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Charles Wright Wills.

Army life of an Illinois soldier, including a day by day record of Sherman's march to the sea; letters and diary of the late Charles W. Wills, private and sergeant 8th Illinois Infantry; lieutenant and battalion adjutant 7th Illinois Cavalry; captain, major and lieutenant colonel 103rd Illinois Infa online

. (page 10 of 31)
Online LibraryCharles Wright WillsArmy life of an Illinois soldier, including a day by day record of Sherman's march to the sea; letters and diary of the late Charles W. Wills, private and sergeant 8th Illinois Infantry; lieutenant and battalion adjutant 7th Illinois Cavalry; captain, major and lieutenant colonel 103rd Illinois Infa → online text (page 10 of 31)
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to the parting scenes, and if you had boxed a few ears and
pulled a little hair belonging to the ninnies that so abused the
noble art of crying that day, you would have been excusable
in my eyes. I must take a nap as quick as my boy comes back
to keep the flies away.

n p. m., 29th. There is talk among the officers that Buell
with 60,000 men is en route for Atlanta, Ga., intending to
occupy that city, and thus cut off connection between the
eastern and western portions of the Rebel Army. It will be
a bold strike and looks safe ; but it seems to me, from a glance
at the map, that the occupation of Montgomery, Ala. would
more effectually accomplish that end, for then there would be
no railroad line open to the Rebels (we holding the Memphis
and Charleston) while there are two lines running east from



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. 1 1 1

Montgomery, only one of which a force at Atlanta could cover.
A deserter came in this evening who says that they are organiz-
ing the army at Tupelo, mustering the men as five years' regu-
lars, with promises of furloughs until this war is over. That
England and France have decided that the Southern States
shall all have a chance at the ballot box, and must, within 60
days, say whether they will cleave to the Government of the
United States or be independent; if the latter, those govern-
ments will sustain them and thus end the war, and if the for-
mer, the war will be ended accordingly. So they are organiz-
ing a regular army upon the supposition that they will be an
independent confederacy. The above shows they are able to
start as huge a lie in their camps as we can in ours. I wouldn't
have believed it before.

The colonel, A. D. C. and myself took tea with General
Ashboth this evening. He is such a pleasant man. Has a
great liking for pets. He has a tremendous large dog, who
lays his head on the table right by the general's plate during
meal time, and he gets his share at the first table. On
the other side of him two little Indian ponies range themselves
as quick as he sits down, and he lays biscuits on the corner
of the table for them, which they gobble with the greatest
relish. He spreads biscuits for one pony with sugar, and with
salt for the other. His conversation is divided about equally
between his ponies, the dog, and his other guests. The ponies
he got in Arkansas, and they are the prettiest little fellows
imaginable. The general is one of the most polite and kind
men I ever saw. His troops all love him. He carries his right
arm in a sling yet from a wound received at Elkhorn.

If you'd multiply all the bugs, say by 10,000, you'd have
something near the number that visit me nightly. They are
of all sizes less than a door knob, and the shapes and colors are
innumerable. When they're bumping against you by candle
light, if you were not acclimated, you would swear someone
was brickbatting you.

We could overrun the whole West and Southwest as fast
as we could travel, with the army we had here, if it were



112 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

policy. Vicksburg cannot stand two hours when attacked.
But it has leaked out at headquarters that we are letting
them think they are holding us in check, so that they will
keep all their forces in the West until after the big fight
at Richmond. I have heard from Captain Nelson that Sammy
Nutt distinguished himself in the skirmish yesterday. He
captured that prisoner I spoke of. Captain says Sam was the
head man in the chase and that no man ever behaved bet-
ter. Sam's pistol went off accidentally after he had captured
the secesh and the bullet came within half an inch of knocking
a hole in the Rebel's head. The boys all give Sam a great deal
of praise. 'Twas daring of the captain to run his handful
of men almost into the enemy's camp, and 25 miles from any
support ; but if any company can do it, Company K can. Cap-
tain Nelson looks well but grumbles at being brought back from
the front to where there is nothing to do but rest. His men
feel the same way. For my part I don't consider myself in the
war here any more than I would be in Canton.



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. 113



III.



