Letter from Thrall, Seneca B.

Soldier: Thrall, Seneca B.
Allegiance: Union
Unit/Service Branch: 13th Infantry
Home State: Iowa
Date Written: Sunday, November 23rd, 1862
Location: Camp near Grand Junction, TN
Correspondence Type: Letter
Subjects: Camp Life, Commanders, Comrades, Contraband, Hospital, Newspapers, Rumors, Western Theater, Wife/Girlfriend
Link Source: http://www.civilwararchive.com/LETTERS/thrall2.htm

Dear Wife,

We are still here in this neighborhood, though we moved our camp the other day about 1/4 mile to get upon higher ground out of the mud and water. We were upon the low bottom land, right upon the bank of the creek. It rained for a couple of days and there was some appearance of an overflow and an involuntary cold bath. We are now upon the side of a hill. My tent and the hospital tents near the top and for the past two or three days the weather has been very fine, the days warm, pleasant and at noon for three for four hours, quite warm. The nights, however, are and I suppose always are cold. I got another double blanket day before yesterday and use as much bed clothing as I would in Ohio, though we do not have any feather bed to lay upon or even straw.

I received yours of the 16th night before last. If I should accidentally come across a decent contraband I will send her up if I can. It is only occasionally that such are found. I have but little to do now, though I now also have charge of a company of cavalry, Gen McArthur's bodyguard, Co. G, and the 11th Illinois Cavalry. I prescribe for them at 9 o'clock a.m.

We have now none in hospital and only 6 off duty in the Regiment; that for 500 men is as healthy as they would be at home. We are encamped on a plantation that has been cultivated for many years. We are in the "timber" (an Ohio man would say woods) just in the edge of the cleared ground, so that it seems like a prairie. All the fencing has been burned and for the past few days they have had a Division drill four hours each day. A Division (ours is the 6th Gen. McArthur) is composed of three Brigades (ours is the 3rd Brigade, Col. Crocker commanding), each Brigade is composed of four Regiments. There is also a company of Cavalry as Body Guard for the General, also a section of 6 guns of a Battery attached to each Brigade.

The Division then is composed of 12 Regiments and about 24 guns (Artillery). There was plenty of room for drill and you may read in some of the papers rose colored accounts of the drills of the General and his Staff. I went out one day and found it like most everything else, distance lends enchantment to the view. The Division was drawn up in line of battle. The batteries stationed and supported by regiments upon each side of them. They would alternately advance and retreat, charge bayonets, advance and form new lines of battle, change their front, then cannon with six horses attached would go tearing at full gallop across the field, suddenly halt, unlimber their pieces, be ready to fire, etc. It looked very well it is true, but I should not be surprised to see in the "Cincinnati Commercial" some high flown account that it would be difficult to recognize the original.

I saw in a late Commercial (the 13th I think) a panegyric upon Gen. McArthur that everybody here laughs at and ridicules. Today they ate now having an inspection of the wagons, ambulances, horses, mules of the Division, also of the Regiments, the men, the condition of their guns, clothing, etc., the whole division is out.

I do not know how much it is going to cost me to live here and cannot tell except by trying. I suppose it will be about $25.00 a month. You need not be uneasy about not being able to pay our debts. Uncle Sam now owes me about $340, when he will pay I do not know, but anxious enquiries are made for the Paymaster, and if I stay in the army four months longer I can pay all I owe, especially as I expect to receive more pay soon - $160 per month.

Dr. McKee's, the Surgeon, resignation was accepted. I wrote immediately to Gov. Kirkwood for the commission and I think I stand a very fair chance to get it. I will unless he has some politician to give it to, or Colonel Crocker has some particular friend he wants to have it. The Medical Director recommended me for promotion, also Colonel Hillis of 17th Iowa gave me a very strong letter to the Governor, also Lt. Col. Shane who commands our Regiment. Colonel Crocker who is Colonel of the Regt. and can have whoever he wants appointed, commands the Brigade as acting Brigadier General. Col. Crocker does not like me very well. I did not happen to show him sufficient deference. I did not report myself to him when I joined the Regt., and did not for some 3 or 4 weeks present to him several letters of introduction which I had. When I did call upon him, he asked in an authoritative tone of voice why I had not done so before. I answered because it was neither required or necessary, that I reported to the officer in command of the Regt. which was the only proper place for me to report and that I did not think it necessary to present any letters of introduction as I did not think much of such letters anyhow. We of course parted not very well pleased with each other.

He refused to recommend me to the Governor but said he would not interfere in any way. If he does not I think I shall get my commission as Surgeon. If I do not get it, I shall get out of the service if I can. I have had charge of the Regt. all the time I have been with it, and now I want the commission and the pay of Surgeon. I said nothing to Col. Crocker myself, but he told Lt. Col. Shane that he would not ask the Gov. to give me a commission, though he would not interfere to prevent it. The Medical Director also asked him to recommend me to the Governor and when he declined to do so, the Med. Director did it himself, so that my chance is good if Col. Crocker really does not interfere. It may be several weeks yet before I know the result; such things move slowly. Dinner is ready and I must stop to eat as we have an extra dinner today; boiled mutton, soda crackers (not the hard army crackers), butter (I bought 2 pounds of $1.00), cheese, pickles, dried apples stewed, molasses, sugar and coffee. It was an agreeable change from fat pork, hard bread and coffee which has been our only diet for the past few days. I have unbuttoned my vest, pants and drawers to give the apples room to swell. In my last I told Scott how to get down here. I hope he will come.

Tell Frank that I have a nice bed to sleep on now, a cot just large enough for one. I have lost my horse though and will have to get me another which is no easy matter down here. Horses here are like niggers, mighty uncertain property. Whisky is rather hard to get down here and we have not had a drop in the Regt. for 10 days and I do not drink an ounce a week. My appetite is good and I feel first rate. There is an order that a Surgeon who drinks or gives to Regimental officers to drink the hospital liquor shall be dismissed, a good and necessary order, lately issued. They are packing mail to send off and only waiting for this.

Your affectionate husband,

P.S. Tell Scott to send me in a letter Podophyllin. The government does not supply it and I want it.