Jed Lake Letter July 16, 1865
27th Iowa Top Banner

Found Online by David Yost here
The Excelsior Brigade granted me permission to use the document on this website.

Headquarters 27th Iowa Infantry
Montgomery Alabama
June 16th 1865

Mrs. T. Thompson
Hunts Corners, NY

My Dear Mother,

Though I have not heard from you since I wrote to almost all the friends in the east, I thought I would write you a few lines today just to say that I was well and yet in the land of Dixie. We came to this camp on the 27th of April last and have been here since that time. We were in the last battle of this Great War. The Battle of Blakely Ala on the 9th of April 1865.

Since that time we have found ourselves at peace with all the world -- and the rest of mankind, -- and have had very little soldiering to do. We marched from Blakely to this city a distance of about 175 miles the way we came and when we got here we found the war at an end. In a few days we learned that all the forces east of the Mississippi River had surrendered and the United States was once more a living and moving institution, the envy of all the world and to all our neutral friends across the Atlantic. Since that time we have only had to make ourselves agreeable to the ladies of this southern county.

They seem as willing to fly to the arms of the Yankees for protection and consolation as females generally are to place themselves beneath the protecting eyes of the victors of the opposite sex. They administer to the vanity and pleasures of the soldiers and receive in return consolation influences and greenbacks. Thus the world becomes equalized and the spirit of Rebellion is made tame as a cooing dove. Perhaps you think this is not speaking highly of the fair sex but I believe nevertheless that it is characteristic of nature's laws. We made that among Rivers Bears, wolves and prairie dogs when two males meet, one of which is attended by a female and the other not, the two immediately commence a fight. The female looking on with the utmost indifference until one comes when she walks off with the victor casting back a look of pity and contempt at her vanquished lord. Sometimes I think men are but another species of prairie dog.

This is one of the most delightful cities of the United States. It is beautifully situation on a bend of the river. Just here the river takes a right sweep coming from the north. It makes a sharp turn to the west and then north running back almost parallel to its previous course and within a mile of it. This leaves a tongue of land about five miles long and from 1/2 to two miles wide. Opposite this tongue and on a series of bluffs that rise about 50 feet above low water is situated the residences. The business part of the city is situated on a flat about twenty-five feet above low water and about five feet above high water and is surrounded by these bluffs as a crescent. Back from the bluffs in all directions extends the most beautiful table lands you ever saw. These lands are unsurpassed for richness and adaptability for agricultural purposes. The city contained in 1860 about 10,000 inhabitants. The streets are wide, the yards spacious and filled with shade trees and tropical flowers. Fruits suitable to this climate are abundant. Plums, blackberries, strawberries, peaches, figs, mulberries, cherries to are in great abundance. This used to be a very fine city for commercial purposes and will be again when peace once more settles down over the land.

The people consist of Negros. Ignorant, licentious, lazy and improvident. Poor white trash -- worse if anything than the Negros. Merchants and speculators mostly of northern origin or education and as slippery and unreliable as renegades generally are. Old slaveholders. Haughty, Insolent, defacing. Swearing, drinking, palavering and lusty and now the controlling class soldiers. With this variety there is plenty of opportunity to study human nature.

With this and the routine of military duty I busy myself nowadays. With this kind of population I have about come to the conclusion to come to this city to settle for life. You know that I always had a desire to live further south than New York and was only prevented from coming south when I went west by the fact that the county was then too much in favor of slavery agitation and northern men were not liked in the south. Now the affairs are reversed. These old chaps say they will not live here with the Negros free. They want to sell out and go north. I propose to accommodate some of them for that purpose and come south to live among these fellows. My wife has already consented to come here if I thought best to do so. I have not seen any place that suites me better than this city for that purpose.

New Orleans is the nicest city in the United States but that is now filled up with all classes of men and its various advantages are so well know that I do not think I could succeed as well there as here. Land is going to be sold here very cheap before next spring. The suffering among the citizens will be great. When the rebs left here they burned up about 100,000 bales of cotton which at present prices would be worth about $15,000,000. This would go a great ways towards funding this people and furnishing them with the necessities of life. All these things taken into consideration have induced me to take my wife and boy and make for the south on the beginning of cold weather this coming winter. Perhaps I shall come through New York on my way here and perhaps not. Give my love to all the folks at home and tell them to write often. The great uncertainty of the mails makes the receipt of your and the transmittal of my letters quite uncertain.

Let them all read this letter and I will save me writing several.

Ever affectionately your son,
Jed Lake