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Civil War Letters from John B. Dowd


Thanks to Randy Wright for this and the MANY Parke Co. things he's contributed.  These letters are from the Rockville Republican Newspaper.

From the 85th Indiana, Wartrace, TN, Sept 25, 1863 -- 

Editor Republican: Again, the armies of General Rosecrans and the old dog Bragg have met and exchanged shots, but with what results not fully ascertained here.  Rumors are afloat of various kinds concerning the terrible fight which has taken place and it seems that we so near the ground of the contending armies should know something more as to the result, than friends at home.  But I presume such is not the case.  We are sure that a terrible battle has been fought and car loads of wounded are passing through here to Nashville.  A train has just now arrived with wounded officers and men.  The friends of the 85th Regt. are no doubt anxious to know whether or not we are hurt as we are part of the "Reserve Corps" which took so prominent a part in the fights of Sat. and Sun. We were not in the fight, having been left to guard the railroad from Guerilla attacks, which we have been daily expecting since we came here from Murfreesboro.  The country here is full of guerillas and bush-whackers who are likely at any moment to dash in upon us for the purpose of destroying the railroad and thereby cut off the transportation supplies for our army in the front.  But we feel able to resist them if they wish to fight us.  Col. Baird is in command of this post and we have the utmost confidence in him as a leader.  We have but five companies of our regiment here the other five being at different stations along the railroad.  We would much rather be at the front, for here we have a great deal more work to do and in more danger and with not half the chance for glory.  But if we were not here somebody else would be, so I guess it's all right after all.  We have just this minute learned that rebel General Forrest and crew were captured this afternoon by "never fail" Wilder of the 17th Indiana, 17 miles this side of Chattanooga: also that another notorious rebel named Miles was captured at or near Winchester.  If these reports be true which we doubt not in the least, we need not be alarmed here about an attack.  More anon.  J.B.D.

CAMP MUSSEY, TENN., Jan. 17. 1864

 Editor Republican : Perhaps a few lines from the “land of shades” will not be out of place.

This is indeed a gloomy day; the rain is falling slowly and steadily, which confines the soldier to his tent when not on duty, and it very naturally brings to one’s mind recollections of home and friends, and as I am the only representative from Parke in this regiment, and thinking our friends at home would like to hear a word from the “land of darkness” concerning the success of the colored troop, I accordingly write you. 

  There exists in many places, great hatred toward the colored soldier, and greater hatred toward the officers who have so willingly offered their services to the Government for the purpose of learning these men with black skins to become soldiers. But their hatred only exists because they are too cowardly to enlist themselves in defense of their country, and it maddens them to see the black manifest more courage and interest in the welfare of the nation than they do themselves. On the other hand, the friends of the nation are glad to hear from the army, or any portion of it, whether it be black or white. Our men are still rapidly learning the art of war, and I think by the time they have served three years, the will cause those negro haters to feel ashamed of themselves for having despised Union savers because they had black skins. There is now and then an army officer (rather a man wearing officer’s uniform) who looks with contempt upon the colored service and its officers; but such men are unworthy of the uniform they wear. Last week, I noticed in the Nashville Union an article, copied from the Indianapolis Journal, which stated that Lieut. Col. Morgan of the 14th U.S. Col. Inf., while at a dinner given at Nashville, met a Colonel there with whom he had been intimately acquainted, and on approaching the Colonel, offered him his hand, at which the man wearing the Colonel’s uniform turned upon his heel, at the same time remarking that he did not recognize these nigger officers. 

   There was contempt shown an officer who, perhaps was superior in every respect to the man who refused to take his hand in friendship. Lieut. Col. Morgan was formerly 1st Lieutenant in the 70th Indiana, and said to be a very bright and promising officer, and a perfect gentleman. Such conduct should be looked after and severely punished. Those very officers who do not recognize “nigger officers”, if called before a board of examiners for examination in tactics and army regulations, I venture to say could not answer properly questions in the “School of Soldier;” and yet they do not wish to recognize those who do know something about tactics and discipline, and could teach them the art of soldiering. In these regiments, men do not get positions because their fathers are leading politicians, or because they have influential friends at home, but because they merit them. In our regiment everything is done strictly according to regulations and tactics, and we intend to show to those negro despisers that we can make regulars of these troops. 

We have had considerable picket firing since we came to this place (29 miles west of Camp Rosecrans, where I last wrote you). Guerrillas harassed our picket line almost every night during our first two weeks here, but all is quite now. The great guerrilla leader, Col. Hawkins, was captured near hear recently and taken to Nashville. The railroad here is fast approaching completion, and it is ordered that it be finished in thirty days.

  I visited the 85th Ind. last month to spend Christmas with my many friends of that regiment, and arrived there on Christmas day, and such a shaking of hands I never experienced in all my life; it seemed almost like getting home. The 85th is still at Fosterville and getting along finely under the management of its gallant Colonel. I found my worthy friend, Surgeon Hobbs there, who so nobly conducts the medical department of the “chebang.”  Having enjoyed myself hugely with the friends a few days, I returned much pleased with my visit. The number of our regiment is changed to that of  “13th U. S. Col. Inf. ”

 More anon.                                                      J. B. DOWD.