New Albany Daily Ledger, June 06, 1865.
Mobile, Ala., May 23, 1865. Gentleman: This pleasant and lovely morning I conclude to write a short letter to your paper, thinking, perhaps, some of our friends might be interested in reading the little I have to say. There has been much said as to the men and command that captured the rebel stronghold – Blakely. Also I see from the writings of several correspondents, that the 16th army corps has the praise of capturing both forts, Spanish and Blakely, which is not true. True, the 16th corps charged the works of Spanish Fort, and were successful in capturing the entire garrison of five hundred men, and said army corps was present at the capture of Blakely, but took no active part in the charge. The 14th corps were the victors in that charge, no the 16th boys. The 13th army corps being on the right of our line, were the men who were the first to enter the works of the “Johnnies,” and before the 16th boys were over the famous line of “brush and sharpened twigs,” &c., spoken of by correspondents. The 2s brigade 2d division on the line and under the heaviest and most galling fire of the day, entered the works with the gallant W. T. Spicely, Colonel commanding. The other brigades in the division did their duty well, and with such commanders as Brigadier General C. C. Andrews, men – brave soldiers – cannot fail to bring success to the Federal arms. I think in the taking of the stronghold, Fort Blakely, there must needs be mention made of the men for whom honor and praise are due, not to men who were not engaged, actively, on any part of the line. I have no doubt but the 16th boys are as brave, as valiant, and as chivalrous as those of the 13th corps, yet I must say the 13th captured Blakely, while the 16th corps walked in on our left, without meeting opposition from any source.
Now what we want is, “Give praise where praise it due.” The best way to find what commanders deserve praise and commendation is to look at the loss of men. Why is it that the correspondent of the gallant 16th does not give a list of killed and wounded in his corps? We have yet seen no account of their loss, and would be glad if they could have the list made up and published. The Twenty-fourth Indiana, in the charge on Blakely, lost in killed and wounded somewhere about forty; the Seventy-Sixth Illinois, on our left, lost fifty; while other regiments in the same division suffered severely; and we must award to the colored soldiers under Gen. Steele much bravery. Their portion of the line was assigned them, and they did their duty gallantly. No more can men say “Negroes will not fight.” We have found them to be, in the hour of peril, “as true as Steele,” and Steele was their motto. I shall ever remember the expression used by one of them after the capture of Blakely: His dark and intelligent features were all ablaze with the glory of the hour – and turning to his brother soldier – (of no less dark complexion) said in thrilling accents of his own language “Golly, Sam, de year ob Jubilee has come sure, de brack sojer has baptized himself all ober in glory.” Such expressions with many others of a laughable character, were not unfrequent. The greatest praise was awarded to the troops generally, by Gens. Steele, Granger, Smith, and Andrews. And many of our Colonels have shown their superiors that they too, are worthy of one, and two stars. The brave Col. Spicely of the 24th Indiana, (commanding 2d Brig. 2d Div.) behaved splendidly, and with that precision and skill so characteristic of him; he carried his brigade safely through, and too much honor cannot be given to him. Indeed he has well deserved a star – and should at once have it. Methinks after the war has ended and all permitted to return to their homes, the people – the friends of Col. Spicely – will be glad to welcome him back to his own home in Orleans, Indiana. The war is near over – in fact is now virtually ended. Soon we will leave the “Sunny South” but never – never can we forget those of our brave comrades left behind, whose bones lie bleaching in the green valleys – under the head of a Southern sun. They have fallen, but in our memory we see them still, they have offered up their lives as a sacrifice on the altar of their country. They died defending our land from the power of a hellish and despicable aristocracy – in fact a monarchy. Men of the old 24th Indiana have fallen on many bloody battle fields. We can count numbers of them at Shiloh, Grand Prairie, Port Gibson, Fourteen Mile Creek, Champion Hill, Miss, (where two hundred and one men fell in two hours), siege of Vicksburg (forty-five days), siege of Jackson (seven days), Grand Cotee, Louisiana, and last though not the least, Blakely, Ala. And in looking back, it makes our hearts bleed to think of the noble sons of Indiana that have fallen in this war, waged by a stubborn and rebellious foe. Their seats around the family fireside will be vacant. In the hours of sorrowing many, many bitter tears will be shed for the fallen, the absent once. But he died in a glorious cause. Their death is not one of dishonor. Now this once beautiful South has opened her eyes to the horrors of civil war, and to the great injustice she has done the best government man ever framed, and the men of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and others of the Southern States, are making vigorous efforts to a reconstruction, and ere long the old Eagle (America’s emblem) will again be the protection of the “sunny South;” of a firm and stronger Government than ever before, for the bad spoke of the wheel of this great machinery is removed – i.e. slavery. May God hasten the time when the many States shall be reunited and Americans show peace and good will toward all. And nations will look to us with fear and learn to respect this great and noble republic, as the best of God’s gifts to man. Free speech and liberty to all.
Forgive me if the bold text is off-putting. Highlighted the portion regarding Colored Troops for black history month, as well as the "bad spoke of the wheel." The middle highlight, "Their seats around the family fireside will be vacant," is a line that stuck with me the moment I first read it, I'm a sap for things like that.
There are three men named Sylvester in the 24th Indiana and all of them enlisted in 1861.
Sylvester Lett - Discharged in 1864 so I would rule him out.
Sylvester H Smith - I couldn't find a discharge date for but there was a note on the digital archives labeling him "disabled" 50/50
Sylvester Wheeler - Discharged in 1865 with the rest of the regiment. I think he's the most likely candidate.
There was a Sylvester Huffington who was in the 67th Indiana (which was consolidated with the 24th) I didn't find a discharge date for him either but I'm ruling him out as he makes no mention of the 67th.
If someone can find the discharge date for Sylvester Smith we might have our answer.