Letters from the Civil War: Henry Lawson Bert (May 29 & July 21, 1864)

Flags of the 47th Indiana Volunteer Infantry

Taken from 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.


Morganizes [sic] Bend,
May 29th, 1864

Dear sister Ann,

I now sit down to try to write you a few lines as we have lately come off of a very hard expedition of marching and fighting. We was skirmishing about 15 days all together and then after that 10 days hard marching, day and night both and very scarce of rations but it is all over now We are in camp close to the Mississippi River. It has been just one week since we come here and we moved camp today. We was about a quarter of a mile from the river and today [Sunday] we moved down close to the river so we would be handy to watter. I went out this forenoon to get some brush to make a shade for my mess and it was about a mile to the woods where we went to get brush and it was very tiresome work and when we come back we got our dinners and then went out to get some green corn to make beds, we dont mind that in this country. We just use it the same as we do anything else for anything that we want it for. The weather here is very hot and dry. We have not had any rain of any account since the 23rd of April but the river has been very high but is falling now. We have fixed up Camp as if we was going to stay here some time but we dont know anything about it.

I have a great deal of work to do now for I have to attend to beating all the calls. We; have ten drummers and ten fifers and I am put at the head of them all and have to boss them all and that is what makes the work. Our drum major has never come back yet since

we have been back and dont know wheather he will or not. …

Henry L. Bert,
Co. I, 47th Regt. Ind. V. V. Inft.13

  • 13 By its re-enlistment, old Forty-seventh became the Forty-seventh Regiment of Indiana Veteran Volunteer Infantry.


[On the back of the same sheet on which the preceeding letter was written, was a short letter to the drummer’s brother John.]

I now sit down to write you a few lines to lett you know that I am well as ever. I would like to see you now and be with you this summer and help you and pap tend corn but it is so that I cant but I think next summer the war will be over. I hope so anyhow.

We have a table fixed up to eat off of and to write on. There is three other boys writing letters on the same table. We have a nice camp now to what we have had in the last month. Mr. Paul and Ben-ton and Mr. Cope’s all well now, I believe.

[Some of the modifications of the tintype, oftentimes delicately tinted, were fragile, and while the cases were usually small, a number of them must have been quite a burden during a campaign, as the following letter indicates.

The next fight of the regiment was that at Atchafalaya Bayou, on July 28, which probably is the “scout” referred to in the letter of Aug. 3 written from Morganza’s Bend.]


Camp 47th Regt. Ind. V. V.
Algiers, La.,
July 21st 1864

Dear Sister Ann,

I now seat myself to answer your interesting letter which I received a few days ago at the same time I received one from Mother and Mary and John.14 They was not all of one date but come the same time and I tell you I was glad to hear from home for I had not heard from there for a long time before. You wanted to know whether I had your pictures yet or not. Of course I would keep them till the last but the cases is nearly all come to pieces and if you will all get photographs for me instead of them it would be a great deal handier for me and as soon as you send me the photographs I will send the pictures and the money to pay for them, all except Eliza’s and hers you cannot get it very handy for she is too small.

Now I will tell you that we are going to leave here before long. We had orders today but did not go. We had everything packed up and ready to leave at a moment’s warning but after a few hours was ordered to put up our tents and we would stay a day or two longer and if we do I will write to mother and John tomorrow. There is two regiments going away today. One is the 8th Ind. and the other the 24th Iowa, which will both go on one boat, a Gulf steamer which will take them on the gulf where we will go.

The 11th has been gone for ever since day before yesterday and when we go will not have much chance to get mail. I don’t expect to get any more mail for a month after we leave here. …


  • 14 Mary and John were Henry’s half-sister and half-brother., Miss Mary Bert, the only one of the family now living, resides in Indianapolis.