Thursday, April 28, 2011

Prelude to a Battle

These are the events recorded by Will Newlon in his first war-time journal as the days led up to the Battle of Blue Mills Landing.

Grand River Bridge
Camp McCoy
Today the Company received shovels, picks, axes, sprouting hoes & mattocks [digging and grubbing tool] for the purpose of throwing up breastworks. We will begin to use them pretty soon here at the bridge [Grand River Bridge, Livingston County, Missouri].
If we had good breastworks, not so much guarding would be required, for I stand guard half the time, every other day.
Camp McCoy
The weather still continues to keep very dry & hot. The citizens say that it will continue to grow warmer until it rains and then the ground will become cooler.
How I would like to see it rain once more. But one rain have I seen since we came here. Grand River is still falling; is fordable now.
My health is good.
Camp McCoy
The same things so nearly transpire each succeeding day, and no material change in our position that I cannot, with ease, find anything of importance to fill my diary.
Some 12 reported from our Company this morning. On the sick list none serious, all bilious diseases.
My health is remarkable good.

Camp Grand River
I have to change my clothes every day; so hot, I cannot keep them dry otherwise.
At , we struck our tents; moved them on the bank of the river, very nice.
And after we had pitched them, in the cool of the evening, the Boys sung some very familiar hymns, which was very nice.

Camp Grand River
This is a fine, yet warm, Sabbath morning. We arose this morning and enjoyed the morning breeze of our new camp. I am much pleased with the situation. Our tent is on the bank of the river, the bridge, in front and, a little to the right of our tent.
At 9 ½ o’clock A.M., the companies were marched to the grove, where the companies stacked their arms and listened to a very appropriate discourse from Dr. Litler[?] of my messmates.
We all sat down on the green grass, beneath the shade of leafy trees. The speaker carried us back to our unforgotten homes. After the discourse we all united in singing appropriate hymns.
After the services were over, the company united in singing the “Star Spangled Banner”, making the woods ring with sweet melody. It put me in mind of the Revolutionary War, seeing all the guns stacked, the bayonets glittering in the sunshine.
After all were over, we returned to camp where each one pursued his daily avocation. What a great difference there is between a Sabbath spent in a military camp and one at a country home. So far as duty is concerned, there is no difference between one day and another, as much duty is performed on the Sabbath as any other day.
Would that the military law recognized the Lord’s Day as the civil law does. A great deal more good might be accomplished; the American flag might win many more battles. But I hope I may never live to see the day, after this campaign, that she may have a cause to fight.
Camp Grand River
The weather continues to be very warm.
At half past 2 o’clock P.M., Colonel Williams sent a verbal order to Capt. Ogg to go, with his command, to Brookfield [20 miles east of Chillicothe]. Thinking it unmilitary & out of order to move without a written order, [Capt. Ogg] sent back to the Colonel for one.
The Colonel sent back to Capt. Ogg to report himself & command at Headquarters (Chillicothe) immediately, which he did.
We found the Colonel very angry at the Captain for not marching out at the 1st command, and therefore, we did not get to go to Brookfield, but will have to stay here at Chillicothe; dear knows how long. God grant it may not be long, for I do hate the presence of the Colonel, and not another man in the regiment does like him.

Headquarters Chill.
I feel rather dull today and a little discouraged to think that we have to stay here in this camp among so many soldiers. It is more pleasant to have one or two companies in a place, as we have more liberty.
The orders of the Colonel are to pass no man out without a commissioned officer to accompany them, such a tyrannical rule. Why don’t they treat us like men?

