Letter – David Norton, 2 December 1861

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Letter written by Captain David W. Norton of Company E, 42nd IL Volunteer Infantry, to his mother, from a camp near Tipton, MO. Norton’s company has seen no fighting since they left Camp Hunter in Tipton. They marched to Warsaw on the Osage River hoping to fight General Sterling Price, but were disappointed. They were then forced march to Springfield, MO and joined General David Hunter’s division. He describes the rations and weather conditions. Upon arriving at Springfield and finding no Confederate troops, the hard and hurried march had been unnecessary. Some blamed General John C. Fremont, though most still have confidence in him. Norton warns that the newspapers are exaggerating the number of casualties suffered by Union troops. After staying in Springfield for a few days, they marched back to Camp Baker. Norton mentions that he had been ill, and the doctor tried to keep him from marching on to Warsaw. Initially he stayed behind as ordered, but the next day rode out to join his company when they received new orders to head to St. Louis. Since then, his health has recovered. He has been busy making muster and pay rolls for the company. He mentions an engagement with a small camp of Confederate troops, and how he took prisoners against the authorization of Major Roberts.


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Camp near Tipton Mo.

Dec. 2nd 1861

Dear Mother

As I have just learned that a mail by which I sent you a letter from Springfield Mo. has not been since heard from, I thought you must be somewhat anxious to hear from me. You have undoubtedly read of Battles fought and to be fought in this state since you last heard from me. This Regt. has been in none – excepting those to be fought! I don’t know which of my letters you may have received so I will tell you all that has occurred to me since I left Camp Hunter, Tipton 28th of Oct. We marched to Warsaw on the Osage River in 3 days. This was the first place where we were sure to have a fight with Gen. Price! When we arrived he was no nearer to us than when we started. We remained at Warsaw 3 days and crossed the river – on that bridge you may have seen illustrations of in Harper’s, – and marched 6 or 7 miles and camped at Camp Baker where we remained until the 1st of Nov. Our soldiering now begun for the first time. At nine o’clock on the evening of the 1st we received orders to march immediately to Springfield leaving our camp equipage and all men who could not march night and day behind. We started at 10 o’c. I had in my company to go with me, my 1st Lieut and 62 men out of a comp’y of 94 Rank & file. We marched all that night and joined Gen. Hunter’s division

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at their camp in the morning. We stopped here long enough to cook our breakfast and marched again. We made 30 miles that day – 42 miles our regiment marched without sleep. We laid ourselves at length on the prarie that night and did some ‘tall’ sleeping even if we did for the 1st time do with out tents and other camp conveniences such as full rations and something to cook them in. But we did not miss our rations until the next morning, for we were too tired to think of eating.

We were up next morning in time to eat such rations as we could get – being fresh beef with out salt and one pilot brisket to a man – in time and marched about an hour before day. We marched about 30 miles that day and camped in the woods, where fortunately we had plenty of fuel, for although it was not very cold, still we were so tired that we all felt as cold as if it had been winter in place of Nov. This day our men began to give out; and I marched into camp with only 40 men. We built large fires and waited for our beef and hard bread with a great deal of impatience for the butchers were slow and the teams with the bread had no kept up with us. We had just got our meat when an officer dashed into camp at full speed with an order from Gen. Hunter, – who had gone on ahead of us, -for us to march to Springfield without resting – So the long roll was sounded and we ‘fell in‘ in hot – (or rather cold) haste expecting that the enemy must be upon us, and minus our suppers we started in the dark to meet him. My boys would have left their meat on the ground had I not by

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precept and example induced them to put it in their haversacks. I put a “junk” of about four lbs in my haversack and they then followed suit. We marched that night in a cold mist – which was gotten up for our especial benefit until just at daylight when our commanding Gen. ordered a halt of about 2 hours. The way the most of the men threw themselves upon the ground at the order was a caution to young men not to go soldiering in Missouri! I stopped to build some fires to sleep by and then rolled my blanket around me and went to sleep in short order. The drums beat in two hour and up we jumped and I pulled out my beef and after dividing it with some of my boys who didn’t get any, I stuck my part on a stick and heated it through by my fire and eat it with as good relish as ever I eat roast turkey at home. We ‘fell in‘ in good spirits after our nights rest, and started again for Springfield perfectly sure we should have a fight when we got there – if not before! We arrived at Springfield that afternoon – having marched on short rations (and very short too) 100 miles in two nights and less than three days.

