Thursday, March 20, 2014

On the March

Chap 8     Marching Toward Memphis
   Partial Letters to Lydia[1]

Continued...Well Lydia, I have strung my letter out to a considerable length & have not given you much news after all.
And “Sam told Sophy, &c, &c”. Well, I think Sam is sadly mistaken, don’t you? There may be such a place as Page, and there might be such a thing as a girl there, if there is such a place. However, I cannot positively say that there is &c, &c. Maybe my friend Samuel understands matters and things pertaining to my private affairs better than Your Humble Servant.
Lydia, you can rest assured that my connection with “Page” is as limited as these with yourself. And, you know that we are not so very extensive[ly] connected as might be.
As a matter of friendship, I did occasionally exchange letters with friend [M__my?]. But, to the best of my knowledge, Samual G. never saw any of them. But as you say, there was nothing particular in them (I wish there was).
But, as it is your special request that I let no one see them, I will, with pleasure, do as you so sincerely desire. And, you know, “friend Lydia”, that what I say is the truth. Don’t you think that you could trust my honor a little, at any rate?
I understand very emphatically how Ruby,[2] as well as others, succeeded in getting out of the service. And, could get out of the service as he did, but, I have a little honor and don’t have any idea that a three year war will blemish it. It is true that the army is not a desirable place. A soldier’s life is in danger at all times. He is never considered safe. But, much experience during war (as at the present time) hardens his mind, and in many instances rests perfectly easy even when in the greatest danger. (I speak from experience.)
I wish you not to infer that I am trying to make myself out brave, but I wish it distinctly understood, that no thundering cannon, nor bursting shell and even death did I know that it would come tomorrow on a field of action, would induce me to do as Gentlemen have done in this army. I know that life is sweet, but I care not a Continental [least bit]. If to die on a battlefield is my lot, so let it be.
I have been in a number of battles, have thus far escaped almost uninjured. And why that I might not have reasons to believe that I will always escape as in former fights. I am perfectly willing to risk it, let the consequence be as it may.
It is a pity that anyone should have the heart disease. They say it’s fatal; don’t you think so?
Sure enough, the Winterset wing of the 3rd Iowa is nearly extinct. Blakely and I [are] all that is left. Blakely, I think, will be out soon; he is not fit for service. I will do all I can for him. I have been very lonesome since Frederick left us. He is a splendid fellow; wish he was here. I had a letter from him the other day, also, about half a dozen from the Iowa 4th Infantry. I wonder if they think I will write to every man in the regiment.

...This was written in haste and by candlelight. I fear you cannot read it. Excuse.
I think you have done exceedingly well this summer in teaching so long in one place, especially in such a deluded spot as Adair County is.
I think I should admire that six-foot and two inch girl of your school. Won’t you speak a good word for me to her highness? I think you will.
I am no captain yet. But, you need not be alarmed, if such should be the case before long. Captain Ogg, if not resigned, will likely be dismissed from the service.[3] And, if either takes place, I have a good chance for the captaincy of this company. I will undoubtedly get the position, if left to the company to choose.
Our present commander is incompetent to hold the position, is not liked by the men, and has no friends among the regimental and company officer - his name, O.G. Anderson, 2nd Lieutenant.[4] Our 1st Lieutenant is still a prisoner & [the] Captain is wounded seriously at [here].
I think that Warner did write you a letter.[5] He was induced to do so by a gentleman of Winterset. Notoriety. I think it was more for a [____] than anything else.
You asked me if I intend to go home this fall. Indeed, Lydia, I would much like to visit home and friends. But, it is impossible to do so, as leaves of absence, are not granted in this division. I would like to see you very much and all of my old schoolmates.
I remember well our former engagements and pleasure rides. Lydia, there was no war then. When will we enjoy such pleasures again?
Well, I am for picket duty tomorrow. Will have a good time; is not much danger here on picket. I was Sergeant of the Guard last night and yesterday. I had command of the prisoners today on police duty. We have a spy here; will be shot. Are fortifying here. We are about 12,000 troops here. Don’t know how long will stay here. Are ready to do or go anywhere. You will please not let any of my people see this letter. Hope to hear from you at your earliest convenience. [_ir_d] as follows – WCN, Company G, 3rd Iowa Infantry, Gen. Hurlbut’s Division, Bolivar, Tenn. Please drop Captain Ogg’s name.
If you chance to see any communications in the Madisonian,[6] signed “Tenn”, you will know who they are from.
I have much to tell you; had I an opportunity. Would much rather give you a verbal account than written.
Respectfully Yours,