Headquarters Chill.
We have to drill every day between 9 & , 4 & , which is Company Drill. At we have dress parade after which we have Battalion Drill.
We went out on drill at . While out, the Colonel sent in an order to come in & make ready to march to Brookfield, Linn County. 
At we were ready, all packed up, except our tents, the orders to leave them stand until the drum beat.
At the drum gave three taps. At the third tap every tent in the regiment fell to the earth, leaving the boxes of goods, guns glistering in the sunshine, soldiers (a 1,000 men) all exposed to the gaze of the spectator.
Soon the entire regiment was on the cars, marching for Brookfield. Where we soon landed we found 8th Company of Illinois Cavalry here.
We marched out north of the railroad, stacked our arms, making a stack near a quarter of a mile long. We built some fires; cooked our supper, and at the usual hour spread our blankets on the ground where we lay till the drum beat to rise in the morning.
This was a sweet sleep to me; I never woke until morning.
After a sweet sleep on the grass in the open air, we partook of a camp breakfast.
Soon we were marched back to the cars. We went a mile east of town; took off our baggage, piling it at the side of the road.
We pitched our tents a half-mile south of the R.R.
The location is a beautiful one & I understand there is a brigade to be found here. We cannot believe anything we hear.
John A. Dix[1]
Headquarters, Brookfield
I feel happy this morning; our camp looks so nice. The grass is green and thick and on a high hill. We have a commanding view of the surrounding county, which is very beautiful. We have a fine view of Brookfield. The town is small, but beautiful, on a lovely location. And, were it not for the cursed institution of slavery, it would make a nice flourishing town.


Headquarters, Brookfield
Everything seems to be quiet. The Boys are engaged in various employments. The majority of them are writing letters to their friends, while others are busily engaged in cooking, in which they have acquired proficiency.
For my part, I think I am a pretty good cook. I find there is a great deal of delight in cooking, in [the] serving ritual.                                                                                           WCN

Arrested by Adjutant Sessions
SUNDAY, AUGUST 11, 1861.
Camp Brookfield
Another Sabbath has come & I am still confined to camp where I have not the privilege of going to church.
Quite a heavy rain this afternoon. At nine o’clock P.M., I received a note from Lieutenant Gasham[?], who was then at the depot, requesting that we (the Winterset Boys) would come and see him, as the cars would stop one half hour. See page 141.
We knew it was impossible to get a pass at that time of night & that if we tried to get a pass, the train would be gone before we could get there (the distance ½ mile).
After a few moments consultation we came to the conclusion that perhaps it would be the last opportunity we would have of seeing our old Winterset friends. We also knew that we would be violating a strict rule, and if found out, would have to suffer the consequences. We could not bear the idea of letting our friends pass without seeing them perhaps for the last time.
We started past the guard without molestation. Found our friends; had a very pleasant interview of 15 minutes. The cars started; we bade them adieu, and started for camp. Went, perhaps, half way to camp when we were arrested by Adjutant Sessions, who took us to the guardhouse where he placed us for the night. Swearing as he did so that the first man that attempted escape, he would shoot him down.
Here we remained during the night without blankets in a rather disagreeable manner, but determined to make the best of it without saying anything.
Camp Brookfield, Mo.
Here we are all, myself, Murray, Ruby, Blakely, Warner, Vanhyning, Burson, Anderson & Pruin in the guardhouse, and for what? Why, for going to see some friends, who were going to war, perhaps never to return. And how long we will have to stay here, for the great crime, depends upon a particular friend of mine, Col. Williams.
Guardhouse, Mo.
Another day dawns upon me & I am in a place, which is anything else but desirable.
The remainder of the Company appears very much grieved to think that we are placed here for such an offense. At one time the Company fell in to take us out, but the Colonel, learning of their design, succeeded in stopping them from their design.
Brookfield Guardhouse
No one knows today what will become of him or where he will be on the morrow - strange world this, strange things happen. But did I just find it out, oh no, but my present condition makes me think of these things more than usual. Wish they would give us a trial & not keep me here in this place.       
Guardhouse, Mo.
Another day has come & where am I & what am I doing? Nothing. So much of my life is being spent to no purpose.
We had a trial by Court Martial, consisting of a number of commissioned officers. I found the officers were all in our favor. I think they will do nothing with us.
A fine thing, have friends, especially in the Army.

Brookfield Guardhouse
Oh! How much longer will we have to stay here? Does anyone know? Col. Williams will keep us here a month if he thought it would spite our company any.
About half of the regiment left this afternoon for an excursion up northeast. And I am under arrest & cannot get to go.
     Lt. Tellis of Company F wanted the Colonel to let us go. He [Col. Williams] swore not a man of us should go; that is the kind of man he is.
Brookfield, Mo.
I am still among the unfortunate. But rather than miss seeing worthy friends, I would stay here a month. Who could blame us for doing as we did? No sane man can blame us. Would not you, my friend?
At , the Colonel sent for us to come to his tent; we went. He came out and said, “Soldiers, I have a good report of you, & now I am going to release you on parole of honor.”
     We thanked him, immense joy at this. Now we are free men.

