Thursday, June 6, 2013

May 1862 - We Won’t Shoot If You Don’t!

I Received My Warrant

     One year ago [22 May 1861] tonight, I was at the Demoin House in the City of Desmoines [Iowa]. Today I received my warrant as Sergeant of Company G. of 3rd Regiment, Iowa Infantry, dated May the 22nd A.D., 1862. Health moderate, symptoms of fever, took preventative.

Colonel Williams returned to camp this P.M. Health is poor. Owing to the declining health of Lieutenant M. R. Frederick of our Company, I fear he will be compelled to resign his position in the army. I hope his health may improve soon, for to lose him, we will lose a good and faithful officer; one who is respected by his command, and all will regret to part with him.

W.C. Newlon.


     We signed the pay roll this morning; Paymaster is here, paying the 28th Illinois Infantry today. Our regiment comes next in turn for pay.

     The 52nd Indiana Infantry is having dress parade. The band is discoursing fine,[1] charming, delightful, delicious, and cheering music at this 5 o’clock P.M., May 24th, 62.

Near Corinth Mississippi. &c


Written vertically up the left margin:

W C Newlon Army of the Tennessee, Gen Hurlbut’s Division in camp near Corinth, Mississippi

Sabbath, May the 25th, 1862

In camp near Corinth, Mississippi

     The weather last night and this morning is quite cool, a little the much so [sic] to be pleasant. The sky is clear and I think the rain is over for the present.

     Our company was called for this morning to go on picket guard. After the usual routine we marched to headquarters of the brigade to report, and were there informed that our services were not needed today; consequently we were permitted to rest.

     I was glad of this, for the past three Sabbaths I have been on duty, and nothing but military law and necessity will compel me to work on the Sabbath, as it was instituted as a day of rest for man and beast. But a man is compelled to do many things in the army, which he would not do were he not under military law. I wrote a letter home to Father today; would like to see him.

     Lt. M. R. Frederick received his resignation today, it being sent up a few days ago for acceptance. What I recorded yesterday will before many days come to pass. There is no other man in the 3rd Iowa that I hate to part with so much as to part with him. No other officer that ever had command of this company got along so well as he.

     No one can say that he ever used any partiality whatever; all have fared equally. His efforts to improve the moral condition of the company and its personal appearance were unceasing. His conduct on the field at Pittsburgh (although his first trial) is worthy of the highest commendation.

     But seeing his health is so impaired and no hopes of its improving while in the army. I congratulate him in his success in getting a dismissal from the service, although many men in ranks are and have been laboring under disease for months past cannot get discharged from service. And why, because they have no commission.

     General [Thomas A.?] Davies commenced to advance this morning but, finding the enemy advancing in force to resist, he gave up the idea for fear of bringing on a general engagement. The lines in front of our division have been very quiet up to this time, 6 o’clock P.M., May the 25th, 62.

     I have been very lonesome today.

W.C. Newlon

3rd Iowa Infantry

Monday, May the 26th, 1862

Army of the Tennessee

Camp near Corinth, Mississippi

     Our lines are quiet this morning as though there was no enemy near. At 2 o’clock P.M., we received four months’ pay- $52.00. I sent home $50.00. Wrote a letter home.

     This evening heavy cannonading on the left, cause unknown, also heavy skirmishing between the pickets.

     At 7 o’clock divine services in front of the hospital of the 32nd Illinois Infantry, subject of discourse: last chapter and verse of Daniel.[2] Good sermon, first I have heard since I left Huntsville, Mo.

     Health moderate, day pleasant.

We Won’t Shoot If You Don’t!

Tuesday, May 27th 1862

Right wing of the army

Near Corinth, Mississippi

     Six o’clock A.M., considerable stir in the direction of Corinth last night. The running and whistling of engines appeared to be not more than one mile distant. Pickets were in action during the night and this morning as soon as the shades of darkness had disappeared. The sharp reports of their rifles ring in the air. I thought last night perhaps the enemy intended to make an attack this morning. But they have not yet divulged.

     One year ago [27 May 1861] this morning I bade adieu to home and relatives and friends. How wrought were my feelings that memorable morning. How hard to part with those we love, especially under the circumstances, which I left that morning.

