1865: Harmon J. Trask to Calista Sophia Trask

Harmon J. Trask

Harmon J. Trask

This letter was written by Harmon J. Trask (1843-1912), the son of Israel Trask (1804-1844) and Sophia Mallory (1818-1854). Israel and Sophia emigrated from Ohio to Fulton County, Illinois, from which place they removed to Jefferson township, Louisa County, Iowa, in 1837. Harmon’s three siblings were Emily Bly Trask (b. 1836), Cornelia Evangeline Trask (1840-1915), and Calista Sophia Trask (1844-1912). Emily married George W. Hook in 1854. Cornelia married Roseberry M. Wilson in 1862. Calista married William H. Prouty in 1867.

Harmon was also born at Wapello. He married Elizabeth Weber on November 2, 1878, in Newton, Kansas. They purchased land in Macon Township, and also in Newton Township. Prior to this, Harmon served five years in Co. K, 8th Iowa InfantryHe was a survivor of the Lewisville, Alabama Confederate Prison, where he was taken after his capture at the Battle of Shiloh. They had one daughter, Elsa, and a son who died as an infant. Elsa was graduated from Bethel Academy, later marrying V. E. Duncanson. They had one son, Lowell, and they lived in San Bernardino, California.


Camp Near Black Water [Mississippi]
July 25, 1863

Dear Sister,

I received your letter a few days ago written the 29th of June & was glad to hear that you were all well &c. &c. I am hardy as a buck & Seth Strand [Stevans?] came from the hospital today. He is well &c. &c.

Cornelia, we have fine times a gathering peaches. We have all we can eat or use in any shape or form. I made $4.50 yesterday and today gathering peaches and selling & we have to go about two miles for them.

I wrote you a letter while we were at Jackson [Mississippi]. We had fine times chasing old [Joseph E.] Johnston & if he had of stayed there in Jackson two days longer, we would of had his entire army but we got a great many as it was.

And yes, I heard about that & I was shocked when I heard of it for last summer when I heard she was going with him, I wrote to her and tried to persuade her to not have anything to do with him & she said that she would not have anything to do with her but it appears as thought thought I knew nothing about him.

I will bring this to a close for I want to write a few lines to Calista. You need not send any paper now for I have got my knapsack now and have got a plenty.

But when we start off on a march, we leave everything behind so as to be as light as possible. No more. Write soon. — H. J. Trask

Sister Calista,

I have wrote you one letter since I have not heard from you. I wish you was here to help me eat peaches. We have some of the best peaches I have eaten for a long time. Calista, Saturday will be my birthday & shall sister: would like to know whether you are going to school or not. If you are, I will send you some money for we will get our pay shortly. Please go for me. I will pay the bill.

Goodbye. — H. J. Trask


Memphis [Tennessee]
January 15, 1865

Dear sister Calista,

Calista Sophia Trask

Calista Sophia Trask

I will try to write you a few lines to let you know that I am still a kicking. I received a letter from you yesterday. Am sorry to hear that you was all sick with colds. I can’t see that I was down-hearted any when I wrote you last.

This is the Sabbath day & I am on patrol. How I wish you was here. We have very nice weather here the most of the time. Today seems like the break on Spring. We will hardly have anymore cold weather here.

Col. [James L.] Geddes has got back. He has been at home for two or three months. We heard that he had resigned but he came back the other night & everyone was looking for him. He says he is going to stay with us till our time is out & they are going to build barracks for our regiment here in town and we will having nothing to do but patrol the town &c.

Cornelia Trask

Cornelia Evangeline Trask

You said you would like to know who my duck is. She don’t live many miles from Blackhawk but she is now getting better. She has had the typhoid fever. I believe doesn’t care. They think about Netty. I don’t believe he ever thought a great deal of her.

