Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Office A. A. Q. M., Second Division, Twenty-fifth
Corps, Ringgold Barracks, Texas,
August 27. 1865.

My Dear Sister L.:—

I received your letter dated July 23d, by the last boat (23d) just a month from date. I cannot tell you how glad I was to hear from you again, but I can tell you that you must not expect many long letters from me, till I come home. There is not much to write, anyway. I have already written a tolerably full description of the country, and now I have no time to write anything but business letters. I am division quartermaster and post quartermaster at the same time, and you may judge I have something to do. Since the other quartermasters left I have worked night and day. To-day is Sunday and I and my clerk have written thirty-one business letters, besides inspecting my train. I am supplying forage to six hundred horses and mules, and have thirty-five six-mule teams of my own to take care of. I have estimated the value of the property for which I am responsible at $350,000 and I cannot take care of that without some work.

The only recreation I have taken lately has been to attend a ball over in Camargo, Mexico. General Cortinas and General Espinosa, of the liberal army, were in town, and the merchants got up a ball to bring together the United States and Mexican officers. The “baile” was “dedica a los Gefes y Officiales de los Estados Unidos del norte”— of course, you know what that means.

The senoritas were numerous and of rather a different style from these peon Mexicans. Their papas had thousands of silver “pesos” and they were as well dressed and well behaved as our girls at home, to say the least.

I am getting quite well acquainted in Camargo, where I am known as “Don Olivero el Quartelmaestro.” Every one is known by his first name only. Charlie there would be “Don Carlos.” Oh, how these girls can waltz, and how I can’t! I didn’t enjoy the dancing much, except looking on. I could only schottische a little.

It would amuse you to see what a man of consequence I am in Camargo. A brigadier general is nowhere beside “El Quartelmaestro.” “Why?”—Because he don’t make contracts for lumber, coal, grain and hay—the quartermaster does.

There are a thousand things I would like to tell you about, but I haven’t time. I send with this the July Atlantic. I have had the August number two weeks and have not cut the leaves yet.

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Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Green Lake, Texas, Aug. 27, 1865.—I have not written to you since the 22d, for the reason that we are in the midst of a great storm and no mails have gone out or arrived for several days. It has rained terribly the most of the time for three days and the roads are almost impassable. It seems to be holding up now, and I hope the mail will go out tomorrow. No vessels can get in or go out the pass below Indianola. General Wood, who has been ordered to Little Rock, has been at Indianola for several days unable to get away. The storm comes from the northeast and is unusual for the season. The water has been over the bottom of our tent several times. The men are getting sick a good deal. Ague and remittent fevers predominate, but yield readily to treatment. One trouble is that we can get scarcely any medicine at all. The neglect and utter indifference of the authorities to the welfare of these men is fearful. No supplies of medicine or clothing, very poor rations and insufficient in quality at that—is our lot. This, in addition to being held in service after their contract with the Government has been fully executed, is pretty rough treatment for the men who have breasted the tide of war for four long years and whose valor and fortitude have saved the Government from total ruin. And the most aggravating thing about our situation is that there does not exist the least necessity for our services. For all any good we do the Government we might as well be in the Fiji Islands, and yet we see no indication that the corps will be mustered out soon.

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Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Green Lake, Tex., Aug. 22, 1865.—Still no change in our condition or prospects. We keep constantly hearing that we are to start up the country in a few days, yet we see no signs of going. The Adjutant received letters that told him that he ought to be in Chicago by the 5th of next month to proceed with his business arrangements, so he mustered out at once and left last evening. I miss him very much indeed, and can not supply his place. Captain Knilans and Lieutenant Knox (Company I) left here two days ago as delegates to the Union State Convention to be held at Madison on September 6th. Captain Steele has leave of absence and went with them.

Your letter to Hastings is just the thing. I have shown it to some of the officers and they think it can not be beaten, although I should probably not have advised you to write it, yet I am glad you did so.

The two doctors in the hospital, steward, Captain Fish and myself constitute our mess. We live cheap, but oh, such living! Our crackers are so old that the worms have taken up their abode in them; but we rap them on the table and nearly all fall out. They are also musty and mouldy, and are not very appetizing. I do not know but I shall kill myself by eating too much when I get home. The health of the regiment is pretty good now, and I seriously think the principal reason for the improvement is that the doctors are unable to get any medicine. The weather is very warm but the nights are growing perceptibly cooler. Mosquitoes are on the decrease, owing to dry weather.

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Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Green Lake, Texas, Aug. 15, 1865.—I have but little to write. Weather very hot, mosquitoes very thick, and I continue well. We have rumors that the 4th Corps is to be mustered out. I hope the order will come before my time expires. I find that if I am mustered out before the regiment I do not get the three months’ extra pay. This is very unjust, and yet it is in perfect keeping with the policy pursued by the Government toward us.

The 4th Corps has been dissolved by a War Department order. Captain Hart has resigned, General Wood, we hear, is ordered to report for duty to General Reynolds, who commands in Arkansas. This looks like a breaking up of the command. In the meantime we keep as patient as we can under the circumstances. We do not do very much soldiering now. No supplies of clothing are sent us—the men are ragged—get scant and poor rations—and of course are restless and dissatisfied.

