These letters were written by William H. Jacques (Jaqueys, Jaquays) who enlisted at the age of 22 in Co. E, 42nd OVI on 15 September 1861 for three years. He was appointed corporal on 30 April 1862 and mustered out with his company on 15 November 1864.
William H. Jaquays (1838-1908) was the son of Abraham Frank Jaquays (1811-1862) and Mary Louisa McKensie (1810-1878) of Olmstead, Cuyahoga county, Ohio.
Addressed to Mr. E. S. Jaques, Olmstead, Cuyahoga county, Ohio
In Rear of Vicksburg [Mississippi]
June 20, 1863
I now will try and write a few lines to let you and Mother know that I am well as usual and hope these few lines will find you enjoying the same good blessing. It has been very quiet here since I last wrote to you until this morning at daylight. The bombardment commenced and a heavy firing was kept up for six hours but it has ceased now. I haven’t heard the result of it yet but I think that the Rebs hold the place yet for I have heard several shots since I first sat here to write.
We are having the least duty to do here we have had since we came into the field. The 15th Ohio Battery is here. I have seen Thomas Kelley, Albert Potter, and all the Olmstead boys that are in the battery. Royal French said he saw Abraham at Memphis and he said that the Doctor told him that he would get him discharged but I have not heard from him or you since the first of May and there has been a great deal of changing hospitals and surgeons since that.
We got the sad news of Lorin Stearnes’s death the other day. He was killed the second time we charged the works here. He belonged to the 26th Iowa Infantry. I expect you hear some big news from here but I am getting tired of it for we haven’t had a day pass in a month but that a rebel ball has passed over our heads and sometimes in the night they send a big sixty-four pounder howling over us that would make those home guards hair stand for it wakes us up if we are not too sound asleep.
We enjoy it very well, have plenty to eat here. I spend some of my time in reading the testament and that gives me about as much easiness as anything. With these [few] lines, I enclose my love to all. Write soon. Direct as usual.
From your brother, — William
Camp near Black River Bridge
June 25, 1863
I once more will write a few lines to inform you that I am well and to tell you that you will find sixty dollars at Massey’s in Elyria and I wish you to [keep] about $30 of it on hand so if I get a chance to get home, I can have it. The rest you or Mother can use as you see fit and if I ever come home we can make it all right.
We are now encamped 12 miles from Vicksburg near the bridge. All is quiet here now. The report is here that we have got Port Hudson and 15 thousand prisoners. The fate of our success is not decided yet but we are most sure of good success in a short time for we have got most as good works as they have and full as good men to hold them. We heard that they tried to break out on the night of the 23rd but was repulsed and went back with a heavy loss. I hope before this letter reaches you we will be in town and all right.
If you can please send me some stamps for I am out and it is a poor place to buy them here. The weather is warm but we stand it first rate. We have ripe peaches, apples, plums, blackberries and green corn and new potatoes so you see we have plenty to eat and not much to do.
So with these few lines, excuse all mistakes and write soon for I have not heard from any of you since the first of May. I close. Respectfully yours from your ever true brother, — William
Direct to Co. E, 42nd OVI, near Vicksburg. Forward to regiment.
June 6th 1864
I now take the opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know where I am and how I am getting along. I am well as usual and hope these few lines may find you the same.
We are now camped at Morganzia, twenty miles below Red River in the worst place or the lonesomest camp we have been in in a long time. We left Baton Rouge two weeks ago today and the regiment have had some hard marching to do since that but I have not had my knapsack on except on inspection since the 27th of last November and I hope that I will not have to for the rest of my term. I do not have any guard duty to do now or any drill. All I have to do is to draw and divide rations once in three days and when the regiment moves, I am left in charge of the camp and garrison equipage so I get rid of marching.
We are expecting to leave here in a short time for some post down the river but I don’t know where for we are like so many mules—go where we are sent and no grumbling about it. Since we left Baton Rouge, we have been to Red River and up Atchafala Bayou to Simsport. The regiment marched back from there to this place about 40 miles by land and 50 by water. I was on the steamboat four days and nights while the regiment was coming down so I have had it pretty easy since we left Baton Rouge. I have not been on picket guard but twice since the Battle of Arkansas Post. Once was at Edward’s Depot, Mississippi. The other time was at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. So you see I have not had it very hard on guard duty.
We have had green peas, beans, and new potatoes here and green corn will come in a short time.
