The following description of the Battle of Fort Donelson was written in a letter to his father by Aaron Colliver (1838-1907), a 22 year-old Hoosier native who was living in Davis county, Iowa, at the time he enlisted on 6 May 1861 in Co. G, 2nd Iowa Infantry with his 24 year-old brother Thomas Colliver. As stated in the letter, Thomas Colliver was slightly wounded in the battle; Aaron came through it unscathed. Aaron served in the regiment until mustering out in late May 1864. He later was commissioned a Lieutenant in Co. D, 48th Iowa Infantry. Thomas was discharged for disability in September 1863 and then later served as a 1st Sergeant in the “Liberia Guards.”
Aaron was the son of Andrew Colliver (1805-1889) and Perlina Masterson (1811-1898) of Drakesville, Davis county, Iowa.
The 2nd Iowa’s reputation became legendary at Fort Donelson. Here is a synopsis of the regiment’s role in the fight:
“After their arrival on February 14, 1862, the 2nd Iowa was placed at the extreme left of Grant’s force as a part of General Charles Smith’s division, and Colonel Tuttle sent companies A and B ahead as skirmishers. The rest of the regiment spent a night on the line without tents or blankets to protect them from the brutal winter weather. On February 15, the Confederate forces counterattacked the right wing of Grant’s forces and the Federal troops were pushed back. When told of this, General Grant said, “Gentlemen, the position on the right must be re-taken” and rode off to give instructions to General Smith. Those instructions were to attack with the brigade on the left, which were the 25th Indiana along with the 2nd, 7th, and 14th Iowa. Colonel Tuttle and the 2nd Iowa led the gallant charge.[See Smith’s Attack] John A. Duckworth recorded the words of Colonel Tuttle just before the charge. Tuttle told his men, “Now, my bully boys, give them cold steel. Do not fire a gun until you have got on the inside, then give them hell! Forward my boys! March!” At 2:00 p.m. Colonel Tuttle led the advance toward the enemy stronghold. As ordered, the 2nd Iowa marched in silence, without firing a shot. The regiment marched in line over the open meadow, through a gully, over a rail fence, and up a hill cluttered with broken trees when suddenly the enemy came into sight and a steady rain of lead poured into the ranks of the brave men. The 2nd Iowa answered with a deafening roar and continued to advance toward the Confederates despite their losses. The march was challenging and costly as volley after volley leveled the men of the 2nd Iowa Infantry. Continuing to absorb the damage from the enemy, the 2nd Iowa marched across the difficult terrain.
Colonel Tuttle and Lieutenant Colonel Baker were both injured in the charge, yet they remained on the field throughout the charge. Company captains Jonathon Slaymaker and Charles Cloutman were killed in the charge. When Captain Slaymaker fell and his men tried to help him, he yelled, “Go on! Go on! Don’t stop for me!” At least five members of the color guard were wounded or killed before Corporal Voltaire Twombly would take the flag and be hit in the chest by a spent ball. However, he would rise again and charge with the colors until the day was done. Twombly would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. Acts of bravery like those mentioned were normal for the men of the 2nd Iowa during the charge. Despite running for 200 yards under enemy fire, the 2nd Iowa would successfully charge and cross into the enemy’s works without firing a single round from their muskets.
Once inside the enemy breastworks, the men of the 2nd Iowa opened fire on the Confederate soldiers, most of whom fell back to the next trench. Those who refused to retreat were put down by the men’s bayonets. The men of the 2nd Iowa continued their attack on the Confederate forces and followed them into the next line of trenches before the Confederates could regroup and counterattack. At this point in the battle, the rest of the brigade, which formed the right wing of attack, began occupying the first trench and firing upon the second entrenchment. Friendly fire from the 52nd Indiana Infantry caused more casualties for the 2nd Iowa. In the confusion, the 2nd Iowa fell back into the first entrenchment and regrouped with their comrades behind them. General Smith then ordered the regiment to take cover behind the walls of the first trench while the 25th Indiana unsuccessfully tried to take the second trench by bayonet. After the failed charge, the Federal forces regrouped. The men endured another cold night without any protection from the elements, and prepared for battle in the morning.
To the surprise of the Federal Forces, the Confederates did not continue the fight in the morning but instead agreed to Grant’s terms for unconditional surrender. On account of their bravery, the 2nd Iowa received the honor of leading the march into the fort. The regiment was the first to place their glorious flag, ridden with bullet holes and stained with blood, inside the fort.”
[Fort Donelson, Tennessee] February 18th 1862
I take this my first opportunity of informing you that I am in Fort Donelson. You will hear from us before you receive this but you will want to hear from me. On the tenth we left St. Louis for this place and landed four miles down the river. On the morning of the fourteenth, we marched up within about a quarter of a mile of their breastworks where we lay in the snow all night. We were shelled some but no one [was] hurt. On the fifteenth, after the forces on the right—that is, up the river, had tried to force their works and failed, in the evening they called on the left. We—the 2nd Iowa—being on the extreme left, were formed in line of battle to charge their works at the point of the bayonet. The left wing of the regiment was to lead the way; the right to follow (Co. G is in the left).
We charged up such a hill as can’t be found in Iowa. Father, you have seen many such [scenes] but I have never [seen] such a sight. May God grant that mortal man may never see such again. This hill is about four hundred yards long and has had a heavy growth of timber on it which has been felled. Through this mass of brush and logs we forced our way at a front movement while the balls came like hail. This movement was kept up until we climbed over their earthworks without a gun being fired, when we opened fire on the retreating rebels [in the 30th Tennessee] with considerable effect. We were reinforced after engaging the enemy for some time. We fought for about three hours when night came on when we fell back to the breastworks and lay on our arms for the night. The next morning, after considerable sparring about, they surrendered the fort with all their implements of war and some twenty thousand prisoners.
