Mother, October 29, 1861
October 29, 1861
After so long a time I take this opportunity to let you know I am sound as the goose and not hurt although I have been amongst the enemy now about week and have seen considerable excitement in the way of surprise marches and every thing to wear one out but I feel just as safe as if I had been at home at the time. We had a fight as I suppose you have heard long ere this, and give them fits. I say "we" but also say so thinking we deserve as much praise as some other regiments as we did not come in close combat with the enemy, but we held the (line?) as a reserve. Last Sunday at 4:30 we started from here, which is, I suppose our headquarters, for where I did not know then. But we marched over the darnest, stoniest, hilliest country that ever I saw. (We marched) all night until about 7 the next morning when we found ourselves in possession of an enemies campground. We were told by the local inhabitants (that the enemy) had left the day before for a place 40 miles back and you must know that we felt pretty wrathy when we thought that we had marched so much for nothing. Our colonel ordered us to hold front and then told us that the Secesh were not with in 40 miles. He then ordered us to stack arms and break ranks. We were posted opposite a large apple orchard and we soon found a way in and helped ourselves, then, after taking a look at our first Secesh campground, we felt like taking a little sleep.
We layed down on the ground and slept soundly till 2 O'clock then we get up. Hank Olp and I commenced thinking of something to eat. We took off and soon found a tavern and marched in and called for our dinner. The landlady told us that if we had each of us 2 bits that we could have some. We sat down and commenced eating but had not finished when we heard cannon firing at about the distance of a mile or so. As soon as we heard (the cannon fire) the landlady said we must take our (grub) and leave, which we did in double quick time. She forgot Hank and I had not paid, so we got off with out paying a cent. As soon as we got our things on, the drum beat the long roll and we hastened to fall in.
We were then marched on in the direction of the firing and soon came to the conclusion that there was a fight for us up ahead. We got within half a mile of the firing and then you ought to have seen the overcoats, knapsacks and everything was discarded along the way on each side of the road. Our boys did not care any more about it than if we were on battalion drill. We got to within a few hundred yards of the battle when all at once we were ordered to halt (and ) countermarch back to town. Then you ought to have heard the boys swear. To think we could not have a hand in the fun! We were marched bock to the court house and formed into line of battle for a reserve. Right in front of us was stationed 2 large cannons which would have torn the limb from gizzard if they had attempted to march into the town. The battle raged for about 20 minutes when the rebels took to their heels with our boys after them.
As soon as (it became apparent) that they were whipped. I got permission to the captain to go and look for my overcoat which, of course, I did not care a darned about, but wanted to go and see the battle field. On the way I met wagon after wagon load of wounded and soldiers with guns and knapsacks also which were found on the battlefield. When I arrived there I saw a sight which of course was a pretty tough one, but I had made up my mind to not notice anything that would make me feel bad, but to see how a battlefield looked.
I found an old flintlock musket and started back to my company when I met our surgeon and he wanted me to help by picking up the wounded which I did for one (wagon ) load. When the surgeon started back I walked on down the (????) not got into the road we heard and jack bray. The surgeon said, "boys that is contraband." I asked him if I had a right to take him (the donkey) and he said I had, so I went to the stables where (I found him) in company with the drummer boy of company A. We both caught him and he, the drummer boy, rode him into camp. we then proceeded to get our supplies and then most of the boys laid down to rest, but I always find a way to get out when I want to, so Charley Jones of our company and I found Tim Bartlitt and told him if he would pass us through the guards we would give a good account of ourselves when we got back. We got by the guards and found our way to the town. ( I did not tell you that we had moved out into the edge of town for the night.) We found the boys (Union soldiers) busy at the contraband goods. We found out that what ever we could find that belonged to a Secesh was ours and so we went to work accordingly. I got what I thought was my lot and went back to quarters where I found myself in possession of one pr. fine boots, 1 razor 1pr(?) , 3pr(?) buttons and other things too numerous to mention.
I have since found out our jack (would be) worth 4 or 6 hundred dollars before the war, (but now) where (he is) is worth not anything (much). I have made arrangement with the Drum Major to take the jack with him and take care of him until he gets a chance to sell him. He is to have 25 percent for his trouble. The band section is (authorized ) to have a horse to carry the baggage of the music. The price of the jack will be decided equally between the Drummer Boy and myself after the Drum Major had his percent for selling him.