Chap 9     March Root and Branch

Going to Bolivar

Friday Sept the 12th, 1862
Camp in field near [Bolivar]
Orders came last night at 10 P.M. to cease building the bridge, so this morning we returned to camp; found all in readiness to counter march and go to Bolivar. We had all of our work for nothing. We marched 17 miles today; camped in the timber. No water, all very tired, dark before the train arrives. Have a good supper, plenty of chicken. &c &

Saturday, Sept the 13th, 1862
Camp in field, Tennessee
     Aroused at 3 ½ A.M.; marched at 6 o’clock, roads good, weather cool and cloudy. We are in camp on Spring Creek, two miles and a half from Bolivar. We marched 17 miles today the last eight of them was very dirty. The county very hilly, and to march over we reach camping grounds at sundown.
     The water here is much better than we have had since we left Memphis; rain is very much needed.

Camp near Bolivar, Tennessee
Sabbath morning, Sept the 14th, 1862
     Well, we have the pleasure of resting awhile this morning. I presume we will go into camp here for a few days. Breastworks are being built at Bolivar. The Iowa troops all left here just before we came. This is a fine cool morning.
     We are now 15 miles north of Grand Junction; how long to remain is not known. [7]
     Five o’clock P.M. We still rest in our temporary camp on Spring Creek. Heavy clouds arose in the west threatening rain all afternoon but I fear it will pass away ere it dampens the ground or lays the dust, which is very deep. It is quite strange eight miles from here; there is no dust. It has been raining at the distance for several days, while there has been none here. Have no news yet; have to get some letters in a day or two.
     Mal has supper near ready, consisting of coffee, biscuit, molasses & old standby - soldiers have some sleep. Meals in camp sometimes, and sometimes they don’t have any.
     Who is there that don’t like romance? But O! Such romance as soldiers see, his mind for agitation and his body for a mark.[8]
Bivouacked on Spring Creek
Monday, Sept 15th, 1862
     Our company was detailed at 3 o’clock A.M. for picket duty. Was my good fortune to be kept in the reserve, consequently did not have much duty. Quite a pleasant day, fell back one half mile in the evening; had good living, plenty of fruit and everything else.

Camp near Bolivar Tennessee
Tuesday, Sept 16th, 1862
     Was relieved at eight o’clock A.M. Returned to camp; found all ready to move. Moved one half mile; camped on the hill in an open field, one mile west from Bolivar.
     Reported fight at Corinth, reports were of the enemy marching on this place. Day cool and pleasant; threatens rain &c.[9]
Camp near Bolivar, Tennessee
Wednesday, Sept. 17th, 1862
Quite stormy last night, raining this morning. This day one year ago, we fought the Battle of Blue Mills.[10] We thought that a terrible affair, would think it no fight at all now. Our regiment is stronger and in better condition this day than it was one year

ago. My health is good, all in excellent spirits. At this P.M., the sky is clear.

Camp near Bolivar
Thursday, Sept. the 18th, 1862
     Fine cool morning, all in high glee. Nine o’clock A.M., brisk firing was heard on our right; supposed to be fighting. Preparations are made to meet the enemy. Pack up knapsacks; strike tents, all ready and willing. Twelve midnight, no fight, bad.

     The cause of the alarm was the 2nd Brigade firing of their pieces; don’t like such work. 2nd Brigade often takes such spells. I don’t see why they always have their guns loaded. We never load our pieces unless we are threatened.

