1863: Jedediah Lake to Patience (Church) Thompson

This letter was written by Jedediah (“Jed”) Lake (1830-1914) who enlisted as a private in Co. C, 27th Iowa Infantry in August 1861. When the company was organized, Jed was elected 1st Lieutenant and later appointed Lt.-Colonel by the governor before the regiment was mustered into the service. In 1864 when Colonel Gilbert, commander of the 27th was promoted to Brig.-General, Lake was commissioned its Colonel. During the three years Lake served with the 27th, they participated in the taking of Little Rock, the Red River expedition, the Battle of Nashville, the capture of Mobile, and several other lesser engagements. Lake was never wounded.

Jed wrote the letter to his mother, Patience (Church) Thompson (1799-1876), who remarried Zenas Thompson (1799-1851) after her first husband, Jedediah Lake (1795-1834) died young. In the letter, Jed refers to his sister Lucretia Patience (“L. P.”) who was married to William Elisha Hunt (1833-1907) in 1855. The Hunts lived in Lapeer, Cortland county, New York. Jed’s mother, widowed for a second time, resided in Hunts Corners—also in Cortland county.


Headquarters 27th Regt. Iowa Vol. Infantry
Camp Reed, Jackson, Tennessee
March 6, 1863

Mrs. P. Thompson
Hunt’s Corners, New York
My dear mother,

I do not now recollect whether I have answered your last letter to me or not as I received one from L. P. at the same time and answered that, I may have forgotten to reply to yours.

You need not be alarmed about my continuing displeased at anything L. P. may say when she is a little excited; for nature did not give me a very sensitive skin. I am rather one of the pachydermata and don’t feel the thrusts that are made with a misunderstanding of the facts.

My letter to her and William was not one implicating them in the Copperhead movement but simply asking if they did sympathize and trying to show them the folly of so doing. It was in answer to a question by William if I did not think the war had better be settled now and compromise with the Rebs. Since then it has transpired that the Copperhead movement in the North—and especially in New York—was not as universal as it had been generally supposed to be, all of which I was glad to learn.

This movement of the Rebs and their sympathizers in the North had been anticipated and generally understood by some of our leading journals & men some six months before the last elections. Measures had been taken by some of the leading Union men to prevent its success. But the removal of near 600,000 loyal men and the unbelief of some that remained, and the false avowals of the Copperheads as to their real objects—and the tenacity with which these men stuck to party—enabled the Butternuts to succeed in a great measure. In Illinois & Indiana they showed their fangs and their tails too soon. They undeceived the masses both in and out of the army and now are comparatively harmless.

Our Congressmen have acted wisely in giving the Executive full control of affairs in order that he may make this a short but a terrible war. You who sit at home and read the newspaper accounts of what the armies in the field are doing have no idea as to the amount of devastation the army does in passing over a country. You have no idea of the few that are killed in battle in comparison to the number that die of diseases contracted in camp. The more terrible this war is made, the sooner it will end and the less life will be lost. As for me, I had much rather be shot in battle than to die as I have seen men die in camp after an illness of weeks & months.

Then if the President calls our another 600,000 men and makes this a war terrible to record in history, the rebellion [will] not be likely to be repeated during this or the succeeding generation. No one who has been in the army wishes to see a war in their own states. I have no desire to see another war for only those who know the frightful effects of this can have any idea of what it is to be at war.

My health is good and has been since I went into the service. I weigh now 182 lbs by which you will see that I have not fallen off much in size since I came west. I am in hopes that we will not have to summer in the South. It does very well to stay here in the winter but summer must be very dry and dusty.

Hoping that this will find you & all the friends enjoying exceedingly good health with prospects of long life, I remain your affectionate son, — Jed Lake


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