The Gen. said our Regt. did the best in the division and we had about 300 men when we arrived in camp – so you may judge how many men some of the other regiments had. One Regt. did not have more than half a compy! – I had 38 men – the largest number excepting one that any compy in our Regt reported. Our march was bad enough – but what was worse than that was that we were no nearer a fight than when we

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started from Camp Baker. The way our poor tired men cursed the one who ordered us on in such haste, was shocking to church members I assure you. No one but Hunters particular friends and the newspapers blame Gen. Fremont. Notwithstanding all that has been said against him, this army so far as I can learn, have more confidence to-day, in Gen. Fremont than in any other man under Gen. McClelland. About 20,000 men were hurried to Springfield without camp equipage and slept without cover, when Gen. Price was not within 56 miles of the place and showed no disposition to come nearer. Many a good man will pay for that march with his life, – which would have been all right if the march had been necessary, but as it was not it is a perfect shame. One of my own men I am expecting daily to die from the effects of the march. I for one do not believe that Gen. Fremont ever ordered us to make a forced march. I believe it was done to through [throw] a slur upon Gen. F.

Bad as our case was – those long articles in the papers, asserting that our men were dying by hundreds & thousands under the hedges and by the road sides, between Tipton & Sedalia and Springfield were nothing but outrageous lies from beginning to end. Our Regt. left only one man seriously sick on the whole trip and that was on our return. And he was left at a comfortable farm house. Those men who dropped out of the ranks from fatigue on the way all came into camp within three days. Those articles made thousands of hearts in this army boil with bitterness at those men who stay at home and write lying articles against those who are

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fighting for their country. If they confined themselves to pointing out their faults we could stand it although that is mean enough when they are where they are where they can not defend themselves – but to make such lies of ‘whole cloth‘ is contemptable.

Gen. Fremont, I believe, did everything a man surrounded by vipers as he was – could do.

We remained at Springfield 6 days and started on the back track. We reached Camp Baker on the fifth day. I did not give out once on the march until we were within about 3 miles of Camp Baker when I was taken with a kind of ‘gone-ness,’ and they put me on a horse on which I road to camp. The Dr. would not let me walk any farther as I wished to do on account of the example to my tired me. We received orders before daylight next morning to march across the Osage river at Warsaw and camp three miles beyond. As our teams were not with us we must again leave our Camp and sick behind. I was sick that night and the Doctor reported to the Major that I had the (Billious Fever?) And that I could not be moved, but as I had never yet allowed my company to march without being at their head, I told the Doctor I should go, and began to dress accordingly, when the Maj. came to my tent and ordered me to remain behind – nominally to take charge of the camp and sick, but really because he thought it dangerous to move me in a lumberwagon for he and the Doctor thought that they had a sick Capt. in your son, notwithstanding I knew better. They were rather anxious to get me on the sick list – not that they wanted me to suffer, but only because I had always made fun of them for getting tired or ‘played-out‘ as we call it. For you must know that the Major had nick-named me the ‘Stout Cap‘ as I

