Letter – David Norton, 25 October 1861

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WARNING: This letter contains racist slurs. We neither support nor condone the use of such language and have therefor decided to censor the words out of consideration for our readers.

Letter written by Captain David W. Norton of Company E, 42nd IL Volunteer Infantry, to his mother from a camp at Warsaw, MO. Norton describes the march from Jefferson City to Tipton, which was made difficult by rough road conditions and previous rainy weather. They marched to Warsaw with General David Hunter’s division and are intending to join General John C. Fremont’s army. Norton mentions that Fremont’s and General Franz Sigel’s armies are in pursuit of General Sterling Price, and he hopes that his own company may see some action when they catch up. The countryside is pleasant, but “shows plainly that the curse of slavery hangs over it.” He mentions that the towns are deserted, with only a few Germans remaining. Norton concludes by saying that the marching agrees with him physically, and that he is well-liked by his men.


-Page 1-

Camp at Warsaw Mo.

Oct 25th 1861.

Dear Mother

I have not had a moments time to write you since we were at Jefferson City. We marched from there to Tipton a distance of about 60 miles over the roughest roads I ever travelled. At Jefferson City we had twenty-five wagons in parts and one hundred & fifty mules – all untrained given to our Regt. as they ran. We had to make wagons of those parts and teams of those wild mules before we could march from Jefferson City. It took two or

-Page 2-

three days to catch and break the mules and then we loaded on the march. We had the roughest roads to go over I ever saw. The hills were very steep and the road gullied very much by the heavy fall rains. After we got to Tipton we rested one day and then marched with Gen. Hunters division for this place to join Gen. Fremonts Army. We arrived here yesterday, and shall probably march on after Gen. Fremont who is still some fifty miles ahead. The distance from Tipton to Warsaw is between 80 & 90 miles and we marched it in four days over rough

-Page 3-

roads which I call good marching for green hands! There are some 15000 men in our Division & 27000 under Gen. Fremont himself. Gens. Fremont & Sigels are close behind Gen. Price and will undoubtedly bring him to a halt by the time we overtake them & then we may hope to see lively times. It is the hope of a fight that makes our boys travell so well. We out march some Regts that have been in the field ever since May. Gen. Hunter paid us the compliment of putting us third in his Column after the first days march. The first day we were the last Regt. in the Column.

-Page 4-

The Country we have been marching through is as fine as any I ever saw, but it shows plainly that the curse of Slavery hangs over it. Every Farm shows that ******* are a curse to the country. Every village we passed was quite or nearly deserted. A few Germans only remaining. This part of the state is all secession and if it dont curse the day on which secession was born I am much mistaken.

I am hearty and fat. This hard marching agrees with me. My men think they have got the best Capt. in the Regt. I take good care of them when sick and make them fly round pretty lively when well. They say that their Captain

[letter incomplete]


Major David Woodman Norton was born 31 January 1838 in Chelsea, MA. He had two other brothers (Joshua and John) who also enlisted and served in the Union Army. He enlisted with the 1st Zouave Regiment of Chicago and was then promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of the 42nd IL Infantry then Captain on July 22, 1861. He eventually joins Major General John M. Palmer’s staff as acting Assistant Inspector General. He was killed in action near New Hope Church, GA on June 2, 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign.

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