Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

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“Officers are beginning to resign in a very lively manner in our regiment.”–Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, Charles Wright Wills.

January 22, 2013

Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, Charles Wright Wills, (8th Illinois Infantry)

Camp Reed, Jackson, Tenn.,

January 22, 1863.

I received your four-volume letter of the 5th, 12th, 13th inst. last night, and return you my sincere thanks for the time and writing material you expended in my behalf. I suppose that you now understand why you did not receive my letters.

You ask me how I like the news from Vicksburg. All right. That was only a little reconnoisance in force, which paid its way by gobbling up Arkansas post. We want to get these seceshers all together at Vicksburg and then close the war in this country. Wait about a month, if you want to hear a call for bombazine, etc. We’ll have that little town then, or a very large portion of the loyal people of Illinois will go to make that a very fertile point. By the way, aren’t you afraid that Rosecrans will get his hands full if it be true that Longstreet with 13 brigades has arrived at Chattanooga? Guess those Eastern Rebels must know better how to fight than Bragg, Price, Van Dorn, etc., at any rate I’m a little suspicious of that Longstreet and wish that one or two of these divisions here could be sent to oppose. Believe I would rather we would be whipped here than see “Rosy” beaten. There will be somebody awfully hurt though, before that latter item takes place, and Rosecrans himself will never live to read an account of it.

Staff appointments are nicer than the line business, but chance for promotion is not so great nor so honorable in my opinion. Although one does get more credit in reports, and has more influence. Anyway the chances for a captain to be detached on staff duty are very limited, and nearly always matters of outside influence. A first lieutenant’s chance on his merits are much better for several reasons. Officers are beginning to resign in a very lively manner in our regiment. Am satisfied that of the original captains, only Sid., Frank Post and myself will be left in two months from now, and I can see that both Sid. and Frank would not object to being let out gently and honorably, especially if they could happen on a good little fight shortly, and then leave. Poor fellows! One has a new wife and the other an old girl, each gets five letters a week and looks a little sicker after each letter than before. Guess I’ll have to get me one of them girls to be in the fashion, though I haven’t yet got over that one’s patting me on the shoulder when I enlisted, telling me what a fine, brave fellow, etc., I was and then marrying within three weeks after I’d gone. I’m not very desperate in consequence, but can’t think it was fair. Sid. got back from Cairo to-night with his men, minus 30, of whom some ten deserted and the remainder were left sick. Profitable trip. We are on half rations again for five days, but I managed to secure a 700 pound beef for my company, so we’ll not starve. I report more men for duty than any other company in the regiment. Call that doing pretty well when you consider that mine is a picked company. Major Phelps is here and says we will be paid off shortly. That means between now and July as I take it. Am not particular though. Uncle Sam can go to the d___l with his greenbacks, if he’ll only send us to Rosy or Vicksburg. Weather here has moderated considerably. It is 1 o’clock a.m. now and I am without coat or fire and am comfortable. I never retire before 1 or 2 o’clock any more. Am ashamed to say what time I get up. We think here that this place and Corinth will be evacuated ere long. Troops are passing through here from Corinth every day, going to Vicksburg. Every sign says that we will leave here within ten days, but all signs are unsartin. The moon to-night says a dry month. Don’t I hope she won’t fool us. This half-ration business is only so in name, the full ration has a tremendous margin for waste and men can grow fat on half rations. I do believe that they live just as well. When the 1st of January proclamation was issued a number of our officers became very much excited. Several of them talked strongly of tendering their resignations in consequence thereof, and one of them really did. But we were too strong for the d____d compromising lickspittles, and to-day you can’t hear a whimper against it. The major and adjutant were strongly opposed to it, but they dare not say so to-day. All of that excitement at home is working on the army though, and even if it requires bayonets, the good of the army demands that the agitation cease. That is the cause of all the desertions, and they are many that are occurring, and nine-tenths of the discontent and demoralization spring from the same source. A tremendous number have deserted of late and the evil is growing. Thousands would leave if we could be stationed on the border. Well, the old soldiers are very, very tired of the war. Any number of them would recognize three or four confederacies to get home, and their influence over the new men is boundless. The Confederate rank and file feels the same way. Nineteen-twentieths would vote for the United States or any other man to secure peace, but their officers and citizens control the matter. It don’t make any difference what commission you intrust your sanitary stores to for the stealings are all in the hospitals, and these sanitary commissaries all issue to any hospital that is in need.

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