This letter was written by Corporal Edwin Augustus Cutter (1841-1935) of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Edwin served in Company A, 48th Massachusetts Infantry — a nine-months organization. He enlisted on 25 August 1862, was mustered into the service on 16 September 1862, and was mustered out on 3 September 1863.
Edwin Augustus Cutter was the son of Daniel Hall Cutter (1810-18xx), a mason in Newburyport, Essex county, Massachusetts. His mother’s name was Susan Maria Teague but she died in 1858. In the 1860 U.S. census, Edwin is enumerated in his father’s household and identified as a mason’s apprentice. By 1880, Edwin was working as a clerk in a shoe factory. In 1887, Edwin married Martha J. Goodhue, the daughter of Amos and Mary J. Goodhue of Somerville, Massachusetts.
The 48th Massachusetts left on Dec. 27, 1862, for New York, whence it sailed for Fortress Monroe, Jan. 4, 1864. After a delay of a week there it embarked again for New Orleans, arriving there Feb. 1. Two days later it arrived at Baton Rouge and became a part of the 1st brigade, 1st division, 19th corps. Its first active service was on March 13, when it participated in a reconnaissance to within a short distance of the Confederate lines about Port Hudson. The next day it advanced with its division for a demonstration against the land defenses of that place, and on the 20th returned to Baton Rouge. The general advance on Port Hudson began on May 21, and the 48th, now attached to the 3d brigade under Col. Dudley, was engaged at Plains Store, where it lost 2 killed, 7 wounded and 11 captured. It furnished 93 men for the storming party of 200 which led the assault on the works of Port Hudson, among the volunteers being Lieut.-Col. O’Brien, who was killed, and 15 line officers. It lost here 7 men killed and 41 wounded. While temporarily attached to the 3d division under Gen. Dwight, it took part in the assault of June 14, losing 2 killed and 11 wounded. It shared in the work of the siege, but without further loss in battle. It then moved with Augur’s division, commanded by Gen. Weitzel, on the evening of July 9, against the enemy’s works below Donaldsonville, La. ; was engaged at Bayou La Fourche on the 13th, where it met with a loss of 3 killed, 7 wounded and 23 captured; remained encamped near Donaldsonville until Aug. 1, when it once more returned to Baton Rouge and occupied its former camp until Aug. 9. Its term of service having now expired, it left for Massachusetts by way of Cairo, Ill., and reached Boston on Aug. 23. It was mustered out at Camp Lander Sept. 3, 1863.
July 29th 1863
Having a few leisure moments, I will devote them to you thinking you might like to hear of my whereabouts. I wrote you last on the 20th stating that I was to start for this place that day, but I was disappointed in not going for 3 days after. I went down to the landing with others of our company and regiment after dinner on the 20th and stayed all the afternoon till dark and then went back to camp as there was no steamer going down. July 21st went down to the landing and stopped all day but no boat came so at night we all went back to camp in evening thinking we would not go down to the landing again till there was a steamer reported to be at the landing. July 22nd, stayed in camp all day waiting for transportation to Donaldsonville. None came. July 23rd, stayed at camp till afternoon when orders came for those going to Donaldsonville to go to the landing as there was a boat waiting for to take us to that place. We went and found it even so. The boat that we went aboard of was the ocean steamer Exact of Philadelphia which had come down from above Port Hudson towing a flat boat loaded with hay. we started at 5 o’clock that night and arrived at this place at 12 o’clock. We slept or rather dosed on the hay. The mosquitoes almost ate us up coming down. It was not a very pleasant trip as we could not see anything to interest us as it was dark. In arriving, the steamer landed us and left the flat boat and then proceeded down the river. I slept on the hay till daybreak (24th), then started to find the regiment. They were encamped about a mile from where we landed.
The boys were very glad to see us. They were surprised to find me looking so well. We found them all well & having as good a time as could be expected for an army in the field. They had built up little shelters of boughs and weeds. Some had their shelter tents so they looked quite comfortable considering.
