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Jacob C. Cohen, 27th Ohio Infantry


Iuka, Miss., September 4th, 1862.


"Old Massassippi" though in due form seceded from Uncle Sam's fold, and bearing true allegiance to the Southern confederacy, is after all in the same spot allotted her by the Geographers, from the time of Colton and Mitchell down — and more than this, is connected with "America" by a "T" rail, over which an asthmatic locomotive (ir)regularly drags some half dozen box cars by special permission of the F[irst]. F[amilies of]. M[ississippi]'s., who only burn the bridges and tear up the track — whenever they get a chance, and then only to impress on our minds that "there are a war."

New York is too far outside "our circle" to allow us to receive the papers from its metropolitan precincts with anything like regularity, but Cincinnati, St. Louis and Chicago, swamp us with their dailies (good, bad and indifferent) on the third day from the press, at the exceedingly moderate rate of ten cents per copy. However, we don't grudge the dimes, for it is a great pleasure to be reassured each morning that "everything is quiet on the Mississippi,", that Gordonsville has been dashed at by the "Confeds," or that McClellan has changed his base of operations, etc., etc., — while the drafting subject draws largely upon our sympathies for the unfortunate young gentlemen, who will be obliged to leave "the dearest spot on earth to me," drink their mocha without cream, and sharpen their teeth on army hard bread.

My last was written from the quiet peaceful little settlement known as "Camp Clear Creek," but all things are subject to change, and with soldiers, it is the rule rather than the exception; it was, therefore, nothing very strange or even unexpected, when we received marching orders, so to work we went, packed up our duds and got everything ready, so that when the bugle sounded the "assembly," we were ready for the "forward".

In leaving our old camp, we were careful that nothing was left behind that would aid or comfort the enemy should they wish to occupy our "deserted palatial grounds" (?) and, indeed, so effectually was this carried out, that not even a plank, box or a summer bower was left, — all were given to the devouring element — fire. As we filed out on the road to commence our march, keeping step to the tune of "the girl I left behind me," we gave one longing, lingering look at an old camp, where we had spent so many quiet, happy hours, now a vast sheet of flame—marched steadily on until a turn in the road closed it from out gaze,—and, then, with a deep drawn sigh we bade "Clear Creek" farewell!

Our column en-route consisted only of the Ohio Brigade, under command of Col. [John W.] Sprague of the 63rd Ohio, Col.'s Fuller and [J.L. Kirby] Smith [commander of 1st Brigade, 2nd Division under the command of Brigadier-General David S. Stanley], the ranking officers being home on leave. The country through which we passed was mainly woodland, red and white oaks abound. We passed a few pine groves also, though they were rather scarce. Occasionally we would pass a farm or a respectable cornfield and orchard,—they were nothing to boast of however. These Southern peaches are generally a poor article; the best specimens I have seen as yet would be deemed unsaleable by our city hucksters; none of the fruit hereabouts is of any particular account.

On our route we passed through the little town of Burn[s]ville [Mississippi], situated on the Memphis and Charleston R.R., about nine miles from Iuka; it is now, as is the case with most of the villages in this State, nearly depopulated, though the inhabitants could never have numbered over 150 or 200.

On the evening of the 20th ult., we reached this place after an easy march of twenty-two miles, which we accomplished in a day and a half. Immediately after we encamped, foraging parties were sent out, peaches, corn, applies, tomatoes, cucumbers, chickens, &c., &c., particularly suffered. Teamsters, instead of hauling their forage, scoured the country, and took it wherever it was to be found, of course, all being done strictly in accordance with the Confiscation Act.

Your humble servant, in company with several others, feeling rather thirsty after one morning's march, went to a house near where we camped, for a drink of well water. The old lady (?) apparently proprietress of the house, politely informed us that her well was low, and that creek water was good enough for us. Comment is unnecessary, but you will not be surprised, I am sure, when I inform you that her peaches, roasting ears, melons, &c., were rather scarce next morning.

When we reached Iuka we found that General Rosecrans had already established his headquarters here, (having arrived by rail from Corinth the same morning), at one of the finest buildings in the town. He was standing at a window as we neared; so with unfurled colors and martial music we paid him a marching salute, which he recognized by unfurling his immense flag, which was suspended in front of the house. We passed through the town and encamped about a mile outside, on a broad ridge which commands a view of the country for some distance around. Our water is obtained chiefly from the springs for which Iuka is celebrated. Iron, sulphur, chalybeate, alum and blue sulphur abound. A fine creek flows near our camp, but we are not apt to indulge in its water while the springs meet our demand.

Iuka is a flourishing town of about six hundred inhabitants; there are many fine buildings, including churches, hotels and stores. The two former classes have been converted into post hospitals. At present there is quite a lively trade going on, though many of the storekeepers are northern speculators and sutlers. We have good railroad communication with Columbus, Ky., via Corinth daily, so our mail and the papers come on time.

Rumors upon rumors reach and circulate through our camps daily, and all originate by the so-called "grapeonil" telegraph. Such rumors are generally without any foundation whatever. Day before yesterday, our brigade had orders to be ready to move at a moment's notice; accordingly everything was bustle, and in a few hours, tents were struck and wagons packed. Late in the evening, however, the order was countermanded, and we resumed our usual routine of camp duty. The news of the battle of [2nd] Bull Run caused considerable excitement here, received as it was with the reports of the battles in [Richmond] Kentucky, at Bolivar, and Tuscumbia. The two latter reports need confirmation, however.

The weather here continues very pleasant; in fact the salubrious climate of the country exceeds all our expectations. We supposed it would be perfectly intolerable at this time of the year, where on the contrary we find it more pleasant than in some of our more northern states.

I must now draw this to a close. I am on picket duty, and expect "the officer of the day" along every moment, and if I am caught penning a letter, instead of looking after the men, I am liable to get a sound rating, "sich is milingtary life." My writing desk is an oak board, eight feet long, one wide, one end elevated on a log, the other on the ground, and your correspondent astride of it. Don't you envy my "posish"? More anon.

Jacob C. Cohen Letters