Oh, I almost forgot it. I wish you would send me a Cleveland paper as often as you can. It don’t make any difference to me what kind it is if it only comes from the North. As for politics, we know nothing about it here for we are tending to the war and letting the party strife drop for the present. And if we have a chance to vote in the fall, we will go for the best man to help put down the rebellion if he is Lincoln, or Horace Greeley, General U. S. Grant, or any other man. The Union is at stake and the gentlemen of Color must seen to not politics.
Mother, I voted for Stephen A. Douglas in ’60 but when the Democratic Party got that hard up that they nominated that traitor Vallandigham, I left the party and I would as soon have John Morgan for Governor as him. I must draw my letter to a close. Please send a paper. Good night. I remain as ever your true son, — William
Address to 15th Division, 13th [Army] Corps
Morganzia Bend, Louisiana
August 14th 1864
I now spend a few moments in writing you a few lines to let you know I am well as usual and hope this may find you enjoying the same good blessing.
We have been traveling some lately but we are at the same bend we were one month ago. I wrote a letter to Mother when we were at St. Charles, Arkansas, and since that, I received a letter from her with yours and Eugene’s likeness in it. You look as natural as ever but Eugene does not look a bit as he did when I left. I think I will be a perfect stranger in those parts if I ever live to get back there for I don’t hear from there once in a day’s age and I write nearly every week. But I guess if nothing happens, I shall be there in about two months and bring my papers with me. But it is hard telling what time we will be in Ohio for it is a long way to Ohio and the River is lined with Rebel guerrillas and torpedoes and we are liable to be shot or blown up at any time or place between here and Cairo. So you can imagine how us boys feel packed on the decks of a steamboat and be kept there in the hot sun for a week at a time and have a box of wormy bread, a side of wormy sow belly and a kettle of coffee. That is what we get when we take a pleasure trip here in this country. If there is any room left after the infantry is on board, there is a lot of mules to be put on to fill up the room below and then the old tub is pushed out, mules braying and soldiers howling, and a lot of officers in the cabin playing Seven Up. That is the way it goes on a steamboat.
Now, I have written all I have time to write and you must excuse all mistakes and write soon.
My best respects to all. From your brother, — William
Direct to Co. E, 42nd OVI, Memphis to follow the regiment
Morganzia Bend, Louisiana
August 30th 1864
I now take the opportunity to answer your kind and interesting letter of the 5th inst. It found me well but rather tired for we had been moving camp that day and I worked rather hard for a soldier but have got over that and snug in camp again. As for today’s work, I helped build a shade to eat under before the sun got hot but since that I have been laying on my bunk with my pants off enjoying the cool north breeze that came through my tent. But it is getting cooler now so I will try and write you a letter and let you know I have not forgotten you.
We have not much to do since we came back and but little to eat while doing it. I tell you, Enoch, we are living the hardest here we have since we left Vicksburg in ’63. It has got so here in this department that we are obliged to eat stinking meat or go without unless we are sharp enough to get outside of the lines and take fresh meat such as cattle, sheep, hogs, and chickens. But it is rather risky business running the pickets for there are squads of rebels laying in wait for a Yankee to get out of the lines so to give him a trip to Texas. And if we are caught by our own men and reported us running guard, we get a court martial and six months or a year to Dry Tortugas of Florida coast. But as the boys say, good meat just through the lines and a lazy soldier that will not run the guards, for it was but a few mornings ago when I was aroused from pleasant dreams just before day by a little sergeant in the company by saying, “Ho Bill, Steve Taylor has just shot a beef and wants some of us to help bring it in. It is only a little way outside the pickets. We can draw it up the ditch. The guard says it is all right if we get through before the relief is changed.” So up I get and five or six of us it makes no difference whether we all belong to one mess or not so the beef is in all safe and we went through the wet woods and got the beef. It [took] only a short time to dress it for we are expert hands at such business and we get it to the company and divide it up among the company mess—one quarter of beef for twelve of us.
About breakfast time, the captain came in to my mess and the first words was, “Well, boys, your magoty sowbelly has got to be fresh, has it?” And one of the boys told him we had been drawing beef from the half master (that is the name we give the citizens that have forage for soldiers) and I cut him a steak and told him to keep cool and that was all the trouble we had that morning and that is about how it goes with us here in this place all the time. We have not had a pound of good meat since we came back here unless we got it in that way. We [get] ¾ of a pound of hard bread and it is nearly ½ wormy and bugs. We get for a change sour soft bread once in a while and to tell you the trouble it is rather hard for to have to live on such rations. But we have one consolation. We are not vitrous and we will try and stand it for two months more if I am barefooted and no shoes to wear.
