1863: Isaac Daniel Landis to Parents

This letter was written by Isaac D. Landis (1841-1929) who served as 2nd Lieutenant of Co. H and Adjutant in the Field & Staff of the 9th Vet. Pennsylvania Cavalry. He was the son of Isaac & Catherine (Weidman) Landis. In 1860, he was a silversmith and jeweler living in Shippensburg, Cumberland County. He stood 5′ 7″ tall and had dark hair and blue eyes.

Isaac enlisted in Shippensburg on 26 August 1861, and mustered into federal service at Camp Greble, Roanoke, Virginia, October 29 as a corporal with Co. H, 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry (92nd Pa). He was promoted to sergeant major May 23, 1863, and reenlisted as a Veteran Volunteer January 1, 1864. He again was promoted to 2nd lieutenant July 1, 1864, and to adjutant July 7, 1864, at Nashville, Tennessee, but never mustered at the latter rank. He was wounded at Griswold, Georgia, November 11, 1864, and honorably discharged with his company July 18, 1865.

After the war, Isaac married Anna Mary Davis and fathered Charles A., Emma Elizabeth, Henry Sutton, William (b. 02/15/69), and Mary Pauline (b. 05/11/76). Only the latter two children are in the 1880 census for Chester County, Pennsylvania, where he lived the remainder of his life.

The letter is dated 14 April 1863, from Franklin, Tennessee, where the 9th Penn Cavalry waited as part of Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland. In the letter the brothers describe Confederate General Earl Van Dorn’s April 10 attack on Franklin in detail, with the 40th Ohio being mentioned as having taken all of the casualties. When Isaac needed to attend to his duties, his older brother Gideon Weidman Landis (1838-1913)—also serving in the same unit—took over and finished the letter. Gideon was promoted to Commissary Sergeant in January 1864.

george
Image of Sgt. Gideon W. Landis with letter of of 14 April 1863 written by the Landis brothers mentioning Confederate Gen. Earl Van Dorn’s ill-advised attack on the Union stronghold of Franklin, Tennessee

TRANSCRIPTION

Camp of the 9th Penna. Cavalry
Franklin, Tennessee
April 14th 1863

Dear Parents,

I now apply myself to the pleasant task of writing to you again to let you know that we are still enjoying good health. We received your letter on Sunday last and was surprised that you had not received our last letters but suppose you have got them by this time. I was sorry to hear of Grandmother’s sickness but I am afraid her days are about numbered although I hope she might survive at least until this terrible rebellion is over.

We have moved our camp since I commenced writing this letter and it rained all day which is nothing more than it has done every time we have moved camp since I’ve come here. We have a pretty camp but no shade although we might as well get used to the hot weather gradually.

The rebs made an attack on us the other day. They came a charging into our pickets and five came right up to the pontoon bridge [spanning the Harpeth River] and undertook to take an officer prisoner when the infantry guards shot three and took the others prisoner. I tell you, it was a dear charge for Van Dorn. He intended to take this place that day and the next he was to take Nashville. His men were all drunk & he thought there were only about three thousand men here and was sure of taking this place but he slipped up on it slightly. ¹

I suppose we will stay here quite awhile as I do not think Rosecrans will attack them but wait for them to attack us. — I. D. Landis

[In a different hand]

N. B. [Note Bene]

As Isaac had to go out with the forage train, I will send this off. We are enjoying good health which is the greatest blessing that a soldier can have. We have a great deal of duty to do here but that has been our lot ever since we have been in service and is nothing new.

Van Dorn made a sorry charge on us the other day. Our loss was 3 killed, 3 wounded, and 4 taken prisoners (all of the 40th Ohio Infantry). The Rebel loss was heavy. We took 70 prisoners—buried about 20—but their loss is not known. But deserters say their loss is over 300.

I wish you would send a silver pendant (watch pendant) with a screw and a main spring the size of the piece & send enclosed and charge them with the hands and we will pay you on pay day. We expect to be paid in a few days. Write often and we will do the same. They did not go for forage, Isaac is back. Yours &c., — G. W. Landis


¹ Though greatly outnumbered, the impetuous Van Dorn could not resist attacking the 40th Ohio Infantry in line of battle “out on a piece of open ground” on the Columbia Pike.  In his biography of Van Dorn, author Robert G. Hartje wrote that “for a few moments, the action was heavy. Van Dorn’s horse was shot from under him as he led the first wave, but he signaled for the attack to continue. The charging rebels pushed the Federals back. For a moment it appeared that they had broken the line. Then heavy guns and reinforcements swung the balance, at the attack faded. Blazing firepower finally halted the Confederate assault that was taking on all the earmarks of a full-scale attack….Casualties were light in both armies; the Confederates suffered more from the deadly artillery fire from Franklin early in the battle. Why Van Dorn attacked such a position in the first place is still a mystery. He probably underestimated the size and firepower of the garrison [at Franklin].” [pages 299-301]


 

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