This letter was written by James Ogburn Norton (1825-1862), a 1st Lieutenant in Co. F, 32nd Tennessee (Confederate) Infantry while imprisoned on board a boat docked at St. Louis. Lt. Norton was among the 528 members of the 32nd Tennessee that were taken prisoner on 16 February 1862. They would eventually be imprisoned at Camp Chase, Ohio, where they suffered through hard times. Though he tried to reassure his wife that he would be alright, Lt. Norton was one of the first officers to die at Camp Chase. His date of death is given as 4 March 1862, less than two weeks after this letter was written.
In the 1860 US Census, Norton was employed as a physician—a profession he learned from his father—at Hawkerville, Franklin county, Tennessee.
On Boat, St. Louis, Missouri February 24, 1862
My Dear Wife,
I write you a few lines by Dr. as I learn that he is going to Tennessee. I am well and am getting over hte fatigue of our late Battle Fort Donelson. We were all taken prisoners of war on Sunday morning, February 16th. There were none of our company killed and but three wounded. I was in the fight but did not get a scratch. How long we will be retained, I do not know know. I suppose we will be taken off the boats & be placed in comfortable quarters. We are treated very well by the officers who have charge of us. I can give none of the particulars as our letters will have to come open & be inspected.
I want you [to] bear up under it the best you can under the circumstances. We are in a healthy climate and when we get settled, we will enjoy fine health. My kindest regards to all. I want you all to do the best you can and not grieve about my confinement. I will ty and take care of myself the best I can and return when permitted. May God bless [my] dear wife and children.
From your affectionate husband, — Jas. O. Norton
Capt. [Elijah] Ikard [and] George is still with me.
[Insert bio] of J. Frederick Hammerly, born 1834 in Koenigreich, Wirtemberg, Germany. Came to America on 3 October 1852.
Jacob Hammerly. Enlisted 25 August 1861 in Co. B, 12th Illinois Infantry. Drowned 15 September 1861 Residence place give: Amboy, Illinois.
This diary is from the private collection of Greg Herr and has been transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.
Diary of Frederick Hammerly
Enlisted for the United States Army the 26th of August 1861. Arrived at Bird’s Point (Mo) August 28th. Camped at Belmont, September 4th. Came back to Bird’s Point, September 6th. Landed at Paducah, Ky. September 7, 1861. Brother Jacob Hammerly drowned the 14th day of September. Was found and buried the 16th of September near the Kentucky shore.
Paducah, October 2nd. We are expecting an attack. The advance guard was attacked last night. One was killed, two wounded, one or two taken prisoners. Later the 9th Illinois Cavalry came in last night from the Cumberland river with about thirty prisoners, 2 mules, 2 horses.
Paducah, November 5, 1861. Dress parade. Orders to be ready at any hours warning to march. November 6th. 1:30 o’clock p.m. Ready to start, destination unknown. November 7th. Moving towards Columbus. We heard great cannonading. November 8th. Paducah news come in, Our gunboats silenced two batteries. November 9th. Heard bad news. several regiments from Bird’s Point and Cairo badly cut up. Were ordered back to Paducah and arrived at two o’clock p.m. One of Co. B badly wounded in the breast through an accidental discharge of a musket and left with R[obert] Hale and [Bradford K.] Harrington in the country. November 10th. Weather fair. November 11th. It is cloudy and cold. Hale & Ackertt [Eckert] came back. November 12th. Weather fair and warm. Harrington taken prisoner. November 13th. Quite warm. November 14th. Warm. John Ackert died. November 15th 1861. Quite fresh this morning but clear and pleasant. November 16th. Weather fair but air chilly. 41st Regt. went away. November 17th. Cloudy and cold. November 18th. 41st came back again. November 19th. Moderate but windy. November 20th. Quite warm. November 21st. Quite warm. November 22nd. Very stormy. A real time over the three flag presentation from the citizens of Chicago. November 23. Cold and cloudy. Froze. November 24. Cold and cloudy. November 25. More moderate. The 11th Indiana hoisted a flag over a secesh house against the orders of General Smith. November 26. A little warmer. November 27. Cold rain. November 28. Rain and cold. Warmer in the evening. Three companies of our boys from Smith land again are going to stay with us. November 29th, 1861. Paducah. Very rainy and mingled with snow. November 30. The ground covered with snow. Froze hard.
