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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

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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 26 of 31)
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ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. 305

get back I'll be much disappointed. We yesterday sent
our extra baggage to Atlanta to store, and at n last night
orders came to march at 5 a. m. to-day. We will be off
in a few minutes now. Marietta is in our route direction.

Six miles south of Marietta, October 5, 1864.

Had an awful day's march yesterday, full 20 miles and
the road very muddy and slippery. County peculiarly
Georgian, the like of which, I hope, is to be found nowhere
else in Uncle Sam's domain. When we started the "spring
or grapevine" dispatch said that Hardee's headquarters
were in Marietta, and that he was living very high on
sanitary stores, of which there is enough to feed an army
for a time. We crossed the river on pontoons near the
railroad bridge, a very fine work, considering it was built
inside of a week.

We then heard that Marietta was not in Hardee's posses-
sion, but that lively skirmishing was going on along the
lines, and that Hardee's army was before the place. About
three miles from the river we met a wagon train just from
Marietta ; part of the guards had not heard that any Rebels
were near the town. Others said that Hood's army was
just the other side of Kenesaw, about two miles north of
Marietta. Finally a cavalry man said part of our (guard's)
cavalry occupied Kenesaw, from the top of which he had
seen the Rebel army occupying an old line of works of
ours just this side of Big Shanty. I just thought I would
give you a sample of the "grape cuttings" that accompany
a march. A body of Rebels is evidently above Marietta,
on the railroad ; how strong I don't know, and it is none of
my business. "Pap" knows all about it. He never tells
us anything. He has not issued a "battle order" during the
whole campaign and hardly a congratulatory. If the
Rebels are there in force, there will be a battle. It can
have but one result, and cannot fail to be a disastrous one
for them. We have at least 50 days' full rations and I
think 90, so the breaking of the railroad cannot affect us.
Six p. m. We took all kinds of roundabout roads to-day,



306 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

and marched eight miles to make not over four. I have
been really sick all day, but hope it will be over by morning.
The Johnnies have left Big Shanty, moving north on the
railroad, tearing it up as they travel. Go it, Rebels !

October 6, 1864, 12 m.

Rained all last night, and has just suspended for a few
minutes, I expect. Kept dry, thanks to our rubber blan-
kets. Drew five days' rations this morning, full of every-
thing except beans ; plenty of beef, though. We only drew
one-quarter of a pound per man for the whole five days.
Part of our railroad bridge across the Chattahoochie
washed away a few days ago. It will be finished again to-
day. There was some fighting up near Allatoona Pass yes-
terday, in which, rumor says, our folks were worsted. The
Rebels are moving up the road in that direction. They
will have to leave there or wait and fight us. I hear that Kil-
patrick burned 200 or 300 of their wagons yesterday. We'll
warm those fellows if they will only wait for us somewhere.
We are under orders to start at a moment's notice. Mud
is not over a foot deep and everything else is lovely in
proportion. I was confoundedly sick all day yesterday,
could not eat any supper, but about 9 p. m. the boys
brought some beans about half cooked, and the notion
taking me I ate a couple of quarts thereof. Have felt splen-
didly ever since. Our pickets that we left at Eastpoint
have just got in. The division field officer of the day
who had charge of them misunderstood his instructions
and marched to the river at Sandtown, 15 miles below
where we crossed. The Rebels fired into them and I
suppose captured half a dozen stragglers.

October 7, 1864.

The Rebels have left the railroad after being whipped
by General Corse at Allatoona Pass. The I4th Corps
drove them out to Lost Mountain yesterday. No hard
fighting. They tore up not more than eight miles of rail-
road, which will be rebuilt in a very few days.



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. * 307

Deserters report the whole Rebel Army here, but that the
ten days' rations they started with have run out. Other de-
serters say that their army has started for Nashville, Hunts-
ville, or hell; that they are satisfied they can't make either of
the first named places, and would rather go to Sherman than
the last named. It is wonderful what confidence this army has
in Sherman. Every man seems to . think the idea of these
Rebels being able to do us any permanent harm is perfectly
preposterous, and all are in the best of spirits. I can't help
thinking that the Rebels must have all cleared out of this
vicinity, or else we'd be going for them. Our stock is in too
bad condition to follow them far over the, at present, horrible
roads. A man rode along on a poor old bone-rack of a horse
a while ago. Some wag commenced, "caw," "caw," "caw."
The whole camp took it up and for five minutes you would have
thought that 10,000 crows were holding a jubilee. Let some
one start a squirrel or rabbit and 500 men will be after it in
a minute. Old soldiers are just a lot of men with school-boy
spirits.

