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Traer Historial Museum - The Tediousness of War & Bureaucracy

May 3, 2012
Sharon Stoakes - Traer Historical Museum , Traer Star-Clipper

Some things have changed tremendously in 150 years. Some things seem strangely the same. I thought this week I would reveal an excerpt of Peter Wilson's letter home, showing the tediousness of war and bureaucracy.

In 1942, during World War II, the State Historical Society of Iowa reprinted some of Peter Wilson's letters home in their Journal of History and Politics. Peter had written home from Pittsburg Landing on March 24, 1862 (thirteen days prior to the Battle of Shiloh) about several days of mail arriving at once. His next message home wasn't until May 17- weeks after being captured at Shiloh. His message reads:

"Dear Father; After being six weeks in the Southern Confederacy so called I have so much to write I scarcely know what to begin with. In the first place the most of our Regiment were taken prisoners after fighting hard all day the Battle of Pittsburg Landing.... I spent three weeks in the hospital... As soon as I was well I was removed from the hospital to the guardhouse where I staid two weeks when I, in company with 30 more prisoners from Arkansas, was started for Columbus, Mississippi.... We staid only two days at Columbus, when an order came from Beauregard to parole all the prisoners. We took an oath not to fight any more until regularly exchanged. We then started for Corinth and in due time arrived at that place. We were passed through the lines with a flag of truce and conducted to General Halleck's quarters. Here we were told that we could be exchanged in a few days and were sent to this place some five miles from the army and 8 miles from Corinth... I don't think the exchange of prisoners will take place until after the battle so I will not be in this time."

Even to read this from our perspective, knowing the outcome of the war and how it changed history, a person can still sense the uncertainty and frustration the soldiers must have felt.

Bureaucracy often leaves us with frustration even in modern times, and imaging the frustration these soldiers felt as they were marched from place to place gives us a good perspective of the chaos of this great War of the States.

My next article will be May 25, and will recall how northern Tama County celebrated Memorial Day.

If you have memories to share, please email me at redhawk8223 or send a letter to Sharon Stoakes, 2970 150th Street, Traer, IA 50675.



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