Wednesday, May 28th, 1862, we were called on yesterday (the 27th) at 8 o’clock A.M. for picket. Went and found the enemy’s pickets in close proximity with ours, and upon our arrival saluted us with a fire from their lines. The grand guards were about two hundred yards apart and most of the time was in plain view of each other.[3] Our men were not permitted to fire, but the enemy failed not to improve every opportunity when any part of our body would be exposed.   About noon they became more reconciled and commenced conversation, which continued most of the afternoon about as follows:

     Secesh [secessionist], “Hello over there, stick your head out and let me see it.”

Union, “I won’t do it. What do you shoot so much for?      There      is no use in so much shooting. We won’t shoot if you don’t!”

Secesh, “Enough said.”

Union, “Come over and take dinner with me.”

Secesh, “I would if I was not afraid you would shoot me!   Have you got any coffee?”

Union, “Yes”

Secesh, “Got any tobacco?”

Union, “Yes, come over and get some.”

Secesh, “I will trade you whisky for coffee and sugar.”

Union, “You come over and I will give you some.” Secesh, “How many cannons have you got at the landing?” Union, “Got enough to blow you to hell and have powder left. Where is Old Beauregard?”

Secesh, “He is here.”

Union, “That is a lie! He is not at Corinth.”

Secesh, “How do you know?”

Union, “I know all about it.”

Secesh, “Where is Halleck?”

Union, “He is here.”

Secesh, “Have you got any niggers over there?”

Union, “No!”

Secesh, “That's a lie.”

They would talk a half hour, and someone would shoot, and then they would shoot with vengeance for a while, and then resume the conversation. Tell each other to give their respects to the girls &c &c. Sometimes they would use abusive language. The day was very warm.

I had charge of an Irish squad, was relieved at dark, fell back on the reserve, slept till morning, or tried to sleep, as I had an awful headache, returned to post at 7 o’clock A.M.

The Ground is Contested

Wednesday, 4 o’clock P.M., May 28th, 1862

In camp near Corinth, Mississippi

     This morning at 7 o’clock A.M., our lines were formed and shortly advanced in force. Met and drove back the enemy’s line of pickets, throwing shells from two batteries.

      The order of advance was as follows, line of skirmishers in front, next infantry in three distinct lines of battle, 3rd Artillery, 4th Cavalry, in sequence. Soon the volleys of musketry and roar of cannon were terrific, the enemy replying with his batteries.

May 28th, 1862

The engagement is general; the firing on the center and left was and is terrific. The right wing advanced and drove the enemy from their camps leaving everything behind them, which our men took possession of. We have a number of men killed and wounded, but the number I know not and as the battle rages, the number increases.

Cannonading has ceased on the right wing for a few moments, but increases on the center. Our division gained a position, in view of the enemy works. We took a number of prisoners.

Our regiment is laying [sic] in reserve, consequently we are not exposed, perhaps will be engaged tomorrow.

     Corporal S.G. Ruby got a pass for five days to go to Hamburgh [Hamburg, just south of South Pittsburg, TN], Tennessee River. Lt. M. R. Frederick started this morning for home, luck to him. Wish I was going with him.

     Eighteen regiments of cavalry made reconnaissance in direction of Purdy; have not returned yet.[4]

Just received two letters, one from W.G. Moreland and one from Sisters Mary and Mattie, good news. Glad to hear from home.

Six o’clock P.M., cannonading on the left and center is terrific. I hope it will continue until the thing is settled. Health good.

May 29th, 1862

In camp near Corinth, Mississippi

     Heavy cannonading last night and this morning, heavy musketry on the center. Eight o’clock A.M., all quiet at this moment.

     Nine and a half A.M., we are ordered to march and take position in front. Our right rests on General Sherman’s left, supporting two batteries, one consisting of seven siege guns in size 22 and 64 pounds, under the other, brass field howitzers and a rifled cannon 12. Sherman’s men take 40 prisoners. Two deserters come in.

     Two P.M., our pickets are heavily attacked. The ground is contested, for our men hold it under heavy fire.

This 4 P.M., the cannonading on the left this evening is terrific. We will go it while we are young.