Officers don't draw meat like the men. I have just had
two meals of beef (and no other meat) in the last ten days.
All our officers are the same way. It is mostly our own fault.

On picket four miles south of Marietta, October 8th.
We occupy the old Johnny skirmish pits. It was outrage-
ously cold last night. I elected myself fireman and did not
neglect my duties. I have men from every regiment in the
brigade (seven). There are an abundance of chestnuts here,
and at every post the boys have worked pretty steadily all day
roasting and eating. All sit on their knapsacks before the fire,
every fellow with a stick to take out the nuts. It is right in-
teresting to hear the men talk. Nearly all have been in the
service three years or over, and almost every battlefield in the
West has been seen by some of the brigade. We move. The
Rebels have crossed the Etawah.



308 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

Two miles north of Kenesaw Mountain,

October 9, 1864.

About 5 o'clock last night, just when we should have been
relieved, we heard the "General" sounded through the camp,
and in half an hour more the "Assembly." The corps started
toward Marietta, and in another half hour we assembled, and
in charge of the division officer of the day followed as rear
guard of the train.

At 12 p. m., after a cold, tiresome march, the train corraled,
and we built fires and turned in beside them for the balance
of the night, right at the northeast base of Kenesaw Mountain.
This a. m. found the brigade two miles further north. The
Rebel Army was here three days ago and tore up the railroad
all along here. They are now near Van Wirt. If they go
north across the Etawah, we will probably follow. Their pres-
ent position menances the whole line of road from Rome to
the Chattahoochie crossing.

Near Kenesaw Mountain, October 10, 1864.

Was on the ground we charged on the 2/th of June, and
also on top of Kenesaw to-day. Very fine view, but nothing
like equal to that from Lookout. The signal station here com-
municates direct with Atlanta, Allatoona and Roswell.

I picked up some black oak acorns to-day from a tree that
shades the graves of 12 or 15 of our soldiers, mostly from our
regiment, who fell on the 27th. They were buried where they
fell. That charge was the maddest folly of the campaign.

Allatoona Pass, October 11, 1864.

Our corps moved at the setting of the sun, and continued
moving until we were all confoundedly tired. I never saw the
men so noisy, funny, or in any way or every way feeling half
so good. After we had marched about eight miles, one of
Howard's staff came back along the line and informed us that
Sherman had just notified Howard that Richmond is ours.
Everybody believed it, but nobody cheered. They were saving
the yells for the confirmation. We camped at I a. m. with or-
ders for reveille at 4 and march at 5 a. m.



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. 309

Three miles south of Kingston, October 12, 1864.

Started at daylight this morning. The Rebels were then
at Rome. Stopped here at 5 p. m. It is understood that the
Rebel Army has moved southwest into Alabama.

Passed through the best country to-day that we have seen
in Georgia. We are camped on what has been a splendid
plantation (equal to anything on Copperas creek), and on the
only clover field, I think, in Georgia. This is about the only
ground on which I have seen the Jamestown weed, plantain,
or clover. We are very scare of forage, and the officers turned
their horses out on the clover to graze. The Northern stock
enjoyed it exceedingly, but the Southern horses did not know
enough to eat it. They nosed around among the rich bundles
of clover to pick out the weeds and hard wild grass, the latter
not near as good as our poorest prairie grass.

Three miles from Rome, Ga., October 13, 1864.
Started at 8 this morning and landed here at dark. Heard
40 or 50 cannon shots in vicinity of Rome during the day's
march. The country to-day is fair for Georgia, but not equal
to that between Cartersville and Kingston. While we were rest-
ing to-day, Osterhaus (at present commanding our corps) rode
by our regiment and a few scamps hollowed "sowbelly, sow-
belly.'' You know the men have been living on army beef for
a month, and it is not desirable fare ; still they were only in
fun, and I noticed the general smile, but some puppy finally
cried out "kraut," and another echoed it with "kraut by the
barrel." The general wheeled his horse and rode up to us, his
face white with passion. "Vat regiment ish dis ?" No one an-
swered. He rode up near me and again asked, "Vat regiment
ish dis?" I told him. "Vy don't you kit up?" I arose and
again answered him respectfully, "The io3d Illinois, sir."
"Vare ish your colonel ?" "At the right of the regiment, sir."
He rode up to Wright and gave him the devil. I have not been
so mortified for a long time. We all think a great deal of
Osterhaus, and just coming into his division were all desirous
that his first impressions of our regiment should be favorable.



