The amazing artifact pictured below was written on May 10, 1862, and finished on July 6, 1862, by Tipton Countian, Lt. John Hardin Crouch, CSA, when he was held as a prisoner-of-war during the Civil War.
The verses, painstakingly written tell of the great love and longing he had to be at home with his family. He mentions each of his children by name and a quality of theirs he loves. He writes of not having met his youngest son, John, but that he pictures his face in his dreams and his words, although written almost 160 years ago, tug at the heartstrings. His poem speaks of his imprisonment in an “enemies land,” and the visions of his wife’s face stamped upon his heart, but mostly he writes of his desire for his family to be safe and protected by the hand of God.
May the 10th 1862 Johnson Island Sandusky Ohio O that I was with you my dears When we could feast to day Where I might sit and see you there And love and praise and pray O the home that happy place This day you are within Are better than ten thousand days Of imprisonment and sin O there’s my little children there They often talk of Pa God bless their little hearts I wish to be with them there Laura’s a truthful little girl Rufus is good and kind Matties the prettiest of all the world Ewd O’ is a child of his own mind
Little bittie John I have never yet seen Though I dearly love it --- I know it looks so sweet and clean I imagine I see it now
O Lord this little flock protect While absent I must bee O’ may they bee of thy elect Would I no more on earth them see The Lord is only my support Tis him that doth them feed How can they want any thing When of they stand in need Grant us O Lord in heaven to meet And live together there And ever more each other greet Thy glories there to share O’ my dear wife could I this night Through darkness and the cold I know thou would receive me the As thou hast in days of old I know you would receive me there And lead me by your grace But I am now taken afar From your heart and lovely face
O could I hear thy tender voice I would ever follow thee But far in an enemies land I taken Where thy face I cannot see O rest at home I long to find Dear wife I know there art I have thy meek and lovely mind Thine image instamped upon my heart O Lord forbid that I should stay In such a prison as this Till I am called to soar away To everlasting bliss John H. Crouch
July the 6th 1862
My Dear Wife
I send you some verses which I have composed in my lonesome hours since I have been in prison. I have nothing new to write as I wrote you a few days ago. I am well except for something like Rheumatism in my left arm. I am in hope it may go well soon
Remember me to all of my friends. Kiss all the children for me. May God bless and protect you all is the prayer of your affectionate companion. John H. Crouch
John Hardin Crouch, the son of Edward Radford Crouch (1791 – 1854) and Martha Wales Smith (1802 – 1839), was born in Limestone County, Alabama around 1828. He moved with his family sometime between 1830 and 1837 to Shelby County, Tenn., and then on to Tipton County in the 1840s. His mother died when John was about 10 years old on Sept. 9, 1839, at the age of 38.
Records show in 1853, John married Ann Elizabeth Hurt (1836 – unk) of Tipton County. They had eight children, Laura Ann Couch Johnson (1854-1929), Rufus H. (1856-1912), Martha S. (1858- unk), Edward Osbourne (1860-1931), John Hardin (1863- unk), James A. (1867-1939), Charles Malugin (1869-1940) and Mattie (1871- unk). Ann or Bettie, as she was better known as, may have died giving birth to her last child, Mattie, in 1871. There are no records of either one after that date and John Crouch remarried to Virginia Tennessee Scott, herself a three-time widower, in April 1875. A son, John Lee Crouch, was born in 1877 to John and Virginia.
Crouch’s Civil War service record obtained from Fold3.com shows that he was enlisted in the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.) as a 3rd Lieutenant by J. G. Hall, on Nov. 16, 1861 for a period of 12 months at Mt. Zion, Tipton County. He was assigned to Company A, 51st Regiment Tennessee Infantry, and a few short months later was captured at the battle for Fort Donelson on February 16, 1862. The Battle of Fort Donelson occurred in Stewart County, Tenn., and was a Northern victory that propelled Gen. Ulysses S. Grant into the national spotlight. The Confederate army, although spirited, came into the battle with 16,000 troops against the Union’s 24,000. The battle was brief and a total of 16, 537 men were killed, wounded, or captured that day, including John H. Hardin.
He was delivered to Camp Chase, a military training and interim POW camp in Columbus, Ohio, on March 1, 1862. After being held there for a couple of months, he was taken by the Federal troops to Sandusky, Ohio where he was imprisoned at Johnson’s Island on April 24, 1862. John Hardin Crouch’s name can be found upon the depot list of prisoners of Johnson’s Island.
Johnson’s Island is a 300-acre island on the coast of Lake Erie located in Sandusky Bay and it was the site of a prisoner-of-war camp for Confederate officers captured during the American Civil War. Open for about three years during the war, the prison processed approximately 10,000 men into the stockade on Johnson’s Island. Most were Confederate officers, but a few others confined there were a small number of privates, bushwhackers, guerrillas, and citizens suspected of disloyalty to the Union. The prison population peaked at about 3,224 in January 1864.
Hardin was freed during a prisoner exchange at Vicksburg, Miss., in September 1862, where he is described as being 5′ 7,” fair complexion, dark hair, and grey eyes. After his release from the prison camp, he resigned his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in October 1862 and left the 51st Regiment for the 12th Cavalry where he signed on for special duty as a recruiter, but at the rank of private.
Mustered into Company C, 12th Cavalry, Crouch served in that position, as well as fighting at Vicksburg and Atlanta, from October 1862 until May 11, 1864. On June 2, 1865, he signed the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America in Memphis. He was 37 years old.
When he returned to Tipton County, he returned to farming the land and raising his family. John Hardin Crouch was a well-known and well-liked farmer but died at the young age of 53 in 1881. He, along with many of his family is buried at Poplar Grove Cemetery in Drummonds.
The above original letter is on display and can be viewed at the Tipton County Museum, 751 Bert Johnston Ave in Covington, Tenn. The Museum is opened Tuesdays thru Fridays 9 am-5 pm and Saturdays 9 am-3 pm. You are invited to visit the Tipton County Museum’s website, Facebook page TiptonCountyMuseum and Instagram pages, Tipton County Museum, and Tipton County Museum Archives.