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had not been on the sicklist since the Regt. left Chicago. Well the Regt. marched from Camp Baker and I staid behind in obedience to Maj’s orders. In the afternoon one of the officers came back to camp and said the Regt. was to march at daylight next morning and to proceed to St Louis immediately. I thought from that that they must want to send us immediately into Kentucky and having no notion of being behind, I got up and had a horse saddled and started at sun down to ride to the other camp, about 12 miles. It was hard work to ride and took me about 5 hours to go camp. The next morning when the Major saw me he threatened to put me under arrest for not obeying his orders, but when I told him that I understood that he was to march that morning he laughed at my conceit at for thinking the Regt. could not get along without me, and called me a fool for running the chance of making myself sick. While I was talking to the Major, the Doctor came to report that he had succeeded in getting an ambulance to send for me. He was surprised and angry at seeing me, and said I had signed my death warrant that time sure! He said I was as sick as any man in the Regt. and had the Billious fever, but I knew better – so he got angry and so did I, and he insisted I was sick and I that I was not, and, so ended the affair. We did not march until the next day. I was hardly able to march, but would not ride because I would not acknowledge that the Dr. was right. I actually drove sickness “from my tent‘ and have been in first rate health ever since. That one day is the only day that I have not been in command of my company since we

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left Chicago. I am ‘fat and saucy’ – so say my “supperior officers,” for my old habit of saying what I think at all times and in all places has not left me yet. – In fact camp life just suits me – I believe I weigh more now than at any other time since I was at home.

My time is fully occupied with affairs of my company for I have the whole to do, excepting what can be trusted to my non-commissioned officers. My Lieutenants are of very little use to me, as they are either sick or lazy all the time.

We arrived at Camp Hunter, Tipton, on the 19th ultimo. Since then we have marched to Syracuse and back to our present camp. How long we shall remain here I can not guess.

Since we came here I have been very busy making muster and pay rolls for my co. and in writing up my company books, which were very much behind on a/c [account] of our long marches.

We have marched since leaving St. Louis, about 450 or 500 miles (since the 8th of Oct.)

The only thing our Regt. has done against the Rebels, has been done by my Co. We went out to take a camp of Secesh while we were at Camp Baker. We surprised them and took fiver prisoners and six horses. – One Major and four soldiers, several rifles & other traps. The next day I went out again to finish up the business and to take another squad camped two or three miles farther off. Some of Gen. Hunters Cavalry got the start of me and got to the camp before me and after a short but sharp fight took some prisoners and horses. I went to finish up the other job and took about 20 head of cattle and 14 horses

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The joke of the Affair is that Maj. Roberts sent one of his pet’s Capt. Vardon with his whole company to take this Major and his squad. Maj. Roberts would not authorize me to do the same thing that he ordered Capt. Vardon to do. I had the best guide and went straight to the camp about 12 miles, took it and returned to our camp the same night. What I did, I did on my own responsibility. The next day – after I had got the cattle & horses in a field ready to drive to camp, – who should march up but Capt. Vardon, who had marched all the day before and half of that day to get to the place I was already to leave with my booty. If ever a man was angry – Capt. V. was, to find me in full possession of the ground and ‘plunder’ and to learn that I had taken the prisoners and part of the horses in to camp the night before. I t was a good joke on him and on the Major too for selecting an old English officer to do what a young Yankee could do a great deal better.

When we found the Secesh camp the men took to the brush but our bullets call so loudly on five of them that they surrendered without being hurt. They are a cowardly sett out here. They know they are in the wrong and can’t stand fire.

I must close now as I must go up to Tipton to see my sick boys of whom I have one Lieut. (the one whose likeness I sent you) and 10 men in the Hospital there.

Write soon and often to

Your Son

(Excus Brevity) D. Woodman Nor

Capt. Co. ‘E’

42nd Regt Ills. Vols

in Missouri

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P.S. I visited the Battle field where Gen. Lyon was killed; while I was at Springfield will write about it in my next D.W.N.


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.

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.


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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

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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

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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.

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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.

Letter – David Norton, 10 October 1861

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Letter written by Captain David W. Norton of Company E, 42nd IL Volunteer Infantry, to his father from on board “John Warner” near Jefferson City, MO. Norton’s company is armed with rifled muskets, and two other companies are armed with Colt’s revolving rifles. His company is about to load freight onto a trail bound for Sedalia, and will then join General John C. Fremont’s army in pursuit of Confederate General Sterling Price. Norton writes disparagingly of Jefferson City, and thinks they should let the Confederates have it. Norton expects to have a fight soon, and mentions the “Douglas Brigade” [42nd Regiment Illinois Volunteers]. Norton will have his personal information on a slip of paper in his pocket in case he is killed, although he expects to get through the battles safely.


