This letter was written by Pvt. Charles Levereth Bonney (1833-1879), the son of Sewall Bonney (1793-1862) and Ann Austin (1794-1853). of Rockport Township on the shoreline of Lake Erie in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Charles was a farmer who enlisted for three years service in Company B, 103rd Ohio Regiment. In May 1864 he was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps where he served until June 1865. He died at the Soldier’s Home in Dayton, Ohio in 1879. He is buried at the Dayton National Cemetery, Section A, Row 16, Grave 72.
The 103rd Ohio Regiment was organized in August and September, 1862 to serve for three years. Having received arms in Cincinnati, it crossed over to Covington, where it was furnished with clothing and other necessaries for camp life and thus equipped it marched out to Fort Mitchel. Though undated, this letter was probably written in September 1862, before the soldiers in the 103rd Ohio had even received all of their equipment. They were part of a bolstered defense to protect Cincinnati from a threat by Confederate Brig. General Henry Heth. Heth and his men marched from Lexington, Kentucky on the Lexington Turnpike arriving south of Covington on September 6. After reconnoitering the defenses at various points, he determined that an attack was pointless. Heth’s forces stayed only a few days, skirmishing near Fort Mitchel on September 10-11 and returning south to Lexington on September 12, 1862.
The 103rd Ohio spent its first year in Kentucky, but in the fall of 1863 it was ordered to eastern Tennessee, where in its first engagement at Blue Springs, it lost 3 killed, 4 wounded, and 6 taken prisoners. During the siege of Knoxville the regiment lost about 35 in killed and wounded. In May, 1864, it formed part of Sherman’s grand army and in the engagement at Resaca lost over one-third of its effective force. The regiment lost heavily during the Atlanta campaign.
Bonney wrote this letter to his friend, Henry Sanford, Jr. (1837-1899), the son of Henry Sanford (1813-18xx) and Polly Beckley (1816-1892) of Rockport Township, Cuyahoga County, Ohio.
I now will write you a few lines to let you know how I get along. I have no ink so I will write a few lines [in pencil]. I am now in Camp [Fort] Mitchel. The enemy are all around us. We have arrested some of them. They have [been] escorted to Cincinnati to take up their abode until further orders. Our company and one more was sent out skirmishing the other night and was gone twenty-four hours. We went within one mile of their camp. The calls flew like thunder, you better believe, but we won’t scat any.
We are now in the entrenchments waiting for them. The woods are full of them. Our boys have drove them back 5 miles. One of our[s] shot one of them off a house. He was up there with one more though one rolled off and died and the other made tracks through the roof. They can’t do anything with us. We have about one hundred thousand troops and it [is] stated — you will see that I have made a mistake and wrote on the wrong page — their forces are (so the prisoners say) about 40 thousand. I guess that there is more of them. There is 100 men chopping down the timber so as to give them a good sweep.
We have good living when we are sent out on picket. We bring in pigs, turkeys and geese, and chickens. We are now on a farm belonging to a rebel. He is a Colonel in the rebel army. They are a hard set. Their uniforms are cinnamon pants and grey shirts. This farm is confiscated.
We were out in the rain all night. We have not got our tents yet. Henry, give my love to all of my friends, to Mr. [Edmond] Willford and his wife, and all of the rest, and write to me if you will when you get this for I may not stay here long. Direct to C. L. Bonney, Covington, Kentucky, Company B, 103 Regiment, in care of Captain [William W.] Hutchinson, War Path, Virginia, and then it will follow.