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1864 March 5: Another Interesting Letter from the 11th Wisconsin

March 9, 2014

The following letter, reprinted from the Madison (Wis.) State Journal, appeared in the March 5, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.

An Interesting Letter from the 11th Regiment.

Correspondence of the State Journal.

INDIANOLA, TEXAS, Feb. 1, 1864.

My last letter was sent from Matagorda Island two months ago.  The regiment was collected at Decrocoros [sic] Point¹ a few days after, where we remained until January 4th, when we were ordered to this place on the steamer Matamoras, to reinforce the 1st Brigade of our Division.  The Eleventh was first to visit Indianola on the 13th of December. Three companies were landed on the long pier, and marched through the town to the court house where our colors were displayed.  The mayor of the city came out to see us wearing one of our cavalry overcoats, which failed to make him look like a Union man.  All of the boys in town were out to hear Robert’s music.  We returned to Decrocros [sic] Point the same evening.  The rebels burned a part of the pier before Gen. Warren occupied the town with his brigade.

The steamboat landing is at Newtown or Powderhorn, where nearly all of the business is done.  Our regiment was stationed at Oldtown, three miles north of the landing, and quartered in the houses.

The supply of rations was exhausted soon after our arrival at this place, and we should have suffered if Colonel Whittlesey [Luther H. Whittlesey] had not obtained a hundred bushels of corn from the scant supply of the citizens, which answered for bread and coffee.  Company I was detailed to grind the corn in hand-mills, as the small wind-mills used for grinding corn did not work well during the “genuine Norther” which prevailed the first week in January.  I learn from the “Texas almanac,” that “Northers” may be expected from September to April, one a week, average duration three days.  It is very unpleasant to think of them so I will leave you to imagine what we endured the first week in January, which was the coldest weather for many years, a fact which we learned from the “oldest inhabitant.”  The weather has been very pleasant for two weeks past, and it seems like May in Wisconsin.  The grass is starting on the prairie, and corn will be planted this month.

The regiment was enlisting as veterans when we saw by the newspaper that no bounties would be paid after January 5th.  Major Elliott,² of the 33d Illinois, returned from New Orleans with orders for his regiment to be mustered and relieved from duty to go home.  Colonel Whittlesey has gone to New Orleans with them to obtain transportation for our regiment.  I do not think we shall be able to leave before next month as the 8th and 18th Indiana are going soon.

We have not any cavalry, which makes the rebels feel quite safe in coming near our lines, as they are mounted men.  They found, after making several demonstrations and getting us out in time of battle, that we had but one regiment in this town, which induced them to come down one afternoon to capture us.  They dismounted two companies at the bayou above the town, expecting to draw us out there, while they marched a large force across the prairie, to come in between us and the other town.  Col. Harris [Charles L. Harris] came up with two Iowa regiments in time to stop them, and they left soon after the 7th Michigan battery commenced throwing shell at them.  They reported that they had driven the Yankees out of Indianola, and burned the town.  The balance of our brigade is here, under command of Col. Harris.  The 16th Ohio battery, which was with us in Arkansas, is now attached to our brigade.

Capt. Freeman³ has joined the regiment since we have been here.  He is looking much better than he did upon his arrival.  Capt. Chrystie4 has resigned.  He will wait and go home with the regiment.

The boys are healthy and there have not been ay deaths in the regiment since we left New Orleans in November.

The large oyster bed opposite our town has furnished a supply of fine oysters.  The boys bring in ten or twelve bushels at a time.  There are large droves of fat cattle on the prairies which supply us with beef.  We have not been more comfortably situated than we are now, but it takes a long time to hear from home.  The Journalof the 7th of January was received yesterday.

Orders have been issued to draw shelter tents and prepare for an active campaign, but I do not think any forward movement will be made for several months.

We are fortifying Newtown, and we are expected to fall back to that town if attacked by a large force.

The Court House has been taken for a hospital and will be fitted up.  The agents of the Sanitary Commission are here with supplies.  I saw some pack saddles in their rooms which looked like moving into the interior.

The cisterns do not hold water enough for our men.  They expect to get apparatus to condense water enough for their use in the hospital.  The deserted houses and fences will make wood enough for one entire spring.

The rebels have fortified on the east end of the peninsula, and have a force estimated from twelve to fifteen thousand, which they can concentrate in a few days.  There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with Magruder [John B. Magruder], and many of the people would gladly return under the President’s proclamation.

John Mahler,5 of Co. D, was married to a German girl last Friday evening.  Some of the veterans in the 1st Brigade have married and will take their ladies home with them.

I heard a sergeant asking the Provost Marshal for permission to have a party, as he had made all the arrangements and had invited eight ladies and sixteen gentlemen.  Consent was obtained upon the condition that no more gentlemen should be invited.

OTIS.

1. “DeCros Point, also known as DeCrow’s Point, Decros or DeCrow’s Landing, Port Cavallo, Port Cabello, and Paso Cavallo, was an early coastal community on the western end of Matagorda Peninsula at Cavallo Pass in extreme southern Matagorda County, Texas. It was one of several settlements established on the peninsula before the region’s recurring hurricanes persuaded the residents to leave.” For more information, see the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas.
2.  Isaac H. Elliott began his service with the 33rd Illinois Infantry as captain of Company E, was promoted to major and then to colonel.
3.  William L. Freeman, from Mazomanie, worked his way up from 2nd lietuentant, to 1st lieutenant, to captain of Company A of the 11th Wisconsin. He was wounded May 17, 1863, at Black River Bridge, and will die from his wounds over a year later on June 7, 1864.
4.  Alexander Chrystie, from Portage, was captain of Company H of the 11th Wisconsin. He was wounded at Bayou Cache (Arkansas) and at Black River Bridge, and was taken prisoner September 26, 1862. He resigned January 11, 1864.
5.  Or John Mahlor, as the official roster lists him. He was from Westford, enlisted November 1, 1861, and mustered out September 4, 1865.

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