This letter was written by Corporal Nathaniel (“Nat”) Wiggin Deering (1840-1914) of Company K, 13th Wisconsin Infantry. Nat wrote the letter on his birthday — 23 October — from Paint Rock Bridge, Alabama, where he has just rejoined his company after spending some time in the hospital at Huntsville, Alabama. He describes the conditions of the hospital at Huntsville as so poor that Union soldiers from his regiment were no longer being sent there.
Nathaniel Deering was the son of Rueben and Betsy (Wiggin) Deering of Waldo, Maine. He married Harriet Robenia Whitten (1844-1920) and by the 1880s had relocated from Wisconsin to Iowa. He died at Atlantic, Iowa and is buried in Shenandoah, Page County, Iowa.
Nathaniel wrote to his cousin Juliette but there are no on-line genealogical records to aid further in her identification.
Paint Rock Bridge, Alabama
October 23d 1864
I think if being cross will only bring me such letters as your last that it will pay me to remain cross for a long time. Your letters always prove interesting but that was more so than usual. It came in time to cheer one of my lonely days in Hospital. I wish I could write you something that would prove interesting in return.
I am clear of the Hospital once more for which I am truly thankful. I came to my company four days ago. The Surgeon sent a squad of sick men to Nashville and had me booked to go but I was determined not to do it for I was getting strong very fast. I was homesick to get back to the company so when the cars got as far as here, I got off and left the rest to go on. I was so glad to get home again. I get something else to eat here except a small, small slice of bread, beefstake, sweet potatoes — the natives call them yams — onion, sauerkraut, soft bread, tea and coffee make a decided change in my diet for the better.
I am weak yet but gaining strength very fast. I have worked more or less every day since I came here. Have been helping my mess build a cookhouse. I found the company in rather a bad state of health. They report only four men for duty. Co. “I” are all upon the sick report — not a single man for duty.
I am doing guard duty. It comes hard upon the few of us who are able. Many of our sick boys are being sent to Stevenson and Nashville to hospitals lately. They got such poor treatment at Huntsville that we send no more there. I was in a ward where there were fifty sick men and only one man detailed to take care of the whole of them. Some nights we did not have even a tallow candle for the whole ward. One night when we had no light, a friend of mine was very sick. I sent out in town and got some candles and cared for him as well as I could but it was too late. He died at ten o’clock and one of his comrades near him died before morning. It was cruel to see men so neglected.
This is a rough-looking place. No natives live very near here. We are surrounded by mountains on every side. The forest leaves are turning and the mountains look gay and beautiful this pleasant morning. I long to take one of my old rambles among the mountains for grapes and nuts but guerrillas are so numeras that no one ventures out alone far from camp without risking his life.
We are rejoicing over the late Union victories in the field and at the ballot box and looking forward to the re-election of Lincoln as a “beginning of the end” that we have read so much about. If they don’t hurry up the war, I shall get to be an old bach before it ends. Twenty-four today. I feel more like a boy than I did six years ago.
Our mail comes quite regularly again. We get it every day.
I hope I am done taking strong medicine for this season. The surgeons have given us quinine, calomel, arsenic, strychnine, and even commissary whiskey which is a combination — yes, the very essence of all poisons. I have a bad cold and it affects my eyes. They are very sore so I will write no more this morning. I send love to all. — Nat
P. S. Don’t think that I have fallen in love because I used blue lined envelopes. I can get no other here at present. — N. W. D.