Colonel Lyon’s Letters.
Green Lake, Texas, Sunday, July 23, 1865.—I wrote you from New Orleans on the 14th inst., since which time I have had no opportunity to get off a letter. I left New Orleans on the morning of the 15th and went down to Corps Headquarters, six miles, where I changed from the Zenobia to a larger and better steamship, on which we left that evening, reaching the mouth of the Mississippi Sunday morning.
We found a heavy gale blowing on the Gulf from the south, so we lay there until Monday night—the gale subsided—we put to sea and reached the coast near Indianola Wednesday evening. We had a very rough passage, but I was not seasick. We lay at anchor, tossing in a rough sea, unable to cross the bar into Matagorda bay until Friday morning, when we succeeded in getting over and ran up to Indianola, 18 or 20 miles from the Gulf. There we learned that the regiment was here. We took a lighter (a small schooner) and went up the bay 12 miles to Lavaca. Here we found a good hotel and a very nice little town, and remained until yesterday morning; then got a conveyance and came to camp, 15 miles west. The Adjutant overtook us at the Balje, or mouth of the Mississippi, and transferred himself to our boat.
I found that the regiment has had a tough time. There was no fresh water at Indianola and they had to march directly here, 20 or 25 miles, which they did in a night, the men suffering badly for water. I found Colonel Kummel very unwell. Mr. Foote was very seasick on the Gulf, and is quite feeble yet.
My poor boys seemed overjoyed to see me. They gave some hearty yells when I came into camp, and I think I had to shake hands with every man in the regiment during the afternoon. They were getting very restless, but I think they are better reconciled now to their lot. Desertions from the corps are frequent and quite numerous, though much less from the 13th than from many other regiments. The men feel outraged and wronged because they are sent here while so many thousands who have rendered less service are being sent home. It is our principle business to encourage and reconcile them, and I assure you I was needed here and badly, too, for that service.
You would like to know what sort of a country this is. I will tell you. Everything except the climate is damnable. From this to the coast is one vast, level plain, perfectly naked, without a tree or shrub, covered with a thin growth of coarse grass which affords pasturage to thousands of cattle and horses in a semi-wild state that roam over it in every direction. Snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, centipedes, and almost every venomous and loathsome reptile, abound here, and the streams are infested with alligators. The boys killed one between seven and eight feet long in the lake close to our camp yesterday, and one eighteen feet long has been killed by the command since it came here. Our camp is on a clean piece of prairie which is less infested with these reptiles than are some other locations, though it has occurred several times since they have been here that the boys have found snakes (I think venomous ones) in their blankets.
This lake is a shallow, fresh water one, from one to two miles wide, which sometimes nearly dries up. The water is as warm as dishwater, but otherwise good.
I am boarding with our new doctor (Woodruff), Chaplain Foote and wife, Colonel Kummel, Captain Fish and the Adjutant. We get but little to eat, except that we have most excellent fresh beef. This, with coffee and steamed hardtack, is our bill of fare—no vegetables—no nothing that makes eating a pleasure. The country produces nothing in the way of vegetables to speak of.
When the balance of the corps gets here we shall ‘move on,’ like poor Joe in Bleak House—probably in a week or two. The First Division goes to San Antonio, the Second to New Braunfels, and the Third to Austin, the capital of the State, which is 150 miles from here. What in the name of common sense we are going there for, or why we are here in Texas at all, is more than I can find out or even guess at, and I am unable to find any one who is any wiser on this subject than I am.