1864: William Mitchell to Family

A member of the 8th Iowa Cavalry

These seven letters were written by 18 year-old William Mitchell (1846-1864) who mustered into Co. G, 8th Iowa Cavalry in September 1863. William was promoted from private to 7th corporal in April 1864 and was killed in action on 29 July 1864 at Newnan, Georgia.

William was the eldest son of James Mitchell (1818-1872) and Ann Jane Eakin (1822-1869) of Hazel Green, Grant county, Wisconsin. James Mitchell came as an emigrant to the United States from Scotland in 1842. He married his wife, an emigrant from Ireland, in September 1844 in Jo Daviess county, Illinois.

[See also—1863: William Mitchell to James & Ann (Eakin) Mitchell]


Waverly Landing
[Thursday] January 28, 1864

Dear parents,

I received your kind and welcome letter today and was glad to hear from you and to hear that you were all well…[remainder of first page smudged pencil and too faint to read]…and I though that the best way was to write to you and let you know that I was well. We have had some exciting time in camp. One of the boys was killed and one wounded yesterday by some bushwhackers. They both belonged to the Battery. We have the First Kansas Battery with our regiment. Some of the boys crossed the river and had a little fight but nobody was hurt. There is two gunboats that runs the river and I have seen the Old Peosta—the ferry boat that used to run between Dubuque and D___. She looks huge now. She carries 14 guns. The old smoke stacks look familiar. She passed here Sunday [January 24]. ¹

The U.S.S. Peosta carried 3 30-pound parrot rifled cannon, 2 32-pounder cannon, 6 24-pounder howitzers, and 2 12-pounder smooth bore cannon.

Well father, this is my birthday. I am 18 years old today and have had a good dinner today. Tell Andrew that I will write him a letter as soon as I can. You spoke of some soldier being frozen. I have not had anyone frozen yet this winter. We had some few cold days about New Years but the weather has warmed up and is fine. I am writing out of doors in my shirtsleeves and am comfortable.

Please write soon and I will write you a letter as soon as I can. Direct the same as before. Give my love to Mother and all of the children. Tell them that I say they must be good for my sake. So goodbye. From your affectionate son, — William Mitchell

¹ We learn from the ship’s log that the USS Peosta was enroute from Paducah to Clifton. She left Paducah on 23 January 1864 and arrived at Clifton on the 26th. On the 27th, she started her return trip to Paducah.


Waverly Landing, Tennessee
[Thursday] February 18, 1864

Dear Sister,

I received your letter a short time ago and was glad to hear that you are all well and I hope you are all well. We are still at the river and I will stay here for awhile I think so.

The weather has got cold again. The folks has been a sowing oats and the worst of it is that I am on picket guard tonight. We have to stand every other night while we stay here at the river. Oh Molly, we have good times here but if I could  only see some of you Wisconsin girls again, I would be as happy as a king. How I wished that I had about six of you young Wisconsin ladies to take a ride in the skiff on the Tennessee river for we take some good old rides on the river and sometimes we get several rebs going down the river and see lots of gunboats. The Old Peosta went up the river the other day and several runs the river for every transport that goes up here has to have a gunboat with it for to keep the bushwhackers off, and us boys makes them hunt a hole for to hide themselves in. I think that they are nearly played out in this part of the world and then we will leave here when them cowards all run out.

Molly, when you write, tell if Sarah Ann has got married or if she is on the land of the living or not. Tell her that I think that she keeps very still for I have not heard from her since I left home. I got a letter from Evelyn the other day and I will answer it soon and I am a going to come in it myself. Tell Ann Negues that her brother [Joshua] is well and sends his best love to her and hopes that she is getting well.

Miss Mary Jane, I am a going to play a Yankee trick for you will have to pay the postage on this letter. I am out of stamps and cannot get any this side of Nashville so you must send me some or I will have to come to Hazel Green for some and that would be a joke, would it not? I have not baked enough of biscuits for Uncle Sam yet and that you know. Oh Mary, how I would like to see you. Why do you not send me your likeness? I think that I have sent for it often enough. I will send you mine again if you will send me yours.

I got a Grant County Herald the last mail. Give my love to all of the young folks and especially to my dear little Elvira. Bill Moralee has left the hospital. He is well as anybody would expect. If you write to John Crotty, ¹ tell him that I wrote him a letter and give him my best respects and tell him to write to me. Give my love to Sarah Ann and Mrs. Straw. I have not heard anything from Uncle Andrew or James and I have wrote to them both. Mary, when you write, give me some news and tell if anybody has got married or anything that has occurred since I left. I think that Sarah Ann got  married or lovesick and tell me whether Jacob Fawcett ² has got home or not. So goodbye.

