Now I must begin another page but space a premium. Henry J. Hunt.
Columbia SC, March 20 1886
Dear Col. Gantt.
Yours of 15 ??? arrived yesterday. And so far as the matter of reinforcements(?) is concerned, has already been disposed of. Your telegraphic dispatch was received very promptly, and doubtless the letter it heralds will be received before I finish this. Which will not be until tomorrow - Sunday!
Yesterday my son feels much better. The quinine he took the day before seems to have had some effect for his temperature was lower all day. He feels well! I drove him out, he said he had not felt so well for a long time. That now he was going to take every care of himself for it was his last chance - said also. That there was no ulceration now of the throat but whether he has vitality enough to profit by that is a question. He even added "I have confidence in Dr. Tally left. Hear I cannot trust his eyes They are old." - implying that the ??? medicine sometimes cures. It much oftener kills. It increases the mortality. People in the whole world would live longer if all the medicine (and doctors) were abolished. Washington declared in orders that ardent spirits were "salutary" if not abused. The same may perhaps be said of medicine. And I am inclined to think that the prohibition of "drugs + medicine" would do more good and be more reasonable than that of rum, etc. Here is a basis for another reform agitation. Hope no Yankee will get hold of it.
I am sorry that your health is not good. But you must some change of scene? I regretted greatly that you had ??? ?? shooting - and am inclined to think that a few weeks in the south with Robert Fitzhugh would do you good. My mind has been haunted at times by his description of acres of grouse and thinking what a fit - it may that you were not already there, of course you have not felt like seeking such recreation or distraction, but once out there and making your bag every day. Your appetite for it would return, and it could do you much good, the effects of which would be felt for months. Then you must try and come to Washington. And see what changes have ??? there - in its population and in the town itself.
I don't ask you to shut yourself up in the hot place. You must come out to the house, if in season and stay with us. There is not a more beautiful place in the country. My house is in a ??? with the dome of the Capitol and if there is any breeze in the District of Columbia, we are sure to get it. ??? to turn easy at all hours as I have (??? ???) a trap, a coupee, for that express purpose. It is in the summer that the home is beautiful. If you prefer to come to W in the winter you will find the house quiet at least, and comfortable. And Mrs. Hunt and the girls glad to receive you.
[page order is somewhat confused - I cannot find a clear transition for this page, and have inserted it here. DAP]
Might be mistaken as to the ulceration. After his return he had a good appetite, and did justice to a nice dinner the doctor sent him, then sat out on the porch with a mild Havana.. A few puffs of which are allowed him - he was an inveterate smoker, and wholly stopping it affects his stomach - while doing this he remarked upon the loveliness of the weather and the blossoms, which are just beginning to appear. When I seized upon the occasion to say - "it is very late in the season for it here. I ? say the warm atmosphere extends to Washington, and they are as much advanced there." He shook his head and said "Cohen warned me not to commit the usual error of coming home too soon, to wait for the strawberries and come north with them" and added "strawberries will come from the south in a week." I don't know if he suspects any 'plotting' but there must be arrangements to pursuade him to go home, and I have written to ??? to get Dr. Cohen's advice or at least consent to his return. For I am thuroughly(sic) convinced in my own mind that he will be in every way better off at the 'Home" than here, and the benefits of having the family around him and seeing his children about him will ? more than compensate for any disadvantage from difference of temperature or of air. In fact he cannot have better air than at the house, nor more beautiful ?, and the difference in food alone would also compensate for any disadvantage in air. ? of home - to how we ? diplomatically to get his willing consent. He is under the effect of another dose of quinine now.
I partly agree with you about this 'drug' business and ? as to surgery. I do think however that drugs are sometimes good. ? my ?, ? may shorten my life, but it certainly shortens my attacks and the pain. Of ? them however I have little doubt. Even if ?! I know that you are over "threescore and ten," but with your rash habits of life you ought to expect to pass fourscore, without more than the ordinary organic troubles of those who are on the shady side of sixty. I don't let my little troubles in that way disturb me, nor make me think my system is breaking up - nor should you. When your business is finally closed so that you can indulge yourself, I think - if I may be allowed to think with so little data. for ? upon that same activity ? travel. some absence from St. Louis will do much to cure your ills and everything to turn your mind from them. Don't look forward to "a tedious and painfull (sic) period of survival" If you do you will certainly find it. ? can with your resources of mind and memory and friendships and all that. ? see I am taking to philosophizing. It is of great inspiration that I should live to fourscore and I am learning the fact that man is a piece of machinery which must work and will wear out sooner or later, but that the better it is cared for, the longer it will last.
