Letter written by Major Charles Baskerville of the 2nd Battalion MS Cavalry, to Brigadier General Daniel Ruggles at Corinth, MS from the bank of the Tennessee River. Baskerville writes that he is planning to report to Colonel Mouton of the 18th LA Infantry at Pittsburg Landing, TN, and that he needs all the forces currently in Corinth and Iuka. He is particularly interested in the company commanded by Captain Matthews at Iuka. In a note on the opposite side of the letter, Baskerville writes that Captain Reeves has offered his company. The events detailed in the letter precede the battle of Shiloh.
By order just at hand from Col Mouton I shall repair immediately to him –
I need all my forces now at Corinth & Iuka May I suggest that you send them to rejoin my command near Pittsburg –
The Company commanded by Capt Matthews at Iuka & now used as artillery can at this moment be of great value to me as Cavalry
Capt Matthews could again resume the its Artillery Drill when the emergency is not so great – I have no information to report further than the Confirmation of the fight at Pittsburg yesterday & send you a dispatch from Col Mouton. I learn but not reliably, that they have been fighting at Savannah, your Obt Svt [Obedient Servant]
March 2nd/62 Chas Baskerville
Major Comd’g 2nd Batt
Capt Reeves, the Bearer, from Noxaber Country Mis has today reported to me, that his command wish to join me.
I would be gratified, sir if you would Sanction it
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.
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.
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.
Letter written by Private Marcus S. Nelson of Company D, 14th MO Infantry, Birge’s Western Sharpshooters (later the 66th IL Infantry), to family, from Corinth, MS. Nelson has heard that generals Sterling Price and Earl Van Dorn are at Iuka, MS, with a force of several thousand men. He expects a great battle to be fought soon. Nelson’s company went out skirmishing, though he was unable to join them. Nelson calls Company F as the “cowardly company,” and states that Company K mutinied. He has heard that the Confederates in Iuka are retreating, and that General Ulysses S. Grant is in full pursuit, mentioning that Grant “always does what he undertakes if he ain’t drunk.” Nelson also mentions that while African Americans are not allowed to be soldiers, they are employed in other areas in the camp.
Corinth, Miss. Sept. 20th 1862
Friends at home:
Congratulate us! Once more there is a prospect of something being done in these parts. Price & Van Dorn are at Iuka, twenty one miles from here with a large force variously estimated at from twenty to sixty thousand men (they probably have not over twenty-five thousand) and are menacing this place. We have a heavy force at Burnsville, seven miles this side of Iuka, and it is expected that there will soon be a great battle fought at or near one of these places. The number of our troops at Burnsville is about equal to that of the enemy at Iuka, and we have the railroad to facilitate the transportation of reinforcements from this place if necessary in case of a battle. Three companies of Sharp Shooters, “D” among the number, have been out since a week ago today, skirmishing with the enemy’s advance. As they left the day after I returned from the North , I did not go with them. I should though, if my feet had not been blistered with my rascally boots so that I could not march. They have had some pretty hot work out there, but at the last advice, not a man was hurt. At one time Company D was alone with the exception of three of Company F (the cowardly company), the remainder of that company having sulked, and Company K mutinied on account of the senior captain having put their [captain] under arrest for his superior bravery. The Rebels were in the edge of a piece of timber, at the top of a hill, and the S.S. were ordered by the infantry colonel who had
command of the expedition to dislodge them. This of course was work for bayonets. But Co. D never flinched. Only two men in the company backed out. The rest “charged” with loud shouts up the hill in the face of the enemy’s fire. It seemed like madness to rush into the woods with no arms but long range rifles [the regiment was armed with the Dimick American Deer and Target Rifle, a sporting rifle not fitted for the bayonet], but the command was “forward” and Co. D always obeys orders. Rushing through a perfect storm of balls, they reached the top of the hill in safety, and , discharging their rifles into the woods, dashed in after the already retreating Rebels. Through this piece of woods they pursued them, and held the woods until ordered to return to Burnsville. The infantry which was ordered to support the Sharp Shooters in the attempt to dislodge the Rebels from the brush followed on slowly until met by the first volley from the concealed Rebels, when they absolutely refused to proceed, and our boys were obliged to drive them out alone. To show the coolness with which the boys conducted the whole thing, I will relate a couple of incidents. One of the boys, Dallas Brewster by name, when double-quicking it up the hill, saw a ball strike between his feet. He stooped down, dug it out of the dirt, put it in his pocket, and went on the same as though bullets were not flying like hail stones around him. Another dropped on one knee to load, and had just poured the powder in his gun, when an English rifle ball struck close to the toe of his boot. He picked it up, tried it in his gun, and coolly remarked, “just a fit,” – “saves my going into my pouch for one,” and loading his gun with the Secesh ball, he was off after the Butternuts again. This Dal. Brewster has a step brother by the name of George Yerington in our regiment, whose mother is related to the Abbys in some
way. I believe Mrs. Fred Abby & she are sister. At all events, George has seen the whole of them and remembers them, and I presume Carlista will recollect him but I don’t know.
My health has been steadily improving since my return from the North, and if I can get all the milk I want, I guess I shall get along.
