Kentish Guards During The Civil War

In April of 1861, the Kentish Guards enlisted as a unit for Federal service and were incorporated as Company "H" of the Second Rhode Island Regiment. One of these volunteers was Ezra Greene, and the letters he sent home from April of 1861 through several major campaigns, including the Battle of Bull Run, and subsequent reassignment to the US Navy gunboat "Louisville" on duty in the Western Theater, provide some very interesting insight into life in the Federal Army as well as life on a Union gunboat.

USS Louisville

The Guards also mustered into service as Company "H" of the Seventh Rhode Island Regiment. The Second Rhode Island served from the beginning of the War until being mustered out of service in 1865, under command at that time by Colonel Elisha Hunt Rhodes, whose memoirs, entitled "All For the Union," were a major source of information used in the Ken Burns PBS series entitled, "The Civil War."


Full Roster

Company H
Captain — Charles W. Greene
 First Lieutenant — Beriah S. Brown
 Second Lieutenant — Thomas Foy

 1st. R.C. Gardiner ~ 2d. Geo. H. Groves ~ 3d. John F. Eddy
4th. George L. Nason ~ 5th. James T. Weaver

 1st. Chas. E. Bagley ~ 2d. Thomas W. May ~ 3d. Luther Baker ~ 4th. Thomas Byrnes
5th. James E. Wilcox ~ 6th. John Greene ~ 7th. Wm. W. Brown
 Drummer — William J. Jencks
 Fifer — William H. Card
 Wagoner — Dennis Gallagher

 John T. Andrew, John Curry, John Glenwright, Lowell H. Kenyon, Christopher Rodgers,
 Henry Burlingame, Peleg W. Card, Daniel Greene, James A. King, Thomas Ray,
 William Blanchard, John F. Card, Francis C. Greene, William H. Knight, James T. Rose,
 Charles Blanchard, Jasper Dodge, Jeffery H. Gardiner, James Kalane, Joseph G. Skinner,
 Sylvester C. Baker, Thomas W.D. Durfee, John Holden, Geo.H. Matthewson, Benj. W Sherman,
 Patrick Byron, Daniel Daily, Ambrose Hadley, Leonard L. Moffitt, David R. Stephenson,
 Robert Binns, Charles Duke, Aldrich I. Huling, Patick McGetrick, Benoni Sweet,
 Frederick W. Bliss, George B. Dunn, Thomas Henessey, James McNiff, John B. Simmons,
 Oliver P. Brown, Henry Fregberg, James B. Hathaway, Lyman Nicholas, E.M. Thompson,
 Dennis Breen, Thomas E. Fitch, Albert C. Holmes, Daniel W. Nicholas, Edward A. Thompson,
 Thomas W. Brown, Martin V. B. Gorton, Russell B. Johnson, Cyril H. Nicholas, Jeremiah Tourgee,
 Nicholas H. Cory, Ezra Greene, John Jerard, William Potter, Thos. T. Woodmansee,
 John G. Gardiner, John M. Pickford

Transcription of Rhode Island Pendulum article, dated June 1861, noting the company's enlistment


The Letters of Ezra Greene

Ezra Greene was a member of the Kentish Guards and volunteered to serve in the Civil War with Company H, 2nd Rhode Island Regiment, one of two companies that the Kentish Guards raised for federal service (the other being Company H, 7th Rhode Island). Ezra's brother, George, was in the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. The Kentish Guards had tried to join the 1st RI, but the regiment had a full compliment of men before the Guards could join. When first formed, they had blue coats and gray pants. Initially, there was a great confusion of uniforms, which added to the confusion at the first battle (First Battle of Bull Run, AKA Manassas Junction). The battle would end in a panic-driven Union rout; only three regiments held their position and preventing a catastrophic Rebel advance on Washington. One of these three regiments was the 2nd Rhode Island. The illustrations are miniatures (available for sale) from Military Miniature Warehouse

Camp Sprague was one of many encampments around Washington, D.C. protecting it from rebel attack. It was named after William Sprague, Governor 1860 to 1863, and U.S. Senator 1863 to 1875, who had accompanied "his" Rhode Island troops and looked after their welfare in the halls of Congress and posh salons of Washington. He was present during Bull Run, but returned to other duties afterwards.

Peleg Card, also mentioned in these letters, was Ezra's cousin and another Kentish Guards member in Company H. Professor Sweet was also a member of Company H, who would give a tightrope-walking exhibition every 4th of July. The reference to "picking-up pay in town" concerns a partial payment the Town of East Greenwich give to its local recruits, and that Ezra's parents might collect it if needed. Camp Clarke is another perimeter camp around Washington, D.C.

The following is the text of the letters of Ezra Greene:

Letter 1 of 19

Camp Sprague, June 22, 1861

Dear Parents,
I have arrived and must write a few lines to let you know we arrived all safe this (p.m.) at 4 o'clock. I met George (his younger brother in the 1st R.I. Regiment) and Charles before we broke ranks. They returned Wednesday from a forced march of forty miles in hot day (sun). The thermometer at 104 was the hardest march on record. We left Providence at 8 o'clock, left Newport 10, wind high. Had no supper. At 10 had a fire on board in one of the births at 11. Ea our breakfast Thursday morning at 7 of hard bred and alt junk (hard salted beef supplied to ships). In sight of the steamer Horvonkeel. Reached N.Y. harbor at 10 A.M. Oranges thrown on board in great numbers. Arrived in Jersey City or Elizabethport at 2 left at 3 for Harrisberg. Large quantities of wheat and rye all along the road. Stopped in Harrisberg at 9 . Canal boats are going up and down, the star and stripes float from every flagstaff. Left Harrisburg at 11, we saw 8 brick yards as we road along in a field near little york, saw three men mowing, some grass is fit and grain begins to turn. Passed through a tunnel at 2 , reached Baltimore at 9 p.m., everything quiet and the people friendly. Trouble was anticipated and we prepared with 10 rounds of cartridges, left Baltimore at 10, cuplin (coupling) broke and delayed us one half hour, the engine went on a mile and then came back. Reached Washington at 3 then we strapped on our knapsacks and reached camp Sprague at 4 . The 1st Reg'mt are in good spirits and expect to start for home in 12 or 15 days. They gave us a breakfast of roastbeef this morning. The boys are now pitching their tents in the grove, it is comfortable here today but the flies are awful thick. The marines and battery have just arrived, Charles and George have first rate quarters. They don't drill but little and are getting rather lazy. I have got my valise here and left nothing in the city. I think we shall stay here some time, if the First Regiment goes away we shall have their quarters in Baltimore. They said we were the (best) looking regiment ever gone south and the men bought what ever they wanted without fear of poison; ice water in large quantities free of charge.

