1865 May 27: Letter from the Thirtieth Wisconsin in Kentucky, News of the Guerrillas Captured with Sue Mundy
The following letter comes from the May 27, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press. The 30th Wisconsin Infantry contained many men from northwest Wisconsin, spread across multiple companies.
Correspondence of the Polk Co. Press.
FROM THE THIRTIETH WISCONSIN REGIMENT.
A SKETCH OF ITS DOINGS IN KENTUCKY, &C.
LOUISVILLE, KY., MAY 8, 1865.
FRIEND FIFIELD.—Here I am setting in my Sanctom Sanctorum [sic]¹ trying to wear away a dull time,—for I have been perfectly at leisure of late—or rather busy doing nothing. I thought to myself, that perhaps you would like to hear from some member of the BLOODLESS 30th Wisconsin Regiment, and of the grand campaigns the Regiment has been through since it has been in Kentucky. Five companies of the regiment, under the command of Col. D. J. DILL [Daniel J. Dill], arrived here the 29th of November, 1864.—Four companies under Major JOHN CLOWNEY, were waiting at Paducah for sometime previous to our arrival, for us to join them, and then if possible, to go to the front,—which every member of the regiment have been anxious to do, since its organization. However such was not our fate. The Col.’s orders had “gineout”² at this place, and nobody knew anything about the regiment, nor did they seem to care much ; consequently had to go into camp and await something to “turn up” to relieve us of our situation. We lay here in camp ten days. Col. DILL after making every effort to get the regiment together, finally succeeded in getting Major CLOWNEY with his command ordered to this place. The next move to be made was if possible to get ordered to the front, where we could bather our “maiden swords” in the blood of a “confed” [Confederate]—but all efforts seemed to be unavailing, and we lay here in camp not knowing whether we belonged to Uncle Sam or not, nor even recognized. The men set about trying to make themselves comfortable. The weather being cold and either raining, snowing, blowing or freezing—without any fire only what the men had to do their cooking with, as we were in tents. Finally on the 11th of Dec., orders came from Regimental Hd. Qrs. to strike tents, and be ready to march at short notice. All was bustle and confusion. About 10 o’clock on the 11[th] we marched down to the Nashville depot, and proceeded on our journey rejoicing until the next day at 2 P. M., when we arrived at Bowling Green and found that was our destination, as the rebel Gen. LYON³ was in the vicinity of the Louisville and Nashville Rail Road, with quite a force, and might possibly (as there was quite a large supply of Government stores there), attack the place. We went into camp about two miles back from the town, and immediately formed a picket line.—We staid here four weeks doing picket duty and not a sign of the enemy. Raining and snowing, nearly all of the time, and the way the Kentucky soil stuck to the Union soldiers boots, you could really say that it was true Union. The men when off duty were building log houses for shelter and comfort, and had fairly got ready to enjoy life, when we were ordered back to Louisville. [paragraph break added]
Accordingly on the 10th of January, we took a special train at 1 o’clock, P. M., and did not arrive in Louisville until the morning of the 12th having traveled 72 miles in sixty hours. If we had been in haste we certainly should have taken “walkers line.” On our arrival at Louisville we were ordered to duty at the Military Prison, to guard Confederate prisoners ; but this could not last long without some change. Major CLOWNEY with three companies was ordered to Frankfort, to protect the loyal Kentuckians from guerrilla outrages. Capt. MEACHUM [sic: Edgar A. Meacham] was ordered with three companies to the city, to do Provost duty ; three companies being left at the prison with plenty of Guard duty for the whole nine companies. I will here say there is but nine companies in the State. Co. “I” was left at Fort Union, D. T. There has not been more than six hundred prisoners here at any one time since we have been stationed here, as they are transferred to Camp Chase, Columbus, Ohio, as soon as the rolls are made out and transportation furnished—the companies that are stationed here guarding them through to their destination.—A great many of them are good looking men, but their dress is not very becoming. It looks as if they had not changed it since they entered the service. The Prison is now nearly cleaned out. None are left here now but the sick and wounded that are unable to travel. Five guerrillas are confined here, among them is BILL McGRUDER [sic: “Billy” Magruder] and MIDKIFF [sic: Henry Metcalfe], captured with SUE MUNDY. McGRUDER was badly wounded in the lungs, but is recovering slowly. I think he will have a chance to practice on the hemp for twenty minutes some of these fine days for exercise.4 Guerrilla bands will soon be broken up in this State, as Gen. PALMER [John M. Palmer] is using every effort to bring them to justice.
