I am not certain of the author’s identity. The signature appears to read, “John M. Lain” and there was a young cavalryman (b. 1842) from Troy, Indiana, who enlisted in the 3rd Iowa Cavalry who rose in the ranks of Company A to fifth sergeant and re-enlisted as a veteran. There are two problems with confirming him as the author, however. First there does not appear to be any person with the initials “C. B.” who was appointed lieutenant in Company A (as referenced in the letter), nor can I confirm that a major portion of the regiment was in St. Louis in December 1864 though many new recruits for the regiment did assemble there later.
In any event, the story told by the author on their scout from Memphis across the Mississippi river into Arkansas is an interesting one, including deceiving confederate troops by donning confederate uniforms.
December 6th 1864
I am not in a very good humor tonight and so you can’t expect me to write you a very pleasant letter. It is not very often that I get in that fix. In the first place, I will tell you what is the cause of the trouble. There has been a vacant place in our company for a lieutenant for some time and we have men in our company that has service over three years and been elected for their place a time or two, and the Colonel always had some pet in that company that he gave it to. So he found a pet in C. B. and he gave him the position and that just says plainly that we have not got men in our company that would make a lieutenant and it makes me so mad that I can’t hardly keep silent long enough to write this letter. to think men who have served their country so long and then have to be treated in that style. If you could see me this evening, you would think that picture looks pretty pleasant to what I do this evening.
Your letter came to hand yesterday and I was truly glad to hear from you again. It found me in good health and was very sorry to hear of your being unwell. We have very nice weather here. In the last few days, was like spring of the year.
I have been on a scout over in Arkansas since I last wrote. We did not have any fighting to do but we took twenty-five or thirty prisoners—several officers among the whelps. [We] captured three wagon loads of commissary that was going to some reb camp. We sent some men in advance of the column dressed in Confederate’s uniform. They would ride up to the picket post and take in arms rebs without any trouble. [We] met some on the road [and] they would not stop until our boys would tell them to halt and give an account of themselves. Some more of our Yankee tricks. If them hell hounds gets me, they will have to be sharper than they ever have been yet. But they may gobble me up some time for the best of soldiers get picked up sometimes.
I have not seen anything of them apples yet. They may have been confiscated but if they don’t come I shall not blame you for it. When I was at home, I had gay and happy times but they are played out now. But there may be a better day coming. I think that was alright making that blow sing, but praying I don’t think would have done much good for his country or Old Abe for the prayers of the wicked availeth nothing.
The regiment has not returned yet. It has got back to St. Louis, Mo. We are looking for them everyday or expecting to get orders to go to them.
Lottie, I don’t know of anything that I could tell you at present that would interest you so I will close by asking you to write soon and be a good girl and don’t forget your friend, — John M. Lain