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Fort Bunker Hill, D. C, Aug. 11, 1865.

Dear Family:

It is with the greatest pleasure that I take my pen to inform you of our immediate muster out of service. Although you will probably get the news from the papers long before this reaches you. Although the duties will not devolve upon me to make out the rolls, I feel it my duty to all that I should render my whole assistance, having full as good knowledge of Company affairs as any person. I flatter myself that Old Co. B will not be in the rear in completing the rolls, which are expected back this evening. And then! Won’t pen, ink and paper have to take up? I feel much that Col. Shatswell selected me as one to remain, although at the time I felt much mortified. I told him so yesterday. He is highly pleased to find matters turning out as they are. We shall carry two sets of colors, the old tattered ones and the new ones with sixteen battles inscribed upon its silken folds! I shall box up all my clothing, books &c. and try to get it along as company baggage; but if not successful shall forward by ex. Can’t some of you meet us at Boston, when we first arrive, and have a woolen blanket with you for me to take to Readville in case I am unable to get my box along; for I expect it will be cooler than here. Imagine my feelings at the present moment, waiting patiently for the rolls to come so as to begin to write myself “out of service”! I feel sorry for those that have deserted; it must be a severe blow to know we are coming home soon. I shall do all I can in trading, as an excellent opportunity offers itself. If a better chance offered to get horses home and I was a little better judge of horse flesh myself, I should, I think, try to trade a little.

With love to all, I remain the same                                                 Lev.

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Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Green Lake, Texas, Aug. 10, 1865.—None of our officers or men from Wisconsin have returned yet, but we expect some of them during this month. The mosquitoes are awful here. The weather has been rainy for some days and they have increased in numbers frightfully. The sleeping in camp is done in the day time mainly. The men have no bars and it is impossible to sleep without them at night, so the men dance all night. They have an old fiddle, and half a dozen fiddlers take turns at the instrument, and a hundred men at a time break it down in regular stag dance style on the prairie by the hour. Last night they wanted to know if the frolic disturbed me, but I told them no, to wade in and enjoy themselves—yet they kept me awake for hours. My bar affords me ample protection and if I do not get sleep at night I take it in the day time. Looking over the camp now, 11 o’clock a. m., you can not see twenty-five men, yet there are 350 at least in it. They are all asleep. The weather is hot, the thermometer seldom be low 80 degrees day or night, usually in the day time from 90 to 95 degrees; but during the day we get a breeze from the Gulf, which relieves us greatly.

I need not tell you that I am impatient for the time to come when I shall be home again for good. I think when I walk into our shanty, hang up my hat, and take you and our little ones (one at a time of course) in my arms, I shall be about as happy a fellow as you can find around there. I find it necessary to use some restraint or I should be counting the days that intervene before my muster out, but I do not do it, at least aloud. I will say to you, however, privately, that it is just 45 days, or one and one-half months.

If I could take the regiment home with me I should be just about perfectly happy, but I see but little prospect of being permitted to do that. We shall leave in a few days for San Antonio I expect. We do not know when. The First Division has already gone to Victoria. San Antonio is distant from here 120 or 130 miles. It will require about three weeks to get letters there from Wisconsin.

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1st Sergt’s Office. Co. B 1st Mass. H. A., Fort Bunker Hill, D. C,
Aug. 6, 1865.

Dear Friends:

Your last found me in tolerable good health. I am now fairly at work in my new duties. I assure you it is a different thing to have two strange companies, old soldiers at that, with the old Company to handle, from what it was before. I contend that the 1st Sergt’s position at present in the four companies is the hardest position in the Regt.; but so far I am doing finely. Four years ago yesterday, I left the old parental roof for the first time, for a commencement in life. At other times people might say I chose a very dangerous life; but a desire to be a soldier had got possession of me and I actually believe if I had not been allowed to come at that time I should have come on my own responsibility soon after. How fortunate I have been during these last four years. I have suffered but little from sickness. The hardships have been severe, to be sure, for the last year; but life has been spared. I look back at times and think how I suffered a year ago from long marches, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, and shudder at the thought of a repetition of the scenes.

A great many of the boys have acted foolishly since pay day by deserting; you have probably seen some of them. A man must be crazy that would act so. I feel as if I would like an honorable discharge after serving faithfully almost four years. I should like to know well what kind of business it was you would like me to go into, if I got a discharge. Money making of course? I should advise Jerry to give way and let George visit Washington, and shall urge his coming; he has never travelled and if he could possibly be spared I think he ought to take a short trip this way. Perhaps he has struck higher and prefers to visit Saratoga or Niagara Falls! The 3rd Regt. has not been consolidated yet; they are waiting the arrival of a company from Richmond. We all hope the consolidation will never come off. Hard feelings are beginning to exist between the two Regts. already. We are expecting daily to lose our colors, now in Washington, having the names of the battles we were in printed on it, as the guard has been discontinued. Some of their companies will probably have the honor of carrying the Colors. Perhaps it is n’t rough, but we can’t see it in that light! We are in hopes that Col. A. will be sent back to the Regular Army and N. promoted; then we would have our show at every thing.

