Reminiscences of the Civil War by William and Adelia Lyon.

To Mrs. Lyon.

Fort Henry, Tenn., Oct. 19, 1862.—We moved our camp yesterday upon better ground, one-fourth of a mile distant, all except the quarters of the field and staff officers, to be removed tomorrow; so, being isolated from the regiment, I am having a very quiet Sunday, indeed.

We are having beautiful Indian summer weather, with cool nights. The only drawback is the heavy fogs that gather along the river every morning, producing agues and intermittents among the men. Ten per cent of our men are reported sick, that is 60 out of 600, the number we have here. This will subside in a month or so, and then I think you must come here, provided things look as though we would remain for some time longer.

I am feeling perfectly well, and perform all my duties without difficulty, but find that I am far from having my old strength. I take the best possible care of myself, keeping out of the hot sun and out of the fogs as much as possible. You know it is the easiest thing in the world for me to keep out of a morning fog.

I have not given you any particulars of this command, and will do so now. This military district embraces Forts Henry, Heiman, and Donelson. By looking on the map you will see that Kentucky extends a few miles farther south on the west side of the Tennessee river than it does on the east side. Fort Heiman is in Kentucky, on the west bank of the river, close to the state line of Tennessee. Fort Henry is on the east bank of the river, about one-half mile below, or north, of a point opposite Fort Heiman. Fort Donelson is fifteen miles southeast of us, on the west bank of the Cumberland. These places are called forts, but the guns are all taken away but one or two, and they amount to nothing as fortifications. The district is commanded by Colonel Lowe, of the 5th Iowa Cavalry, who is said to be a careful, excellent officer. He has been absent ever since I came here, and so I have not seen him.

The forces at the three points are the 83d Illinois, 13th Wisconsin, four companies of the 71st Ohio, the 5th Regiment of Iowa Cavalry, and four pieces of field artillery; or, more correctly speaking, two sections, eight companies of the 83d and two of the cavalry and one section of artillery are at Donelson, and the balance of the force is here and at Heiman. In the absence of Colonel Lowe the district is under the command of Colonel Harding of the 83d, a rich old fellow from Illinois, with no military training whatever. He is as brave as Julius Caesar and is a grand man, and I am very fond of him. Last night I got a telegram from him ordering me to move this morning with all of my available force to Canton, thirty miles distant, thence to La Fayette, thirty miles farther, where we would be thirty-five miles from here. The commanding officer of the cavalry had received the same orders. The object of the expedition was no doubt to chase a band of thieving guerillas who infest the region of La Fayette, but who mounted on fleet horses always run at our approach. We knew that it was useless to go after them and that Colonel Lowe if here would disapprove of the expedition; so we held a council of officers to devise the best way ‘how not to do it.’ The result was that we sent a couple of smooth-tongued officers to Donelson to coax the old Colonel off the notion. They succeeded, and at two o’clock this morning the order to march was countermanded by telegraph. The only loss was part of a night’s sleep.

We are not in decently respectable peril here, and yet these posts must be held by somebody. Our greatest privation is want of mails. I have not heard a word from home since I left. I expect a mail tomorrow morning. You did right to have father go to Mauston to see and comfort poor suffering Katie and her family.

Since commencing this, four companies of my regiment have been ordered on a six-days’ expedition in the country.


Reminiscences of the Civil War, William and Adelia Lyon

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