1863: Jacob Rowland to Olive Rowland

This letter was written by 24 year-old Jacob Rowland (1837-1916), a corporal in Co. M, 2nd Ohio Heavy Artillery. Jacob enlisted on 4 August 1863 and mustered out with the company on 23 August 1865. For the last couple of months in the service, Jacob served as the company’s quartermaster sergeant.

Jacob was the son of Robert Rowland (1812-1891) and Alzina Winchester (1815-1875) of Perry, Lake county, Ohio. He wrote the letter to his sister, Olive M. Rowland (1841-1906). Also mentioned in the letter was his brother, Daniel Rowland (b. 1835), who served with Jacob in the same company. Jacob was married to Emma ____(1839-1935) prior to 1860 and had two children at the time he enlisted (possibly drafted).

Jacob wrote the letter  from Fort Willich near Mumfordville, Kentucky. Fort Willich was a hexagon earthen fort that mounted six guns. The fort was connected to Fort Terrill by a rifle trench. These two forts were part of a major defensive network in Mumfordville that had forts and batteries on both sides of the Green River.

Jacob’s letter with image of unidentified member of the 2nd Ohio Heavy Artillery

Addressed to Miss Olive M. Rowland, Perry, Lake Co., Ohio

Fort Willich
Mumfordville, Kentucky
October 10th 1863

Sister Olive,

I thought as I had a little time this morning I would commence a letter to you. I don’t recollect whether you asked me to write or not but if I pay my own postage, I suppose it will be alright. I am well and have been ever since I came back with the exception of sore eyes which was so bad that I was excused from all duty for about a week. But they are nearly well now.

We are quite pleasantly situated now in a healthy place—or it has the appearance of being so as we have good water and plenty of it. There is some of our company sick however; some with fever and some one disease and some another. There was one of our men died last night. I think he was from Austinburg. His name was [Albert] Clark. ¹ That little Baldwin boy ² has been in the hospital ever since he came into the service but is not very sick. He was up here at the fort a day or two ago but is not fit for duty.

We have been having plenty of guard & picket duty to do of late. The rebels have been tearing around some of late in quite large guerrilla bands. Three or four days ago they captured a little town with 3 or 400 of our soldiers about 20 miles below us and they are first one way and then another so it keeps our little force wide awake all of the time. I don’t mean that we don’t sleep at all because I slept all night last night. But I mean that we have to be on our guard. But today we have been reenforced by the 50th Ohio Regiment. They have just come in and are pitching their tents a little below us so they will probably take off some of the pickets and guard duty.

Last Thursday we had about 50 of our company on duty. I went on at five o’clock P. M.  We was stationed about a mile and a half from camp on the stone pike leading from Louisville to Bowling Green & so on. There was 4 of us—Tim and I and two others. We were right by Old Bragg & Buell’s camping ground. They left their mark very distinctly. There is not a rail nor scarcely a stick to be seen. It is all thrown open to the commons. There is not a stick to be got for wood in those parts but we was quite lucky on that day as an old fellow was going into town with a load of wood. His wagon gave out 100 rods from the picket post & he of course had to leave his wood and somehow or other, there was not but 3 or 4 large sticks left yesterday morning.

Our orders was very strict. No one could pass us without the countersign and anyone attempting to get into town through the lines we had to arrest and take them to headquarters. We was not troubled very much as we only had to arrest two and they was both together but we made them dismount and another fellow & myself had to march them about half a mile to headquarters where we delivered them up and we returned to our posts. Citizens cannot go into or out of town without a pass signed by the Provost Marshal and then they must get out of the lines before sundown. But I guess that is about all that I have to write about. We did not get off from picket until about noon yesterday and I expect that I will have to go on again tomorrow unless the infantry that has just come in relieves us & I am in hopes that they will. But if necessary, I am willing to go.

There is a good deal of growling about heavy artillery doing picket duty but it don’t do any good to grumble. One fellow refused to go & the consequences was that he went to the guard house for 3 or 4 days & now he can go on picket or anywhere else that he is ordered.

But it is near dinner time & I will close for the present. At roll call at noon I found that I was on the list again for picket duty to march as soon as we could get our dinner. But as there was others that was not on the list was able to go, & it made my eyes so much worse when I was on night before last, that I did not feel as though I had ought to go so soon again and I spoke to our orderly about it and he said that I need not go after I was all ready to go. Night before last the Captain came along and noticed my eyes and told me that I need not go—that he would send another man in my place but I would not let him do it and went myself. But tonight I thought that they might send someone else.

