STEAMER CRESCENT CITY, April 2, 1862.
FRIEND SANDERS:– The 16th Iowa, accompanied by the 1st Illinois battery, left St. Louis at half past eight o’clock last evening. Several other regiments, including the 15th Iowa, left the same day – destination unknown. It being very dark, the steamer tied up near the arsenal.
Started again this morning at six o’clock, moving down the river in splendid style, on one of the largest and best steamers on the river. I have seen no regiment moved so comfortably as the 16th Iowa. Passenger coaches from Davenport to Alton, thence by steamer City of Alton to St. Louis, and now on this commodious and well managed boat. The 15th are on the Minnehaha – a boat about half the size of this – with a battery and about the same number of men and horses, mules, &c., as are on this boat. Stopped at Commerce and landed a number of wagoners. A large commissary train is fitting out at that place, destined probably for New Madrid.
Reached Cairo at 10 p. m. and remained only a few minutes. Much disappointment was felt at not being able to see that now famous place with its fortifications, camps, &c. Were permitted, however, to take a peep into some little popguns – ten inch rifled cannons – on board a steamer along-side. These guns were among those captured at Fort Donelson, one of them said to be a present from John Bell.
April 3d. – Reached Paducah at six a. m. Started again at half past eleven up the Tennessee. Met a gunboat – an ugly looking customer – with its thirteen savage dogs of war showing their teeth on every side – three in the bow, four on each side, and two in the stern. One broadside would have been sufficient to have sent this boat to the bottom, or at least to have satisfied the thousand men on board. The arms of the 16th, as also those of the 15th, are rifled muskets, of the latest Springfield pattern, and the battery on board consists of rifled guns with percussion shells. But all the harm we could have done to that iron clad little chap passed to-day, would have been very trifling.
Reached Fort Henry at 7 p. m., and although it was dark, many of us went on shore, and had a little stroll inside and around the breast works. These breast works consist of earth, thrown up from a zig zag ditch outside, eight feet deep and twelve feet wide. This ditch of course is partly filled with water, and in the absence of the gunboats, with resolute garrison inside it would have been a hard place to take. Saw here also 10-inch Columbiads and piles of solid shot for those, and smaller guns, together with the ponderous carriages, all of which are being transported to Cairo. Took up one of the 128 pound pills – a nice little thing to throw at a man’s head. How any gunboat can be made to resist one of these missels, going at a rate of two or three miles in as many seconds is a mystery.
The 52d Indiana and a battalion of Cavalry are garrisoning the fort. It is a desolate place – the interior of the fort in some places is as low as the water in the river, which has now fallen some ten or twelve feet. It has been thought dangerous to go above this point without a gunboat for convoy, and especially so in the night; but our captain has ventured forward alone, and as yet – 10 o’clock – no accident has happened.
APRIL 4TH. – A charming day yesterday – bright, clear sunshine, trees in foilage, peach trees in blossom, fields of winter wheat near Paducah very fine and beautiful. We are fast approaching spring, if it is not approaching us.
This morning it thundered and rained, and was quite chilly outside the boat. Not many sick yet, but probably will be before night. The boys will be out and halloo at every hut and man or woman they see. In some instances the whole family – men, women, children and babies – run out and return the salutation, or anticipate it by swinging hats, handkerchiefs, aprons, &c. In others, nary sign of loyalty, real or affected, is exhibited. Some of the boys would like to shoot the silent secesh as they stand gazing on the bank, not twenty rods away.
The river is scarcely forty rods wide in many places, and is not falling rapidly – 20 feet lower here than it was two weeks since. The country on both sides, so far as visible from the boat is a wilderness thus far, nearly all the way from Paducah, with here and there a cleared patch and a hut, or a cluster of two or three houses. Decaturville is the only settlement yet passed which can be called a village.
Half past three P. M. reached Savannah.
CHAPLAIN 11TH IOWA.
– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Friday Morning, April 11, 1862, p. 2