Jed Lake Letter Jan. 10, 1863
27th Iowa Top Banner

History of Buchanan County, Iowa 1842 to 1881
Transcribed by Tommy Joe Fulton and Peggy Hoehne

page 180


JACKSON, TENNESSEE, January 10, 1863.

FRIEND RICH: - The Twenty-seventh Iowa is now situated at this station. We have a fine camping ground in the south part of the town, where we are in sight of the Mississippi Central railroad and the Mobile & Ohio railroad. We are required to furnish about two hundred men daily for picket duty, otherwise we have only camp duty to perform. Judging the future by the past, we have no reason to think that this state of things will last for a great length of time, for it has been the lot of the Twenty-seventh, since it was mustered into service, to keep moving.

We arrived at this place at 2 o'clock A. M., December 31, 1862. Were drawn up in line of battle to support a battery that was just then moving into position to resist an attack from the enemy. We lay on our arms until daylight, and then went into camp, where we are now. At 3 P. M. we received orders to start for Lexington, Tennessee, forthwith. Marched eight days, with a blanket to each man, and without tents, knapsacks or cooking utensils. Foraged on the enemy during the time, and reached the railroad at Bethel, forty miles southeast of this place, and twenty-two miles northwest of Corinth, where we lay one day, then took the cars for this place, which we reached the same day at 11 o'clock P. M. Our boys were glad to get into camp again, where they could wash up, get on clean clothes and have a little rest. In this place military law is more rigidly enforced than at any of our previous locations. No person is allowed to pass out or in, through our picket lines, unless he has a pass from the commander of the forces here, who at present is General Sullivan. The citizens draw rations as well as the soldiers, for when the railroad was destroyed, between here and Columbus, the commander of the post seized everything in the provision line, in and around the town, and put every one on half rations. No soldier is allowed to go through the streets without a pass from the regimental commander. Officers are not allowed to be away from their commands except on business. A large provost guard is continually patrolling the streets, and persons found out of place very soon find themselves in the jail or the court house under guard, where they are kept for a sufficient time to remind them of the necessity of staying in their places, and then, if the first offence, they are discharged. None of our boys have been caught the second time, so I do not know what penalty the second offence would bring. . . . There is a good state of health among the men here, and this seems to be a very healthy climate. The absentees from the regiment, of whom there are now more than two hundred, are very slow about joining their companions in arms, but we hope to see them soon. The weather is at this time exceedingly fine.

Two days later: - We received, last evening, copies of the Guardian, dated December 30, 1863, in which we see that "the Twenty-seventh were all taken prisoners, and that Colonel Lake was killed." This was the first news that had reached us, that we were captives and certainly the first intimation that your humble servant had received of his decease. This news caused me instinctively to feel of myself, to see if I was really here, and to wonder what kind of a spiritual being it was that had devoured the fat turkeys and chickens, that were so plentiful on our march from this town to Clifton and back to Bethel, commencing on the thirty-first day of December, 1862, at 9 o'clock P. M., and lasting eight days. I had perceived no change in my peregrinations, in the appetite or physical condition of the Twenty-seventh, and so I came to the conclusion that the statement in the Guardian was a hoax. A large number of letters received by the members of the regiment from home were addressed to persons whom the writers believed to be either prisoners of war, or perhaps, dead. Some wrote that they had heard that we went into the fight at Holly Springs, with all the regiment but two companies, and that the whole were killed or wounded. Others had heard that we broke and ran for the woods, but were shot and captured. If all my letters to you have been received, you are aware ere this, that at the time of the fight we were sixteen miles from that place, and that the next day we marched into and occupied Holly Springs, from which the rebels had decamped after capturing about two thousand prisoners, and destroying more than two million dollars worth of property. That the only one of our regiment captured was S. M. Langworthy, quartermaster, who had resigned, and was on his way home.

But while such is the truth, in regard to the safety of the regiment, I regret that there has been so much suffering on the part of the friends of our brave boys. I am satisfied, from what I have seen of the Twenty-seventh, that they will do their duty when we get into a fight. We have been several times where we expected an attack every moment, but none of them flinched, or tried to evade the conflict.