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27th Iowa Top Banner

History of Buchanan County, Iowa 1842 to 1881
Transcribed by Tommy Joe Fulton and Peggy Hoehne

page 17

LETTER NO. LXXXV.*

[The following is a private letter from Colonel Lake to the editor of the Guardian. - E. P. ]

ON STEAMER EMERALD, BETWEEN FORT PILLOW AND MEMPHIS,
November 22, 1862.

FRIEND RICH: - We left Cairo, Illinois, on the evening of Wednesday, the 20th instant, with directions to report at Columbus to Brigadier General T. O. Davis, commandant of that post. We arrived there about 9 P. M. of the same day, and immediately reported at head-quarters. The general had retired, but his adjutant gave us orders to report immediately to General Sherman, at Memphis. We had been warned by General Tuttle, before leaving Cairo, that we should be sent to Memphis without doubt, so that these orders were not unlooked for, and, besides, they were what we wanted. The boat immediately started out, and ran down near the famous Island No. 10, where we lay until morning. There our boys went ashore and cooked breakfast, and were ready to start at daylight. A gun-boat lay at anchor toward the lower end of the island, but we were allowed to pass without being brought to, or asked to give an account of ourselves. The boat ran all day without landing, meeting several steamers going up, loaded with confiscated cotton, contrabands, mules, etc., including a few rebel prisoners. At night we stopped under the protection of the guns of Fort Pillow, now known on the war maps as Fort Wright. The Fifty-second Indiana is encamped here. They cost the Government nothing for subsistence, as they take horses, cattle, corn and cotton enough to pay all expenses. Just as we were leaving there this morning, several loads of cotton came in for sale. An agent is stationed here to purchase that article. He has a permit from the provost marshal to buy, but has to take a bill of sale of the men from whom he buys, and buys only from those who have taken the oath of allegiance. Several gun-boats are stationed along the river, to prevent guerilla parties from firing into boats as they pass.

We see but few plantations in passing down the river, and the scenery from Cairo thus far is very monotonous and dull. It consists principally of cottonwood trees and sand banks. Fort Pillow affords an exception. It is situated on a bluff that rises about one hundred feet above the river. The fort consists of earthworks, made with a great amount of labor, near the river banks. They were built in a manner that completely controlled the navigation of the river at this point, the guns being so situated that they could range up or down the Stream; and, as competent engineers have decided, their construction was on scientific principles. The guns that were left here are all injured in some way, so as to make them worthless. One sixty-pounder, mounted on the top of the bluff, and in such a manner as to command the road leading up the bluff, was blown up by first driving in a long ball, then a charge of powder, then another long ball, and then heating it by building a fire under the gun until the powder ignited. This took a piece some two feet long out of the gun, which was about eighteen inches thick around the bore. The slugs can now be seen in the gun. A thirteen inch mortar was halved - one half was lying on the ground near its carriage, the other I did not see. One cannot pass over these works, which I have not time to describe fully, without wondering how the rebels ever did so much labor in so short a time.

We are now approaching Memphis, and I will write you again from there.

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