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John Downes
Company E, 35th Iowa Cavalry

"The night before last, they burst a bridge below town. The same night the rascals made charge on Fort Abbott, Kentucky. One Rebel Captain and one Lieutenant and four privates killed. No one on our side hurt...." John Downes, Company E, 35th Iowa Cavalry October 30, 1861


October 30, 1861

Mound City

Mr. John Walton, sir, I sit down once more to write to you and inform you that I am well at present and hope these few lines will find you able to eat your taters also.

We begin to have stirring times here and tomorrow we will launch another gunboat, and in the course of days, all 3 will be on the water. We have to guard this place close at present. There is secessionists all around us at this time. The night before last, they burst a bridge below town. The same night the rascals made charge on Fort Abbott, Kentucky. One Rebel Captain and one Lieutenant and four privates killed. No one on our side hurt.

Nest week we start down the River to meet General Pillow. Today, the last day of the month, is grand inspection day. We will have to shoulder muskets, knapsacks, canteens and haversacks and appear on parade prepatory to getting our pay.

This day is all excitement! Everyone tries to make the best appearance he can. There is some of the soldiers talk of deserting the Regiment if they dont get something to do soon and join some other division of the army. But according to the military law, they cannot do it. Some of them will try it. Hit or miss, we are receiving newer recruits daily. On tomorrow, we all go to church together in one mass. Some of the boys is sure to get drunk.

General McLernand was here. Received the troops. He intends giving us a chance to show the strength of our muscle soon. He was glad to find a warlike sentiment in all the soldiers. At his departure, the boys cheered him loudly.

I have been trying to get a transfer to the Iowa second. There is some boys in it I know and they have better Officers and more strict rules. The Old General gives the praise of being the best drilled in service of the western department which encourages the new recruits greatly.

I should ask you to write to me, but I do not know how long I shall be here. As soon as we go into winter quarters, I want you to write to me and let me know how things are going. I must stop writing and go and get supper for my mess. Your friend John Downes.

P.S. It is now midnight and the boys had gone. The fact of it is there was some hogs come inside of the lines and they would not take the Oath of Allegiance. Constantly, the boys killed them, and made Roast. J.D.

Read the Downes Letters
1861 | 1863

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John Downes was born in Ireland and resided in Muskatine, Iowa. He was 38 years old when he enlisted as a Private on August 12, 1862. He was mustered into Company E, 35th Iowa Cavalry. He mustered out in 1865, at Davenport, Iowa.

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