From your brother, — William Mitchell

¹ John Crotty (1845-1923) came with his parents, Thomas and Nellie Crotty, from Ireland in 1858. He married Mary Agnes Gill (1845-1891) in 1867 in Hazel Green, Wisconsin.

² Jacob T. Fawcett (1847-1928) was the son of Joshua and Margaret (Nicholson) Fawcett. Her served in Co. I, 16th Wisconsin Infantry. He was wounded twice during the war.


Waverly Landing
[Sunday] February 28, 1864

Dear Brother,

It is with pleasure that I try to write you a few lines hoping they will find you all well. I am glad to see that you are improving so well in writing and trying to earn the five dollars but you have not wrote me the letter yet. But I will give you one dollar for what you have done. That valentine that you sent caused more fun than a little, There was some laughing when the boys saw it. Johnny, I have a good time here on the Tennessee river. There was a gunboat went up the river today with a transport.

John, I wish that you was down here for awhile to see the world. You would see things that would open your eyes. The farmers are all busy plowing and making gardens.

Johnny, I am glad to hear that you are a going to school and that you are a learning so well and you like to go to school. You must learn all you can and be a good boy and if ever you should be a soldier, you will be more than a private. I would have had a non-commissioned office if I was not so young. We have a lot of good boys in our company. They all seem to me like brothers. John, if it was not to see you all, I would not leave the army. We have plenty to do and no hard work to do and we are in a healthy place.

Tell me how them twin calves is getting along, and how Kate looks, and if she is wild or not. Tell me how many calves you have and if you ever yoked your team up or not. Tell Bud that I will send him a little black girl to play with if he wants one. There is lots of them here. Tell me if he is sparking Miss Straw. Tell him to get me a girl for a wife when I come home. I think I will be home about harvest and then we will have some good times. I would like to try my swordsmanship on some of them copperheads. If I would bring right cut on one of them, I would not make much fuss about it.

You must give my love to all the girls and to Henry Straw. John, take good care of Kate. I will write a letter to Maggie and Jenney soon. You must answer this as soon as you can. I will send you one dollars and you must try to write me a good letter. I send my love to you all. So goodbye from your brother. — William Mitchell

I remain your soldier.

To John A. Mitchell

Write soon. Direct to Nashville.


Waverly Landing
March 2, 1864

Today finds me in my tent, well and hearty. The weather has been stormy. March has come in like a lion and I hope that it will go out like a lamb. It snowed all day yesterday and froze last night but today the sun shines. There is about one inch of snow on the ground.

Mary, I had a present sent to me from Iowa. It was a nice white pocket handkerchief. It was from Lemuel Richard’s mother. You and mother must send something. Send me a pair of socks. You can send two pounds by mail to a soldier. Mary, I am getting to be a good cook. We draw flour and we have to cook us our bread and everything that we eat and do our own washing. There is some Tennessee troops here. There is several of them has been in the rebel army and has deserted from the rebel army and has enlisted in the Union army. I guess that there is several soldiers home on furlough. All of the old Veterans that has re-enlisted and got home.

I would like to know whether the 10th [Wisconsin] is home or not. I would like to see some of the boys that is in that regiment. You will know whether Phillip Nugent ¹ has got home or not. Father said in one of his letters that he thought he was at home. Tell me whether on furlough or discharged. And if you see him, give him my best respects and tell him that I would like to see him. And if Jacob Fawcett is home, tell him the same but tell him to write to me.

Mary, I have a good time. I wrote to John and told him how a soldier gets along. I am glad to see that he is improving so well. He wrote some few lines on the back of the valentine. I tell you what, that picture caused some fun. Father said that you had a good visit and enjoy yourself well. I wrote to cousin George some time ago but have not heard from him yet nor from Uncle Andy. I often dream of home and seem to have some of them good old times but I wake up and find myself in my bunk or lying out in the open air. If I would lay down on the floor, it would not hurt me any now. A soldier’s life is the life for me. Just think, a good horse to ride and a scouting through the country. We live like kings. I always thought I would like it and I do—-a glittering sword by my side, a good revolver in my belt, and a good Union rifle hung over my shoulder, and fear nothing but God only. And we have as good a leader as ever drawed a sword, He will lead the little band to the very jaws of death and they would never falter. We have fought bushwhackers and taken them or drove them every time. They have tried our pickets but always were drove off as all the boys that for no [   ] so far away from home.

