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Colonel John A. Duckworth Papers


Courtesy of:
State Historical Society of Iowa
The Historical Division of the Department of Cultural Affairs
600 E. Locust
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0290
(515) 281-6412

Cover Letter:


Keosauqua, Iowa Jany the 30th 1917.

E.R. Harlan
Des Moines.

My Dear Sir; I enclose you a letter from my Brother John A. Duckworth written from Corinth shortly after the Battle of Corinth in 1862. Capt John A Duckworth was in command of Company "G" 2nd Iowa Infty at the time, and as there is quite a lot of facts which have never been brought out in regard to the battle I will ask you to place this letter on file in your department for the reason it was written by a man who was in the battle and who took quite a prominent part in the same along with the 2nd Iowa infantry, and was on the ground for several months after the battle.

This letter might be quite a help to some later Historian of events at that time.

Very respectifuly.
W.A. Duckworth.


Corinth, Miss
Quarters Co "G" 2nd Iowa Infantry

Dr. Wm. [N.] Rosser
Troy Iowa

My Dear Old Friend:

Well, Well, this is a most beautiful day indeed. It is warm for winter, and the ground is dry. It is time the sun has receded at the approach of old Boreas, In the morning he slyly creeps up at the south eastern corner, and slips round close to the southern horizon. Then gropes his way down to his hazy bed in the far South west, yet his rays shed a grateful warmth, Because this is [time], and because of curiosity let us take a stroll today, You follow and I will lead. I will take you around Corinth. I hardly know where we shall start. We will consider our eyes closed, and go to the Rail Road Crossing for a starting point.

Well here we are: The Memphis & Charleston R__ runs nearly E. & W. at this place, the other, the Ohio and Mobile, cuts it at an angle of about 70 (degrees) And the figure made reminds me somewhat of that used to demonstrate Euclids [Rons Asinonum] these four angles then are the four fields over which we will ramble, and we will commence with the North Western angle__we start up the O. & M. R. go a short distance where we come to the wagon road, it is no use to go farther northward for in that direction we would see nothing but fallen timber; and mud and water. We turn due westward, pass the little creek which runs from the North to South through Corinth, then the water tank, there the little frame dwelling which sheltered our poor wounded boys on the day of the battle until ambulances could be sent. Many of them died here, and just above the house are their graves. Now we are to the M. & C. R.R. the ground rises a little._What have we here exposed by the R.R. cut it is a bed of fine blue marl. It is taken out in large angular pieces is easily cut with a knife. The soldiers are constantly at work quarrying it and if you will go to their tents you will find many little articles made of it. Such as pipes, candlesticks, and the like. I even saw a representation of Ft. Williams carved upon a large block of it. Above this bed is a bed of the celebrated "Orange Sand" which is seen almost everywhere in this Country. Corinth stands upon a bed of Marl. Marine shells are abundant. I have picked up oyster shells that weighed not less than 48 ounces. But I see you looking up the bridge to our Right. We will go up Here are the Camps of the 22nd Ohio, and the 48th Ill. The Soldiers like most men on a bright morning are at work. They are polishing their guns,--blackening their belts--and cart boxes and brightening the brass mountings. They gaze at you because you are a citizen. Some of them perhaps salute my Shoulder Straps, but none of them speak to us. They see strange men too often to be moved at the sight,-Were we the representatives of Venus it would be different. Here is something else. We have run against the stockade which curtains the rear of Fort Robinette. The name is familiar to you. We will pass round upon its northern face. Lets seat ourselves upon these two huge oak stumps. You upon the one nearest the ditch. Against that stump Gen. Rogers of the 21st Texas was leaning when his rebellious heart ceased to beat, and in that ditch and all round us was strewn the dead bodies of his traitorous followers. It was against this point he led his "forlorn hope" three times did he bring up his men through the tangled Abatis to our right, and left, and back of us, But these very guns which now peep so innocently at us through the embrasures vomited such streams of Iron hail upon them as melted them away like leaves before the gale. Then right up that hill side where now stand the camps through which we have just past, came the 11th Mo. and 27th Ohio & like a tornado, and see behind you there is scarcely a twig but bears the mark of their "leaden rain". Here is a road it leads out to the "White House" you can see its roof towards the Northwest that gives name to the field where Hackleman, Baker and Oglesby fell. Just a little to the right you see a high Knob. Upon that the Rebels tried to plant a Battery in the night but our sharpshooters took it from them.-- But, we must leave this angle the morning is passing. This is historic ground.

