Thursday, February 6, 2014

East of Memphis, Summer 1862

La Belle Village

     We remained in camp on Davies Creek 5 days, and then marched. Marched to La Grange, distance six miles, at which place, we remained until the 17th of July. But during that time, we did a great deal of hard marching and heavy duty. One of those was to Holly Springs, Miss. [22 miles southwest]    
     We went on many foraging expeditions, which were always tended with much danger. At one time the 3rd Iowa had a daring adventure with a body of Rebel cavalry under command of Colonel Jackson.           
La Grange, Tennessee
     La Grange is a beautiful town situated on the M & Charleston R.R., 42 miles from Memphis and about 2 miles from the state line of Mississippi.[1]
     The buildings are mostly of ancient style and many of them much decayed.[2] The lots of ground on which the buildings stand are much larger than ordinary town lots in the north, judging them to contain about two acres, and these beautifully adorned with ornamental trees.
     The county surrounding the town is indeed beautiful, consisting of fine plantations. The county south to Holly Springs is also good, beautiful mansions with the most luxuriant surroundings.
     After the military had concluded to abandon the [rail]line from Corinth to Memphis, the divisions under Generals Sherman & Hurlbut were ordered to march to Memphis.
     In pursuance to orders, the 3rd Iowa Infantry, with her associates in division, took up a line of march on the 17th July for the conquered city of Memphis. The weather is remarkably hot and dry to march over the sand banks; the hot weather appears almost more than we can stand.
     We left La Grange at 1 o’clock P.M. just after a refreshing shower of rain; marched to Moscow ten miles from La Grange. This first day’s march was performed with ease and with but little disasters compared with the latter part of the march.
     But as I failed to make a note of the towns, camps and general appearance of the county, I cannot, at this late period, give anything like a correct account of our journey across this portion of Rebeldom. Notwithstanding a fine and beautiful county is their [brand] of habitation.
     During this very severe & exhausting march, we lost many men. However, after the elapse of four days we accomplished a hard and much dreaded march. We entered the city of Memphis on the 21st of July after marching 10 miles. A more ragged and dirty body of men never marched in this county.

     We halted one hour on Main Street for rest and water. After which, we continued our march to the south, halting and marching a half dozen or more times; we finally succeeded in finding a stopping place.

July 23rd, 1862
     Today we moved camp a few rods, and pitched tents in a dense piece of woodland; so thick that the rays of sun could not penetrate through the thick foliage.

July 24th, 1862
     Today we again moved camp just across the road. At night when all were fast asleep, a mighty storm arose, the thunder rolled, the lightning flashed, the rain fell, and the winds blew with great fury. So much that the foundation of the forest timber trembled with fear. A huge and powerful tree fell to the south in the midst of our camp, however with but little damage.
      We remained in this camp two or three days when we again moved camp to a position 1 ½ miles south of the city where we have spent many hot days. Since our arrival here, but little of importance has transpired worthy of note.
     Guard duty is very heavy every four days; 19 men from a company are required for picket duty.

July the 28th, 62
     3rd Iowa is detailed to go on picket 6 miles north of this camp to guard a bridge across Wolf River. We had a pleasant time. However, one very serious accident occurred. While a number were in the water swimming, one man from Company D (Captain Wiser) was drowned; was taken to camp for internment.[3]
     After three days’ duty, we were relieved by the 28th Illinois Infantry. Marched back through the City [Memphis]. The band playing many favorite airs at which crowds of civilians gathered along the sidewalk. After a dusty march we reached camp about 8 o’clock P.M.; found all as we left except a Sergeant of Company G who had died in the hospital in absence.
Sabbath, July 31st, 1862
Company near Memphis, Tennessee
     I am detailed as Sergeant of Provost Guard; reported at Provost Martial’s Office.[4] Was detailed from there with one Corporal and 9 men to guard General Hurlbut's Headquarters. Was not relieved until the next evening; a proper detail had been neglected by Company A & a general of the Division.[5]

Will gives no reason for this month-long interruption.