December 1, 1861. Paducah. Cold and cloudy. December 2. Very cold and snowing hard. December 3. Cold and stormy. December 4. Cloudy but moderate. December 5. Weather fine. December 6. Weather excellent. Martin and I went up in town. December 7. Weather fine. Col. McArthur received [ ]. December 8. Raining in the morning. The remaining day fine. December 9. Warm December 10. Warm and fine. Rain in the evening. December 11. Clear and cold. December 12. Clear and warmer. December 13. Warm. Heard cannonading in a southern direction. December 14. Weather fine. December 15. Sunday. Weather very fine. Went to meeting to Paducah. December 16. Warm and dry. December 17. Weather excellent. Martin went to the hospital. December 18. Weather fine and warm. December 19. Weather fine. Receive a letter from Elias Conderman. December 20. A change in the weather this morning cold and cloudy all day. H. Harrington back again. December 21. Growing colder. Snow in the evening. December 22. Sunday. Rain all this a.m. Rain and snow p.m. Martin very sick. December 23. This morning is very cold, ground frozen hard. Cold all day. December 24. A little warmer this morning remaining day clear. One of Company A shot in the hand by another while on guard. Martin is better. [December 25] Christmas. Weather foggy. Rain toward night. One of Co. H shot himself through the hand whilst on picket. Received an Amboy Times from R. M. Birgham December 26. Weather very wet and disagreeable. Hard rain. December 27. Clear, but very cold. Frozen hard. Received a letter from brother George H. was detailed to pump water on the coal barges. Went on the island on the steamer Wilson after lumber belonging to the pontoon bridge. We had a general and prize inspection. Fo. F was the best company. Received the 25 dollar prize. Co. B’s officers offered 3 [ ] for the three best guns in their company. The disinterested inspectors were Co. G’s officers and awarded the prizes to A[ndrew] B. Warner, J. B. Vesbitt [?] and J. F. Hammerly. Christmas was the day of inspection. December 28. Weather fair. Received a paper from christian and letter from cousinWilliam. December 29. Weather fair. Two letters, one from Christian. Another from John M. Hammerly with two dollars. December 30. Weather fine. Sent off two letters. One to Christian H. and [ ]. December 31. Weather fine. At one o’clock, company B was ordered to guard the breastworks south of Paducah.
New Year’s Day. Spent the forenoon in guarding the breastworks. The Indiana 11th, Iowa 9th, a company of artillery, a few companies of cavalry, came back from their expedition to Mayfield. Weather excellent. January 2, 1862. Weather fair in the forenoon. Cold in the afternoon. Some rain mixed with snow. January 3. Weather disagreeable. Very wet and chilly. Thunder toward evening. Sent a letter to St. Louis/ January 4th. Very wet. January 5th. Very disagreeable. On guard in the stable. January 6th. Dry and cold. Sent a letter to Earlville. January 7th, 1862. Pretty sunshine. January 8th. Rain January 9th. Wet and muddy. Heavy marching orders at 3 o’clock p.m. January 10th 1862. Paducah. Foggy and most awful muddy. Instead of marching yesterday 3 o’clock p.m., we started today at 7 o’clock a.m. All the troops of Paducah were on a move except the 40th Illinois and a company of Pioneers. Standing in the streets of Paducah in the mud (one half of a foot deep) waiting for the teams to clear our track but instead of “forward march,” heard the command, “Right, about face,” when we countermarched to our encampments with the order of starting anew at 8 o’clock a.m. the coming day. January 11th. Weather very unpleasant. Air very damp. We are still under marching orders. Time unknown. These were the orders last night and after the 8 o’clock orders. Sunday, December 12. On guard. Quite warm last night but is now growing cold (evening). Golly how cold it is. January 13th. Very cold and stormy. Freezing hard and snowing fast. Orders to march the next morning. Orders countermanded. January 14th 1862. Freeze hard. Snowing. January 15th. Left Paducah, destination unknown. Went about 12 miles. Snow one inch deep. Snowing in the afternoon. Co. B stood picket. January 16th. Froze hard. Got some muddy towards evening. Camped one mile north of Mayfield. Marched 15 miles. January 17th. Passed the Second Brigade at Mayfield. From Mayfield we took and eastern direction (before we were marching toward the south). Got a little muddy towards evening. Camped in a swamp. Commenced raining right after we camped (and marched through a little town called Farmington). January 18th. Rained pretty much all last night. I was on picket. We started late in the morning, went about 5 or 6 miles through water and mud knee deep. Camped 5 miles west of Murray. Sunday, January 19th. Stayed over. Quite warm all day. Washed my feet in a rivulet and changed some of my clothes. January 20th. Looked like rain all day and kep a growing colder. Marched through Murray—a small town. Did not see but a few citizens. Marched about ten miles. Weather looked rather unpleasant but had fair marching. The Second Brigade passed us at camp. January 21. Arrived at William Ferry where we camped and stayed two days. The steamer Wilson and gunboat Lexington brought the news of the defeat of Zollicoffer. Drawed rations for to march back again (cold). January 23. Started back the same road, got about 2 miles when we took a new road. The sun appeared in full