This letter was written by Harvey R. Frazer (1834-1910), the orphaned son of Irish immigrants Robert F. Fraser (1780-1857) and Elizabeth Ann Brown (1794-1847) of Sullivan County, New York. When he was 12 years old (1847), Harvey came West with his parents to Plainfield, Illinois, though his mother died in Chicago enroute. Harvey was a farmer in Will County, Illinois until he enlisted in Company C of the 13th Illinois Cavalry in 1861 for three years. He participated with his company in the battles of Arkansas Post, the capture of Little Rock, and the Red River Expedition. In the spring of 1865, he went into the hardware and grocery business and later moved to Colorado. He was married in 1865 to Roxanna Wright (1845-1930).
At one time he was a sergeant major in Company F but was reduced to ranks in December, 1864.
Harvey wrote the letter to his sister Nancy J. Frazer (1815-18xx), the second wife of Peter Millspaugh Crist (1807-1875). Nancy and Peter were married in October 1843. Living with Peter and Nancy from time to time was Nancy’s step daughter, Parna J. Crist (1834-1918), who is mentioned in this letter.
Harvey mentions receiving a letter from his brother Samuel B. Frazer (1832-1907) who farmed near Joliet, Illinois. Samuel was married to Anna Amelia Brown (1832-1914) in 1859 and their oldest child was Thorton R. Frazer, born 1860.
Addressed to P. M. Crist, Esqr., Durant, Cedar County, Iowa
Camp near Old Town Landing, Arkansas
September 18th 1862
Dear Brother, Sister & Friends in Iowa,
Your last kind letter bearing date August 10 came safe to hand and has been read and reread many times by me. You cannot think how glad I was to get it as I had not heard one word from you directly or through the friends in Plainfield in over two long months. This letter leaves me in good health but I cannot say so about all my fellow soldiers as there is much sickness in camp at present. In fact, there are but few men fit for duty in this command. Many has the ague, others camp fever, and some inflammation of the bowels which is extremely dangerous in this climate. I had one slight attack of chill fever about the time I received your letter but I soon got it broken up.
This camp is situated on the [Mississippi] River 18 miles below Helena. I think our object in coming here is to keep the Rebels from crossing in force from Mississippi and reinforcing those at Little Rock, Arkansas. We have not made any demonstrations against the enemy of late except some few bands that we have met while out after cotton.
I was down the River last week fifty five miles on a cotton expedition. The cavalry marched down but came back on steamboat. we intercepted a Rebel mail of 300 letters passing from Mississippi to Little Rock. The carrier was to get $5.00 apiece for delivering & returning with the answers, but we gobbled up the letters [and] consequently spoilt the size of his pile of Confederate scrip.
There has seventeen boats just passed on their way down to Vicksburg with exchanged prisoners. ¹ Three gunboats, one ram, & the rest were transports. I hate to see them going back as we will have to fight them over again but I suppose we got as good men in return.
Our army on the Potomac appears to be losing ground of late and I am losing confidence in our generals and also in the ability of our Commander in Chief. I believe that our generals are eight-tenths pro-slavery and that is partially the reason we don’t succeed better in the battles. I think this struggle will never end until the slaves are set free. I am not in favor of arming them because I believe we are competent to whip them without it and I think that after a war of eighteen months duration, that our President might see that moral suasion is not an effectual remedy.
I have been over in Mississippi once about one month since. We went over after cotton and were gone two days. We brought back over one hundred bales and captured a few straying Secesh. I would much rather hunt Secesh than cotton but when we are detailed, the orders are imperative and we must go. But we find some good melons — the best I ever saw in any county.
I read a letter from Samuel and his woman. Our friends in Illinois are all well with the exception of their own folks. His boy Thornton got thrown out of the buggy just before he wrote and had his collar bone broken. They had been to Joliet and came home. The dog came running out & scared the horse while they were getting out. Kate Brown was with them. She was hurt quite bad. Annie & the little [ones] escaped injury although they were thrown some distance from the buggy. The buggy struck the corner of the house but the horse was not hurt any.
Mrs. Hunter sent me two cans of fruit in a box that was sent from Joliet to the Captain for the sick in the hospital. I was many times obliged as I get very tired of camp diet.
This has certainly been a poor year for farming in Iowa, but times will be better when the war is ended. If I am mustered out of the service in any part of the southwest, I will try and give you a call before I return home. I think Deborah is back in Joliet by this time as the boys are too scarce in Iowa for her. Parma will wait for her soldier boy that has been covered with glory but not with blood. She must learn to write fast so he can write me a long letter soon. Please all write immediately on the receipt of this & thus oblige your ever affectionate brother, — Harvey
Co. F, 13th Illinois Cavalry
Care of Capt. [Willis] Danforth
¹ These prisoners were probably the same ones who were released from Camp Douglas in Chicago in September 1862 and were taken down the Mississippi River to be exchanged at Vicksburg on the 24th of September 1862.