I am glad to hear that you can have meeting at Tooleshard ___ more. Hope they may have good success for God knows that the people there have led far astray from the commandments and our father which art in heaven. You say that you don’t know but what you will join the church. If you do ever strive to serve our father in heaven & never be led astray from the path of God for remember, dear sister, that we had a father & mother in that blessed land above and I want to meet them there & I hope you & Cornelia and Emily will strive to serve God. Pray to him. He will answer prayers for he has said so.

I will bring my scribbling to a close. Don’t think that I was crying when I wrote this for I was not. Don’t expect you can read this for I always get in such a hurry. Excuse all mistakes from your brother until death.

Harmon J. Trask

to his sister Calista S. Trask


This regiment was organized in the latter part of the summer of 1861, and was mustered in Sept. 5. Soon after its organization it went to St. Louis, from which place it moved to Syracuse, where it joined Fremont’s army in pursuit of Price’s forces and operated in southwestern Missouri, losing heavily through sickness. It returned to Sedalia in November and remained there until ordered to join Grant’s forces in Tennessee the following spring. Col. Steele was appointed brigadier-general and Lieut. – Col. Geddes succeeded to the command, Maj. Ferguson being commissioned lieutenant-colonel, and Capt. Joseph Andrews of Co. F was made major. The regiment participated in the battle of Shiloh, fighting 10 hours on the first day, repelling attack after attack, and, with the battery which it was supporting, inflicting terrible punishment upon the enemy. It was the last to leave the advanced line of the army, being surrounded as it attempted to withdraw and compelled to surrender. Out of 650 men engaged, it lost 64 killed, 100 wounded, and 47 missing. The 8th, 12th and 14th Ia. formed four-fifths of the little force that held back ten times its numbers at the close of the first day at Shiloh, giving Buell time to bring up his forces and snatch victory from defeat. Entirely cut off, they fought until they could fight no longer, and threw down their arms only to see many of their number shot down in cold blood after they had surrendered as prisoners of war. The officers above the rank of lieutenant were sent to Selma, thence to Talladega, returned to Selma soon afterward, three months later to Atlanta, thence to Madison until Nov. 7, when they were sent to Libby prison, Richmond, and were paroled a week later at Aiken’s landing. The lieutenants and enlisted men were sent to various prisons in Alabama and suffered the miseries and privations so common to southern prisons. A few of the 8th who escaped capture went into the “Union Brigade,” a consolidated regiment rather than a brigade, and took part in the Tennessee and Mississippi campaigns, distinguishing itself at Corinth. The regiment was reorganized at St. Louis early in 1863 and made an expedition to Rolla, after which it joined Grant’s movement upon Vicksburg. It took part in the battle of Jackson, participated in the assault at Vicksburg on May 22 and also in the siege. It accompanied the army to Jackson, and after the evacuation there engaged in the pursuit of the enemy. It then went into camp at Vicksburg where Lieut.-Col. Ferguson died of disease. A short march to Brownsville was the only movement of interest until early in November, when the regiment moved to Memphis, thence to Lagrange and Pocahontas, where it remained until ordered to Vicksburg to take part in the Meridian raid. Soon after that event most of the command reenlisted and visited Iowa on veteran furlough. Returning to Memphis, it performed provost guard duty during 1864 and the early part of 1865, its most notable work being the repulse of Forrest, who made an attack on the city Aug. 21, 1864, the regiment being assisted by the “Gray-beard” regiment from Iowa. Early in March, 1865, the regiment moved to New Orleans and proceeded to Mobile bay, where it took part in the assault upon Spanish Fort and captured several hundred prisoners. This assault was made by a brigade commanded by Col. Geddes. Maj.- Gen. Steele, the former colonel of the 8th, won high praise for the manner in which he conducted his part of the siege of Mobile, and Geddes’ assault on Spanish Fort was conceded to be the most brilliant performance of that campaign. The regiment moved to Montgomery shortly after and served until mustered out. The original strength of the regiment was 921; gain by recruits 106; total 1,027. [Source: Regimental history taken from “The Union Army” by Federal Publishing Company, 1908 – Volume 4]

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