glory for the first time in a long while. Marched about 15 or 16 miles. January 24. we had a very nice day and excluding the low places, pretty fair marching, although very hard for teams. Went about 22 miles. Marched through Bryantsburg. Had a little rain last night. January 25th. Weather like spring. Marched about 15 miles. When we arrived at our old home of Paducah again, found the 55th Illinois Regiment encamped here [and] our camp surrounded with water. Camped near the 41st. Company I arrived from Smithland. Two regiments passed by in a big steamer bound for Smithland. Received 3 letters. Sunday, January 26th. Quite cold and winter-like again. Made a bridge of the old pontoon bridge timber across the slough and moved out things in the old place. Quite cold and cloudy. January 27th. Considerable rain last night. river keeps rising. I was on fatigue duty. January 28th. Cloudy but warm. Hard wind. Sent off two letters—one to Ansel Brigham, the other to cousin Lucinda. received pay. 52 dollars for four months. January 29th. Hard rain last night. River still keeps rising. It snows and rains together. The patrol guard shot one of the Indiana 23rd for running away from them. January 30th. Cold and wet. Was up in town. Trading going on brisk. January 31st. Weather the same as yesterday.
February 1, 1862. Air damp. Growing warmer. February 2nd. Rather wet. Afternoon a little sunshine. 6 or 7 gunboats came up last night, among them the St. Louis and S-X. Sent off two [letters], one to John Dykeman, the other to St. Louis. February 3d. Weather disagreeable. Received marching orders. Sent off another to Herrick. February 4. Growing warmer. Most awful muddy. We are all ready to march. February 5. Weather foggy and damp. Waiting for marching. 5 companies have left this evening. Later the balance of the regiment went on board the Minehaha. The 41st [Illinois] were with us. February 6th. Arrived about 5 miles from Fort Henry this morning at 10 o’clock. General Smith’s forces were landed on the Kentucky side, General Grant on the Tennessee side. Smith’s consisting of the 9th, 12th, 28th, 41st Illinois, 8th Missouri, 11th & 23rd Indiana. Smith’s & Buell’s Batteries, the 2d & 4th Illinois Cavalry. Grant’s [forces] I cannot describe. I think his forces were more than Smith’s. As we came within 3 miles of the fort, we were halted when one cannon was heard. We were at once ordered forward. Pretty soon we heard whole broadsides and for an hour the fire was kept steady. This was about 1 o’clock p.m. We all were eager to see the fight and marched nearly double quick when we were halted again soon after the bombarding stopped. After we had started again, we heard that the enemy had left Fort Henry and the encampment on the opposite side. It was night when we arrived in the enemy’s encampment. Found many of their tents and other things but the 11th Indiana were guarding everything and did not allow spectators. Camp Heiman. February 7th. This morning I went all over the enemy’s quarters to see their breastworks and in tents, fort, their barracks, and headquarters. It is evident that they intended to stay here. Their fort is called Fort Heiman. February 8th. We are here yet. It is cold and wet. We are getting our things over from the steamer but with much difficulty on account the river being so high and the low places overflowed with water. It seems we may stay here awhile. The Minehaha has brought up our things. Sunday, February 9th. It looks like spring this morning but is rather fresh. Co. B went on picket. Rations very short. February 10th. We are on picket yet. Te sun shines pretty fair but is cold. We have nice fires. We are gathering up everything for to make a meal. One of the 9th was killed by a tree falling on him. February 11th. Had a little rain last night mixed with snow. Have plenty of rations. The clouds have disappeared and the sun shines fine. We are intending to leave this place tomorrow at 8 o’clock a.m. Have our rations ready for 3 days. February 12th. Left Camp Heiman this morning, landed at Fort Henry, marched through it, saw the busted cannon and five graves, marched through a large piece of pine. The country is quite hilly and stony. Camped in a valley in the woods. had first rate roads to march and the sun shone warm. February 13th. We were roused last night to fill our canteens, left our camp at one o’clock, and marched about two or three miles by moonshine. The cannons are playing towards Fort Donelson at intervals. They are throwing shells in some of our camps. There is ever so may troops with us, Yesterday our cavalry had a skirmish with the secesh scouts and several killed on both sides. Saw two cavalry horses laying in the woods—the killed and the other wounded. 10 o’clock, now the cannon are playing on both sides and the infantry dropping in their fire. What a horrid noise. 6 o’clock p.m., pretty hard fighting has been done today. The number of killed and wounded uncertain. Our brigade has done nothing yet but had several shells thrown at us. Two bursted some distance above our heads. February 14th. Commenced raining last night after sundown but later in the night turned into a snow storm. I went on fatigue all night throwing up entrenchments for our artillery. Had a hard time of it. Not much fighting this forenoon [but in] p.m. cannonading and musketry is now heard again. 5 o’clock were ordered to the right wing. Was quite dark when we camped. Snow over one inch deep.