I Am Very Weak Yet
Brookfield, Mo.
I took sick last night & today; am very unwell. I fear I shall have a spell of sickness, which will be bad indeed in camp.
I have a raging fever and vivid flashes of pain in my head. Oh! I can scarcely write.
This is the Lord’s Day; there is preaching in camp. I cannot go, although I hear the speaker’s voice; how heavenly it sounds!
Brookfield, Linn Co.
I am still the subject of disease. My head is racked with pain; my eyes are dim. I can but scarcely see the lines. Is this chastisement for sin that I have done? The chastisements of the Lord are just. Oh! Sinful man that I am; no chastisement can be too great for all the sins that I have committed.
Great God forget them all.


FRIDAY, AUGUST 23, 1861.
[No journal entries from 20 August through 24 August]

Near Brookfield, Mo.
I turn back to record something that I can remember, which took place today. One [man] of our regiments died today. This was the first natural death in the regiment.
A grave was dug in one corner of the camp where he was buried. As soon as his remains were laid in the grave, six of his comrades fired a salute over the mouth of his grave, although I was too sick to raise my head from my blanket.
After the funeral was over, a Methodist minister preached a sermon to the soldiers. I could hear the speaker from my tent; the voice sounded heavenly in my ears. I could not distinguish anything that the speaker said.
This was a lonely day to me, but I was too sick to think about anything. I found it quite inconvenient to be sick in camp although I had the privilege of going to the hospital, but I preferred staying in camp so as to have my messmates wait on me.
MONDAY, AUGUST 26, 1861.

[Will may have been too ill again to make journal entries on these days.]

I feel not quite so well this morning; I am very weak yet. The weather is pretty warm.
Captain Sladen’s company was dispatched to guard some way through for the Home Guards.
I feel very lonesome today; so many of the Boys are gone. How I wish we could all be kept together. The affairs of war are strange, and hard to divine.

Brookfield, Mo.
My health is still improving; I think, in a few days, I will be able for duty. My breast and lungs are quite sore yet. I have a great time eating apples and melons, for we can get as many as we can use.
McClaughy is at the hospital with the ague. I wish he was well for I am lonesome without him.
Pretty warm day.
Brookfield, Mo.
But, as we had retired last night, we were ordered to strike at light & pack up our clothing, ready for a march the next morning. But to my surprise, the officers would not let me go, as I had been sick.
So I, with a half dozens others, was left behind while our comrades are gone to the battlefield. Oh, how lonesome I am today, almost alone and surrounded by enemies. When I shall see them again, I know not.
I arose this morning pretty early; I saw the sun rise in his glory. But my heart was sad, my companions all being gone, me so lonesome.
I went to town this morning thinking I would go to church, but I found there was none expected, Catholic every four weeks. I visited the sick and returned to my tent where I spent the remainder of this beautiful Sabbath in reading and meditation.
I do not feel so well.

Brookfield, Mo.
I was very unwell last night and this morning I felt quite unwell. The weather is very warm today.
I have been eating apples and melons. I sometimes wish they would not come into camp, for I eat too many. And I think that is one reason why my health does not improve.
Our camp is filled up with Home Guards; they are a noisy set.
Camp Scott
I feel some better this morning than last night. I went down town this morning. Saw my sick friends; found them in a state of recovery.
At part of the Boys came back, but not my company of six. Those who had been gone so long, I tell you, we had a good time.
They were all hungry, having had nothing scarcely to eat but cornmeal made into mush, and that they ate with wooden spoons or splinters of the fence or such like, for they had no eating utensils with them. See page 140.
From page 84
I never had anything to please me much better in my life than to see them. I almost forgot I was sick. I had a great many letters for them.
After I had distributed them to each, I set out a bucket of honey & one of applesauce for them. I called all in and told them to pitch in, which they did without much hesitancy. I think I never saw men act with so much pleasure or to relish food as they did.
After they had eaten to their satisfaction, then began a tale of their adventures. They had taken over one hundred prisoners; killed a good many rebels. Two men killed, one wounded, those killed acted very improper in exposing themselves. If they had acted as wise men, they would have been still alive. Yet, they showed great courage.
Coming on the cars to camp, they were fired upon by the rebels, the balls striking the cars without killing or hurting anyone. The cars stopped as soon as possible. The Boys got off, but found no enemy.
I am very unwell today. I think perhaps the excitement of the evening; I think over done myself.
We spent the remainder of the day in telling things that had passed, and the special topic of the day was about the Home Guard & their ignorance and their cowardice.
My health is a little better this evening.