Give my love to all of the Union folks. Write soon and send me your picture. Give my love to Eve Pease and Sarah Ann [Straw]. I send my love to all of the family. So goodbye. From your affectionate brother, — William Mitchell

Direct to Nashville.

To Mary Jane Mitchell, Hazle Green, Grant county, Wisconsin

¹ Phillip Nugent (b. 1842 in Ireland) was the son of John and Mary Ann Nugent. Phillip served in Co. B, 23rd Wisconsin Infantry. 


Nashville, Tennessee
[Friday] March 18, 1864

Dear Parents,

I received the locket and box last night. I was glad to hear from you and to know that you was all well. I hope that these few lines will find you all well as they leave me at present.

We have left the Tennessee river and gone to Nashville. We are now on the Cumberland river but it is hard to tell how long we may stay here. We left the river last Saturday [March 12th] and we got in camp here last night [March 17th]. We have been out fighting bushwhackers all last winter. We have taken about 800 of them and now I guess that we will go to the front and fight with the rebel soldiers. I would rather be there than where we was. As for the artillery. I have not anything more to do with [it]. We have left the First Kansas Battery a long way behind in the wilds of Tennessee.

There is some talk of raising soldier’s pay to $18 per month. I think that it would be a good idea for we earn it. I say let the men that stays at home pay for the work that we do. I expect that it will go hard with the copperheads—this thing of paying us more wages. The terms is privates $18, corporals $20, sergeants $30.

There is one of our sergeants going home on a furlough. He is from Wisconsin and he says that he will give you a call. He is a Scotch Dutch man. His name is [William] Wallace. He will start as soon as he gets his pay. We will be paid off here, I think. We all need some money. I know that much.

I am very glad that I have got Mother’s and Mary’s likenesses. I think that is very good. Mother looks well and so does Mary Jane. Mother thinks that I am getting black but the man that took it does not know how to do his work. I got the pen and it writes well. I am anxious for to get that present that Mary is going to send my bed fellow and me. He is nobody but he is a good boy.

I seen George Pease today. He is well and hearty. We have lost but one man in our company by death. The regiment has been remarkably healthy. It is the largest one that is in Nashville and there is a great many. Direct to Nashville. I will write to Mary now. I got a letter from John Estey, No more at present. From your affectionate son, — William Mitchell


Nashville, Tennessee
March 24, 1864

Dear Parents,

I received your welcome letter last night and was glad to hear that you were all well and enjoying good health. I am still well and hearty. I think that we will leave here soon. We are under marching orders but where we will go to, I cannot tell.

The weather is fine and the roads is dry so I think that we will have nice time to march. We have got two months pay. There is some talk of us getting the rest before we leave but I do not know how it will be. I will try to send you some money in this letter and send you some more when we get the rest of our pay. I think that I will send you a box of clothes and if I do, I will send it to Galena and I will write to you. The money I will send in a letter for I think that it is as safe a way as any and the quickest way.

I believe William Moralee ¹ has gone to the hospital and there I think that he will be discharged. I met one of the men that belonged to the 10th Wisconsin. He said that Mr. Noland is well and hearty but he said that he is very grey-headed. The 22nd Wisconsin is in Nashville. I do not know anyone in that regiment. I would like to know what regiment that Archibald Atkinson has enlisted in—whether cavalry or infantry.

There is a great deal of cavalry here at Nashville now. I believe that there will be a great raid made somewhere. I hope so. There is no news around here now. I wrote to Mary the other day. I cannot think of any news. I will enclose $20 in this letter. From your affectionate son, — William Mitchell

Dear Mother—-I am well and in [good] spirits and in health. I am a long way from home but I have not forgotten what I learned there and I hope that I never will. I hope that we will soon meet to part no more. I hope that if we don’t meet on earth, that we will in heaven where there is no more parting with those we love. Your affectionate son, — William Mitchell

¹ William H. Moralee enlisted in the 8th Iowa Cavalry in July 1863. He died of disease on 13 August 1864 in a hospital at Keokuk, Iowa. He was from Hazel Green, Wisconsin.


Nashville, Tennessee
March 30, 1864

Dear Father,

I will endeavor to write you a few lines hoping they will find you well as they leave me at present.