Oh, by the way we are all out of stamps and no way to get any so I will get this letter franked.
I suppose you expect to see what there is left of Co. E, 42nd OVI in October but we were that unfortunate enough to have a bull head of a captain when we came in to service to not keep the company roster straight and we will have to stay in service until the 30th instead of being mustered out on the 4th. But I will try and stand it for it is no use to fret for that don’t make any difference to the officers.
We have very pleasant weather here now for this country. We had a short rain storm here last Sunday evening. It only rained about a half hour and it rained too and you would have laughed to see us holding the tent to keep the wind from blowing [it] over. I only got my shirt and drawers wet for my other clothes were under the rubber. So that is the way we spend our life in the South. I now bring my letter to a close. Excuse all mistakes. My best respects to you and all the family.
From your ever true brother, — William
Write soon. Address to Co. E, 42nd OVI, Morganzia Bend, La.
P. S. I have sent a dress coat to Bird Humphrey in Elyria. You please go and get it and I will make it all right with you.
White River, Arkansas
September 21, 1864
Your kind and welcome letter of the 1st is at hand. I am glad to hear you are well. Your letter found me well and on a boat starting out on a foraging expedition. We were about fourteen miles from here up the river and got back last night at dark. We had good success for we got chickens enough for two or three meals. We have chickens for dinner today.
There is not much news to write. We are here at the mouth of the White river in Arkansas or what there is left of us. There has four companies gone to Camp Chase to be mustered out and we are left here with about three hundred men in the regiment. There is some talk of us going to New Orleans again but I don’t think we will for Co. E and F will go to Ohio the last of next month as I have written before. I shall not get home until the first of November if I get there then.
The boys are feeling well as a general thing over Sherman’s victory and if Grant is victorious at Richmond, that cursed Copperhead platform at Chicago and Little Mac sunk too low to ever rise. Mother, you say that we have got to have a new administration to end the war. Now I think as much of you and love you well as a son could love his mother, but as long as I have my senses, I will not support that cursed Chicago Convention and I, like all the other patriots soldiers, shall consider its members traitors to the Union and a curse to the Nation. If the Copperheads had left their tongue quiet, we would have had peace before this. But as long as there is a lot of Southern sympathizers in the North crying for peace, there is no peace for them. And if I was to have my way, I would banish everyone of them into the so called Confederacy.
Now you know my feelings and political opinion. I am for the Union as it was and the Constitution as it is. I have been in the army now most three years and am willing to go longer if needed rather than give the South an inch. We can whip them to it and will do it if those peace men in the North will keep their peace to themselves for a short time. We have lost too many good men to give up now. What would they say if after we had lost so many and sacrificed so much, to let the South win? I know you in the North see some harder times than you did in times of peace, but look at this country. Not five miles from where I now am writing, was three years ago a nice plantation and the family never knew want for anything. Look at it now and at the family, the house burnt to the ground, the women are still on the plantation living in nigger cabins, and instead of nice silk, they are obliged to wear coarse homemade cotton. The father of this dreadful family is an officer in the Confederate army. That is the situation of this country. So who wants and needs peace worst? The North or South? I will send in this the kind of a ticket we are intending to vote if we have a chance.
You say the Hundred Day men have got back and have I got sick enough of the war. Just tell them they were gone just long enough to get homesick if they had stayed three years and got a few of our Mississippi worms to eat. They would have liked the soldier’s life. We have for amusement here a fighting cock in each mess and fight cocks every morning and in the evening sit on the river bank and look at the life on the muddy water such as ships going to and from the gunboats of which there is three at this post. And now there is four transports here. The boys have lots of canoes, ships, yawls, and it is pleasant to see the river filled with boys in blue for there is no other kind here except niggers. That is what we find to pass away our time here in this God-forsaken land. So we have got use to privations and it is just as pleasant here as in New Orleans or Memphis for us.
Now mother, I have written you a good long letter for me and you must not think I have turned black since I have come south because I have left party and go for Union and Freedom now and forever. I shall have to tell you that you need not write again for we will be broke up so I will not get a letter if you write. I will write as often as usual until I return if I am spared that long. My leave to all. I remain as ever your devoted son, — William