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Collection Title: Shaw (Milton W.) Letter

Collection Number: M59

Dates: March 10, 1863

Volume: 2 Items

Provenance: Unknown.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Milton W. Shaw was 20 years old when he enlisted in the 5th Regiment of Iowa Volunteers at Burlington, Iowa, on July 17, 1861. For most of his enlistment, Shaw was a corporal in his unit. The 5th Iowa Volunteers fought at Iuka, Mississippi, where Shaw was wounded on September 19(20), 1862. After hospitalization near St. Louis, Missouri, in September and October, Shaw rejoined his unit and participated in Grant's attempt in early 1863 to use the Yazoo City, Mississippi, and establish a land base east of Vicksburg.

The Yazoo Pass, a bayou cut-off in the Mississippi River directly across from Helena, Arkansas, had, in the early 1800's, provided the fastest river route between Yazoo City, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee. In 1850, however, the Pass had been closed off by a levee in order to make more rich delta land available for cultivation. With Federal invasion a probability, Commodore Brown, under orders from General Pemberton, conducted reconnaissance in the area in 1862 and recommended that trees be felled to hamper river travel via the Coldwater River to Yazoo City; his recommendation was followed. A Confederate fort (named Fort Pemberton) was also built on the narrow strip of land between the Tallahatchie and the Yazoo Rivers. General Grant sent Colonel James H. Wilson to investigate the Yazoo Pass in early February 1863; Wilson blasted the levee, sent troops into Moon Lake and down the Coldwater River, and on March 11, 1863, brought boats within sight and gunrange of Fort Pemberton. Shaw's letter gives a perspective from the troops participating in this military maneuver.

Milton Shaw served a tour of duty in a division hospital in mid-1863 but in November of that year was taken prisoner at Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was confined first at Richmond, Virginia, then sent to Andersonville, Georgia, in February, 1864, where he died in November. He is buried in grave no. 11789 on the grounds of the Andersonville National Military Park.

Scope and Content:

This letter was written by Milton W. "Milt" Shaw, a member of the 5th Iowa Volunteer Regiment, on March 10, 1863, to his friend Alf Giague in Birmingham, Iowa. Shaw was on board the naval transport Von Phul as a participant in General Grant's Yazoo Pass Expedition. He expected shortly to enter the Yazoo Pass and travel via Moon Lake, the Coldwater River, the Tallahatchie River, and the Sunflower River into the Yazoo River. A note on the envelope indicates that Shaw had been writing anonymously for his home area newspapers; a general reference to this is included in the letter.

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