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

Ringgold Barracks, Texas,
September 10, 1865.

My Dear Sister L. :—

I have no letter to answer since my last, but I have a little time to spare to-day, being Sunday, and will devote it to you by writing.

I try to imagine what you are doing just now, and what is the change in the looks of the place since I was there. I presume that just about this time of day you are sitting in one of the slips in that “Podunk” or “Chachunk” (what do you call it?) “meetin’ house,” listening intently to the logical instructions of some “Elder Boanerges” and wishing between times that you had your big brother up there again to show him to those who were not sufficiently impressed by your first exhibition. Ah, well! You can’t get him there to-day. Let me see. It is nearly the middle of September. We have been making garden. Our cucumbers are up and doing nicely—so are several other plants. You, I suppose, are just getting through harvesting. Charlie’s barns are full to overflowing. The cows come up at night so full they lie down with a grunt, and all the country round shows the fullness and beauty of the early autumn. I have not learned to tell the season here. July and August have passed never so quickly, so coolly, so pleasantly before. Most of my time is spent in my office and, instead of the excessive heat being troublesome in the southern climate, I have never suffered so little from heat in New York. There is all the time a breeze, and the thick walls of my adobe house shut out all the heat of the sun.

I say the time has passed pleasantly. One reason is that I have had little time to think of unpleasant things, and another, I suppose, is that I am somewhat pleased with the power and influence of my new position. Except the commanding general, there is no one here so much looked up to by the citizens as “El Quartelmaestro,” and then my business suits me. General Steele, Inspector General, has been inspecting my train, shops, storehouses, etc., to-day, and he compliments me highly on their appearance. From down the river I hear the same thing. “I like to consign a boat to a live quartermaster,” says the quartermaster at Brownsville, “but how do you manage to unload your boats so quickly?” I do it by keeping things moving. I set seventy-five men with an officer in charge at work as soon as a boat is tied up, and when the load is off her papers are ready and she starts back. There is a pleasure in hard work when you see the results. That makes all the difference in the world. The way I punish an unruly teamster is to make him dig a big hole and then fill it up, dig it out and fill it up the second time, and that is enough for any man. It fixes them.

I should not write such a letter to everyone. It sounds a little like self-praise, but between us there need be no reserve. I tell you all because I know you like to know just what I am doing.

By the way, have I told you that I have at last dropped the “A” and my “pay handle” is “R. Q. M.” of the Eighth? Burrows got his appointment in August and I stepped into his shoes at once. Rank from August 5th.

The prospect for getting out of the service very soon is not very good. As things are shaping I do not much think I shall try till after Congress meets. Wilson Camp has sent in his resignation and he will go out sure. The medical board that examines all officers pronounced him disqualified to perform his duties, by reason of physical disability contracted in the line of his duty. It is a big joke, for he is physically the ablest man in the regiment. Can stand more hardship than the whole medical board together, but he said “the doctors ought to know,” and sent in his resignation on those grounds. I suppose I might do the same thing, but I do not care to do it.

The paymaster has paid us a visit and some greenbacks. I received $577.63 for four months.

Well, I will bid you good-bye, hoping to hear from you soon and as often as you can find time to write. Love to Charlie and all the good folks. Shall I bring home a doll trom Mexico for your baby?

I enclose a missive I received the other day. Perhaps you can read it. It refers to a mule.

Adios, hermana mia,

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.


Green Lake, Texas, Sept. 8, 1865.—I have only a moment in which to write. The Adjutant had to come back to get his papers corrected—he was very sick on the way back, but is better. He arrived here yesterday morning. Captain Knilans got paid in New Orleans and sent me $50 to enable me to get out of this. I sent immediately to Victoria to get an order from General Stanley to muster out now. I expect it tonight. If I get it shall start in two or three days, and hope to be home by October 1st, perhaps a little before. If I do not get it I must stay my time out. If you do not get a letter for a week after you get this you may infer that I am en route home. The Adjutant leaves this morning for New Orleans, where he will wait for me. Captain Kingman goes with me.


Soon after September 8, 1865, the date of the last of the above letters, the regiment received orders to march to Victoria, and at once moved to that place. As the term of the judicial office to which my husband had been elected was to commence so soon after that time, he felt that it was necessary for him to return to Wisconsin as soon as possible to make preparations for his new duties. He therefore forwarded to the proper officer his resignation as Colonel, which was promptly accepted. He then returned to Wisconsin, reaching Madison about the first of October. Owing to the resignation of his predecessor before the end of his term of office, his judicial duties commenced on the first day of December, 1865, and from that time forward were constant and exacting.