I suppose I should say something about Louisville. It is a very well laid out city, with many beautiful residences, but it cannot look as well as it did before the war broke out.—The streets are very much out of repair, and it will take a number of years to bring it back to its original appearance, and as for the genuine loyalty of its inhabitants, I should not want to trust it much, although there are many loyal people here.—The 14th of April there was quite a large procession paraded the streets all day, in honor of our victories. On the morning of the news of the assassinnation [sic] of our beloved President, the city looked dark and gloomy enough. The business portion of the city was heavily draped in mourning, also many residences. Every Union citizen felt as though they had lost their best friend, while many of the “secesh” would say “that it was the death blow to the rebellion.” Quite a number would rejoice in private, but if the boys in blue could find one of them, he was promptly marched off for safe keeping. It would not do to talk secesh to any great extent, as Union men were not to be trifled with. Business has fallen off nearly one half since that time—all Government offices have also cut down their expences [sic] one half of what they were before the surrender of LEE’S army [Robert E. Lee].
I should have said in my letter before, that the officers of the regiment are scattered nearly as bad as the companies. Col. DILL was detached and put in command of the Post of Louisville for sometime, and then was relieved at his own request, and is now Provost Marshal Gen. of this District. Lieut. Col. BARTLETT5 is on a General Court Marshal in session in this city. Surgeon HOYT [Otis Hoyt] is in charge of Post Hospital. Adjt. SPENCER6 is Post Inspector. Lieut. WILSON [Henry A. Wilson] of company “A” is in charge of a Bureau for the purpose of issuing rations to the destitute families of our soldiers, which belong to Kentucky regiments. The guerrillas so infest the towns where the soldiers enlist from, that they are obliged to leave their homes, and come to the city to live, where they can be protected.—The season here seems to be very forward to the people from the North. Every thing is growing nicely and in the city gardens look beautiful. In some they have mowed the grass, and Peach trees have all been in blossom, and the Shade trees have leaved [sic] out.
As I have used up my present material, I will close, hoping to have something more interesting to communicate at some future period.
Yours, .D. A. F.
1. Sanctum Sanctorum is a Latin phrase from the Bible meaning “holy of holies” and referred to the inner place of the Tabernacle of Ancient Israel and later the Temples in Jerusalem. It’s derivative meaning, used here, is any private place that is secure and free from infringement.
2. Irish slang for “go out” or “get out.”
3. Hylan Benton Lyon (1836-1907) graduated from West Point in 1856 and was a career military officer, fighting Indians in Florida and then in California and Washington Territory. When the Civil War started, he resigned and raised Company F of the 3rd Kentucky Infantry, which soon became part of the 1st Kentucky Artillery. Lyon equipped the unit, which initially was known as Lyon’s Battery (later Cobb’s Battery). In January 1862 Lyon was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 8th Kentucky Infantry and exercised command in the absence of the colonel. Lyon’s regiment was part of the garrison of Fort Donelson, Tennessee, and he became a prisoner of war when the fort surrendered to General Grant. He was exchanged in September and his regiment was reorganized as the 8th Kentucky Infantry, with Lyon as the colonel. The regiment fought during the Vicksburg Campaign, with Braxton Bragg, Joseph Wheeler, with James Longstreet at the Siege of Knoxville, and the Third Battle of Chattanooga. By 1864, Lyon commander cavalry as a brigadier general under Nathan B. Forrest. In December 1864, he led 800 Kentucky cavalrymen on a raid into Tennessee and western Kentucky, attempting to enforce Confederate draft laws and to draw Union troops away from General John Bell Hood’s Nashville campaign. His men burned seven county courthouses that were being used to house Union troops. With the end of the War, Lyon accompanied Tennessee Governor Isham G. Harris to Mexico, where he was a civil engineer for nearly a year before returning to his home in Eddyville, Kentucky. He resumed farming, opened a prosperous mercantile business, and served as state prison commissioner. He was primarily responsible for the Kentucky State Penitentiary being located in his hometown of Eddyville.
4. A hemp rope will be used to hang Magruder in October, 1865.
5. Edward M. Bartlett, from Durand, was on general court marshal duty from March to September 1865.
6. Theodore C. Spencer, from Eau Claire, was Post Inspector in Louisville from February to September 1865.