Clarke County and the Civil War

Thanks to Jim Miller for submitting this article.

Published in the Osceola Sentinel, 31 January 1863


Letter From Dr. Miller

Camp At Lafayette, Tenn.

Jan 9th 1863


Mr. Editor: - thinking that anything connected with Iowa troops would be interesting to the people of Iowa, and having a little leisure, I will give you a few items in relation to the whereabouts and doings of the Iowa Brigade. But for fear that some of your readers may not be as well posted as they should be. I will first tell you of what regiments it is composed, who has the distinguished honor of commanding it, and what division of Grants army has the benefit of its bravery. First it is composed of the 11th commanded by Col. Hall, the 13th by Col. Crocker, the 15th by Col. Reed, and the 16th by Col. Chambers: the latter was severely wounded at the battle of Iuka, and is yet unable to take the field. Col. Crocker being senior Col. commands the brigade.

We are in McArther's division: our commanders are all fighting men and will as well, as the men, give a good account of themselves whenever and wherever tried.

I take them to be such men as Scott represents Edward Bruce to be, when he says -

"Whose desperate valor oft' made good Where prudence might have failed."

Let me give you an instance or two of McArther's desire to be "up and at them". We were in front in our advance on the enemy's fortifications on the Talahatchie. McArther, as I have been informed, asked permission of the general commanding, to storm their works, proposing to do the business up in half an hour. The general thinking "prudence - the better part of valor", denied the request. That night the enemy evacuated and destroyed the Bridge. McArther was ordered to repair it so that the army could cross, but so eager was he to be after the rebels that he had if fixed merely so that his division could get across before it gave way, for which we had to remain behind and build the railroad bridge, which took us nearly two weeks. We then moved on through Oxford to Tycona, where we arrived on the 19th of Dec. and expected to soon take our place in the advance, but on the evening of the 20th we were ordered to be in readiness by 7 o'clock the next morning to retrace our steps. Various rumors were afloat as to the cause of our retrograde movement, but none were satisfactory. In the morning three days rations were issued with orders that it must last six; and at the appointed time, sullenly and in silence we commence our march northward; cursing the supposed or real incompetency of [the] planner of the expedition. We had [ho]ped to spend the holydays in Gra___a or Jackson, Miss., and when more than half way there, to be compelled [to] march back again, was to say the least, very annoying.

We arrived at holly springs on the evening of the 22nd, and found that Van Dorn with about 5,000 Cavalry, had made a dash on the town and captured about 1,000 of our forces; they were principally one regiment - 101 Illinois, and the sick in the hospitals. About $1,000,000 worth of cotton was burned, with the depot, a large amount of medical supplies, commissary and amunition [sic] stores, captured and either carried off or burned with the hospitals, and a large part of the business part of the town. We remained in Holly Springs until the 30th, and though only half rations were issued, no one suffered for eatables, as there was plenty in the adjoining country, of cattle, hogs and sheep, corn sugar and molasses, and the boys helped themselves.

On the 29th, the 6th Iowa camped by us, and I had the pleasure of meeting some of my old Clark[e] County friends, among them whom was Capt. Minton, George Gutchess, Barrows, Day, Clay Stewart and his Brother, David Sherer and Harrison Hess. They all look well and hearty.

On the 30th we started for this place, where we arrived on the next day, and spent New years day in fixing up our tents, having found and abundance of lumber close by.

Lafayette is a very small village on the Memphis and Charleston Rail Road, just 31 miles from the former place, the country around is very good, though rather flat. There is an abundance of forage of every kind, and nearly every day the boys come in loaded with chickens, turkeys, geese, sugar, molasses, honey, pork and beef; though when we first arrived here it was rather dangerous to go any distance from camp, as guerrillas abounded; several of our boys were taken prisoners by them, and two were reported killed. As we were in Tennessee, and it being considered a loyal State, we were ordered not to forage off of the country when we first came here, but since they have taken our boys prisoners, the General tells them to take anything they can make use of.

The health of the 11th is excellent, not having a patient in the regimental hospital. Wishing well to all friends, I remain,

J. G. Miller




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