Martin Luther Houser

Company F, 106th Illinois Volunteer Infantry


He [James Wilson Howser] would never talk about his army life very much, so we have but little first-hand information regarding it. Knowing that he had served through the entire time with Mr. J. W. Sumner, I wrote to Cousin Webb [Josiah Webster Sumner-- 1st cousin of James Wilson Howser's wife, Frances Carnahan] for information about their war experiences. In answer, he sent [Martin Luther Houser] a little old leather-covered diary, and wrote:
'I have concluded to send you the small diary I kept as well as I could during our ups and downs while in the army. You will see that it is about sixty-four years old. I just had to jot down our experiences as chance to do so occurred.
To complete it, I will say that we were mustered out of the service at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, on July 12, 1865. We marched fify miles across to the White river to get a boat for Cairo, Illinois and finally arrived at Camp Butler, Illinois, July 24, 1865. Here, we received our pay, and were discharged for Home Sweet Home.
Your father was one of us through all these rounds. We had traveled by boats, railroads, and on foot through mud and swamps, some six-thousand miles. I will just add that we went to Vicksburg with 900 men. When we came back to Helena and got marching orders for Little Rock, 250 were all that got in line. Ther rest were either dead or in the hospital.
At one time, your father was sick in the hospital at Helena, Arkansas, as was I. Your mother came down to see him, bringing Louvern, then a babe. My brother, Thompson, came with her. Your father got able to go home with her; and later, I got a furlo too.
There were the officers of Company F, 106 Ill. Vol. Inf.

Colonel: R.B. Latham

Captain: Wm. Beezley

First Lieut.: James I. Ewing

Second Liet.: John R. Ash

Sergeants: B.F. Sumner, John Rhodes, A.F. Gordon, H.A. Barker, L. Stackhouse

Corporals: B.F. Smith, J.F. Russum, James W. Howser, Wm. Cartright, W.L.Jones, P.W. Howser, W.J. Martin, J.W. Sumner

Captain Beezley and Liets. Ewing and Ash served all through the war; and that was something unusual. The Sergeants and Corporals were promoted during the war. Your father was promoted to Third Sergeant. I was sorry to hear of your father's death. We were good friends. Please be careful of my little book. Excuse my writing as my hands are not so steady as they once were. I am in my 87th year.'
1862 Nov. 7: Left Camp Latham and arrived at Alton, Ill., about 8 o'clock at night. Got aboard steamer Metropolitan for Columbus, Ky. Stopped at St. Louis, about 20 miles from Alton, for two hours.
Nov. 9: Arrived at Columbus, distance 250 miles; stayed all night; then got aboard cars again.
Nov. 10: Arrived at Jackson, Tenn., and struck our tents. Nothing of any note occurred in this month excepting that the hogs and cattle suffered.
Dec. 6: Moved into the town of Jackson. Quartered at the Court House where John A. Murrel was condemned. Had a good time here generally, but things were quiet for a while.
Dec. 15: Quite an excitement in town today. Rumors of Gen. Forrest marching on Jackson with 20,000 men. Gen. Sullivan sends to Coringh for reinforcements.
Dec. 16: Commenced to build breastworks. All business houses closed. No citizen allowed on the streets. Reinforcements came, and we are all ready for a fight, but no attach today.
Dec. 17: No fight yet, and no hopes of any.
Dec. 18: Increased excitement. Skirmishing in the afternoon. Reported loss on our side of 100 men and two pieces of artillery. The enemy's strength supposed to be 30,000.
* * * * *
Dec. 26: Went to Trenton. Nothing of much note transpired the rest of this month excepting preparations for New Years dinner.

1863 Jan. 1: Had a splendid dinner. All ate hearty and had a jolly time. We did not do anything for the rest of this month but forage, which was carried on with life.
* * * *
June 1: Started for Vicksburg. Laid two nights and one day at Memphis.

