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

Reminiscences of the Civil War, William and Adelia Lyon

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

July 25, 1865.—The weather would be very hot were it not for the trade winds, which come up about nine or ten o’clock in the morning and blow a stiff breeze from the south all day. But we shall lose the benefit of this when we get into the interior probably. Everybody says that the country improves as we advance into it, and that at Austin we will get better water and more to eat. If we do I will apologize for slandering Texas. Do you think I am sorry that I did not resign at Nashville? Not a bit of it. My presence here is absolutely indispensible to the welfare of the regiment, and right here, beyond all question, is my post of duty as long as I can reasonably remain.

My time expires September 25th, only two months hence, and then I can be mustered out, get my three months’ extra pay, and I presume enough mileage to pay my expenses home—neither of which would I get if I resign. So I tell the boys that if my health keeps good I will stay with them until that time. Then it will take me about twenty days to get home.

At Lavaca I met a brother-in-law of Mr. Sheldon, of Burlington, named Chrysler. Mrs. Chrysler looks just like her brother. They had not heard from their friends North during the war, and of course were much pleased to get recent news from them. They have been here many years, are well off, and are very loyal. I hear of Judge Irvin, our Judge when I commenced practice, living some thirty miles from here on our road to Austin. I hope to see him.

It cost me over $80 to get here, the best I could do. I had Government transportation from Cairo. It will cost me more than $100 to get home, and if I should fail to get my final pay in New Orleans, which is quite probable, I shall just about be out of money when I get ready to start home, and there will be none in the regiment then.

General Beatty and General Wood have advised Dr. Cady to resign. He is in the hospital at Indianola. He will probably take the advice. Captain Pratt and Lieutenant Loucks have resigned and gone home.

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.

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.


New Orleans, Fri., July 14, 1865.—We arrived here at eight o’clock this morning, sound and well. I found that our corps have moved and are moving for Indianola, Texas. Our division went several days ago. Lieutenant Fowle and I leave tomorrow on steamer Zenobia.

This is a beautiful city and the cleanest one that I ever saw. There is some talk that our division goes to Austin, which is said to be a healthy place. I hope so. I go on board of the steamer soon

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

On Steamer Clara Dalson, July 12, 1865.—We are now steaming past Milliken’s Bend, 28 miles above Vicksburg, where we expect to be before noon. We left Cairo at 2 p. m. Sunday. Arrived at Memphis, 240 miles below Cairo, at 5 p. m. Monday. Were near Helena yesterday morning. Passed the mouths of White and Arkansas rivers and Napoleon yesterday afternoon, and this morning find ourselves here. We are 600 miles below Cairo and over 1,000 miles from Racine. We are yet 400 miles from New Orleans.

We are having a delightful trip. We have a good boat, and good fare; weather comfortably cool, with considerable rain. We expect to be at New Orleans by Friday. We hear nothing of the corps moving as yet. We have green corn every day, and found plenty of ripe peaches at Memphis. The country is low and flat, but large plantations are becoming more frequent.

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.


Cairo, Ill., Sun. a. m., July 9, 1865.—We did not get here until after midnight, having been detained several hours by a collision ahead of us, fifty miles from here. I found the Major and Lieutenant Fowle in Chicago. Saw nothing of the Adjutant. We leave on the ‘Clara Dalson’ at 11 o’clock this morning for New Orleans. The weather is somewhat warm here. We get Government transportation from here, which is worth $10 to each of us, and our meals and staterooms cost us $20 more.

June 20, 1865.—William reached home on leave of absence for 20 days.

Mrs. Lyon’s Diary.


June 17.—Arrived home at five o’clock in the morning, having stayed over in Chicago a couple of days. Attended the Sanitary Fair.

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.


Wed. Eve., June 14, 1865.—Our transportation starts for Johnsonville tomorrow morning, and General Wood informed me this evening that it is understood that the Second Division also goes tomorrow and our division on Friday. We probably shall not get off, however, before Saturday. If not delayed, I think I can get home by Thursday of next week, but a delay of a day or two at Johnsonville is not at all improbable. So do not look for me until the last of the week. I am very busy getting ready to move, and in the absence of the Adjutant am compelled to look after all of the details of business in person. The men mustered out will get off tomorrow evening.

I suppose you are steaming through Indiana now. It is intolerably lonesome here since you left, and we need the excitement of a march to help our spirits.

Mrs. Lyon’s Diary.

June 13.—I am starting for home. General Beatty kindly takes me to Nashville in his ambulance. Adjutant Scott goes North with me.

Mrs. Lyon’s Diary.


Camp Harker, June 1, 1865.—We have moved camp. I found it all done when I came back from town. We take long rides every day. I enjoy it very much now, the mare is so kind and gentle.