Six P.M., our siege guns moved out and planted three fourths of a mile from the enemy’s outer works having a commanding range of the same. This day has been remarkably warm. Two of our pickets are wounded.

A report this evening is current that General Banks has been repulsed with considerable ease in Virginia. The report is not credited, but if so Rebeldom will have great rejoicing.[5]

Over the Enemy’s Breastworks

May 30th, 1862

In camp near Corinth


     All quiet last night along our lines, except signal rockets thrown by the enemy. We lay last night on the ground as usual as tents are out of fashion.[6] Night was very warm, too warm for covering of any kind.

     Six A.M., a great noise in the direction of Corinth as of repeated explosions, I think Corinth is evacuated and that is a signal for pickets to come in. I just came from the picket line and saw a great smoke at Corinth. I believe they have left and set fire to the town.[7]

     Seven A.M., a deserter comes in and declares that Corinth is evacuated; just now the 8th Missouri, 3rd Iowa and 28th Illinois Regiment of infantry are ordered to test the matter. I am in too much of a glee to write more now.

     Five o’clock P.M., just returned from pursuing the enemy; had a very hard time, and am very tired.

     We went over the enemy’s breastworks this morning on quick time and into Corinth on double quick, found they had evacuated; made a clean sweep. What they could not take they destroyed, such a time I never saw, infantry, cavalry and artillery going in the greatest haste, each trying to get there first. We entered the town and were near suffocated [by] the depth of the dust, the flames of the buildings on fire and the unrestrained rays of the burning sun in the narrow streets of a town in Mississippi; was more than man could stand. We hesitated but a moment in town, but pursued the enemy, southwest.

About 3 miles beyond Corinth where we halted, rested for a few moments, and with the 28th Illinois were ordered to camp, being relieved by other troops. The retiring army destroyed the bridges after them. We took a number of prisoners, many giving themselves up.

We returned to the town where we rested for a moment, giving us an opportunity to view the great destruction of property, army stores and everything else. The warehouses & all that was in them were burned. All valuables and public property, even to a large church, were burned. Many things however were left in their hasty retreat.

Their breastworks northwest of Corinth were 3 ½ miles from town and ¾ of a mile from ours, but were not half so strong as ours. Well for them that they escaped our clutches; many of their sick were left behind, many of them crawling in the woods to hide. The enemy is being pressed by [Major General John] Pope and Buell, and part of General George H. Thomas’s divisions.[8]

May 31st, 1862

I pulled off boots, socks and pants last night for the first time in many weeks and took a good sleep. Awoke this morning sore and stiff as a racehorse.

     The day is intensely hot, some cannonading in the distance. The talk is today where will we go next?

     At 6 P.M., we were called on review, brigade review. Our brigade consists of six regiments of infantry; reviewed by General Hurlbut.

June 1st, 1862, Sabbath

Camp near Corinth, Mississippi

Army of Tennessee

     Had a good sleep last night. Rained a very little.

I am on duty this A.M. with a squad to dig wells, as water is very scarce. Have completed the wells; have good success. Occasional showers of rain this P.M.; glad to see it. Rain, as it is very dry. Our company goes on guard at 5 P.M.; I will be on till 12 midnight.

    This is Sabbath and I have been on duty all day; read little.                                                  

[1] To discourse (1602): to utter, give forth (musical sounds). Ibid. s. v. “discourse”.
[2] Daniel 12:13: “But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days”.

[3]  In the United States, a ‘picket’ is synonymous with a sentry, and the "’picket-line’ is the extreme advanced line of observation of an army. In the French army, ‘les picquets’ are called ‘les grands gardes’, and the phrase ‘grand guard’ is often found in works of the 17th and 18th centuries. Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 584 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at Online Encyclopedia
[4]  Purdy is a small unincorporated community between Selmer and Adamsville, Tennessee.  Purdy, established in 1825 was the first county seat named in honor of John Purdy, the government surveyor who laid out the town lots. Located on the stage road that ran from Nashville to Mississippi, Purdy developed a reputation as a beautiful town. Benjamin Wright, a veteran of the Creek Indian Wars, soon emerged as the driving force behind the economic development of Purdy. In 1831 the county built a new courthouse, where both Davy Crockett and James K. Polk made political speeches.
   In 1890, due to the increasing economic development of Selmer following the railroad, the county seat of McNairy County was moved from Purdy to Selmer. Within a few years of the removal of the Purdy courthouse there was nothing to show for the 65 years except a few homes and deserted buildings. Almost overnight Purdy became a ghost town.
TNGenWeb Project a part of USGenWeb Project.

