Bygones of Monroe:
Letter from the 11th Mich. Cavalry
Headquarters 11th Mich. Cavalry
Lexington, KY. January 24, 1864
Editor Commercial: Thinking it not improbable that too many if not most of your readers, a little information in regard to the Eleventh Cavalry would be acceptable, I would speak briefly concerning our condition, position, and proceedings. I will not repeat the tale of our trials and exploits on our way hither, for that already has been made public, as we learn from a stray copy of a Detroit loyal paper. Sufficient to say that we left Camp Lee at Kalamazoo on the evening of the 18th December, and arrived here on the 23rd of the same month. Five hundred of our horses perished during the New Year’s storm. Frozen feet, toes, ears and fingers were common articles hereabouts at that time, and the amputation of several feet and the subsequent death of the poor victims all attest the severity of the weather with which Eighteen Hundred and Sixty Four was ushered into existence.
We have all come to the conclusion that the “Sunny South” is still quite a distance ahead of us. We have seen but little of it so far, until the last few days we have suffered considerable for want of a proper number of tents but the evil is now remedied. Affairs move on smoothly, and the Quartermaster’s and Commissary’s departments being well regulated we have enough to eat, drink, and wear. To be sure we missed our Christmas cake and New Year’s turkey, yet for all that our good Uncle Samuel is a good provider and looks well to our wants.
Lexington is so well known that perhaps is unnecessary to say much in regard to it. It is well known as once being the home of those antipodes, Henry Clay and John Morgan. Here the patriot lived and was buried, here the Traitor existed and first organized the band which under his leadership has rendered him and it so famous. Kentucky is a loyal state but there can be no doubt that among her citizens might be found many a rebel sympathizer Conditional Unionist, and would be John Morgan. But if any one of your readers should expect to visit this goodly city we would warn them not to expect to find either Architectural beauty of Northern industry or thrift, for he will merely be obliged to suffer disappointment. At present Lexington has but two things to be proud of. The first is Henry Clay’s monument, which after all was erected by means of a National subscription and the other is her enormous Hotel rates. It might be considered perfectly reasonable by a late resident of Richmond, but to the most of us it seems to be rather high to be obliged to pay fifteen to twenty dollars per week for accommodation fully equal to a second rate country tavern in our own Michigan, with all the extras and et ceteras to be paid for in the bill also.
On the 21, inst that great and successful physician the Paymaster made his appearance and you may rest assured that the Medical Staff will luxuriate in comparative idleness for a short time at least.
As yet we have received neither arms nor horse equipments, but they are both on hand at the Quartermaster’s awaiting distribution.
We have little of camp news to communicate. It may not be known to all that the commander of Co. D. of this regiment is Capt. A.H. Bowen, formerly of Monroe. But most of the Monroe boys in this regiment belong to Co. E. Capt. R.R. Kirby. This company, by the bye, is not in quite as good a condition—mentally—as it should be. The truth of the affair is that there does not exist that mutual confidence and good will on the part of the men towards their commander that ever should exist between soldiers and their superiors. Certain allusions which have been made in regard to the assignment of credits on the enrollment books and the receiving of bounty money together with the asserted non-fulfillment of promises given when enlistments were being made, and the personal treatment of some of the company, have all tended to produce this sad result. The remainder of the Commissioned officers of the Company enjoy the most unlimited confidence and friendship of the entire company, a fact which shows that the men can and do appreciate certain qualities of which both their Lieutenants are possessed. But enough of this—It is an unpleasant theme at the best and is not likely to be productive of very beneficial results.
At present the weather is warm and our camp and territory adjacent is one vast sea of mud. But a warm sun is rapidly improving matters in this respect.
On the 20th inst an order was received from General J. T. Boyle for the delivery of all negroes within our lines, as soon as the order became known there was a general stampede of Africa’s Sons, and in five minutes there was not a “colored gentleman” in camp except four, whom they had succeeded in securing. Where they all went to would not be easy to say, but if our hay stack and the adjoining woods and hay-lofts could speak, they might throw some light up this dark subject. However when the Provost guard took their departure from camp, our colored boys began to return, and now they are all back, except the four who were so unfortunate as to be taken. We shall probably move to the front soon after receiving our equipments, but as yet nothing definite is known. Our Field and Staff officers are all well liked and under their supervision all things go on smoothly.
With the best of wishes for you and your patrons.
I remain Yours Truly,
(Monroe Commercial, February 4, 1864, Page 1, Column 3)