Letter From John R. Hardy to Relatives - 1863

 

 

This letter was written by John R. Hardy to his mostly female relatives in Arkansas in March, 1863 while he was part of the Confederate garrison defending Port Hudson on the Mississippi River in Louisiana, awaiting an attack by the Union Army.  His regiment, the 15th Arkansas Infantry (Johnson's), defended a vital position on the Confederate line which came to be known as "Fort Desperate".  The Confederate garrison was encircled and cut off by May 22nd, and after much heavy fighting and a siege of 48 days, the Confederates surrendered on July 9th.  John was wounded and captured in the battle, and his regiment suffered a 46% battle casualty rate, with many more falling victim of sickness and disease.

 

In the letter, John writes that he believes the war is nearing the end.  He seems confident that the "Yanks" will not be able to take the fortress at Port Hudson.  He expresses his anticipation of the coming battle and his hopes of seeing his family again, if not on earth, then in heaven.

 

The letter is addressed to Mrs. Julia Hardy, widow of his brother Molias, sisters Martha, "Carry" Thomas (Susan Caroline Hardy), Sarah Merritt (Sarah Jane Hardy), and his step-mother Elizabeth Hardy.

 

Thanks to Stephen Jones for providing to me the copy of this letter, and other materials.

 

The letter was transcribed line-for-line as it was written.  It has no punctuation and little capitalization.  I added only periods at the end of sentences to make it more readable.  The original leter was obviously in poor condition at the time my photocopy was made.  The pages had separated into pieces at foldlines, and there were holes in the paper.  These flaws made some words impossible to read with certainty.   I used underscores to represent words or word groups that I was unable to read.

 

Scanned images of the original letter:  Page 1    Page 2


(Page 1)

March the 8 AD 1863

Port Hudson, La.

 

Dear sister   I seat my self to drop you a few lines

to let you know that I am in good health at this

 time hoping these few lines may find you all enjoying

the same good blessing.   I have received the few lines that

you wrote to me.   I was glad to hear from you and glad

to hear that you were in good health.   Fayett1 is well at

this time.   I was glad to hear that brother ____ had got home.

I have more(?) news(?)  to write to you.    I think the war is closing

as fast as time will permit (?).   it is not to be stopt in a day

nor a week nor a____  for the ____ to be.  I think  I will get

home to take Christmas if god lets me live and I hope he may.

Fayett has quit swearing(?) and is as study as any man in camp.

I would be glad to see you all again and I think the time is come-

ing fast when we will meet again.    there is a mail(?) goes up red river2

that we can get letters to each other ever 2 weeks.   I want you all

to write often as you can.   I have sent a _____ you $85 dollars

and I will draw again soon.   I _____ and if you need any more I

will send it to you.   We donít aprehend any danger of the yanks

taking this place.   Martha3 I donít want you to marry till

I get back for I want to be at your wedding.   Martha I want you

to give all the girls my best love and regards.   I have received

the sox that some of you sent to me and was glad to get

them for I had just gave 2 dollars for a pair.  li____  to god and if I never

 

(Page 2)

meet you again on earth I hope to meet you all in heaven at last.

Martha if you can get to go to school I will pay your board

and your schooling.  -- March the 10 -- Sarah I want you to tell me how

______ Eldorado4 and the baby was.   ask Eldorado if she has

forgot me tell her that I want to see her myty bad.

I have forgot the babyís name tell me what it is.

Sarah I may never see you again on earth but I hope I do(?).

But I had rather dy than to submit to any negro clan.

If I dy I will dy in the defense of my country.    I have many

trials and troubles in camp life but I try to live so that

If god sees fit to call me away while(?) I am far away

from you all that we may meet you all in heaven at last.

Tell Martha that I will send her______ ______.

Give my best respects to all the girls and tell them that

I will fite as long as I live rather than to see them equal-

ized with the Negro race.   Carry your dady an law (?) has

got hear and I think you ought to send James if I was

a woman and my husband wouldnít fight  for me I would quit

him5  --   Mar 11 --  received  the few lines that you rote to me

and was glad to hear that you was all alive yet.   tell

Billy and James6 to be good boys and work hard for to make

a living.   give all of your ______ friends my best respects.

Juley7 you can tell Nancy that John is in ____8

I must close give all the girls my best love.    no more

at present but remain yours truly until death.

J. R. Hardy to Mrs Julia Hardy    Martha Hardy    Sarah Merritt  

Carry Thomas     Elizabeth Hardy      farewell for the time.

 


Notes:

 

1  I'm not sure who "Fayett" is, may have been Lafayette Hardy (from 1860 Census, AR, Columbia Co.), relation unknown.

2  The Red River was the main link between Port Hudson and the western Confederate states.  This link was effectively severed when Admiral Farragut succeeded in getting two ships past Port Hudson on the night of March 14 (three days after this letter was written), which blockaded the mouth of the Red River.  This letter may have been John's last to reach home.

3  "Martha" is Martha Hardy, John's 13 year old sister.

4  "Eldorado" is the 4-year-old daughter of John's sister, Sarah Merritt.

5  This line addressed to sister "Carry" has puzzled me, but I think he is saying that her Father-In-Law has just arrived in camp, and she should send her husband James Thomas to camp.   John's remark seems to show disgust at James not being there.  According to records James was also in the 15th Ark. Regiment and was captured there at Port Hudson.  It's unclear why he wasn't in camp at that time, possibly he was home on furlough.  The records do in fact show that Carry's Father-In-Law William P. Thomas was at Port Hudson serving with the 15th Ark., Co. C, and was captured on July 9 .

6  "Billy and James" are Willam E. and James W. Hardy, John's young half-brothers, sons of Elizabeth Hardy.

7  "Juley" is Julia Hardy, the widow of Molias Hardy,  John's brother who died at Camp Butler, the Union POW camp, in March, 1862.

8  I believe that "Nancy" is Nancy Malone, Julia's sister, and that "John" is John Malone, Nancy's husband, who also served with the 15th Ark. Regiment.  I can't quite make out what he is saying about "John".

 

 

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