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Civil War Letters of

John Hughes

February, 1863


Contributed by Tom Caulley

Helany, Arkansas
February the 8th, 1863

Dear Wife I have taken up my pen to try to answer your kind letter which I have just received. It gave me great pleasure to hear from you and to hear that you was all well. You seem to think that I forgotten you because I have not written to you but you are badly mistaken for I have thought more about home for the last 4 weeks than I ever did in my life.

The reason I have not written is because I have been very sick and have not been able to write. It is four weeks today since I was taken sick. I had the neumony (pnemonia) very bad. I thought at one time that my time was about come to a close on this troubled earth but I have got up again so that I can walk about a little. I am badly salivated. That is getting some better. I think that I will soon be allight again. I received a letter from you a week or so since but was not able to answer it. I was hardly able to read it. I do not want this letter to give you any uneasiness for I am out of all danger. God bless you. How bad I want to see you and the children and if life and health will permitt I intend to see you soon. There is great disatisfaction among the soldiers and they make no bones of telling the officers that they intend to leave as soon as they get their money and I have heard officers say that they believed it would be an honor for a man to desert. I will try and stand it one month longer and then I will not say what I will do. But you may guess what my notions are. I except if the men had their money they would more than half leave and go home.

There is a great deal of sckness in this part of the army and men are dying like sheep. Our cpmpany has lost about a dozen men in the last four weeks. As I am getting very tired I will quit til morning.

The morning of the 9th has come and I am still better. I will try to finish my letter. You may see from the head of this letter that we are at Helany Arkansas. We left Columbus on the 6th day of January and came to this place and then we went with about ten thousand men and 80 odd steam boats up the White River to Duvals Bluff within 30 miles of Little Rock and carne very close to catching the Rebels for they knew nothing of our coming til they saw the smoke of the fleet. We got 2 cannon and several small arms but I was taken sick the first night after we started and did not
enjoy the trip. I was nearly 4 weeks on the water.

(Letter seems to end without his traditional closing)


Helany Arkansas
February the 12th, 1863

Dear Wife I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am still in the land of the living and getting along tollerably well. And I earnestly hope that those few lines may find you all enjoying good health and in peace of mind and in want of nothing. Although I have but little room to hope for the latter.

I wrote you a letter afew days ago but was afraid you would not get it so I write again. It seem that you are very uneasy about me when you wrote last. I am very sorry that you have been so troubled in mind but I could not help it. If you got my last letter you know what was the cause of my not writing but fearing you did not get my letter I will here give the cause again. I have had a very hard spell of sickness. I was taken 4 weeks ago last Sunday night with neumony (pnemonia) and have not been able to write until this week. I came very near dying and if I had been as ready to give up as most of the men I would have died. The nurses said that I was much worse than many that died. There is a great deal of sickness in our regiment and they average a death or more a day. It appears like it no trouble for men to die for as soon as they get sick they give right up and treat themselves to death. The way our regiment is going there would be none of it in twelve months. I thank the Lord that I got so that I set up and knock about all day and feel nearly as well as ever I did with the exception of my mouth. I have been badly salivated. I will soon be alright with care.

Now, I don't want you to fret any more about me for it is the worst thing you can do for your health. I want you to live til I get home but I fear if you do not quit fretting and trying to become more cheerful I will not enjoy your society long. I do not think that it will be long before I will be at home. Say not over 2 months. There is some talk of getting our pay before long. I wish I had some money to send you for you must need some before this time. When the men get their money there will be a great many desert say one half of the army. And if they do not get their money there will be still more desert. There is great dissatisfation about the Negro question and the best thing the government can do is make peace before they lose their army. I never thought that anything could change me so I will not say what my intentions are but you perhaps can guess.

It is hardly worthwhile to say anything about how badly I want to see you and the children. I guess you have some idea. I wish I was at home to get something good to eat. While I was sick they fed me on soup that your pigs would hardly eat.

As paper is very scarce I will have to close. Please excuse my short letter. When I get plenty of paper I will do better. Look out about the last of March. My paper is full. So fare you for this time my dear wife. You know my name.


