This letter was written by Pvt. John (“Jack”) Bunyon Lease (1841-1863) of Logan county, Ohio, who enlisted on 24 August 1861 in Co. G, 1st Ohio Infantry. He died on 31 December 1863 in the Washington Park General Hospital at Cincinnati from a neck wound received in the Battle of Chickamauga on 19 September 1863.
Jack’s brother, Samuel Tandy Lease (1836-1863), also served in the same company and also died during the Civil War. Samuel died of disease on 14 February 1863. Jack and Samuel were the sons of Samuel Lease (1798-1882) and Deborah Anderson (1803-1873). Jack wrote this letter to an older brother, William Harris Lease (1829-1881) who was married to Lucetta Crain in November 1852.
The 1st Ohio Infantry was organized at Dayton, from Aug. 5 to Oct. 30, 1861, to serve for three years. The regiment began its battles at Shiloh and closed its career in front of Atlanta. After its first engagement it participated in the tedious movement on Corinth, having occasional skirmishes. On May 27, six companies of the regiment had a brisk fight at Bridge creek. In company with Gen. Buell’s army it made the arduous march into Kentucky, and at Dog Walk, a brisk fight was had with the enemy, in which the 1st Ohio took a prominent part, with the loss of 8 or 10 men. At the battle of Stone’s river the 1st was actively engaged from daylight until the field was won. At Chickamauga its position was in the front line on the right of the 3d brigade of the 2nd division, 20th corps, and participated in the charge which recaptured the ground from which Gen. Baird had been driven earlier in the day. Early on the following morning rude breastworks were thrown up in front of the Federal lines, and the 1st occupied the second line of intrenchments. Throughout the day it was actively engaged and the loss of the regiment in these two days’ fighting was 120 killed and wounded. Three days later at Orchard knob the 1st with the 23d Ky., charged on the enemy, capturing his rifle-pits and 150 prisoners, and the Confederates were driven into their intrenchments at the foot of Missionary ridge.
Addressed to W. H. Lease, Esq., Huntsville, Logan County, Ohio
Near Corinth, Mississippi
May 23rd 1862
We received a letter from you day before yesterday dated the 11th instant and in it you stated that you had received but one letter from me since I left. The reason is not my fault. I have written some two or three letters home since I returned to camp. The first one I wrote was dated if I recollect April the 30 on board the Superior off Pittsburg Landing. I staid aboard the boat until the following morning before I searched for my regiment. I found it about 3 o’clock in the afternoon in quarters about 10 miles southwest from the landing. After resting until morning, May 2nd, I wrote home again stating that I had found my regiment and giving the health and condition of our boys. From what you say, you have not received that one as yet. Sam has written some two or three home since I came back and if you do not receive them, it is not our fault.
You said you were so anxious to hear from us from the amount we write and from so comparatively few you receive, some of these lucky days when the blockade opens, you will receive such an overflow of letters that you will have enough of reading matter to supply the district. They would make a respectable looking volume in size. Its contents I will not vouch for.
We are well and in good spirits. The health of our company is better now than it has been since leaving Ohio. This out of the way place is very healthy. I have seen nothing but wild woods since I left the Landing and in fact, the Landing itself is right in the woods about 2½ acres of a cleared swamp forms that renowned Landing. Ever and anon we stumble on to a small improvement of from 15 to 25 acres with a round pole cabin on it and the inhabitants are in a state of utter destitution. At one of those huts we found a woman with three small children — the husband and father in the Rebel Army and the mother lying in a rough-looking couch of straw apparently very sick. They were to be pitied. Our doctor went in and administered some medicine to her while our brave boys shared their hard crackers with these poor unfortunates. The soil here is so thin and poor that Old Heenan himself could not raise enough for the subsistence of his four and twenty children.
weather wheath for my life I can’t spell wether, has been very nice and warm ever since I got back but it is raining today at a fearful rate with very heavy thunder. Tis so pleasant that we nearly all sleep out, preferring that to laying in the tents. The wheat here was out in blossom two weeks ago, but there is sad havoc made of it. The teamsters all seem to want their horses to eat wheat. Troops marching across with teams, batteries, &c., make a wheat field look pretty slim. I never saw a better prospect for fruit in my life. Peaches are some larger than a quail’s egg and so plenty that even now the limbs are bending beneath their load.
The swamps are so numerous that we have so much fatigue duty to do making roads. Every Division and it seems as if every regiment had its own road to make. But ever since we have been at this place, [Alexander McDowell] McCook’s Division has formed the reserve of Buell’s Army. We have no picket guard to stand and are kept pretty secretly. We do not have quite as hard a time as those in the advance but we have to have our blankets rolled and two days rations in our haversacks all the time and scarcely a day passes but what we are called out and lay in line of battle for three or four hours while other divisions are moving up and planting their siege guns in range of Corinth. We are laying in line of battle so as to be ready to go if the Rebels refuse to let them advance. We generally make them let us go. There is never a day passes but what heavy cannonading goes on in the advance. Day before yesterday morning about 9 o’clock, our advance opened on a reconnoitering party of Rebels. The rebels were not aware of them being planted and our pickets retreated and drew them up to just where they wanted them when out heavy siege guns opened on them. They fired faster than you could count and great thunder. I thought that every tree in the woods was falling. The boys say that it was heavier firing that that the day of the fight. Every night the pickets have to fight. Firing is kept up all night. We are lucky not to have to stand picket. They always put the best Division on reserve. That is the reason why McCook’s is held as reserve.
O must close. Give my love to all and write soon and often — very often. Give my love to Grandfather and tell him we are well. Also to Ackley. I love soldiering better now than before I came home. Now be sure — do you hear — write soon.
Your brother, — Jack
Address Camp Shiloh near Corinth, Mississippi