Letter written by Private Isaac B. Jones of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 18th U.S. Infantry, to his cousin Helen Sofield, from a camp near Iuka, MS. He details his regiment’s movements, including their stay in Columbus, KY. Though he describes the camp as being well situated, many men have gotten sick with the Mississippi River as their only water supply. The Confederate pickets are now within shooting distance, and a few of their men had been shot from a barn near camp. The regiment will be building a heavy entrenchment around the camp. Jones inquires after his wife, and explains some of their recent marital difficulties that have been exacerbated by his wife’s family. Jones writes he will come home “honored and respected” or not at all.
Camp near I-u-Ka July 10th/62
Thinking that perhaps you would like to hear from me and know of my whereabouts, etc. I will take this opportunity of writing to you. I received a letter from my wife about two months ago. She said that she had received a letter from you and you wished to know my address. I would have written to you sooner, but it was impossible for me to get a stamp, and can’t even here for love or money. I have finally concluded to write at your expense. I need not mention that I don’t think you will complain. I enlisted in a volunteer light artillery company the 10th of last October. On the 7th of March our company was discharged on account of the government not wanting any more volunteer artillery. I then re-enlisted the next day in the 18th U.S. Infantry. I don’t like the regular service so well as the volunteers; we cant
have half so many privileges. The regulars are exceedingly strict. The army regulations has to be carried out to the very letter. And you know the military law is the most t[y]ranical thing on earth. I left Harrisburg, Pa. and went to Camp Thomas about 3 miles from Columbus, Ohio, where we stayed a little over two months instructing our men. From there we went to Columbus, Ky., and encamped right across the river from where the battle of Belmont was fought. The Rebels evacuated the camp we were at a short time before we went there. It is a splendid situation for a camp, laying very high on the east bank of the river. But I think it was one of the most sickly camps that I ever was in. I am well satisfied that if we would have stayed much longer there that very nearly the whole of our detachment would have been in the hospital. The greatest trouble we had there was on the account of water.
We could not get a drop to drink except that that was hauled out of the Mississippi, and it would stand from morning till night. The Secesh before they evacuated that camp worked hard three nights and days sinking and destroying their pieces, torpedoes, etc. But since then we recovered some very valuable artillery pieces. We have any amount of ammunition at that camp of every kind. We left there the later part of June  & came through Tennessee and this far in Mississippi. Tenn. & Ky. Are the greatest places for fruit ever I seen. There is a great abundance of most every kind. The country is very thinly settled, and as a general thing, heavy timbered. The buildings are very poor with but a few exceptions. I like this camp better than any we have been at yet. The Iuka Springs are close to camp, where there is three kinds of water running, each separately, viz
sulphur, alum, and iron. And there is a number of springs of very good water besides. We are expected to get into an action almost every hour. The enemy’s pickets & ours are now within shooting distance. The night of the 3rd of this month our men carried two soldiers in camp a little after night. One was shot three times, and the other was so badly wounded that he died in the morning. They were shot from a barn a short distance from camp. There was a few men sent out in my charge. We went and burnt his barn down, also his house and brought the gentleman into camp. Just a few days before that, one of their guerrilla bands killed 3 of our privates and wounded a capt. so badly that I think he will never recover. The force of the enemy exceeds ours about 4 or 5 to our one. But we will have the advantage of them. We are throwing heavy entrenchments around the camp, and also in Iuka.
Humboldt in Tenn. is a very nice place and so is Jackson. I think that Jackson can boast of the prettiest dooryards in the U.S. They are at least by far the nicest I ever seen. Corinth is not a very nice place. There are some very good buildings in the place, but everything is upside down and torn to pieces. We had to march from Corinth to this place, and carry heavy knapsacks. It was a very hard trip. Quite a number fell out by the way with fatigue and a few was sunstruck. One of our sergts. fell out and we had a hard time to bring him to his senses. However, we got here safe. As well as I like to move from place to place and render myself useful to my country, I would feel well satisfied if we could stay her a few months. For I am almost worried out. But I
expect we will soon have to go on into the state of Alabama. We are now only sixty miles from the line. Please tell me in your answer to this, whether my wife answered you or not. If she has, I suppose she will endeavor to screen the conduct of her relatives and self as much as possible. However, I hope I may at some future time see you, and plead my own case. I think it would require but very few facts to be made known to you to satisfy you that I have pursued the right course,at least after I left Williamsport. I won’t cast a reproachful word towards her, for I know she has been misled by that contemptible Updegraff faction; and I will never rest until I have my revenge. That I will have, if it sends my soul to eternal torture. You may think that this is rash talk, but I have a good reason for it, and the more I -Page 7-
think of it the more determined I feel to carry out my designs. I received a letter from Lucy [wife] while I was in the State of Ohio, stating that she would be glad to live with me any place, west or south that I might think best. That will do very well that far, but she must also forsake entirely certain ones of her relations, or we had better always stay apart. For just so sure as they ever would interfere with our domestic concerns again, I know it would be the means of making me guilty of some great crime. It requires all the energy I have to keep hands off as it is. I came away as much for that as anything else, and I though my grief would not be so great by being a distance away, but I find I can’t help loving my wife; I would gladly sacrifice my life if it would make her happy. I know she is far from being happy where she is. I intend to come [home] honored and respected. If I can’t do that
I will never show my face in my native state. Recollect, cousin, I don’t pretend to try to make you think that I have done as I should. I know I have not, and have acknowledged that fact hundreds of times, and have felt truly sorry. But I have found to my sorrow that repentance and acknowledgments will do no good with their stony hearts. I will close for the present. Give my love to Alfred and those dear children of yours. From your affectionate but unworthy cousin,
Isaac B. Jones
P.S. An answer to this would be gratefully received. If you will be so kind as to write, do so immediately, or perhaps I will not get it, as we expect to move before long.
Co. C, 3rd Batt.
18th U.S. Infty. Iuka,
Care of Capt. Knight Mississippi
excuse this dirty paper
Isaac B. Jones was a carpenter from Williamsport, PA. He originally enlisted with Captain Joesph E. Ulman’s Battery of Light Artillery PA Volunteers at the age of 27. The company was discharged March 7th, 1862 and Jones re-enlisted with the 18th U.S. Infantry. He was killed in action on December 31, 1862 at the Battle of Murfreesboro.