As we ascended that infernal hill, three of Co. G fell dead and several wounded. Thomas’s gun was shot from his hands about the time he was attempting to climb the breastworks. He fell and about that time he received a slight wound in the shoulder. I escaped entirely. There was six killed dead on the field and twenty-four wounded in Co G. [1st Sergeant] P[hilip] Q. Stoner lost his right arm, S[amuel] Fouts his leg, J[ohn] Pirtle and several others are dangerously wounded. Sergt. [John] Dunn, Wm. Drake, James [M.] Duckworth, [Andrew J.] Patterson, J[oseph Z.] Neidy, [Joseph N.] Rhodes fell on the field and are buried in one grave.
Father I was happy to receive yours of the 5th last night. Write again for I seldom have an opportunity. Tell John that I received his on the policy of the war but it is impossible for me to answer it, but I am pleased with the policy. — Aaron Collins
These letters were written by Norton William Campbell (1835-1868), a carpenter from Duquoin, Perry county, Illinois, who entered the service as a sergeant on 20 April 1861 at DuQuoin, Illinois, to serve three month in Co. G, 12th Illinois Infantry. After this brief stint, he reenlisted on 1 August 1861 to serve three years in the same company and regiment (the “1st Scotch Regiment”). At the time of his enlistment, he was described as 26 years old, standing 5 feet 7 inches tall, with brown hair, blue eyes, and a dark complexion—a native of New York State. In the 1850 US Census, 16 year-old Norton was enumerated in the farm household of William Campbell (1806-1874) and Catharine Wilson (1808-1886) of Pinckney, Lewis county, New York. I can’t find a biographical sketch or obituary for Norton to confirm if these were his parents or not; his war letters mention only his mother and state that she was living in Sauk county, Wisconsin, in 1861. By the time of the 1860 US Census, Norton had relocated to Perry county, Illinois, where he was enumerated in a boarding house and working as a carpenter.
Of Norton’s service in the 12th Illinois, I have been unable to find very little information save what we learn from the letters themselves. The Chicago Daily Tribune of 17 April 1862 lists Sergt. Norton Campbell as one of fifteen members of Co. G being wounded in the Battle of Shiloh. In that same newspaper article, Joel Grant (1816-1873), the chaplain of the 12th Illinois reported that, “Most of the losses [to the regiment] occurred the first day. The first attack upon us was made by a large force of rebels, whom, as we viewed them through the timber, we thought might be our own troops. While we were endeavoring to satisfy ourselves on this point, they poured a deadly volley upon us, that dispelled our delusion, and brought us at once into the realities of war.”
Indeed, Norton’s Letter 16 informs us that he was wounded wounded at Shiloh but it must have been a mere flesh wound: “The wound I got at Pittsburg has got well but it leaves a nice scar.” He also informs us in that same letters that following the Battle of Shiloh, he was in command of his company because all of the commissioned officers were either wounded or sick.
Norton wrote the letters to his friend, Sarah Ann Rinehart (1843-1879), the daughter of Samuel Rinehart (1820-1899) and Harriet Eunice Reed (1823-1849) of Louisville, Clay county, Illinois. We learn from Norton’s letters that four years previous to the war, he and Sarah—who would have only been about 14 at the time—had a relationship but that it grew distant when he moved away. Clearly he was attempting to rekindle that relationship when he began to write her while in the service. We don’t have any of Sarah’s letter to Norton so we can only surmise from the content of Norton’s letters that she doubted his sincerity from the beginning of their war-time correspondence and only grew more and more convinced that he was either not the love of her life, or that she was unwilling to wait longer for the war to end before taking a husband. Though subsequent letters were probably exchanged between them, Sarah Ann chose to marry John Wesley Young (1845-1879) in Clay county, Illinois, on 22 February 1863. The Youngs lived in Clay County, Illinois, where John labored as a farmer until 1870 when they moved to Independence county, Arkansas. They had several children all of whom (at least five) died as infants. Sarah died on 16 February 1879 giving birth to her sixth child, Thomas Jefferson Young (1879-1946). Two days later, Sarah’s husband died and the orphaned child was raised by his uncle Joseph Henry Young. I could not find an account of Thomas’s death but the timing suggests he died of a broken heart or suicide.
I received your welcome letter. I was glad to hear from you yet i did not know whether you would write to me or not as I had neglected writing to you for so long. But Sarah I am well and hope this will find you the same. I am one of Uncle Sam’s boys now and we see some rough times in camp life and some pleasant times but the time will be soon when we will be called into battle and we are all ready and anxious to get at the traitors that have dishonored our country and caused all this trouble and many of us no doubt will die on the battlefield. But if it should be my lot, I know it will be in a good cause. I love the stars and stripes and I will help to protect it. I love Liberty and Union and I want it just as our forefathers handed it down to us and we will have it so. And Sarah, if this war last three years or 10 years, I will be in it all the time if I am alive and able for I love my country.
But Sarah, I should love to see you but I cannot get away now. If I could see you but one hour, it would be some satisfaction to me. I could explain all the reasons that I have not seen you for nearly four years. It was not because I did not want to see you nor because I had forgotten you but I have not. No, Sarah, if I am not with you my heart is, and I shall live in hopes of seeing you yet once more. We was happy in each others company, for we loved each other. It is so still. I can say my heart in not changed. The beautiful face I love so stand up on it and will ever be my guiding start in the hours of peril and danger.