July 14, 1862 to June 4, 1863. Rosecran's orders as to rights of citi-
zens and treatment of slaves. Comments thereon. Guarding a
hundred miles of railroad. Still fretting at inaction. Bogus
money imposed upon the ignorant. Growing insubordination of
the slaves. Near view of the civilizing influences of slavery.
About to be mustered out as battalion adjutant offered three other
desirable staff positions. Prefers active service in the field; re-
turns home to raise a company. Succeeds and is elected captain
of Company G, 103 Illinois Infantry. Returns to the front. Gives
a condensation of prevailing rumors. Experience of jayhawking.
On provost guard duty. Demoralization of pillage. Rebel raid
on Holly Springs. Two cowardly surrenders. Wrongfully ar-
rested. Lonesome night ride. Infantry turned into cavalry in a
night. Indignation at home "Copperheads." More wordy skirm-
ishing with secesh ladies. Too many Negro refugees. Desertions
frequent. Demoralization caused by "Copperhead" journalism.
Dull round of picket duty and camp guard. Devastation caused
by the war. On board of survey to assess damages. Two dra-
matic incidents. Visit to Memphis. Brigade officer once more.
Scouting and rebuilding bridges. Pressing horses and mules and
confiscating supplies. On court martial duty. A Union heroine
scout.

HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE MISSISSIPPI,

July 14, 1862.

General Orders No. 92:

For the information of all in the command, the following
explanations are given, in reference to the rights and duties of
citizens of the States in which we may be stationed.



114 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

1. All citizens of the States claiming the rights, and
holding themselves bound to the duties of citizens of the
United States are entitled to the same protection of person
and property, which we claim for ourselves.

2. We hold citizens to the performance of active duties,
only when they receive protection ; if left without protec-
tion, they are bound only to good will and abstinence
from all acts of hostility to the Government.

3. Persons denying that they are citizens of the United
States, repudiating the duties of citizens, by words or
actions, are entitled to no rights, save those which the laws
of war and humanity accord to their characters.

If they claim to belong to a hostile government, they
have the rights of belligerents, and can neither justly claim,
nor have anything more from the army. If they are found
making war, without lawful organization or commission,
they are enemies of mankind, and have the rights due to
pirates and robbers, which it will be a duty to accord them.

It is not our purpose to admit the slaves of loyal masters
within our lines, or use them without compensation, or
prevent their recovery, when consistent with the interest
of the service.

The slaves of our enemies may come or go wherever
they please, provided they do not interfere with the rules
and orders of camp and dicipline. They deserve more at
our hands than their masters.

By order of General ROSECRANS,

(Signed) W. L. ELLIOTT,

Brig. Gen'L and Chief of Staff.
(Official, R. O. Self ridge, Asst. Adjt. Gen' I.)

Camp at Rienzi, July 17, 1862.

I think there is more point and policy in that General Order
92 than in any one that has yet been issued in the West, or
East either for that matter ; but still I do not think it remark-
able for perspicuity, and it is neither as strong nor as definite
as the army demands. If I know anything of the "laws of war
and humanity," the soldiers will bless "92" for one thing, its
relieving them from guarding the property of secessionists,



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. 115

and if they don't make sundry potato patches, cabbage gardens
and fields of roasting ears that I know of, "hop" 'twill surprise
me much. There will be some wondrous sudden conversions
to Unionism when these butternuts get the drift of that order.
An old pup in this town that drank "Southern Independence or
the World in Flames" the other evening, in the presence of
several United States officers has Union soldiers guarding his
property, to preserve it from the Northern vandals, and he has
used language equally insulting, times without number, yet
the guard is kept up. I suppose, to conciliate him. General
Ashboth visits all the secesh and rides around town with the
daughter of the man I've been speaking of, who is more in-
tensely secesh than her father, if that is possible. Maybe I'm
jealous of him, for the girl is very handsome, but I don't think
a United States general at all excusable in such conduct,
though it may be overlooked in a lieutenant. Did you see Beau-
regard's answer to Halleck? I honestly think there is more
truth in that document, than in any other military paper of
the kind I have seen. Suppose you have seen Granger's re-
view thereof. You notice he don't touch any of the principal
points and shows his whole object in publishing the article,
in these four words, "I led the pursuit." I'll swear we haven't
taken, in deserters, prisoners and sick, since the evacuation of
Corinth, 500 men (although hundreds have doubtless deserted
who did not enter our lines.) I know this because we have had
the advance all the time, and on the only roads there have been
fighting and prisoners, and all the deserters have passed
through our hands. There were about 18 cars burned, but the
ruins show there was nothing of much value on them. 'Twas
not intentional, of course, but Elliott did burn several men in
the depot, or else the people of Boonville are liars, to a man.
That fight the other day at Boonville amounted to nothing.
The enemy's official report of their loss is four killed and ten
wounded. There is an awful sight of bombast and lying about
army reports. Beat politicians all hollow. We have had very
heavy rains for the last 36 hours, and as water can now be pro-
cured on the hitherto dry ground between the armies, I expect