Ezra Greene, 2nd Regiments, Co. H, R.I.M Washington, D.C

Letter 2 of 19

Camp Sprague, July 2, 1861

Dear Parents,
I have written once and must write again to let you know we are all longing for action. The first battery where George belongs left here yesterday, not expecting to return, and I expect we shall go soon, where I know not, some say Sewell's Point, but we shant know until we get landed. Where the first battery stops, you will know as soon as we. Company H was on guard yesterday and I got a bad cold going after supper in the rain. Peleg has been sick three or four days, but is better now. I went to the city last Wednesday and it will be the last chance I think. George went with me to show me the big buildings and the way into them. We went into and all over the capitol, which is a splendid affair, then to the Smithsonian Institute where we saw all kinds of birds and animals, stuffed, then to the Washington Monument, which will be a failure on account of the great weight of stone, which is crushing the foundation. If anything is wanted to draw my pay from the town just let me know. The government pay will be all I shall want which I can get after next Thursday. I have wrote several letters since I arrived and have not received one. Write soon. Professor Sweet will walk the rope here 4th of July.

Ezra Greene, 2nd Regiment, Co. H, R.I.M Washington, D.C.

Letter 3 of 19

Camp Clarke, July 23, 1861

Dear Parents,
I have again returned to camp without even a scratch. I had been to the battlefield and did my duty. This company has lost 1 sargeant, 3 corporals, namely Bagley, Sargeant; Bradford, May, Greene Corporals. Peleg Card was killed on the field; I was with him until he died. Several have not yet returned. Arnold Phillips is here. T. Sharpe is here; let John know if he is there. The R. I. Regmt marched 56 miles without an hours sleep and I did not eat pound of anything in 43 hours besides fighting a hard battle. I must close now. I have (to) let you know I am well. I will write again as soon as I can walk round; my feet is so sore I can hardly walk. I received your (letter) while I was camped in Virginia. Bagley and Card is the only ones we know of killed. Russel is well.

From your son, Ezra Greene

Letter 4 of 19

August 1st, 1861

Dear Parents,
I am very lonesome since Peleg is not in the mess as we was most always together but some are destined to died in every battle. I did not loose my watch or pistol. I feel in as good spirits as I ever did but if I was free I should be content to work at my trade. I should like to have a blue wollen shirt long as my cotton ones. I can get none here that suits, they ask $1.25 for very thin poor shirts. One will do. Professor (Sweet) walks the rope across the street in the city. He walked yesterday and the boys have run away to see him. No passes were given out today, the men were wanted to clean and white wash their quarters. 3 of our company are in the guard house to day, the officers are beginning to be very strict here. Lieut Colonel Frank Wheaton is in Slocum's place but he is no more fit for the place than I am. He was captain in a company of regular cavalry. We are going to have a new first Lieut, his name is Shaw from company F. He has now gone home t muster troops to fill the companies. There has been 2 Provost marshals appointed in Washington to deprive the soldiers of having any liquors unless with a written order from their captain. The army officers say they mean to (have) less drunkenness in the street, one can see drunken soldiers in every street at all times of the day. There is some large corn here. I saw some today. It was 17 joints high beside the spindle, each joint averaging 8 inches. It is topped out and silked, green corn is plenty. We have better feed since the first regmt went away good as we can ask for. It has rained all night till now, 10 o'clock. Peleg's things are to be sent home today. The war looks dark for our side, you hear reports but they are mostly untrue. I know that by the Providence papers you get but little of the correct news. The secessionists are fortifying every point they now have possession of. They have got Sewals point fortified with some very heavy artillery so that our vessels cannot go down the Potomac. Two war vessels are now being fitted out to blow that fortress in pieces. Professor got $142.62 for walking the rope yesterday. The accounts of the battle are 50,000 federal against 30,000 rebel troops. The account yesterday was from a rebel officer, that the day before the battle at Manassas rations were given to 91,000 men, rebel troops. I think this nearer correct. Write soon – from your son. Direct hereafter as follows.

Ezra Greene
Camp Sprague, Company H., 2nd Regmt, R.I.V., Washington, D.C.

Letter 5 of 19

August 4th, 1861

Dear Granny,
I have a few leisure moments which I feel disposed to spend in writing you a short schetch of our battle at Bull run on Sunday, July 21st. We left our camp July the 15, where we was going we knew not but we expected some fighting and we found it to be as soldiers said the hardest battle ever fought in America. The 2nd R.I. Regiment was in the engagement 4 hours and it was hot work all the time. We marched 9 miles the first day, slept on the ground. Satisfied at that, aroused at 4 , marched 9 more miles to what is called Fare Fax Court House where we arrived at noon. The next morning we started and marched 3 miles and halted til 4 on account of a battle being fought 2 miles beyond by our cavalry. Then we marched 4 miles and halted for the night. Aroused at 6, marched into closer quarters, pitched our tents of rails and brush where we slept one night with comfort. Next night, which was Saturday night, we had orders to march at 2 o'clock A.M. Was aroused at 1 and ordered into the line of battle without food or half enough sleep. We marched about 15 miles to what is called Bulls run of OS Bloody run where the battle was at its hight. It was then 10 , we made a furious charge without fear of the consequences. We kept at our work and hot it was until 3 o'clock then we was forced to retreat but I did not leave the field until the regiment was about 3 miles ahead. After the regiment went into the woods and halted to rest I went back through the field to where Peleg Card lay wounded. The shots flew thick and fast around me then. Peleg lived about 1 hour, I lay down and slept for of an hour. While I lay there, a cannon struck within a few feet of me. It was then 5 o'clock, the regiment was gone an hour and the enemy's cavalry was close behind me. I was alone, I seized my rifle and 25 cartridges and started intending to fight if I must. All we had to eat was hard bread and no sleep for 38 hours. A soldier's life is a hard and lazy one. Our work is hard or else we have none at all. It is like being kept in a state prison for we cannot leave the ground and have to do as the officers say and when they please. From your ever affectionate grandson.

