Samuel L. Roberts' Letter from the Civil War Battlefield near Chattahoochee River, Georgia, July 12th, 1864


Samuel L. Roberts' Letter from the Civil War Battlefield near Chattahoochee River, Georgia, July 12th, 1864


Samuel L. Roberts


This letter sent from the Civil War battlefield in Georgia is the only one left with the granddaughters of Samuel L. Roberts and is a vivid source on the life in the Union Army towards the end of the war.

Born in Ohio, but living in Indianola, Iowa in 1861, Roberts was only 18 when he enlisted. The 15th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment where he served was mustered in 1862, and was engaged in the Battle of Shiloh, and the Second Battle of Corinth, where the Confederate army captured Roberts and later exchanged him in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Despite the pledge upon parole "not to take arms again" he probably never quit the service and in 1864 participated in the Atlanta Campaign with the 15th Iowa. Roberts probably wrote a letter in three sittings using black ink, pencil, and blue ink near the sight of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.

Roberts started the letter with excuses for not writing for "several days for we have been fighting nearly every day," and the news of his health ("have escaped so far the shot and shell") and other "boys" wounded. He followed with the detailed description of the battle and the Confederate army running away ("the cowardly cusses couldent stand our bayonets so they showd us their heels") and ended with a description of the drunken commander's suicidal order luckily averted by other commanders. Among other things one can see how important the 4th of July celebration was for the Iowan (he mentioned the date twice), what Union soldiers ate (Sowbelly – salted pork) and drank (coffee), and the everyday expressions they used to call the Confederate soldiers (the rebs, the butternut devils).

For interviews and oral histories of this and other items please visit the History Harvest YouTube Channel.


Grace Emmett and Mary Ann Hessenflow, Nebraska City History Harvest, 2010




This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.








Chattahoochee River (Georgia)


Camp 15th Iowa Inft
Near Chattahoochee river Ga
July 12th, 1864

P I don’t think we
will get any pay before
Sept and then if we
get paid up I can
send you $100.00(?) I
hope you all had a good
(?) the 4th I have
told you a little of the
time we had S L R

Dear Pa once more I have the chance and paper
to write you a few lines for I expect that you are all very
anxious to hear from me as I have not written for several
days but it is not my fault that I have not written
more for we have been fighting nearly every day for the
last ten days and another thing I have no paper nor
envelope nor stamps and all the boys is out I got this
from Dan Embree(?) and he is about out now I am well
and hearty and have escaped the shot and shell so far
although I have had some georgetown graziers we have
lost 50 men in our reg 2 killed and 6 wounded
in our Co Joe Paul Mrs Bernards boy is wounded in the
right breast it is not dangerous John Reeves from
Indianola had both legs shot off on the 4th we drove
the rebs 2 miles the 4th our reg was deployed as skirmishers
in the advance we charged their rifle pits that day up the
hill through an open field and there no(?) where our brave
fell like grass before the Scythe but we drove(?) the
butternut devils out and held their pits and powered
volley after volley into them as they ran. and here we are(?)
halted a little while and straightened up our line then(?)
the Col came along the line a waving his sword
and a yelling bully boys off(?) with your knapsacks and
(?) and (?) the works and of(?) and again (we had had(?)
our knapsacks up till this time) and the order
wasent more than out of his mouth till our cadts(?)
and knapsacks were off and over the works we sprang
with a yell that would deafen people up in your country
and on through the woods we went on a run but
soon we was checked a little by a hail of lead in
the shape of minie balls but we pushed on driving
them before us till we came to another line of
their rifle pits whare was met by grape and
canister So we took cover behind trees as well
as we could and kept up a heavy fire of musketry
here we was about 100 yds apart a small field of
corn between us and it was pull nich pull
(?) for about a half hour when the rebel buge(?)
(?)ded and (?) they came 2 lines deep and
we only had one line and that a light one but
Col Belknap says hold your ground boys till
the punch you a little with (?) their bayonets
and they fall (?) (crossed) and we did hold our ground
till they came right up to us and the center
gave way first and their colars went clear
by us and as they came up close to us they
commenced yelling now we've got the yanks
now we've got 'em and our boys yelled back
at them not by a da_d(?)ed sight and poured
in a volley and fell back to the rifle pits
whare we drove the rebs from and was thare re(?)
forced by 3 (?) the rest of their Brig we (?)
advanced in 2 lines of battle and drove them
till sundown when they opened on us with
artillery from a heavy line of breastworks (?)
them fell back on the hill about ¼ of a mile
from the rebs works and bivouacked for the
night and went back after our knapsacks
we then got supper and eat a snack of T(?) and
Sowbelly and coffeee and then went to works and
3 o clock in the morning and we advanced
again at six on the 5th To storm the
enemys works which we did in splendid (?)
style too we had to charge about 400 yds (?)
an open field and in front of us was a hea(?)
fort of 6 guns and for a hundred yds in front(?)
of the fort (crossed) they had (crossed) pickets droved(?) (?)
and sharpened so they could shoot us down
while we was a getting over them (?) (?)
in 2 lines our reg and the 16th Iowa in front
and the 11th V(?) 13th in the rear for support
we went up on quiet(?) time till we was with
in about 200 yds of the works then we raised
the yell and went it on the run and the
cowardly cusses couldent stand our bayonets
so they showd us their heels when we got with
in about 100 yds of their works so we seased(?)
their works with a very small fors to what we(?)
would if they had a stood their ground like
men and of all the yelling that I ever
heard it was just after we gained their works Genls
Gresham Blair and McPherson came dashing up
a waving their hats and swords and hollering
harrah for the Iowa Brigade we then cheered
them and started on and halted (?)
½ a mile of their next line of works
and they shelled us pretty lively for a
couple of hours we then advanced (?)
within 1/4(?) of a mile of their works and
Col Hall com'd'r our Brig came running a
long drunk and said we had to charge a (?)
Nickajack(?) creek on the rebs forts and the
ground was just like prairie all the way and the
rebs had 30 guns a bearing right on us and if
we had a charged we would all been killed or captured
and we have to thank our noble Col for it and
the Cols of the other regt's for they got togeth
er and said there would (?) have their mind(?)
s (?) up for nothing and to satisfy a
drunken commander. So we dident charge
and gen Mcls(?) said he was glad of it for he
said thare would not a been any more Iowa
Brigade if we had. we now (?) the enemy
works we routed them by a flank movement we are
on one side of the river and they are on the other
well I have about run out of paper
must close I can (?)
had (?) Bill to us well to all his folks if you all
them(?) write soon your son
Leonidas Roberts

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“Samuel L. Roberts' Letter from the Civil War Battlefield near Chattahoochee River, Georgia, July 12th, 1864,” History Harvest, accessed May 21, 2024,

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