This letter was written by William J. Rogers (1834-1865), the son of James P. Rogers (1803-1863) and Matilda Harriet Thornton (1811-1861). William was a corporal in Owens’ Battery, Arkansas Light Artillery, enlisting in February 1862 at Monticello, Arkansas. He was captured at Aberdeen, Mississippi, on 17 February 1864, whereupon he was forwarded as a POW through Memphis to Alton, Illinois. Subsequently he was transferred to Camp Douglas near Chicago where he died of pneumonia on 24 April 1865.
The battery served east of the Mississippi River for most of the war. The Monticello Artillery was originally organized as a light artillery battery, but as of March 18, 1862, the unit was at Memphis, Tennessee without guns or equipment, but by May 1862 it was referred to as heavy artillery. In early April 1862 the battery was at Fort Pillow, above Memphis, and later that month the battery moved to Corinth, Mississippi. An order dated Office Chief of Artillery, Corinth, Mississippi, May 2, 1862, directed Captain Owens, commanding Heavy Artillery, to “report with your company to Major-General Hardee for duty with the siege guns of his command.” The unit left Corinth a month later and moved to Okolona, Mississippi. By June 30, 1862, the unit was at Columbus, Mississippi. On August 29, 1862, the unit is mentioned as part of the Heavy Artillery at Columbus. Altogether the unit would spend almost a year assigned to Columbus.
William wrote this letter to his wife, Frances “Millie” A. (Goodwin) Rogers (1836-1907). She and William had two children: Merrell Elijah Rogers (1860-1914) and Willie Ann Rogers (1863-1956). After her husband’s death, Millie married Isaac A. Henry (1823-1901).
Shelby county, Tennessee
March 11th 1862
Mrs. F. M. A. Rogers
I seat myself tonight to drop you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along. I am well except the spring nettles [rash] which troubles me every much.
We landed at Memphis at 12 o’clock today. We are camped at Fort Pickens two miles below Memphis. I heard very bad news this evening. Generals [Ben] McCulloch [and] [James] McIntosh were both killed & General Price wounded in his arm & they had got in behind the enemy and was driving them south. The battle was fought in Benton county, Arkansas [see Battle of Pea Ridge]. We also had a fight on the Potomac in which our side worsted them a good deal.
The martial law in Memphis is pressing all the men in service. We do not know how long we will stay here or where we will go. We will find out in a day or two. The health of the company is very good. They are taking negroes by hundreds up to Island No. 10 to fortify it.
I saw Angus Halligan & Bill Griffin ¹ in Memphis this evening. I have nothing more to write at present. Give my best respect to all the family & to all enquiring friends. I remain your true and affectionate friend until death.
P. S. I will write to you soon again. You will direct your letters to me [at] Memphis until you find out where [we] will go. Direct them in care of Captain [James A.] Owens ² of the Drew Battery.
— W. J. Rogers
¹ Angus Halligan and William Griffin served in Co. I (Monticello Guards), 1st Arkansas Infantry (Colquitt’s).
² Captain James A. Owens served as commander of the Monticello Artillery (a.k.a. Owens’ Battery) from February 8, 1862, until his resignation on October 11, 1864, at which time Senior First Lieutenant William C. Howell assumed command. A total of 188 men served with the Monticello Artillery during the war. The vast majority of the men were from Drew County, with smaller numbers from the neighboring counties of Ashley, Bradley and Desha.