Aug. 7. I wish it were so I could get home soon and then all take a short trip to the beach. We never went to but few places as a whole family. I board out now; about eight of us draw our rations and have a woman to cook for us, and with a few bought articles we live tolerably well. Report says we are going soon to some other station. I can see no necessity of staying here, as there is no armament.

Love to all.                                        Lev. Bradley, Jr.

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August 5th, 1865.—I have very little time for writing these days; not that there is so much work to do, our hands seem almost empty now that the war is over. We must try to make up to our soldiers for the years of hardship and privation. We have company nearly all the time and Mother makes ready for them as cheerfully as ever. Aunt Morea and Adeline have orders to serve a bountiful supper every night.

The way this order came about was very amusing. In the neighborhood, about seven miles away, a youthful uncle, with six nephews, were keeping bachelor’s hall; they were frequent callers and often spent the evening. One night they were announced while we were at supper. Mother went into the parlor and invited them to join us.

“Thank you, Mrs. Bradford,” spoke up six of them, almost simultaneously, “we have had our supper.”

The seventh one, who was really better acquainted than the others, said, “Mrs. Bradford, they may have eaten supper but I am a guest in the house and they did not give me any, so if I may, I will gladly accept your invitation.”

It was a laughing crowd Mother ushered into the dining room and, on leaving, they were given to understand that supper waited their pleasure any, or every night.

It is not the fault of these boys that they are idle. After four years of war, they came home to find an absolutely demoralized business world and until conditions change, they cannot hope to find positions. Of course those who have homes can find employment of a sort, but some, like these boys of whom I write, are far from home.

There is another family only two miles distant. Dr. Burroughs was a surgeon in the army and when his family fled before the enemy, who were bombarding their home in Savannah, he rented this place for his wife and babies. Under such conditions they did not have much of comfort around them and, when Dr. Burroughs came after the surrender, he brought with him four young soldier brothers, who brought with them only the clothes they wore and these very much the worse for the wear.

They were very cheerful over it and the doctor kindly shared his scant wardrobe with them, but unfortunately, the youngest one was tall and large, while the doctor was equally small. The clothes just would not either stretch or grow and poor Charley was disconsolate until a kind friend stepped in to the rescue, with a full-sized suit. These boys are also frequent visitors and one and all were made welcome at Pine Hill; so, little Diary, you see why it is necessary to have plentiful suppers. Mother says, “Boys love good things to eat,” and I am sure she is right. Let them have a good time while they can, there is work, hard work before us all if the South is to be salvaged.

These are serious days and there is much food for thought; but we cannot always be sad and wear a long face. We must cheer these soldiers of the Confederacy who have so many battles ahead of them. A hand to hand fight with poverty is no joke and that is what is staring us Southerners starkly in the face in the near future. Even so we will be merry while we may.

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Sunday, August 3, 1865.

I am very contented and too busy to have any time for fretting. I teach four hours a day, and am busy turning out sheets and putting a square patch into the middle of all our pillow-cases. I shall have lots of sewing for the winter, so if you hear of a nice woman in the “special relief,” engage her for about Christmas time. I hope to go from here about the middle of December, get home a week before Xmas, and stay till the end of the first week in January, giving me three weeks at home, and allowing two for the journey, one going and one coming, and three days at each end for packing and unpacking, making my stay away from school duties just six weeks, and you must not tempt me to take more. I am having holiday now, remember.

The island is very quiet just now. There was no truth in the report of a military organization, rebellion, or anything of the kind. A few men united into a company to defend their watermelon patches, and once [when] they were going their rounds they met a young captain who has made himself very unpopular since he has lived on the island, and they refused to turn out for his buggy, obliging him to drive around them instead of standing aside for him to pass. He construed this into armed rebellion, and reported to General Gillmore just as the steamer was sailing for the North. There was no time to contradict the report, or investigate. Last Sunday Colonel Howard came over to tell the people that General Gillmore had ordered him to take away all their guns, but that he had just come into command of the post, and should not do it unless he saw some reason for so doing. These guns the people had bought themselves, and they have never done any serious mischief with them. Colonel H. told me that he thought the way to make them rebel was to do this, and he would not if he could help it. So the people do not parade, I believe, and all is very quiet and orderly. They all are very indignant at the supposition of their taking up arms against the Yankees and they say it is a “Secesh” trick to spread such a report and bring reproach upon them. Mr. Tomlinson came over and made a speech showing up Delany on the same day. Delany is the major who made that unwise speech a few Sundays ago and got the people so excited against Philbrick.

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August 2d.—Dr. Boykin and John Witherspoon were talking of a nation in mourning, of blood poured out like rain on the battle-fields—for what? “Never let me hear that the blood of the brave has been shed in vain! No; it sends a cry down through all time.”

 

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