About Gettysburg. I like you had always understood that Hancock's services in restoring order on the 1st were decisive, that to them were due the fact that order was restored, and that the enemy did not get possession of Cemetery Hill. That the troops - and especially the 11th Corps - were routed: and only Hancock's lucky arrival saved the position and held the troops to it. That or such was the inference from Swinton. It was easy for such an idea to get abroad. Howard had reported from the field to Gen. Meade that the First Corps had behaved badly. Heaven knows on what he based this statement. I do not. Then on the (2nd?) we found that Doubleday had been superseded in the command of the corps by Newton which seemed to confirm Howard's report. Then Buford reported [this before Hancock's arrival, but not (as Hancock said) before he (H) had been ordered to the front to supersede Howard as if in consequence of Buford's report] that in his - Buford's - opinion there was "no directing head on the field."
There things got out. A great deal was said about Hancock, and I accepted it without examination, or suspicion, and rejoiced much over the credit given H. Until I examined it closely lately, and then I found my error. I have no doubt that Hancock rendered good service in common with others, and perhaps in a higher degree. I don't compare him with Howard, never meant to. I have very much your opinion of the latter - a humbug in some reports and a bootlick as it behooved most aspiring men to be in those days. But here is what I found. Howard had at an early period, some say by direction of Reynolds, pitched upon Cemetery Hill as a rallying point in case of disaster.
There was not much in that, it was plain a thing as that an island in a sheet of water was the proper shape for the ? of a swamped boat near it. And that he stationed a division of the Eleventh Corps on that Hill, to prepare it - which was wise. And they did so prepare it by selecting proper positions for their batteries and covering the guns by works from surrounding points. And on this command, the troops of both 1st & 11th Corps rallied. Not from a panic nor from a disposition to retreat further. Although there were ? as always in every battle some who did go to the rear and had to be brought back.
But as a matter of fact, the 1st Corps, altho it had lost more than half in numbers, did not abandon the field of battle, until ordered to do so by Doubleday. An order he had frequently a (and?) repeatedly solicited "until reinforced" but which order Howard did not give. When the 11th Corps was driven and the right of the 1st broken in and the ground was no longer tenable. Doubleday ordered the corps to fall back + occupy Cemetery Hill. This order was obeyed. The retreat was effected in reasonably good order the ? repeatedly halting and ? the combat and took post as directed. Altho in the disorder of such a retreat, not in the disorder of panic.
The 11th Corps was badly handled, was altogether too weak for the ground it covered, was taken in flank and rear but did some good fighting for all that. Getting entangled in the town it lost many prisoners and got broken up a great deal but it formed on its reserve division. The troops immediately occupied the position. The stone walls and the houses selected for them - importance(?) has been due to that corps.
It is not a question with me between Howard and Hancock. Howard ? et. al. and the troops. I must include Buford's services. He formed his cavalry, 2500 about, on the plain between Cemetery Hill and on the left flank of the position.This faced Hill's corps who prudently withdrew his troops back to Seminary Hill. And left Ewell with Rodes division and two brigades of Earlys alone in front of our position They also were entangled in the town (more in the disorder of a hard fight + pursuit.) Made no effort to pursue to the Cemetery, or attack or to threaten even. Rhodes had lost 2500 out of his 8000 men. He had been badly mauled. And his time and the cover the town gave him were utilized in restoring order to his own troops - he says so. Early too was in some disorder, he had noted the good order in which the 1st Corps mostly had retired, astride, not through the town to Cemetery Hill. And the threatening position of Buford, who as he says (had the Confederates attempted the assault) have swept through the town, retaking the prisoners &c. It was the good fighting of our troops that had so disabled the greatly superior Confederate force that they were in no ? ? ? of an attack - were not even threatened, and, it would have been curious if troops who had fought so well all day under every disadvantage of numbers and position had been, when they had a compact position their flanks well covered, the artillery of both corps well posted and commanding all the approaches if they had then become so panic-stricken that but for the personal efforts of Hancock, Howard Warren or anybody else, they would have abandoned the place.