Ezra Greene
Camp Sprague, Company H., 2nd Regmt, R.I.V., Washington, D.C.

Letter 6 of 19

Camp Slocum, August 15th, 1861

Dear Brother (George),
I received your letter yesterday and will now inform you of our situation. We are not in Virginia, we are in a prison or as bad. We camped about 8 miles south of our old quarters and obliged to stay there. If we leave the camp over of a mile we are liable to be taken by the pickets which are now stationed all around. There was several of our men taken and brought to camp by the pickets day before yesterday. We were on picket, the 9 (th) and staid 24 hours without an relief. Had 1 stationed in a place about 3 rods apart and had to keep awake all night or the officers would steel our guns. 3 or 4 of our boys lost their guns. I was the only one they always found awake. They keep us rather slim now they say to give us the regular army rations. We have 1 loaf of bread or 8 crackers for 1 day beside a small piece of meat. The regmt grumble a good deal about it. We have no butter now or molasses. All our cooking we have to do ourselves, two round camp stoves to a Co. This regmt drills as scurmishers or sharp shoots. The officers say we are going scouting over in Virginia. There is an attack expected on the city from this site and the 23rd NY have throwed up a heavy breastwork and mounted large pieces of artillery. A large army is expected will cross the Potomac. A small force is on this side and their pickets have been seen within a few miles of our camp by the Provost marshal. They are throwing them out farther every day. I received those things this afternoon and was glad to receive them. We have been out to drill as scurmishers and we have got to everyday hereafter. Our pickets are stationed where you was with the battery. When we went in Va we went over long bridge and then due west about 45 miles. One company has been out today to cut trees to make a battery which is to be made about (mile) from here. Our recruits have not yet joined, they are at the barracks and drilling, they have to cook for themselves, they have high breast works and heavy guns mounted. There is no fear of the rebels coming that way. It would take a large (force) to get through our pickets gates. Miss Abbie Smith said she wished you would come up there. She wished to ask some questions about the war. You can go if you like but do not tell her I correspond with any body else. She is jealous, I know, but wish to keep her in the dark. I may never return, then all will be well, if I do they will both likely be neutral to me. I should very much like to know how you and Maggie (Margret Lewis) gets along. Let me know a few days before you hitch for life. Write soon and and let me know the news, send me the Pendulum, I got the last one from your brother (William).

Ezra Greene

Letter 7 of 19

Headquarters 2nd Regt., R.I.V., Camp Slocum, Co. H., Washington
Sep'br 14th, 1861

Dear Parents,
I would like to know the reason why you do not write, I have written since I received George's letter which was more than a week ago, my conveniences are not so plenty as yours for writing. I want to get a letter once in a long while to know the news. It is now about 10 days since I wrote and have had no answer. We get along very well at present, all except the cooks, they are so lazy that they let everything burn and the tea is smoky but I can stand it as well as the rest. If our feed was cooked as it ought to be there would be no grumbling but now there is a quarrel all the time. Our supper invariably consists of coffee and one half of the company can't drink it, it is so bitter. Our drill is not very hard, we have to shovel about three hours a day when we are not on guard or picket. A large battle is very soon expected, we expect an attack from both sides of the river. One more battle will settle this affair. One Mississippi regmt has thrown down their arms and gone home. North Carolina has called in her troops and raised the stars and stripes. When I went to the funeral of Samuel P. Sweet of Company H down to the barracks I saw Sargt Charles Eldredge of the 3rs M.C.A.. Govener Sprague was here this week but did not stay long. Our fort is most finished and I expect we shall have to move from here very soon. There is some talk of building another and a masked battery. Write soon and let me have the news and I should like to have the Pendulum, I have had but one since I came to this camp. Tell Albert Pierce I want him to write soon. From your son.

Ezra Greene

The following was added as a post script (though not marked as such) to the back page of this letter:

We got paid off yesterday and got $23.73, 2 month's pay. I did not want so much money with me and I have sent a ten dollar note good in any bank. I wish you to write to me as soon as you receive this or the note. We drill now every day and if we improve as fast as they have done, they will in a few weeks be the best drilled company in this regmt. Lieut Shaw says this company had got the right men to make a well drilled company. Lieut Shaw is in the city much of the time, Foy is off duty with a pistol ball through his foot and Cap'n is sick. But our orderly is the best drilled man in the regmt. Write soon.