310 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

As it is, two or three insulting puppies have given us a name
with him that I have no doubt will cause us trouble for a long
time. Yelping "sauer kraut" at a German is a poor way to
gain his favor.

(A duplicate of dates.) October 12, 1864.
Last night while our train was passing through Cass-
ville, a town four miles south of Kingston, an ambulance
gave out and the driver unhitched and concluded to stay
all night. That was some three miles from where we
stayed. Nine stragglers also laid down beside the ambu-
lance for the night. The i/th Corps came through there
to-day and found the driver dead, with a bayonet thrust
through him, and the traps of the nine men laying around.
The horses and nine men are missing. I heard to-night
that the bodies of the nine men had been found altogether.
Our men burned the town. I expect we will lie here to-
morrow, and if Hood's army is in this vicinity go for it
next day. Nobody thinks he will dare to fight us. We
have parts of five corps here.

(Duplicated also.) October 13, 1864.

The men drew full rations of bacon to-day. There has
been some fighting nine miles down the north side of the
Coosa river to-day. Our corps moves back on the Kings-
ton road at "retreat." Don't know where to.

Received two letters from you to-day, also papers, for
which am very thankful. Have had a good rest to-day.
Everybody is in glorious spirits. Kilpatrick started west to-
day with 50 days' rations of salt. I wish I was with him.

Three miles southwest of Adairsville, October I4th.
We marched at sunset last evening and halted not until
3 this a. m. Marched miserably slow the first five miles
through a deep gorge, but about I o'clock got straightened
out on the Rome and Calhoun road, a good one, and then
got along nicely. In the fighting at Rome yesterday, our



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. 31 1

folks whipped them and took some artillery. We got to
bed at 3:15, and reveille sounded at 5 and we marched at
6:30. Not much sleep after marching 20 miles, was it.
We had no crackers this morning, and before I got up my
imagination was reveling in the prospect of a breakfast on
parched corn, but at the festive board the cook surprised
us with a mess of pancakes. They looked like plates cut
out of a rubber blanket, and tasted accordingly. One mem-
ber of the mess said they just came up to his ideal of a
poet's dream. Another, that they only lacked one thing,
and that was the stamp, "Goodyear's Patent." The Sur-
geon advised us to use them sparingly, for, said he, "If
they mass against any part of your interior lines the con-
sequences will be dire." But we were hard up for bread-
stuffs, and closed with the dreadful stuff manfully. Twelve
m. Have stopped for dinner.

The Rebel army was, or part of it, at Resaca yesterday,
about nine miles from here.

Calhoun, Ga., October 15, 1864.

Stayed here last night. Reveille at 3 a. m., but our bri-
gade brings up the rear of the corps to-day, and we won't
get off until after daylight.

Resaca, October 15, 1864, 10 a. m.

We are waiting here for rations. The 4th and I4th
Corps are ahead, and for the last half hour we have heard
very heavy skirmishing toward "Snake Creek Gap," just
about where we heard the first fighting of the campaign,
a little over five months ago. There is enough to interest
me in the prospect for the next three days. Snake Creek
Gap, 10 p. m. We have the whole gap.

North end Snake Creek Gap, October 16, 1864.
After a tedious march got here at n p. m. The Rebels
about six hours ahead of us had blockaded the road in
good style. They did some half a day's work, with hun-
dreds of men, and delayed us about ten minutes.



312 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

- On summit of Taylor's Ridge, Shipp's Gap, p. m.
Our division has the advance to-day. The Rebels drove
very well, until we got here, when, having a very good
position, they resisted us with some vim. A few men of
the 1st brigade, finally climbed the hill, flanked and routed
them. Our loss, seven wounded. We got 35 prisoners and
killed and wounded a dozen or so.

October 17, 1864.

I incline to think that the raid and pursuit are both over,
though we wish that Sherman would follow them until they
get the punishment they deserve for their impudence. They
tore up some 20 miles of railroad, killed and wounded not
over 750 for us, and captured about 1,100. Their loss in
wounded and killed, whom we have buried, is 1,900; pris-
oners, that I know of, 600; besides a lot of deserters who
have come in. Eight hundred of the prisoners captured
by them were negroes, who could not have been taken
but for the cowardice of their Colonel, Johnson.