February 15th. This is the day I long shall remember. This morning at day break, a high discharge of musketry was heard. For a moment it ceased. When it again was heard, it was heavier and still heavier it growed as we formed in line. It was a steady crackling when we marched as reserve back of the Illinois 9th and 41st. As the 41st gave way, we—or a part of our regiment—had to take their places. Companies A and B were thrown out as skirmishers to the extreme right to receive the fire and to test the strength of the enemy. We soon found the enemy as thick as Juniper berries concealed in the bushes, and in the act to growl upon us. We then opened the fire on them but soon their fire proved to be too heavy for us (for as we now hear, there were two regiments concealed there) and a retreat was ordered by Capt. Fisher of Co. A. A little before, our captain [Hale] said, “Boys, let us show the cowards that we are 9 months in service.” A few seconds after, he fell motionless to the ground. Seven more of Co. B followed him, I could hear Capt. Fisher’s command and consequently retreated with them. The next on my left was shot in the leg (since amputated), the second was shot in the arm, the third was killed. The three next to my right escaped as I—unhurt. These are the names of our company killed and wounded. Killed, Sergeant [Joseph] Lee (Mendota), Corporal [Charles] Irving (Penn.), [William] Atwood (Mendota), [Henry] Doyle (Decatur), [William H.] Cumpston (Iowa), [William] Culver (west of Amboy), [John] Willsey (Troy Grove), Captain [I. Tyler] Hale (from Troy Grove). Wounded, [Allen] Buffington, [William] Banks, Draig [?], Hale, R. [Philander] Dowd, H[enry] Harrington, Corp. [Brad] Harrington, Corp.[Miletus] Blodgett, Mortimore Messinger, [Stephen] Spencer, [George D.] Stinebough, [Henry A.] Stephens, [Charles L.] Dewey, Corp. [Daniel] Wilbur, [John] Cochran, West, [Henry] Mills, [Daniel W.] Moffitt, S[idney B.] Pease. Sunday morning, February 16th 1862. Before daylight this morning we left our place, moved a little to the right, built some fires, and got our breakfast. One hour later the troops are again getting around the enemy’s entrenchments. The hour of surrendering the fort soon will be over and if not surrendered, will be stormed. They have surrendered. Great enthusiasm among the Union troops. 9 o’clock, we are now marching towards the fort. An immense number of Union troops are here. There seems to be no end to them. The number of prisoners are twelve thousand. The gunboats and steamers loaded with troops passed by in order to overtake the runaways. General Buckner is here among the prisoners. Floyd and Pillow escaped. Floyd is said to be shot by one of his captains whilst going on board the boat. Martin went home on furlough.
