ALL NIGHT, HAD WITHOUT ANY SLEEP & STILL NOTHING TO EAT.
- Today a private of the 28th Pa. took a Rebel Lieut. Prisoner & brought him in. Thus closed this day’s operations.
- June 16th At daylight we left our good works we had just finished & was took up on the skirmish line & RELIEVED THE 29TH OHIO TO FIGHT ALL DAY IN THE CONDITION WE WAS IN. WE THOUGH WE OUGHT TO BE RELIEVED INSTEAD OF RELIEVING OTHERS, BUT STILL WE NEVER MURMURED.
- The 29th had threw up a temporary work, but it was of little force, only to hide us a little. We was in close range of them & could see them running & dodging along. We kept up a pretty heavy fire all day on them. I USED MY OLD ENFIELD PRETTY BRISK.
- THE REBS STUCK UP A FLAG IN THEIR WORKS IN PLAIN VIEW. I TOOK DEAD AIM AT IT SEVERAL TIMES & AM PRETTY CERTAIN THERE WAS MORE THAN ONE HOLE IN IT.
- THE REB SHARPSHOOTERS WOULD COME OUT BEHIND TREES & WE WOULD KNOCK THEM OVER. COL. POWELL SHOT AT ONE FELLOW THREE TIMES & THE LAST SHOT HE TUMBLED OVER.
- About the middle of the afternoon, the Rebs opened on us with shell, then our cannon pitched into them & they had a regular artillery duel. THE SHELLS FROM BOTH SIDES PAST OVER OUR HEADS & MADE AN AWFUL WHIZZING & NOISE.
- The musketry about ceased & let them fight it out, but our men soon dried them up & we went at it again. WE LOST SOME 25 MEN TODAY & WE ONLY HAD 180 MEN IN THE BATTLE ALL TOLD. So you may judge that they cracked it to us. But Co. A has been extremely lucky & has not lost but one man.
- I SHOT UNTIL MY SHOULDER WAS SORE. WE DARE NOT RAISE OUR HEADS OVER THE WORKS FOR A BALL WOULD BE SURE TO ZIP CLOSE TO US.
- I ALWAYS THOUGHT I COULD NEVER TAKE DEAD AIM AT A MAN, BUT IT DID NOT AFFECT ME THE LEAST & I SHOT JUST AS COOL AS IF I HAD BEEN AIMING AT A SQUIRREL & DID NOT SHOOT BUT A FEW TIMES WITHOUT TAKING GOOD AIM.
- One fellow in particular I saw while watching their works, he raised up & walked along with his gun at a right shoulder shift just as cool as a cucumber. I took a bead on the rascal & let him have it. He ducked his head a little & went on. It was the hottest battle I have been in yet.
- I don’t know what it will be called, but think it will be the Battle of Big Shanty as it was close to the R. R. Station of that name. Our Division lost some 600 men today alone.
- We drew rations about noon & finally got us something to eat after going since yesterday breakfast. After dark we was relieved by the 5th & 7th Ohio & we retired to a rear line of works & lay down to get some rest & sleep that we so much needed.
- I tell you fighting is a terrible thing & you don’t know one minute but what you will be hit the next. ONE OF CO. F WAS KILLED WITHIN A FEW FEET OF ME, BUT A PERSON DOES NOT THINK MUCH ABOUT IT AT THE TIME.
- Joe Wren was not in the fight with us for he was not well & stayed back in the rear. I felt first rate, only I was a little fatigued & sleepy. This morning the 17th just as day was dawning we heard loud cheering from our men, & we was called right up & ordered into line.
- WE LOOKED OVER & BEHELD COL. CANDY & GEN. GEARY WALKING ON THE REBEL WORKS. THEY HAD LIT OUT DURING THE NIGHT & LEFT US VICTORS OF THE FIELD.
- We marched over their works, halted & got breakfast. They had the best & strongest works I ever saw in my life. They was at least 8 or 10 feet thick & if we had of been in them, they could never of drove us out. I LOOKED AT THE LOGS IN FRONT OF OUR LINE & THEY WAS FULL OF BULLETS. So our Battle here was ended again.
- After breakfast we started in pursuit again & drove & followed them about two miles when they made another stand & now our 1st Division & 23rd Corps is pitching into them & our Brigade is laying in the rear of our 2nd Brigade as a reserve.
- The Rebs has a Battery at work on us & our men run up 4 of ours & are just raining the shells into it. It rained last night & all day today hard & it is getting very muddy & wet.
- Well, Dear Mother, I have give you a short sketch of our doings, but yet the half is not told, but my time & space will not admit of saying more now. So I must close my writing for this time.
- One more of Co. F. was just now wounded in the head. I am yet in good spirits & good fighting order. I would like to have a mess of your fine Wilson’s first strait, but I had some ripe Georgia Dew berries today. Please write soon & often, Mother. If you can send me a few more pins & a little thread. I would be obliged to you. So believe me to be ever your most affectionate Son, Henry C. Laybourn. To his mother A. Laybourn
- From the top of Page 1, written upside down: This slip of a newspaper I found on the Battlefield yesterday. It is out of an Atlanta paper & confirms the death of Gen. Polk.
No doubt the best Kennesaw Mountain battle letter we have read, very long and colorful. Excellent condition with only minor aging.
#L6-17-64 OH – Price $995