Brookfield Camp, 3rd
My health does not seem to improve at a very fast rate. I have had such a long spell of good health, perhaps I may have a long spell of bad health; I hope not.
Nothing of importance is transpiring in camp today, all appear to be glad to get to rest after such a journey.
Good Night to all.
[Much of the spelling below is an approximation. Penmanship is difficult.]

John  Boliver Gehopenger
Meglosk  Julia  Ann  Talbot
Wire Holter  Duncan  Oliver
Heafford  Commadore  Perry
Benjamin  Franklin  Alsop
Born Dec. 22nd, 1835


Aboard the Cars
Camp Monroe
This morning at , we were ordered to get up; get breakfast. In 30 minutes we did so.
At we were aboard the cars for the west. We went as far as Cameron, 25 miles east of St. Joseph; ate our dinner.
At [P.M.], took up a line of march to the southwest, 10 miles. Camped in a field with hay & blankets for a bed. Built nice fires; got supper.
I did not like the idea of marching, but, it being the orders, I had to obey.
It commenced to rain a little about & continued to rain all afternoon. It was very disagreeable indeed.
I felt pretty weak, it being my first duty after a month sickness.
At every house, some would stop and get milk and such like. However, no depredations were permitted.
The county, through which we passed, is a fine county. The groves of timber are burdened with wild fruit. Every orchard we passed appeared to be over-loaded with fruit. Everything appeared to be plenty through the county.
Yet, if troops are compelled to remain in this state, it will soon be marked with devastation, forever. Where the government troops are marching, they leave a streak through the county, which is visible.
We pressed a good many homes in the service. Where we camped were strong secesh, the old fellows left far before we got there, so we had possession... [The last dozen words are too faint to read.]

[1] It is interesting that Will signs off with another’s name, Gen. John A. Dix, 1798-1879, a Senator from New York; born in Boscawen, N.H., 24 July 1798. Appointed Secretary of the Treasury by President James Buchanan 1861; served in the Union Army as major general 1861-1865; United States Minister to France 1866-1869; Governor of New York 1873-1875; unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1874 and for election as mayor of New York City in 1876; died in New York City, 21 April 1879. Dictionary of American Biography; Dix, John Adams. Memoirs of John Adams Dix. Edited by Morgan Dix. 2 vols. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1883; Lichterman, Martin. “John Adams Dix, 1798-1879.” Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1952.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's April 2011 and my head is reeling!

The title says it all. So much Civil War commemoration going on this month, and during the whole year, I suspect. The LA Times has articles about the Civil War. My "Smithsonian" magazine is starting a series on it this month with "THE CIVIL WAR BEGINS" blazing on the cover. I hear of re-enactments going on and planned across the country. Could it get any better for us Civil War buffs?

Today marks another anniversary; the assassination of Lincoln. I had lunch with a friend, a high school buddy,  last week in Pasadena. Pete's GGrandfather served in the Alabama cavalry. So naturally our conversation comes around to the War. Pete and I visited Shiloh about five years ago. He had read the book, The Conspirators, last year. You see its movie trailers on TV now. I definitely plan on reading the book - after I finish the colossal George Washington on my Kindle - and seeing this film. (An aside, if you will. Is that a rug on Redfords head or is that the real deal? Whatever it is, it's a weird color.)

So on to the next installment of Will Newlon's CW experience.