February 17th. It is cold and wet and awful muddy. Helped bury our dead. Sergeant [Joseph] Lee, Corporal [Charles] Irving, and [Henry] Doyle are buried in separate graves. [William] Culver and [William] Atwood are in one, and [John] Willsey, and [William] Cumpston in another. I went all over the battlefield and oh! what a horrid sight. Full of dead. Bodies laying around. A few rods above Dover there is hardly anything visible but riddled timber, broken down carriages, and dead horses and mules. February 18th. Rained most all last night. Wet and cold all day. February 19th. Weather disagreeable. Went on fatigue. Received marching orders. Many citizens arrived here from Evansville. February 20th 1862. Fort Donelson. Had company inspection this morning. Coffee and pancakes for our breakfast. Some citizens from Springfield had been here this morning. They went to see the battlefield. February 21. Wet and rainy. February 22. Rained nearly all last night. Left Fort Donelson, went on board the Memphis, passed John Bell’s cannon manufactory about 6 miles south of Donelson which has been destroyed by our gunboats. Arrived at Clarksville at 10 o’clock in the night. Stayed on board the boat until morning. Sunday, February 23rd. Marched to the fort. It is now quite warm. Can do without fires and overcoats. The town lies on a side hill, has very nice buildings, and had one day 10 thousand inhabitants. We found the 7th Illinois here. The 9th Illinois arrived this morning. The town of Providence lies one mile north of Clarksville. Fort Sevier lies between the two towns. February 24th. It was quite windy last night but pleasant through the day. Troops kept passing here on the river all day and last night. February 25th. Chilly it was last night but now overcoats are sparable. A letter from [ ]. February 26. Weather fair. Quite cold towards night. Hard wind. Was on guard. Sent a letter to R. M. B. Received marching orders. February 27th. Fresh but clear weather. 11 o’clock a.m. went on board the Woodford. arrived at Nashville, Tenn., at night. February 28, 1852. Weather quite fair. Were mustered for pay this morning on board the boat. Happened to meet Mayor Stevens from Amboy [Illinois]. Had quite a chat with him. Two bridges over this river are destroyed by the secesh. Was up in town after bread Found it to be as nice a town as ever I saw one before. Several regiments are stationed here. I hear we are going back again.
March 1, 1862. It is chilly and cloudy this morning. we are on board the Woodford yet. The 9th Illinois is on her too. 9 o’clock a.m. We are now pushing out. Arrived at Clarksville 2 p.m. Damaged our boat going through the bridge. Sunday, March 2. Raining pretty much all day. Received a letter from Ch. Hammerly. March 3d. Cold it is today. It snows at intervals. Had election. Stevenson is elected Captain, Towner First [Lt.] and Orderly, Cook 2nd Lieut. Sent away three letters—one to Rolla, one to Amboy, and one to Christian Hammerly. Received an old letter from George H. March 4th 1862. Froze hard. Went to town. It seems to be clearing off. March 5th. Froze hard. This morning sky clear but cold. March 6th. We had as stormy a day and as cold a day as I have seen in Dixie. At 12 a.m. received marching orders. Went on board the Commercial and stayed all night. Had a poor sleep on account of the room and my cold. March 7th. Left the Commercial and went on the Sir Wm. Wallace. Went up to levee at Clarksville, loaded on some artillery and provisions. Afternoon pushed out and now we are going down the river. 5 o’clock arrived at Fort Donelson. It is getting warmer. Almost night when we left Donelson. Arrived at Smithland midnight. Laid over until daybreak. Arrived at Paducah. March 8th. 7:30 a.m. got shaven and my hair cut. Then sent away a few lines to Martin. Left about 10 o’clock p.m. Stopped for coal when we pushed out on the Tennessee River and with many other boats arrived at Fort Henry at mid or a little after midnight. Weather had been quite fair all day. Sunday, March 9th. It is again clouding up and growing cold. Left Fort Henry at 8 o’clock a.m. Arrived at camp 4 miles above Fort Henry. I counted 26-27 boats around here all loaded with troops. Probably others are out of sight but not far from here. After the rumors. The gunboats are said to be above. Received two mails whilst we halted. Got one from Rosa (Franklin Grove). 