[I found this letter in a pile of undated ones I was going through at the end of the processing. I think it belongs in early March 1862, putting it after February 20 and before March 22. I think the “hardest-fought battle” that he refers to is Fort Donelson and that Lib is his sister Elizabeth Grier Hibben.
Mark Twain actually worked as a steersman aboard the steamer John J. Roe in 1857: “She was a charmingly leisurely boat and the slowest one on the planet. Up-stream she couldn’t even beat an island; down-stream she was never able to overtake the current. But she was a love of a steamboat.”]
Steamer John J Roe
Near Eastport Mississippi
Your Letter of the 5th March only reached me this afternoon and I hasten to reply. You complain of receiving very few Letters from me and think I have forgotten you. I can assure you that you are entirely mistaken for you are in my thoughts always and when I forget you I shall have ceased to live. I have written you every week and if you do not receive them they must be lost. We find it very difficult now to send Letters away as we are about [p2] three hundred miles south of Paducah on the Tennessee River, and very near all the SteamBoats on the [illegible] Waters are here loaded with Troops. I counted to day Eighty Boats laying here crowded with Soldiers, probably in all Sixty Thousand Men. We left Fort Henry about ten days since and are now laying here doing nothing. I think however we will land in a day or two, as it is reported that there is seventy five thousand rebels at Eastport, and I believe it is the intention of the General to Clear them out and then march on Memphis. The weather here is very warm and very pleasant, and it is a beautiful country. I am [p3] happy to say that most of the Inhabitants are good Union men and appear to be very glad to see us and are anxious that the Stars and Strips should continue to wave over the entire country.
I have not as yet seen any of the Puffs and praises accorded to me when you speak of it and think that it is rather overdone as I done nothing more than my duty and stood up to the fire without running – one thing I do say I am not at all anxious to get into another fight, but if I should I shall try and not disgrace myself or my friends. I certainly hope I shall not get Killed for I have to much to live for now and I shall [p4] use my best endeavors to preserve my life. I am becoming more and more disgusted with Soldiering and as soon as we get through the campaign I intend resigning and coming home again to stay.
I think I can quit honorably now as I have been in the hardest fought battles ever fought on this continent and our Regiment has the credit of accomplishing as much if not more than any other Regiment there.
I would like to Know what James Rodgers Knows about my conduct at Donelson You say he gave a big [illegible] of it how did he hear of it or what does he Know. do tell me about it in your next. Capt Simmons you [p5] speak of is on our Boat and we are great friends. We got acquainted in a very singular way. he heard I was from Peoria and formerly from Pensylvania, and he at once introduced himself to me and enquired if I was acquainted with a family by the name of McKinney. He said they were Cousins of his and he would like to becoming acquainted with them. I told him I was and he then showed me a letter written by you to a cousin of his. I told him to day that you had enquired about him and he says he intends writing to you. He is a splendid fellow [p6] and I think a great deal of him. He was acquainted with a great many of my relations in Pensylvania and I believe he says he graduated at College while your brother David was there.
If you would prefer the Picture of me at home you can have it. I gave it to Lib but you tell her to hand it over to you. do not be afraid to ask her for it. I am going to write to her this evening and I will tell her to give it to you.
I am sorry you say that you would not write to me again if you did not soon get a Letter to me. You do not know how we are situated here. sometimes we do not get a chance to [p7] send of a letter for a long time as there are very few Boats running the other way, while we can get letters from home every day. I do wish you would write me every week and you can rest assured I will write you every chance I get. as for forgetting you that is impossible for you are in my mind at all times and my love for you grows stronger every day and will continue to do so for ever. I am afraid you will have some difficulty in reading this delightful epistle as the Boat rocks so that I can not write very steady. I do not beleive I can read it myself, but do the best you can and I [p8] will try and do better next time. Write soon Good Bye and beleive me as ever