We are a going to leave here tomorrow morning. I think that we will start for Chattanooga so I thought that I would write you a few lines to tell you where we were and you need not be uneasy if you do not hear from me for a few weeks for we are a going on a long march and I will not be able to write until we get through.

I have got some clothes here that I wished that you had but there is no chance for you to get them for they do not like to express anything for a soldier. I have not heard from you for quite awhile. When you write, let me know if there has been any man from my company there or not. There was one of our sergeants went up there and he said that he would give you a call and I want to know if he did or not. There was two of the Fifth Iowa Cavalry in camp tonight. They are in the same company [Co. E] with Andrew Guler. He is a lieutenant. If we do not leave here tomorrow, I will try to go and see him. ¹ William Moralee has gone to the hospital and I think he will be discharged.

March 31st—Father, we have not left here yet but we will go tomorrow. I got your letter today. I was glad to hear from you and to know that you are all well. You spoke about getting some pictures taken but I cannot. I sent you $20 March 24th. I have a pair of pants that I would like to send you. I will try to send you some if I can by some of the boys that will be a coming home. It is hard to send anything from Nashville.

I got the paper today with the letter. There is no use in sending a Herald anymore. Always send the Witness for there is a boy that gets the Herald every week. I am glad to hear that Kate is in much good heart as you are.

I believe that we will go away from here tomorrow but where to, I do not know. I sent a letter to Johnny and sent one dollar in it. I sent it in your care. If you got it, let me know. Also I wrote to Maggie and Lenny. Tell Jacob Fawcett to write to me when he gets settled down and give me his address. I got a letter from John Crotty this week. He was well.

I seen George Pease ² today. He is well and hearty and looks well. You must let me know soon whether you get that money or not. I wrote the letter the 24th of March so you can soon tell whether it will go or not. Direct to Nashville to follow the regiment. So goodbye. Give my love to all of the family.

From your affectionate son, — William Mitchell

¹ 1st Lt. Andrew Guler of Co. E, 5th Iowa Cavalry, was killed while on McCook’s Raid on 30 July 1864.

² George T. Pease served in Co. F, 12th Wisconsin Infantry. 


Anderson’s Station
[Thursday] April 7, 1864

Dear Sister,

I received your letter this morning. I was glad to hear from you and all of the folks. I am sorry to hear that the baby is sick. I hope that he is well again.

We are nearly to our journey’s end. We are within sixty miles of Chattanooga. Well Mary, I have seen some sights since I left Nashville. The last time I write to you [was] when I was at Murfreesboro and told you about being on the battlefield of Stone River. There was shot and shell lying all over and graves, dead horses, broken cannons—the field was no pleasant sight. [There was] but nothing like it—was right after the fight.

I have crossed the Cumberland Mountains. We crossed them yesterday and of all the rocks I ever seen, it was on the mountains. We had a hard day’s march. We got up at 3 o’clock in the morning. The reveille sounded at three o’clock in the morning and “forward” before daylight and I was in the saddle until twelve o’clock last night. Oh but did I not relish a nap on the ground and open air. The wagons did not come up so we did not pitch any tents but the night was fine. We had a few drops of rain but we are a going to whip the rebs out this summer. I do not think that I will lay out another year in this war for I believe that the rebs is nearly played out.

You spoke about being a soldier and running under the bed to hide when the rebs came but I think that you would find it rather [hard] to crawl under my bed for it is very low. I think that you are a very brave crowd that was at Ste___ when two drunk men scared you but you girls are sometimes glad to see the boy John coming. When you see him, tell him to write. I wrote to him last. William Moralee is at Nashville and I suppose that you will see him before I will for he will be discharged. I hope that the 16th will have a good time of it while they are at home. But never mind the wait, we will all come home together soon.

You may tell Maggie that she need not be afraid of my [being] drafted and if she is, she will have a good time. If I was at home, I would not care if I was drafted a dozen times for a soldier’s life [is] the life for me.

I will give you the names of the places we camped. We will now be in Alabama. We left Nashville the first of April. We camped at Lebanon [?] Station. We marched from there to Murfreesboro April 3rd, at Belle Buckle 4th, Normandy 5th, crossed the Wasatch river [   ] Goroson and Duck rivers, 6 & 7th Anderson’s. ¹

Write soon. We will march in a few moments. So goodbye from your brother, — William Mitchell

¹ From this description of the route we know that the 8th Iowa Cavalry followed the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s