4 o’clock saw the boys of the 46th on board the Aurora. went only about 3 miles today. March 10th. It rained nearly all last night. Went about 1 mile when we laid over all night. This morning it is raining yet. We are again pushing out. Now we are going faster. We have not halted but once. A little above Dover Dale, we stopped again where we took in wood. Had to pass over a burned secesh boat. A crazy man jumped over board. He said he belonged to the 13th Missouri. These are the names of steamers on our expedition: (1) Aurora (2) Boston (3) Continental (4) Commercial (5) Diamong (6) Empress (7) Emerald (8) E. H. Fairchild (9) Eugene (10) Edward Walsh (11) Fanny Bullit (12) Glendale (13) Gladiator (14) Goody Friends (15) Hannibal (16) Hazel Dell (17) Horizon (18) Hastings (19) Hiawatha (20) Iatan (21) J. B. Ford (22) John Rain (23) John J. Roe (24) J. W. Cheesman (5) John Warner (26) Lady Pike (27) Leonora (28) Lancaster (29) Minnehaha (30) Memphis (31) Maringo (32) Masonic Jim (33) New Uncle Sam (34) New Gold State (35) Ohio No. 1 (36) Ohio No. 2 (37) Ohio No. 3 (38) Poland (39) Prairie Rose (40) Rocket (41) Rose Hambleton (42) Sir Wm. Wallace (43) Silver Moon (44) Saline (45) South Wester (46) Shenengo (47) Sally Gest (48) Sunny South (49) Shingiss (50) Saint Louis (51) Tigress (52) T. S. McGill (53) Universe (54) White Cloud (55) Argyle (56) Alick Scott (57) B. J. Adams (58) Baltic (59) Chortean (60) Clara Poe (61) Chancellor (62) Champion No. 3 (63) Champion No. 4 (64) Crescent City (65) Conewago (66) City of Memphis (67) D. A. January (68) Dunleith (69) Telegraph No. 3 (70) Anglo Saxon (71) Bostona No. 2 (72) Allen Collier (73) Iowa (74) Madison (75) Meteor (76) Bay City (77) Queen of the West (78) War Eagle (79) Florence (80) Fort Wayne (81) J. [ ] Bell (82) War Eagle (83) Lancaster No. 3 (84) Planet (84) D. G. Taylor (85) Tecumseh (86) Sunshine (87) City of Madison (88) N. W. Thomas. The gunboats Tyler and Lexington. Many others went by of which I could not get their names. Savannah, March11, 1862. Weather fine all day. Arrived here at 5 o’clock p.m. Found two gunboats and a number of steamers landed here. Steamers are arriving here constantly. March 12th. Quite warm today. Had a review of arms 2 p.m. Marched through the town of Savannah with martial music. Afternoon C Company and I went out to the fairgrounds. Stopped to get some water in house. They wanted us to take supper with them. We consented!!! of course. March 13th. Rain most all night. Considerable rain in the morning. Afternoon clear and nice and warm. Savannah, Tennessee. March 14th. It is quite warm this morning. Took a promenade along through town. After noon, our boat pushed out and landed a few rods above where they unloaded a few pieces of artillery. I went to see the 46th [Illinois] boys on the Aurora when I was left but found our boat again on the same old place. Commenced raining about 4 o’clock p.m. Rained nearly all night and has not got over it yet. This evening the 15th, received two letters from Penn. One from Ch. The other from J. M. H. March 15th. Sent up a letter to J. M. Hammerly. March 16th Sunday. Wet cloudy and cold. Sent away a letter to Ed Bridgman. March 17th 1862, Monday morning. We are on board the Sir Wm. Wallace yet and landed at Savannah, Tennessee ever since the 11th inst. We went on board of her at Clarksville the 7th inst. It is quite warm today. Had company drill and dress parade up on the hill opposite the landing place. March 17. Left Savannah about noon. Came up about 8 miles and landed [at Pittsburg Landing] where they had a fight the 1st of March. Graves are found scattered around our camp. Weather fine and warm also. March 18th. We landed our boats at the Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. March 19th. I went through the different camps and regiments. Found quite a number of graves of the Union army, part of them killed in a skirmish the 1st of March. Others died by disease. Also numbers of secesh army are buried here. March 20th. Weather fair. Evening growing colder. March 21st. Received marching orders. Quite cold. March 22. I was quite unwell all day. I think of account of eating warm bread baked in a hurry and in an army oven. March 23rd. Sunday. Left our camp and went into the woods 1.5 miles. Got a nice camping place. It’s getting warmer. March 24th. Weather quite fair, only a little cloudy. Received a letter from R. M. B. and Martin. Clink arrived. March 25. Weather fair. March 26. Quite warm today. Went over to see the 46th & 15th Illinois volunteers. March 27th. Weather fair. A. Warner arrived. Sent a letter to Indianapolis to Hirge. March 28th. Pittsburgh. Weather fine. Three more of our company arrived here. Then all three were wounded. March 29th. Weather fine. Sent a letter to Martin. Sunday March 30, Weather fine. Monday March 31. Rain in the morning. Sunshine in the afternoon. Had a general inspection.
