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Helena, Arkansas May 3, 1863
Sunday morning has come again finding me well and in a tolerably good humor though there are (it seems to me) a great many things to annoy me.
I can't be said to be homesick, but some way or other there is a kind of longing about me to see the 15th of July which is not far distant.
I have been anxiously expecting a letter from some one at home for two weeks but none have come to hand yet (so far as heard from).
This is a fine morning sun shines hot - everything seems still & lonesome.
The troops as I have before told you are mostly gone.
Only 5 or 6000 now here.
We have been sending out a scout every day for two weeks of about 200 men.
And on Friday last (May 1st) a portion of the 3rd Iowa Cavalry numbering about 150 men came in contact with the Rebels about 12 miles N.W. of here and got whipped like thunder, in fact the whole union force had like to have been gobbled up, before they knew what they were about.
Our Iowa boys were marching along perfectly unconcerned (as I suppose) when all of a sudden they were fired upon by the Rebs from an ambush.
Our boys returned the fire, but being through the brush had but little effect on the enemy, when our men got their pieces emptied - here come the Rebel Cavalry down a lane in the rear of them as hard as they could drive.
Our Iowa Friends now began to think all was up with them and broke every man for himself (as I am informed).
I asked one of them afterwards if they came back in a hurry - He replied that they didn't come slow.
We had 10 or 15 killed, a proportionate number wounded and from 20 to 50 prisoners taken.
The Rebs sustained but little loss. About 1 o'clock we got wind of the fracas, and all the Cavalry about Helena were ordered out on quick time.
On our way out we met several Iowa boys, some had lost their hats, some their horses, and a good many were badly scratched up, and had their heads tied up with handkerchiefs.
When we got there it was all over and nobody to be found, just as I expected.
I doubt very much if the Rebels had over 200 m en though our men report from 500 to 800 of them. Our Genls don't seem to know anything at all about fighting these bushwhackers.
I am of opinion that 200 men to go out and fight them Indian style and stay out in the country all the time, would do more execution than 5,000 Cavalry have done since I have been here or ever will do, the way we are managed.
Our Generals are looking for an attack on this place - have been for some time.
Helena is being fortified, another Fort is being built - heavy guns mounted on the hills (64) pounders and rifle pits dug - breastworks made (Clarksburg Style).
For my part I don't have any fears of being attacked here at all, only by a few bushwhackers now and then who ran our Picket in to get to chuckel over it afterwards.
However I would like to see General Price or Hindman make an avalanche on us some of these times.
I think we could interest them a short time.
Our Regiment is doing heavy duty now furnishing 60 Pickets a day 100 Troopers each alternate day, and 20 new Camp Guard daily out of a report of about 300 men for duty.
I am lucky enough to be exempt from Guard and Scout duty for the time being only when I see proper to go out. I wrote to you some time ago and told you to have my part of the land set off with yours and Eliza's if you have it divided soon.
If that letter has not reached you I would say for you to have it done in that way if you can.
Please let me hear from you and the folks at home soon, Yours Truly,
[George W. Powell]
At the time of his service at Helena, George was attached to Company M, 1st Indiana Cavalry.
The Battle of Helena took place on the 4th of July 1863, and the Confederates were defeated there on the same day that they capitulated at Vicksburg.
Transcribed by Pegeen Soare
Thomas and George were my great grand uncles.
File Created: 2007-Jan-19