Wednesday Sept 3rd, 62
     Nothing new today, 4,000 prisoners (Rebel) anchored off Memphis today on their way to Vicksburg to be exchanged. Upon their arrival here they gave three vociferous cheers for the Confederacy, and three for Stonewall Jackson. At the same time displaying a flag of which was recognized by a Miss Edmondson in the City who also waved one in return, which resulted in her expulsion south of our lines. Good for her, learn her better next time.

Thursday, Sept 4th, 62
     All in trim this morning, news from the Army of the East, federal forces falling back on their works.[6] Had a short drill. Was summoned as witness on Court Martial against Geo W. Baty, for getting drunk on duty.[7]
     Four o’clock P.M., evening paper brings intelligence of a Bull Run No 2.[8] Headed in large capital letters one absurdity after another. Such a secession sheet as the Memphis Appeal, and its treasonable editor should be dashed into the Mississippi waters forever.[9]

Friday, Sept 5th, 1862
     Fine, pleasant, cool morning. My health good; everything has a lively appearance in camp. No news more than yesterday from the Virginia Army.[10] Anxious for the news. &c &c &c
     One o’clock P.M., orders to march by tomorrow morning at one o’clock A.M. Everything is in camp. Wine & brandy rules the day. Boys in ailing trim, as is the case generally when we have orders to move. Four o’clock P.M., heavy thunder & rainstorm blowing many tents to the ground; laying the dust & cooling the air.

                                                 Saturday, Sept 6th, 1862
Camp near Memphis, Tennessee
     Daybreak found us fast asleep this morning instead of on our march as we expected. The order was countermanded at 11 P.M. last night. It now stands for 11 o’clock P.M. today, at which time we will bid adieu to our present camping ground unless another change is made. This is a pleasant cool morning, delightful for marching.
     Seven o’clock P.M., we left the City of Memphis at the appointed time (11 o’clock). Marching through the back part of the city until we reached the northwest part of town and then we took the Bolla Road running in a northeast direction.
     Marched 9 miles where we now rest for the night. The march was very hard on the men as they have not marched very much for more than a month.
     Nothing of interest on the road but the Boys relieving some wagons of melons, which were being conveyed to the city for market. However, they were saved of the trouble. Supper is announced by the cook.
     Well, after partaking hearty of rough camp fare, I feel once more refreshed. It goes very hard with me to march this hot weather.
     We are at present bivouacked for the night on the banks of Wolf River whose waters empty on the Mississippi just in the northern part of Memphis. Quite a pleasant little stream, silently running through heavy forests of timber.
     A little shower of rain has cooled the air considerably, but making the ground somewhat damp for spreading our blankets.
     However, I have already gathered some paw paw [Asimina triloba] leaves which will answer as substitute for feathers &c on which I shall spend the silent hours of this night (if providence permit), while the frogs echo their shrieking notes and the mosquitoes so silently sail through the air when to your ear they will sing cousin [sic].
Sabbath night, 11 o’clock, Sept 7th, 1862
Bivouacked 21 miles E. of Memphis
     After another miserably tedious day’s march, we again rest for the time being 27 miles from where we started yesterday morning. We took up a line of march this morning at seven A.M. leaving our temporary encampment on Wolf River for our enemies to ramble over in our absence.
     The shower of rain last night very much improved the roads and cooled the atmosphere, making it, in all, quite pleasant for marching.
     Our regiment is the rearguard of the division today, which decidedly is the hardest place to march in a division. The division train (about two miles long) was immediately in advance of us and some of the teams were continually balking, breaking down bridges &c which made it very tedious indeed.
     After we had marched two miles, we came to the town or village called Bolla, a kind of one horse town destitute of good buildings and nothing as I saw of interest in or around the place, unless you call old fields, barren plantations, & decayed buildings, objects of interest.
     The next place we came to was Union City on the Memphis and Ohio R.R., fifteen miles from Memphis; it also is an inferior place like most of the inland towns in the south. No mercy was shown to Rebel citizens along the road as the Boys were pretty sure to relieve them of their chickens and such like.
     We burned a small place (The name of which I had forgotten.) about 3 P.M., consisting of store room, repairing shop and several other buildings all of which we willingly applied the torch. The place being the rendezvous of a guerrilla band. General [perhaps Lew] Wallace had one man killed near by them when he was marching to Memphis in June, 62.
     The county along this road is far from being as good as on the road to La Grange, no such fine plantations and beautiful mansions.

