This letter was written by Manius Buchanan (1835-1914), the son of David Buchanan (1800–1874) and Lydia Tribbey (1802-1885) of Fairfield, DeKalb county, Indiana. At age 26, Manius first entered the service at LaPorte, Indiana, as a private in Co. B, 29th Indiana Infantry. He served in that regiment from 27 August 1861 until 5 September 1862 when he was discharged for disability.
In July 1863, he enrolled again to serve in the 118th Indiana Regiment which was being organized to serve for 6 months. He was selected as Captain of Co. D and served from early September 1863 to early March 1864. [Note: the officers of Co. D were originally recorded as being in Co. F, as well as some of the solders. By 1864, they were all clearly in Co. D, however.]
Service: March from Nicholasville, Ky., to Cumberland Gap September 24-October 3, and to Morristown October 6-8. Action at Blue Springs October 10. March to Greenville and duty there till November 6. March across Clinch Mountain to Clinch River. Action at Walker’s Ford, Clinch River, December 2. Duty at Tazewell, Maynardsville and Cumberland Gap till February, 1864. Skirmish at Tazewell January 24. Mustered out March 1-4, 1864.
Manius wrote this letter to his fiancee Emma W. Childs of DeKalb county, Indiana; the couple were married on 28 July 1864. In 1870 the couple were residing in Richmond, Ray county, Missouri, where Manius was employed as a surveyor. Sometime in the 1870s, Emma died and Manius remarried to a woman named Anne.
In Camp near Tazewell, Tennessee
January 13, 1864
It has been a long time since I wrote you a letter and this is bound to be a short one; it is hard I am certain, but it can not be helped at present. You should be thankful for small favors in so busy a time. The time may soon come again when I cannot grant even these. you must not begin to think it is a burden to be forced to write a few lines to Em, for it is one of the pleasures left me. I have received letters very irregularly for the chance I have had, no mail comes of late without bringing one from my “M.” Nearly every one of them gave me a scolding for not doing what was not in my power, but it is a pleasure even to get a scolding from one I am so glad to hear from. It would be more natural to see those eyes flush with anger and those cheeks burn with honest pride.
I am well and hearty, of course I am. Who said I wasn’t? Rations fare hard that come before your “Capt.” [Pvt. Humphrey English] Chilcoat is sick and back on the road somewhere. I think he will get in sometime today. I do not know what is the matter with him but think he eat too many Tennessee pies. I would not have lost him, but he is in the habit of always struggling, sick or well, generally for the purpose of “crumping,” sometimes through mere laziness, so I did not miss him until after night. Then I was told that he fell out in the morning and was quite sick. You need not tell his folks, but I fear for his safety.
The health of the company is good—very good. The Orderly is sick but the cause is not Tennessee pies, nor anything in the eating line. But I fear his British cake is “dough.” I done all I could for him and he worked for himself but all would not do. Poor fellow, how I pity him. He is quite a different boy of late; he neglects duty and self respect. his chance for a Lieutenancy is played.
[1st Lt. Cyrus T.] Mosier’s resignation never was received at Department Headquarters on account of the siege at Knoxville but it made a better officer of him and now I shall bear with him until the end. Sergeants Whitney, [George N.] Cornell and [Erastus] Pyle, Corporals [Erastus] Finney, [Albert M.] Alton, and [Squire] Admire are my best officers. Of all the good boys in my company, [Pvt.] Martin Castleman stands preeminent.
I suppose you would like to know what I have been doing since I wrote to you last. Well here is our work briefly delineated. December 21st, we marched to Walker’s Ford, the scene of our recent battle. 22nd, marched back to Tazewell. 24th and 25th, marched to Monroe Gap, 25 miles from here and 12 beyond Walker’s Ford on the Knoxville Road and near the little town of Maynardsville, and here we lay until day before yesterday when we started back for Tazewell. We expected to go farther but nothing is certain in war.
Christmas dinner I partook on one of the tallest peaks of the Clinch in company with the Orderly. Our dinner consisted of fresh peaches, apple pulp, sardines, and the best of wheat bread. You may talk of your splendid dinners and rousing balls, but none were better enjoyed than our frugal repast high on the Clinch. It only lacked one thing to make it perfect—that we could not supply the society of those dear at home. The rest we had carried from Tazewell in our haversacks. From our mountain heights we looked over a large expanse of country once wealthy and prosperous, but now desolated by the ravages of war and thought of our happy homes and the happy hearts there. Imagination could see the tables spread with the richest luxuries, but here there was a dearth of everything except tears and broken hearts. The poet that sung:
“How little we know of soldier’s fare
Until our brothers are in the fight”
might have gone a little further and said, “We know nothing of the hardships of war until we have connections in an invaded country.”
But I am transgressing. I am most to the point—if I have any point. New Years we spent as any other day, doing pretty much nothing. What did you do those eventful days?
H[umphrey E.] Chilcoat has come up, not so sick after all; fuss is peculiar to the family.
We have had some very cold weather for the last 10 days making the soldiers in their pup tents lay up close. Many of the soldiers had to stand by campfires night after night to avoid freezing. How hard! how terribly severe!
The officers tried to reorganize this regiment fo the “three years service” a few days ago. I suppose you would think that I would be in that movement as I am always at some devilment, but I was not. I was a dead weight on their hands. I protested that I wanted to go and see my little woman about it first (they thought I was married). We would not reorganize worth a cent. We are going home first to see whether there is any objection to it. I must quit and go to over to the widow’s and get my dinner. Direct your answer to Cumberland Gap.
Your soldier, — Manins
I will be home sometime if not sooner. If you do’t write immediately, I will “box your ears.”