This letter was written by Simeon Oscar Johnson (1838-1912), the orphaned son of Simeon Johnson (1786-1849) and Rachel Cruzen (1804-1845). He wrote the letter to his younger sister, Helen Elizabeth Johnson (1841-1923) and her husband, Abraham Bailey (1828-1910) of Oskaloosa, Mahaska county, Iowa.
During the Civil War, Simeon volunteered to serve in Co. H, 8th Iowa Infantry. He mustered into the regiment on 12 September 1861 and mustered out three years later on 28 September 1864 at Davenport, Iowa.
The 8th Iowa Infantry left the state for St. Louis in September 1861 and was attached to Department of Missouri until March, 1862. The regiment was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, Army of Tennessee for one month and then transferred to the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, until July, 1862. Following the fighting in SE Tennessee and NE Mississippi, the regiment was assigned to the District of Corinth, Dept. of the Tennessee, 1st Brigade, XIII Army Corps. Following the exchange of Shiloh prisoners (most of the regiment was captured at Shiloh), the regiment returned to Davenport for reorganization December 20, 1862-January 4, 1863. They were assigned to the District of St. Louis, Dept. of the Missouri, January-April, 1863. The Iowans returned to the Army of the Tennessee in the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, XV Army Corps, until December, 1863. They transferred to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, XVI Army Corps, until June, 1864, following which they moved to the District of Memphis, District of West Tennessee, until February, 1865.
Camp near Big Black River, Mississippi
February 9th 1864
Dear Brother & Sister,
I now take my seat to answer your kind letter of the 11th of January which come to hand some time ago while on the march. I would have answered it sooner but I was at Memphis (when I received it) on our way down here, and we have been fixing things around so as to be as comfortable as possible, and we also had to leave our knapsacks at Memphis with everything in them so that we could not write until we could get some paper and pens to write with.
This is written in good health and I hope when it comes to hand, it will find you all enjoying good health. I don’t know when this regiment will get to go home on their promised furloughs as we have rather moved south than north, but I think that they will get to go home sometime between now and May. But it is my opinion that they will have to stay here until this expedition returns (that started from here as we came) and goes home and returns. I can’t tell much about what the intentions are of the officers in command of this army that left here but I think that they are going to Meridian and from there to Mobile, and it may be some time ere they will return. Therefore it may be some time before our regiment gets their veteran furlough. It may be possible that they will not go home until in August and if they are put off that long, I am inclined to think that those that has not reenlisted will get to go home at the same time and stay there unless they choose to enlist again as veterans.
For my part, I am a going to have a month or two to myself before I try my luck at dodging rebel bullets again. I don’t know but I may enlist again after I am at home long enough to get tired of a civilized life, but I will then take my choice of the branches of the service which will be either heavy or light artillery.
I hear that the President has called out five hundred thousand 500,000 more men and if that is the case, I would like to be out of the service now and at home and I would try to get up a light field battery if I could get any encouragement from the proper authorities to do so.
The weather down here is very warm at present, so much so that I am now sitting in my tent without either fire or coat, boots or any under clothes in me, and I am as comfortable as I want to be. I seen peach blossoms in Vicksburg on the 3rd of this month. You may think it strange but notwithstanding, it is so. It is by this season of the year that you may judge the difference in the summer between here and the North.
I want you to write as soon as get this and give me the news. Direct to Co. H, 8th Iowa Infantry, 3rd Division, 16th Army Corps, via Memphis, Tennessee. Our Division has been transferred to the 16th Army Corps. No more at present but write as soon as you get this and oblige your brother, — S. O. Johnson