And Sarah, if I should never be permitted to see you again, may God bless you is my prayer. But I know you have plenty of friends to keep you like a lady as you are and had I thought that I could [have] taken care of you as I ought, I should’ve been with you long ago. But I have done well in the last two years and may yet live to see peace and enjoy it once more.
We are under marching orders now but we don’t know where we will go to and we will probably stay here six or seven days yet. We think we will be sent to Missouri near St. Louis. When I wrote to you, I was in Camp Bissell, Caseyville, Illinois, but we left the next day. After I wrote you, we went down to the Missouri River on the steamer Louisiana to Cairo where we are now. Cairo is well fortified & the whole southern Confederacy could not hardly take it. But I must close.
I will get my likeness taken and I will send it to you soon. I will write often and hope to hear from you often and let me be where I may, I shall always remember you with kindness. I remember all the past. They are as yesterday to me. God bless you. My respects to your friends. Write soon. From your long absent lover or friend, — Norton W. Cambell
Camp Defiance, Cairo, Illinois, 12th Regiment, Company G, In care of Capt. Brookings
Camp Defiance Cairo, Illinois June 28, 1861
I am pleased to hear from you and that you was well. I am well and hope this will find you the same. I was of a company of three hundred that was out on a pleasure excursion yesterday up the Mississippi River and at Birds Point. There are two thousand of our troops at Birds Point in Missouri opposite of Cairo. We had a pleasant trip and enjoyed our ride very much.
We expect an attack on Cairo soon now from the traitors. I am in the 12th Regiment under Colonel John McArthur—as fine a man as lives. This regiment will son be sworn in for the war or three years and then we will get a furlough home for a week or ten days and I shall try and come to Indianapolis if possible and go to Clinton too if possible. I shall be in Cairo till after the Fourth of July. There will be a Grand Ball here on the Fourth and we expect to have a good time in general on that day.
Sarah, I will send you my likeness in this letter and you will please keep it in remembrance of me for if I do not see you in the next three weeks to come, I may never see you. My likeness looks black but it is because I am sunburnt and tanned very bad but it is part of a soldier’s life. You must excuse this letter for I have to sit down on the ground and any way to get down to write and it is blotted up so that I am ashamed of it but you can read it maybe. If you can’t—if I ever see you down here—I will read it for you.
Sarah, you appear to think that since we parted in Clinton, I have found someone that I loved and had forgotten you. You say you have a god chance to marry. Now I say, if you love anyone and want to marry them, do so. I could not blame you and I would love to know that you was happy with someone. There is no knowing where I will be when this war is over but God bless you. My best wishes are with you. I hope to hear from you often. We will not have much fighting to do till after Congress on the Fourth of July.
I will close. Hoping to hear from you soon and Sarah, let me go where I may, I shall always remember you with pleasure and I hope I can see you before we start South. But no more. Give my respects to your friends and please write soon.
This from your long absent, — Nort
— Norton W. Campbell, Camp Defiance, Cairo, Illinois, 12th Regiment, Company G in care of Capt. C. H. Brookings.
Camp Defiance Cairo, Illinois July 6, 1861
My Dear Sarah,
I received your ever welcome letter and was glad to hear from you. I am well and hope you are enjoying the same blessing. The 12th Regiment has not been sworn in for three years yet but I think we will be tomorrow. The Fourth passed off very pleasantly here and general good order through the whole camp and the celebration of the Fourth will long be remembered in Cairo. In the morning at sunrise they fired a salute of 36 guns from the six different batteries and noon and at sunset the same. In the afternoon, there was a brigade review of all the troops.
We marched through the main streets of the city and then took to the parade ground in the evening. They had some splendid fireworks and speeches and everything went off quiet and nice. And if we had of been in Virginia and had the chance, we could of done some of the best fighting on that day that was ever done. The troops here are anxious to get a chance at the traitors and if we ever do get at them, we will conquer or die. And Sarah, every time I put a cartridge in my gun, I will think of you for if you are making cartridges, make them of good powder and lead and we will make good use of them if we ever get the chance—and I hope we wll.
I read the President’s Message this morning and I suppose you have saw it before this and it suits me to a hair and I think he will soon put us where we will have some work to do. But I think Jeff Davis is trembling in his boots now and would give all he ever had if he never had spoke of secession. But that do us. We want to torture him to death before we quit. we want to show them that breaking up this government is not as easy as they imagined it would be. The stars and stripes shall be my banner as long as I live and I will help to maintain it.
And Sarah, God bless you. You are a lady and cannot fight but I am glad to hear that you love the Union enough to make cartridges for the soldiers and while you are doing so, remember that there is none in the army that loves you whose heart is with you and his country, and I would love to see you now but whether I shall ever have that pleasure or not, I cannot say now. But if I live to see this war settled, and peace once more, then I will see you. I can only say God bless you wherever you are and if I ever done wrong by you, I hope to live to make all right with you again.
My mother lives in Wisconsin, Sauk county, in White Mound. She was well the last I heard from her. She seemed proud to know she had a son that loved his country and was not afraid to fight for his rights. She bid me go and do my duty like a man. God bless my mother. I will fight for my liberty and hers and do my duty.