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On Board “John Warner”

Jefferson City Mo.

Oct. 10th 1861

Dear Father

We left St. Louis the morning of the 8th inst. We intended to leave the evening before, but we could not get the baggage of our Regt. on board, so we waited until morning and took two boats. We are armed with rifled-muskets and two of the companies are furnished with Colt’s Revolving Rifles. We all feel in first rate spirits at being fairly in the field. We shall begin to load our freight on a train of cattle-cars in the morning, for Sedalia and from there shall march with Fremont after Fen Price &c. This place is a mean, contemptable hole. If the Rebels want it, I think we better let them have it. The only good buildings in town are the state House, the Penitentiary and a stable. There are three Regts. here to go to Sedalia tomorrow. We may

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have a fight before long. If we do you may expect to see something in the papers about the ‘Douglas Brigade’ (42nd Regt. Ills. Vols.) – I will have that address in my pocket so that if I get my ‘quietus’ they will know who I am and where you live. But I don’t expect to get hurt, and you must not expect to hear any evil of me.

You will see by this letter that I have no very good chance at writing here, so I shall have to make my letter short. – I thought I aught to let you know that I am well and on the march after the Rebel’s. Give my love to Mother & the rest and write to me at St. Louis and it will be sent forward to the Regt. I must go and fix my comp’y for the night as it is raining and they are on deck. I have sent a squad on shore to take a lot of hay on the dock – supposed to belong to ‘Uncle Sam’ to make a bed for the boys and I must see how they are getting along.

Good Bye. In Haste

D. Woodman Norton.


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.

Letter – Mary Ferguson, 13 June 1862

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Letter written by Mary Chalmers Ferguson to her husband, Sergeant William A. Ferguson of the 8th Confederate Cavalry, from their home in Pickensville, AL. Mary comments on the different soldiers who brought her husband’s last few letters to her, including an African American. She has received a bag full of her husband’s winter clothes, as well as a pistol and a horse’s shoe. She writes about their daughter, and tells William how the ladies of the village made shirts for wounded and sick soldiers at Columbus, with fabric supplied by the Soldier’s Aid Society. They are also planning on sending a wagon of goods and food. Mary mentions an engagement at Richmond, VA known as the Battle of Seven Pines, and lists the casualties of what she calls the “Pickensville Blues” regiment. She has hopes that William’s army will come near enough to home that she may get to see him.


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Home Friday evening

June 13. 1862.

My own dear William: –

The last letter I received from you was brought by Mr Cockrell to Columbus – and mailed at that place. Since then I have heard from you several times – by Capt Mc Caa’s company – coming through this place, first by one of the Capt’s negro’s – who considers himself a member of the company – says – “our company” – “our boys” &c. Willie Herrean has also come back- and took tea with us – tells me you are in fine health. I got the carpet bag containing your winter cloths. I felt like I had met an old friend, when I saw your little pistol. I shall keep it by me and if necessary, defend

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myself. Among the other things in the carpet bag I came across “a horses’ shoe” – now – do tell me what horse has worn this shoe – that you think enough of it to send it home? One of Dr Carpenters negroes came through Pickensville yesterday and tells me that he saw you last Monday – says you are in fine health and fine spirits. I am glad to hear from you this way – but how much I should like to have a late letter. I hear that Beauregard’s army are not permitted to write any letters at all. If I cannot have the pleasure of reading a few lines from your pen occasionally I can still write to you and tell you how we are all getting along at home. The pet of the household – that sweet little girl of ours – or yours as you will have

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it – is so sweet. She can almost sit alone – and has learned to pull her Granfather’s beard to perfection. He plays with her frequently and loves her very much. You cannot imagine how much company she is for me. I play with her every day – besides bathing her all over every morning – and dressing her every morning – and undressing her every evening. She sleeps with me and gives me a sweet smile as soon as she opens her peepers in the morning. I give her a kiss in return. I wish you could see her eating black-berries – with her little mouth and nose all blacked. Whenever Sarah brings me berries – or plums (of which we have an abundance) she daps her little hands in the midst of them and scatters them all over the floor, at the risk of a make believe

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scolding from her Grandmother.