Tuesday, April 1, 1862. Weather very fine. Companies A & F with some of the 9th [Illinois] went up the river. Three gunboats and several other steamers loaded with troops went ahead of them. Co.’s A & F and the 9th came back in the evening. They had foraged lumber. Wednesday, April 2d. We had quite a shower last night but cleared off in the forenoon. April 3d. Weather fair. Received a letter from Alfred and one from Ed Bridger. Friday, April 4. Rain last night. A severe hard showers through the day. Went up to a part of our Company. C, D, K up the river after lumber. Got back after dark when we hear the news that Beauregard had with a portion of his force driven in our advance. Sent a letter to C. Alfred Hammerly. Saturday, April 5th. Some rainfall last night. It is quite cool this morning but clear. Weather fine the remaining day. Sunday, April 6th. Early this morning we heard some cannonading. Soon after the long roll was heard in some of our camps. About 8 o’clock it was all over heard and soon we had the word to fall in. About that time, musketry and cannon fire was heard over a great portion of our line. Marching toward the fire, it grew heavier and soon it was a continual roar from our right to left. After we halted at several places, we got orders to take the extreme left. We watched for the enemy when we soon found him, firing a few rounds on us. We had a hard struggle with, got him on a retreat, but soon come on to us again with reinforcements when we lost quite a number killed and wounded. Firing was kept up until night. Towards evening light and heavy artillery played alone and such a noise I never expected to hear. Through the night the gunboats throwed shells to the enemy’s line every half hour. I was on guard. It commenced raining very hard at midnight. After the rain, the wounded in the field and in the hospitals around us kept up a continual shriek and groan until morning. Buell began landing his troops at 4 o’clock p.m. Monday, [April] 7th. Daybreak. The firing is heard again and close by. Yesterday the enemy gained two-thirds of our camping ground, but Buell’s coming is so fast with his reinforcements encouraged our men and we kept on driving the enemy slowly until 4 o’clock p.m. when they started to run. It was as desperate a day as Sunday and any were the killed and wounded. Night rain again. Tuesday, 8th of April. Our officers gathered up all the men in the regiment and ordered us to fall in. We marched out about two miles over the battlefield, laid around there till late in the afternoon when almost night our teams brought the two days rations. But before we had a chance to get them, new orders arrived to march us back to our camp which were immediately obeyed. Wednesday, April 9th. Rained again last night and is now growing cold. Several of us went as far over the battlefield as we could, found an immense number dead—men, horses, mules laying over the field. Our men had two graves filled with death in a place where the hardest fight was Monday. In one of them were 147 Confederates. In the other 38 Union men. It is evident that we killed more of them than tey did of us although they wounded perhaps a greater number of us than we did of theirs. Thursday, April 10th. Weather quite cool. Went on guard again. Was quite cold through the night. Got a letter from New York, Pittsburg [Landing] April 11th. Weather cold and wet. Got a letter from Martin by R. Hale. [Andrew] Morrow, [Harlan] Brewer, and Cairwell came from the Saint Louis Hospital. Saturday, 12th. Commenced raining at midnight and kept on until afternoon. It seems to be clearing up now. Sent away two letters—one to R. M. B, Amboy and another to J. F. Blocker. Penn. General Halleck arrived here. Sunday, April 13th. Rained again last night but has been nice, warm, and clear all day. Had a prayer and thanksgiving to the victories of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River and Pittsburg, Tennessee. This was done according to Gen. Halleck’s orders. Monday, April 14th. Pittsburg [Landing] Weather quite pleasant. Lieut. [Wright] Seaman, 1st Lieut. of Co. C was dug up and sent home in a metallic coffin. He was killed Sunday the 6th 1862. Tuesday, April 15th. Weather fine. Looked cloudy in the morning. Wednesday, April 16th. Weather fair. Cloudy in the morning. Thursday, April 17th. Quite warm it has been today. went to visit Dixon’s Battery. D___ and [Doct.] Adams arrived here this morning. Friday, April 18th. It has been warm all day but commenced raining towards evening. Saturday, Pittsburg, April 19th. Rained most all last night and nearly all today. Sunday, April 20th. Rain last night and most again all day. Martin and Herring arrived here this morning. Doct. Adams came to see us, Went over with him to the 45th [Illinois] and got things which he brought from Amboy. Left $5 for the Amboy boys for their comfort. Monday, April 21st. It is raining yet and the fire in our tent feels comfortable. Tuesday, April 22. It cleared off last night and today it has been quite pleasant weather.
This letter was written by Peter Marchant (1831-1865), a farmer from Gibson County, Tennessee, who mustered into Co. C of the 47th Tennessee (Confederate) Infantry on 16 December 1861 and was immediately elected 2nd Lieutenant. He was with his regiment until 31 December 1862 when he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Stones River at Murfreesboro. Following his capture he was transported to the prison at Camp Chase in Ohio by way of Evansville, Indiana. At that time, his description as a POW stated that he stood 5’5″ tall, had brown eyes, light-colored hair, and that he was 32 years of age. On 10 April 1863, he was transported to the prison at Fort Delaware whereupon he was paroled on 25 April and sent to City Point to be exchanged on 29 April, 1863.