The tearing up of the railroad amounts to nothing. We
have not had our rations cut down an ounce in anything.

The man that run that raid ought to be ashamed of him-
self, and I'll venture he is.

In Snake Creek Gap, but for General Stanley's laziness,
we would have got enough prisoners to make Hood howl.
He rested his corps three hours, just as he did when en-
trusted with a critical piece of work at Jonesboro.

We have been having a gay time this morning. It is
cold enough to make us sit close to the fire, and the ne-
groes keep us in chestnuts.

La Fayette, October 18, 1864.

Our brigade was marching through Cane Creek Valley yes-
terday until 4 p. m., when we struck out for this place five
miles, which we made in one and one-half hours. Nice little
town almost surrounded with half-mountains. There has been



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. 313

a pair of cavalry fights here, the fruits whereof can be seen in
an addition to the cemetery, near which we are bivouacked,
some 25 Rebel graves, and half as many Yankees. Divers fair
creatures can be seen here, chiefly Rebels; I have thought
though, to-day, much Union. We are now bound for Rome.

Near Summerville, October 19, 1864.

Reached this place yesterday. The cavalry advance had
some sharp skirmishing, and brought back some two or three
prisoners. We are drawing full rations, besides preying off
the country, all kinds of meat, apples, potatoes, and I believe
the men find a little of everything known to be eatable. En-
tering houses is prohibited under penalty of death, but some
scoundrels manage to pillage many houses. Foraging is also
half prohibited, but I am satisfied that our general officers do
not object to our taking meat, etc., if houses are not entered.
Ten p. m. Have stopped here to draw rations. The 23d
and 4th Corps have already moved forward on the old Ala-
bama road. That looks as though we were intending to follow
the Rebels. We "liners" have no idea where they are. One
rumor is that they are moving northwest, intending to cross
the Tennessee river, south or southwest of Huntsville. An-
other that they are moving to their new base at or near Blue
Mountain, on the road from here to Talladega, Ala. If we are
going to follow them, I look for a long campaign. But for
one thing, we would rather go into a campaign immediately
than into camp. That is, the men have not been paid off for
ten months, and many families are undoubtedly suffering in
consequence. Our money is waiting for us, and we will get
it whenever the Johnnies will let us stop long enough for the
paymasters to catch up. Don't you people ever think of
us as being without rations. We sometimes wish the Rebels
would cut our communications entirely, so that we could live
wholly off the country. The Rebels only take corn and meat,
and we fatten on what they are not allowed to touch.



314 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

Alpine, Chatuga Valley, October 20, 1864.

Got here at dark last night, eight miles from Summerville.
We seemed to be headed southwest. I have the sorest feet I
have enjoyed for two years. Do you notice how accurately I
miss it in every prediction I venture? I am a fair sample of
the ignorance "Pap" keeps this army of his movements. He
has shown his ability to keep us from divining his purposes,
but he or any other general cannot keep us from guessing.
Fine country here, for Georgia. An officer and 20 men are de-
tailed daily for foragers.

They start ahead in the morning, and shoot hogs, sheep,
gather sweet potatoes, apples, etc., and bring all out to the
roadside. The hogs and sheep are cut into pieces of about
20 or 25 pounds. When the regiment comes along every man
makes a grab as he passes at the pile, throws his chunk over
his shoulder, and all without breaking ranks. You can im-
agine the appearance a battalion would make at nightfall.

Gaylesville, Ala., October 21, 1864.

Marched about 18 miles yesterday down a very fine valley,
between Lookout Mountain and Taylor's Ridge, crossed the
latter after dark through a pass that beat all for blackness and
stones, to tumble over, that I ever saw. Got a very large
mail yesterday, but only one letter from you. We move again
this morning, but don't know when. Can send a letter back
from here, first chance we have had this month. I guess we
have halted here to wait the building of a bridge over the
Coosa. The Rebels burned it yesterday.

