Letter writted by
3LT WILLOUGHBY C. DORION
4th TN Regt "Pillow Guards"
(The last of the letter is missing)
Island 10 Mar 7/1862
I wrote you a short letter yesterday & did not have time to finish it fearing that I could not get it off. Our mail facilities are not good as all boats have been engaged in the service of the Government transporting troops and stores Cannon etc.Our train from, Bolivar reached Jackson at the usual time the day I left home. I got on the Columbus train in about rwo hours (it being behind time) and got to my cabin at midnight, and found that our division (McCowns) was ordered down the river, being the first move in the great evacuation of that Port. Next morning we were off and came down as far as New Madrid where we met McCown coming up. He ordered us back up here (10 miles) where we landed and got our baggage off. Next day we moved down about 1 1/2 miles opposite the island and camped in a cornfield a half mile from wood and water. The Regiment grumbled so much that we were moved down a half mile further into the woods & we are now as comfortable as we can be after leaving our cabins.
On Tuesday morning at two o'clock we were ordered to Madrid & arrived there about daylight, formed in line on the street, kindled some fires.Here we learned that the Yanks were encamped out about three miles from town. We could see their tents by getting on top of the houses. We were on the street until dark, it was very unpleasant & to increase it, it snowed nearly all the evening - during the day Col Strahl ordered us to tear down all the houses in front of the river. These houses were dwellings, shops and storehouses, the inhabitants had left the town. Nearly all of their goods etc were left in the houses. We demolished about fifteen in front so that our gunboats & the men behind our fortifications could get a fair sweep at the enemy on their approach in case they should attack us.
After leaving the street we were quartered in comfortable houses. An order came for our Co. to go out on Picket with the "Shelby Grays"/ "Lauderdale Invincibles". I thought that it would be an awful time to go out in the snow and not be allowed any fires, with no chance to sleep, but when we got out to our post rejoiced to find that we were to be in a large two story frame house, with two rooms in each of which there was a fireplace. Ours was the outside post and of course nearest the enemy & the one most liable to their attack. After posting our sentinels we went in the house (about 60 of the Co). At about half past nine two of our sentinels fired at a couple of Yanks who were prowling around. This brought us out of the house in a run & in a minute our line was formed and ready: later finding that there had been but two seen, we went back again and most of the company went to sleep. Between 10 & 11 our sentinels reported that they could hear the enemy in motion & that waggon (sic) wheels could be heard distinctly. In an hour after a Sentinel ran in & reported that they were advancing. Again we broke out of the house - in a hurry too - Harry Powell through the front window and the balance through the back door and around the house into the front yard - two of our boys (C C Crews) and the corporal of the guard (Lewis Toone) had fired on the enemy. By the time I reached the front yard the Yanks fired a volly at us & bullets whistled around in unpleasant proximity to our heads. Crews and Toone had each hit a man (one they killed, the other was wounded). We left the yard and fell back in the direction of the other two companies. The enemy had commenced throwing bomb shells at us directly their infantry fired but none came very close to us. All this took much less time than it does to write it.We were marched back to town & inside the fortifications in a wet showy place, no chance to sleep and I almost froze to death., at daylight next morning we went back to the first house we had been in and built fires. I went to sleep and slept for some time. We were all completely exhausted. We came back up here the same evening . I had very little to eat during the time I was down there.
The next morning some of our boys went back to the house we stood picket in after their blankets - the enemy had left in a hurry during the night (our gunboats were shelling them terribly while they were firing at us). We got all our blankets and everything we had left. Besides we picked up 10 or 12 blankets - a few caps etc left by the Yanks - also the Yank who was wounded. He was nearly frozen & died even after we brought him in. He had a ninie musket - said he belonged to the 5th Iowa Regiment. He had kept a diary from the time he left home until the day he was shot. A report as he said in his diary had reached their camp that day that the Yanks had taken Columbus. The one who was killed had been taken back to their camp.
So you see the Pillow Guards have been in a little fight & killed two of the enemy & no one of them injured in the least. A great deal of credit has been given to us for our coolness during this little affair & the boys well deserve it.
We will no doubt be ordered down to Madrid again if the enemy makes an attack. We can go down in an hour. We can hear our gunboats shelling them all through the day.
THE REMAINDER OF THIS LETTER WAS MISSING. It is a part of a group of about 50 letters to and from members of the Dorion Family.
Many thanks to the Edward G. Gerdes Family for sharing these letters with us in Arkansas and in Tennessee.
The above information may be used for non-commercial historical and geneological purposes only and with the consent of the page owner may be copied for the same purposes so long as this notice remains a part of the copied material. EDWARD G. GERDES
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