     Rebel Uniform, WS cartridge boxes and such like were found at different houses. At such places not much respect was paid to property. The rain commenced to fall about noon and continued for some time.
     Night overtook us and we were far from our journey’s end. The train made but slow progress stopping every rod or two until we reached our place of abode for the night. Weary and very worn were all, and happy were we when we found a resting place.
     And as Mal (the cook) is preparing supper, cooking some fine chickens, which he cunningly captured by the way, I am penning these words.[11] And, as he has announced it to be ready, and, as it is just 12 o’clock midnight, I will draw the notes of the day to a close.
     After I have partook of the spoils of the enemy (The first I have ate since four A.M. this morning), I will lay down my weary limbs upon mother earth for a short, but sweet repose, with the Heavens for a covering and the falling rain to cool my brow while the silent hours of night pass away, that I may arise ere the dawn of tomorrow’s day for the labor and toil which it may bring. &c &c &c
WCNewlon 3rd. Iowa

Sept the 8th, 1862, Monday noon
                     In the field 27 miles East of Memphis
We unexpectedly rest where we halted last night at midnight. Madam Rumor says that we will return to the city again. The day is cloudy, threatening rain. The news of a fight at Bolivar resulting favorably is the cause of a retrograde movement that is, if any should be the place in the 4th Division.[12]
     The Boys are enjoying themselves finely, rambling through the woods gathering muscadines.[13]
     Eight P.M., orders to be prepared for action in a moment’s warning. Also to march tomorrow morning at daybreak.                                                                    WCNewlon                                                 

Tuesday, Sept 9th, 1862 8 P.M.
Camp in field, Tennessee
     We were aroused from slumber at three o’clock A.M. this morning, prepared breakfast, struck tents and at daylight we were marching northward. A very pleasant morning for marching, roads in good condition; the atmosphere cool and enticing.
     Our place today was third from the right and immediately in front of the train. Consequently, had nothing to hinder our progress and we improved the time by doing some of the fastest marching we ever done in Tennessee.   After marching some three miles, we came to Hickory Withe,[14] a small village containing perhaps one dozen houses. We marched almost altogether in a north direction, traveling a by-road as we left the Bolivar road this morning crossing the county through plantations & one very large plantation with quite a quantity of cotton in field and about one hundred bales in [whole].
     The county through which we passed today is very poor, old worn out plantations, poor fences and decayed buildings.
But little jay hawking done.[15] In fact, there was nothing to jay hawk, we were now resting in a bottom and I don’t know how far from any place.
     I have learned that we are going to Brownsville some 30 miles distant from this place.[16] Such a county as this I would not live in, not even a pretty girl to be seen at any place. Took some prisoners. Mal (the cook) has just prepared some dinner consisting of green corn &c, which I shall not be slow in hiding.

Wednesday, Sept 10th, 1862
                                     Camp in field, Tennessee
     Reveille at 3 A.M., marched at 5. The county through which we passed was very poor. Marched 15 miles; camped on Big Muddy three miles from Big Hatchie. I was Sergeant of the Rear Guard today.

Thursday, Sept 11th, 1862
Camp in field, Tennessee
     Reveille at 3 A.M. this morning, 3rd Iowa and 41st Illinois are detailed to build a bridge across Big Hatchie three miles from camp. At 5 ½ A.M., with contrabands,[17] shovels and axes, we proceeded to our place of operations passing through one of the most lonely, wild and wilderness looking places I ever saw, dense wood land, thick under brush, marshy land.
     Upon arriving at the stream, we found it quite a stream, about 125 feet wide. The bridge across this river was burned by the enemy. To build a bridge across such a large stream appeared to be quite a task. Our contrabands were brought to bear upon the heavy timber, felling and cutting in pieces of the proper length. These were rolled into the river and drifted to their proper place.
     We busied ourselves gathering the wild fruit, muscadines, grapes and paw paws, which were very abundant in the bottoms. Thus, the day passed during the afternoon. However we were unpleasantly drenched with heavy showers of rain. Night approached and no sight of our teams. Here we are without blankets or anything of the kind. The bridge is near finished.