We will go to the Southwest angle and for a short distance we will retrace our steps, cross the R.R. at the Marl bed, ascend the Bridge and upon its summit we find Fort Williams. Here and there we find cannon ball, some of the 128 pounders lying upon the ground through the embrasures whose walls are [bracked] with gabions the huge guns are grinning at us. We turn Southward pass through the Camp of the 1st Regulars. They are out for inspection their clothes are clean, boots-blacked, white gloves on and every piece of brass about their guns is accouterments shining like gold. Our boys call this "putting on stile". To the left of us are a number of cannon carriages and ammunition boxes, - they are damaged or worn out. To our right is a magazine. A huge chamber under ground we cannot go in, for a guard stands at the door. Further on the ridge terminates, and on the side hill are the stables for the Artillery horses. They are made by digging a "bench," and putting upon it a shed of canvas. These horses which now so lazily munch at their forage have seen battles, and were it not that they are dumb they could tell of being in some tight places. The timber upon the summit of the ridge has all been cut off, but on the hill sides, and low ground it is standing. Oak, Ash, Elm, and Sweet Gum (Liquid Amber) are the principal kinds. Tea, made by steeping the inside bark of the Sweet-gum is said to be a sure cure for diarrhea. It is the indians remedy, and recommended by [Solon] Robinson. We will now cross this little ravine and immediately we come into a camp of a detachment of the 1st Regulars They man the guns in Ft. Phillips. The first tent of that of their Laundress - long lines of clothes are flapping in the wind, we peep in, She is ugly to a degree which is horrible. Now we are to the officers tents. The ground in front is swept clean. See in the road lay half dozen empty bottles. A hot whiskey punch laid them gently into the lap of [Morpheus] last night. Next are the kitchens. There the Company quarters. There lay the brush brooms. They have just finished policeing and have piled them there in their proper places, There is system exhibited here. Now we are to Ft. Phillips: It takes its name from the Capt. of Co. "A" of 1st U.S. Inft. Here are four 30lb Parrots and one 20lb brass piece taken from Price at the battle here. There is the Magazine. There piles of grape and balls. We cant get in We take a S.E. course. Pass through the Camp of the 66th Ind. We come to a "Covered Way" and enter. This leads us S.W. 3 or 4 roads to another "Covered Way" - then we turn to the left S.E. This second "Covered way" leads from Ft. Phillips to Ft. "College Hill" Troops and wagons may pass here with perfect safety. The embankment follows the contour of the ground. The South line runs S.S.E. where there is a Redan then E then S. about 100 yds. where there is another Redan then back on a line parallel making a lane 20 ft. wide. The main direction from here is S. E. at the Southeast angle there are two redans, each have 2 24 lb siege guns. At the N. E. Angle there are no guns. Between these two angles is a ravine and across it a Stockade. We have been standing where we entered. We are at the West end of the fort. Standing in the College yard, in front of us is the College building. - It is constructed of brick. We will go to its front.

