CAMP 3D OHIO CAVALRY,
WOOD’S DIVISION, BUELL’S ARMY; May 2.
EDITOR GAZETTE: It is now ten days since Pope’s army disembarked at Hamburg, four miles above Pittsburg Landing. It was a glorious scene that opened on us that morning – one that seemed to inspire new life in the great army that composed this fleet. The poor soldiers had had a terrible time on the overcrowded boats for twelve long days, most of the time exposed to a cold, disagreeable rain, and many of them having to sleep on the hurricane deck. Notwithstanding their tribulations the soldiers appeared to be perfectly delighted with the marvelous beauty of the Tennessee river – a more charming stream I have not seen this side of the Hudson; such variety of scenery, enchanting views, lovely foliage and yet withal so sparsely settled. Few residences and not a single town of any size or importance is to be seen from Kentucky to Alabama.
We crossed the Kentucky and Tennessee line early Monday morning, the 22d, and in a short time reached Ft. Henry, which bears the marks of having been bravely defended. A few miles above we came to the ruins of the superb railroad bridge, the fine draw of which and the stone piers are still standing. It was an imposing sight to see. Gen. Pope’s fleet plowing its way majestically down – or rather up – into Dixie. There were about fifty steamers – some of them the largest that float on the western waters, and of sufficient capacity to carry tow regiments of infantry. The new Uncle Sam, for instance had on board the 43d and the 39th Ohio regiments, one battalion 2d Iowa Cavalry and one battery of artillery.
Since landing here I have been over the battle ground several times. One is surprised to see the trees filled with bullets and cut to pieces by cannon balls and shells, and can scarcely understand how any could possibly have escaped before such terrible fire. It is not only so for a few rods, but for several miles square. It was one of those battles that can never be fully described.
As for the part that the Iowa bore in that terrible conflict, her eleven regiments, compared now with what they were previous to the battle, will tell where she was and what she did during the great struggle. I have visited all of her regiments since being on the field, but cannot describe the feeling of loneliness, of utter desolation, which seems to pervade the remnants of the 8th, 12th and 14th regiments. One cannot go among them without experiencing a feeling of sadness, especially among the boys of the 8th. There are only about 85 of them left, and having suffered in that terrible march last October, in Missouri, what few regiments in the U. S. have ever suffered, it has placed them in closer relationship with each other than is common among men of other regiments. The 8th, 12th and 14th Iowa, and 58th Illinois are now consolidated, and are called the “Union Brigade.”
This is a fine timbered country, and very hilly. One is surprised to see the large number of springs that are found here, which is great convenience to the army, although a great many of the soldiers are made sick by using their water.
Gen. Halleck has now a battle front that reaches from 12 to 15 miles, and as the columns are steadily advancing, it is probably that the ball will be opened in a few days. Yesterday I took a ride into Mississippi to within a mile or two of Farmington, a little town 6 miles due east of Corinth. I was 8 miles southwest of our division, and learned from our cavalry pickets that were farthest advanced, that the secesh pickets have disappeared, and had not been seen for two or three days. That, with several other circumstances, has created a general impression in the army that Corinth is evacuated, which has been corroborated by rebel prisoners taken on the right of our army. On my way back to camp last evening I met the vanguard of Pope’s army, on their way to Farmington, which place they would reach last evening, and then strike south. They were followed to-day by Gen. Crittenden’s division, and will be by ours to-morrow. As. Gen. Wallace’s forces destroyed the railroad communication to the west of them a few days ago, the impression is created that the rebels at Corinth, if they have not evacuated as usual, are being surrounded, in which event their fate is sealed.
The people at the North have but little idea of the magnitude of Gen. Halleck’s army here. Ohio and Illinois, alone, have enough men in the field to take the strongest position the rebels could occupy, at least it seems so, to see the number of regiments from those two States. I have seen over fifty batteries of artillery, and I would not pretend to say how many regiments of cavalry. There is such an army concentrated here, that we have but little hope of meeting the rebel forces at any one point, and Beauregard is too cunning to permit himself to be caught in such a trap as the entrenchments at Corinth; but a few days more will tell the tale. Yours, &c.
– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Saturday Morning, May 10, 1862, p. 2