Category Archives: 15th Iowa Infantry

1862: William Spates to Robert Spates

I could not find an image of William but here is one of John Davenport who also served in the 15th Iowa Infantry (Roger Davis Collection)

These three letters were written by William (“Bill”) Spates (1842-1863), the son of Thomas Purnell Spates (1799-1864) and Levica Scott (1805-1854) of Oskaloosa, Mahaska county, Iowa.

When William enlisted in Co. C, 15th Iowa Infantry in January 1863, he gave Indiana as his birthplace and Rose Hill, Iowa, as his current residence. He entered the service as a private and had been promoted to corporal prior to 6 June 1863 when he was detailed for Orderly Sergeant of Co. B, Tenth Louisiana Colored Volunteers (later designated the 48th US Colored Infantry Regiment). According to the muster rolls of the 48th USCT, William was never mustered as the Orderly Sergeant because he died on 25 June 1863 of fever at Goodrich Landing, Louisiana.

To read other letters published on Spared & Shared by 15th Iowa Infantry soldiers, see:
Cyrus E. Ferguson, Co. A, 15th Iowa (1 Letter)
Cyrus E. Ferguson, Co. A, 15th Iowa (9 Letters)
John A. Wheelock, Co. A, 15th Iowa (2 Letters)
John A. Wheelock, Co. A, 15th Iowa (2 Letters)

[Note: These letters are from the private collection of Mike Huston and are published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Letter 1

Headquarters 15th Iowa Infantry
Camp near Bolivar, Tennessee
August 13th 1862

Dear Brother,

I once more seat myself to inform you that I am well and when these few lines reach you, I hope they will find you enjoying the same blessing. I am on guard today and I thought I would drop you a few lines to let you know how things are at present as far as I can. We are still camped in the same place where we was when I wrote to [you] last. There has been nothing of any importance occurred yet and I am in hopes there will be none. We are a building forts here now. There is 6 forts a building or being built in a round here. I was on fatigue duty yesterday a having to go to build a magazine for Fort England. We go a foraging every other day and get peaches and apples.

Henry Hiatt is at our camp this morning and he is as fine a looking soldier as I ever saw in my life.. I believe he belongs to the 17th Illinois Regiment and they drawed their pay 4 or 5 days ago and he says he intends to send his father $25 or $30 dollars. I think it will be a good idea if he does.

You wanted to know how we lived. We live sometimes like gentlemen and some times like hogs. We draw flour and ham and pickled pork every five days and beef every morning. We have built a bake oven and we have bread that is fit to eat and as to our officers, we have as good officers as any company in the regiment. There never was a better man than Capt. [James A.] Seevers. 1 But as to the lieutenants, I will whip the Second Lieutenant if we ever live to get back to Oskaloosa. That is John D. Kinsman. He used to clerk in the Recorder’s [Office]. He is a perfect tyrant since he has come in command of the company. 2 Capt. Seevers is Acting Major and Lieut. John D. Shannon is detailed on the court martial in session at Bolivar. If I ever live to get to Oskaloosa, I will give Lieut. Kinsman a good licking.

I don’t know as I have anything to write of any importance any more than I want you to give me a full detail of all that is going on and about the draft but I will advise you to stay at home for you will never stand it at all. So take a fool’s advise and stay at home. write soon and oblige your brother.

— Bill Spates

To Robert Spates, Esq.

1 Seevers, James A. Age 29. Residence Oskaloosa, nativity Virginia. Appointed Captain Dec. 31, 1861. Mustered Dec. 31, 1861. Resigned Nov. 27, 1862, Tennessee. 

2 Kinsman, John D. Age 20. Residence Oskaloosa, nativity Iowa. Enlisted Oct. 17, 1861, as First Sergeant. Mustered Dec. 31, 1861. Promoted Second Lieutenant April 23, 1862. Killed in battle Oct. 3, 1862, Corinth, Miss. 


Letter 2

Headquarters 15th Regt. Iowa Vols.
Camp No. 14
September 17th 1862

Dear Bob,

I seat myself to drop you a few lines. We received orders to be ready to march by 3 o’clock Friday morning and started from Bolivar to Corinth and was two days and a half on the road. We are camped about 2 miles and a half from Corinth—a little east, and a supporting the Tenth Ohio Battery. We are camped close to the picket line of Company C, 7th Iowa. Bruce Jarvis 1 has not come down here yet. Walter Tanner 2 came to camp yesterday and said hat Bruce Jarvis started down when Johnson came down to St. Louis to get his pay. If he is strapped, it is not my fault for if he has been gambling and lost his money, I can’t sympathize with him for it. I don’t know when we will get our pay but I could not care if we did not draw our money while we are in the service.

I received your letter the other morning as we was a starting for Corinth. I received them papers you sent. I wish you would send me a few more stamps for I fell in the Tallahatchie River and got them wet and they stuck together and I lost all of them nearly. I will try and give Miss [ ] a flourish with the pen if I get a chance. I would give her a flourish with something else.

Bob, I am afraid this Union is about gone up or as our byword is, “played out” for ninety days. Our Generals has not done anything in the East.

I will close. Give my respects to all of my friends. Send me something good to eat if you please. Farewell and excuse my writing for I have one of the meanest pens you ever saw. I have run out of gas.

Your humble servant, — Bill Spates

I will send you some wild grapes seeds. The Tennesseans call them Muscadines. They are as big as a snail’s egg. I want you to have them a bearing by the time I get home.

1 There was no Bruce Jarvis on the rolls of the 15th Iowa Infantry.

2 Tanner, Walter A. Age 25. Residence Hopewell, nativity Ohio. Enlisted Oct. 17, 1861, as Third Corporal. Mustered Dec. 31, 1861. Killed in battle Oct. 3, 1862, Corinth, Miss. 


Letter 3

La Grange, [Tennessee]
November 29, 1862

Dear Brother,

I take the present opportunity of dropping you a few lines to let you know where I am. I arrived at La Grange yesterday evening. The Regiment left yesterday morning for Holly Springs and I and 4 more of the same regiment are here. I don’t know when I will get a chance to go to my regiment. The whole army is on the move and I expect will have a fight before a great while. There was about 70 thousand troops on their way to some place, God only knows where for I don’t.

I am well or about as I was when I left home. I think I will get a discharge when I get to the regiment or at least I intend to do my best towards getting one. I had not time to call on you for money so I gave Johnson a draft on you for $15. I suppose it will make no material difference to you. It did not cost me a cent for me to come down here. I came down to St. Louis with the 33rd Regiment and then I got a Transportation to my regiment.

Give my love and respects to all y old friends and especially to E. J. Shipley. Write soon and often. Your brother, — William Spates

To Robert Spates