It is three stories high._ the design is Somewhat tasteful, but the workmanship poor. It has a dilapidated appearance. Here is all that remains of the front yard. A few pines, Cedars, arbor vitae bushes still stand.-Here and there a native oak with its top chopped off. Many a crimson cheeked maiden of this [chirakie] land has traversed these walks or cradled beneath the shades of the trees. Their merry laugh has sounded here, where now is heard the rattling of wagons, and the excerations of a rough soldiery. Merry healthful hearts have beat inside those walls, and flushing eyes lit up the curtained chambers. Now only the sighs & groans of the sick and dying are heard, But we must hurry on. Here is the camp of the 7th Iowa. We are among the heroes of Belmont. They are hearty looking fellows. We look over the north line of entrenchments to our left, and there is the camp of the 32 Ill Col Sweenys Regt. They belong to our Brigade and are a fighting Regt. We go on to the Eastern part of the Fort. there we find to our left, Gen Sweeny's Head qrs. To our right the Camp of the 2nd Iowa. [21] paces to the South. The first are the quarters of the Staff and field then further up the hill are those of the line officers. The tents are of the Sibly pattern without walls. but that deficiency is made up by constructing a wall of slabs. and daubing the cracks with mud. The center pole is set upon an iron tripod, and under this tripod is the stove. 5 bunks are in a tent. They look comfortable and are so. We go out of Ft "College Hill" at its N. E. Corner and take a N.E. Course A few steps takes us into the bottom.- Here are your plank roads leading across the bottom. To our right among the fallen timber we see a few smoking coal pots and around them a few Contrabands. To our left a camp of Negroes, we cross the little creek, and to our right are not less than 2 thousand army wagons crowded upon the least possible space. To our left is a lot filled with broken down wagons, and different vehicles taken from the enemy. We turn to the right, go east-ward a short distance we enter a wide street running parallel to the O. & M. RR - on our right is a building 300 [feet] long containing Q M Stores. To the left is a wagon shop, carpenter shop, harness maker shop, and above this are piles of hubs, spokes, [hounds], axles, tongues, wheels, ["Chainas"], lumber, & c. further on is the Smith Shop - 130 ft long with 10 forges and around this are cases of irons, single trees, double trees, chains, old wagons, horse shoes & c. Still further are at least 200 broken down ambulances. [How] U.S has been buried in these. But let us pass in a few rods further northwards and we are amongst the "neigers" - They are quartered in old tents, huts, hovels, and sheds and the animals are of all sizes, sexes, ages and colors. They dress in all manner of stiles, and it is laughable to see a negro boy 3 ft.-high dressed in the pants and shirt jacket of a 6 foot soldier. How proud it makes the little chalk eyed fellows to notice them. These poor children if we looked only at the present, would be much better off with their old masters but is there not something in store for them in the great future? On our left is the Engine House,-all round are the remnants of engines and cars, which were destroyed to prevent them from falling into the hands of the "Northern Hordes."

We have now visited the N.W. and the S.W. angles. The N.E. and the S.E. yet remain. Let us commence with the S.E. There are a series of buildings extending along both Rail Roads. The porches of which are united at the junction of the two roads and it is in the angle between these, that the celebrated Tishomingo Hotel Stands, a long brick building which has nothing about it that is prepossessing. What it had in palmiest days, while in the hands of the Confederates I cannot say. Perhaps the landlady was a high toned Southerner who followed the charming practice of chewing tobacco or "dipping." And thus drew round her swarms of kindred spirits, or not. I do not know. Striking southward we pass the building which contains the Commissary Stores of the Post. Next the Post wagon-yard, next the slaughter yard, which your olfactories protest against visiting. However your eyes may long to gaze upon the gigantic pyramids of bones and skulls. Let us go east-ward. A few rods brings us to the Camp of the 9th Ill. Whose Colonel is a teutonic gentleman. His name is Augustus Mersey and he has been urging always that "der 9th Regiment (give the "g" the hard sound) is ter best Regiment vat ish". Here are more entrenchments. They extend N.E. to the M.&C. R.R. We will follow along in the outside of the ditch - you see to our right - a large open plain. Upon that most of the Rebel army of the west was drilled. We see several fine dwellings in that direction. I am not able to tell you anything of the character of the inmates. In the the midst of the plain is a Redoubt. It is an out post to be occupied by field artillery in case of an attack. We are now at the M.&C. R.R. and will go back west and through the camp of the 7th Ill.-"Cooks [Crampers]" was the name we gave them in the [Trenton] march. We pass a few dwellings the road bridge across the R.R. a negro hut, a sutler store, a bakery, and are back at the Tishomingo Hotel. Let us walk to that Sutler Store at the end of the ware-room take a cigar, seat our selves on the porch of the Tishomingo and rest a while.

