Thomas Hughes papers  1862-1864
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Hughes, Thomas

Rank : Lt.; Quartermaster

Regiment : 28th Iowa Infantry Regiment (1862-1865)

Service : 1862 October 10-1865 July 31

Thomas Hughes, a Lieutenant in the 28th Iowa Infantry Regiment, was an atypical soldier for the Union army. At 48, he was older than most soldiers, he served in a regiment that never ventured further east than Mississippi, and he served as a quartermaster. Hughes served in Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana and participated in both the Vicksburg Campaign and the Red River Campaign.

Hughes' letters suggest that he was unwavering in his pro-Union sympathies. While serving in Arkansas, he witnessed the destruction of a small town by Union troops in retribution for a sniping incident. Although admitting that his opinions might sound extreme to people at home, Hughes defended the destruction, arguing that "we must have this river a safe highway while we are upon its borders -- And I believe the Military Commanders have at last determined to have it so, at the sacrifice of every town upon its banks from Cairo to New Orleans if that is necessary. And I must say that I fully endorse the determination."

At times, though, it seemed to Hughes as if he spent more time fighting the elements than fighting the Confederacy. From Arkansas to Louisiana, the regiment sloughed through mud under a seemingly constant deluge of rain. These conditions were only made worse by bouts of hunger and theft from fellow soldiers. Hughes's family could not offer much comfort because their finances were a constant source of worry. A daughter, Delia, helped out by bringing in 'scholars' to teach, Hughes' wife took on boarders, and his son, Ellis, left college to work (though Ellis claimed that college was nothing but 'humbug').

Hughes distinguished himself at the Battle of Mansfield in April 1864 when he aided a wounded officer from the field and then returned in an attempt to locate more ammunition for his regiment. He was surrounded by Confederate soldiers and shot at and struck with the butt of a rifle. Only the intervention of a rebel Colonel prevented him from being more seriously assaulted, and the colonel subsequently provided Hughes with personal protection on the march to prison, "though during the ride to Mansfield he had to cock his gun three times to do so." Hughes was kept a prisoner at Camp Ford, near Tyler, Texas, and was still held there at the end of November 1864.