This letter was written by Cornelius Cunningham (1837-1862), the son of Horace Cunningham (1781-1882) and Caroline Elizabeth Tree (1810-1880) of Porter county, Indiana. Cornelius died of disease on 25 August 1862 at Helena, Arkansas, while serving in Co. G, 9th Illinois Cavalry.
Even though the letter is only partial and is missing the critical opening page with the date and location of the writing of the letter, readers will find that the events described in this letter coincide with those summarized on the website published by the Encyclopedia of Arkansas under the title, “Skirmish at Cache River Bridge.”
Cornelius may have written this letter to his sister, Mary Cunningham, since it came from the same collection of letters as the one I transcribed and published in February 2020 on Spared & Shared 21—See 1862: Cornelius Cunningham to Mary Cunningham
To read other letters by members of the 9th Illinois Cavalry I have transcribed and published on Spared & Shared, see:
David Luddington, Troop G, 9th Illinois Cavalry (Union/1 Letter)
Jacob Everett Brown, Troop M, 9th Illinois Cavalry (Union/3 Letters)
[Camp Tucker, at the junction of White and Black Rivers in Arkansas]
…into an ambush I was about middle way of our company when we started and at the last end of the race there was 4 men and the captain ahead of me. I carried my carbine in my right hand and held my horse with the left—or tried to, They turned around once and thought they would fire but I guess they thought their chance would be slim if they stopped very long, but they all made their escape. About the same time the other companies was running too on to the other road. The road split and came together again about four miles from the fork. The first companies went one road and we went the other, We came out ahead or rather went back about a mile on the other road where they had camped. We catched one man and got two horses. We rested in peace that night. The next morning we went on together to Augusta [Arkansas].
The object of the scout was to see how many rebels there was down in that vicinity and catch a company that is known as Hooker’s Company. 1 We got into Augusta about noon but found no secesh. Hooker’s Company was there the day before and came up the way we went down and probably in the swamp except them that we chased. We camped in a nice little grove in Augusta that afternoon and night and all was quiet until about midnight when our picket fired two shots which caused us to be called up in line of battle on foot until we found but what the alarm was. The picket saw a man on horseback cross the road a few yards ahead of him. He halted him but he did not stop so he fired on him which caused him to leave in double quick so we laid down with our arms on and slept till morning. Then we started and came back to camp.
There is some pretty country down there. Wheat is ripe to cut. They have lots of Niggers. The wenches plow corn and cotton here and do all kinds of work. I seen a lot one place girdling trees. They have from 50 to a hundred on a farm.
Col. [Hiram F.] Sickles and the other companies come in contact with some secesh on Cache River. They had tore up the bridge and when our [ ] got onto it, they fired into them from the other side wounding a couple. Our boys returned the fire but to what effect they did not know. We all got back to camp about the same time and the news in camp quite exciting. The Col. got a dispatch that the rebels are coming up the river with a gunboat to shell us out. There is no troops here but our regiment and two six-lb. guns. There was a dispatch came in last night that the secesh was crossing above us—some 3,000. They sent Lieut. [John E.] Warner and ten men up the river to reconnoiter. They came back and reported no enemy there as they could hear of.
We had everything ready to march provided we are not attacked yet. There’s 5 or 6 regiments 15 miles from here of our men. Gen. Curtis is making his way to Little Rock. We probably will leave in a day or two or get reinforcements.
The weather is pretty warm. Haven’t seen any flour for six weeks, hard living. Dave is not very hearty. Zal is around again but can’t ride a horse yet. Several of the boys sick. One boy got drownded this morning and four mules while crossing the ferry. Dave gone out in the country with the boys after corn. No more pay yet.
I received two papers—one with paper and envelopes but no stamps. I have a five dollar bill but can’t get no change. The mail is a good while getting here from the [Pilot] Knob. Write often and all you can think of.
Dinner is ready.
1 “Hooker’s Company” was the company organized by Captain Richard Hooker in Jacksonport late in 1861. The men were armed with shotguns and borrowed sabers. The company was known as Captain Hooker’s Company, Arkansas 30-Day 1861 Mounted Volunteers. The company re-organized on February 26, 1862 at Jacksonport and more men mustered into it. Before becoming part of the 32nd Infantry Regiment it figured prominently in the action around Jackson County in the spring and summer of 1862. The March 31, 1862 morning report gave Hooker’s Company’s strength at 130 officers and men.