1863: Edward August McDonald to Ellen McDonald


How Edward and Samuel might have looked

These letters were written by Edward August McDonald (1843-1863) of Co. D, 11th Iowa Infantry. Edward was the son of William McDonald (1795-1854) and Harriet Studebaker (1807-1891). Edward enlisted in October 1861 as a private; was promoted to corporal in May 1862; but was killed by guerrillas on 19 October 1864 at Adairsville, Georgia.

Edward wrote the letters to his sister, Catherine Ellen (“Nellie”) McDonald (1844-1891), who married Albert Jefferson Johnston (1842-1927) in 1866. Albert served in the 2nd Iowa Cavalry during the Civil War.

The history of the 11th Iowa up until the time this letter was written — Moved to Jefferson City, Mo., November, 1861, and duty there till March, 1862. Expedition to Booneville December 8, 1861, and to Providence and Booneboro December 14. Moved to Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., March 10, 1862. Battle of Shiloh, Tenn., April 6-7. Advance on and siege of Corinth, Miss., April 29-May 30. Duty at Corinth and Bolivar till November. Battle of Corinth October 3-4. Pursuit to Ripley October 5-12. Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign November, 1862, to January, 1863. Moved to Memphis, Tenn., January 12, 1863; thence to Lake Providence, La., January 18. Expedition to Richmond, La., January 29-31. Richmond January 30. Duty at Lake Providence till April 1863.


Addressed to Miss Ellen McDonald, Wilton, Muscatine County, Iowa
Postmarked Cairo, Illinois

Corinth, Mississippi
June 23, 1862
Dear Sister,

I received your letter several days ago and the only reason I have for [not answering it sooner] is that I am so lazy that I put it off as long as I could — but will promise you not to do it again, and of course you will answer this as soon as you get it. Your letter found me in good health and I hope this will find you enjoying the same blessing.

We are doing nothing at present but lying in our tents and doing our best to keep cool. This southern sun begins to shine pretty warm and as I have liking for hot weather, I keep pretty close to my tent.

I was to see the 5th Iowa last Sunday. They are as fine a looking regiment as I ever saw. Harm was not very well. He had a bad cough but nothing serious. ¹

In regard to Halleck’s Army being ordered to Richmond, we do not know anything of it. Part of our army has gone to Memphis and the remainder is encamped around Corinth. I think it likely our Division will stay here all summer. They are building forts here and intend [to] station troops here.

You will be slightly astonished when I tell you that we [have] ripe blackberries and plums in abundance. This is the greatest country for wild and tame fruit I ever saw. Every farm has a large peach and apple orchard and when they get ripe, we will make them suffer. I would like to be at home when them [ ] but I guess I have [to] do without them this summer. But I think I will be at home in time to go to Mount Vernon next winter with you.

I saw [Albert] Jeff Johnston last week. He was in good health. I also saw Harv Varner. ² He is as big a devil as ever. I believe I have written all the news that would interest you — only that the report of my being promoted to corporal is true. Give my respects to your lady visitors. Nothing more from your brother, — Ed Mac

¹ Harmon H. McDonald was Edward’s brother who enlisted at age 19 in 24 June 1861 in Co. A, 5th Iowa Infantry. He mustered out of the service on 21 April 1863 at Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana.

² Harvey Varner (1843-1902) was a corporal in Troop G, 2nd Iowa Cavalry. He enlisted in August 1861 and was not discharged until September 1865.


Patriotic Cache of Henry Halleck (“Old Brains”)

Addressed to Miss Ellen McDonald, Wilton, Muscatine County, Iowa

Lake Providence, [Louisiana]
March 13th 1863

Dear Nell,

I seat myself this afternoon to give you a good scolding for not writing to me. I have not had a letter from you for 3 weeks. What is the matter? Have you so deeply engaged in preparing yourself for a school marm that you cannot take time to write? But I stop scolding and hope to hear from you soon. I have not had a letter from John for a long time. I want you to tell him to write. I have not much of interest to write. We are ____ camped on the lake and will be apt to stay for some time. The weather is very warm for the time of year. The health of the army is very good. How long it will remain so is more than I will pretend to say. I am afraid the warm weather will have a bad effect on the health of the troops in this department but I hope the troubles will be over before long when we can live in a more healthy climate.

We have been paid off again. We got two months pay. I did not send any home as it is impossible to tell when we will be paid again and it is not very pleasant to be without money in the army. We will very probably get 6 month’s pay next payment when I will send a few greenbacks to spend. I want you to give me the …. I think a little whitewashing would not do them any hurt but I must not slander your kind neighbors. I hope I will be at home to attend the next meeting that is held at church. I do not know as I would know how to behave in meeting for associations in the army are not of the most refined order. I intend sending you my picture with this letter. I had it taken in a case with Samuel Steffee. ¹ It is a very poor picture. I intend having another taken tomorrow which I hope will look some better that this one does. I advise you not to share it for not to frighten them. I will send you one that will do to look at when I get it taken. I believe I have written all that would interest you and will close with my love to you and mother.

Your brother, — E. McDonald

¹ Samuel Steffee enlisted at age 20 in Co. D, 11th Iowa Infantry. He was a native of Pennsylvania and a resident of Muscatine when he enlisted. He was promoted Second Corporal April 26, 1862. Re-enlisted and re-mustered Jan. 1, 1864. Promoted Fifth Sergeant Jan. 1, 1865. Mustered out July 15, 1865, Louisville, Ky.



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