She loves to play with the children and gives every one a sweet smile who speaks to her

But if I tell you so many nice things about the baby – poor little I will be forgotten – if such is not already my fate – (thought of as among “the things that were“)

Last week the ladies of our quiet little village were busily plying the needle for the wounded and sick soldiers at Columbus.

We made up into shirts – three bolts of domestic – sent down by the “Soldiers’ Aid Society” at that place. To morrow evening we are going to form a society at this place – in order to do more work for those noble spirits who have suffered and are now suffering so much for our cause. We are going to send up to them to morrow

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a wagon load of vegitables – potatoes, dried fruits – milk butter – eggs- chickens &c. We are not near enough the poor sufferers to wait upon them but want to administer to their wants in some way.

You have probably heard of the engagement near Richmond – call it the “The Battle of the Seven pines.” Papers received to day – say that “Gen Rhode’s brigade – consisting of the 5th, 6th, 12th Ala and 12th Miss is admitted to have eminently distinguished itself. They bore the brunt of the battle for some hours. The casualties of the “Pickensville Blues” are as follows – Killed John T. Vargaut, John L Taylor, John Works, Thomas R. Peeks, Horace Stansel. Total 5. Wounded. Sergeant M. F. Wakefield

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J. E. Addington, A. A. Ball, Joseph Coleman, J. R. Donaldson, B. Y. Franklin, James Free, R. J. Tunsley – J. S. Gordon D.W. Goodwin. J. P. Harper. G. W. Hines. A. Johnson. H. B. Johnson – N. G. Jones. W. W. Peterson. Jessie Tall – W. C. Taylor. E. W. Vernon. Wm Kall – Jas Wright, G. B. Petty, G. W. Prew. M. P. Stedman. H. W. Story. J. D. Wheelbright. W. A. Burgin. Total 27. You probably know a great many of the above list. I have a letter from cousin Willie of the fourth of June – in which he says – he is sorry he was not in the fight – having a situation in the pass-port office in Richmond at the time of the engagement – and that he intends to join the comapny immediately in order to be with them in the

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next engagement – which he thinks will soon take place. I think he had better stay where he is. Henry when last seen was crossing the Chickahominy bridge – going towards the enemy’s lines.

Mr Shaffer and Miss Boggs from Columbus took dinner with us to day – They tell us that the fortifications at Columbus were commenced last Monday. I[t] was rumored in that place that Gen Beauregard was visiting that place – but nothing definite was known. If Gen Beauregard sees fit to fall as far back as Columbus – you will probably visit us – perhaps on a foraging expedition. I must confess – that I would like to see you very much but the army to which you belong is just about as close as I would like to have it – especially if the

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enemy are following you as closely as is reported. I expect secrecy is the best policy on the part of our army – but I find that curiosity is at the highest pitch to learn the movements of those three Generals – Beauregard – Bragg – and Price.

Brother Willie starts to school Monday morning to Mr Garthright at Summerville. Col Talbinds regiments are suffering severely from measles – pneumonia, fever. Mr Wm Fort’s remains were brought home Wednesday and deposited at the Garden church yard. Mr Horton has had the measles. But I must close as ai Have exhausted my paper – perhapse your patience.

If you cannot write – send me a message by every opportunity

A kiss and much love from

Your own dear Mary.


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 – Marcus Nelson, 20 September 1862

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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 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.


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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

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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

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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?

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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,

M.S. Nelson

                                      W.S.S.

Moses Nelson

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.