Letter written by Sergeant George W. Tallman of Company E, 20th IA Infantry, to his father-in-law, from Camp near Springfield, MO. Tallman thinks that this may be his last chance to write a letter, as he is about to go into a hard fight (Battle of Prairie Grove, AR). They are advancing towards Confederate forces under the command of Major General Thomas C. Hindman. Tallman’s brigade is in the reserve, and therefore may not be needed, but he feels it is best to be prepared for the worst. He gives his father-in-law instructions on the welfare of his wife and child in case he is killed in the battle.
Camp “Via” 12 miles South
of Springfield Mo.
Tuesday, Sept 30th 1862
Dear friends at Home,
Feeling somewhat in the spirit of letter-writing, I propose to improve this, perhaps, the last, opportunity of writing to you, in penning a “little letter” to each. This I will inscribe to Mr. Carhart.
Sir: The events of war are crowding fast, one upon another The vast army (not so vast when compared with our eastern armies, but vast in itself) which has for months been concentrating at Springfield, near the place of present writing, is again on the move. Thirty thousand troops (according to report) of which our brigade is a part, are on their
way to meet the rebel forces under Hindman. The expectation is that we shall have a hard fight, providing that the “secesh” have any “fight” in them. Hindman has about thirty or forty thousand men; but under what discipline & efficiency is unknown. We shall meet him with almost equal forces – more or less discipline & with unbroken spirits. The word goes round “hurrah for a fight!” We are “all agreed” on that, tho, on but little else. We have taken up the line of march from Springfield for the scene of conflict. We shall probably meet the enemy near Mount Vernon 30 miles distant. Our brigade is on the reserve and our participancy in the battle will depend upon the firceness of the battle, or rather tha
of the onset. Should the results of the first “go in” be successful to our side, the reserve will not be needed; – but whatever may be the issue, it is best to be prepared for the worse. With the many who must “go down” in the blast of battle, I may be numbered, & I desire in this to arange some little matters which ought to be in better shape in case I should be killed.
You know with what means & in what condition I leave my wife. The money in your hands I would have her use as she sees fit; but would suggest, nay request, that it be put in such a shape, that should she not need it herself, it be accumulating, & made available for the education of our child.
Should Susan not object, I would leave the whole matter in your hands, believing you to be an honorable christian gentleman, who would shrink from doing injustice to the dead or the living. Again, while you shall be pleased to permit Susan to make her home with you &, she should choose to do so, I implore you to study her spirit, & not treat her harshly, for I know she means right in every act. With many thanks for your past kindness both to me & to Susan, and a thousand wishes of success to you in temporal, & especially in spiritual things, I, with much respect, subscribe myself, your son-(in law) and friend & brother in the blessed Gospel of our Savior in truth.
Geo W. Tallman
George W. Tallman, of Hickory Grove, IA, enlisted in Company E of the 20th Iowa Infantry on August 7, 1862 as 4th sergeant. He was 24 years old. He was promoted to 3rd sergeant September 10, 1862, and 2nd sergeant December 25, 1862. On December 4, 1863 he was discharged to accept a promotion as a 1st lieutenant in Company I, 73rd U.S. Colored Troops. He served with this unit in Louisiana during the remainder of the war.