This letter was written by 31 year-old George Washington Stull (1831-1904) of Harveysburg, Fountain County, Indiana, who served in Co. E, 63rd Indiana Infantry. George’s company was on duty in Indianapolis during the fall of 1862 and the summer of 1863, serving as provost guards at Camp Morton and acting as the Governor’s “enforcers.”
From this letter we learn that George served on a detail that left Indianapolis in late February for a two-week excursion down the Mississippi River to Memphis during which time he had the opportunity to visit Island No. 10, Fort Pillow, Fort Madrid, and the Union fortifications around Memphis. It is speculation on my part, but I think Pvt. Stull may have been part of a detachment from the 63rd Indiana Infantry serving as an escort to some twenty nurses who answered Gov. Morton’s call to serve in the Union hospitals in Memphis. The nurses are known to have traveled to Memphis during this period.
George’s brothers Aquilla Stull (1833-1923) and Catlett Richardson Stull (1841-1922), also served in the 63rd Indiana Infantry — Aquilla in Company D and Catlett in Company I. All three survived the war. They were the sons of Jacob Stull (1803-1889) and Rachel Donahue (1812-1887).
George was married in 1853 to Frances Ann Blevins (1831-1905) and together they had at least ten children, seven of whom outlived their father. George died at his home 2.5 miles north of Harveysburg, Indiana, in 1904.
March the 6th 1863
I make my pen in hand to let you know that I am well and hearty this evening and I hope when these few lines come to hand, they may find you and family well and enjoying the same rich blessing. Jackson, I have a great deal of news for to relate to you. I have just got home from the South and while I was sitting in my lonesome hut, I thought that I would write you a few lines to let you know that I have not forgotten you yet. But it appears that you have forgotten me. This makes two letters that I have written to you and I have not got a line from you. But I still live in hope to get a letter from you or some of my old log rolling friends from old Fountain and Parke [Counties]. I have written to several of my neighbors but it appears that they have all forgotten me. I suppose they all think because I have sacrificed my home and friends for the protection of our country that I won’t never get back and be a citizen amongst them all. But I hope that God will be on my side and guide me through safe and sound to serve my three years out for my country and then get an honorable discharge to come home to my helpless family to live my few days out where all of my future happiness depends, and have the pleasure of enjoying myself with them and my neighbors.
Jackson, tell them all that if they know the comfort that a few lines give me that they all would write to me surely and let me know what they all are doing. And Jackson, I mean you too, to write and let me know how everything that surrounds you are getting along.
Jackson, I must give you a history of my big trip that I have had through the Rebel country. I started from Indianapolis on the 23rd day of February and I never got back to camp until the 6th of March. I was eight hundred and fifty miles south in the Rebel country. I was on Island No. 10 while I was gone. There was about three thousand of Union troops on the island. I seen 42 large cannon that the Rebels spiked and left there. The Union men had them all piled up to send them off to get them fixed for themselves. They had their cannons placed all around the island ready to defend it if they should get attacked. Jackson, it is a pretty place. It is surrounded by the Mississippi River. It is in the Missouri about sixty-five miles below Cairo.
Jackson, I was in five forts while I was gone. Fort Pillow is the next. It is in Tennessee on the bank right where the boat stopped. It is on a high hill as there is on the waters of Greene’s Creek. The Rebels had their rifle pits dug for one mile on the bank close to the river. They had their cannon placed on top of the hill so they could shoot up or down the river. But they give it up and now the Union boys hold it now and say that they intend to hold it as long as there is dirt to bury a man on that hill. There is not many troops there but they are well fortified to defend that place. There is some two or three thousand in camp there.
The next was Fort Madrid. That was not much of a place. What few houses that was there had been burnt and the place was evacuated — nobody there — not even a Union man. It was a place of desolation and destruction.
From there I took the broad waters of the Mississippi to Memphis and there I seen something worth telling. There is about thirty thousand troops there. They have destroyed about one third of the town to get it out of the way of the range of their cannons. They have got a fort that will hold fifty thousand men. They have got their cannons planted and ranged to sweep the river for two miles. If the Rebels undertake to to take that place, they will have a good time. They have got from two hundred and fifty to three hundred cannons ready and waiting. They are from twelve pounders up to one hundred and sixty-fours — that is the different sizes of the cannons.
Jackson, there was a town [Hopefield, Arkansas] ¹ that had about five hundred inhabitants in it just across the river from Memphis that was burnt two days before I got down there. Every house was burnt in the city — even to the smokehouses. Nothing standing but the chimneys and everybody had left.
I want you to let Fanny and Yuilles see this letter. Jackson, so no more at present. But remain your friend until death, — George W. Stull
Write soon as you get this letter and tell Yuilles to write too.
¹ Federal troops burned Hopefield, Arkansas on 19 February 1863 — just two weeks before George’s visit. Until federal troops first took control of the town in June 1862, the shops, depot, and engine shed of the Memphis & Little Rock Railroad that were located in Hopefield were used by the Confederates to modernize rifles. When Confederate guerrillas continued to use the town to harass Union river traffic, four companies of the 63rd Illinois were sent across the river from Memphis to burn the entire town.