Camp near Bolivar
Friday, Sept 19th, 1862
     Last night was one of the coldest nights of the season; was quite cool under a double blanket. This is a very pleasant day; all is quiet, no exciting news.
     No news of an approaching enemy; would like to have some news. This evening’s papers give an account of the surrender of Harper’s Ferry. Our loss, 6,000 men and $1,000,000 worth of property taken by the enemy.[11] This however was nothing more than we expected from the news of yesterday.
     Six o’clock P.M., just received orders to march root and branch tomorrow morning at four o’clock.[12] Wonder where we are going; expect we are going to make some dash at the enemy. This is a splendid time for marching, so cool &c. &c.
     Notwithstanding, we have been camped within one mile of town [Bolivar]. I have not, as yet, seen that noted place. The town itself, from what I can learn, is of little importance, but its situation makes it a point of interest in a military point of view.
     The county surrounding Bolivar is poor, hilly, sandy & desolate. Quite a quantity of cotton grown this season, but is going to loss for lack of hands to pick it. In all the fields, cotton is dropping from the bowl, on the ground. But, tomorrow we march. Where to is not known, but will soon find out.
Marching South

Bivouac in field, Tennessee
Saturday night, Sept. 20th, 1862
     We bade adieu to our camping ground near Bolivar at 8 o’clock this morning, taking up a line of march in a south direction. The expedition consisting of the 1st Brigade General Jacob G. Lauman, consisting of five regiments of infantry, two batteries of artillery and two battalions of the 2nd Illinois Cavalry.
     We kept on the main road south as far as Middleburg, a little town seven miles from Bolivar. Here, we turned to the left from the main road, traveling by road across the hills and hollows, sometimes no road at all, until we reached within four miles of Grand Junction, and eighteen miles from where we started from this morning.
     The county through which we passed today was one of the poorest I have yet seen in the south, the county remarkably hilly, plantations poor, worn out and desolate looking places. Cotton everywhere in bloom falling from the bowl to the ground, no hands to pick it.
     It is evident that we are marching upon the enemy at La Grange & Grand Junction. What force there is at either of those places I cannot tell, but I presume we will find out ere the sun reaches the meridian tomorrow.

A Retrograde Movement

In camp near Bolivar Tennessee
Sabbath, Sept 21st, 1862
     All ready, we took up a line of march at seven A.M. on to the Junction, a fine cool morning, all in good spirits. We marched in regular order our regiment in the advance. We had marched but a short distance when signs of the enemy were visible. When within one mile of Grand Junction all came to a sudden halt; here it was ascertained that the enemy was moving in force to attack our rear moving on the La Grange road northward. It being evident that it was the intention of the enemy to cut us off from Bolivar or from getting reinforcements from that place.
     We changed front to rear, commencing a retrograde movement quick time. The change of front was performed with ease and great rapidity, the entire performance occupying but half an hour. This was a remarkably quick move considering the large train belonging to our brigade.
     Fast marching was necessary in order that the enemy might not cut off our retreat, as it had become evident that they were in overwhelming numbers. Our numbers so small, the distance to reinforcements so great, that it was thought not best to give battle unless impossible to do better.
     It was soon discovered that the enemy was marching on our rear from the Grand Junction with infantry, cavalry & artillery. Our regiment & two companies of 2nd Illinois Cavalry covered the retreat, which was no small matter to save the train.
     We succeeded in reaching a small creek ten miles from Bolivar. Here we made a stand placing the artillery in position, and awaited the approach of the enemy.
     One half hour elapsed nothing was seen. Our company was detailed as skirmishers to advance upon the enemy and ascertain his position, at the same time a squad of cavalry cantered down the road to draw the enemy and which was successful.
     His [CSA] cavalry advanced toward our batteries and when they got a good distance, one section of artillery opened on them with shot and shell. Such running I never saw; men and horses without riders running in all directions. Had they come 50 yards closer they would have got the contents of our rifles.

     This done, we again resumed our march closely followed by the enemy; six miles from Bolivar another line was formed, but ere the rear guard had closed up, and the order from General Hurlbut, which was not to make a stand unless unavoidable, march his men slow and with care, and provided it was necessary, he would match us with four regiments of infantry, two batteries of artillery and cavalry.
     The 3rd Iowa then passed from rear to front greatly relieving us from hard marching. The men had become already much fatigued with a forced march. However, at this eight o’clock P.M., we are safely in the camp we left yesterday morning with what loss is not yet known.
     My friend J.M. Goss,[13] Company G 3rd Iowa, I presume, was taken prisoner, also the Adjutant One lieutenant & five privates belonging to the 53rd Illinois Infantry. We are all very tired and think that an expedition such as we have just accomplished is sufficient for one week. I should not like to make another such next Saturday & Sabbath.
     There certainly could not have been a more successful reconnaissance made. We ascertained the position and force of the enemy. I think he will attack this post in a few days. His rumored strength is 15,000. We have not half that number, but let him come and we will give him a taste of western pluck in many ways.