Donaldsonville is a town of about 8 or 10 thousand inhabitants — or was once . It is situated on both sides of a bayou called Lafourche. The houses on the left of the bayou are nearly all burned. They numbered over 200. They were burned by out troops when the Rebs came in here last month so that the Rebs could have nothing to hide behind. At this time (I forget the date) the rebs came in and demanded the surrender of the place. There is a little fort on the left of the bayou which had in it only a small detachment of the 28th Maine — most of them sick. The commander of the fort sent out that he would not surrender so the Rebs made the attack. The men in the fort were divided off in 2 squads and the Major [Maj. Joseph D. Bullen] in command commanded one and a private another. They held the fort against great odds till a gunboat was sent down from Port Hudson when the Rebs skedaddled. The private afterward was promoted for his bravery by Gen. Banks. If it had not been for him, the fort would have surrendered. But he said that he would not surrender. The rebs lost about 3 times as many as the Maine boys. The inhabitants of this place offered to go into the fort and help fight the rebs, but the Maine boys thought there might be some treachery [and] would not let them come in. But they proved faithful when the Rebs came. They fought against the Rebs. ¹
We boys were very lucky in coming down as we all got 2 months pay. I received $10 and you will receive $16 by my allotment. I also received a letter from you today which I was very glad to receive. I think you must have had a good time over the news from Vicksburg. I should like to have been there too. I should think there would be more rejoicing on account of that in Newburyport for I tell you that our fighting is over and now we shall soon be at home. I thank Margie for her letter.
At night I wrapped myself in my rubber blanket and lay down on the ground with no shelter but the blue sky overhead. I slept very sound all night as I was pretty well tired out.
July 25th. This morning I was detailed for picket. I was lucky enough to get on the reserve. Nothing disturbed us during the day and night.
July 26th. Came off picket at 10 o’clock. Nothing of interest during the day. Had orders to drill one hour in morning.
July 27th. Drilled one hour in the morning from 6 to 7 o’clock. Had dress parade in evening. I went in swimming in the river in the evening. Nothing of interest during the day.
July 28th. Drilled in the morning. Very hot day. Received letter and 4 Advertisers from Newburyport Center with some letter paper, all of which I am very thankful for. I also received three Herald’s from you which contained a lot of news. You would have laughed to have heard the exclamations made by the boys when they read over the list of drafted men. Some said, “thems the fellows” and how they would laugh and chortle over Erv Williams and the like of them. Amos Norton ought to have come out here as I told him. I would like to have got home in time to see them shake in their shoes. I suppose a great many of the rich ones will pay their $300 dollars and so get out of it. There is plenty …. [illegible] …poor man. Murry writes me that there are ten out of the City C’s. I wonder if they will come or stay and play soldier as heretofore they have done. They will find some difference between the real and the play.
I have considerable reading matter now, all of which I thank you for. Tell Henry P. that I don’t think I shall have a chance to use his letter paper he sent me as we are expecting to go from here every day. We may go tomorrow. We shall go to Baton Rouge and go [illegible]… River as all the other nine months regiments have done. Some 8 or 10 having gone, only 3 nine-months regiments are here now — the 48th, 49th, & 53rd [Massachusetts]. The 49th’s time was out yesterday but they are still here. We shall go together probably. I don’t think it is of any use for you to write any more letters to me as I will be starting soon.
My love to all. From your son, — Edwin A. Cutter
I found Charlie F. ² all right. He is in first rate health.
¹ Edwin is describing the Second Battle of Donaldsonville in which the 28th Maine Infantry defended Fort Butler against an attack by Confederate forces under Tom Green’s Texas Brigade and Col. James Patrick Major’s Texas Brigade. The Union gunboat that saved the day was the USS Princess Royal.
² Possibly Charles Frothingham who served as a private in Co. A, 48th Massachusetts Infantry.