Sarah, I am sitting in the woods in a beautiful shade and writing this letter on a log. I got out of the camp so that I could be all alone for awhile to write to you and while I am sitting here, the past hours that I have passed with you years ago are fresh in my mind. Not a word has been forgotten by me and if I have not wrote to you as often as I should nor have not come to see you as I said I would, still I have not forgotten you. I have always thought of you and remembered you. You have been near my heart and I have always been in hopes that [I could someday] take care of one so worthy as you are of a good and kind husband. I have tried hard to lay up something to take care of you with so that I might be worthy of you but I have had a good deal of bad luck in the last four years. But still I am now pretty well to do in this work. I have laid up about two thousand dollars and when I volunteered, I had me a nice house about half finished and everything comfortable and was in hopes that I should see better days. But I shall have no pleasure till we have peace once more. Only in serving my country to put down this rebellion and that I will do with pleasure. And I will take pleasure in writing to you often as I can and hope that I shall still live to see you again.
If you think I care nothing for you, I can’t help it now. I can only speak for myself and you can judge for yourself. If I should fall on the battlefield, you shall know it. If I live, you shall see me. I am prepared for whatever my fate may be. God will protect the right. The star spangled banner—long may it wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
But I must close and hope you will excuse this pencil writing. It is better than none. You say you got my likeness. Keep it in remembrance of me. I have yours yet but it is at home locked up in my trunk. You will please give my best wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble 1 and I hope to hear from you soon.
The health of the men here is generally good. There has been but very little sickness in the camp yet the weather is very warm here. But no more. May God bless you is all that I can say. Whether I can come and see you when I get a furlough home or not, I cannot promise now but if possible, I will. So goodbye. I remain yours truly, — Norton Wm. Campbell
Camp Defiance, Cairo, Illinois. 12th Regiment, Company G
1 In the 1860 US Census, 16 year-old Sarah Ann Reinhart (1843-1879) was enumerated as a servant in the household of John W. Hebble (1823-1871) and Hannah Hagan (1829-1911) who were innkeepers in Indianapolis. The Hebbles were married in 1846 and came to Indianapolis from Pennsylvania in 1855 and engaged in the hotel business near the Union Station Depot. They later were the proprietors of the Germania Hotel (still standing today and called the Slippery Noodle Inn) at South and Meridian Streets. The Hebble’s had two boys, Benjamin Mursa Hebble (1854-1902) and George M. Hebble (1860-1932)—the latter known as the “blind musician.”
Camp Defiance Cairo, Illinois July 29, 1861
Dear Sarah R.,
I arrived in camp the 26th and everything was exciting for they look every day for an attack on Cairo and Birds Point. There is fifteen thousand secessionists within 15 miles of Birds Point and there is only five thousand troops in Cairo at this time but we are ready and willing to try them. They may not make the attack just now but we have good reason to believe they will soon. There will be more troops here in a few days.
We had quite an accident on the Illinois Central Railroad the day I came to Cairo. Two passenger trains run off the track. One tipped over and was torn all to pieces. The other was not broke up so bad. There was about 60 of our men in the one that was broke up the worst. I had just stepped out of the car on the platform of the other car not more than a minute before the car upset but there was no one killed but some badly bruised. It was the greatest wonder in the world that half of them was not killed. It was about 60 miles from Cairo.
Sarah, I received your letter and your likeness and I thank you a thousand times for it. I have it on my bosom and will wear it there for your sake. Whether we shall ever see each other again or not, I cannot tell. When I was there with you, I could not think of half I wanted to say to you and I was sorry that I could not stay longer with you but I was happy while I was there but I can’t say that I am now. But I will try and enjoy myself the nest I can and if I am spared till this war is over, I will see you again and make a longer visit.
Please give my respects to Mr. & Mrs. Hebble and those other folks—I forget their names, and try to enjoy yourself the best you can. You have got such a good place to stay at that you can’t help but be contented. I think Mrs. Hebble is such a good, pleasant woman. It seemed like home to me. You must be good to her for I know she is good to you.
But I must close for this time. I can’t hardly write here, the boys make so much fuss in the camp. But I will write soon again and hope to hear from you soon. So God bless you. No more this time. From your own, — Norti W. Campbell
Camp Defiance, Cairo, Ill., 12th Regt., Company G, in care of Capt, C. H. Brookings
Camp McArthur Cairo, Illinois August 11th 1861
Dear Sarah R.,
I received your letter this morning and was very sorry to hear that you was sick but I hope by the time this reaches you, by the help of the kind hand of Providence, that you will be restored to health again. I would be glad to be with you and comfort you in your hours of trouble and afflictions but if I cannot be with you, my whole heart is and my best wishes are for your good and God bless you, Sarah. I wish I could say that I was well but I cannot. I have been sick with the typhoid fever for two days and it is all that I can do to sit up to write to you. I thought I would not tell you that I was sick, I could not help but write to you, The doctor thinks I am better today and I hope I shall soon be up again and in fighting order.
A few days ago we were ordered to go to Cape Girardeau in Missouri as soon as possible. We heard that the town was attacked and was in danger and we started with one thousand men and got there that evening at 4 o’clock and was all disappointed for everything was quiet, There is three thousand of our troops stationed at that place now and it is considered safe. We stayed till the next day at 11 o’clock when we got on the boat and returned to Cairo again. We all enjoyed our trip very much and would of felt better if we had of had chance of a fight, but I think we will have one before long and I hope I shall be able to be with them.
Cairo is safe now and we have no fears of an attack now. With the fortifications and breastworks that we have now, we can hold the place against forty thousand rebels.
But I must close. Give my respects to all of the friends. I know Mrs. Hebble will take good care of you while you are sick. Please write soon ad may God bless you, Sarah, and protect you and restore you to health. No more. Write soon. This from your ever affectionate, — Nort
Norton W. Campbell, Camp McArthur, Cairo, Ill 12th Regiment, Company G. in care of Capt. Guy C. Ward
[Note: This letter was written by Pvt. William J. Dingle of Sullivan, Moultrie county, Illinois, who enlisted at the age of 28 at Decatur on 6 August 1861 to serve three years in Co. B, 41st Illinois Infantry. He was described as a a 5′ 8″ tall, dark haired, blue-eyed carpenter.]