Helany, Arkansas
February the 19th, 1863

Dear Wife I again take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am still in the land of the living and in tollerable good health considering evrerything. I have improved very fast since I got up. More so than almost any of the rest of the men who has been sick. I earnestly hope that when this letter reaches you it may find you all well and sassy and enjoying yourselves finely. I suppose that you have heard from me lately as I have written 4 letters since I got able. I wrote 2 to you and one to Caroline and one to Edney. I think it very strange that some of you don't write to me. I have been waiting several days to get a letter from you but it seems that if you have written, the letters do not come. The last letter I received from you was dated the 29th of last month. I will keep my letter open until the mail comes tomorrow and see if I don't get a letter. I wrote some things in my letters that make me anxious to know whether you have gotten them or not. If you have got my letters you know what I think and what I intend doing it life on Earth will permit.

I am getting very tired of the army. It seems like the officers think that the soldiers are a set of poor ignorant fools that are not worht half as much as mules. We are not thought as much as the negros that is around here. But I think that some of them has about plaid out.

I suppose that we will get some money tomorrow but they say that we will only get 2 months pay. That would be but little better than none as much of the soldiers owe the setter half that amount. I owe 5 dollars and to pay that out of 2 months wages and buy tobacco I would have but a few dollars to send home. I think it out of all reason that men can't get their money to send home for to help their families. But I guess if the men can't get their money they will a great many of them go home and try some other way to get something for their families. I have heard men say that they would rather spend 3 years in the bush like Indians than to be humbugged any longer. Anyone that is not in the army cannot have but little idea of the dissatisfaction that exsists.

The health of our regiment is some better than when I last wrote to you. There has been a great deal cloudy and rainey weather and but little cold, but this is a very fine day. It is warm enough here for April. The boys in Camp has been gathering ____a week but you know that ___to make soap. There is some talk that our letters are to be examined by the officers before they can go from here. But I guess if the men was to find out that their letters was opened they would shoot all the blackhearted villans in the place. But I hope it will not come to that while I am here. There is but little prospect of the South giving up and the way Government is managing they will never whip them.

February the 22nd, 1863

I am still mending and I hope you are all well. You may see from this ­that I have been waiting 3 days since I commenced to write this letter to get some word from home but I wait in vain so I will fill out this letter and send it along so that you may hear from me. There is something wrong with the mail. I believe _______. I have just signed the payroll and instead of getting 26 dollars I will only get about 18 dollars and I owe 7 dollars of that which will only leave 11 dollars and what good will that do ______ helping you and the children. I would about as soon have none but I can't help myself but I guess a few more days make a change in matter with me as well as many others.

I think it is a perfect shame and scandal that the men can't get their poor pitiful wages when their families ________. What I mean, I will send you a few dollars before many days and I hope it will last you till I can make some other arrangements. Try and keep in good spirits and I think you will get surprised before a month. Our regiment has just received marching orders that ___________ is able to work. They are going a few miles below here to try to turn the Mississippi into the Yazoo. I will finish this evening. Perhaps I may get some news.

Sunday night the 22, 1863

I take this oppertunity to let you know that I will not be here to read your letters.
(LETTER NOT ALL HERE.)


February the 27, 1863

Dear wife It is with pleasure that I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am still in the land of the living and in tollerable good health but I am considerably troubled In mind. I received a leffer from you day before yesterday and was very sorry to learn that you was troubled about me. But I hope that you have all the particulars about my case.

I have written about 4 or 5 times since I go± able to write but wether you will ever get them is uncertain. I put some money in one which I earnestly hope you will get. I am very sorry to learn you are getting so needy. I would send you some more money but I want to know whether you have received what I sent. You will please write and if you received it I will send you more. I will not risk much at a time.

I hope that when this reaches you it will find you all well and better contented in mind. God bless you. I want to see you and the children very badly but the prospect is gloomy at present. I am sorry to inform you that I am on the way down the Yazoo Pass which runs in back of and a little below Vicksburg. They say that we are to be back at Helany in fifteen days but I think that very uncertain. We left about half our men at Helany on the sick list. I hope will not let this give you any uneasyness but pray that the Lord may protect and shield me from all harm and danger and permit me to live to get home safe and sound to share with you the joys and troubles of life.

I still have strong hope that I will get home this Spring but if I do not I want you to try and content yourself and do what you think best with the things. If yo can sell anything that is on the place for anything you need to live on do so and if I do not get home you had better try and rent out what land you can and not try to tend anything more than your garden and truck patches. You had better keep that_little piece of bottom in the new field for truck patches. Get somebody to break it up well. Frank can tend it. Do not go in debt if you can help it. I will send you money every chance.

