Ransom Bush

Twenty-seven old Ransom Bush enlisted as a Sergeant in Company K of the Fourth Michigan Infantry on June 20, 1861. He died of disease (chronic diarrhea) at Philadelphia , Pennsylvania on September 4, 1862, and is buried in the National Cemetery there.

This letter was written by Ransom to his wife Catherine Bush, who was living in Dexter, Michigan. The letter’s photocopies are provided through the courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.


Dear Wife,                                                                          Fairfax Station   July 20, 1861

I received yours of the 13th tonight and [am] glad to hear from you and the rest. Now I am going to tell you just how things are here and what we are doing. We left Washington last Sunday [and] went to Clouds Mills [and] left there Tuesday. {On] Wednesday afternoon we took Fairfax Court House and [Fairfax} Station without firing a gun. There was about 6 or 8 thousand men at both places and they had breastworks made on every street but they had to run and leave them. We marched with about 12, 000 men in our Division. One half of [the men of] our regiment are stationed at the Station [and] the other [half] is at the Court house. The balance of the Division have gone on to Bull Run. They had a battle there but we do not know how it did come out yet. We had orders to wait on the wounded tonight when they come in with the cars. They must [have] done something. We could hear the guns from here. It lasted about 2 hours. There is going to be some hard fighting when they get to Manassas Junction. That is a strong place that is about 12 miles from here. But there will be about one hundred thousand men on our side  to fight the battle and they are coming in every day.

Now about what the boys have wrote home. We fare good enough here. We had rather hard fare one or two days when we first came to Washington. I was sick with the dysentery one day in Washington. But I [have] never felt better in my life than I do now. The boys all feel good. I have not done anything since we have been here but scout. Ed Hawks (probably Corporal James Edward Hawks of Company K) and myself went out one day.We got a little plunder. I got 2 blankets that is worth about 8 dollars a piece [and] Ed got one. I am going to give [1st Lieut. Harrison] Jeffords one. The other I shall send home when I get the chance. Yesterday [Pvt. Guy] Perkins and I was detailed with 7 men to scout for provisions. We was out all day. [We] drove in one good fat steer, and got 7 good hens, one turkey, about 60 lbs. of flour, and a good chunk of dried beef. Today we went again [and] got flour and meal. That is the business that I have been in here. You know it suits me.

Sunday   July 21

The wounded came in last night. The guide led them into a masked battery and they had 60 killed and wounded. 27 wounded went through here yesterday. Last night they retreated after that [but] set [out] this morning to attack them again. I guess they are fighting now for we can hear cannons firing in that direction now. We have got some big guns there, some that take 16 horses to draw, [and] any quantity of of small rifled cannons and brass pieces. There has been one regiment through here this morning and one just came in of Dutch Zouaves. This is the hardest looking country that I ever saw. There is lots of farms that have been cleared up and run out [and] have grown up woods again. The most of the houses here have been built 100 years [ago and] some more [than that]. The most of the folks here are so poor that they can’t get up alone. Lots of the poor folks have been pressed into the army and their families [have] nothing to live on. There is no danger of the army starving for they have up and left lots of flour in their camps here and cords (?) of baking. They destroyed all [that] they had time to. If I hear how [the] battle comes out I will write, if not, I will write again

They are getting at it pretty hot by the firing of the guns. They have been firing [for] about one hour and it gets hotter all the while. [Captain Alexander D.} Crane is lame now [so] we left him at Clouds Mills. He broke one of his toes. Some of the boys I have to stop writing. We have orders to march at 2 o’clock. The news is that they have drove our men back to Centerville. No more for now. I will write the first chance I have.

Good for this time. From your husband, R. Bush

Now Cate, write me a long letter and let me know how things is there. R. Bush

{it’s} one o’clock and [they’re still] fighting yet. No definite news. They think that we have got the best of it yet. It is the hardest battle so far that [was] ever fought in the states.

July 23, 1861

We are now at Arlington Heights. We have done great things since I commenced this letter. We have got a courageous lot of officers. As soon as the battle was over, they ordered us to retreat to Washington. They had a very hard battle. It is estimated by some that was in the battle that there was about ten thousand killed on both sides. Our company was sent out on the picket that night and the Colonel marched on double-quick and left us out there, about 1 1/2 miles from the Court House. When we came in, they had about two hours the start of us. That shows what he is. They would not [have] whipped us if we had not got out of ammunition. The Ellsworth Zouaves and Michigan First [Infantry] was badly cut to pieces, and one other regiment. We had the worst place at the Court House that was in the whole brigade if their cavalry came back. We left the Station at 2 o’clock and went to the Court House. Then [we were] sent out on picket [and] left there alone. If that is the way we are going to be used I have got enough of the war. But we have got to stand it so let her rip. We can do it. I am getting so that I think that I can stand anything. 10 o’clock and new orders.

Quarter past 2 and [it’s] back to meridian Hill. That is the way they drag us around. You see that if I should tell you all that is going on that it would keep me writing all the while. You must excuse this letter for not being in any shape. For when I commenced it, I was first Sergeant of the guard, and in hearing of the battle, then [going out] on picket that night till we was ordered to run. We was the last [of] that company on the ground. They stationed me on the advance picket with four men and I should have stayed there till this time. If they had not [have] ordered me to rally, I would [and] should have shot some of the secessionists before I had come in, if they had showed themselves. And since then  I have been on the march. [So] when I could get a chance, I would write a little. Tell Andrew that I got that money that he sent to Adrian. Why the devil don’t you, [or] some of you, write more letters to me? I write all the time [that ] I get. My blanket has been stolen that I was going to send home. I had no other paper when I commenced [writing] this letter so I will finish with it. If you can [not] read [this] Mrs. Y can do it. Will some of you send me some postage stamps [as I have] no pay yet. No more at present.

Yours, R. Bush