1864-65: Capt. Alfred B. Cree to Martha (Smith) Cree

Capt. Alfred B. Cree

Capt. Alfred B. Cree

These letters were written by Capt. Alfred B. Cree (1831-1901) who was mustered into Company F of the 22nd Iowa Infantry on 10 September 1862. The 22nd Iowa was ordered to Benton Barracks at St. Louis in September 1862, thence to their first duty station at the post of Rolla. October and November were spent in scout and escort duties. In late December, the regiment joined the brigade of Brig. Gen. Fitz-Henry Warren at Houston, Missouri. Warren’s brigade joined the Army of Southeastern Missouri at West Plains in late January 1863, and participated in a dismal winter campaign which terminated at Pilot Knob. The respite was brief before orders arrived directing the 22nd to march to the Mississippi River for transport to the Vicksburg area. The 22nd arrived at Ste. Genevieve on March 11, 1863, and embarked for Vicksburg on March 22.

Capt. Cree served with his regiment during the Vicksburg operations in 1863, the campaigns in western Louisiana and Texas in 1863-1864, Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley campaign in 1864, and Sherman’s march through Georgia. He was wounded in the right shoulder September 19, 1864, at Winchester, Virginia, and wounded in the right leg severely, October 19, 1864, at Cedar Creek, Virginia. He recovered to muster-out with the 22nd Iowa at Savannah, Georgia, on July 11, 1865. He returned to Iowa City, where he resumed his trade. Cree was very active in the reunions of the 22nd Iowa, first held in 1886. He died in 1901 and is buried at Iowa City.

Capt. Cree mentions 1st Lt. George Handy in the first letter. Handy had joined the 22nd Iowa on 13 August 1864 and completed his staff duty, returning to the 22nd Iowa. He also mentions 1st Lt. Lt. William J. Schell who resigned his commission on 17 February 1865.

Alfred Cree was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He settled in Iowa City, Iowa, in 1856 where he worked as a carpenter and cabinet maker. He married Martha A. Smith (1838-1917) in 1860. His prominence in the community earned him a commission as the Captain of Company F which was composed largely of men from the Iowa City area.

A cache of 29 Civil War letters written by Capt. Cree are housed in the archives of the State Historical Society of Missouri. “The Cree collection consists of letters by the captain in Missouri to Martha Cree in Iowa City. There are also brief notes to Mrs. Cree by the regimental surgeon, William H. White, and the adjutant, John W. Porter. There is a single letter by Capt. Cree to his father-in-law, John M. Smith. The letters generally concern family business matters and regimental politics, especially concerning Co. F, but also include descriptions of Capt. Cree’s sickness and hospitalization at Rolla, his meeting with Dr. John Hyer, a noted secessionist at Lake Spring in Dent County, and the town of Ste. Genevieve. Although the 22nd saw no fighting during service in Missouri, Cree’s letters provide a view of a hard-working, conscientious company officer without political pretensions. The letters are especially useful when used in conjunction with letters from the 22nd in the Iowa City Republican, the published reminiscences of J. C. Switzer and the history of the 22nd by Samuel C. Jones.”

Note: The first letter was donated by Carl Volz to the State Historical Society of Missouri to be added to the other Cree Family letters.

1864 Letter

1864 Letter

Addressed to Mrs. A. B. Cree, Iowa City, Iowa

Camp near Charlestown, [West] Virginia
September 2nd 1864

Dear Mattie,

What would I give to see you this nice afternoon — all the money I have, I know, and all I expect to have for the next six months. For what is money when love is around. Your good letter of the 26th came to hand this morning. Was glad to hear from you and home. And don’t wonder that you took a small sheet not having a letter for so long, but hope you received the letter that I commenced at Leesburg. And as we don’t have to move every day I shall try and write oftener.

For three or four days after getting into camp, I don’t have time to write much. I and Harry has been hard at work making out muster rolls and clothing returns for the month of August but are most through now. George Handy has not been with me since I left Algiers. He has and now is on Col. [Edward Leslie] Molineaux’s staff — the Col. of the 159th New York commanding the 2nd Brigade. I feel the loss of him as he does most of the writing but hope he will soon be back. He is a good and kind, generous, young man. That is much more than I can say about Schell. George [Handy] is now 1st Lieut. I have a commission from [Col. William M.] Stone for [Theodore S.] Loveland as 2nd Lieut. but can’t have him mustered as I have not enough of men in the company. It requires 83 men for a 2nd Lieut. and I now have but 65. I am very sorry as he is one of the best of soldiers and should have a commission.

Walter was to see me just now. He says he had a letter from his brother that is in the Hundred Day Service and he says he is going to reenlist as soon as he is out and is coming to my company, and if Walter won’t let him come to this regiment, he is going to some other. I told him  if he was bound to reenlist, let him come but I told Walter to write to him and urge him to stay at home as he don’t know much about soldiering. I wonder what the Hundred Day boys would think if they had to live the way we have been living for the last two weeks. We don’t care about  living on hard tack — would rather have it than anything in the way of bread. But when one has before eating sit down and fish out the worms and bugs, don’t go down very well. But I suppose the government thinks that is the cheapest way of feeding bread and meat at one time.

