History of Buchanan County, Iowa 1842 to 1881
Transcribed by Tommy Joe Fulton and Peggy Hoehne
FROM THE TWENTY-SEVENTH REGIMENT.
FORT PICKENNY, MEMPHIS, December 24, 1862.
EDITORS CIVILIAN: - Our detachment arrived at this place one week ago to-day. We found that our regiment had left here, as we had supposed, and that its present place of sojourn is near Holly Springs. Any further definite particulars concerning it I cannot obtain.
A very strong force of sick was left behind, numbering about ninety. There are now here about one hundred and fifty of the regiment, over one hundred of whom are on the sick list. We found almost every one of those left behind by the regiment suffering from some form of disease. A large proportion of them are now convalescent, and it is well that they are, as it is impossible to obtain medical attendance. Most of them have no medicine whatever. A few, by great persistence, get a prescription once in two or three days. The cases are not generally of a very serious character, but it was a great mistake that a surgeon was not left in charge. There is a very large hospital in the city, where a few have been taken. They report good care. The Medical department of the army, as far as I have been able to observe, is not in the most perfect working order. Much suffering is experienced for the lack of medicines. I ran all over the fort to get a few very simple prescriptions put up, but without success. The large force which has been here, and the number of sick left behind, explains the condition of affairs.
When we shall go to the regiment, it is quite impossible to conjecture. A strong force is required now to make the attempt by land, and the very uncertain condition of our railroad connections makes it unsafe to go to Columbus. We may stay here for months, and we may go in a week.
Several of companies C and H have applied for discharge, and will obtain them as soon as they can be put through the proper forms. Those wishing to send letters to us here, should address "Detachment Twenty-seventh Regiment, Iowa Volunteers, Fort Pickenny, Memphis, Tennessee." Aside from the sickness among us, we fare well for soldiers. We are inside the fort, which is really a fortified camp, below and adjoining the city, of perhaps a mile and a half in length, and of one or two hundred rods in width. Quite a large number of houses are enclosed and occupied for hospitals, officers' quarters, and other purposes. The river bank is of clay, very steep, and from one hundred to one hundred and fifty feet in height. The whole works are of earth, and are mounted with heavy guns. With a proper garrison it would be hard to take.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, General Sherman's expedition was embarking. The number of troops, it is impossible to estimate - I judge, however, from fifty to seventy-five thousand. The troops now here number five or six thousand; about one-third of whom are unfit for duty. There are apprehensions of an attack upon the fort, and a part of our force is constantly stationed upon the outworks. Just now another rumor is in circulation, that the Twenty-seventh has been in a fight at Holly Springs. It is quite probable. The condition of the whole of west Tennessee is most unhappy. Run over as it is alternately by Federal troops and guerillas, it is fast becoming despoiled of its improvements and its people. How long this will continue, who knows?
Business in the city is not lively, except such as pertains to the army. Cotton is brought in to some extent, and sells quickly at much less than New York prices. Provisions of all kinds are high, as is also clothing. There are many secesh here who have recently been considerably exercised by certain orders of Major General Hurlbut, bearing quite hard upon disloyal persons. The weather has been for the most part very fine - a few rainy days and some frosty nights. On an average it is quite as warm and pleasant as the last of September and first of October in your latitude. To-day it is quite mild, with appearances of rain. It is not forgotten here, that to-morrow is Christmas, We confidently expect that while we find a fine dinner entirely out of the question, our friends at home, while enjoying themselves at their feasts, will hold us in remembrance and do ample justice for all.
H. C. H.
[ H. C. H. may feel well assured that the enjoyment of' many Christmas feasts was marred by recollections of the men "at the front." ]