Paducah, Kentucky September 30, 1861
Yours of a recent date is received. Norton W. Campbell is stationed at Smithland in this state. I saw him some eight days since in this place. He was quite well.
Yours respectfully, — W[illiam] J. Dingle
Camp Smith 1 Smithland, Kentucky October 27, 1861
Dear Sarah R.,
I received your letter of the 14th and was glad to hear from you and I answer it with pleasure. I am well and hope this will find you enjoying the same good blessing and hope you will excuse this pencil writing for I had no pen handy.
Sarah, the last time I wrote to you I was sick at Birds Point. I was pretty sick for a short time and I got a furlough to go home. I went home and stayed till I got well and then returned to Birds Point. Since that time I have been moved around considerably though I have never been in any battle yet. I am now in Smithland, Kentucky. We have a beautiful camp, are getting the place well fortified, and we are in hopes that we may yet have a chance at the rebels.
We are getting tired of this kind of soldiering. There was a small fight 25 miles above here on the Cumberland River at a place called Eddyville day before yesterday. The gunboat Conestoga and three company of infantry went up from Paducah and surrounded the rebels, killed 15, and took about 50 prisoners and captured many horses and mules and quite a number of guns and routed them without the loss of one man. [See Federal Expedition to Eddyville and skirmish at Saratoga, Kentucky]
But Sarah, it will come our turn to have a battle some of these days and then you shall hear from us. But Sarah, I have no reason for not writing to you—only my own carelessness and shiftlessness. I have not wrote to anyone for a long time and I am ashamed of it for it was not because I did not want to hear from you or because I do not love you for Sarah, you are the idol of my heart. I wear your likeness on my bosom everyday and wherever I go, it shall go. And if I fall on the battlefield, your likeness shall be with me to the last moment.
Mr. J. B. Clintner was here yesterday from Clinton. His folks were well. He saw your likeness on my breast and said you looked as natural as life and I would like to see you this day to tell you all, but I have to wait and hoe for the best. We are all pretty hearty here now and I feel better than I have for several years. We have plenty to eat and plenty to wear and plenty of money and when mine gives out, I have got more to home and hope to live through this war and be permitted to see you again.
Sarah, please give my love to all the Hebble family. I often think of them. If I ever come across any of your Indiana friends, I shall be glad to make their acquaintance. I hope to hear from you son. May God bless you, Sarah, and watch over you for my sake. Mr. [William J.] Dingle is here in Smithland in the 41st Regt. Illinois. He is well and sends his love to you. No more. Please write soon. This from your affectionate, — Nort
Norton W. Campbell
Direct to Camp Smith, Smithland, Kentucky, 12th Regt. of Illinois Volunteers, Company G, in care of Capt. Guy C. Ward
1 Camp Smith was located at Smithland, twelve miles above Paducah at the junction of the Cumberland and Ohio Rivers.
Camp Smith 1 Smithland, Kentucky November 19, 1861
I have just received your welcome letter and I hasten to answer it and I am glad to hear that you are well and I am glad that I can say that I am enjoying good health and we have everything to make us comfortable for this time of the year. We have got a beautiful place for a camp and the best fortifications in the West. The troops here are very healthy and look as well as any that I have ever seen.
We have never been in a battle yet but don’t know how soon we will have to try our courage for there is fifteen hundred rebels only fifteen miles from here and we look for an attack now every hour. We have only seven hundred troops here but we can whip ten times our number with the fortifications we have got here and I would be glad to see them come for we have got some Yankee pills here that don’t set will on a secessionist’s stomach and we will give them such a dose that they will be sorry they ever rebelled.
But Sarah, though I am in the army where everything is exciting and hundreds of friends around me, yet I have never forgot you nor the happy hours and months that we passed so sweet and lovingly together. I often think how happy I should be if I could be with you and our country in peace once more but as long as there is rebellion, I must be separated from you though I love you and your very name is sweet to me.
But I also love my country and can you blame me for if we can’t have peace, how can we be happy? But things will not always be so. I look forward for better and happier days. God bless you Sarah. I would love to see you but it is impossible to get a furlough now. If I could, I would come and see you if I could not stay more than one hour. If I can, I will come and see you at Christmas but I will not make any promises for I don’t know where we may be by that time. But let me be where I may, I will always love you and I believe I shall be spared through this war to return to my friends and see many happy days with those I love.
Please give my respects to Mrs. Hebble and all of the family and I will be glad to hear from you often. And may God’s best blessing and kind hand watch over you and protect and comfort you in all your hours of trouble through life and may He yet make you happy with the one you love. So God bless you. No more. Write soon. This from your affectionate — Nort
Norton W. Campbell
To Miss Sarah Reinhart
1 Camp Smith was named after Union General Charles F. Smith under whom the earthworks were built at Paducah.
Camp Chetlain 1 Paducah, Kentucky December 6, 1861
Dear Sarah R.,
I am well at present and hope you are enjoying the same God’s blessing. I am in Paducah now where I shall probably stay till the fleet is ready to go down the Mississippi River. Then I hope I shall be able to go with them and make them such a visit as they deserve in Dixie land and let them know that the stars and stripes cannot be trampled upon as easy as they imagine nor this government broken up as easily as they thought for our boys here are in good health, and when they get among the secessiers they will make them think that so many tigers have been let loose among them to do the will of God and slaughter and rid the world of those black-hearted rebels that have and are still trying to break up the best government that the world ever knew.