Il6 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

some cavalry skirmishing) at least, and if the enemy is yet ill
force at Tupelo, now is the time for them to attack us, for
our army is scattered for 300 miles, almost along the Tennes-
see line, and cannot be concentrated in time to resist a large
force. Many of the officers expect a big fight, but your brother
don't.

July 19, 1862.

I don't know whether I have any business sending such a
document as 1 enclose, but guess its no difference. Two spies
came in to-night and report that there are not more than 15,000
or 20,000 of the enemy left at Tupelo and Saltillo. Bragg took
a large force with him and went over in the direction of Chat-
tanooga a few days since. A fortnight, nearer a month, since
we had quite a large force stationed at Boonville. One of the
men started to go back to Rienzi on business, and had not been
heard of since until day before yesterday, when his body was
found midway between the two places with four bullet holes
through it. It lay some distance from the road, and was dis-
covered by a man of the 2d Brigade while looking for water.
He was undoubtedly murdered by some citizen. Day before
yesterday Mrs. Pierce, wife of a captain in the 36th Illinois,
rode out in an ambulance, escorted by a corporal, to get some
fruit in the country. A party of guerrillas gobbled the party
up while they were inside of our pickets, and took them to
Ripley. They sent Mrs. Pierce back yesterday. She was well
treated. I guess there are no hopes of a fight there until au-
tumn. I'm getting tired of doing nothing, although I certainly
should be satisfied, having easier times than almost any one in
the service.

Halleck left here yesterday for Washington. Trains are
running down here from Corinth every day now, so we are only
three days behind the dates of papers received, which is better
than eight or ten, as heretofore. We have had the most
splendid rains for a few days, and the weather is very season-
able in temperature. We are living almost wholly on fruit:
apples, pears and blackberries, fresh, and peaches and straw-



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. 1 1/

berries canned. Don't Want for anything, but I still (so un-
reasonable is man) at times, think that I'm not enjoying my-
self as well as I used to in the 8th. I know I couldn't stay
out of the service while the war continues, but I would like
so well to have peace once more, and be civilized awhile.
There's a good time coming. Don't it come slowly? I write
all the colonel's letters now except those to his wife, and
shouldn't wonder if he'd have me do that next. At first he
used to read them over very closely, but now he often signs
without asking what they are about. To-night he told me was
going to make me inspector general for brigade. Making two
generals out of one lieutenant isn't fair. I'm too lazy and
modest for such a position and think I can coax him to appoint
a chap I have my eye upon.

Headquarters, 1st Brigade Cavalry Division,

Tuscumbia, Ala., July 27, 1862 (Sunday).
We received orders for our brigade to march on the iQth,
and started the 2ist. We only made Jacinto that night, when
the colonel and myself stayed with Gen. Jeff. C. Davis, who is
a very approachable, pleasant and perfectly soldier-like man.
There is a strong sprinkling in him, though, of the Regular
Army and West Point. Next day we rejoined the command
and marched 15 miles, camped at Bear Creek, 22 miles west of
this place and just on the Mississippi and Alabama line. Thurs-
day we joined General Morgan's division and that night the
brigade camped within four miles of Tuscumbia, and the
headquarters came on into town. This is a perfect little Eden.
Houses for 2,200 people with only 1,200 living here at present.
We stayed at the hotel Thursday night, and the old negro who
lighted me to my room amused me considerably with his ac-
count of General Turchin's proceedings here. Turchin brought
the first federal force across the Tennessee in Alabama, and I
guess he "went it loosely." The old Negro said that he only
had 1,200 men and brought no luggage, knapsacks or anything
else with him, but went away with 300 wagons, and everything