Letter 8 of 19

October 1, 1861

Dear Brother, (George)
I will now let you know that we have not yet marched and when we shall I do not know. We may march in 12 hours and we may not in 3 weeks. Yesterday we was under marching orders all day. We had our Haversacks filled, canteens filed, blankets rolled, overcoats on and guns stacked and called into line 3 times and the order was countermanded. At night we was ordered to our quarters to wait further orders. This morning we worked 3 hours on the fort. It is most done now but there is no guns mounted yet, but I guess there is no fear of attack on this side. We took munsons hill where the rebels had 2 stove pipes (nickname for a type of mortar or a possibly fake cannon?) and some wooden guns mounted. The federals did not seem to be much frightened because the wooden guns and stove pipes did not seem to bark much. Day before yesterday I lost my wallet and five dollars in money. All that I had and I want you to send me 5 dollars as soon as you get this. Greenwich bank money is good here. The war will soon be on the decline. One heavy battle is wanted with our steel rifled cannon which throws shot and shell 4 and 5 miles. We get along very well now but I never saw colder nights and morning in R.I. at this time of the year. We have to wear our overcoats every morning and I sleep in mine. I wish to know it you get my state and town pay. I want it got as often as it comes due if you can. If you do not get it nor cannot I wish to know the reason why. I hear by some we do not get any from the town. If it is so I should like to know it. A man told me today his father got his town and state pay as son as it became due without any trouble. I want you to get it as soon as it becomes due. I need it as much as any of them. If anything is wanted let me know and you can have it. I want a pair of boots of good thick soles double fronts and backs. If they fit you and loose on the toes they will fit me. Yesterday we came off guard, did not have to drill until 4 o'clock. Today we drilled from 6 to 7 . We have battalion drill from 9 to 11 and four to 5 dress parade at sunset. I am going to send to Albert Pierce for a box and you can send the boots in that, and I want them as soon as convenient for one of mine is broke off at the instep. I understand that Cap'n Brown is going to resign and I hope he will for he is half drunk half of the time. He had about 3 drinks down before going on drill this morning. If he would let the whiskey alone he would be the best Cap'n on the ground, but when half drunk he is the meanest of them all. I have no more at present time and must close. Write soon. From your brother.

Ezra Greene
Co. H. 2nd Reg'mt R.I.V., Washington

(P.S.) If father sould die, I want you to let me know by telegraph as early as possible. Here is my photography, it is natural all but the eyes.

Letter 9 of 19

Camp Sprague, (early) December 1861

Dear Brother,
I now commence to write you a few lines to let you (know) how we get along. I am now on the detail for extra duty. We now are building a shed for the horses. It is mostly of logs. After that we are going to build log cabins for the regiment. I think our winter quarters will be here or near by. We shall have long cabins with board roofs. They will be warm but they will make a great deal of work. We could take comfort if it was not for guard duty which we have for every 7 days and on the fort once in 10 days. There is 12 guns mounted – nine swivels, 3 on wheels. Co. H was on the fort Monday night. I stood only 2 hrs. and 5 minutes. It was very cold and I could hardly keep warm with 2 good blankets. I wished you had sent me the Pendulum with Russel's letter in it. I have not seen that yet. I wish you would let me know about where your school is. I have had a bad cold and cough about 4 weeks but it is rather better now. Cough considerable but feel as well as ever . We have rather hard feed now, our wheat bread yesterday was as heavy and hard as it can be. It was not fit to eat. The commissaries and Quartermasters want to make to much money. I want you to let me know when you write again how much the express was on that box and let me know as near as you can how Father is. Russel got his box bay before yesterday. He got a pair of bots but they are not much like mine. I cannot think of anything to write tonight. Tell Albert I want him to write the news. He has not written to me in 2 months. I cannot get the news unless he writes. Tell Albert he can have my big sled if he wants to beet them all on the hill, but take care of it. I want (you) to tell me about Grandfather's folks. I have not heard from them since I left home. I also want Gardner W. Greene's directions. If I did not want this I should not ask for them. I wrote to Grandfather once but never received a word of answer. Write soon. From your brother.

Ezra Greene

Letter 10 of 19

Camp Sprague, Dec. 14, 1861

Dear Brother,
I received your letter today and began to think you had forgotten me. I have been expecting one all week. There is great times here at present. The whole regiment have been halling and huing loggs for the last week. We are going to build log huts. We are going to build our huts as the soldiers do the other side of the river. The logs are cut between 8 and 9 feet long then a ditch dug in a circle and the logs stuck in 2 ft deep. Then our old tents are to be stuck up on top of the logs by pins drove into the outside of the logs. We think they will be warm if they are ever finished.

There was a balon (observation balloon) alighted here last Monday. It was the Atlantic, the aeronaut, La Mountain. He came from 4 miles beyond Alexandria. He said be passed the 4th regmt going on picket. He said our troops were not as far as Farefax, Court House. They had been drove back a few miles. Since then the 4th regmt have had a scurmish. We have not heard any particulars but believe no one was killed . You can get more news in the New York papers than we can here. The aeronaut said he could give me no further information until he had reported to headquarters. He came down in our camp about the time for dress parade.

Tonight there was several Representatives here and we had to black our boots and polish our brasses. Tomorrow morning is our weekly inspection then there will be the great trail of clean guns for extra passes. One English fellow that was in the English Army had an extra clean gun got an extra pass to the city and staid a day and night and has been on the chestnut horse half of the time ever since. He says (he) will never have a clean gun again. He says he will train no more in Company D. He belongs in Co. D and says Co. D is all down on him. If a soldier is absent from dress parade he is reported a deserter and will have to ride the chestnut horse (a wooden rail with legs used as a form of punishment).

The N. York 36th regmt was down on the R.I. boys; 2 of our boys met 2 of the 36th and they began to run down the R.I. boys and our boys knocked their faces all to pieces. Then the 36th boys came over to our officer of the guard. It was reported to the Colonel, he then called our boys and heard their story. The Colonel told out boys they did just right. He told them he would have done just so. They (the NY 36th) do not like it, our having such a name in the city.

I do not wish my father to have morphine to destroy his reason and senses. While he lives I wish him to have a clear mind as long as possible . His talking in the way shows you he is not in his right mind. I would like to know if grandfather's folks ever got that letter I sent them. I got a letter from Albert day before yesterday. In the battery barracks the 8th Battery is quartered. In the infantry barracks there is a company of regular cavalry, 2nd from California. I hope you will not all be so backward about writing. From your brother.

