Copyright
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 9 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 9 of 31)
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Regular Infantry, and went with him to his quarters for the
night. All the regimental officers quartered together in a very
fine house that belongs to a secesh colonel. They were a jolly
set of men, and the empty bottles lying around loose when we
retired testified strongly thereto. I remember seeing one of
them at Point Pleasant, Mo., have a couple of little fights (he
commanded a two-gun battery of siege pieces) with a
Rebel battery on the opposite shore.

We left Corinth early next morning for Farmington,
and as we passed I saw where Major Applington fell. It was
as I supposed about one-half mile from Corinth (hardly
that) and what I did not know, was within 400 yards of the
strongest part of the Rebel fortifications. We lunched at 10
a. m and paid an old lady the modest sum of 50 cents for a
piece of cornbread and a glass of buttermilk. She complained
bitterly of some of Buell's soldiers killing three of her chick-
ens without paying for them, and just the day before her hus-
band had been to Corinth and received meat, flour, etc., free
from the aid society. She had three sons in the Southern
Army. At 12 m. we drew rein 25 miles from Corinth at luka.

There are a couple of splendid springs in luka. One
chalybeate, and the other sulphur water, and the town is
the neatest I have seen in the country. Snuff-dipping is
an universal custom here, and there are only two women
in all luka that do not practice it. At tea parties, after
they have supped, the sticks and snuff are passed round



IOO ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

and the dipping commences. Sometimes girls ask their
beaux to take a dip with them during a spark. I asked
one if it didn't interfere with the old-fashioned habit of
kissing. She assured me that it did not in the least, and
I marveled. There was only one regiment at luka, and
they were expecting an attack from the hordes of guer-
rillas that infest the country all along our front from Mem-
phis to Florence. I stayed at the hotel in town and had just
retired (about n) when crack, crack, two guns went, only
about 60 rods from the house. There was a general shak-
ing of the whole building, caused by the sleepers rising
en masse and bouncing out on the floors. I thought if
there was no fight I wouldn't be fooled, and if there was
I couldn't do any good, so I kept cool. 'Twas only a little
bushwhacking. A soldier policeman having been shot at
from the brush, and he returned the favor by guess. This
infantry always thinks the enemy is just out of gunshot
of them, and they are three-fourths scared to death all the
time. At noon of Monday we left luka, rode to Burnsville,
a place that I have spoken of in my letters before, as we
scouted through it while lying before Corinth. None of
our soldiers have camped there yet, and we were the only
ones there while we stayed. The colonel took a nap to
recover from the heat and fatigue of riding, and I strolled
down town to look up some acquaintances I made while
scouting. They treated me pretty well, and made me a
letter carrier, as many of them had letters to send to their
friends who are prisoners. At dark we started for Jacinto,
ten miles south, but for so many hills had a splendid ride.
'Twas through the woods, all the way, and over real young
mountains. We got to Jacinto at 10 p. m. and concluded
to stay all night. I laid down an hour or two, but the
fleas were so bad that I got up and stayed up the rest of
the night. I walked around the town and stopped at head-
quarters of the guard and talked with the boys. (They
were of Jeff C. Davis's division, of Pea Ridge, Ark., and
Siegel.) They all think that Siegel is the only man and hate



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. IOI

Davis like the devil. I waked the colonel at 4 p. m. and
we started for home. The road from Jacinto, home, was
lined with infantry, the whole left wing of our corps
being on it. They had no tents but seemed to be preparing
the ground for a camp. We got home in time for a little
nap before breakfast, both of which I enjoyed very much.
We found the garrison much excited about an attack that
was expected every hour. The 2d Brigade of Cavalry
had been about eight miles in front doing outpost duty,
and having been alarmed by rumors had abandoned their
camp and retreated to this place. Their sutler gave up
his goods to the boys, preferring they should have them
free, rather than the enemy. The next day (yesterday
morning) a scout was sent out and found their camp just
as they had left it. All of which was considered quite a
joke on the 2d Brigade. The enemy may come up here
and may whip us out, we are scattered so much, but they
will have a riotous time of it. All told we had a very
pleasant ride, but if we are gobbled up some of these times
when riding around without an escort you must not be
surprised. I don't think it just the straight way of doing
such business, but Charles can go where the colonel dares
to, and my preference is for riding as far from a column as
possible on several accounts. The colonel is a very inter-
esting companion on such a trip, full of talk, and he hae had
six years experience on the frontier. I induced a very
young lady with a well cracked piano to favor me with
some music at luka. She sang "The Bonny Blue Flag
That Bears a Single Star." It was as near the music we
used to hear in the old Presbyterian church at home as
you could think, and that's all that kept me from laughing
in her face. We celebrated the capture of Richmond on
the 4th, but are now trying to forget that we made such
fools of ourselves. Damn the telegraphs. We have awful
news from Richmond to-day. It would make me sick to
write it. I would rather have the army whipped than
McClellan.