Il8 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

there was in the country worth taking. That his men made
the white women (wouldn't let the colored women) do their
cooking and washing, and that although they only brought one
suit of clothes, they put on a new one every morning and al-
ways looked as though they had just stepped from a bandbox.
People here hate General Mitchell's whole command as they

do the d 1, and many of them more. Well, we've settled

once more, and I'll be contented if allowed to stay here for
sometime. We're guarding about 100 miles of railroad from
luka to Decatur, and it promises to be pretty rough work. Day
before yesterday a guerilla party swooped down on a station
24 miles east of here where General Thomas had 160 men and
captured all but 20 of them. We are relieving General Thomas'
command from duty here, but the Rebels saved us the trouble
of relieving that party. We sent out a force yesterday of three
companies and the Rebels surprised and killed and captured
20 of them. I have just heard that there has been a fight eight
miles south of here to-day, between our cavalry and the Rebels,
no particulars yet. 'Tis the 3d Michigan that has suffered so
far. The 7th Illinois are out now after the party that surprised
the Michiganders yesterday, but have not heard of them since
they started yesterday p. m. We are quartered in the house
of a right good secesh, and are enjoying his property hugely.
His pigs will be ripe within a week, and we'll guard them after
our style. The old fashion is played out as far as this brigade
is concerned. We take what is necessary and give vouchers,
which say the property will be paid for at the close of the war,
on proof of loyalty. This valley is 60 or 80 miles long, 15
miles wide and the most beautiful country imaginable. It is now
one vast cornfield. The residences in this town are superb, and
the grounds most beautifully ornamented and filled with shrub-
bery. There is a spring here that throws out 17,000 cubic feet
of water each minute. It supplies the town. General Thomas,
whom we relieved, has gone to Huntsville to join Buell. I
think they are going to Chattanooga then. People are intensely
secesh here, and whine most mournfully when compelled to
take the oath, or even to give their parole of honor not to give



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. IIQ

information to the enemy. Our headquarters is a mile from
any troops, just for the quiet of the thing. Peaches are just
in season now, and there are oceans of them here. Blackber-
ries are still to be found, and we have plenty of apples.

The weather is beautiful, not too warm and still require my
double blanket every night, and often cool at that. We have
information that Hardee with a force is marching on this
place, and it is the most probable rumor that I have heard
since the evacuation. Time will tell.

Tuscumbia, Ala., August 3, 1862.

In the last 15 days I have only written you once; partly be-
cause I have been so busy, more, because of my laziness.
There is but little save rumors that can be of any interest
to you from here, and shall not inflict any of them on you,
for the newspapers have certainly surfeited everyone's taste for
that article. All this blowing and howling we have in the pa-
pers of raids everywhere, and overwhelming forces of the
enemy confronting us at all points, is, I candidly believe, part
of the plan to raise volunteers. It certainly is one grand hum-
bug as far as this field is concerned. Every officer here that
knows anything about the condition of the enemy, their posi-
tions and numbers, believes that if our army were concen-
trated and set at the work, we could clear out all the enemy
south of this and west of Georgia in a short two months.
The soldiers are all anxious to begin, all tired of inaction,
all clamoring for the war to be ended by a vigorous campaign,
we running our chances of being whipped by the enemy,
instead of waiting until next spring, and then being forced by
bankruptcy to abandon our work. The way we are scattered
in this country now the enemy can take 1,000 or 2,000 of
us just any morning they may feel so disposed, and their not
doing it lowers them wonderfully in my opinion. There are about
6,000 of us stationed at nine points along 75 miles of railroad,
and there is no point that 4,000 men could not reach and attack,
and take before assistance could be afforded. But the Rebels
don't show any more dash or spirit than we do, so we all rest



