Erasmus Joseph Allton was born on November 30, 1834. When the American Civil War broke out, Allton joined the Union Army on August 16, 1861. Quickly after enlisting, Erasmus received a promotion to Company First Sergeant in the 30th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Company D. He would see action at many battles, including Second Bull Run, Centerville, South Mountain, Antietam, Vicksburg, Jackson Mississippi, Mission Ridge, Kennesaw Mountain, the Siege of Atlanta, Ezra Chapel, Jonesboro, Lovejoy’s Station, Sherman’s March to the Sea, Fort McAllister, and the march through North and South Carolina. Surely more than enough action for a man in his lifetime.
While serving in the war, Allton wrote many letters to Phoebe Catharine Shick, his girlfriend, as well as his parents. On May 11, 1865, he received another promotion to 1st Lieutenant and exited the army on August 13, 1865. After the war, he married Phoebe Catharine Shick on December 24, 1865 in Perry County, Ohio.
The following are two letters written by Allton during the Vicksburg Campaign.
Walnut Hills near of Vicksburgh Miss
June 2nd 1863
I am suffering terribly with the heat. We are camped in deep hollow where air can not get to us and the sun comes down upon us with all his might and we are suffering for the want of a cool breeze from the north to expel the heat with which we are now suffering, but we are well and should be satisfied that it is no worse with us than it is. We still have the rebs of Vicksburgh hemmed in on all sides and we are now very well fortified and if there were three times the force in the city that there is, we could hold them there if we are not attacked in the rear. We have got the news here that Jeff. Davis is sending a force of 100,000 men here to drive us away from the hills, but I think he will have to send a greater force than that if he expects to do anything, for our position is a strong one and we have an awful force here. A great deal to[o] much for 100,000 rebs. We have nothing to do now but to watch the rebs to keep them from breaking the lines of our army. They tried that game last night but a few shots from our batteries sent them back into their dens a howling. Everything is quiet today with the exception of a shot now and then from a cannon to let them know we are still on hands. The rebel officers say they will eat the last mule and rot in the last ditch before they surrender. But I think that the men are of a different mind entirely for some of them come into our lines every day and give themselves up as prisoners of war. The most of them say they are tired of fighting and wish the war was settled and we wish the same thing. We are now between the Miss. and Yazoo rivers and the country is entirely different here to that on the other sides of the rivers, which is very level and swampy and not a spring in the whole country round about where we have been[.] but where we are now is very hilly and rough with any amount of springs of excellent water. The place where we are camped is called Walnut Hills. On our right is Hain[e]s Bluffs, on our left is Warrenton, a small town which we took from the rebs when we came here. We also drove them from Hain[e]s Bluffs. So that the city of Vicksburgh is entirely cut off to itself and all that they get to eat is what they have with them, and when that is gone through they will either have to starve or surrender, for I do not think they can get out. We are within speaking distance of each other, and one evening while one of our boys was making coffee one of the rebs wanted to know what he was doing, he told him and asked if he did not want some coffee for his supper. He told him he did. Our soldiers told him to come over and get it. The reb asked if he would let him go back again, he said he would. The reb came and got his coffee and ate his supper with our boys and after he had for his supper our boys told him he could go back to his own side but he said no he would give himself up as a prisoner of war for he was tired of war. He was therefore placed under guard and is now our prisoner. You said that you heard our Capt. was struck with the palsy. I do not know whether it was palsy or not but the captain has not really been able for duty since we came down the river which was the first of January. I am afraid he never will be with our Co. much more, for he can not stand the hardships that soldiers have to go through with. He is now talking of resigning and going home as soon as this fight is over. The troops are in the highest spirits and seem to be proud that they are here and feel confident of the downfall of Vicksburgh, and I hope we will not be disappointed. I will now stop writing for this time. I hope these lines will find you well and cheerful. Remember E. J. and write soon for I have not heard from you since I last wrote. Direct as before. This from your faithful lover,
E. J. Allton
Walnut Hills near Vicksburgh Miss
Well Catharine I am still well and hearty[.] your letter found me so as you wished it to do. But it did not find me a Lieutenant as you had heard I was. There has been no promotions in our Rgt. among the enlisted men for sometime. We still hold our position in near of Vicksburgh but the rebs have not surrendered yet. But I do not think they can hold out much longer. since I last wrote to you Grant has taken Yazoo city and destroyed our two million dollars worth of property and captured one gun boat and two steamers and took 1000 head of cattle. All their guns and ammunition met with the fate of destruction. The rebs attcked our ___* Rgts at Millikens Bend[.] The ___* at first run but the rebs took no prisoners but killed them as fast as they came across them. The ___* found that it would not do so they turned on the rebs and used the bayonet and killed the rebs like sheep. The rebs could not stand cold steel so they took to their huts and run. The ___* took 200 of them prisoners and it is said they took 5 pieces of artillery. I wish I could see you and I could tell you these things a great deal better than I can write them[.] The army is in good condition. The wounded are getting along very well. I have not time to write much and will have to close hoping this will find you as well as I am. Write soon and remember me, for Catharine you are not forgotten. Write and directs as before.
We have now been in line of battle for 23 days
*The missing word refers to Black Americans in a way considered today too racist and derogatory to print here.