In one of your letters you said you was glad to hear me say that I would not enlist again. You need never give yourself any trouble on that score. If I get out with my life this time, I will be satisfied to let some others try it for three years. There is some talk about the 19th Army Corps going back to the Department of the Gulf, but I think there is no such good news. I must say I liked that department. When we was there, we thought the Army of the Potomac was the place and could have everything we wanted, but it is just the reverse. Can’t get anything. I never lived as poor in all my life. But as the boys say, it is only one year.

One year ago this time I was on my way from Vicksburg to Carrollton. It seems but a very short time. I hope the present, don’t you. How I would like to spend this winter in Texas. I know if you would spend one winter there you never would want to spend anymore in Iowa. Dewitt Holmes, and King was to see me yesterday. They are both well. The 28th [24th] Iowa is not in the same brigade but the same division with us. I never saw Dewitt looking better. I seen Bing Wood this evening. He is well and says he had a letter from his father of the 24th of August. You said you and Jennie Lee ran all around to see if anyone had a letter from the regiment. I suppose you have a big time. You must not be so foolish. We are not half as bad off as you think we are. Jennie’s husband was sent to the hospital from some place on the march. I think he was sent to Harper’s Ferry but she will hear before this comes to hand. But one thing you can tell her, he is not very bad and she need not be alarmed about him.

I am surprised to hear of Dr. Voght ¹ and Mrs. H. What can he think of himself and what will his wife think and do? He should be drummed out of town. I hope the public will find it out.

The other day Loveland received a picture of his wife. ² He showed it to me. I tell you it looks gay — a little more than I would like my wife to look. It looks to a man up a tree as all things were not right but I suppose he can’t see it. What a pity. I think she is one of the handsomest women in Iowa City.

The excitement is great here about McClellan and Chicago [Democratic] Convention. I don’t think Old Abe will stand any show at all. I know he won’t if the soldiers has anything to do with the election.

I must stop for this evening as my candle has about gone up. Good night pleasant dreamer. I hope it will be as pleasant as the one I had about you last night.

Good morning, dear Mattie. Hope you are well but hope you have not spent as miserable a night as I have. Orders came to march at three o’clock this morning and it is now about two so you may guess that it is pretty early. I don’t know what way we are going but I judge up the Valley as the wagons is going back to Harper’s Ferry. I am going to send this back with the sutter. I will write the first chance and let you know where we are. I won’t have time to fill this sheet as the drums are thundering a way to fall in. Write after if I can’t. My love to all.

Your until death, — A. B. Cree

¹ This may have been Dr. William Vogt, a native of Prussia, who began his medical practice in Iowa City in 1848. Described as a slender young man who had only a partial mastery of the English language when he arrived in the United States, Dr. Vogt won the respect of his patients during the 25 years he served the community. He died in 1873 at the age of 55. Dr. Vogt was married to an English woman named Mary (b. 1825) and had at least six children.

² Theodore S. Loveland (1831-Bef1876) was married to a woman by the name of Annie (1846-Aft1906). Annie remarried in January 1876 to John Mahar in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. 



Camp near Berryville, Va.
September 8th, 1864
Dear Mattie,

Perhaps you will think I have forgotten you as I have not written for some time but that is not the case for I had one of the best dreams about you last night that I have had for a long time. Your good letter of the 29th came duly to hand and was glad to hear that you received the Leesburg letters and that it did you so much good as I am living to make you happy and if I can do that, I know I will be happy.

We met the Rebels at this place and had a small fight. I thought the prospect at one time was good for a big fight as Old Gill Folsum says, but in the morning they had left. That was on last Sunday. Our corps was not engaged but was ordered up about dark to support the 8th [Corps] that was engaged but in the morning and after a long night’s rain and cold, they had gone and I must say I was glad of it as I did not feel much like to go into a fight after laying out in the cold rain all night without any over you. ¹

When we received the order to move up, the fighting was going on pretty strong and I had some trouble to keep our friend Mr. [Stephen] Noland in the ranks. The second time he run out I told him that if he run out once more, I would take my sword and cut his head open. And he done pretty well for some time but in the morning he was not to be found and have not seen or heard anything of him since and hope I never may as he is one of the poorest soldiers I ever saw. At first I did not blame him for acting so for the rebs did give us a good shelling for about an hour but he acted the coward all the evening. ²

I don’t know what disposition will be made of us yet or where we will go. One thing I do know, we can’t go very far to the front before we find the rebs and that will not do. It seems as if Gen’l Sheridan don’t want to fight them and they don’t want to fight him for every time we come near together, we both fortify and stay a little time and one party gets up and dusts. The night that the Rebels gave us such a good shelling, I wished you could be here in some good, safe place to see them. It was beautiful — the night was so dark — that made them show so plain. But I would not of wanted you here and being in the same position as we for perhaps you could not lay as close to the ground as we did.

