These letters were written by 2d Lieutenant William Staughton Peck (1823-1909), the son of John Mason Peck (1789-1858) and Sarah Paine (1789-1856).
William S. Peck was born in Rock Springs, St. Clair county, Illinois. He saw service in the Mexican War and returned home to marry Margaret Patton Sept. 24, 1848 in Jackson county, Iowa. He enlisted as a 38 year-old resident of Fairbank, Buchanan county, Iowa, on July 1, 1861 as 5th Sgt. in Co. E, 5th Iowa Infantry. Acted as Orderly Sgt. during the absence of C. L. White in Nov. 1861. “Was offered the office when Blondin left (April 1863) but declined as the duties are too much for one man.” He was promoted to 4th Sgt. March 1862; to 2nd Sgt. June 14, 1862 and was commissioned 2nd Lt. of Co. E, 5th Iowa Infantry on April 10, 1863 to date from Feb. 26, 1863. The regiment was consolidated Aug. 8, 1864 and transferred Sept. 18, 1864 as 2nd Lt. of Co. G, 5th Iowa Cavalry. He mustered out at Nashville on August 11, 1865.
William wrote the letter to his friend and comrade of Co. E, William Codling, who was wounded in the leg on 14 May 1863 in the fighting near Jackson, Mississippi. We learn from the letter that William was in a hospital recovering from his wounds at the time. The hospital’s location is not given but he was discharged for his wounds on 27 February 1864 at St. Louis, Missouri.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Jackson county, Alabama
January 4, 1864
Mr. William Codling
I received your favor of the 26th ult. and was glad to hear from you. I am well.
In the Battle of Chattanooga, we had one killed—D. Sawyer, 6 taken prisoners—Corporals Mazre, [Omar R.] Whitman & [Thomas C.] Pucket, and Privates [William H.] Sayre, [John W.] Stewart & Richard Whait. The officers that was taken prisoners are Major Marshall, Adj. [Samuel H. M.] Byers, Capt. [William F.] Pickerill, [John E.] Page & [Elias B.] Bascom, Lieutenants John [W.] Huffman of Co. H, and Michael Hoffman of Co. D, & Captain of Co. G, making 5 officers and 76 enlisted men. We had 22 wounded. Lieutenant [Charles S.] Miller of Co. F since dead.
I had my usual luck—not a scratch—but I done some of the prettiest running you ever saw. A foot 14 inches long at that time was an advantage for every time that I took up my foot, it left the Rebs so much further behind. Sergt. [Simon L.] Shultz we left sick in the hospital at Bridgeport, Alabama. Since then he has been sent to Nashville, Tennessee. We have 30 men present with the company including the captain and myself. Our first sergeant is M[adison] J. Bryan. You would have had that position if you had been with us. [William] Bunce 2nd Sergeant, [Jerry] Rea 3rd, [Simon L.] Shultz 4th, [John B.] Oliver 5th. He is sick at Memphis, Tennessee. Had the small pox.
Lt. Col. [Ezekiel] Sampson commands the regiment. Col. [Jabez] Banbury commands the brigade since Gen. [Charles Leopold] Matthies was wounded.
Now Friend William, do not get in a fit about being in the hospital. We know that you was wounded doing your duty and it is not your fault that you are not with us. And I know that as soon as you are able to come, you will do it. In fact, I am afraid you will come before you are able. You look at it in a different light from what I do for I have wished sometimes that I was wounded that I could have the satisfaction of showing how I had suffered, bled, & died for my country. It is true that I have been in every battle that the Fifth has been in, but I have not received a scratch or lost a drop of blood.
Our brigade is at Larkinsville, 5 miles from here on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. Our regiment—except Co. H—is at this mill to guard it and grind for the division. Co. H guards and runs the mill at Larkinsville.
This morning I went into & explored a salt peter cave that is ½ miles. I was in for four hours and did not see one half of it but our torches was about burnt out and we thought it was time to find daylight. If we stay here for some time, I shall go again and stay all day. “The red Cab” is reading your letter at the present time.
I think I have written a plenty for I do not expect you can read what I have written. If you can and you wish to hear from me again, write and I will try and answer it in my poor way.
Yours truly, — Wm. S. Peck
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
January 31st 1864
Mr. William Codling
I received yours of the 19th inst. on the 28th and was truly glad to hear from you but sorry to hear that your wound had broken out again. I am well. As I expect to correspond regular with you, I will try in my poor way to give you a record of the regiment but more especially to Company E.
As I wrote you on the fourth of January, I shall commence from that date. On the 5th of January ’64, we struck tents and marched to Larkinsville, Alabama, where we arrived at 7 o’clock P.M. Shortly after getting into camp, there was a little excitement got up about the Veteran Service and all of Company E that was present reenlisted except Charles F. Putney & A. Mervin Conkling (that is I am speaking of the enlisted men). Henry W. Snider & George [B.] Sitler was rejected. Perhaps I had better give you their names as it is not likely that you will know who are present. Well here they are.