Uncle Sam has got the boys to do the work and before they quit, the stars and stripes will wave over all these United States as they have in days gone by and no man will dare to pull it down or molest it. But Sarah, I may not live to see this war ended, nor live to see you again. But I can trust in God and hope for the best and if I fall on the field of battle, it will be an honorable death and you can say that Nort lost his life like a soldier in defense of American liberties and rights.
I would love to come and see you now but I cannot. The commander of the Western Division has given orders that no more furloughs nor leave of absence be given to neither soldiers nor officers so you see that it is impossible for me to get away but if I cannot see you, I can write to you and hear from you and let me be where I may, I will always remember you as one that I love and respect and as one that I have passed many happy days with and hope to be happy with you again. But if we never meet again on earth, I hope we may meet in heaven where parting is no more. I would love to be with you at Christmas. You say you are going to have a party. If I could be there to dance with you, I know we would enjoy ourselves. But as I can’t be, I hope you will enjoy yourself and whilst you are dancing, think how many hours we have enjoyed ourselves in the same way and with such company as Mrs. Hebble, you can’t help but be happy for she is such a good woman. And please give my respects to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and all of the family. I hope to hear from you soon.
I have not seen your friend in the Indiana 11th yet but will go and see him in a few days. Everything is quiet around here at present. But i must close. The weather is rather cold here just now but we are pretty well prepared for it. Please write soon.
— Norton W. Campbell
To Miss Sarah Reinhart
Direct to Paducah, Kentucky. Camp Chetlain, Co. G, in care of Capt. G. C. Ward
1 Camp Chetlain was named after Augustus L. Chetlain, the Lt. Colonel of the 12th Illinois.
Camp Payne Paducah, Kentucky December 15, 1861
I received your letter and was truly glad to hear from you and that you was well. I am well at present and hope this will find you the same. You said you had not heard from me yet. I am rather surprised at that for I have written you two letters before this and you say you have not received none from me yet. I am sorry for that this has been so, but I hope you will get this. You need not think that I do not write for I will write as often as I can. I love to write to you and I love to hear from you and I would love to see you but I am deprived of that pleasure and probably shall be for a long tome yet.
You said if we was here next spring, you would come down and see me. Sarah, I would be glad to see you at any time and you shall find me a gentleman wherever you meet me. I will not write much this time for I don’t know whether you will get this or not, but if you do, I will write more next time.
Please gibe my respects to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and all of the family.
We expect a fight here within 48 hours. Our pickets were run in last night but we are ready and will give them the best we have got in the shop. I will send you the Union Picket Guard every week with pleasure and hope you will get this. So, hoping that I shall live to see you again, I will close. Please write soon. No more. This from your own, — Nort
Norton W. Campbell
to Miss Sarah Reinhart
Camp Payne, Paducah, Kentucky Co. G, 12th Illinois Vols. in care of Capt. Guy C. Ward
Camp Payne Paducah, Kentucky December 23, 1861
I received your letter and was glad to hear from you and that you was well. I am well and hope this will find you enjoying the same good blessing.
The troops here are all pretty healthy and feel pretty well and are all anxious to move on Columbus [Kentucky]. We all feel confident that we can give them a good thrashing. When I wrote last, I thought we would soon have a fight but the rebels got word and left their camp where they were resting so quietly and it was well for them they did. But everything is quiet here now. Our troops were reviewed here last week and made a fine appearance. They are pretty well drilled and will fight like tigers if they ever get a chance.
Sarah, I should love to spend New Years with you for I know I should enjoy myself, but as I can’t be with you, I hope you will enjoy yourself. I shall not have much of a New Years here. I don’t think there will be anything doing here more than any other day but I live in hopes of seeing better days after the war is over. But till then, I shall be obliged to put up with whatever may happen me and do my duty as a soldier,
There is nothing new to write. Please give my respects to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and to your friend Miss Ellen. As it is late, I will close hoping to hear from you soon. And may God bless you and protect you for my sake. This from your soldier boy, — Norton W. Campbell
Paducah, Kentucky January 9, 1862
We have just received orders to march at three o’clock this day and I think we are going to Columbus [Kentucky] but I don’t know for certain. I received your letters from Indianapolis and Germantown. I am well and ready for the fight. How it will turn out, we can’t say but hoping all for the best, I will close for I am in a hurry.
My love to all. I will write as soon as I can again. So God bless you. No more from — Nort
Camp Payne Paducah, Kentucky February 3, 1862
The last time I wrote to you I told you we was expecting to fight. We started from Paducah on the 15th of last month—six regiments of infantry and two batteries of light artillery, and nearly one thousand cavalry. The whole force was about eight thousand commanded by General Smith. Our expedition, I think, was to keep reinforcements from Columbus [Kentucky] going to help Zollicoffer at Mill Springs.
We marched 30 miles to Mayfield and then nearly last through Murray and Farmington and to the Tennessee River, 14 miles from Fort McHenry where the rebels have an army of about twelve thousand and well fortified and we all thought that we was a going to attack that fort, but we was disappointed. Nearly every house that we passed was deserted for they were all secesh through that part of the country and as soon as they heard we was coming, they left as fast as possible.
We was seven days in marching to the Tennessee River and on the 8th day we started back towards Paducah and when we found we was not a going to get a fight, you could of heard the boys curse and swear for two miles. But we could not help it and we came back. We marched 125 miles and worse roads and a muddier time, I never saw. We had to march in mud ankle deep for two days and waded a great many places in mud and water up to our waist, In fact, it was as hard a march as has been made in this war. We was gone just eleven days and we rested two days of the time. We had to burn some wagons and a good many tents. The roads was so bad they could haul them and had some horses and mules drowned.
