1862: Jacob Fawcett to Friend Bill

Jacob Fawcett was the son of English emigrants Joshua Fawcett (1806-1894) and Margaret Nicholson (1815-1849) who made their home in Benton, Lafayette county, Wisconsin. It is claimed that Jacob was born on 9 April 1847 which—remarkably—suggests he was only 14 years old when he enlisted as a private in November 1861 to serve in Co. I, 16th Wisconsin Infantry. It is reported that he was wounded twice during the war but survived and was mustered out as a corporal with his regiment at Louisville KY in July 1865.

Another young soldier of the 16th Wisconsin—Pvt. George M. Porter

At the 44th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh, veterans of the 16th Wisconsin returned to the battlefield and celebrated the occasion by the dedication of a new monument commemorating their service. After delivering a speech, Fawcett was approached by a grizzled veteran who initiated a conversation with him saying, “I see you were with Prentiss’s division.” After answering in the affirmative, the man let him know that he was there too—though fighting for the other side. To this, Fawcett supposedly quipped, “Maybe you are the son of a gun who shot me,” which prompted him to respond, “Shouldn’t wonder, for I was trying hard enough to shoot some of you fellows at the time.” [History & Guide to the Monuments at Shiloh by Stacy W. Reaves]

Fawcett returned to Wisconsin after the war and  married Margaret J. Doxey (1844-1923) in 1868. He was admitted to the Illinois bar, practiced law, and served on the Galena, IL city council. He became County Judge of Jo Daviess Co., IL from 1886 to 1887 and then served in the district court in NE from 1896 to 1904. Sometime around 1901 Judge Fawcett along with Judge Breen purchased the Psyche gold mine in Eastern OR. From 1908 to 1917, Fawcett was a Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court, serving as Chief Justice in 1915. He died on April 19, 1928, in Lincoln, NE.


Camp in the field near Abbeville [Mississippi]
December 14th 1862

Dear friend Bill,

It is to fulfill a promise made to you before I left home that I now sit to write you a few lines, hoping they will find you in good health as it leaves me at present. I guess you [will] want a history of my journey back to the regiment. Well, we got to Dubuque that morning about 7 o’clock and had to stay all night and got  boat the next [day] & went to Keokuk. Got there Saturday and staid there till Tuesday when I got transportation and went to the regiment. Got here August 4th.

Then on the 17th of September marched out to Iuka to attack Old Price but when we got there, he had skedaddled so we started back and got back to camp the 21st. And then on October the 3rd & 4th, had a slight conversation with Old Van Dorn and Price but our conversation was too strong for them.

Then on the 2nd of November we started to march to Grand Junction. Then on the 28th, started to march again. Marched about fifteen miles and camped on a creek called Cold Water. As soon as it got light the next morning, we started again and marched about fifteen miles further when we came in sight of the enemy’s advanced guard. We sent a few shells among them which made them skedaddle nicely. We then camped for the night and next day sent a reconnoitering party to find out the extent of their fortifications. The party went out and sent a few shells into their breastworks so as soon as it got dark, they picked up their duds and started and the next day we moved into their fortifications [on the Tallahatchie] and camped.

Tell Sarah Ann for me that I have been expecting a letter for three months in answer to one I sent her a short time after I got back to the regiment but have never got an answer. Tell her I would rather she would be a little more punctual. Bill Marley sends his best respects to you and so do I. Give my respects to all the family.

From your friend, — Jacob Fawcett

P. S.  Write immediately. Direct to Jacob Fawcett, Co. I, 16th Regt. Wisconsin Volunteers, 6th Division, Grant’s Army, via Cairo.





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