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Christopher Pearce Hotten

Letter to his parents

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Fountainqui, Boyone Camp, Col. Ter., Dec. 14th, 1862.

My dear parents,

Yours of 1st March, 1861, is received. I wrote to you a letter from Yallah, Bousha County, State of Mississippi, on June 1st 1860, but have not yet received an answer. I suppose it was appropriated with Northern letters by the Southern Confederacy. I lost while in the South, nineteen hundred dollars, from the fact of coming from the North, it being confiscated. I managed to get out of the slave polluted country, with my life, which is far better than thousands of others; even Jews in large numbers I saw impressed.

Well, I came to Colorado Territory Gold Mines, expecting it would be quiet during the war, but after being there two months, the rebels became so numerous and overbearing, I concluded to enlist on the right side, although a certain party in England thinks the North is wrong. Alfred Hill has also enlisted, so we sail in the same boat. My enlistment papers are dated Nov. 23rd. 1861. We drilled until the last of December and then our company with two others, travelled to Fort Lyon, (250 miles), it being on the borders of the Arraphoe, Cheyenne, Appachi (sic), Kiowa and Comanche, Indian County.

While at this Fort we drilled both night and day, to perfect us in the art of war. On March 2nd, we received orders to the relief of Fort Union, New Mexico, 300 miles; on the road 100 miles, we met the rest of the regiment; and after travelling from 45 to 75 miles per day on foot principally, but in a waggon or ambulance sometimes, we managed to get over the desolate plains and into Fort Union, on the 11th March, altho’ we laid over on the road two days and nights, but it killed a few men, and a large number of horses, mules and burroes (Spanish for donkey).

Governor Connelly, of New Mexico, gave us a warm reception, and well he might, for the rebels under General Sibley had possession of the capital (Santa Fe) and the rest of the territory except Fort Union.

March 22nd - Started south without orders from the Department Commander, and on the 26th engaged a part of the enemy, 1,700 strong, and after fighting all day with only one third of our force, whipped them, took 107 prisoners, although they had the pick of ground in the Appachi Pass. When our vanguard, under Major Chivington, (an elder of the Methodist Church), had exchanged shots with the enemy he sent an aide back stating that a fight was on hand; many of our poor boys, who had been limping along and had been lame for days, straightened up like gun-barrels, and started on a double-quick, loading and fixing bayonets on the run, and I made up my mind then we would be victorious. Well, that night we kept a strong guard over our prisoners, etc. with pickets on the alert. The next day we expected to meet the whole rebel force, but they did not come, so we rested the next day.

March 28th, at daybreak, our little band of 1,100 men and eight field pieces, marched five miles and separated, 400 under Major Chivington, and 700 with the artillery under Col. Slough. Col. Slough went up the pass and engaged the enemy, while my company with three others under Major Chivington, marched over the mountains to engage them in the rear. At two o’clock we saw down the mountain, in the pass, the supply and ammunition train of the Texan rebels, a distance of 2000 feet, at an angle of 45 degrees. At a given signal of the Major’s, we went rapidly down the mountain, the enemy in ten minutes after we commenced, pouring shell after shell on us, which made us go quicker for descent; we had three cannons spiked, and all their train in our hands; of the 200 mules we could not run off we had to bayonet them to death, then we burnt their ammunition, any supply train of which is worth over one million dollars.

As soon as this was through with, an aide arrived stating that Slough was retreating, and ordered us to fall back 25 miles over mountains, without any road, to protect our train, instead of charging down on their rear, as was our cherished plan; at 10 o’clock at night we got back near our camp, and fixed bayonets, not knowing whether the rebels were in possession of our train, but from the well known halt of our sentry, we knew that things were all right and no fighting.

Well we pitched in and eat, which the Commander Slough were glad enough to prepare for us. They had suffered greatly in killed and wounded. At 12 o’clock at night Gen. Sibley sent a flag of truce to permit them for the next 24 hours to bury their dead, which was granted by Col. Slough. The next morning before daybreak we got up, eat our breakfast and 10 of us in each company started to examine for our wounded and dead in and near the enemy’s camp. The enemy, poor fellows, had nothing but raw hide and a little parched corn for their breakfast. Their loss in the two battles was 500 killed and 300 wounded, our loss was 45 killed and 72 wounded. Our little band had engaged 3,500 men with far more artillery than we had. So you can see that we whipped them over three to our one.

One of our boys, John Muselow, an Englishman, was wounded by a Minie ball, 1oz., going in at the back of his head, and coming out at his forehead, having followed around between the scalp and skull. He kept on fighting for three hours and killed 19 men, while streams of blood were running down his face and body, and until repeatedly requested to be led to the rear, and with loss of blood he was led off by his admiring companions, altho’ he said he was neglecting his duty, by not being allowed to lay down and fire. You may be sure I feel proud of Old England when I see such men as him.

Well we were ordered to fall back on Fort Union by the Commander of the Department, General Canby. A few weeks after we marched the whole length of New Mexico and into Arizona, driving the rebels before us, through mountains and plains, had one more battle with the Texan rebels with the loss of three on our side, and as far as we could see, 16 on theirs. They, the poor deluded rebels, got back into their country with only 900 men, and they half starved and almost naked; since then our marches from one fort to another have been to this time (we have travelled chiefly on foot) 3,000 miles. We are resting a few days here, and expect to start to Dinver Headquarters the commencement of next week. Horses are arriving from the States to mount us. As soon as I get through I am coming home to locate permanently with you.

This letter was published in The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser on or about 16th February 1863.