Ezra Greene

Letter 11 of 19

Camp Slocum, Dec. 23, 1861

Dear Mother,
I received George's telegram (that his father, Lawton Greene, had passed away) day before yesterday and went directly to the captain who gave me a pass to the Colonel who wrote me a few lines to Assistant Adjt. General. I went direct but the Adjutant was not at home so I went direct to the Brigadier General who talked tome in the following manner. He says it is so late in the day that all of the offices are all closed and could not be opened until Monday and then it would be so late that I could not get home before father must be buried. And then today I thought I would send a telegram which I supposed you received about 3 o'clock, or ought to, the telegraph office is at brightwood about mile from here at the General's Headquarters. The General is a fine man and appears to be very accommodating. I shall get a furlough through the regular channel if I can but the Captain will do nothing for me. If I threatened to blow his brains out I could get favors but in attending to my duty I can get none. I know this by what I have seen in the past few weeks. Russel Gardner is another of Captain browns enemies. One of the men several weeks ago told Capn Brown he would shoot him if he ever got a chance. Now the Capn gives him a pass to the city almost every week and by this others are deprived of their just dues. This is done by both capn and orderly only on a smaller scale. There is no justice done in this company. One instance the orderly had one pair of pants, he said come up in the morning and he would let me have them. I went up and he had let the man have them that threatened to shoot the Capn and the Qr. Master has got no more. We shall get none now until they get ready to give out the blue pants (they then had their original issue of gray pants), but Capn Brown is the most humane Capn in this regmt in some things. You need not fear to let folks know what I say. I know it is so and am not afraid to say it any where. It is getting rather cold. It is raining now but we expect snow soon. We have got our cabins most finished and will get into them this week. We are getting new tents to put on top of our log cabins. General Burnside has done all he can to get this regiment to go in his expedition but has been refused by Gen'l McClellan. He says if we go into a battle he is a going with us. I cannot write anymore at present. Please write soon. From your ever affectionate son.

Ezra Greene
Co. H. 2 Regmt, R.I.V., Washington, D.C.
Army of the Potomac, Lieut General McClellan, Commanding

Our Kentish Guards member Ezra Greene, who had joined the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteer Regiment with the KG's (forming Company H) has given his requested transfer. No longer having the company of his friend and cousin, Peleg Card, who was killed at First Bull Run (just short of his 21st birthday) and having developed a dislike of the new company commander, Captain Beriah S. Brown (the 1st Lieutenant who replaced Captain Charles W. Greene), Private Ezra Greene was transfer to gunboat duty in the Western Theatre. Regimental notes from September 1861 state, "Promotions – private William Montgomery of Co. F to lance corporal – to take charge of a squad of six men, volunteering for gunboat flotilla, namely privates B. Bessie of D; L Mahoney of A; W.B. Burns of G; W.M. Cobb of K; Ezra Green of H and Sylvester Riley of C."

Letter 12 of 19

On the Gun boat Cincinnati, Iron Clad
Cairo, Ill., Feb. 22, 1862

Dear Friend, (Russel Gardner)
I will now write you a few lines to let you know I have arrived at out place of destination in safety. We arrived here in the cars about 4 (o'clock). Went on board the receiving ship Maria Dennings, a large Mississippi stern wheel steamer at 5. About noon we were divided into squads to man the different gun boats. Couch brigade is all on the iron clad flag boat Cincinnati now undergoing repairs. She was in the battle at Fort Henry and had her wheel all shot to pieces. Only one man was killed during the action and 4 wounded. These iron clad gunboats have 1 stern wheel, not a screw, but a regular water wheel, 2 engines and 2 rudders and mount 13 guns; 4, 42 pounders; 9, 68 pounders. We came on board Friday afternoon. We was then divided into messes. I was on the head of the list in ness No. 5. So I was put in cook for 1 week. We do not cook but draw the rations, wash the dishes and take care of the mess chest. I am one of the gunners, 2nd loader on one of the 42 pound guns. After we was divided into messes, we got our clothes, bags and hammocks. I slung mine and slept in it last night. It did not seem like our bunks in camp Brightwood but I like it as well. Our rations are cooked by men hired for the purpose. There is but one of our regmt in my mess but there (are) several of the brigade in it. We have our rations of whisky, 2 a day, in the morning and noon, 1 gill (1/4 pint) at a time. We have to walk up to the cask as our name is called. We passed 2 trains of rebel prisoners on the Ill. Central rail road, 15 cars in each train loaded. They look like a degraded set and most of them do not appear to know what good manners is. As the train moved off one of them spit in the face of one of our men. If it had been me I would have shot him dead on the spot. Yesterday morning a steamer came in from Fort Donnaldson loaded with rebel prisoners. One of them was a doctor, he was a smart clever fellow. Some of the prisoners would talk and said they had been deceived. Other said they had been pressed. I did not see General Johnston but he and several other officers was on the hind car of the train we passed.

Letter 13 of 19

Friend Russel:
I wish you was here but I do not think you would like it, it is very hard work drilling on those guns. They have to be run in and out with 2 double block tackles and 12 men to each gun. I like it very well so far. You can read this to the mess or Co., then send it to my folks. Write soon.

Ezra Green

Letter 14 of 19

U.S. Gun boat Louisville, Columbus, Ky., April 21, 1862

Dear Mother,
I have received your letter in due time or I should have said 15 days after the date, none the less it was welcome. You did not say whether you had received any of my letters or not. I have written 3, one I sent by Russel Gardner, the other w I sent direct. I have received 2 from George but be never mentioned either of mine. If you did not get them I do not see the reason for I have sent letter to R.I. and received answers in 14 days. I also asked you to send the Pendulum but have never received one. I received a letter yesterday mailed the 15. I would be very much obliged for the Pendulum and about dozen postage stamps. I can get paper, pens and ink. Stamps I cannot get. I was not in the battle of island No. 10, the Louisville was on guard at Columbus and Hickman. We are now at Columbus, we left Hickman last Thursday morning about 10 o'clock reached Columbus about 3 P.M.. When we left Hickman the houses were nearly all surrounded with water some of them washing into the river. One splendid one story cottage near by where we lay was occupied when we first came to Hickman. It was outside the levee. The underpinning washed out and it tipped over into the river and I expect it has floated away ere this for the water is much higher. We moved one family out in our boat the day before we left there. The inhabitants say the water is 6ft higher than it has been before for 20 years. It is over the railroad here and the track is washing away down the river. It has rained steady now for over a week and is still raining and the river still rising. The water is so high and mud so deep that it is impossible to get along the streets except on horseback . We see the tops of houses floating down the river every day. They came from Cairo. The water is nearly up to the railroad at that place. When I first landed there it was 15 feet from the water up to the track. The whole city will all wash away in a few years.