I stood the march well till the last two days when I got so lame that I could not walk. I sprained my ankles and then by marching, they swelled and pained me very bad. They are not hardly well yet, I am well excepting that we have to start on another expedition tomorrow and there will be a large force start this time. There has nine regiments came here today and there is still more coming. There is 8 gunboats here going with the expedition and this time we will get a fight.
Look out for good news soon. We will start tomorrow morning, I think certain. The river has been very high here and our camp has been nearly under water for a week which makes it very disagreeable. The water is falling now.
But I must close for this time. I can only say God bless you, Sarah, till I see you and I hope to live to see you again. Please give my love to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and all of the family and write soon, Send to Paducah.
I got a letter from Mother. She is well and sends her love to you. I would of wrote sooner but we have been so busy that I could not. But no more. I will write again as soon as I can. Do God bless you, Sarah. No more this time. Write soon. Pleasant dreams to you from N. W. Campbell
To Susan Reinhart
Nashville, Tennessee February 28, 1862
My dear friend Sarah,
I received your letter yesterday and was pleased o hear from you. I am well and still amongst the living. Our regiment has been kept moving for the last two weeks. We left Paducah on the 5th of this month and took Fort Henry and Fort Heiman on the 6th, and on the 12th day we started for Fort Donelson where we arrived at 12 o’clock that night.
On the morning of the 13th, the battle commenced and lasted till the morning of the 16th when the rebels surrendered unconditionally and we marched into the fort at 10 o’clock a.m. I need not write all the particulars of the fight for you no doubt have had it through the papers before now. Our regiment was in the hottest of the battle on Saturday, the 15th, and 31 of our brave men of the 12th Regiment were killed and one hundred wounded. I did not get hurt at all but my comrades were shot by my side. But God bless them—they fought like men though they were nearly worn our for sleep and food.
We were four nights without sleep or tents, and two days and nights without anything to eat and part of the time the ground was covered with snow and it was very cold and we were not allowed to have a bit of fire so you may know that we suffered some but we would of stood it for weeks, or whipped them out of Donelson.
We took 17 thousand prisoners and their arms, and two generals—Buckner and Johnson. Pillows and Floyd was there but they got away and took away several regiments of rebels. They went through Clarksville running for life and telling the people to burn their houses and property and run for the damn Yankees were coming and they run in every direction. But we will give them a bigger scare than that before long.
On the 20th and 21st, there was a great many people at Donelson to see the battleground. Governor [Oliver P.] Morton was there and Governor Yates of Illinois was there. On the 22nd, we went to Clarksville, the town nearly deserted. The rebels had built a nice fort there but it done them no good. Clarksville is a beautiful place. On the 27th we started for Nashville and got here at 12 o’clock at night and we are still on the boat. I don’t know whether we will get off today here or not. The rebels are about thirty-five miles from here fortifying and they are said to have one hundred thousand troops and more coming from Columbus [Kentucky]. They have evacuated Columbus.
I got off from the boat today and went round and took a look at the city of Nashville and it is a beautiful place. I was at the State House—it is a beautiful building—and I was at President James Polk’s house—or his widow’s house. I was at his grave—it is a beautiful place—but still Nashville [is] dead. Every building nearly is shut up and it seems like Sunday. The railroad bridge and the suspension bridge are both burnt and destroyed by the rebels. Coffee is worth one dollar and fifty cents a pound here, and flour twelve dollars a barrel, and boots 18 to 20 dollars a pair, and everything else according. So you can judge whether the southern people have long faces or not. But I tell them they are the ones that caused it and they must stand it and I wish they would all starve and if they don’t, we’ll run them into some corner and shove them into the Gulf. And they begin to wish too that they had not got up this row. The people around here think that the war will be over in less than eight weeks and I think a few more Fort Donelson battles and it will soon be over too.
You said you drank a glass of beer and made a speech for me when you heard we had taken Fort Henry and I think Donelson is worth two glasses. And if I could be with you, I would make you a speech but I still think I shall live till this mess is over and then I will have a good time. And you just tell that gal that don’t want to wait for a soldier that she should not be in a hurry—that soldiers will be in good demand after this war [even] if they are crippled. But that is all right, Sarah. I hope you will excuse me for not writing sooner for we have been moving so I could not write. I shall be glad to hear from you soon and often.
Please give my love to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and to all. You said you let the printer have my letter to publish but I don’t know what I wrote that he wanted to print. I got no relics that I can send you but a sprig of cedar that I got on the spot where our company fought. I sent a piece of it home and a piece o my brother. I got a nice sword from a secesh captain and I shall keep it to recollect Fort Donelson.
You spoke of a ring you wanted to send me to wear in honor of Fort Henry. I have wore your likeness on my breast all the time and shall wear it till this war is over, if I live, but if you wish to send a ring in a letter, it will be safe. And if I live, I will bring it to you again. But I must close. We have just received orders to start back down the river again. Please write soon. Direct to Paducah. I will write again as soon as I can. So no more. God bless you. Write soon. Yours now and forever. From your soldier boy, — Nort W. Campbell
Pittsburg [Landing], Tennessee March 30th 186
My dear Sarah R.,
I am well and hope this may find you the same. Sarah, I wrote you a short time ago that we would leave here in two days and that I would not get a chance to write to you for some time again but for some reason unknown to me, we are here yet and I understand that we will not leave here for some 8 or 10 days and I hope to hear from you before I leave here. 1
The weather is very pleasant and warm here and the troops begin to feel like going into another battle and I think our next battle will be at Corinth, Mississippi—only twenty-five miles from here. I hear that the rebels has over eighty thousand troops at Corinth now but such little squads as that had better leave before we get there and I think they will for they are about played out in this country and our troops have got Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River and I think that the war is nearly on its last legs and we will soon be home.
