1863-07-29Milldale, Miss.
Milldale, Miss.

July 29th 1863

Dear Parents

After a silence of nearly a month I am once more seated for the purpose of writing to you. I have rec'd several letters from you since I wrote and I do not wonder at your thinking it strange my not writing oftener but the time you spoke of not getting any letters from me was the time we were going down the Mississippi. After we landed I wrote quite a number of letters which I see by your last letter you had only rec'd one. The last one I wrote before this I think was dated on the 5th of the month the day before we left the Big Black the 3rd day after crossing the river. We left our knapsacks so you see I was without writing material until we came back here a few days ago. I should have written immediately after we arrived but I supposed we would embark immediately for the North. In that case a letter would reach home quicker written and mailed at Cincinnati or some other place North but I do not see any prospects of our getting away from here for the next two or three weeks. We have had a hard time since we left Kentucky but the worst time was after we left this camp in pursuit of Johnson. We left camp some 5 miles beyond here where we had lain a few days, on the fourth of this month, the very afternoon that Vicksburg surrendered in the morning, built a bridge across the Big Black and overtook Johnson with his army at Jackson where he made some show of defense. They were well fortified in front but Sherman who had command, sent a force to cut off his retreat but old Johnson smelling the play soon found his way toward Mobile, Alabama, but I hear that Banks met him in his rear and gave him battle but what the result was I have not learned. We had some sharp skirmishing at Jackson but no heavy fighting, though some of the western men termed it a heavy battle. When we came down here the western troops were very much displeased. They were jealous, thinking we were to get the prize of the capture of Vicksburg. They were of the opinion that the eastern troops were all cowards. One division of the 10th A.C. was temporarily attached to our Corps before Jackson in the skirmish. Our skirmishers charged upon the Rebel works and drove them from their rifle pits. We had no support, just the single line of skirmishers. Our Reg't and the 2nd Mich. were the skirmishers of our division. The 36th Mass. relieved us but not having any support they fell back to where we first engaged them in the morning and then held their position. We lost one man killed and our orderly Sergent wounded. Our little squad from Elk Run remains unbroken as yet, the only squad but what some on of their number has fallen either by disease or in battle but how soon it will come our turn I do not know. After the evacuation of Jackson we marched out towards Canton, some 10 miles north of Jackson, and tore up the railroad running Jackson to Nashville, Tenn. The country around Jackson and vicinity is very fine and by the crop of corn that is growing this year in the state I should judge very fertile. There is more corn raised or growing this year in this state of Mississippi that Pennsylvania ever produced in 5 years. Could the Rebels have succeeded in gathering this crop and secured it, it would have been utterly impossible to ever starve them out but they are about cleaned from this state. I think the people who have homes and plantations in this state will have cause to remember the 9thAC. It looks almost a pity to see the destruction of property but we thought we would pay them off for the raid in our state. I have a book captured out where we tore up the railroad that I am giving to Mother if I can carry it North without getting it too badly soiled.

The Rebels are getting pretty well used up both in the eastern and western departments. I hope the fighting is over but I have but small hopes of getting home before our term of service expires which is only 14 months more. Time flies swiftly and that will soon be at hand. It is very sickly here. The fever and ague is the principal complaint. I have been very healthy this summer. On the march when the other boys were entirely done over I felt well and could march with comparative ease. There was one or two days that the heat affected me so that it was rather hard for me to keep up but it is a wonder that we are not all dead for when out in front of Jackson all we had to eat on half the time was green corn and peaches but I have gained flesh unstead of losing. We have made some big marches for this hot climate, over 20 miles some days, the hot sun pouring down upon us. Some of the times it seemed as though we should melt. Jehiel and I are the toughest of any of the boys from the Run. Several of the others have been sick but are getting better. I hope we shall go North soon for the longer we stay here the more sickly we get. Foster Hill was mortally wounded and lived but a short time. I think about 48 hours. The ball entered his left shoulder near the neck and lodged near the heart. He was lying down when hit. Foster was a good Soldier and is missed by his Company. He was 2nd Sergent and stood a good chance for promotion. I must stop writing for the present for dinner is ready.

After supper and I am seated to finish my letter. After dinner I went out with Walter to get peaches with which this country abounds. we did not get any that were very good. They are gathered by the boys as fast as they ripen. I have no news but what I have already written. The report is that the boats are coming for us. I hope we shall soon get North and would like to get home to help you this fall but I have small hopes. We have been disappointed so many times. They tell me that Luke and Vine ware talking matrimony. Tell Luke to wait until I get back. I want to attend the nuptials. I must close for it is most night. My respects to all hoping that ere long I may meet them at their ever pleasant firesides. You were wrong in thinking I had become estranged. May God see fit to spare me no longer when I cease to think of my parents who have reared me and who are still dear to my heart. Please write often as convenient.

Direct as usual

This from your negligent but ever affectionate Son

J.D. Strait