The next day at about 10 o'clock we were on the march again. At about 12 midnight we halted until morning and expected to march on in the same direction. but at about 1 o'clock we started back towards Fredericktown (MO) I suppose it was the intention of our commanding officer, Col. Berke, to follow up the rebels with prospects of another fight. But finding out that they had disbanded (he ordered our return to our old campground.) I don't know if they did disband or not, but I think they ought to.
That night we staid at Fredericktown and the next day (headed ) for Pilot Knob. (Mo.) After we got about 5 miles out we (took a rest) a halt and a little Negro (boy) who had ran away and come with us got to telling about the possums. The boys had a great curiosity to see one so I got permission of the major to try and find one. So I took off in the woods and done my best to find one but could not. I started on ahead of the brigade and I stopped on the way and got my dinner at a Union house where it did not cost anything. I arrived at this place about (noon?). Seeing I was among the first ones back I was treated pretty nice and I went on to another Union house and got my supper. When I came to our camp ground I found (most of ) the tents all struck and rolled up and ready to (march) back where we come from. Then me and two of the boys went to work and in a short time we had taken them all up for our company, then Ed Faarley and I went to work and made some coffee for the boys behind as which we did in time for them and we stood a good many cheers on account of what we had done. Now you had better believe there was some sound sleeping done that night.
Yesterday the boys all wrote hone but I was not in such a hurry at all, in fact I was so lame and tired that I could not wake up enough to write, I have told you of the battle now I will tell you something of the country and folks. All the way from St. Louis we have seen nothing but rocks, the soil red and poor and the hills solid rock. One tunnel about half a mile long which is worth seeing - nothing but solid rock. The point on the R.R. (railroad) where the rebels burnt the bridge and drove our troops away is a very pretty place. The bridge is all in the river now and we walked over on the parts that was left (above the water). After we got across the bridge we did not see many handkerchief's waving at us. We left all but two companies at the bridge and come on to Pilot Knob. When we got here we found that the men that belonged here had engaged with the same sons of bitches that were at last routed. We did not sleep any that night, having to stand in line of battle, expecting all the time an attack. When morning came we found that most of our troops had come in with the loss of a man having killed some17 of the rebels.
That day I went up to take a look at Pilot Knob which is worth seeing. It is the highest of the surrounding hills or mountains and on top is solid mass of iron ore about, or larger than a good sized house and on top of that where only a short time ago was planted the confederate flag now waves the old flag which I will always fight for.
Pilot Knob, the city, is situated in a valley surrounded on all sides by beautiful mountains with 3 inlets or roads which are guarded by Uncle Sam's bulldogs. The only thing that supports this country is the iron ore, which I understand is the best in the worked. There is not hardly room for a farm here and so there is very little attention paid to agriculture. There are very few inhabitants any where that I have seen, and what there is are as ignorant as a horse. That is the folks in the country. They are cut off from all supplies and have nothing but what they raise. Fredericktown is situated about 21 miles east of here. It is a perfect specimen of a southern town, Negroes aplenty, poor horses and wagons that a Northerner would not take as a gift and ever thing laying at loose ends.
We marched as I said before about 14 miles in a southerly direction to a place called Centerville. We did not go in to and so I did not get to see the place. There we found a secesh house that was left in a hurry and they left us some nice sweet potatoes which we took possession of immediately. It was there that I got some cotton (bolls) and showed to the boys and found it to be a great curiosity. I saved one and thought I should send it home but I have lost it. At Fredericktown the boys sot some copies of a proclamation of Jeff Thomson (confederate General M. Jeff. Thompson) who was the commander of the rebels.
I cannot remember the words exactly but it was such a mess of big words that you see in the Tribune. You know when I went away that I did not believe that the rebels were half so bad as were represented but now when I tell you that the Tribune paper never has said any too bad for the poor miserable cusses that call themselves soldiers. I went on the battlefield as I said and can say for sure that the rebels are not half clad. The were most all in shirt sleeves, with no uniforms at all. Some with caps, some with hats and all poor ones at that . Why I never saw a lot of threshers but what looked more like soldiers than they . They were armed with every variety of arms imaginable. They were, it is said, 5000 strong; 1500 cavalry, that run in every direction at the first volley from our troops. They had this colonel by the name of (?) killed and when it comes to telling the loss on either (side) no one can tell for (sure). It is estimated by those that have the best chance to know about this fight; 2 hundred of the enemy buried already by our troops and I should think that there were a good many buried by the citizens and the enemy. Our loss was 6 killed and some 40 or 50 wounded. My paper is out and I will close.
Affectionately, Your son, Horace