Transcribed and submitted by
Great Great Granddaughter of Charles Hennrich
Jan 11, 1863
I received your letter of the 26 November the 29th of December and recently I received a letter from Henry Kregel, and I see that you are all, thank God, well, as I also am.
Dear parents, I would have answered your letter at once but we received orders the same evening to prepare to march the next morning for Jackson, Tennessee. At the time we were encamped along the Mississippi Southern Railway south of the small village of Waterford where we were guarding the railroad. We left there in the morning by train and arrived in Jackson at one o'clock the next morning. I thought I would write from there but no one was allowed to leave the regiment so I could get no paper to write on. That same evening, the 31st, after we were all in bed, we were routed out to prepare for a march. We were quickly assembled and our captain gave orders that every man was to supply himself with several days rations and take only our blankets. The supplies, tents, and wagons had to be left behind at Jackson.
We left Jackson at eight o'clock that night and marched until three the next morning when we halted for rest. Then we heard, for the first time, that we were marching for Lexington where there was supposed to be 8000 enemy cavalry.
We rested until shortly before sunrise the morning of the first of January and then marched on four miles to where the 62nd Illinois was encamped where we ate breakfast. Then, all together, we marched on toward Lexington, arriving there before sunset. There we met the 39th Iowa and several Illinois regiments and they said that they had had a battle with the rebels and had captured 360 men and seven cannon. The prisoners were sent to Jackson that same evening. We marched one mile beyond the other side of town where we bedded down to await orders. These arrived the same night and were for us to break camp at four in the morning and pursue the rebels.
The next day we had good weather until four in the afternoon when a heavy rain set in which hindered our march considerably. We marched until seven that evening, the 2nd of January, when we were seven miles from the Tennessee river where we made camp. The most uncomfortable thing about it was that we had no tents and it rained all night. We had plenty of corn meal for supper because there was a wealthy rebel living where we camped and we took everything away from him. After eating we lay down to sleep, pulling the blankets well up over our ears. But our sleep did not last long. At eleven-thirty we were ordered into line of battle and we could plainly hear firing in the distance. We stood there about half an hour when we were given permission to break ranks and gather round the first, but with our weapons at hand so as to fall in on a moments notice. In the morning we learned that it had been a false alarm. One of the Illinois regiments had had the responsibility for picket duty and two of their companies had gone out after dark to scout. In the darkness they met up with each other and both groups opened fire killing four men and wounding three from both groups. The captain of one of the companies was wounded.
That same morning the cavalry was sent on ahead to see if they could help the rebels over the Tennessee River. Going was bad and it took the cavalry until noon to reach the river where the last of the rebels had just crossed and had already strengthened themselves with a few cannon with which they opened first on the cavalry. As soon as the firing was heard at camp the order was given to march on but our company was left behind to care for the sick and wounded. They kept up a heavy cannon fire on our boys but hit no one and our men could accomplish nothing so they came wearily back into camp about nine that same night.
We stayed there over the fourth and on the fifth started our return journey toward Jackson. On our return we took along everything that we came across. Since we took a different route back we passed through a region where many staunch rebels were living. Some of the other regiments had wagons, twenty-four in all, and we filled all of them with foodstuffs which we took from these rebels. The women and children screamed and cried and begged that we should not take everything but no attention was paid to them and we took all we could. From one rebel we took over $1500 worth of mules and horses and such things. We arrived back in Jackson on the 10th.
I will close now with a thousand greetings to all of you. Greet Henry Kregel for me and tell him that I received his letter and will answer him soon. Phillip Dock sends greetings to all of you. I saw him in Cairo.
Dear father, if you would be so good and send me a few postage stamps since one can obtain none here. I ran all over town but could find none and the letters go much quicker if there is a postage stamp attached.
Now for that old New Years Greeting: I wish you a prosperous New Year, Friends, Happiness and Eternal Contentment.
Charles Hennrich 1863
NOTES: Henry Kregel lived on a farm about one mile west of Garnavillo, Iowa. He was the man that Charles Hennrich was working for at the time of his enlistment. Phillip Dock was a son of one of the neighbor families of Jacob Hennrich.
Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee is northeast from Memphis, Tennessee. Waterford, Marshall County, Mississippi is about 10 miles south of Holly Springs, Mississippi and about 130 miles south of Jackson, Tennessee. Lexington, Henderson County, Tennessee is 25 miles east of Jackson, Tennessee and 25 miles west of the Tennessee River.
The skirmish mentioned as occurring the evening of 31st of December occurred at Parket's Crossroads between outposts of the command of the Confederate General Forrest and a Union brigade made up of the 39th Iowa, the 122nd Illinois, and the 50th Indiana regiments of infantry.
The return march to Jackson, Tennessee was by way of Bethel Springs, McNary County, Tennessee which is 30 miles southwest of Lexington and 30 miles southeast of Jackson.