I cannot make out a meal of victuals without milk, and I have to pay fifteen cents a quart for it. When I was in Alton & St. Louis it was brought to me for five cents per quart, but here we usually have to pay twenty unless we can steal it. I should like to come home and stay long enough to get in the wheat, but as we some expect a “harvest” here soon, I suppose Uncle Sam don’t wish to spare any of his “reapers.”
You say you have only four head of cattle, and I have noticed several times that you have spoken of old Tom, or Jim, or John, or some other name which I supposed belonged to some old crowbait, which father had jayhawked, or had given to him. But I begin to mistrust that the steers are gone, and that old Tom is in some way connected with the trade. Please tell me something about it, and who owns the steers now, if you know. I think when I come home I shall bring along a pair of mules, first for the sake of their music. I have become so accustomed to it that I don’t think I could get along without it.
I think, Valeria [oldest sister], you were guilty of a kind of an “Irish bull” when you told the folks that “if they stayed and kept you they would leave you, etc.” Do you see it?
But without joking, the quicker you get out of that hole, the better it will be for all parties concerned.
If you send me those things by express, send them immediately, as we may be ordered away from here in the course of a few weeks, perhaps a few days. I think, however, we shall probably stay here for some time yet. I am very grateful to Harriet for her kindness, and hope her present will be something which I can preserve. Good news comes to us from Iuka tonight. The Rebels are in full retreat, and General U. S. Grant, who always does what he undertakes if he ain’t drunk, is in full and close pursuit, bagging “game” by regiments. A train of 21 cars has just gone out for prisoners, and many have been brought in before, within a few hours.
There is some prospect of taking the whole Rebel army. That’s the way we do business in the West. We are now using every means in our power to crush the rebellion. They won’t allow us to use n****** for soldiers, but we use them for teamsters, cooks, etc., & their women cook and wash for us, and their children wait on our officers. The most robust of them (the men) we employ in fatigue work when we have any [work] to do. They have done a “big job” of clearing for us within a few days to open a range for our siege guns to the S.W. of Corinth. I must wind up now as it is getting rather late. Write as often as you can, and believe me, as ever,
Your affectionate son & brother,
Sp’port, [Springport] Mich
Marcus S. Nelson, a school teacher from Van Buren County, MI, enlisted in Company D, of Birge’s Western Sharpshooters on March 10, 1862. He joined his company at Pittsburg Landing, TN on March 25, 1862, and was present at the Battle of Shiloh, and the Siege of Corinth, MS. Private Nelson was killed in action (shot in the head) at the Battle of Corinth, October 4, 1862.
2 Confederate HQ telegraph dispatches sent by General P. G. T. Beauregard to General Albert Sidney Johnston from Jackson, TN, to Decatur, AL prior to the Battle of Shiloh. In the first dispatch, General Beauregard requests surplus ammunition for guns and small arms to be sent to Corinth, MS. It also mentions that Union forces under General Charles F. Smith’s command are up the Tennessee River. The second dispatch states that General Chalmers in Iuka, Mississippi, has sighted Union boats. Beauregard mentions that pickets at East Port spotted Union ships at Savannah. He writes that the Union boats will likely go to Pittsburg Landing or East Port. He also warns Johnston not to collect too many trains at Tuscumbia, as they may be cut off from the west by Union forces.
Jackson, March 12th 1862
Genl. A. S. Johns[t]on
Have you surplus ammunition for guns & small arms for this army – If so, send to Corinth forthwith. Enemies force up Tennessee supposed to be [Gen. C. F.] Smith’s command.
G. T. Beauregard
Jackson, March 12th 1862
Genl. A. S. Johnston
Genl. Chalmers at Iuka telegraphs some of Boats in sight – At East Port when my pickets left at six o’clock this morning enemy were at Savannah last night with thirty-three transports & gun boats did not disembark – wagons Horses & all on board at sunset they said they would start for Rail Road this morning early – There is not water enough for the Gun Boats to go to Florence – They will stop at Pittsburg or East Port – the enemy took in all pickets & guards last night.
Later shelling East Port
Two Gun Boats in sight.
N. B. Be care not to collect too many trains at Tuscumbia for fear of being cut off from the west by the enemy
It appears this document was carried by a dispatch courier from the telegraph office in Decatur, AL to Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston’s HQ. It is believed this dispatch was the first time Gen. Johnston saw the fateful mention of “Pittsburg [Landing],” where he would die little more than three weeks later. As such, these messages prompted immediate action on the part of Johnston to aid Beauregard at Corinth, MI. Johnston sent Hindman’s brigade by rail to Corinth on March 15th, and despite adverse weather, hastened preparations to get his army there, 93 miles distant. Johnston’s troops began arriving about March 20th, and by March 23rd Johnston was present himself. Although the crisis declared by Beauregard did not result in immediate significant fighting, it was a precursor to the crisis that soon developed. Following the occupation of Pittsburg Landing by the main segment of the Union army on March 16th it was apparent that a major Union offensive against Corinth was imminent. Ironically, this ominous message of Beauregard’s four days earlier had pinpointed the exact location to carefully watch. Eastport, also mentioned as another likely site of enemy occupation, was protected by long range Confederate guns, thus Pittsburg Landing was the obvious enemy point of invasion. Despite Beauregard’s astute observations of this, little was done in scouting, mapping, or otherwise planning for the major offensive strike that soon resulted in the famous April 6th surprise attack at Shiloh.