Since I have begun this letter I have learned that our orderly sergeant has got a furlough and starts for home tomorrow. I shall send this by him and he will probably mail it at Geneva. I think that you will get it quicker than you would if I sent it by mail. I have not heard a word from home since I left. I am getting most discouraged a looking for a letter. We get the mail but once a day and that is at noon. I thought that I would certainly get one today but I did not. But maybe I will tomorrow.

I have written so much of this large sheet over and have not written anything yet. If you answer this and there is anything that you want to know about, let me know and I will try and inform you.

Well, it is roll call for the night & I must leave for a few minutes. Now I will try and finish my letter.

We have a roll call 3 times a day—at 6 o’clock and at noon & at 8 o’clock & if anyone is absent without leave, he is put on extra duty. We drill 4 hours a day from 9 to eleven & from 3 till five. The rest of the time we generally have to ourselves, when we are not on guard, and when we are, we are on two hours and off 4 which time is our own.

We have some large guns and quite a number of them. This little town shows the marks of war very plain. The church is taken for the headquarters of the post. We are right across the river from the old fort where Col. Wilets had his big fight with Bragg and Cheatham. The fort is in ruins now. The country is all cut up with rifle pits around here. That you may know that there is rebel now & then in these parts, I will tell you a little incident that took place about nine miles from here yesterday. There was a couple of boys from a Michigan Battery that is stationed here took each of them a good horse, saddle & bridle & some bags and started out into the country to get some forage. They rode out about noon and stopped at a home to get some dinner and while they was eating, the woman came in & told them the rebels was a coming but before they could get to their horses, about 60 rebels was after them. They started to run & the rebs began firing and they had to surrender & they was paroled and just got back tonight minus horses, saddles, & bridles & everything but themselves. The commandant of the post here says that there has not been as many rebels in this state in six months as there is at the present time. But I must close.

— J. Rowland

Write soon & direct to Mumfordville, Ky. Co. M, 2nd Regt. O. H.A., Capt. [William H. H.] Crowell

Sunday morning, October 11th

I thought I would write a few lines more this morning. It is a very pleasant morning. It has the name of Sunday but if we did not keep track of the day of the week, one would not think of it being the Sabbath day as it comes and goes like all other days—only we do not have to drill today.

Last night there was some apprehension of an attack as there was considerable firing off on or beyond the pickets, I did not learn which. I think probably it was some of the pickets firing on their own account although that is strictly forbidden. I do not think there is as much danger of an attack as there was before we was reenforced. We have now about 700 men fit for duty at this place but 3 days ago, 100 drilled men could have taken the whole place as we only had about 280 men—mostly raw recruits—and it is a wonder that they did not pitch in as they came on every side of us. The most of them think that they will give us a try after awhile and when we get drilled a little better, we can give them a try. I think that [they] are a little suspicious of so many big guns.

Has Dan [Rowland] ³ been to see Dr. Weber? I think that he had better see him and have an examination & if he gets a certificate, he will most likely get his discharge by sending or going to Columbus. I don’t think that he can stand it in the army. There is so much exposure. He is just as liable to have to stand guard in a windy, stormy night as any wag, and then don’t think he is the right turn to enjoy himself in the army. And I think that if he tends to it while he is at home, that will get out. But I don’t want any of you to say a word aside from yourselves that I ever wrote a word about it. I have just given you my mind about it. I think that it will be harder to get a discharge after he comes back here than while he is at home.

I heard [Marcus] Hewitt say that his father was a going to try & get Mark’s discharge if the Captain would send his descriptive list. Tom says that if Dan gets a certificate from Weber, he thinks that he will not have any trouble about getting his discharge. He says that they have a copy of the descriptive lists at Columbus and that it is not necessary to have one sent from the Captain there.

Now I will try to finish. Just as I was at the bottom of the last page, the Lieutenant came along and ordered all to fall in and go to the fort and exchange our old muskets and old accoutrements for new Enfield rifles and new accoutrements, which I have done and now I will finish this scribbling. We have drawn some very nice guns today. They look as though they could shoot some, but I will close now. Write as soon as you get this and write all of the news.

— Jacob

¹ Albert Clark was 21 years old when he enlisted in Co. M, 2nd Ohio Heavy Artillery on 15 August 1863. He died on 9 October 1863 at Munfordville, Kentucky.

² Probably Albert W. Baldwin who was only 16 when he enlisted in Co. M, 2nd O. H. A.

³ Daniel Rowland was 28 years-old when he enlisted on 4 August 1863 in Co. M, 2nd Ohio Heavy Artillery. “Dan” was Jacob’s older brother.



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