I2O ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

perfectly easy in our weakness, confiding in their lack of vim,
which we gauge by our own. A line drawn through Fulton,
Miss., Warrenton, Ala. and thence to Rome, Ga. (at which
last place we think the enemy are concentrating) will give you
the route over which the enemy are now moving in considera-
ble bodies, while whole brigades of their numerous cavalry
pass nearer us, through Newburg, Moulton and Somerville,
Ala. 'Twould be so easy for them to detach a division and
send it up to this line of road. Buell, with a very respectable
force, is near Stephenson in northeastern Alabama moving so
slowly that no one can tell in which direction. I wish they'd
give Grant the full control of the strings. He would be sure
to have somebody whipped, and I'd rather 'twould be us than
live much longer in this inactivity. People are most outra-
geously secesh here, generally, although there are said to be
some settlements very Union. I saw two men yesterday who
were raising the ist Union Alabama Regiment. They have
two full companies they say, but I'll never believe it until I
see the men in blue jackets. This is the most beautiful vaHey
that I ever saw. It lies between the Tennessee river and a
spur of the Cumberland mountains, which are craggy and
rough, and rocky enough to disgust an Illinoisan after a very
short ride over and among them. Howwever, they form a
beautiful background for the valley, and are very valuable in
their hiding places for the guerrillas who infest them, and
sally out every night to maraud, interfere with our manage-
ment of this railroad and to impress what few able bodied
butternuts there are left in their homes. They either cut the
wires or tear up a little road track for us every night We have
guards too strong for them at every culvert, bridge and trestle.
This country was entirely out of gold and silver until our cotton
buyers came in with the army, and every man of money had
his little 5-cent, 5O-cent, etc., notes of his own for change.
Mitchell's men counterfeited some of them and passed thour
sands of dollars of their bogus on the natives. I send you a
couple of samples of what is known here as Mitchell money.
The man I got these of had been fooled with over $20 of it.



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. 121

The boys couldn't get the proper vignette so, as you will ob-
serve, they used advertising cuts of cabinet warehouses and
restaurants. Many of our men have passed Mustang Liniment
advertisements on the people, and anything of the kind is
eagerly taken if you tell them it is their money; of course I
refer to the poor country people, who, if they can read, don't
show their learning. This man with $20, like that which I
send you, is a sharp, shrewd-looking hotel keeper. His house
is larger than the "Peoria House." General Morgan, who is in
command of the infantry here, is a fine man, but lacks vim
or something else. He isn't at all positive or energetic. The
weather still continues delightful. I have'nt used any linen
clothing yet, although I believe there is some in my trunk.
We ride down to the Tennessee river every night and bathe,
and 'tis so delightful. I don't believe anybody ever had a nicer
place than I have, or less reason to be dissatisfied. Well, I
do enjoy it ; but don't think I'd worry one minute if sent back
to my regiment or further back to my old place in the 8th.
I believe I have the happy faculty of accommodating myself
to cirumstances, and of grumbling at and enjoying every-
thing as it comes. I am still desperately "out" with these
secesh, but borrow books from them to while away my spare
time. These people, safe in the knowledge of our conciliatory
principles, talk their seceshism as boldly as they do in Rich-
mond. Many of our officers have given up all hope of our
conquering them and really wish for peace. For myself, I
know its a huge thing we have on our hands, but I believe I'd
rather see the whole country red with blood, and ruined to-
gether than have this 7,000,000 of invalids (these Southerners
are nothing else as a people) conquer, or successfully resist
the power of the North. I hate them now, as they hate us.
I have no idea that we'll ever be one nation, even if we con-
quer their armies. The feeling is too deep on both sides, for
anything but extermination of one or the other of the two
parties to cure, and of the two, think the world and civiliza-
tion will lose the least by losing the South and slavery.



122 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

Tuscumbia, Ala., August 7, 1862.

The enemy is reported nearer us than usual to-night, and in
considerable force. Have no idea they intend fighting us
here though. This has been the hottest day of the summer,
and I've been in the sun all day with thick woolen clothes on,
wool shirts, too. I started for Decatur about 7 this morning
and got back at 5 p. m. All platform cars, no possible chance
for shade. I rode on the cowcather going out, and on the
tender, which was ahead, coming back. We got within ten
miles of Decatur when we came to two bridges burned last
night, and had to come back. There is not a bridge or cul-
vert on this road as far as our brigade guards it, that has not
been burned, at least once, and many of the cattle guards even
have been burned. They don't fire on the trains though in this
country, which is some little consolation to the traveler. Since
we have been guarding the road, some two weeks, they have
burned in our district four bridges, one water tank, and two
station houses, and torn up rails several times. All this work
is done in the night. The tank and stations were of no use to
us and the bridges we can build about as fast as they can burn
them, tearing down secesh houses to find the timbers ready
hewn. There are some grand plantations along the line I
have traveled to-day. Thousands of acres in some of them



Online LibraryCharles Wright WillsArmy life of an Illinois soldier, including a day by day record of Sherman's march to the sea; letters and diary of the late Charles W. Wills, private and sergeant 8th Illinois Infantry; lieutenant and battalion adjutant 7th Illinois Cavalry; captain, major and lieutenant colonel 103rd Illinois Infa → online text (page 10 of 31)