This letter was written by James H. Howell (1839-1862), the son of Henry B. Howell (1808-18xx) and Jane Ackerman (1812-18xx) of Bloomington, Muscatine county, Iowa. The Howell family lives in Brooklyn, Lee county, Illinois, and in New Jersey prior to that.
James Howell enlisted in Co. C, 16th Iowa Infantry on 18 October 1861. The regiment was not mustered into the service until 11 December 1861, however. This letter was written from Camp McClellan in Scott county, Iowa. Less than a month later, James was killed in action on 6 April 1862 at the Battle of Shiloh.
Addressed to Miss R. T. Holister, Muscatine, Iowa
[Scott county, Iowa]
March 7, 1862
Being at a loss for something to busy myself at this P.M., I have concluded to write a few lines to you although I am not certain whether it will be agreeable to you or not. If it isn’t, please let me know & I won’t trouble you again.
I arrived in camp the next day after the party at Mr. Hoyt’s ¹ about 2 o’clock P.M. & found things much the same as when I left. Father staid all night & in the morning bid him (goodbye) & while I am on this subject, I must say that leaving home the last time was the hardest parting I ever experienced & hope I may never experience again. I parted with my folk with the expectation of being ‘ere this on my way to the seat of war but we are here yet & may remain some time yet. But when we do go, I do not expect to return until “secession is among the things that was.” There is some talk of our going to Chicago to guard the secesh prisoners but I hope it will all terminate in talk. For my part, I want to go South.
Several of the killed from Ft. Donelson arrived on the cars today & are to be buried tomorrow. Our regiment will probably attend the funeral. We have had some severe weather since I came to camp but it is quite pleasant today & the boys are enjoying it very much. They are now about two hundred of them having a regular snowball fight. They sometimes come out company against company & snowball for an hour at a time. Our Col. [Alexander Chambers], I am afraid, is not a fit man to command a regiment of volunteers. He is used to the strict rules of regulars which won’t work with volunteers.
How did you feel the next day after the party? For my part, I didn’t enjoy myself very well from the fact that the thought of its being the last time I would have the pleasure of meeting with the young folks of the Island for a long time — & perhaps forever –made me feel more like looking on that partying. I hope you will still continue to have social gatherings & think of me as one who would like to be with you but my duty calls me away. One would suppose from the tone of my letter that had the blues but such is not the case. Still, a soldier will involuntarily think of home & its pleasures & in my estimation it proves a man’s patriotism at least to some degree.
The P.M. [Post Master] is about ready to start so I must close. Give my respect to Mr. & Mrs. Strong ² & all enquiring friends & if agreeable to you, please answer.
I remain with much respect — your friend, — J. H. Howell
P.S. Ask Wall for me how Miss Dolson is getting along!! — J. H. Howell
J. H. Howell, Commissary Sgt., 16th Regt. Iowa Vol., Camp McClellan, Scott county, Iowa
¹ David Hoyt (b. 1795) and Sarah (Pool) Hoyt (1798-1864) were enumerated in Blooming township, Muscatine county, Iowa in the 1860 Census.
² Amos E. Strong (1811-1894) and Eliza Maria (Thomas) Strong (1816-1888) were enumerated in Bloomington township, Muscatine county, Iowa in the 1860 Census. Miss Hollister might have resided with them as a hired girl in 1862.