Guarding the Depot

Utica Depot
I, with 9 others, was sent from the camp last night to guard the depot at Utica. It seems as though I always find myself stationed at the most dangerous point.
Today we took a prisoner at the depot; sent him to Chillicothe to await his trial.
Quite a number of the citizens came to the depot today. Whether they were true to the cause, I cannot tell. We unite then, if they are not.
Utica Depot
Today I went out into the country. I talked freely with an old gentleman about his son, who was a lieu[tenant] in the southern army, & is, at this time, our prisoner of war.
Three companies of Home Guards came in today. They were not much the appearance of men when compared with the Iowa Boys – a very ignorant, uneducated, ungodly, profane set of men - which cannot be said of the Iowa Boys.
The ladies of Missouri are a fine looking set of beauties, much superior to the men of the state.
THURSDAY, JULY 18, 1861.
Camp Herron
This morning we were relieved from the depot. We immediately repaired to the camp where I have spent the day in cooking, as it was my turn. Well, I did my very best, as you might suppose. But after all, I got 2 quarts too much salt in the beef, & the rice, O dear me. I had a pan full on the fire, and swelled & run all over the fire – what a mess [or time] I had. I don’t see why I won’t make a good cook, for my mother is a good one.

Camp McCoy
I feel very much refreshed after a fine sleep & pleasant dreaming. Few are the nights that I have the privilege of sleeping quietly, although we sleep upon our [fire]arms every night.
This afternoon a supposed spie [sic] was seen. Myself, in company of 12, went out on a scout in that direction. After quite a tramp through heavy timber, among thick bush & weeds, beneath a boiling sun, we surprised a fisherman. We took him prisoner. After a good many queries we released him, he returning home. W.C. Newlon
Camp McCoy
As usual, I was placed on picket guard last night. The night was a beautiful one; the moon shone in all her glory. The stars twinkled & shone as bright as though they had just been brought forth. They seemed to be sending their silent note of melody upon our once happy land. 
As my station was on the bank of the river, the silver-colored fish darted almost with the quickness of time, to & fro in the clear, blue water, occasionally darting above the water, making quite a noise, arousing me, who, sometime by the stillness of the night, would fall into deep meditation. The morning songsters broke the stillness of the night. Soon in the distant cast, the darkness of the night was lost by the appearance of a brighter day. Soon the bright rays of a morning sun disbanded the noble meditation of the night.
When I repaired to my tent I wrapped myself in my blanket; laid down upon the earthen floor to close my weary eyes. After an hour or two of sweet sleep, my companions awoke me to breakfast.
I found all that had passed were but the scenes of night & meditation, and that the land where I now am, which was once so happy and quiet, is now aroused by military processions, the air resounding with roaring cannon. How long, oh Lord, will the land be troubled? How long will this people roll rebellion under their tongues as a sweet morsel?
This forenoon I did some washing; the first I ever did in my life. I did a good job, if it is not; it will not be for the want of rubbing, for I rubbed some pieces full of holes.
The camp is very quiet today. The Boys are passing the time in various ways, as though there was not an enemy in a thousand miles of them.
The sky has some appearance of rain.
     My health is moderate. May such be my lot during this war.                                           WCNewlon

SUNDAY, JULY 21, 1861.
This morning has very much the appearance of rain. I had the good luck to get a pass this morning from the Captain, and went to Chillicothe on the railroad. At the proper time I went to church at the M.E. Church. The text was in Acts about Philip & the Eunuch [Acts -40]. The sermon was mild and practical. The assemblage was small and attentive.
After the exercises were over, I, with Finley[?] Anderson (from Summerset, Warren Co., Iowa), took a walk into the country. In a short time we came to a fine two-storey brick building, surrounded by a nice farm. We concluded to get a drink. We soon found that our presence was not agreeable by them not answering to our interrogating, and therefore concluded to proceed.
After traveling a short distance, we found ourselves sitting in a neatly furnished farmhouse belonging to Judge Pace, whose hospitality was unlimited toward us. We were kindly invited to dine with him, which was very much appreciated by me, as it was the first time since my soldier life that I had the honor of sitting at the table with ladies. How much I enjoyed that dinner. I thought of home when I was partaking of the luxuries of a farming table.
While there, quite a number of men came in. After talking with them two or three hours, I returned to town where I learned that the place where I was & the men that were there were the strongest secessionists. They all [people in town] expressed their wonder that I ever escaped with my life from such traitors.
But after all my adventures, found me at Camp McCoy.

