Letter – John Downes, 22 April 1863

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Letter of Private John Downes of Company E, 35th IA Infantry, to his friend John W. Walton, from a camp at Milliken’s Bend, LA. Downes reports that Governor Yates is reviewing troops in the department. He has heard rumors that Vicksburg is being evacuated, and that there is a possibility of peace. All soldiers were recently ordered to send their personal fire arms home, or else they will be confiscated. Downes is not in favor of this order. Neither is he in favor of the current officers; noting that they are disgraceful and at risk of being shot by their own men. Downes writes that there is talk of Ulysses S. Grant moving the infantry down to Vicksburg, though he fears it will fail. He has also heard that they have thousands of prisoners quartered on the island below Vicksburg. At the finish, Downes has received marching orders for the next morning.


-Page 1-

Camp at Miligens Bend April the 22 1862

kind friend I send this for information

Governor Yates is here to day from Illinois he is Reviewing the troops in this Department the Report is that Vicksburg is being evacuated we hear a report from northern letters that there is a prospect of peace but I dont credit the Report I notice that most of the troops have sent there money home some fools have went in to Gambling and have lost all there money and they go about trying to borow of there fellow solders but i have no sempathy for such fools I notice the Oficers can get Whiskey and a large share are drunk the Order has come for all soldiers to send there side arms home or else they will be seized by the government oficials now i think that damned hard the boys has paid for there Revolvers and they aught to be alowed to keep them the Codfish bas done this mean trick i should not wonder if the soldiers would kill a few thousand codfish oficers the shoulder straps had beter not put on to many airs or by god some of them will get shot they have been playing the fool long enough i am geting tierd of those little ticy ass codfish oficers they are a disgrace to the army

April the 23th heavy firing was heard all the later part of the night in the Vicinity of Vicksburgh and there is an odd shot this morning once in a while

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My kind friend I must mention one thing yesterday I was to the Cattle Corell [corral] and took a peep at the beef Cattle they was all so poor they could not shit for bones Such beef as that is as a disgrace to the American Army I shal play my hand out on a stranger and go into some other Regiment On thing is certain this codfish plan of taking the side arms from the soldiers will have a bad tendency It gives the Rebels a decided advantage over us in the field of battle because they go armed to the teeth and we will have nothing but our muskets to fight with god damn the codfish they will Ruen us what the caus of all this cod fish style i cant see there must be traitors at the head of the army somewhere when we made a flank movement on the Talahatchie last fall that would have been the time to have taken Vicksburgh but that would have ended the war to soon for the government leeches some people let it be who it will must sufer in hell for these cursed doings in the army one half of the oficers in service are no more loyal than Jeff davis and a great deal the largest half to[o] there is lying at the bank the Steamer Uncle Sam She is turned into a man of war she caries 10 guns on lower decks and two long mines on the bow and one small field peice on the haricane Roof with on Rifled gun mounted that caries 2 ounces of lead what that little one is for i cant tell there is 5 of those boats and they cary the Marine Brigade the whole concern is wooden

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I notice there is a good deal of style put on those marine boats I have an idea there is some codfish on them what good they will do I cant tell time alone will decide

April the 24th

it is now talked in military circles that Grant will make a flank movement with Infantry down the Arkansas side and cross the River and by so doing he will get in the Rear of Vicksburgh but I fear that it will prove a failure like the yazoo Expedition it is said that we have 5000 prioners safely quartered on the island below Vicksburgh but that is only a camp Report it needs Confirmation the Report in camp is that 2 of our transports was sunk while Running the Blocad [Blockade] but that needs to be confirmed also the boats sufered some of course they cant get through without some geting hit the other night I counted 315 shots in about 2 hours and then turned over and went to sleeep so you can give some Idea of the engagement it is said that Grant will knock down a couple of high church steples they answer for a good observatory for the Rebs to watch our movements if i had comand i would knock hell out of em in a minute 12 o clock

Orders has come for 3 days Rations to be cooked and to March to morow the 25th at 10 o clock it will be dificult for me to get any leters from this time until we stop I think the battle will not be delayed long I have Received some 4 or 5 leters from Ann

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the other day I sent Father 75 dollars by Express i wish you would tell him to see to it and if you please write to me when he gets it

I am well at this time and hope this leter may find you and yours enjoying the same previledges of this life I cary the Enfield Rifle and it shoots well it is made to cary 900 yards with Raising sights

I must close my letter with due Respect to John W Walton

from your friend John Downes

PS this is the last stamp I have got and i cant get any more

Yours J.D


John Downes was born c. 1824 in Ireland, moving to Allamakee, IA at some point. In the 1860 census he is listed as a farmer and had three young children; Mary, James, and John with his wife Mary. At the age of 38 he enlisted as a private on August 12, 1862 with Company E of the 35th IA Infantry. He mustered out on August 10, 1865 in Davenport, IA.

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