IO2 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

Camp near Boonville, Miss., June 13, 1862.
This is the fourth camp that we have had to call as above.
We have lived all around the burg, but to-morrow we leave.
We have just got nicely arranged here after working hard all
day, and now an order comes to move brigade headquarters
back to Rienzi, nearly 10 miles toward Corinth. Bah! how
sick it makes me to write that name. I haven't seen the place
yet, and have no desire to. I feel about once a week as though
a little skirmish would do me good, but I don't see any use
in getting mad because they won't give me a chance to fight.
I couldn't feel any more out of the war at home than I do
here. The enemy have all gone further into Dixie and we're
left the undisputed occupants of this neck. Our headquarters
here are about 25 miles south of Corinth, and we have pickets
at Baldwin, 15 miles south of this. Pope's whole division has
moved back to just this side of Corinth except our brigade,
so here we are, maybe 1,200 effective men, doing outpost duty
nearly 40 miles in advance of the army. Yesterday the colonel,
his A. D. C. and myself rode around our entire picket line, I
mean the part of our brigade that is guarding the M. & O.
R. R. There is only one regiment doing this, and they
are strung out so that our ride was full 40 miles. When we
were within two miles of our camp, coming in, I was gallop-
ing along ahead of the colonel, maybe 50 yards ('twas 10
p. m.) and I thought I heard a "halt," but was so sure there
were no pickets there (full a dozen miles inside of our corps'
pickets) that I didn't mind it until bang, went an old musket,
and the bullet zipped considerably over my head. I halted.
They were some infantry pickets whose regiment was close
by in the woods (some two miles). Well, we hadn't the
countersign and they wern't going to let us pass. The colonel
swore, I was awful hungry, and I cussed, the A. D. C. raved,
but the picket sergeant was immovable. At last we coaxed
him to send us in with a guard to his colonel. He sent six
men with us as guard, and the cuss gave orders to shoot us
if we tried to run. The chap that shot was one of the guard,
'and he told me that he shot over my head on purpose after



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. IO.3

he had halloed "halt" several times. They didn't know there
was cavalry outside of them and said they'd shot us sure if
they hadn't seen the glimmer of my straps in the moonlight.
We got their colonel up, took a toddy with him and home.
Did I ever tell you about my darkey, "Charley"? We got
him at Cape Girardeau. He informed our troops where his
master and company had hidden some 14 kegs of powder and
some arms. His massa found out he had informed and put
him in irons four weeks. He escaped and came to us We
lost him at Madrid and never knew what had become of him
until he turned up here a week since He had been sick in the
Cairo hospital. He comes very handy to me when I'm a little
lazy, which, though, is only 30 or 40 times a day. He has my
boots blacked and clothes brushed when I get up in the morn-
ing, is a splendid hand to take care of a horse, and all told a
very handy institution. He wants me to promise to take him
home with me. If you will have him, I'll do it. He'd be right
handy about our house. I have the nicest horse. He is a
perfect staver. A little tiresome to ride because so anxious
to go fast, but he is so strong and never tires. After that ride
yesterday of 40 miles through a broiling sun he danced along
at the last as much as when we started. We were coming in
from a reconnoisance one night last week and about 10 p. m.,
dark as Egypt, an artillery wagon crowded me off a causeway
and Siegel (my horse) went into the mud to his shoulders
and I, over his head, gracefully. He got out and sloped, and
I walked into camp. 'Twas only a quarter of a mile. An ar-
tillery sergeant caught him and I walked out to the road just
in time to see him passing. He dismounted very spryly.
Siegel licks my hands just like a dog and he will follow me
away from his oats any time. After he got away from me
that night he went back again to where we fell and that's
where the sergeant got him. He is a large bay and I wouldn't
take anything for him. I was riding to-day with the colonel,
and as we crossed the M. and O. R. R. I saw a couple of
fellows 300 or 400 yards down the road coming towards us,
and one of them threw up his hands. I thought he was a de-



