Letter – William Ferguson, 22 February 1862


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Letter written by Sergeant William A. Ferguson of Company A, Baskerville’s 2nd MS Cavalry Battalion to his wife Mary, from Eastport, MS. He writes of a gunboat raid in the beginning of the Shiloh Campaign. The gunboat Tyler was discovered coming up river, and a dispatch was sent to General James R. Chalmers. Major Charles Baskerville was ordered to take two companies, including Ferguson’s, to meet the boat (they arrived too late). Ferguson writes that most of the infantry was sent to Florence to protect the railroad, and he thinks the cavalry will act as pickets along the river.

Eastport Miss. February 22, 1862.

My Dear Mary:

A few days since Capt. McCaa and two of his men went out to look after Capt. Roddy and his men that had been sent out on picket duty. so late in the evening they discovered a gun boat a few miles below this place making its way up the river. Capt. McCaa sent a dispatch to the General who ordered the Major to take two companies, ours and Capt. Fields, and try and meet the boat at this place. So in a short time we were in our saddles and after an hour and a half march reached this place. but too late to see the boat. She made a short stay here some ten or twelve of its men came a shore, talked a while with a gentleman who was staying at the ferry, they stayed a very short time got aboard the boat and made their way back down the river and has not been heard of since. We had about sixty men concealed in a ravine between this place and the landing whose intention it was to come in behind them and cut them off from the boat had they attempted to have come up in town. This is the second trop it has made up this river the other time it went as high up as Florence. It is not a very large boat carries some ten or twelve guns, has taken all the steam boats and government stores they could get along the river, but hasn’t done any other damage. It is supposed their object is to keep the river open. Nearly all of our infantry have been sent from Iuka to Florence to protect the rail road. Our cavalry, I expect will act as pickets up and down the river which is no pleasant business I assure you. We left camp in such haste that we hadn’t time to prepare any rations so we went one day without any thing to eat. The inhabitants have nearly all deserted this place and it is difficult to procure any thing to eat her. But our major has succeeded in getting us a beef and some flour, we now have a plenty of beef and biscuit. We are quartered in an old store room and at night we sleep on the floor and cover with a blanket which has given several of us severe colds. The weather is moderating and my cold is getting better. I am perfectly well otherwise. Cant say how long we are to stay here, but hope not long.

All my writing material was left at camp and there is no accommodation of the kind to be had here. I find an old ledger with some blank leaves in it and am pressing it into service.

I wrote you from Iuka, haven’t heard from you but expect a letter when I get back to camp. You will direct you letters to Iuka until otherwise ordered. Two of our men and my self are going down the river a few miles this morning. A kiss for my wife and baby. Love to all. Good bye.

Affectionately Yours


William A. Ferguson, from Pickensville AL, enrolled in Captain McCaa’s Company A of the Alabama Cavalry in October 1861, aged 29. He was mustered into Baskerville’s 4th MS Cavalry Battalion on November 14, 1861. Baskerville’s Battalion patrolled the Tennessee River prior to the battle of Shiloh and and participated in the battle itself. The Battalion was consolidated to form the 8th CS Cavalry Regiment. Ferguson was promoted to lieutenant and again to captain. He was captured in the autumn of 1863 and incarcerated at Johnson’s Island Prison, near Sandusky, OH. He was exchanged and rejoined the fighting in Atlanta. He served with his unit until its surrender at Greensboro, NC in 1865. After the war he became a farmer and had at least 3 children with his wife Mary before passing away on January 21, 1902. He is buried in East Hill Cemetery in Salem City, VA.

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