Great 3/4/1863 map of Vicksburg battlefield in letter

May 31, 2021
My great great grandfather Charles “Charlie" Edward Mallory never knew his father, who ran off to the California Gold Rush two to three years after his birth. In 1862, he ran away from home three times to join the Union army, and he finally was given permission by his mother to sign up as a drummer boy on July 17, 1862 at Bellevue Iowa, Jackson County, in Company K, 31st Regiment, Iowa State Volunteers, under the personal care of Sgt. M.V. Foley, a family friend. After 2 years of fighting, the regiment went to Atlanta in Sherman's army and took part in the March to the Sea. He was honorably discharged at the close of the war at Louisville, KY, on June 27, 1865.

Because Charlie was illiterate, his foster brother in arms, Michael Foley, wrote this letter home on behalf of Charlie to his mom and stepdad on Mach 4, 1863, while encamped at the Siege of Vicksburg. The detailed map of Union and Rebel placements and the general field of play at the time is amazing to me.

I’d be interested if others have seen similar maps on letters from the siege, or if anyone else knows the exact movements of Company K, 31st Iowa or any other details related to my great great grandfather’s experiences as he spent his formative years in battle across the South.

The tintype is Charlie with Michael Foley at the end of the war on the left and the photo on the right is their reunion for the first time in 63 years at a GAR convention in 1928.

The transcription of the letter follows:

Camp in front of Vicksburg March 4th 1[8]63

Mr. John Nelson

Dear Sir Your letter

to Charlie of Feb 23rd has come to hand this morning

as I act as a kind of guardian for Charles I now

sits me down to answer you. I am happy to say

that the little fellow is first rate more than I can

say for myself for I am quite sick I have

had a severe attack of the Yellow Jaundice but I

am getting better now. Chs is certainly the toughest

Boy of his age or size that I ever have seen

in my life he stands it like a Hero infact the

Boys & smaller size men stand it better than

the larger That big "crack company" from Andrew

which the folks said so much about is about

gone up The Bellevue company is the best

company in the Regiment. You may think I

am bragging on my own company but not so

what I say is the fact and I can prove it

You can judge for yourself There is 10 companies

in the Regiment well of course each company

has to furnish one tenth of the guard but they cant

do it so Co. K furnishes one third or our

whole relief so you see figures wont lie

The weather down here is splendid The days are

as warm as in the month of June in Iowa

but the nights are quite cool so a person

can sleep comfortably under one Blanket (or two if he

can get em) there is an immense amount of sickness

here but as the weather is setting I hope the

health of the troops will improve. Charlie says that

was a first rate letter of yours he likes to get letters from

his Mother but says yours are the best hers are

too "bolumcholey" (No offense Mrs Nelson)

You speak of not hearing from Charlie I do not know

the reason for I write as often as I can

Generally once a week. But John Please

excuse me I am so tired that I must

quit Charlie sends his love to all. tell his

Mother not to be uneasy about him he is doing

finely. Respects to all of my friends whom you

may chance to see

Good Bye will write as soon

as I get well until then good Bye

Yours &c M. V. Foley

map of Vicksburg battle positions below with descriptions:

Here is a rough sketch of our Position I do not

pretend that it is correct but still it will give you

an idea how we are situated

The long line in front of the Forts are rifle pits the little dots

are the stumps where the Timber has been cut