IO4 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

setter and waited. They proved to be what I thought. One
was an Alabamian and the other from Arkansas. They had
seen our pickets further out but thought them Confederates
and slipped by them through the brush. I took them to the
celonel, and since then, this p. m., nine more have come in, and
'tis not a very good day for deserters either. These people
here are very tired of war. You would be if this army should
march through Canton, indeed you would. You can't go into
hardly a house here but what they'll ask if you know anything
of "my son," "my brother," or "my husband" that was taken
prisoner at this place or that place, and then the poor creatures
will cry as though their hearts were broken and you begin to
feel queer about your throat, and I can't stand that at all.
It hurts me under my vest to see these poor women suffering,
for maybe not the fault of those they mourn, but of rich men
and politicians who have by threats and lies induced these
poor devils to leave their families to die of starvation, to fight
for, they can't tell what.

I have just seen a Mobile Register of the 5th. It says they
have taken at Richmond 7,000 prisoners, 80 pieces artillery,
wagons, etc., innumerable quartermaster and commissary
stores in vast quantities. That McClellan is driven back 30
miles and his army is surrounded, but a few of them may
escape by James river. Very jocular and highly edifying.
They also claim 15,000 stands small arms captured.

Rienzi, Tishomingo Co., Miss., June 14, '62.

We have located for a somewhat permanent stay, as the
clumsy order said, in the most beautiful little town I have
yet found in Mississippi. We have pitched our tents in a
little grove in the edge of the burgh and are preparing to live.

We have been rioting on plums and blackberries the last
week. Dewberries are about gone. I don't think the plums
are as good as ours. There is already much suffering amongst
the poor here, and God only knows how these people can live
until the new crop of corn is harvested. The wheat is all
cut these ten days, but ten acres of it will hardly keep one



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. 105

person a year. Cotton is not planted this year to any extent, a
tax of $25 per bale being laid on all each man raises over one
bale. I told you how we rode out to Baldwin on the I2th; well,
this morning the enemy nearly surrounded our picket there
and killed or captured a few of them, scattering the rest. They
have nearly all got in. There are no troops between here anc*
the picket at Baldwin, 25 miles, and this little body is 12 miles
ahead of the main army. 'Tis an outrage to post troops in
this manner, and if they all get cut off (the two battalions on
picket) it won't surprise me. There are not many slaves here,
very few planters work more than 25, though 60 miles fur-
ther down many have from 300 to 400 each. We don't think
these are large bodies that are troubling oui outposts, but
they will hover around so long as the picket is advanced thus
far.

Rienzi, Tishomingo Co., Miss., June 16, 1862.
We are camped here enjoying ourselves grandly. As our
brigade is scattered over a line of 50 miles we just pitch our
headquarters in the quietest spot we can find independent of
the command. There are only two companies now out of the
24 within 8 miles of us, and all we have to do with any of
them is to send them orders and receive their communications
and forward them. In the heat of the day we read and
lounge in our tents, and mornings we go to the creek and
bathe and then ride a dozen or so miles to keep our horses
exercised. I have a clerk, too, for my copying, etc., so I'm a
gentleman. Evenings I visit generally some of the half dozen
families within a half mile of us of whom I borrow books
and in return furnish them with occasional papers. We have
splendid water and my health is perfect. This is the healthiest
part of the South.