We will go eastward along the first street which runs parallel with the M.& C. R.R. On the open space to our left are something like one hundred cotton bales, and supposing each one to weigh five hundred pounds and each pound to be worth fifty cents, then one bale would bring two hundred and fifty dollars, and the one hundred bales at the same rate would bring the enormous sum of 25 thousand dollars. I need not tell you the "King" still is entitled to some consideration. On the right is the "Corinth House", a modest two story frame. Now we are [full] [with] the street And empty houses, Sutler Stores, Picture galleries, &c are plenty. We are in the midst of the village of Corinth. We have crossed a little hollow. See only dwellings on each side of the street. Here ascended the slope and stand upon the crest of the ridge in front of an unfinished Church. The design presents some architectural beauty and taste,- here we will turn North and a hundred steps takes us among some neat little dwellings. We enter a vacant lot. We will Stop. We're upon this very spot of ground the 2nd Iowa Battery took position when the 2nd Division was forced to fall back. No one realized that it was present until it was sending forth its volleys of fire & hail. You see that paling fence-just behind that our tattered colors were planted,-and with burning hearts fiery eyes, and defiant yells we rallied round them. And when the word was given charged and broke the enemies line and sent it scattered to the woods.- far towards the N.W.- just to your left see that - hole. A shell struck there within ten feet of your Companions, but fortunately it did not burst. Here Gen Rosecrans charged furiously among stragglers and with threats to Officers and kind words to soldiers, rallied broken Regts and Capt Lovell Chief of Davis Staff like a war-goat, flew as upon the winds wings from post to post delivering orders and encouraging the men. His head was bare, his face flushed and his keen black eyes sparkled the fire of animation. The very sight of him made men brave. We will go toward the North West. - cross this Ravine, it is not deep here Regt after Regt of the support lay. We ascend to the crest of the ridge, it runs from N.E. to S.W. Here our Brigade was formed at 2 o clock in the morning of the 4th - ate our scanty breakfast and when light came saw upon our right, - Ft. Powel defended by 1st Mo. Artillery,* Here we received the Rebels charge was flanked and fell back - rallied again charged this far drove the enemy, Stood and watched them reform. Recd their second charge, repulsed them and strewed the ground with their dead. Direct in our front in the lowest ground, in the tangled abatis, is the spot where the Rebel Col Johnson fell. - All round him their dead lay in heaps. There is a line of Earthworks here now, then there were none.____ ____ ____

Let us pass on. We will follow the entrenchments-pass through the camp of the 81st Ohio and 50th Ill. Here to our right is a new fort. I know not its name. Buells battery re-occupies it at present. We are now on Main street - we will turn southward. The first house on the right is Col Chettam's Head Qrs that on the opposite side of the street is now the Telegraph office. It was Beauregard's headquarters . Look over upon the opposite side of the next street to our right is a tasteful building. See its plain columns and its miniature towers. That was the Head Qrs of Gen. Halleck, Subsequently of Gen. E.O.C. Ord, and at present of Gen G.M. Dodge. Now we are upon the same street we started up. Let us cross to the Tishomingo take another cigar and walk up to camp for our ramble is complete and you will allow me to express a wish that you are fully remunerated for your trouble if you are not I humbly beg your pardon for "boreing" you to such a length. I am quite well. Please write very soon and believe me.

Ever yours.
Jno A. Duckworth



* It was companies "[E]" & "D" of the 1st Mo. They had 7 parrot guns having lost one the day before. A 20 pdr - we never recovered it but got 2 18 pdrs and a 20 pdr English guns, in its place.



Transcribed by Paul C. Pardue and Paul S. Pardue

Dec. 24th , 1996

Note: Information in [brackets] represents best effort transcription of illegible handwriting.



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