In camp near Bolivar
Monday eve Sept. 22nd, 1862
We were called from our quiet slumbers at three o’clock this morning; formed a line of battle, no signs of the enemy coming. Pitched tents; all very tired and sore. Would rather rest than fight today. My health good.


Written vertically up the left-hand margin:

The Star Spangled banner, O! Long may it wave over the land of and the home of the brave.

Monday evening, Eight o’clock P.M.
Near Bolivar, Tennessee
     Orders this P.M. to be in line of battle at 4 am tomorrow morning, with one day’s rations of cooked rations, canteen filled with water.
     In his order, General Hurlbut said that if he was not attacked, that he would be able with what reinforcements he would get to be able to assume the offensive.
     So tomorrow if we are not attacked ere it comes, we will march upon our antagonist; a battle tomorrow is evident. We are ready with our small force and willing to go on the field of contest trusting in Him who is the God of Battles, to guide us in battle.

On Picket near Bolivar Tennessee
Thursday, Sept. 23rd, 1862
I was detailed with 15 others from Company G and Company C, 3rd Iowa for picket this morning as no fight is expected.
The enemy retreated from before our lines at one A.M. this morning. This change, I presume, was made from the fact that a fight had taken place near Corinth, Mississippi, on the 22nd inst. in which the enemy was completely defeated.[14]
Their retreat was made much quicker than their advance on this place. We were greatly surprised and very much disappointed at not getting to decide the contest here without having to march. I know not when I felt more like fighting than I did at this time. All appeared to be anxious to decide the matter without further delay.
My picket post today was on the Summerrill Road. I had charge of the videtts.[15]
     The day was very pleasant, cool & agreeable. Nothing transpired during the day worthy of note. The surrounding county is very broken. Hills of considerable height looked toward the sky covered with a dense forest of oak & chestnut. From the sides of those romantic hills gushed fountains of pure cold water flowing with unequaled rapidity through the dark deep ravines.
     I was relieved from the outpost at five & a half P.M.; returned to the reserve one half mile to the rear. The sky is darkened by clouds rising in the west. I think it will rain tonight.                                    

In Camp near Bolivar Tennessee
Wednesday Sept the 24th 1862
     Such a night as last night was. I was on duty from ten P.M. to four A.M. this morning. And O! How it did rain. The heavens appeared to open and the water fell in torrents upon us. The night was as dark as the infernal regions, no moon to cast her dim rays on the quiet earth, no twinkling stars to adorn the Heavens above.
     Dismal, O! Dismal night thought I, as I visited the videtts some half-mile distant in the dark and silent hours of the night. What fortitude, what patience & what courage it requires to make a good soldier such times as these in the face of an enemy.
     Day dawned upon us wet and sheereless.[16] I procured at a neighboring plantation some corn bread (without salt or anything else save the essential element) and milk (all that could be obtained) for my morning meal for which I paid one half dollar, but could not eat it.
     At nine A.M. we were relieved by the 32nd Illinois Infantry. Returned to camp; found all well. Tents had been pitched and all in motion. But what was better than all, found three letters awaiting my arrival from the following persons, Ex-Lieut. Frederick, G.H. Kelly & my friend in Page County, Iowa, news from all points encouraging.
     This is a very cool pleasant day, all quiet and lively in Camp, further particulars of the fight near Corinth, Mississippi in which the enemy were completely defeated. I feel somewhat worse of my last night’s duty; don’t want another much soon.                                                    Wm Clark Newlon.

Camp near Bolivar Tennessee
Thursday Sept 25th, 62
Quite cool last night, a little frost the first of the season. I caught a violent cold; do not feel so well all over it. The day cool and pleasant, nothing of interest. I spent the day in writing. Such days as these are not pleasant, too quiet and lonely. No excitement, wish would have a fight; have something to talk about. News from Virginia good.[17] &c &c &c
Camp near Bolivar
Friday Sept. the 26th, 1862
The same routine as yesterday, no news today. Wrote three letters to friends. Am about half sick; got a bad cold.
Cool day, would like to be at home, today. But, no go.