I received a R.I. paper yesterday and see by that you get the news of battles and victories as soon as we do. I have no money and can get no papers, all that comes down here they charge 10 cts. a piece for. When you send any do them up as small and snug as you can, they will be more likely to reach here. When we hear of a battle we can only get a small sketch of it and never any particulars. I feel rather more at home on the boat than when I first came aboard. I am still mess cook and do not have anything else to do. I have to draw the rations, get them ready to cook and carry them to the ship's cook. Set the dishes on the deck and wash them and bring water for the galley, that is where the rations are cooked. For breakfast we have skouse that is hard bread broke up and boiled like pudding with salt junk and salt pork cut up fine. It is much better than hard bread and coffee here, but you at home would only think it fit for the hogs. It sometimes sours and many times gets badly burned. I have to make a 5 gallon mess kettle two thirds full of this every morning for 16 men, which they devour as greadily as I would a bowl of hasty pudding and milk now such as I used to get at home for dinner. One day we have bean soup and boiled pork for supper. The same day I bake the beans and pork for dinner. The baked beans are more like home living than anything else we have. The next day we have the same for breakfast, salt junk for dinner with boiled rice and molasses (the poorest kind at that). For the supper we have fried pork cut off of the next days rations. We sometimes get fresh meat (which are entitled to 2 a week) and potatoes. Then we have a soup instead of salt junk, we draw flour, dried apples, butter, cheese, pickles, vinegar and molasses every Sunday and Thursday. I mix the flour with cold water, a little salt and saleratur (baking soda), stir in the apples after they have soaked for about 12 hours. This we put in bags and boil for dinner in place of rice. It makes a very good dish with a sauce made of molasses, milk and sugar and does not last long before the gready sailors. The hard bread we have here is new and fresh from St. Louis, not mouldy and wormy like that sometimes found on seagoing vessels. It is kept in a dry place and we get it fresh every day.

The boys are having jolly times but a great trouble is in getting something to read. Not much washing decks are done during this wet weather . We have got new patent locks and sights on our guns, all except 4 rifles which are comdemmed. 39 transports loaded with troops passed up by here Friday and Saturday nights said to be General Pope's army. Every one loaded down to the waters edge. They are all larger than the steamers between N.Y. and Stonington and carry an immense body of troops. Jeff Davis says he is going to share the fate with his soldiers in the next battlefield. Come weall (wellbeing, prosperity) or woe he would fight with them. He says their cause is sure, they will conquer in the end. General Beauregard made a speech to his men on Saturday before the battle in which he told them the result was a sure thing and could not fail. They would capture Grant's army, then whip Buel's and thus hold their railroad. If they lost the day he said might as well lay down their arms and go home. We have not been within 15 miles of any battle. The other boats and the mortars went down and took No. 10. We were on guard 15 or 20 miles above. If Jeff Dais meets little mack as I hope he will there will be fun and no mistake. I have wrote all I can think of now. Pleas write soon and send several postage stamps. From your ever dutiful son.

Ezra Greene

Direct as follows without fail.
U.S. Gun boat Louisville, Cairo, Illinois

When you write please send me 2 skeins red sewing silk, 1 skein white, w skeins light blue, all rather course.

Letter 15 of 19

Federal gunboat USS LOuisville
On the Gun boat Louisville
Memphis, June 12, 1862

Dear Mother,
I have been in engagement and according to agreement I must write a few line to let you know we had a glorius victory and the rebels are minus of 7 gun boats, one got away, 4 our ram s sunk, 3 we brought up to Memphis. Those we captured were the Gen. Brag, formerly a sea going steamer; 2nd the Sumpter, the one that sunk the Cincinati at Fort Pillow; 3rd the Little Rebel, the flag ship of Commodore Montgomery. She mounted 3 guns, the Sumpter mounted 2 guns and the Brag 2. They were all encased in railroad iron and a bow as sharp and strong as iron would make it, but our rams could sink them if the river was full. The Vandorn, I believe it was, that escaped. Jeff Thompson it is said was on the bluff and witnessed the whole battle. Then mounted his horse and left for part unknown. The rebel flag was allowed to remain on the tall flag staff 3 hours after our troops took possession of the city but after all it came down with a crash for the rag was nailed to the mast and had to be cut down. This flag had two red stripes, 1 white between, a blue field and 13 stars. This battle was all on one side. They were whipped to easy. I do not think any of our gun boats received a shot, but the most splendid sight I saw was the blowing up of the rebel ammunition boats. She burned nearly to the waters edge. The fire caught her magazine and the burning fragments went into the air I should think 200 feet and the bomb shells could be seen bursting up there in every direction. The report of the explosion was heard in Cairo, a distance of 200 miles air line. They thought it was the shock of an earth quake. I never saw anything before like it. After she blew up her armor of cotton bales came floating past us down the river. Her smoke stack can yet be seen standing and 2 steampipes. Those boats that we captured, the crews used their life preservers and swam ashore. The life preservers could be seen all along the bank for 2 miles where the rebels had dropped them after swimming ashore and about 150 of them were shot by our sharpshooters in the woods. They all started for the Arkansas shore. During the action I had plenty to do and could not see what was going on outside. I was the 2nd shot man or No 8 and had to go aft and get shell for the gun. The enemies gunners were all exposed so their guns were kept clear by our sharp shooters. There was a slow match attached to one of the Sumpters magazines but lucky for us it went out or she would have blown us out of the water. They intended to have her explode just as she was being towed up the river but their fuse wasn't good. No one was injured on this boat, whether there was on other I do not know. I did not think anything more of that battle than I should of a target practice. I have wrote 2 letter and received no answer. I have wrote 2 other letter to R.I. and received an answer over a week ago. I wish you or George would write me and send me a paper with the battle of Richmond. I expect we shall get a post soon. There is some talk of sending the soldiers back to their reg'mts. If they did I think I will have a furlough. I have had no letter from home since I left Columbus over a month ago. Memphis is a very nice city, on a high bluff, mostly of brick. The star and stripes float over the post office. There is 10,000 soldiers expected here in a few days . Write as soon as you get this. We took a large number of transports, I do not know how many. It is stated that the Gen. Brag took a steamer loaded with cotton as she was on her way to Cairo. She wanted to know the news and came down to get if off the Brag not knowing she had changed hands. She was up a little creek. When you write send me a paper.

