This letter was written by Pvt. David H. Randall (1840-1912) of Co. D, 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). David mustered in as a private in August 1861 and was promoted to corporal on March 1, 1865 before he was mustered out of the regiment in July 1865. His younger brother, Quincy A. Randall also joined the same company and rose to the rank of sergeant. [Note: the regimental record has the surname spelled “Randalls.” This letter is only signed by the initials “D. H. R.” but we were able to deduce the author’s identity from the contents and accompanying envelope.]
David was the son of John David Randall (1805-1856) and Julia Ann Thrap (1810-1881) of Hancock county, Ohio. David married Amanda Crumrine (1847-1927) in 1874 and later relocated to Wichita, Kansas. In the 1860 Census, the Randall family was located in the same vicinity as the Wright family in Hancock county, Ohio.
David wrote the letter to David Wright (1840-1914), the son of David Wright (1809-1884) and Diana Baker (1810-1864). David married Lucy P. Plummer (1837-1875).
In this letter, David describes the condition of the 21st OVI as it approached Atlanta in the summer of 1864. A regimental history states that, “In the operations before Atlanta, the regiment was under the enemy’s fire every day, and though no general battle was delivered by either side along our immediate front, our list of casualties became large from the almost incessant shelling and musketry of the enemy.” [History of the 21st Regiment OVI by Silas S. Canfield, page 171]
Addressed to Mr. David Wright, McComb, Hancock [county], Ohio
On the field, Georgia
June 5, 1864
I seat myself to write you a few lines informing you that I received your letter but on account of being constantly on the battlefield, I have not until now attempted to write. We are still on the field of battle and now [as] I write, the roar of musketry is constantly in my ear. It has been raining for the last two or three days and has not entirely ceased yet. We are in mud up to our ears. You can imagine a sweet set of chaps but perhaps it will not last always.
I cannot write you much news this time. Paper is about played out and we have to be saving. Everything is progressing favorably as far as I know. We engage the enemy every day, more or less. We as a regiment have not been engaged yet. We have been on the skirmish line and have lost some men. Our company had one wounded the other day. The Rebs hallowed over yesterday and told our boys that they drove our right flank back and was going to give it to our left today. They said they had all the whiskey they wanted.
We are now within about 35 miles of Atlanta and if we succeed in whipping the Rebs from this position, there is no telling how soon we may be in Atlanta. But I presume it will be sometime ‘ere we do.
You must excuse this dirty paper for it’s the best we can do under the present circumstances. Just tell the girls that if they want to pick themselves out a real nice clean gentleman for a husband, now is their time. They can just imagine a set of the cleanest fellows imaginable. If you ever saw a lot of hogs in a dirt pen after two or three days rain, you can imagine a set of soldiers. I have a shirt on that I’ve not had off for over one month. My blouse is all tattered and torn and pants considerable worn.
Well, Dave, I have some news for you now. The Rebs have took to their heels and not more than an hour ago their bullets was whistling over our heads. I know nothing of the result and what will come next I know not. Perhaps the next thing will be a foot race. I presume though it will not be long before we have them tree’d again.
Davy, I’m glad to hear that the baby is doing so well and hope you will have the pleasure of bringing up for yourselves an heir. Dave, it’s no secret about Em Briggs. ¹ It’s known all over the regiment as far as they are known, but I suppose it all right now as I understand they are married.
Well, I will close hoping this will find you all well as it leaves me. You can tell our folks we are all right so far. Give our respects to all enquiring friends.
Yours as ever, — D. H. R.
Dave, I had a walk over a portion of the enemy’s battle ground. I seen two of the Rebels dead that lay close to our skirmish line that had been killed by our skirmishers and they let them lay and the vermin had eat their skulls bare and had them all eat over. They looked pretty hard but we can stand to see them used most any way and they the same with us. This will do for this time. Yours with respect, — D. H. R.
¹ Probably Emaline (“Em”) Briggs (b. 1846), the daughter of Weston Briggs (1801-1878) and Elizabeth Chadwick (1808-1855) of Portage, Hancock county, Ohio. Em was married to Henry Caswell (1838-1888) on 9 May 1864 in Hancock county, Ohio.