Soldier writes from Fort Simon Drum about scouting and camp life in Seminole War


Date Written

June 6, 1856

John Trout Greble was 21 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Fred, was 26 when it was received.

John Trout Greble died 5 years, 4 days after writing this.
It was written 167 years, 3 months, 27 days ago.
It was a Friday.

Fort Simon Drum Fla.
June 6th, 1856

My Dear Fred,

Behold me once more after the lapse of weeks, at a place which has a name, aye and even a place on some of the recent maps of this highly interesting state. Yet do not imagine five houses, nice store rooms, brilliant parades and all that, when you see the word Fort at the head of my letter, these I have not seen since I left Fort Myers on the 30th of April last. Since I came out into the Big Cypress, we have been pretty well employed scouting after the Indians, though the heat of the summer, the immense quantity of water which has fallen and covers the country, the bad state of the roads, has kept us in camp a considerable portion of the time. After a rain, our camping grounds have usually been covered with water and even after two, or three days of warm sunshine, it is impossible to go any distance without being obliged to cross at every third mile a large grass pond. On our scouts, we are generally absent from camp, two or three days, three days provisions being about as much as men can well carry. The leaves of the saw palmetto, placed as a thatching over some pine or cypress saplings make a splendid roof and fine shelter; from this we hang our mosquito batts and under it we spread our blankets and our fatigue makes a feather bed for us. Were it not for the annoyance of having to allow some of your wet clothing to dry on you, and to spread some of it in the sunshine after camping for the night, and were it not for the terrible effluvia of decayed vegetation stirred up from the ponds as we walk through them, I should regard these scouts as without any disagreeable features. As it is, I like scouting better than remaining in camp. The exercise is healthy and makes one more happy.

I have since the 16th of May been the acting Assistant Quarter Master and A. A. Commissary to the command. Three days ago, we received news at Capt. Vogdes camp (fifteen miles from here), that a train had arrived at Fort Simon Drum to transport part of my stores into Fort Denaud and that it was to return again, when we would go in. The next day, I came up here to superintend the removal of the Quarter Master & Commissary property from this dept. to Fort Denaud. I expect the arrival of Capt. Vogdes and his command here today. I think we will be at Fort Denaud by the 10th Inst.

Fort Simon Drum, which I have the honor, for a day or two, to command consists of two block houses, each about 14 feet square, placed at the ends of a diagonal of a picket work, which connects them. Inside of the picketing, there are two canvas covered sheds, one, a store house and the other quarters for the men. The whole concern was built in about two weeks. It is made of rough pine logs, stuck on the ends in a trench, the sides that come together chipped off a little to make the joint smoother. Loop hobs 3 feet apart, the logs of the block houses square at the Fop and those of the picketing sharpened.

[small diagram inserted here]

The block houses are roofed & occupy the north east and the south west one is the guard house. Casting your eyes up to the rough shingle roof, you see it dotted with giant grasshoppers and little green frogs. Occasionally you hear something fall to the floor like a vast drop of water and then see a small frog hopping away. I have seldom seen so many flies and mosquitoes congregated as in this little room. And I am sure a lover of Natural History would be delighted at the number and variety of insects here presented.

There are some volunteers leaving with us, you should see them and see their horses. The men are variously dressed, long, lanky, awkward looking things. Their horses would put to shame those of the far farmed Santa Anna Guard of our city. Some of them came with me the other day, five of them had to drive their horses and one poor pony that would no longer be driven. We had great difficulty in getting out of the road to allow the passage of the wagons.

I have to make an excuse for not writing some, every letter that I have written for the last month has been written in a great hurry and Mama is most anxious concerning me. I think myself in duty bound to write her the first letter of my mail. When that first letter is written the subject is usually exhausted and I consider it a wrong practice to write the same things to two intimate friends of mine, who are also intimate friends of each other. For should they compare notes as to the news which I send them, they, in finding them to coincide, would accuse me of want of originality, fancy or some other good quality. Which though it might be true would not be to me a creditable accusation.

Give my kindest regards to your Father and Mother. Also remember me to Leech the next time you see him.

Believe me as ever your true friend—

Scans of Letter