Ezra Greene

Letter 16 of 19
Helena U.S. Gun boat Louisville
July 3, 1862

Dear Mother,
I have received your letter the day before yesterday. A paper at the same time. The letter got mislaid and the purses accidently found it in Memphis. The handkerchief and silk were all right. I should have written before but have been sick with the fever and shills. Have not had the shakes, I feel rather better today. Can get nothing but salt junk and salt pork to eat. No sick man can eat that. Yesterday we had bean soup . I eat some of that and felt much stronger. The only thing I had eaten for 2 days. I have received all the papers you have sent me except the time that you sent 2. I received that letter with the pens but I happened to buy a dozen good one in Memphis, a quire (a package containing 24 sheets of writing paper) of splendid guilt edge paper and some envelopes. The fleet left Vicksburg Saturday the 26. Arrived here the 31. This place is called Hellena. It is on the right bank of the river in Arkansas. There is soldiers along here for 3 miles. We can see the whole length of their line of tents and baggage trains. The rebels took 2 of our transports. I think one of my letters was lost and one of yours. They took the valuables and burned the boats. We saw the wreck of one as we were coming up the river. Hew name was Sallie Wood the other was the Lady Pike. Both were taken near Napolean a place we ought to have pillaged and burned. It is a small place in Arkansas of about 1000 inhabitants. Old boatmen say it is nothing but a den of cut throats and robbers. I have kept (to) my hammock now for nearly three days but hope I shall be able to leave it soon. I had a fever last night or should have left it this morning. Our purser got back Thursday and yesterday every man that had more than 1 month's pay due him received $5.00. We could live if we could get on shore. I have not been ashore in 6 weeks and but once since we left Memphis. We are used worse than the slaves of the south were. We do not have to work hard but can get nothing to eat. The butter is rotten, the cheese is condemned and the salt beef stinks. Last night several of the boys went ashore and bought potatoes and onions. They wanted some hams but could not get them. One mess bought 3 bushels at $1.50 each, inions $2.00, hams 8 cts per lb. There is considerable cotton here. I think they did not burn much. I should like to know hoe Grandfather's folks get along. I have not written to uncle Gardner since I was in camp and never received any answer. Tell George I think he had better stay home (rather) than go to war. I received 3 letters and one paper the day I received yours. I don't like this service, there is so many foreigners. Direct strict as write soon. Follows to many directions makes it worse.

Ezra Greene

Letter 17 of 19

U.S. Gun bout Louisville, Cairo, Illinois
Helena on Arkansaw, July 19, 1862

Dear Mother,
I receive your letter in due time and answered as soon as possible which is now nearly 3 weeks and have received nothing from home in return. After I last wrote we and the Benton went down to White River. Our boat attempted to go up the river. We went up about 4 miles, got aground and was obliged to return. We got back to Helena in 4 days. We are now at Helena and the crew is nearly all sick. One of the ward room boys died night before last of the brain fever. I have had the fever and ague for the past 4 days. Have not had the shakes but once. I am so weak I can hardly walk across the deck. I am very weak from the diore, which I have had for the last weeks. Almost everyone on board has it. It is caused by drinking this muddy water. This hot weather the river is very low and very muddy. We were (paid) $6.00 each and got a few vegetables but everything is awful high, potatoes $2.00, onions $3, hams 15cts per lb for a small head. I bought a few potatoes, a few onions, and a small ham. I have been on shore but once since we have been here, then I went out as one of the gigs crew. I had a chance to go around about an hour, then I eat plenty of peaches. I did not see any watermelons when I was on shore. Things are much later here than they are down in Vicksburg. I should like to receive a Pendulum. Others receive papers and letter from down in Maine, 2 or 300 miles farther than R.I.. I have not had a paper to read in about 3 weeks. The officers get the Memphis paper. I haven't had a chance to get one yet. I wish we were in Memphis and had the liberty we was having there. I am so weak I must close this letter. I hope you will not neglect to write. I wish to know about grandfather's folks. Write soon and send the Pendulum. From your son. Direct as follows.

Ezra Greene

Letter 18 of 19

U.S. Gun boat Louisville, Cairo, Illinois
US Gun boat Louisville, July 23, 1862
Blockading Yazoo River