After returning to his regiment, Peter was promoted to Captain of his company on 22 October 1863 and was with them all through the Atlanta Campaign and with Hood’s army on his march back into Tennessee until 16 December 1864 when he was taken prisoner again in the fighting near Nashville. This time Peter was held prisoner at the military prison in Louisville, Kentucky, for several days before being sent again to Fort Delaware where he expired on 25 January 1865—his cause of death attributed to pneumonia.
Peter wrote this letter to his wife, Susan Thompson (1838-1910) with whom he married in 1855 and had three children before enlisting. The letter was written in late February 1862 and remains optimistic in tone despite the rebel army reverses in Tennessee that resulted in the surrender of Forts Henry and Donelson and the surrender of the State Capitol at Nashville.
Some of Marchant’s letters are archived and digitized at Georgia’s Virtual Library in Fulton County, Atlanta, under the heading Peter Marchant Civil War Correspondence, 1863-1864. That collection contains three letters pertaining to the Atlanta Campaign: “The letters in this collection were written to Peter Marchant’s wife Susan and all contain much of the same information due to his fear that the letters were not being received. The letters dated July 15 and 16, 1864, were written from the battle lines at the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta. Peter notes the confidence the soldiers have in Confederate General Johnston despite the harsh conditions of sixty consecutive days spent marching or in battle. The letter dated August 2, 1864, describes the necessity of many Confederate retreats from the Battle of Atlanta under the cover of night due to heavy losses. In this letter he also notes that the Union and Confederate armies were both destroying the land beyond hope of redemption. Each letter contains news about the religious life and newly professed Christians in Marchant’s camp.”
Camp Trenton [Gibson county, Tennessee] February 26, 1862
I was glad to receive your letter this evening and to hear that you were all well. I am truly thankful that I can inform you that I am in the enjoyment of good health. This blessing I crave for you and myself for if we can enjoy good health, the time will pass off much more pleasant.
I have nothing of interest to write. The news here is as uncertain as anywhere else. Our loss at Fort Donaldson was great but not to compare with that of our enemy’s. Ours is estimated at twelve thousand but most of them was taken prisoners. I have not seen any account of our loss in killed, but we whipped them four times, killing about four to one. But they reinforced everyday and our men was at last out done with fatigue and had to surrender.
The surrender of Nashville produced great excitement but the Yankees seem to be at a loss to know what to do with it. They had not taken possession of it [yet as of] three days ago. They seem to feel that they are on dangerous ground and move very careful. I am not at all discouraged at the misfortune for I believe it will turn out to our advantage. We are not as well-prepared for a border war as they are but if they come in our country, I believe we will whip them.
When I wrote before I thought that our regiment would be armed in a short time, but from the best information that I can get, it will be four or five weeks. 1 I expect to come home again before we leave here but I have learned that a soldier’s life is a very uncertain one. Therefore, I make but little calculations on anything. I find myself to be a creature of circumstances. I never thought that I could be satisfied away from home, but now my greatest desire is to do my duty as a soldier and at the same time to live a Christian. I have become somewhat familiar with my duties and I feel the same interest in it as I would any other avocation. I was at meeting tonight and heard old Bro. Wagster 2 preach a very good sermon. This is the third night in succession that I have been to preaching and notwithstanding it was out of doors and had to stand up or sit on a chunk, I felt that indeed it was good to be there. I am more and more convinced that religion is adapted to our wants in any and every condition in this world. In Matthew, the 21st chapter and 22d verse, you will find these words, “and all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing ye shall receive,” then let not fail to ask supporting grace for every trial which we may meet and a heart resigned to His holy will. If we faithfully do this, I believe that all things shall work together for our good.
Give my love especially to papy and mother mother tell them to write to me. It is getting late and I must close give my love to all inquiring friends. Very affectionately yours, — Peter Marchant
1 Peter’s letter informs us that the men recruited into the 47th Tennessee Infantry had not yet been armed. They were still in Camp Trenton (Gibson County) where they were being organized and drilled. Company records later show that many of the men carried 57 caliber Enfield Rifles but some also carried 54 caliber Austrian Rifles.
2 I believe “Bro. Wagster” was William (“Billy”) Culpepper Wagster (1837-1912) of Dyersburg. His name appears from time to time on the rolls of the 47th Tennessee Infantry.