Sergt. M[adison] J. Bryan
Sergt. Wm. Bunce
Sergt. Jerry Rea
Corp. J[ames] B. Gaylord
Corp. H[enry] McQueen
Corp. J[ames] B. Wolf
Corp. H[eta] C. Speague
Corp. J. J. Whait
Priv. S[amuel] Allison
Priv. Joseph Brackney
Priv. C[harles] Brooks
Priv. E[lijah] Chittester
Priv. John Geyer
Priv. W. F. Johnson
Priv. J[ames] McKinzie
Priv. F[rederick] Payne
Priv. J[ames] C. Perham
Priv. J[ulius] F. Phelps
Priv. Peter Putman
Priv. John Richards
Priv. Moses Robinson
Priv. S[amuel] E. Rouse
Priv. R[ufus] Safford
Priv. H[ela] Sprague
Priv. Mahlon Williams
And Frank Noble but I understand that he enlisted in another company in the regiment as they had that privilege of joining any company in the regiment. They have not been mustered yet but will be in a day or two as we have got all the papers made out, and the boys signed the pay rolls today and then the company will start home for their thirty days furlough in the state.
There was ¾ or more of 6 companies that reenlisted. The companies are A, C, D, E, F, & G. But Co. E was the banner company as there was no other company enlisted as many as came near enlisting the whole company.
Now for myself, Capt. Ellis was recruiting officer and I went up to enlist and he would not accept of me. He told me to go in with the rank that I had got and I promised the boys that I would if they wanted me as lieutenant. Now I shall go back to where I left off.
We left Larkinsville on the 7th for this place and arrived here on the 10th. For the first week we built chimneys, bunks, &c., policed the camp, and since then it has been guard & drill, and then drill & guard, until the last few days it has been guard all the time and there was nobody to drill. We had two new recruits to join us on the 8th of January. Their names are John Donovan of Independence and Dennis Donovan of Dubuque—both mickeys [Irish].
Huntsville is one of the finest places that I have seen in the south. In town is one of the finist springs your or any other man ever saw and discharges as much water as Little Wapsy at Fairbank at a common stage. Within 40 feet of the fountain head, there is a dam 8 feet high and there is a large wheel that runs a force pump that forces the water through pipes all over town. I have never seen anything to compare with it.
Now my excuse for not writing sooner. The day that I got your letter I was Regimental Officer of the Day. The 29th I went on Picket Guard to accommodate a friend of mine—Lt. R[ichard] Barrett of Co. I. Yesterday I was too sleepy and did not feel like writing. There is it. Will it do?
The boys are all well except Sergt. [Jerry] Rea & J[ames] C. Perham and they are able to be about. Charles F. Putney is clerk for Lt. White in Provost Marshal’s Office. He failed to come to time in last battle and as I had command, I had him reduced as my motto is—humor to whom humor is due.
Capt. Lee is well and he says he does not know but what he may go in as a Veteran but her rather thinks not. Berny Gaylord says he wrote you about the 5th or 6th of January.
As I expect to start for Iowa within ten days, you may direct to Fairbank. I have received letters as late as January 17th from Fairbank. They was not all froze up there.
There, with them few lines I shall close, and when you are tired with my scribbling, let me know and I will not trouble you again. Yours truly, — Wm. S. Peck
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Limestone Bridge, Memphis & Charleston Railroad, Alabama
May 27, 1864
Mr. William Codling
I resume my pen to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well also the company. Perhaps you would like to know the reason that I have not written sooner. But no, I cannot expect you to give one thought to us poor souls away down here in Dixie for there was a time when I myself, individually, had taken unto myself a wife. We—us two—that is, myself and pretty wife—did not think or care for anything or anybody but our two selves. But perhaps the weary edge has worn off a little by this time and you may look at things in a natural way long enough to read my scribbling. After wishing you all kinds of happiness and a large family, I shall try and give you a little account of what Co. E are doing at the present time.
I have 35 of the company with me. That includes the 3 new recruits. We are guarding the railroad bridges across Limestone Creek. There is two bridges. They are about ¼ mile apart. My headquarters is at the largest bridge. The Engineers are building a block house for us. It is 18 by 32 feet inside. The walls are 24 inches thick of oak timber. The roof is 16 inches timber, 3 feet of earth, and then covered with boards to keep out the water. It will be shot proof except heavy artillery and when it is finished, my company will laugh at 500 Rebels. We can pick them off at our leisure.
C[hristopher] W. Waggoner, Quartermaster 5th Iowa, is down with the small pox at Beaver Dam, three miles from here where headquarters of the 5th Iowa is. Cub Peters went this morning to take care of him. Co. G, Lt. McCoy commanding, are 1½ miles west of this place at Piney Bridge. Co. A, Lt. [Luke] Ingman commanding, is one half mile further west. Co. B, Capt. [William] Penniwitt commanding, are 12 miles east of here at Indian Creek. The rest of the companies are at Beaver Dam.
I suppose you have heard that George B. Sitler was captured at Madison Station 7 miles from here on the 17th inst.
Old Dutchy has resigned and gone home. He got fooled that time he sent in his resignation in hopes he would get a larger command. He did not dream that it would be accepted. He got caught in his own trap that time. If soldiering was always as fine as it has been since we have been here, I would go into the business for life. In four or five weeks, we will have plenty of blackberries and by the time they are gone, there will be plenty of peaches. I think that we will stay here all summer and guard this railroad.
S[imon] L. Shultz is with us but he does not expect to stay longer than the 15th of July. [Albert] Goss is here—the same old soldier. Now, if you think that these few lines are worth answering, why take a feast of kisses and write me. My respect to your lady.
I remain yours truly, — W. S. Peck