Peter Houser, seen here later in life, worked on his father's farm in McLean County, Illinois, until the age of 25, when he joined the 94th Illinois Volunteer Infantry in August 1862. He was a member of Company B, which served with the Union's Army of the Frontier and was attached to Gen. Francis J. Herron's division.
This division was sent from Springfield, Mo., in support of Gen. James G. Blunt, whose troops were already in the region. Herron's troops came through Fayetteville and engaged Confederate forces at the Battle of Prairie Grove, just southwest of Fayetteville.
Soon after the Battle of Prairie Grove on Dec. 7, 1862, Houser wrote three letters home. Below is the third of the three letters.
Prairie Grove, Washington County, Ark. Dec. 24th 1862
I received a letter from Lind yesterday evening and found a note inclosed from you. I wrote to Lind only a few days ago and I will therefore write you a few lines this time. Lind says Billy Stewart wrote home that I had the mumps but was able to be to the table with my jaws tied up. Now all I have to say about this is, that Billy Stewart has lied, for I didn’t have the mumps, it was only toothache, one of my jaws was swelled some but I didn’t have them tied up at all. You have doubtless got all the particulars about the fight we had with the rebels before this time but may be you won’t understand why Co.B. had so many more men wounded than any other company. I sent Lind a little map of the ground over which we fought and if you will look on that and see where we were when we were covering the retreat of the 26th Indians, you will know why we suffered so; we were not only closest to the rebels (Co. A. was skirmishing to our left) but we were also on higher ground than any other Co, and there it was that so many of Co. B. got wounded. We were compelled to retreat from that position for the rebels were coming regiment after regiment right at us and all the time making the bullets and buckshot whistle around us; the 94th was the only reg. on the field at that time — the others had become panic stricken and were scattered all over creation but they rallied again and went in with a determination to win or die; about this time we were considerably cheered by the announcement tht Blunt was coming in on the right. we could then her his cannon and then such yelling and hurrahing you never heard but still the rebels fought hard. it was almost one continual roar of at least a thousand muskets all the time and besides these there were some half dozen batteries throwing shell and shot all the time until darkness put an end to the strife. The 94th fired the first and last volley
While the battle was going on the smoke rose as thick and black as if a whole city was on fire. The next morning after the battle our Col or Lieut Col went under a flag of truce to the rebel officers on some pretense or other, but all he wanted was to find out their position; but while he was there Gen Hindman asked him what d—d regiment of regulars that was on the left — he was informed that it was the 94th ILL. The rebels were so badly whipped that during the night after the fight they took their blankets and straw and wrapped them round their wagon wheels so they could move away with as little noise as possible. Most of our wounded are doing very well — some will have to be discharged. George is getting along finely[.] Co. B. looks rather as an object of pity now, for it is often that we can go to drill or on dress parade with not more than 18 or 20 men!! Tomorrow is Christmas and Gen Hindman says he intends to bring his troops back then and serenade us, but we will never be in another fight if we remain here waiting for him. What is the Eastern news — I suppose though it is another “Grand review on the Potomac” or may be it is that Richmond is taken a musket and two camp kettles captured!! We heard here yesterday that Burnsides has possession of Fredericsburg. Johnnie Birdsell is breaking out with measles today. the rest of the boys are well. Col Orme starts for home today. Write soon and give me all the news. Your Brother, Peter