We have some very rainy weather lately and as we have not anything to protect us from the storms except a little thing called a shelter tent that amounts to nothing when it storms. But we have but one year. Yes, if this was the 8th of September 1865, I don’t think I would spend much time writing to you but would be after coming to you myself. We have been counting the years but now will commence to count the months and I know that will sound better to you. But the time is long yet. I know how the last year hangs in as I had some experience when I learned my trade.

Harry and I have sent for the Waverly [newspaper] for six months so you see we will have something besides war news to read. Walter is back at Harper’s Ferry with the wagons but suppose he is well. Virgil and all the rest of the boys is well. I have not seen Dewitt Holmes for some time — I believe not since I last wrote you. It is strange that he don’t write oftener than he does. I don’t think Virgil’s folks write as often as they should. I know he thinks so. The greatest chap in the company to get letters is Willson. Every mail he generally gets five and six and sometimes more.

The Great Snake Show at Iowa City must of been a great thing. I think our friend Wallace and Farrall must feel cheap. I think it hits Farrall in the right place when he says he thinks he is the all rightest, smartest chap in Johnson County [Iowa].

I should of written more but the mail is going out and I must stop. My love to all. Yours until death. Write often and long letters. — A. B. C.

¹ A regimental history states that on 3 September 1864, the regiment “received orders at midnight to have reveille at 3 a.m. and be ready to move at 4 a.m. Did not move till after daybreak, then marched toward Berryville. Halted for rest and coffee one-half mile from Berryville, at 6 a.m. The enemy attacked the Eighth Corps who were in front of our column. Sharp and lively skirmishing was kept up for awhile, then quieted down, then renewed with greater force. The Regiment was ordered to the front at quick time, formed on the line of battle, and sent out a heavy line of skirmishers. Then we lay down on our arms to rest. Shot and shell flew over us, showing bad aim on the Confederate side. The shells went over us and into the midst of our corralled wagon teams and caused a panic in that fraternity…The battle raged to the right and left indicating that the enemy was working to flank us. [On] September 4th, we were quietly aroused at 3 a.m. and formed in line. As soon as it was dawn we couls see moving troops in all directions. We were changing our line of battle for the day. We were ordered back about one mile and threw up breastworks or rails and dirt….”[Reminiscences of the Twenty-Second Iowa Volunteer Infantry, by Samuel Calvin Jones, page 83]

² Noland enlisted under the name Stephen L. Knowland, age 24, of Iowa City. Native of Indiana. He enlisted and mustered into the service in August 1862 but there is no further record of him. In Find A Grave, he is identified as Stephen L. knowland (1838-1930) but there is no marker on his gravesite in Alma Cemetery, Alma, Nebraska. I believe he was the son of John R. Knowland who resided with his family in Roscoe, Winnebago, Illinois in 1850.



Morehead City, North Carolina
March 21st 1865

Dear Mother,

I don’t know what to do this afternoon better than write a letter to you as you are the one that is uppermost in my mind and the one that I love the best. I don’t know what would become of us soldiers if it was not for love and hope. I think they were made expressly for the soldiers.

If you received my last letter from New Bern you will see that we have moved. We received orders on Sunday for this place. Here is where we landed when we come from Savannah. The meanest little hole you ever saw, but just at this time a very important one as all the supplies for Sherman’s army now goes this way and that is not a little item. If the Rebels could just see the amount [of] clothing and other supplies that the North can turn out, and the men, I think they [would] say that there is no use in talking and give up the ghost.

I have no letters to answer this afternoon. Wish I had. It is so hard to write without something to write about. It is most a month since I had a letter. John King came from Savannah. Got here this morning. Says there is a mail for us on the way, as it come to S[avannah] about the time he left.

This place is something like Matagorda Island for sand, but it is said to be very healthy—much more so than Beaufort just across the bay. I don’t know what they are going to do with us, but I think for some time we will be kept on this line of communication—anyhow as long as Sherman is in this part of North Carolina. I hope Dr. [Jacob H.] Ealy has got home long ago. I saw an officer that belong[ed] to his regiment—the 17th Iowa. He thinks the Dr. is about the right kind of a man.

In one of your letters you told me that if Walter should lose his red handkerchief or if I would lose mine, I should not take his. Well Mr. W. has lost his and wants me to give him mine, but I can’t see it. Col. [Harvey] Graham stayed in Newbern. Was all right when we left on Sunday. All the boys is well and send compliments. I must stop. Give my love to all and a kiss to May. I hope I may soon get a long letter and then you will get long ones in return.

Yours until death — A. B. C.


About Griff

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries. View all posts by Griff

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