This letter was written by 24 year-old Lemuel B. Laughlin (1839-1863) on June 21st 1863 during the early stages of the Tullahoma Campaign in which Union General William Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland outmaneuvered Confederate General Braxton Bragg, forcing him to retreat to Chattanooga. It was also just prior to the audacious raid that Confederal General John Hunt Morgan led his horsemen on into Ohio and Pennsylvania that would end in his capture.
Lemuel and his younger brother John Warren Laughlin (1847-1863) served in Co. F, 104th Illinois Regiment. They were the sons of Thomas Williamson Laughlin (1813-1860) and Mary Bailey (1814-1896) of Bureau County, Illinois. Lemuel was “slightly” wounded in the defeat at Hartsville, Tennessee in December 1862, and it was later reported in the regimental history that Lemuel, “six feet or more in height, when the Regiment was ordered to lie down, while loading, did so but once; taking his stand, he deliberately loaded, and, bringing his musket to a ready, picked his man and fired — no doubt some one dropped, he escaped with a wound.” (p. 70)
Lemuel and the other men who survived the Battle at Hartsville were taken prisoner and shortly after paroled and sent to an exchange camp at Columbus, Ohio. By April 1863, they were exchanged and sent to Nashville where they guarded railroads until May when they were sent to Brentwood, a few miles south of Nashville, and brigaded with the 15th Kentucky, 42nd and 88th Indiana Regiments.
Regrettably neither Lemuel nor Warren would survive the war. Lemuel was killed on 20 September 1863 during the Battle of Chickamauga and Warren died in a rebel field hospital on 29 September 1863 of wounds received in that same engagement. Warren was barely 16 years old. These brothers were two of ten soldiers in the 104th Illinois that were killed or mortally wounded in Company F during the entire period of service during the Civil War.
Though he makes no mention of her, apparently Lemuel was married at the time. After his death, Emily R. Laughlin filed for a Widow’s Pension for which she received $8 per month.
June 21st 1863
Warren has been writing home so I thought I would send a few lines in the same envelope. It is Sabbath afternoon. We have no duty to perform today except company inspection in the morning and drill parade in the evening. We expect to have preaching this afternoon at ½ past 2 o’clock. We haven’t near a nice place here to hold meetings as we had at Brentwood, [Tennessee,] but still we have a very good place in the shade of some trees. The place where we are camped is beside one of the lost rivers with which this state and Kentucky seem to abound. The well from which we get our water is dug down to this stream (some 15 feet) and it furnishes us an unfurling supply of good water. Along the ravine which follows the course of this stream there is some trees that have been saved and not used for fuel by the soldiers and in the shade of these we hold our meetings. The immense bodies of troops that have been quartered here for the last year are fast cutting down all the timber that the farmers had saved and converting it into firewood.
Everything is quiet here now. [General John Hunt] Morgan‘s forces are at Beard’s Mills about 19 miles from here on the road to Lebanon and Hartsville [Tennessee]. It is the place where “Old John” had his headquarters when he was superintending our march to this place last fall. How long “Old Rosy” will let him stay is yet to be seen. I wish they would mount our brigade and give us the job of cleaning him out. It would be a good deal better fun than laying here doing nothing, that’s so. I would like to march him in here like he did us last winter.
Well, I must close. I suppose Warren has told all the news, if there is any. We are all well. Give my love to all. Good bye for the present.
From your affectionate son, — Lemuel