June 2: Got on board boat at 12 o'clock. We were fired into by a band of guerrillas at the head of Island No. 63. C. Beezley of our company was instantly killed; and three others wounded, none fatally.
June 4: Landed fifty miles up the Yazoo River, and ordered in line of battle. Heavy skirmishing on the front.
June 5: Rebel battery opened on our gunboat. Three shots from out gunboat silenced the battery.
June 6: Orders to march. Started at 11 A.M. for Haines Bluff. The weather was very warm, and a great many of our boys were sunstruck.
* * * *
July 4: Pemberton surrendered his entire force of 27,000 men to Gen. Grant.
* * * *
Sept. 18: Went to the hospital at Memphis, Tenn.
Sept. 27: Tomp [his brother] came to Memphis, and Frank [Francis Howser] and Wm. Summers [her brother]
Oct. 5: Tomp started home.
Nov. 7: Spent the day in Memphis; went to market in company with J. Bowen; the assembly was large, and the sales fast; my weight, 152 pounds.
Nov. 8: On guard at the magazine. Received a letter from home.
Nov. 9: My name taken for furlo
Nov. 10: Went to Memphis and spent the day; bought a hat, cost $2.50.
Nov. 14: Went after word.
Nov. 15: Received my furlo and started for home. Got aboard the steamer and left Memphis at 5 P.M.
Nov. 16: On my way to Cairo; got on board cars at 1 P.M.
* * * *
Dec. 14: Started for the regiment.
Dec. 16: Arrived at Cairo and got on the steamer St. Patrick for Memphis.
Dec. 18: Got on Steamer R.E. Hill and went to Helena, Ark.
* * * * 1864
Jan. 8: David O. Dodd was executed today at 3 P.M. for being a spy. He pleaded that he was not guilty until the last, and then he owned that he was guilty.
* * * *
Feb. 1: Drew six months' pay, $77.10. Sent $60 home.
March 18: Two men executed for hanging Union men.
Mch. 23: Gen. Steel's expedition left Little Rock for Camden, 20,000 strong. Whipped the Rebs and marched into Camden. Stayed there until their rations gave out.
Mch 28: Left Little Rock with supplies for Gen. Steel's army. Went eleven miles and met the army. They gave us three hearty cheers when they saw the rations.
* * * *
June 25: Ordered to Clarendon. Got on the steamer Platte Valley and started in company with five other transports and three gunboats. The Rebs have blockaded the river at Clarendon, about forth miles from Devalls Bluff. They have sunk one gunboat, taking the crew prisoners.
June 26: Landed at 9 A.M. Formed in line of battle and marched out. We found the Rebs posted in the edge of the timber some three-quartes of a mile from the landing. Had to go through a cornfield to get to them. and while we were advancing through this field the enemy opened on us with their artillery, doing little damage. Company F of our regiment was ordered forward as skirmishers. By this time the Rebs began to fall back. They retreated to Piketown, planted their artillery, and let loose at us again. They soon had to pull stakes and skedaddle, leaving one piece of artillery. By this time we had advanced two miles, and, it being very warm, a great many of our men were overcome with the heat. We stopped here and took dinner, about 2 o'clock, the Rebs eating their dinner about half a mile away. Was ordered forward, and skirmished for about half a mile. Then the Rebs beat a hasty retreat.
June 27: We followed them up, had one little skirmish, then heard of them no more.
June 28: We had to return to the landing to get grub, having had but one meal since we left. Heavily reinforced with hardtack.
June 29: Arrived at Clarendon. Illuminated the town by burning every house in it. We had twenty men wounded, some fatally. The Rebel loss is twenty men killed and sixty wounded. The Rebel Colonel Shank had his leg shot off. Got aboard a steamer and landed at Devalls Bluff at 10 o'clock at night. The country passed through on this trip was swampy and we had to wade mud and water shoe-mouth deep more than half of the time. The country was almost destitute of inhabitants and eatables.
* * * *
July 4: We had a dry old time.
* * * *
Aug. 21: Left Brwnsville for Pine Bluff, going by way of Little Rock.
Aug. 22: Landed at Pine Bluff, having come 115 miles.
Sept. 12: Corp'l James F. Russam died.
Sept. 23: William Hicks was executed, charged with being a spy.
Oct. 23: Commenced cutting logs to build winter quarters.
Nov. 18: Liet. Col. John M. Hart died at Pine Bluff.
Feb. 10: Detailed as clerk at Deserters Camp. Pine Bluff, Ark.

Submitted by: Aprille C. McKay

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