Civil War Love letters: June 11, 1862
The men of Company K continued to march through Kentucky and Tennessee, toward places where Union and Confederate troops were fighting for control of the Mississippi River. While on the march, James and his men heard news of the fall of Fort Pillow and the city of Memphis. The Confederate Fort Pillow, on the Tennessee bank of the Mississippi River, was the last barrier to Memphis. The Union flotilla of ironclads and gunboats had been bombarding the fort during April. On May 10, the Confederate fleet of rams attacked the Union fleet. After the Confederates abandoned Corinth at the end of May, they realized that Fort Pillow was vulnerable to an attack, so they ordered the evacuation of the fort. On June 4, 1862, Confederate forces left the fort and withdrew toward Memphis. On June 6, the Union flotilla captured the city of Memphis. In this letter, James also discusses two incidents with slaves. At this time, Union officers and troops had their own opinions about what to do with runaway slaves who crossed into Union lines and entered their camps. The officers issued dozens of conflicting orders and proclamations, and there was often disagreement among the soldiers of a regiment, and between the soldiers and their commanding officers. Should the Union troops assist the runaway slaves or return them, as property, to their owners?
Union City, Tennessee
June 11th 1862
My Dearest Eliza
I seize the earliest moment to write again, it seems only yesterday since I wrote before. I’ve been so busy & time moves so fast. We made but a slow march, our wagons being overloaded, as transportation is scarce, but we are all here now & safe. We were bound for Fort Pillow & Memphis, but low & behold the news meets us that both have surrendered, & so we may chance to remain for some time here or else go as garrison some place away down South that needs our protection more.
I find it very warm here by day, though cool & damp by night, so as to make double blankets a necessity, as the men are very careless concerning the dew &c. I expect we shall report numbers sick soon, as others have done before us. It is so different from the dry warm climate of Kansas in Summer.
I think I need not fear it, as I am cautious & careful as usual.
We had but a short & busy time at Columbus scarcely time to see one fourth the defences, & prepare for this march. The march itself was slow & pleasant through a fine heavy timbered country, worthy of Old Kaintucks renown, people mostly secesh, some few Union but no young men to be seen - not one. All gone to the war on one side or other. Such is the pressure of public opinion here that the veriest coward, out of pure cowardice must go, & so you see old men "Secesh", who hadn't time to run, or who wish'd to save their property & young & old ladies, who do not scruple to express their sentiments by word & deed. Secesh ladies who act as if our touch or presence was contamination, & Union ladies who can not do enough for us or for the weary soldiers, & whose glad looks give evidence of the heavy weight that has borne down their weary hearts for months & so we got into Tennessee. The evidences of wealth & cultivation increasing as we went, fine farms & fine orchards. The owners almost afraid to cultivate fearing the ravages of war, so far & lately the want of a market, New Orleans & the coast being the only market they have ever had. I gladdened the hearts of many by telling them that the river would be open in a week, & so it is in much less time but have they money to buy down there. I dont mean in N.O. alone - it takes several states down there to make said market, of which the city is only the Market Place or entrepot, & so we will probably not join in a great fight after all. Aint you glad?
I hope my dearest girl, that you are in health or spirits (not fretting) or in the fair way to be in health soon, & that you take good care of yourself. I was so refreshed by the short visit I had to the city, that I wish more than ever to have another one, and I nearly succeeded in obtaining it right away, but such hopes are dashed again, and I must await my turn for a furlough as I best may.
How about Charlie & Mrs. R. Wilson. Of course you have heard of them since, & all the other folks I saw. Love & Remembrance to them all.
I hope you will receive that young horse of mine quite renovated by this time, & that you will exercise it & yourself daily or often for my sake. If you don’t I wont forgive you – there.
This nigger question comes up in all shapes as the chief nuisance. Coming down on the boat, we had quite a little excitement about a jet black lady, in which I as officer in charge of the boat took the liberty of putting her ashore at Cairo, in charge of the Provost Marshal there, & also in confining as punishment & to save their lives (from the hot heads aboard) the Kidnappers who brought her from St. Louis. I let them remain on the boat & go on home to New Madrid when we left it. They grit their teeth & wished to shoot somebody very badly at first but soon got badly skeered, & were glad to go home safe, when so permitted, and now on the march, another muss occurs passing a wheat field - where several Niggers with an old white headed Secesh (who has taken the Oath however) were at work with a reaping machine, cutting the wheat. Some of our Niggers went over the fence. Old whitehead & his Niggers were gazing at us and started a conversation with them, & soon marched towards us arm in arm with the Old Mans Niggers. Several men from Co H with arms then went & took another light colored slave off the reaper, & at once confusion reigned. Our Colonel being an abolitionist, said let the niggers come if they wanted to, & some were for taking them on & fell in ranks with the Niggers guarded - others wouldnt move & I am proud to say our Whole Co. were among them until such a mean theft was wiped out & the Niggers returned. Now if these same Niggers had left their work & came after us I w'd have protected them - in their strike for freedom - but as long as it is the law, I will not countenance stealing a Nigger or a horse. I wont raise a finger to coax them off, or to drive them back - if they will be free - Am I right?
I am my dear Molly with much love, & prayers for your continued health & safety
James E. Love
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