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Three Letters from Fort Donelson

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The first letter is dated 17 FEB 1862, and is from Colonel Jacob Lauman:

"Dear Wife,

I am again safe. My life is still prolonged. Let me hope it is for some good purpose. We have had a great battle, the fight lasting for three days, but you will hear of it, and the great result to flow out of it long before this reaches you. I commanded the Fourth Brigade of the Second Division and my command made their mark...

Poor Jack Slaymaker was killed, gallantly leading his men to the charge on the last day -- indeed, the only day the Second Iowa were in the engagement. Captain Cloutman fell, also bravely doing his duty. Harry [Doolittle] was wounded very severely, but the surgeons say he will recover. I left my command to see him and poor Jack last evening -- I have ordered Jack's remains to be properly cared for, to send home to his parents, and will see that it is done properly, although my time is so occupied I have scarcely time to write this note, nor do I know when or how it will leave here. I am now in command of Fort Donelson, and my brigade are quartered in the fortifications.  We will be ordered forward soon, I hope, and I sincerely hope our success will be the harbinger of a speedy close of the horrid rebellion. I received your two letters just before we were ordered into action, and I had to laugh over your congratulations at my good quarters in Smithland [Kentucky] when for two nights I had been camped under a tree, and it raining and snowing on me, without a tent. But my health is improving, and my cold, under which I have been suffering, is getting better.

General Smith (Paducah Smith) is a good soldier. The reputation of the Iowa Seventh is as bright as ever, although their loss is trifling. The State may well be proud of her troops.

I lost all my bedding yesterday, and doubt very much if I find it again. We marched out of camp leaving everything behind, and our friends helped themselves. I will look after Harry -- I think he will do well. Dr. Marsh says the wound in his stomach did not penetrate far enough for it to do any serious injury. I trust this may be so. He is in good spirits and bore his flag like a hero. Love to all. Good bye. 

Yours affectionately,  J.G. Lauman"


The second letter, also from Colonel Lauman, is dated 19 FEB 1862:

"Dear Brother,

The battle is fought, the dead are buried and the wounded cared for, and we are again settling down to the old routine of military discipline. But what a scene to have passed through, and what a victory we have won!  We have already sent off 8000 or 9000 prisoners, and we have more yet to send. But such a lot of humanity I never saw before -- all butternut color; but they can shoot, as many of our boys can testify.

I have made my report to General Smith, which I suppose will be published, and before this reaches you, you will know more about the battle than I do. I have already seen that the Iowa Seventh was all cut up on the first day's fight. I hope you did not let any of these [false] reports disturb you. We did have a hard time: for three days we lay in the open air without tents, and some without blankets, raining and snowing all night. The last night we remained under arms all night, prepared to repel an assault; but when morning came -- and oh!  how long it was in coming -- the enemy attracted our attention to their white flag, and I received proposals for capitulation, which we promptly forwarded to General Smith, and through him to General Grant. General Grant refused terms and insisted on unconditional surrender, and an hour was given them to consider. At the end of that time the loud shouts of the men gave indications that the surrender was unconditional. Then commenced the rejoicing. I claimed for my brigade the right to enter first, which was accorded; when with drums beating and colors flying we entered the fort. The Rebels were drawn up in line, with their arms in great heaps, and looked quite woe-begone, I assure you, as the victors passed along.

My brigade is in the fort, of which I have command. General Smith's division is quartered all around about. The fortifications extend over the country for miles, and the other division of the army encamped at other points. The greatest loss was on our right, in General McClernand's division. The enemy endeavored to cut through at that point, and fought with great desperation -- loss very heavy. But you know all this and more, and this will be stale news to you. I found the pistols I lost at Belmont at Fort Donelson... if not the same, then others just as good.

Captain R_____ will return to Burlington, he informed me to-day, for a short time. So he informed me, but he may not be able to get off. If he does, I will send a flag -- Secesh -- captured in the fort. They either destroyed or secreted their flags, as none could be found. I have not yet seen the reports of my commanding officer, but General Grant has caused a highly complimentary order to be read to the troops. General Smith is a good officer, and as brave as a lion. I am proud to be under him. I had a good brigade, and I believe they like me. I hope the rebellion will receive such a shock from this that they will not be able to hold up their heads for some time to come. I am obliged to Jenny for her kind and very acceptable letter, and hope she will write again. I received a letter from Governor Kirkwood covering the resolutions of the legislature of Iowa, and had them read to my regiment last evening. Tell Lou that Harry Doolittle is doing well. I went to the boat to see him, but it had started before I got there. He will remain for the present at Paducah, I suppose. I met, as I was on my way to Dover, where the boat was lying, Doctors Marsh and Nassau of Iowa Second, who gave me this information. Among the hundreds of wounded and dead, it is almost impossible to keep the whereabouts of anyone. I must now bring this to a close. Let Lou [Lauman's wife] see this, and it will be the same as if I had written to her. Captain Slaymaker's remains were forwarded to St. Louis for preparation to send home. I cut off a lock of his hair and sent it to Betty, fearing something might happen and the coffin be unable to be opened when it arrived home. Give my love to all, and if anything should befall me, take good care of wife and little ones, and believe me to be your affectionate brother,



The third letter is from Colonel James Tuttle, 2nd Iowa Infantry, dated 18 FEB 1862:

[All three letters found in Iowa in War Times by SHM Byers (1905) http://archive.org/stream/iowainwartimes02byer#page/n123/mode/2up  ]



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Part of why these three letters from Fort Donelson are special, is that they help "flesh out" two of the significant Federal leaders of the Western Theatre; and these letters reveal details not included in the Official Records.

Colonel Lauman's Fort Donelson report (OR 52 pages 9- 11) :  http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;idno=waro0109;node=waro0109%3A2;view=image;seq=17;size=100;page=root

Colonel Tuttle's Fort Donelson report (OR 7 pages 229- 231):  http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=Tuttle;rgn=full text;idno=waro0007;didno=waro0007;node=waro0007%3A2;view=image;seq=245;page=root;size=100



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