Valentine L. Spawr was mustered into the 14th Iowa Infantry in 1862 and mustered out in 1864. He kept a diary from June 28 to Sept. 15, 1863, while stationed at Fort Halleck on the Mississippi River near Columbus, Kentucky. The diary was published in 1892 as A Diary of the Late Rebellion. These excerpts are taken from a transcription of the published diary by Chad Spawr.
“Sunday, June 28th, 1863. — But little of consequence occurred today except the calling to of a steamer that attempted to pass the port without calling, and they fired a shot across her bow which caused to haul to and retreat in double quick. It rained today as it has done every day for weeks, and it is very warm between showers. I will give a short description of our camp : it is situated a half mile up the river from the city of Columbus on a very high hill, said to be two hundred feet perpendicular from the water’s edge. We are camped inside the fortifications that constitute Fort Hallack, and it is a good work, garrisoned with between 2,000 and 3,000 troops.”
“Monday, July 13th. — I am still detained in the hospital and three big doses of medicine to take today a good portion of which is quinine. I feel very unwell this morning owing probably to the effect of the calomel I have been taking for the past twenty-four hours.”
“Wednesday, July 15th. — There was about ten or fifteen men detailed this morning to dig a sink on the river bank for private use of the soldiers and at about two o’clock this afternoon they came to some hard substance that proved to be the very chain that the rebels had used to blockade the river at this place which many will remember reading about. For a short description of the same I would say that it is made of about three inch round iron links probably ten or twelve inches long. The length of the chain no person can tell anything about. It once reached across the river which is near a mile in width and it comes to the top of this hill two hundred feet about the level of the river and is buried in the bank but how far I cannot say. They dug down on it and it runs on through the sink. It was buried of course the purpose of making it fast at this end; it then run down the bank and across the river, being supported occasionally by laying across flat boats which supported it (for they were anchored in the stream and the current is tolerably swift at that place) finally wore through and cut boats in two and it was so heavy that its weight broke it. Also, I understand it was hung full of torpedoes and the chain would stop the fleet and the torpedoes would be exploded and destroy the whole thing. but it availed them nothing.”