This letter was written by David Leighton (1830-1902) who enlisted at the age of 33 on 1 January 1864 in Co. F, 23rd Iowa Volunteer Infantry. He later transferred to the 29th Iowa Infantry (July 23, 1865).
David’s obituary states that he was born in Switzerland county, Ind., April 12, 1830. His parents moved to Tazewell county, Ill., when he was a child. He grew to manhood there, and on January 27, 1859, he was married to Mary Ellen Mooberry (1842-1909). The same year he and his wife moved to Iowa, settling near Hawleyville, where he was living when he enlisted.
David served in several battles and was wounded at Spanish Fort, Ala., April 7, 1865, and was honorably discharged in August of the same year, returning to Hawleyville. Just after returning from the army he purchased a farm about four miles east of Hawleyville, in Taylor county, where he lived until about 1892, when, his health failing, he moved to Clarinda until his death.
David wrote the letter to Charles Grandison Hinman (1810-1868) of Hawleyville, Page county, Iowa.
Morganzia Bend, Louisiana
August 22nd 1864
As I have received a letter from A. M. Collier a short time since and as he requested me to let him have some money if I possibly could, I thought the only show at present was to ask you to draw my County Bounty if you could and pay the same to A. M. Collier. I believe the remainder of my bounty is $50, is it not?—payable on the 1st of July 1864 with interest at 6 percent? If you can do it and have it endorsed on my note, I will feel very much obliged, besides I will reward you for all your trouble.
[My] health is first rate considering the warm weather that we have to undergo. However, there is some sickness and some few deaths. There has been two deaths in Co. F lately—Sam Macomber ¹ and J. F. Meyerhoff ² died a few days ago. It is calculated that about 1/5 of the recruits that came to the 23rd [Iowa] last spring have already died and some few more of them cannot stand the summer out if they don’t be very careful. The trouble is that the recruits eat and drink too much water and don’t get enough of exercise while in camp. Orrin Irvin ³ has got very poor health although he still keeps with the company. But as a general thing, I never saw such a fat set of men in all my life and me considered in as the 23rd Iowa is. They are jolly and full of life but don’t take any Veteran in theirs. They say that they will cheerfully serve out their time and then give away for the Cops [Copperheads].
I understand that Jim Hawley says that he is gone up this time. I say good for that. Beecher McAlpin † says that he hope that all of his brothers will be drafted if they don’t enlist. I am glad myself that the draft is going to run in Iowa in order to get some of them damn Cops [Copperheads] for they are doing us no good up there. They do nothing but cry peace when there is no peace the way they want it.
I understand that Hawley & Curtis have left St. Joe and gone to Quincy [Illinois] just as I expected. They thought that Price was coming back to that State. Well, it is though here that Price’s army is disbanded and is going back to Missouri in small bands. If so, we will soon hear of his forces concentrating somewhere soon.
We still get good news from the eastern armies and Mobile. If our armies are successful for a few more months with the aid if the last call, this rebellion will be crushed by next Christmas. How does politics run in Page [county] this fall or summer? Has there been any converts since I left or do they still cling to the old secession stump? I guess, however, they are reeling about some now, or will by the 5th of next month. I got a letter from my wife a few days ago. She says that she is going back to Hawleyville to live at all hazards this fall but I don’t think she will. Who is living in my house now, if anybody? I suppose that times are pretty hard there on account of everything getting such high prices added to them. A man won’t be able to buy himself a shirt in a short time more if things goes on at this rate a short time longer. Well we can’t expect anything else or better in war times.
We started from here on the 13th for St. Charles on White River, Arkansas, and while there we were fortifying the place against the rebel which lay about 40 miles from there at Arkansas Post. The Rebs had calculated to fortify St. Charles themselves so as to cut off Steele’s communication but we got there just in time to be first and that was all. The Rebs need not try to go there now for if they do, they will get a warm reception for 3,000 in the fort that we built can whip 12,000 outside. The ditches around the fort is 12 feet wide and 8 feet deep, and there is a large hollow in the south and west side and the river being on the north side with gunboats lying on it on the east. There is a narrow strip of land on a level with the fort. The place is guarded by artillery. It is so calculated that if there was an attack made, they would have to come across this hollow which to the Rebs would be a perfect slaughter pen. We being relieved before we had quite finished the works by another brigade, we then returned to Morganzia again on the 11th of August but don’t think we will stay here long. God only knows where our destination will be in a few days but for all this, wherever we are found, let it be in the path of Confiscation, Subjugation, Annihilation, and Hell & Damnation for this is my doctrine to wipe from the face of the earth all rebels.
I hope that I may hear from you before long and tell me what kind of a condition my house is in. I suppose that it needs pairing pretty bad and my fences around the house—are they getting torn down?
Yours with respect, — David Leighton
Give my respects to all inquiring friends.
Co. F, 23rd Regt. Iowa Vol. Infantry
Army in the field
¹ Macomber, Samuel P. Age 27. Residence Hawleyville, nativity Ohio. Enlisted Jan. 4, 1864. Mustered Jan. 4, 1864. Died of disease Aug. 13, 1864, Morganza, La.
² Meyerhoff, John F. Age 21. Residence Adams County, nativity Indiana. Enlisted Feb. 27, 1864. Mustered Feb. 27, 1864. Died of disease July 29, 1864, St. Charles, Ark.
³ Irvin, Orrin. Age 18. Residence Page County, nativity Ohio. Enlisted Jan. 2, 1864. Mustered Jan. 2, 1864. Died of disease Aug. 29, 1864, Morganza, La.
† McAlpin, Lyman Beecher. Age 22. Residence Hawleyville, nativity Indiana. Enlisted Aug. 15, 1862, as Fourth Corporal. Mustered Aug. 29, 1862. Promoted Second Corporal Oct. 6, 1862; First Corporal June 30, 1863; Fifth Sergeant April 17, 1864; Fourth Sergeant Sept. 20, 1864; Second Sergeant July 1, 1865. Mustered out July 26, 1865, Harrisburg, Texas.