I am a little puzzled about one thing. Lts Early and Turner, recorded what Mr. Turner calls in his narrative (letter to ??) 'Round Top,' but which Maj. Campbell Brown says was 'Culps Hill.' I think it must have been Wolfs hill or the highest point of Culps Ridge not that just overlooking the Cemetery. Turner places the Confederates entry into town at 3. (it was 4 1/2) and says he was on the hill at 5 pm. ? says it would be at 6 1/2 pm, he was on the hill. Turner says the Cemetery Hill was surrounded by their position, and the inference is that there were no federals on Culps Hill: Now about this time that the 1st Corps reached the hill - 4 1/2 - a stray Indiana regiment (which had been detached to increase the train and cattle guard in the morning, which had not been engaged, but which on hearing of the heavy fighting left the train) came up. It was sent not by Hancock, nor Howard, nor Warren but by it's division commander Wadsworth, who took this regiment at once to Culps hill where one of its captains, a civil engineer, laid out a plan of the works. The regt. was joined by the rest of the brigade went to work + was soon solidly established. I have been on the ground with an officer of the regiment and have his narrative and that of the colonel.
Here was a reinforcement which arrived just as the 1st Corps reached the hill. Its officers saw no signs of panic nor threats of the enemy until after they were established, when a reconnoitering party ascended the hill behind their position, was attacked and driven off. I do believe that the presence and exertions of both Warren and Hancock were useful and inspiring. They were both well known in the army. All knew that Warren brought a stout heart and clear head with him, and that Hancock was a fighting man whose presence also implied that of the 2nd Corps, which was but a little way behind.
Hills withholding his troops. Altho he says he thought the federals were 'routed.'
Rodes halting his division to restore order. Early doubts as to the results of an assault. The firm front presented by the troops on Cemetery Hill which made Lee hesitate + decline(?) to order an attack, negating the idea of panic and disorder. I think Ewell was perfectly right in waiting for Johnsons division and the concurrent reports of Long (sent by Lee expressly to examine) Of Rodes, Early + Ewell, that the federals were strongly posted + presented a firm front are conclusive. Well my hand begins to cramp and I must stop.
Tuesday 21st: Yours of 18th and enclosures received. I was stupid in being so brief in my tel. dispatch. I never "?" on any cue? in my life, and supposed that what I telegraphed would be understood. As it was, it appears you have doubtless received my 'letter' - I need not have telegraphed you - for this morning I have arranged affairs at this side of the line, with my son and the doctor in council: we will go home sometime between this and April 1st. I find I must be very careful. To travel at night in a sleeping car would endanger his life, he is liable to suffocation. Once or twice the doctor here, thought he would have to "cut his throat" - (insert a tube to breath (sic) through, below the point of suffocation in the windpipe.) If possible he must travel only by day and always have a doctor within call. Gen. Drum must if possible make the arrangements at the other end of the line, and get a special car which he can detach, and come down so as to go with us. We will go at once to our house at the 'Home,' instead of to Gen. Drums. where they had their own apartments. And I think, as he himself says, that my son already feels better at the prospect of getting home, that he may die there, if he should not live through the summer (which the doctor says he may do) I have already said too much on the subject. "From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." I will only add to it now by saying that it is impossible for me to express my feelings toward you, or to say how close this matter brings you to me.
I can understand, to go back to your letter of the 15th, the effect of Gen. Hancock's reply to Sherman about "lawfull (sic) orders." They picked their men? for duty in Washington in the winter of '76.
I noted the idea (which was dwelt? on) about unquestioning obedience to orders from one's superiors, as abounden duty. It seemed to be the rule for high officers and for many young ones of the 'new' army.
Had they attempted to act on it, they would probably have found themselves in difficulty. A very sensible clear-headed young officer came to me (You may remember that I was brought up from Charleston + spent the winter in W. until the electrical commission affair was over.) to ask about this matter. The younger officers, some of the soldiers even, had been to 'lawyers' or prominent men to acertain exactly their obligation on this subject. They looked for trouble, and I concluded that any attempt such as seemed to be threatened to use the troops illegally in political matters would be resisted from below. By the way, you once spoke to me about the lines being drawn
[Note: there seems to be no transition to an ending or a closing to
the letter, nor any signature of Hunt's. DAP]