Utica Depot
I, with 5 others, was detailed to guard the depot at Utica Station.
This forenoon I, [and] friend Bryant, took a walk into the country; took dinner with a friendly farmer, after which we wound our way to a blackberry patch.
Had a good time; soon returned to depot. My health is very good.
Utica Depot
After standing guard half the night and sleeping this morning till , I feel somewhat refreshed.
Bryant & I took a walk to the blackberry patch. Had another fine dinner with some ladies, quite a pleasant time. Had a guard sent after me; got back without meeting the guard, all right once more.
This morning I returned to camp where I found things as usual. I feel very much at home while at the camp.
The Colonel came from Headquarters this evening. Gave orders to box up all unnecessary clothing & send them to Headquarters; keep only such as we could keep in knapsacks. I sent mine home.                      Yours, W.C.Newlon

Camp McCoy
I had such a fine sleep last night; it is not very often in the last three weeks I get to sleep much.
We were to receive our entire army equipment today, but they did not come.
I am cook today. I got up a mess of green beans for dinner, which is quite a rarity for a soldier. I am learning very fast to cook; I think it not so [sic] pleasant as some work.

Camp McCoy
I was on guard last night and was nearly eat up by the musketoes [sic]. I slept none during the night, today the same routine in camp.
Quite a number of ladies visited our camp selling all kinds of edibles to the soldiers.
The weather is very pleasant. I wrote a letter to Sister Mary. I have nothing new to write. I expect my friends will think this a poor diary, indeed.
SATURDAY, JULY 27, 1861.
Camp McCoy
I had such a pleasant sleep last night; I awoke this morning while in a pleasant dream.
Before I arose, a letter was handed to me from Sister Mary. It did me much good to hear from home. I wrote one to B.F. Roberts today.
The weather is very warm and sultry. My health is very good and in good spirits.
Camp McCoy, Mo.
Hail sweet Sabbath morn, sweet day of rest. Thou art welcome to a Christian soldier, although oft times he is not permitted to enjoy its glorious blessings. I look around me & see those who appear to know not when the Sabbath cometh. Then I feel thankful for religious parents who taught me to observe & keep the Sabbath day.
I was on picket guard last night; the night was pleasant. The moon rose at the hour of . How bright that moon shone on me as I sat in bushes, upon my blanket, watching the approach of the anticipated enemy. See page 136. 
I had for my night companion Samuel Pruin from Harrison County, Ohio. He worked on the Cincinnati & Claridon R.R. [railroad], between Iberia & Mount Gilead [20 miles east of Marion, Ohio], for two years.   
At last night a scout of 40 went from our camp to Utica; searched storehouses, private dwellings, capturing rifles, shotguns & pistols and ammunition. All was done without much resistance. These being taken from the rebels all over the state will put a stop to lawless depredation in the state.
O, how I long to go to church today, but, alas, I cannot get a pass as I was out last Sabbath to church.
My messmates are sitting around me writing letters to their friends at home. We are sitting by the side of my tent, using a temporary table for a writing desk. A few clever bushes adorn us to check the burning rays of a summer sun.
Lieutenant Merrill has been received into our number as one of our messmates. He is a fine man, a member of the Baptist Church at Palmyra, Warren County.
The camp is very quiet today; all seem to say this is the Lord’s Day. But, how long it will thus be is unknown? God knoweth all things & none but He.                     
W.C. Newlon
Camp McCoy
The weather is remarkably warm. I tried my hand at fishing this morning, but did not exceed very well. I don’t think I would make a good fisherman; I think I am a better soldier.
Oh, how troublesome these gnats are; they will eat me up. I took my blanket; went to the grove, but they tormented me so; I could not rest.
I trust there will be a change in the weather shortly.
TUESDAY, JULY 30, 1861.
Camp McCoy
Oh, how warm the weather is; it makes the sweat roll almost in torrents. Not a cloud appeared to hide the burning rays of a Missouri summer sun.
Our camp is almost surrounded with timber; consequently little or no air is permitted to pass down our patriotic streets.
My health is remarkably good considering the way I have been exposed to the night air.                

Thanks for reading my latest Blog. Do go to and check it out. I'm thinking about adding a store, a modest one, to this site. I'd appreciate any feedback.