Rienzi, Tishomingo Co., Miss., June 19, 1862.
This is one of the few days that remind one of Illinois,
although there are very few nights that might not remind a
Greenlander of his home. I think there has not been a night



106 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

yet that I have not slept under three blankets, and there have
been many nights that I would have used a dozen if I had had
them. The natives say that 'tis the Gulf breeze that makes
the air so cool after about 7 or 8 p. m. I wish that it would
get along about eight hours earlier daily ; but to-day there are
clouds kiting about so o'erhead that the sun don't amount to
much only for light, and 'tis cool enough to make undercloth-
ing comfortable. The colonel, A. D. C. and myself visited the
camp of the /th Illinois yesterday at Jacinto. We found them
surrounded with a brush parapet, felled trees, etc., ready as
they said for a twelve-hour's fight. They'd been visited by a
scare. There is no enemy within 15 miles of them and hasn't
been. They are camped in the suburbs of a beautiful little
town that fell in among the hills in a very tasty manner (for
a Mississippi town). In one little valley near a fine residence
there are three springs bubbling up in line and within a foot
of each other, which are so independent that each furnishes a
different kind of water. The first pure, cold, soft water with-
out taste, another chalybeate, and the third, strong sulphur.
The waters of the three fall into one little basin and run thence
into a bathhouse twenty steps distant. There is a neat vine
covered arbor over the springs with seats arranged within,
and altogether 'tis a neat little place good to water Yankee
horses at. There were several gangs of negroes at work in
the corn and cotton fields along the road yesterday, and I
thanked God they were not in Illinois. Candidly, I'd rather see
them and a whole crop of grindstones dumped into the Gulf,
than have so many of them in our State, as there are even here.
Yet, it don't look square to see the women, if they are niggers,
plowing. I have no reason for the last sentence, only it isn't
in my opinion what petticoats were designed for. Talking
about niggers, these headquarters are fully up with any-
thing in that Potomac mob on the colored question. They
got Jeff Davis' coachman. What of it? J. D. isn't anybody
but a broken-backed-politician-of-a-civilian, and of course his
coachman is no better than a white man. But we, we have,
listen, General Beauregard's nigger "toddy mixer," and my



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. IO/

experience fully proves to the satisfaction of your brother that
the general's taste in selecting a toddy artist is fine. He is
a sharp cuss (the nigger). He left them at Tupelo day before
yesterday, p. m., slipped by the pickets while 'twas light with-
out their seeing him, but after dark he was suddenly halted
by their videttes when within ten feet of them. He ran by
them and they fired, but as usual missed. He is really the ser-
vant of Colonel Clough, of Memphis, but the colonel is now on
Beauregard's staff, and John (the boy) was selected as drink
mixer for the general-pro tern. He reports that Price started
with the flower of the flock, only some 3,000 posies, to Virginia,
but said posies, like their vegetable brethren, wilt and droop
by the wayside, and unlike them, scoot off through the brush
at every chance, and that is the last of them as far as soldier-
ing is concerned. Hundreds of the dissatisfied Rebels pre-
tended sickness and lay by the roadside until the army passed
and then heeled it for home. All the prisoners and deserters
that we get concur in saying that at least 10,000 have de-
serted since the evacuation. A couple of very fine-looking young
fellows, Kentuckians, came in this p. m. Their regiment with
two others are the outpost guard between the Rebel Army and
ours. They were in a skirmish the other day at Baldwin,
where two of our companies were surprised and lost six men,
taken prisoners. There were 60 of our boys and they reported
400 Rebels. These deserters say there were only 42 Rebels;
but the next day 700 Rebels came onto 75 of our men and
the chivalry were put to flight in a perfect rout. So it goes.
There was a flag of truce came in last night to our picket.
Brought a dozen packages for Halleck and company, with a
number of letters for Northern friends, all unsealed. Several
of the envelopes were of common brown wrapping paper.
There are a good many things about this advance of an army
that are more interesting than the main army the infants know
of. We cavalry feel as safe here as in Illinois, but General
Ashboth keeps calling on Pope for more men all the time.

What do you think we'll have to eat to-morrow? Answer:
Lamb, roast goose and liver (beef), blackberry pies, plum



108 ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

pudding, new peas, string beans, onions, beets, fresh apple
sauce, etc. That's a fact, and we have a cow that furnishes
us milk, too, and a coop full of chickens, maccaroni for our
soup, and we get all the beef brains.

Tell Colonel Kellogg that the boys are talking about him
yet, like a lot of chickens for their lost "Mar." The 7th has
plenty to do now, if I wasn't so tired I'd write you a copy of
the orders I sent them to-day.

