Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Letter from the 39th Regiment.

Head Quarters 39th Iowa Infantry.
Camp Redfield, Tenn. Nov. 20th’, 1863

Friend Caverly:-

I have just had the pleasure of perusing the Sentinel, of the 7th inst., which now lies on the desk before me. I am happy to learn that you have determined to continue the publication of the paper another year, and I hope the citizens of Clark [sic] County will appreciate your effort, and give the paper the support which its merit so richly deserves. They are abundantly able, and I feel confident are willing to do so.

In your address to your patrons you rather insinuate that some of your correspondents in the army have failed to fulfil [sic] their promise. If you had any reference whatever to me, I can only plead guilty to the charge. I hope, in the future, I shall give you no cause for complaint. I shall endeavor to keep you posted in reference to all matter, worthy of note, that comes under my observation.

Your readers, doubtless, are posted in reference to the recent movements of the army of the Tennessee. During the latter part of October the 16th army Corps’ under General Sherman; passed through Corinth on its way to join the army of the Cumberland. The left wing of the 16th army Corps commenced moving forward about the 1st inst. The command of this division of the army was entrusted to Brig. Gen. Dodge, one of the live Generals whom Iowa soldiers are proud to honor. The 39th Iowa broke camp at Corinth on the 2d inst., and went by rail to Iuka, Miss., 20 miles east of Corinth, on the Memphis & Charleston Rail-road. Here we remained until the morning of the 7th, when we marched to Eastport Alabama, a distance of eight miles, at which place we arrived about noon. Eastport is situated on the Tennessee river, about twenty-five miles below Tuscumbia. It has been a place of but very little importance, and was probaly [sic] located at that point on account of its being an excellnt [sic] landing. The town is now desolate. I do not think there is a family living in the place. A great number of the buildings have been burned, and those that are left standing all have their doors and windows battered in. The place is a fit abode for “bats and owls”.

On the afternoon of the 7th we commenced crossing the river, and although four or five steamboats were constantly plying between the two banks, the crossing was not affected the morning of the 8th. Those who have never witnessed the movements of an army, have but little idea of the time and labor required for even a Division of troops to cross a river by means of transports.

Early the next morning (the 8th) we again commenced moving forward, but owing to the great length of our supply trains it was nearly noon before the whole column got fairly in motion. Our line of march was up the Tennessee river, bearing however a little to the north, and gradually leaving the river to our right. The river bottom here is not over one-fourth of a mile wide, and the bluffs, extending back, are very high and rugged. The farms, through this portion of Alabama, are generally very small and in a poor state of cultivation, and the inhabitants belong to, what is termed in the south the “poorer class.” There are exceptions, however. In some of the valleys along the numerous creeks and streams that empty into the Tennessee, are some very fine plantations, owned by men of wealth and affluence. The soil is very fertile and produces heavy crops of corn of which there is an abundance in the country, and, in fact, of almost any crop that is grown in the northern States. A large number of the inhabitants in this part of the state have been for the Union from the commencement of the war, and a great many of them have enlisted in the Union army.

As we crossed the line, and advanced into Tennessee, there was a marked improvement in the appearance and condition of the country. The country was generally less hilly and better adapted for farming purposes. Large plantations and fine houses no longer attracted special attention, and the evidence of wealth and luxury were abundant on every hand. But to enter into a detailed description of the country, and give anything like a history of our march, would necessarily make this letter too long. Suffice it to say that after five days hard marching we reached Pulaski, the county seat of Giles county, Tenn., located on the railroad running from Nashville to Decatur, and about 80 or so miles south of the former place. The town probably contains about two thousand inhabitants, is finely located, and has been, I should think, quite a flourishing and prosperous place. No business, however, is carried on there now, and the store-rooms have all long since, been closed. Several business houses were burnt by Gen’l Mitchell’s forces when they passed through this part of the State about a year and a half ago. Many of the citizens are wealthy planters and own large plantations in the country.

They are nearly all, as a matter of course, rebels, and have sons and sons-in-law in the rebel army.

The county is reputed the wealthiest in the state.

The next morning after reaching Pulaski our Brigade was sent north for the purpose of guarding the Corps. Our camp is on Richland creek, about eight miles north of Pulaski. The other regiments of our Brigade are still north of us. We have a fine location, excellent water, and the surrounding country is wealthy, making “foraging” quite a profitable business. We fare well, in the way of rations – have plenty of flour, cornmeal, fresh beef and mutton, and Irish and sweet potatoes, and, by the way a chicken, or a turky [sic] is not a rare dish with us. –

Co. “D” is about two miles west of us, running a mill. The boys, I believe, are all well. Companies “A” and “G” are two miles beyond, running another mill. Companies “B”, “F” and “K” are guarding railroad bridges, leaving us but four companies in camp.

Orderly Serg’t. Pike was unable to march on account of a sore foot and was left at Eastport, to be sent down the river. Sergt. Trent was yesterday mustered as 1st Lieut., Co. “A” 2d Regt. Ala. Vols. A. D. This appointment is an excellent one and his many friends at home will rejoice to hear of his promotion. His company is now in the Division Pioneer corps, and is at work repairing the Railroad. But I am admonished, by the quantity of paper I have already scribbled over, that this letter is getting too lengthy. I shall, therefore, close leaving other matters for some future communications.

T. R. Oldham.

- Published in The Union Sentinel, Osceola, Iowa, December 5, 1863

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Letter from T. R. Oldham - January 20, 1863

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