[1] La Grange (approx 48 miles from Memphis) was named in honor of the Marquis de La Fayette’s ancestral home in Auvergne, France and became known throughout the Old South as “La Belle Village”. Brochure “Walking/Driving Tour of La Grange, Tennessee”, Town of La Grange, TN, n.d.

[2] It is unclear which type of architecture the author refers to here. It may be Georgian (1714–1776). For a description of various styles of that era, refer to: Michael J. Varhola, Every Day life During the Civil War. (Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 1999), 73. Also visit for views of La Grange homes.
[3] Perhaps Emilius I. Weiser, age 25, residence Decorah, Iowa, Pennsylvania, enlisted 20 May 1861, appointed First Lieutenant and mustered 8 June 1861. He was promoted Captain 16 January 1862, wounded in knee by grape shot 6 April 1862, Shiloh, Tenn.  See a roster of soldiers in Company D on the following web-site,, transcribed by Linda Suarez from the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. I, lists the Captain as wounded 5 October 1862, Hatchie River, Tenn. and mustered out 18 June 1864, Davenport, Iowa, expiration of term of service. There is no Captain Wiser on the above Company D Roster.

[4]  Provost Marshall: an officer in charge of military police.

[5]  Will had crossed out Company A in the journal.

[6] Perhaps referring to the 1 September Battle of Chantilly, Virginia and its aftermath. On 2 Sept US General John Pope completed “his withdrawal into the entrenchments around Washington”. Skirmishes broke out at Fairfax Court House and Flint Hill...”With Pope’s army no longer a threat, CSA General Robert E. Lee turned his army west and north to invade the North”. James R. Arnold and Roberta Weiner, Editorial Consultants, The Time Chart History of the Civil War. (Ann Arbor, MI: Lowe & B. Hould Publishers, 2001), 44; Frances H. Kennedy, Editor and Principal Contributor, The Civil War Battlefield Guide, 2nd ed. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998), 112.

[7] George W. Baty (Veteran), age 22, residence Green Bush, Iowa, Ohio, enlisted 21 May 1861, mustered 8 June 1861, re-enlisted and re-mustered 4 Jan 1864. See company B, Third Infantry Consolidated Battalion, A roster of soldiers in Company G on the following web-site,, transcribed by Linda Suarez from the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. I.
[8] Second Manassas (Bull Run) Campaign - 28-30 August 1862.

[9] Memphis Daily Newspaper from 1843-1894. In 1894, The Appeal merged with The Daily Commercial, founded in 1890, to become The Commercial Appeal, the current daily newspaper in Memphis. Available at

[10] Second Manassas
[11] “…the concept of a mess hall was unknown during the Civil War,…In camp, companies would frequently designate cooks to prepare their rations…”, Michael J. Varhola, Every Day life During The Civil War.(Cincinnati, Writer’s Digest Books, Ohio, 1999), 92.
[12] Perhaps referring to the 30 August battle where the Union lost 3 killed and the CSA lost 100. Civil War Battles of 1862, Chronological Summary and Record Of Every Engagement Between the Troops of the Union and the Confederacy in the American Civil War During the year of 1862, collated and compiled from the Official Records of the War Department.
[13] Muscadine: (ca. 1785) A grape of the southern U.S. with musky fruit in small clusters [prob. alter of muscatel]: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed (2003), s. v. “muscadine”.

[14] Approx. 25 miles east of Memphis. The estimated population, in 2003, was 2,810.

[15] Jay-Hawk (1858): A reference to looting and burning by some bands of Antislavery guerrillas in Kansas and Missouri before and during the Civil War. Ibid. s. v. “Jay-Hawk”.

[16] Approx. 40 miles northeast of Memphis.

[17] Contraband: a slave who escaped to or who was brought within the Union lines.  Ibid. s. v. “contraband”.