On The March

On The March

Union soldier shares memories via 1862 letter home


Randy McCrory knows the Vintage Bentonville collections well — no surprise, since the online museum is his baby. And right now, like brick-and-mortar museums — he’s inviting visitors to come “see” some of his new and favorite artifacts online.

One of them is a Civil War-era letter.

“The letter was written by James H. Hergesheimer,” McCrory explains. “He served in the 20th Iowa Infantry, Company H, and was a private. The only battle he fought in was the Battle of Prairie Grove. His regiment had one officer and 13 enlisted men killed and had two officers and 157 men killed by disease. He died Feb 26, 1863, in the Springfield, Mo., area of consumption (tuberculosis). His wife’s name was Eliza Jane Boyd. I believe he may have been from Clinton, Iowa.”

Here’s some of what Pvt. Hergesheimer had to say in a letter to Eliza on Oct. 18, 1862, camped near Pea Ridge:

“Dear Wife,

“I now sit down to write to you again we are now out of Missouri in Arkansas. We have traveled two hundred and seventy five mile afoot. … I tell you we have seen hard times and still harder in store for us. We have one hundred and seventy five more miles to make before we stop traveling by foot and all indications of fighting for it every foot they will contest to the last. So don’t be surprised if you hear of some heavy fighting down our way soon.

“We have three days rations in our haversack … just enough for a poor days rations, but it must last three days. Well I have the upper hand of them. I am the cook and I will look out for number one. I made the boys some apple dumplings. Four a piece I tell you. They were good. … The boys acknowledged it was the best supper they have for a long while, and it was the best I have eaten since I left you.

“Well we passed over the battle grounds of Pea Ridge and encamped in the artillery grounds occupied by Sigel at the time of the fight. We could see where the balls entered the trees and where they cut trees down. A foot through there is three grave yards. There one for the rebels and the Iowa boys that was killed in the battle, and one for all the other states. We have done well we have come four hundred miles through the enemy and haven’t lost a man by the ball. …

“I am well and hearty. I feel like I could eat up a dozen rebels today and two dozen additional tomorrow. … I read your Bible whenever I get the chance to, and hope I will be a better man when I return to you again. …

Union Pvt. James H. Hergesheimer remembers the difficult days of the Civil War in a letter recently acquired by Vintage Bentonville, an online museum.
(Courtesy Photo)

“I must tell you about mu whiskers. I said when I left home I wouldn’t shave until I came back again. Well I kept my word so far and I am pretty hairy about the face, and if me should have to stay three years in the army, I guess I would scare you all away from home. My mustache curls up my face. I look as savage as a bulldog and as harmless as a child, and am fattening on nothing. … I get my tobacco cheap now. We find the natural leaves now a hanging in the tobacco houses on the deserted farm of the skedaddling rebels. Arkansas is a great country. I guess when I come back I will try to come by the river so I won’t have to tramp over this rough road again.”



Vintage Bentonville

WHAT — An online museum

WHEN — Open 24 hours a day

WHERE — VintageBentonville.com

COST — Free; donations of historic items welcome

INFO — Email rlmccro@hotmail.com

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