Later an order was received that the regiment return to Wisconsin, to be mustered out of service. It reached Madison the latter part of December, when it was mustered out and the men joyfully returned to their homes and the peaceful pursuits of civil life.

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.


Green Lake, Texas., Sept . 5,1865.—The days drag along slowly enough, but I keep myself in as patient a frame of mind as possible. Coarse food, poorly cooked, and very poor water, is enough to use up almost anybody; so the sick list is very large. Fully one-third are reported sick—none seem to be dangerously so. In other respects our condition is improving. We get better rations and have received clothing.

We are terribly troubled with mosquitoes. They come in myriads and early in the evening drive us under our mosquito-bars.

The weather is generally very hot. Altogether our situation is not pleasant here and I am anxious for the time to come when I can leave. I ride nearly every afternoon to a farm house between two and three miles from here for a drink of water out of a cistern. It is a great luxury. The country is infested with robbers between here and Victoria.

I have sent my last $10 to New Orleans for quinine. It is the only thing to break up the fevers, and it is so long since the regiment was paid that there is no money in the regiment, and while mine lasted it was common property, and a man would be a heathen to not send for the medicine if he had any money. I really needed it myself for comforts, but it may save life.

I sit here in this pestilential country, surrounded with more discomforts and in more real danger than I have been in for a long time, and wait as patently as I can. I should have been glad to have crossed the Gulf before the equinoctial storms, but that seems out of the question now. No signs of being mustered out, or any movement, at present. I command the brigade and Beatty the division.

September 1, 1865.

I am just contemplating taking a salary. The Committee have written to me about it again, and it will end, I suppose, by my doing it, though it will alter the aspect of things to me and drive me away, I think. Besides, I have now got the credit for being a volunteer, all over the country, and to sneak in for a salary seems too bad. I have had a very great deal of worry over it. If I could only afford to live without, I am sure it would be best policy, as well as best pleasure, to do it. But can I? … I suppose I must take for granted my inability to do without it, and so take the salary, for by all that I know of my means, this is the case.

Will[1] has had a very unpopular measure to carry — having the roads mended by voluntary labor, but the negroes turn out very well. He has most trouble with the white proprietors, who refuse to help, though they use the roads most. But through it all there is the best of feeling between the people and Will, and the respectable whites, Mr. Soule, etc., think a great deal of Will.

We hear reports and rumors that make us quake. It is that Beaufort and Hilton Head are to be closed as Government depots; that General Gillmore and General Saxton are going to live at Charleston; and this place is to be left alone in its glory. Misery! Already we have to send to Hilton Head for all our commissary stores — that is, for all we eat, except the little we can buy of the people, for there is no abatement in prices yet here, and we have to pay even at Ruggles’ twenty-five cents per pound for the coarsest of brown sugar, and the same for brown washing-soap. We teachers were to have the privilege of purchasing at the Commissary, and then the Commissary is removed so far we can’t get at it.

“Secesh” are coming back thick. One — Dr. Clarence Tripp — has half of Will’s house, another takes Dr. Hunting’s place, and lives on Ladies Island, flourishing on Government horses and saddles, for which he made a requisition on Will that Will was obliged to answer. They are crawlingly civil as yet, but will soon feel their oats.

[1] Miss Towne’s brother.

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.


Green Lake, Texas, Fri., Sept. 1, 1865.—Yesterday we were moving camp about two miles to better ground, and I had to muster the regiment, all of which made a lively day’s work. The health of the regiment is bad. Fully one-third of the men are unfit for duty. The sickness would not be severe, but we have no medicine, and the men get worse and worse for want of treatment. One died in Company F today, an Indian; and we shall lose several more. The officers on the sick list are Captains Kingman and Patchin, Lieutenants Cheney and Beckwith and Colonel Kummel. The latter has applied for a leave of absence and if he gets it will start for home soon. Captain Kingman will be mustered out as soon as he is able to travel. Captain Parker has also sent in his resignation.

We have a clean, pleasant camp on the bank of the lake, on the bare prairie, not a tree about us. The weather is hot, but we get a breeze every afternoon which makes us comfortable. Mosquitoes are reasonably plentiful and very large and energetic. I find my bar a perfect protection. We get no light on our future destiny, but rather expect to go up the country, at least as far as Victoria. That place is 22 miles from here. I have pretty much given up the hope of being able to take the regiment home with me, which I assure you is a sore disappointment to me.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.