This letter was written by James (“Jim”) A. Kirkpatrick (1839-1867), the son of David Kirkpatrick (1803-1874) and Nancy Anderson (1811-1870) of Canton, Benton county, Iowa. Jim enlisted in Co. H, 18th Iowa Infantry in August 1862 and was immediately made 5th Sergeant. He rose in rank to 2nd Sergeant in September 1863 and finally received a commission as 1st Lieutenant on 30 January 1865. He mustered out with the regiment at Little Rock, Arkansas in July 1865 but died less than two years later on 17 May 1867.
Jim wrote the letter to his friend, Mary “Ella” Fawcett (1847-1914), of Benton county, Iowa. Ellen was the daughter of Jonathan Fawcett (1806-1884) and Caroline Gibbons (1821-18xx).
June 6th 1863
Yours of May 18th is received and I hope you will pardon me for not answering it sooner.
I generally endeavor to reply to letters which I receive from dear friends immediately upon the receipt of them, but sometimes am a little negligent and do not answer as promptly as I should.
When I last wrote you, we were encamped in Fort No. 1. On the 30th of last month we moved our camp two miles east of town on the Rolla Road. Since being encamped at this place, we have met with two serious accidents. On the first of June, a severe storm visited us, blowing tents down and scattering things about generally, raining very hard all the time. Finally the lightning struck a tent, injuring twelve persons seriously (one of them [Gabriel G. Netland] has since died) and a great many others received slight shock but none dangerous.
Yesterday morning our captain [Gideon P. Stafford] got up, washed himself, and started to take a morning walk which he was accustomed to do, and in about ten paces from the tent, one of the boys saw him fall. He ran to him as speedily as possible and the doctor was there in a moment, but all efforts to save him were useless. He expired in a very few moments, never speaking after he fell. The doctor attributed the cause of his death to a fit of apoplexy.
Today the regiment escorted his remains to town. Tomorrow he will start for West Union, Fayette county, where he resided before enlisting.
The health of our regiment is at present very good. The boys are all anxious to have an opportunity to meet the enemy but I fear no such good luck awaits us while we remain in this state.
You mention in your letter you heard I was coming home on furlough. I do not think I shall go home before next fall and probably not then if we remain here. I can get a furlough whenever I want it but circumstances are such that I do not wish to be absent from the regiment at present.
Hoping to hear from you soon, I subscribe myself, yours as ever, — J. A. Kirkpatrick