History of Buchanan County, Iowa 1842 to 1881
Transcribed by Tommy Joe Fulton and Peggy Hoehne
LETTER NO. CVII.
CAMP REED, February 4, 1863.
FRIEND RICH: - Our rain of two weeks is followed by a cool, pure, bracing atmosphere; cool enough to remind us of Iowa winters, but moderating, under the influence of a southern sun, until we think of the gentle breezes of a mild April day.
There has been no movement of importance since I wrote you last. Each day we forage or do picket duty, as routine requires or generals decide. Five companies of the regiment were yesterday detailed to go to Henderson Station, a point on the railroad, distant about twelve or fifteen miles Corinthward, to act as guard for a forage train. They took two day's rations, and were under command of Major Howard.
The health of the regiment is improving. There are now about one hundred and forty on the sick list, and some few at the hospitals in the city. One hospital is quite comfortable, yet most of the sick remain in quarters and report to the surgeons for treatment daily. In the city here there are several hospitals, where the sick are as kindly cared for as they can be away from home and home friends. The large and fine building, formerly occupied as a female seminary, is now converted into a hospital.
A court martial is being held in Jackson. Lieutenant Colonel Lake is in attendance. Of the business appertaining to it I have not tried to learn. It is, however, evidently quite extended, and may result in good to the army hereabouts. We have lived long enough in this land of military government, to understand something of the policy pursued by some of our leaders. I have never yet, with but one exception, indulged in complaint against any one in any way connected with our army, in any of my communications. But an order which came to-day, tries my patience, and I must be allowed the privilege of permitting my thoughts to run away with my pen, and tell the simple story of our wrongs. A week or so ago there was a heavy fall of snow. There was no dry wood in the vicinity that could be obtained by our troops. The only chance for getting it was from some green oak trees at hand. A neighbor lived hard by and his fence was near our camp. Our orders were not to get rails from the fence, and the boys say they did not, but some of the rails have been taken. The owner of these was one Parkman, whose loyalty I do not call in question; but it does seem to me that, if he was a good union man, he would he willing to sacrifice a few rails for the benefit of the preservers of his property and his liberties. The order came to-day for our men to take their axes forthwith and rebuild that fence. The order was received with evident dissatisfaction by all the officers and men. Colonel Gilbert was sorry that such an order was issued, and would have given hundreds of dollars to have saved his men the disgrace of building that fence. Our regiment to-day is rebuilding the fence, but in a manner satisfactory to themselves.
Now is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Did the patriots who now fill our armies imagine that they were to wear their lives away on southern soil for such a purpose as this? Verily they did not. The fact in the case is simply this: There are too many, vastly too many traitorlike, treason-sympathizing devils among our leaders. A Murphy at Holly Springs could sleep reposedly under the shadow of his cotton bales, though warned of his danger, until his little force was surprised and taken prisoners.
LATER :-The five companies detached to Henderson Station for the purpose of foraging, have not returned yet. Two of the five have gone some miles below Henderson to remain there for a few days. Those at Henderson, as do those below, are enjoying themselves quite well, living well, and being quartered in such receptacles as they have hastily constructed of loose boards and shingles. Lieutenant Rupee, of company C, is acting adjutant of the detachment, and reports to headquarters semi-weekly, on Sundays and Wednesdays. How long they will remain we do not know. Their tents and camp equipage are here. Colonel Dunham, commanding the brigade, will, it is hoped, soon reunite the regiment, that we may again appear on drill and dress-parade, in all the pomp of days of yore. This morning two other companies, K and F, were ordered to Jackson for provost guard until further orders. They struck tents, loaded their baggage and reported at the provost marshal's office at the court house. It is hoped, by those who remain in camp, that they will soon return. No doubt they will like their new duty until the novelty is worn away, and then they will be anxious to revisit their old comrades. Only three companies are now left it, camp, H, C, and D. Captain Miller of company H, has been on the sick list for some time, his complaint being rheumatism. The command of the company devolves on the first lieutenant, O. Whitney, a good officer, and a long loved friend.
Lieutenant Donnan is, and has been for some time, at brigade headquarters, as acting aid-de-camp, on acting brigadier Dunham's staff. He is well liked up there, and appears to be, in turn, well pleased. Orderly Wilcox met with an accident a few days ago. Being unskilled in the use of an ax, in attempting to prepare wood for, a fire, he struck the ball of his foot with the ax, injuring it quite seriously. Sergeant Smyzer is acting as orderly for Colonel Dunham. Mr. Woodward of company H is cooking at brigade headquarters, and G. Fuller of company C is clerking there. Captain Noble is well, and in the absence of officers, has been officer of the day for consecutive days. Lieutenant Sill is quite unwell, and is in the hospital. Lieutenant Hemmenway is healthy and stirring. Orderly Poor is always on hand to perform his duties. I would I had room in this sheet for the name of each noble man of the two companies from your part of the county, and also for a statement, which if just, would be very creditable to them.
C. H. L.