Dear Mother,
I receive your letter 7 days after date. It was dated the day I answered your last letter. I got one paper the day before. I got that letter of yours and George's together but did not get any with the last nor since but would very much like to. We are having rather hard times. There is about 20 on the sick list. It is called the bilious fever. I think it is caused by sleeping on deck and in the chilly mid night breeze. I have not slept in over a month. Some lay it to wearing white clothes. We wear nothing but blue flannel shirts and blue satine pants. I have heard a tune in military called the Arkansaw traveler but I saw something about a week ago which beat it amazingly. One morning about 5 o'c firing was heard in the direction of the Yazoo, all supposed the rebels had got a field battery on the bank and were firing at the Carondalet as they did the Mound City but it proved to be a powerful iron clad gun boat covered with double rail road iron. The first indication we had of her, one of out rams, the Queen, came down into the fleet under a full head of steam and a ball whistled passed her as just as she came into out sight. Very soon after we saw the low hulled clay colored rebel gun boat Arkansaw firing at everything that came within her range. She hit us with one shot near the water just on the corner of the iron. It did no damage. Not one boat in the fleet had steam up except one ram; she attempted to butt the rebel but received a shot through her boilers. 13 men being scalded, thereby the Benton followed her down and fired several shots at her and the batteries. In return she got a shot through her stern into the cabin killing one man, wounding 2 others in the presence of Commodore's Farragut and Davis. That night the Louisville and Benton went down and shelled the batteries. The other fleet went down after the rebel but she was so near the color of the bank that they could not see her. About 2 o'c the 21st we went down and shelled the batteries again. The Essex went down and give her nine holes, the Queen went down and give her 2 butts. That day I heard there was about 30 men at work on her besides a large number at the pumps. The next day she appeared in sight to recconnoitre.

Ezra Greene

Letter 19 of 19

U.S. Gun boat Louisville
Cairo; Illinois Oct'br 19, 1862

Dear Mother,
I have been waiting for an answer to the letter which I have written for over a month but have not yet received any so I will write a third. There has been a reformation in the fleet and navy officers put in all the boats. The fleet now belongs to the navy. Soon after the new officers came aboard the Louisville, a board of doctors examined the men and all that were unfit for duty were put on board the steamer Sovereign and sent up the river to the Mound City Hospital. When we reached there they were all full and we have been on the Sovereign ever since. There was 22, four hove one away. I was not very sick when I left the gunboat. I was very weak, had no appetite and had had the rheumatism. I had not got over my last fever and chills either but was so weak that I could not sit up more than an hour at a time. When I came on this boat I weighed only 137 lbs. I have since gained about 10 lbs. It is 19 days since we left the gunboat at Helena. All that troubles me now is the rheumatism and the dirhea which I shall have as long as I am on this river. I am very weak yet, but am much better than when I left the gunboat. There is about $70 coming to me and the purser says he is going to pay us in 8 or 10 days. The Cincinnati's men have fared rather hard this season. Their boat was sunk once, shot all to pieces at another time and have lost 24 men in about 4 weeks. I was lucky to get off of her. I would like to get my discharge but to no expect to soon. These gunboats are cold places in the winter. If they clear me from the army as there is some talk I should be a free man but cannot expect such good news. You need not write until you hear from me again unless something of importance happens or has happened. I have heard nothing from home in over a month and have wrote 2 letters. From your ever dutiful son, If you write direct,

Ezra Greene
Cairo, Illinois

I think you had better get the house insured if you have not, you would be ruined if it should be burned.

This concludes the letters of Ezra Greene. The last letter in the collection is to Ezra from a friend living in Minnesota. Ezra survived the Civil War, settled in Pawtuxet village, and raised a family working as a carpenter. He died falling off of a roof upon which he was working. His family still retains the folding yard-stick that was is in pocket and broke when he fell. Ezra Greene is buried in the cemetery in East Greenwich on First Avenue. His letters are appreciated as rare documentation of life on a Mississippi gunboat during the Civil War. His brother George also served in the Civil War, but with the 1st RI Volunteer Regiment.

Saratoga, Minnesota
December 14, 1862

Dear Ezra,
I received your letter tonight, was afraid you were too sick to write. I had a long letter from Lydia last night, full of news. The Gideon's were well, wrote last from Brooks Station. Stephen and Melissa have move to the city of Providence. James Rhodes (you remember him, do you not ?) has been made a second lieut. Frank Brayton, ditto of a Conn. Reg. Lydia saw George Slocum in G… (?) with an officer's coat, sword and so on, he was promoted to the same office in the 9th Reg'mt, was wounded by a shell at the battle of Antiedam, taken prisoner, three days and two nights without food. Henry Spencer is in the dental college at Philadelphia. John Lansing (you remember the party at his father's house) has been captured by the Guerillas who stripped his(m) of everything. Carrie was suffering with a feeon (fever?). Lydia, Sarah and Hannah at the same places of last summer. Leizzie Kenyon visiting N. Y.. A letter from Nathan today, he hails from Moscow, Tennessee. The young folks of the house have all gone to a party, they are not acquainted with me, so did not invite me. I can never like the people here, as well in ??? N. Y. state. The country I like, if Jennie goes to California, perhaps I will take a trip just to see the country. I like her the best of any one here. She tried to get me to go to the party with her, but I would not go on her invitation. It makes me feel lonesome to see them going to parties, when I think of home many I attended in R. I.. Had six letters and one paper last week, two from R. I., two from N. y., one from you and one from Nathan. Have just come home from church – shook hands with a soldier, for his sake and others still far away. I am writing a letter to Phenix, R.I.. The good times these will never be forgotten, old friends are always remembered, by me, although many miles of land and water separate us, who went once together daily. Sarah is writing to you, hope she will make a better looking letter, than this of mine. A soldiers has been here after father to preach a funeral sermon tomorrow, he came home time enough to see them die. The putrid sore throat is raging around Pilot Mound. Joe Warren Potter is in jail, Frank writes, for appropriating what belonged to another man. Aunt Spenser's sister is there from Kentucky, on account of her health. You probably saw the death of Sarah Godfrey in the Pendulum, when I get a Pendulum, I read it all even the Advertisements, we have had two lately. What think you of Burnside, that he will accomplish what McClelan has failed to do? I am about discouraged about the war prospects. I would send you a Minnesota paper if you would like to see one. My letter is made up of all kinds of items, here a little and there a little, most miserable writing at that, ink is about as muddy as the waters of the Mississippi River. Such as it is please accept with my best wishes for your health and happiness. Please write soon to you Minnesota friends, who often think of soldiers in the Mound City Hospital.

Truly your friend,
A. E. Smith

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