What we are going for nobody knows. I saw Sherman
yesterday as we passed through Gaylesville. He was talking
with Jeff. C. Davis. He always has a cigar hanging from the
corner of his mouth. It is always about half-gone, but I never
saw it lighted. He is certainly the most peculiar-looking man
I ever saw. At one house we passed this morning we saw
three of the ugliest-looking women imaginable. They sat on
the porch step, side by side, hoopless, unkempt and unwashed.
I'll swear that man never before witnessed three such frights



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. 315

together. All three were singing a Rebel song. I knew they
were trying to sing, but although close to them, could not
distinguish a word. Some of the men recognized the tune
as belonging to a tune called the '-'Rebel Soldier." The men
were so completely surprised and thunderstruck by the show
that they had not a word to say. It tickles us to see that
you home folks are uneasy about us because Hood has got
into our rear. I tell you that I have not seen a man uneasy
for a minute, on that subject, and that Hood has to run like
a hound to get away from us. If Hood's army was to-day,
twice as strong as it is, we would be too many for him.

October 22, 1864.

I was foraging to-day for the regiment with about 20 men.
Got plenty of hogs and potatoes. Sweet potatoes are about
the size of ordinary pumpkins and most delicious.

October 23, 1864.

A day of rest and washing. The cavalry was out some dozen
miles southwest, and report the enemy intrenched and in force.

Eight miles southeast of last night's camp,

October 24, 1864.

With five brigades of our corps started at 3 130 p. m. to look
after Rebels reported. Came through a little hamlet called
Blue Pond from a little lake in the neighborhood of a dirty
mud color. Plenty of milk and honey.

Nine miles northwest of Gadsden, Ala.,

October 25, 1864.

Found the Rebels about noon to-day in position behind a
rail work, running across from Lookout Mountain to Coosa
river. It was only Wheeler's cavalry, and we blew them out
easily. We formed to charge them, but they wouldn't wait.
We followed until we were satisfied there was no infantry be-



3l6 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

hind them, and then settled for the night, and sent out foragers.
There was some miserable artillery firing by both sides. Not
a dozen men were hurt; only one in our brigade, looth Indi-
ana.

At Little River again, October 26, 1864.
Got back on the 25th, and have been laying quiet. Our
foragers have been skirmishing a good deal with the enemies'
scouts, but few casualties however.

Cedar Bluff, Ala., October 27, 1864.

Waiting here for the I7th Army Corps to get across the
Coosa. It is a beautiful little river, not as wide as the Illinois,
but has a deeper channel. We are starting on the road to
Talladega; don't even know whether we are starting on a
campaign or not. Hood is reported across the Tennessee. We
understand that Sherman has men enough to attend to him, and
that Sherman intends to use us to Christianize this country.
Many think we are now on the way to Montgomery or Selma.
River here about 120 yards wide. About a thousand head of
our cattle swam across, some of them swam over and back two
or three times, and many of the thin ones drowned, for which
we were grateful to the drovers as it saved us some very hard
chewing.

Camp in piney woods, five miles South of Cedar Bluffs,

October 29, 1864.

Such a march over pine ridges and through swamps ;
Egyptian darkness would take a back seat in comparison with
this night. It just happened to strike the men as funny, and
they kept up a roar of cheering the whole distance.

Near Cave Springs, Ga., 26 miles south of Rome,

October 31, 1864, i a. m.

We think we are going to Rome. Had an extremely dis-
agreeable march yesterday of only 12 miles, over pine and
scrub oak ridges. A swamp in every valley. Camped before



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. 317

dark for almost the first time of the trip. This is the 27th
day since we broke camp at Eastpoint. Everybody is all right.
Compliments to Colonel Wright, if he is at home, and tell
him immense rumors are afloat of a Montgomery campaign.
Had an immense supper of fresh pork and sweet potatoes.

Cedar Town, Ga., November i, 1864.

Abomination of abominations, train guard to-day. It is the
most disagreeable duty we are subject to on the march. I
escaped the afternoon duty by being sent out foraging. Got
all the men would carry, and disgusted a rich citizen consid-
erably, also saw a nice, rosy-faced girl, whose teeth and fiinger-
nails would spoil a meal for any one of ordinary constitution.
One man in our brigade wounded, 4oth Illinois, in a little
skirmish to-day.

Van Wirt, Ga., November 2, 1864.

It has rained steadily all day. Moved 12 miles. I have an
excellent pair of shoes. A good deal of water got into them
to-day, but it all ran out. Camp to-night on a high pine ridge.
Pine knot fires come in first rate. That 4Oth boy that was
wounded last night was captured with three more of our men
by 30 Rebels and taken eight or ten miles, then formed in line
and ordered to about face and fired upon ; two fell dead and the
other two ran away.

Five miles northwest of Villa Rica, Ga.,



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 26 of 31)