[5] Major Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks retreated to Winchester, Virginia and attempted to defend it. Gen. Jackson flanked his position with ease 25 May. Jackson pursued the fleeing Union troops to the outskirts of Harper’s Ferry. James M. McPherson, The Atlas of the Civil War. (New York: Macmillan, 1994), 66. “The repulse of General Banks from the valley of Virginia can only be regarded as a very unfortunate event. That he has made a masterly retreat, after having been brought several times in collision with the overwhelming forces of the pursuing rebels, is apparent from the distance of sixty miles or more traversed by his little army in two days. He has thus, in saving his army from capture, done more than could have been expected of him under the circumstances. But he has succeeded, not only in saving his troops, but his baggage trains, which would have been more valuable to the scantily supplied rebels than the capture of three times the number of his men, without their supplies and transportation. General Banks, therefore, may be justly considered as having skillfully discharged his duty in this retreat, but still the rebels have doubtless secured valuable military stores, to a considerable amount, at Front Royal, Strasburg and Winchester, and, in recovering the control of the great valley abandoned by our troops, the rebel guerillas may be expected to be prompt and merciless in their acts of vengeance and plunder against all those of the local population accused or suspected of Union sentiments an sympathies. The extensive region conquered from the rebellion and the successful labors there in of General Banks of the last three months, in behalf of the Union, are also in this single overwhelming dash of the enemy upon his unwisely diminished forces.”, The New York Herald, 27 May 1862. Available at

[6] Perhaps the 3rd Iowa had not received the new “pup tent” replacing the larger Sibley tent.

[7] The Corinth Campaign (29-30 April 1862), James M. McPherson, The Atlas of the Civil War. (New York: Macmillan, 1994), 55.

“In 1862 the sleepy town of Corinth, Mississippi, was transformed into one of the South's most strategic strongholds. At Corinth, the Mobile and Ohio Railroad crossed the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, creating a crucial nexus for the transport of supplies, material, and men throughout the western Confederacy. Following the battle of Shiloh, a vast Federal army under Gen. Henry Halleck captured the town after an extended siege. But by summer, Confederate forces began a broad offensive. In the East, Gen. Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland, while in the West, Gen. Braxton Bragg led an incursion into Kentucky. In support of Bragg, Generals Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price were ordered to drive back the Union forces under Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William S. Rosecrans and seize control of northern Mississippi. The action began in earnest in September, as Price fought Rosecrans to a bloody standoff at Iuka, Mississippi. Price then combined his forces with Van Dorn, who, in early October turned his attention to the effort of regaining Corinth. The campaign for Corinth reached a crescendo in one of the Civil War's most violent and bloody assaults, setting the stage for Grant's Vicksburg campaign and ultimately deciding the fate of the Confederacy in the Mississippi Valley.” Steven Nathaniel Dossman, Blood in Mississippi, McWhiney Foundation Press.

[8] The ‘Rock of Chickamauga’ was bestowed on Union General George Henry Thomas for saving the army by holding a hill on the left when the right fled from the field at the Battle of Chickamauga. His greatest defensive victory came at the Battle of Nashville where his army devastated the Confederate forces as they made a frontal attack. His greatest offensive victory came at the Battle of Chattanooga where his army captured Missionary Ridge with a frontal attack. He never lost a battle where he had the top command. George H. Thomas was born in Southampton County, Virginia on 31 July 1816.  His roommate for the first year at West Point was William T. Sherman.  He graduated 12th in the 1840 class.  He distinguished himself in the Seminole War and the Mexican War.  He was wounded by a Comanche arrow in a Texas frontier skirmish.  He taught cavalry tactics to P. Sheridan and J.E.B. Stuart and artillery tactics to John B. Hood at West Point. When the Civil War began, he chose to stay with the Union despite his sisters' support of their home state of Virginia and the Confederacy. Available at