Letters from the Civil War: Henry Lawson Bert (August 3 & November 19, 1864)

Flags of the 47th Indiana Volunteer Infantry

Indiana University Department of History.

Henry Lawson Bert was born at Jimstown, Ohio, on August 15, 1845, the son of Peter Bert and of Mary Frazier Bert. Henry was little more than sixteen years of age when he left his home at Tipton to enlist for the Civil War. He was not at once accepted—he was small for his age—but followed the Forty-Seventh Regiment of Indiana Volunteers from Indianapolis to Louisville, before he was finally enrolled as a drummer in Captain William M. Henley’s Company I on December 21, 1861. He is described as four feet, ten inches in height, of dark complexion, with black eyes, whose occupation at the time of enrollment was that of a printer.

After the Civil War, Bert, became a merchant tailor, first in Indianapolis, and later in Edinburgh, Marion and Huntington. He died at Marion, Indiana, on December 8, 1910.

Below are the letters written by Bert.


Camp 47th Ind. Vet. Vol.
Morganzas Bend,
August 3rd 1864.

We are now back to this miserable hole of Morganza. I would rather stay anyplace else for we cannot get anything at All. I hope we will leave before long for I want to get away from here. The very first day we got here we got orders to go the next day on a scout and that I did not like at all but had to go. We got up at 1. o’clock and started. Marched on till after daylight and then got our breakfast and then went till 10 o’clock and then had a fight which lasted till after 12. o’clock and then we slowly retreated back with the loss of 7 men wounded out of the regiment. Eat our dinners between two and three o’clock and then went to camp. Got in about dark. Our whole march was about 32 miles. It was an awful hard day’s march being very mudy coming in for it rained all afternoon. …


Camp 47th Ind. Vet. Vol.,
Morganzas Bend,
August 16th, ’64

Dear Sister Ann;

I now seat myself to write you a few lines this morning as it is a nice cool pleasent morning and I have not much to write but I will try to give you some of the news of camp. I guess that we will go to Mobile before long.15 We have the promise of the first troops that leaves here. We got on a boat one night to leave and got everything loaded on and stayed on the boat till morning and then had to get off and go into camp in the same place.

We are living fine now. We get light bread every day and plenty of other rations.

We have a great deal of rain here. It has been raining now for the last three days but has cleared off now and has got to be very hot again. These coats we have got is very near wore out and the Regt. is going to send for a new suit soon again.

We have not drawed pay but once since we left home. We will have four months pay due us the last of this month and another $50.00 bounty. I dont know when we will get it but I expect not anyways soon.

Our drummers is all out drilling except me and I am on camp duty.

We only have one hours drill in a day and that is at half past seven. They are out now and will be in about half past 8. o’clock and then at 9 is guard mounting and then nothing more till Dinner call and then Dress parade at six o’clock. …

Yesterday was my birthday and last night there was one of the drummers tried to pound me and he was trying to pull me down a hill and I tore every stitch of his shirt off of him and then I got away from him and while I was gone he hid my bed close and thought I would not find them but I soon found them and went to bed.

[The Forty-seventh remained at the “miserable hole” of Morganza until September, except for an expedition to Clinton, Aug. 23 to 29. It was then sent to St. Charles, Arkansas, remaining there from Sept. 3 to Oct. 23, when it went on an expedition to Duvall’s Bluff. The next move was to Little Rock, as is told in the letter of Nov. 19. The regiment did not, however, remain in Little Rock all winter—that was no more accurate than the prediction that they would be at home by the next summer. Nevertheless, the drummer-boy was not far wrong in seeing the beginning of the end in the reelection of Lincoln. He had already received the news of the re-election of Governor Morton of Indiana. On Nov. 25, only six days after this letter was written, the Regiment was returned to Memphis, remaining there until January, except for an expedition to Moscow, Dec. 21 to 31. On Jan. 1, it was ordered to New Orleans.]

  • 15 Admiral Farragut had defeated the Confederate fleet at Mobile on August 5, but it was not until the following March that the Forty-seventh was ordered to that point.



Camp Near Little Rock, Ark.,
November 19th, 1864

Dear Sister Ann;

I now take this opportunity of trying to write you a few lines to inform you that I am still a little farther out in Arkansas near Little Rock where we have been for about three Days and I expect we will stay here till winter. When we came here we was as wet as we could be for when we got off the cars it was about nine o’clock and it looked about as much like rain as I ever saw it but it did not rain till about 1. o’clock and then it commenced raining and we was out dores [doors], had not a tent nor a house to crawl into but had to take it till about 10 o’clock the next day and then we got into some houses which some other soldiers had built and had left a few days ago and gone to fort Smith but they had left some of their sick here and they are here in the camp with us but we dont know whether we will stay in these houses all winter or not or whether we will have to go out when these other soldiers come back. There is some talk of them going some other place when they come back and if they do we will have the quarters all to ourselves but if they dont we will have to build some of our own.

Well I was speaking of the rain when we first came here and that rain is not over yet. It is still raining and has been ever since we came here. We have not seen the sun since we came here but for all the rain it does not get muddy here like it does in some places for it is very hilly and the hills is very gravely.

This is a very nice place about as nice a place as Noblesville only a great deal larger but nothing to compare with the capital of Indiana and it is very nice country around here too.

There is a great many soldiers here now and I think they will stay here all winter and; then in the Spring start out through the country after the rebels. I think that is the movements of this army but there is no telling what will be done for we have been knocked around all summer and done nothing and it may be done so this winter, but I hope we will all come home next summer and I think we will for we have won one of the grand victories already. The reason I say this is that we have got our Governor again and that is not the best yet for, we hope soon to hear of the re-election of our Noble President that we have long wished to have four years longer and when we hear of that I think we will not have to stay in the field much longer, at least I hope not.