Camp near Bolivar
Saturday, Sept. 27th, 1862
All quiet on the Potomac. Got bad cold, sore throat. Not very well. Anyhow, went to Surgeon’s call this morning, the first time in a great while. Our brigade had review this P.M., General H[urlbut], Three Sheets in the Wind, as usual. No news today.   

Camp near Bolivar Tennessee
Sabbath, Sept 28th, 1862
     Was detailed this morning for Line Guard, a very fine cool day. Have a pleasant place for my guard reserve. Have under my charge six prisoners. Nothing transpired during the day which has departed.

Camp near Bolivar
Monday, Sept. 29th, 1862
     Did not sleep much last night; was relieved at the proper hour (9 o’clock). Spent the day mostly writing letters. Nothing new today, no news. Health Good. 

Tuesday, Sept 30th, 1862
     Our Company is detailed this morning for Picket Guard; I am included. Pretty sleepy I think, on duty day before yesterday and on today. Had a good time, not hard duty. I wrote letter to Madisonian, pleasant day. No enemy near us today.

Camp near Bolivar
Wednesday, 1st Oct., 1862
     Was on duty four hours last night; the night was very pleasant indeed. While visiting the vedetts, I thought of many things, of home, of friends, and of school mates, but far I am from home and all. Wish I could have the pleasure of enjoying their society.
     Was relieved at nine A.M. This morning, camp to camp, found two letters for myself, one from sister Dorcas and one from Benjamin Franklin Murray.[18]
     I have a bad cold; don’t feel very well.
     Rumors of a proposed compromise, hope the war will end.

[1] The first letter’s stationery is unique. The two lined pages open like a basic card, measuring 5” x 8”.  In the upper left-hand corner of top page, there is an embossed eagle on a banner shield, with the words “Union and [_____tion]” on the top. The five inch top edge of the top page has a thin [1/16”] trim of bright red; the length of the right edge is trimmed with blue.      
[2] Samuel G. Ruby, age 22, residence Winterset, né Ohio, enlisted 21 May 1861 as Eighth Corporal, mustered 22 May 1861, discharged 8 July 1862 at St. Louis, MO for disability. 
[3] Adam L. Ogg, age 32, wounded severely in both hands 6 April 1862, Shiloh, Tenn., resigned 16 June 1863. Web-based “Roster and Record, 3rd Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry”,
[4] The web-based roster of Field and Staff Officers of the 3rd Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry,, lists a 2nd Lt. Ole A. Anderson, Company D.

[5] Ephraim P. Warner, age 29, residence Winterset, né Pennsylvania, enlisted 21 May 1861, mustered 8 June 1861, wounded in arm 6 April 1862, Shiloh, Tenn, discharged 12 Sept 1862, Shiloh, Tenn. for disability, Ibid.

[6] Newspaper serving Madison County, Iowa
[7] Approx. 35 miles east of Memphis.

[8] Perhaps a reaction to “seeing the elephant”.

[9] Perhaps skirmishes before the Battle of Corinth (3-4 October 1862)

[10] Also referred to as the Battle of Blue Mills Landing or the Battle of Liberty. See      footnote two.

[11] The Federals surrendered on 15 September. The CSA forces under Lt. Gen. Thomas Jonathan ‘Stonewall’ Jackson “had captured 12,500 prisoners and 73 cannon at the cost of 286 casualties, making the battle of Harper’s Ferry the largest Federal surrender of the Civil War.” James M. McPherson, The Atlas of the Civil War. (New York: Macmillan, 1994), 78.

[12] Root and branch (1640): completely, utterly: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed (2003), s. v. “root and branch”.
[13] James M. Goss, age 20, Gossport, Iowa, Indiana, enlisted 21 May 1861, mustered 8 June 1861, disability discharge 5 March 1863. “3rd Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry in the War of the Rebellion, Roster and Record”,

[14] Perhaps an aftermath of the 19 September Battle of Iuka.

[15] Vidette (var. of Vedette, 1690): A mounted sentinel stationed in advance of pickets: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed (2003), s. v. “vidette”.

[16] Sheereless: Perhaps opposite of “sheer” meaning clear, bright. Ibid. s. v. “Sheer”.
[17] Perhaps Will is referring to General Lee’s 19 September retreat across the Potomac and back into Virginia. The Union was able to claim a victory at Antietam, but Gen. McClellan did not pursue Lee. 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.

[18]  See footnote 53.