The enemy keeps annoying our outposts, and rumors come
to-day of their being on the way for this place to surprise us.
All bosh, I suppose. I hope they are too gentlemanly to dis-
turb us while we are doing as well as we are here. It would
be worse than the old lady where I stayed night before last.
I went to bed at 12 130, and about 5 she sent a servant up for
the sheets to wash. The joke was on our family, but I told her
that she had better let me roll over the whole house if she
had to wash up after me, for it would improve the health of her
family to scrub the premises and them. Fine people here.
They've commenced bushwhacking. One of my orderlies was
shot through the thigh night before last while carrying some
dispatches. "Concilate," "noble people," "high spirited." Oh !
Strangulate is the better direction.

Headquarters 1st Brig. Cav. Army of the Miss.,

Rienzi, Miss., June 29, 1862.

What the deuce this army is trying to do, I cannot guess.
Buell's corps moved off in an easterly direction two weeks
since. Grant's is, I think, between Corinth and Memphis, and
the headquarters of Pope is about four miles south of Corinth,
while his army is scattered for 75 miles west of here. The left
wing, Plummer's and Jeff C. Davis' divisions moved through
here yesterday, bound for Holly Springs, 60 miles due west.
General Ashboth's reserve division, stationed here, have thrown
up quite extensive works, fronting the enemy, who are not in
any force, within 75 miles of us. Our cavalry division is do-
ing the outpost duty on a line 40 miles long, running east and



ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER. ICK)

west, and about 20 miles south of Corinth, with videttes out
eight or ten miles further, and scouting parties go 15 miles
below the videttes. We are losing about two men a day
skirmishing. I noticed a statement in the papers that 20,000
new-made graves could be seen between Corinth and the
Tennessees, caused by the swamp miasmas, etc., during our
approaching the enemy. We don't believe that there have been
400 deaths from disease since the battle of Shiloh, and 250
will cover the number of deaths from wounds received since
that fight. You know there have been an immense number of
sick men furloughed, but that was to satisfy the State govern-
nors more than necessity. For instance, John Shriner went
home on sick furlough and you know his condition. There
were thousands of such cases. I think the health of our army
never was better than now. I notice that our Illinois troops
stand this climate very much better than the men from Michi-
gan and Iowa. Do not think we have more than one-third
the sickness in our regiment that the troops from the last
named States have. There is a prospect of our brigade's being
ordered to Ripley this week. I am well satisfied here, but have
no doubt will flourish equally well there. They charge out-
rageous prices for eatables throughout the country. Half-
grown chickens 25 cents each, eggs 25 cents per dozen, but-
termilk 20 cents per quart, etc. We keep a cow for our head-
quarters, though, that supplies us with milk, and we have six
hens that lay as many eggs every day, and my colored boy
plays sharp and buys new potatoes, peas, beans, etc., for half
what I can, on the strength of his chumming it with colored
folks of the farms. There was a regiment raised in this
country that are now flourishing in Camp Douglas. A lady
played the piano and sang for me last night that has a husband
and brother residing in said camp. Mourning goods are quite
fashionable here, and I see limping around town several tfiat
lost a limb, each, in some of the early battles. There are a
few that I have met who were taken prisoners by our troops,
one of them at Manassas, and paroled. Deserters come in
yet every day. An intelligent man that belonged to an Arkan-



IIO ARMY LIFE OF AN ILLINOIS SOLDIER.

sas regiment came in yesterday. He says that he thinks the
main body of the Southern Army started for East Tennessee,
via Chattanooga the day after he left them. Breckenridge's
brigade has gone to Vicksburg, etc. I would like to send you
some of the late orders issued by Rosecrans, if it were not
so much trouble to copy them, in relation to police of camp
and discipline. He looks after the health of men more than
any general I have served under

People here are very indignant about our taking all their
provisions away from them, and then appealing to the North
to contribute to keep them from starving. There is some truth
in the idea, but not much. They certainly do need eatables
here, and the North will have to furnish them free or take
scrip. Dinner : Blackberry jam, pie and raw berries. Oceans
of them here. Day before yesterday the Rebels surprised one
of our picket parties and captured 1st and C men, and yes-
terday they captured another. But Company K (Nelson's)
followed them 12 or 15 miles and I think got the prisoners
back with one Rebel, several horses and lots of traps. I got
a letter from you a few days since relating the affecting parting
scene between those spirits who left home, etc., for three
months, and the sweet spirits that wept so heart breakingly
thereat. I think your ideas were not unsound in regard



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 9 of 31)