Everything is quiet around here and Sarah, I would love to be with you now. It seems like an age since I saw you. But whilst I have been away from you, I have been doing my country service. But often have I thought of you and I often think of the happy hours we passed in Clinton. Nothing has clipped my memory from the first hour that I saw you till now, but circumstances known only to myself has kept us from being happily connected together. But hoping there will yet be time to make amends for the past, I will still live in hopes and hope our last days may be our happiest and that we may forget the past and look only to the future.
So God bless you, Sarah. I hope to hear from you soon. Please give my move to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and all the family. I will close by saying God protect you. Please write soon. Direct to Paducah. No more. Yours with respect. Your soldier boy, — Nort Wm. Campbell
to Miss Sarah Reinhart
1 According to Lt. Col. Augustus L. Chetlain, “During the three weeks we were in camp [at Pittsburgh Landing prior to the Battle of Shiloh], our men suffered from diarrhea and dysentery, caused by having to use surface water taken from shallow wells.” Chetlain himself was taken with dysentery and sent to Paducah on 5 April 1862—the day before the battle—leaving senior Captain J. R. Hugunin in command of the 12th Illinois (Major Ducat already sick in Paducah). Upon hearing of the battle, Lt. Col. Chetlain attempted to return to the battlefield only to have his horse shot out from under him and then left on foot to lead the regiment for four hours. See “The Recollections of Seventy Years.”
Monterey, Tennessee May 7, 1862
I just received your letter of the 22nd and was glad to hear from you and your friend, Mrs. Hebble.
We are 8 miles from Corinth now. The whole army here is moving on to Corinth and Beauregard has a large force there and making preparations to receive us but it will be a death stroke to the rebels. We go to conquer certain. We move slow but sure. General Halleck is here in command and the troops have confidence in him. And Sarah, before this reaches you, we will probably have another hard and bloody battle and be in possession of Corinth.
We have had several skirmishes with the rebels since we started but we drive them wherever we find them. Part of our force is within five miles of Corinth now.
The late Battle of Pittsburg [Landing] was a hard battle and such sights as I saw on the field I never want to see again. But I take things as they come in this war. I run a narrow escape myself for my life but it is alright. I shall be in this fight at Corinth though I am not well nor have not been since the first of April. I am pretty weak but I am better than I was and hope I shall feel well when the battle comes off.
Our company has not got a commissioned officer with it. They are wounded and sick and I shall have to lead the company in the fight. Whether I shall fall or not, I do not know but think I shall come out safe. This will not be as hard a fight as the Pittsburg [Landing] fight for the infantry. It will be more of an artillery fight. The woods and roads are completely strewn with rebel knapsacks and tents and clothing and a great many other things that the rebels threw away on their retreat from Pittsburg showing that they were in a hurry and we will soon give them another big scare.
Fear not for me, Sarah. God will protect me in the fight. The wound I got at Pittsburg has got well but it leaves a nice scar. But that is alright. I would love to see you and talk to you now. God bless you. It seems an age since I saw you. But Sarah, I often think of you and in the hour of battle, you are not forgotten, but were consolation to me. I think that Yorktown and Corinth will soon be in our hands and then I think the war will soon close and then I will come and see you and till then, God bless you and your friends.
My love and best regards to Mr. and Mrs. Hebble and all of the family. I will write as soon after the battle as possible. It is almost impossible to get a letter here for some reason. This is the first letter from you since the battle. But I must close and Sarah, if I never meet you on earth, I hope to meet you in heaven. God bless you. Fear not for me. Write soon. I suppose you will soon be in Indianapolis. That is a beautiful place. No more from your soldier boy, — Norton W. Campbell
Camp near Corinth, Mississippi June 21, 1862
Dear Friend Sarah R.,
I received your letter and was glad to hear from you. Well, I will say that Corinth was evacuated on the 29th of May and we followed the rebels till we could see nor hear nothing more of them. We returned to Corinth where we are now and from all appearances we will stay here for two or three months.
We had a hard march through Mississippi and suffered considerable for water. The roads were awful dusty and the weather very warm but our men kept up good spirits and done well. we will probably not have any more trouble in this part of the country with the rebels.
We have a very pretty place for our camp and the troops are in good health and glad to have a chance to have a little rest.
You say I do not write often. Well I wrote to you the 27th of May and again after the evacuation of Corinth but I suppose you did not get them. Sometimes I don’t get your letters till they are nearly a month on the way. But I suppose it was because we was moving around so much. You don’t think the war will be over soon but I guess you are getting downhearted. You must cheer up; hope for the best. I don’t think it will last much longer and God knows I wish it would not. But if the war lasts two years longer, I shall stay if I am alive and needed. I love to fight these butternuts. I want revenge. They have killed some of my best friends and came near getting me. And whenever I get a chance to fight them, here’s at them as long as I live if needed.
But still I would love to see you and many others. I would love to be with you the Fourth of July but it is not so that I can. But my heart is with you if I am not and God bless. Keep up good spirits and if McClellan does a good job at Richmond, I think the war is about done. Give my love and best respects to Mrs. Hebble and all the family and please write soon. God bless you all. No more.
From your friend, — Norton W. Campbell, command of Co. G
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.