June 22 1863
This pleasant morning after a long silence I am trying to write a few broken sentences for your perusal. It has been a long time seemingly since I wrote to you.
When I last wrote we were in Jamestown, Ky. but the next day after I wrote we rec'd marching orders and immediately took up the line of march, not knowing whither we were going until 24 hours later when we reached Lebanon and found we were to take the cars for Louisville on the Ohio River. The distance from Jamestown to Lebanon is 60 miles, so you may judge as to our being fatigued after carrying our knapsacks 60 miles in 24 hours and through the hot sun but none of our company fell out on the road. All came into camp in good order. We lay over here until the next day after dinner. The paymaster was there and payed us $26.00 and being on a long tramp it came very acceptable. We reached Louisville about 8 o'clock, evening of the same day crossed the Ohio on a ferry boat and lay at Jeffersonville until the next morning at 8. We passed some very fine looking land. We reached Seymour on the Ohio and Memphis RR. Here we changed cars, got refreshments again and soon after leaving the city we crossed the Wabash into Illinois. In passing through this state we saw some of the finest country I ever beheld, prairie reaching as far as the eye could extend. Yes, the beautiful prairie covered with her rich verdure upon which here and there large herds of cattle were feeding and occasionally beneath a group of shade trees nestled a neat little cottage, the comforts of which I almost envied the occupants but the people of Indiana and Illinois were very liberal. Almost every town we passed the ladies would bring out basket after basket of eatables and if the cars did not happen to stop they would throw them upon the cars at the boys. Through Ill. our pathway was literally strewn with flowers. Hardly a man but did not get a nice bouquet with a card attached upon which the name of the giver was fastened with many kind wishes for our welfare and success. It seemed almost like home. Every time the cars stopped the citizens crowded around us cheering us with their lively conversation and good wishes, many of them inviting us home with them for refreshments, which kindly offers we were always obliged to decline not knowing what moment the train might leave. I came across quite a number of people from Pennsylvania. At Centralia we stopped for several hours. The ladies brought us out cakes and pies, milk and everything we wanted to eat. We reached Cairo where we left the cars the morning of the 10th, having been 3 days on the cars. Here we took the boat down the grand Old Mississippi. Cairo is situated at the mouth of the Ohio and is one of the lowest and dirty places we ever saw. We reached Memphis, Tenn. on Thursday morning about 9 o'clock. This city has the appearance of having once been a very prosperous and thriving place but most of the grand stone houses are closed. There are a great many sick and wounded here. Nearly all the sick and wounded from Vicksburg are brought here. Several hundred came in while we lay here on the boat. We lay at this place some 6 days, on the boat all the while, though our officers took us up into the City in the morning and stayed till night for 3 days. When ashore we lay at the Court Square, a beautiful and magnificent park in the center of which stands a marble bust of Andrew Jackson with various inscriptions upon it, among those is (The Federal Union must be preserved). Some Secesh, think it was, said a Col. from Missouri, partly erased the "Federal Union". If the base traitor has not already received his reward, it undoubtedly awaits him.
After lying at Memphis nearly a week we steamed down the majestic river toward Vicksburg. The scenery along the river is far different from what I expected. I had expected to find some marks of civilized inhabitants, but instead one vast and gloomy wilderness except an occasional town almost deserted. We finally reached the mouth of the Yazoo undisturbed after going up the river about 25 miles. We landed at the point where, if you recollect last March or April Genl Sherman was defeated. This is naturally a strong position but the Rebels were forced to abandon it. We marched back about 4 miles from the river and pitched our camp in one of the worst places you ever thought of. Thought I had seen broken and rough land in Pennsylvania but none can compare with this place. One can hardly find a spot large enough to lie down upon without rolling down into a gulf but it is in the woods where we get plenty good shade and if we take the trouble we can get plenty of blackberries.
From our present camp we hear the booming at the fort City of Vicksburg. It has not yet surrendered but we are anxiously looking forward to the day when she falls, hoping that it may prove a death blow to the Rebellion, for when Vicksburg falls Fort Hudson must surely fall, leaving the Mississippi open to navigation the whole length if we get the army at Vicksburg the great Western army of the Rebels will soon be destroyed, for then Grant and Rosecrans can concentrate their forces and wipe out the Rebellion in the southwest. I hear that the Rebels are again in our own State but how true this is I do not know, if they do get up there I hope they will kill a few of those Copperheads and make an example of them for they are worse than a Rebel in the South and do more hurt.
The Western troops hate all Eastern troops and say they do not want any of our help yet. They have done some good fighting to be sure, but the hardest has been done by the gunboats and they are all manned by eastern boys from the Army of the Potomac that were transferred over a year ago when the fleet was fitted out at Cairo. Nearly all these places where they boast so much were whipped mainly by the gunboats but I think they will get over their prejudice after a while. I guess I have written about enough for my hand trembles and I doubt whether you can read what I have written already. This is my 24th birthday and how I wish I could spend it with those I love most dearly, but I live in hopes ere another year rolls round we shall all be at home. My respects to all enquiring friends. Please excuse poor writing and write soon to your ever Affectionate Son
J .D. Strait
Direct to 45th Regt Pa Vol
1st Brigade lst Division GAC Mississippi
Our Brigade is changed to the first
Enclosure: Direct your letter to Washington D.C. Company I 45th Reg. Pa. Vol. Capt. F.M. Hills