I received the paper and stamps you sent in your two last letters. You wanted to know something about Joseph Kirk (Kirkpatrick) and Oliver but I can't tell you anything about them. Only that the regiment they belong to is with us. I have not saw them since we left Benton Baracks, although they have been with us all the time. I saw Lewis Hughes when we was up White River and he told me that Joseph Kirk was left at Colombus sick and that Oliver was at Helany. I have not been able or I would have went to their regiment to see them. They was camped 4 or 5 miles from us while at Helana. If Jo is dead I have not heard of it. I will try and see the boys if they are with the regiment and let you know how they are getting along. I wrote you to send me some stamps but I have got some since, so you need not send them if you han't plenty.

Oh, sweet vision that I have saw when all was still. When, the troubles and hardships and bustles of war was forgotten in sweet repose. But they only serve to increase my sorrow. When I awoke to a true sense of my condition I have saw the ones that is dearest of all that is dear to me and when I would wake and find that it was all a dream I have often bathed my pillow in tears and almost wished that I could quit this world of sorrows and disappointments and meet my frienss on the shore of sweet deliverance. Oh that wars could cease and permit us to return to our homes and loved ones in peace. Then could we enjoy and appreciate the blessings that we have been so ungreatful for then could we enjoy society. Then could we realize those sweet visions of the night. Then would we have reason to praise the Lord for his goodness and mercy in protecting us from the danger and disease that are so common in the army.

I would feel to thank the Lord that I have a hope that I will yet live to get home in safety. I believe that the Lord will protect me and above all I have reason to praise God for the hope that if I should fall it will only be to rise in eternal joy and peace at the right hand of God to unite with my friends that have gone before. In singing Redeeming Grace and Dying Love Throughout Eternal Ages. Thank be to God for the hope of Heaven is all that is worth living for and if after we have suffered and drug out a misserahle life on Earth we should miss ­getting to Heaven what an awfill awful thing it would be. Lord have mercy on us poor, sinful worms of Earth.

Hariet, I want you to live for Heaven and try to teach the children to do the same so that if we never meet on this Earth we may meet where we will never part where wars never come Where the wicked will cease to trouble us. Oh, live for God and eternal bliss then when our days are numbered and our sorrows are over we may live to praise the Lord and sing Redeeming Grace and Grace and Dying Love to all Eternity. Put your trust in Lord and he will help you bare up under all the trials and hardships with which you may meet. I will have to close so

fare thee well and if forever
still forever fare thee well
Even though unforgiving never
gainst thee can my heart rebel

Would that breast were bared before thee
where thy head so often has lain
While that placid sleep came o'er thee
which thou ne'er canst know again


But now my dreams are sadly o'er.
Fate bids them all depart
and I must leave mu native shore
in brokeness of heart

and , Oh dear one, when far from thee
I'll never know joy again
I would not that one thought of me
should give thy bosom pain
I'd offer thee this hand of mine
if I could love thee less but heart
so pure as thine should
never know distress


On board the steamer, Lebanon
February the 28th, 1863

Moving slowly down the Yazoo Pass. As I did not get to finish my letter yesterday. I take it up this morning. My health is still improving. I feel better this morning than I have for six weeks - I earnestly hope that you are all well this morning and in peace of mind, blessed with all the necessary comforts of life. I know that your condition is hard but mine is still harder. But we must not murmer at our condition but let us try and keep the best side up and perhaps all will come out right in short time. But if we look at the worst side of the question all the time it may do us a great injury. So I want you to try and keep in good spirits and remember that the Lord will do what is right. Let who will opose.

I will give you some idea of our trip down this pass. This pass puts out a few miles below Helena and runs into the Yazoo River and is very narrow and crooked stream. To look at it does not look reasonable that a steamboat could get through the timber. This stream was opened by our men cutting the levey. We only travel 5 or 6 miles a day.

I will have to close my letter hoping to hear from you soon. I want you to continue to write often and let me know what is going on. Write for all the pleasure that I see is when I hear good news from home. Then please write. quit fretting. Dy up those tears. I have only receivd 2 letters in a month. Direct your letters to

John C. Hughes,
Co. I 33rd Mo. Vol.
To the care of Capt. Tracey,
Helena Arkansas.

Give my best regards to all enquirang friends and accept all the love and respect of one who counts you the dearest of all that is dear and to your affectionate husband.
John C. Hughes to Hariet Hughe you will not mention what I have written to you in my letters as this may be the last time I will get to. Soon I will bid you a long farewell.


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