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

Post image for “This town has been most shamefully abused since we left here with the Grand Army last December.”–Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, Charles Wright Wills.

“This town has been most shamefully abused since we left here with the Grand Army last December.”–Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, Charles Wright Wills.

March 15, 2013

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

Camp 103d Illinois Infantry, Lagrange, Tenn.,

March 15, 1863.

I have just returned from a walk to and inspection of the cemetery belonging to this nice little town. There, as everywhere, the marks of the “Vandal Yankees” are visible. The fence which formerly enclosed the whole grounds has long since vanished in thin air, after fulfilling its mission, boiling Yankee coffee, and frying Yankee bacon. Many of the enclosures of family grounds have also suffered the same fate, and others are broken down and destroyed. The cemeteries here are full of evergreens, hollies, cedars, and dwarf pines, and rosebushes and flowers of all kinds are arranged in most excellent taste. They pride themselves more on the homes of their dead than on the habitations of the living. I can’t help thinking that their dead are the most deserving of our respect, though our soldiers don’t waste much respect on either the living or dead chivalries. Many of the graves have ocean shells scattered over them, and on a number were vases in which the friends deposit boquets in the flower season. The vases have suffered some at the hands of the Yankees, and the names of Yanks anxious for notoriety are penciled thickly on the backs of marble grave stones. Quite a variety of flowers can now be found here in bloom. I have on my table some peach blossoms and one apple blossom, the first of the latter I have seen. Some of the early rosebushes are leaved out, and the grass is up enough to make the hillsides look quite springlike. For three or four days we have needed no fire, and my coat now hangs on the forked stick which answers for a hatrack in my tent. We left Jackson the morning of the 11th, all pleased beyond expression, to get away. We were from 8 a.m. until 11 o’clock p.m. coming here, only 55 miles. The engine stalled as many as ten times on up grades, and we would either have to run back to get a fresh start, or wait until a train came along whose engine could help us out. We lay loosely around the depot until daylight and then moved out to our present camp, which is one of the best I have ever seen, a nice, high ridge covered with fine old forest trees. This town has been most shamefully abused since we left here with the Grand Army last December. There are only about three houses which have a vestige of a fence left around them. All the once beautiful evergreens look as though three or four tornadoes had visited them and many of the finest houses have been compelled to pay as tribute to the camp fires, piazzas and weatherboarding. Not a chicken is left to crow or cackle, not a pig to squeal, and only such milch cows as were composed entirely of bone and cuticle. The 7th Cavalry is here, and also the 6th Illinois and 2d Iowa. There is only one other regiment of Infantry, the 46th Ohio. It does the picket duty and we are patroling and guarding the government stores. The duty is rather lighter than it was in Jackson, and more pleasant. We have no ground to complain now, and the paymaster is all we want to make us perfectly happy. Two nights before we left Jackson 23 of our regiment deserted, 17 of whom were out of Company A, one of the Lewistown companies. One was from my company, the first deserter I have had. He was detailed from Company A to my company and was besides the most worthless trifling pup in the army. I am accepting the disgrace of having one of my men desert, decidedly glad to be rid of him. Johnny Wyckoff came down a few days ago and after being in camp a few days came to me and said he had his parents’ permission, so I got the colonel to swear him in. We’ll make a drummer of him.

I suppose you will have seen in the Register before this reaches you the answer my company made to that Davidson’s lie in regard to our vote on the resolutions. I did not see the paper until it was ready to send away. I think copperheadism is not worth quite the premium it was a few months since. These notes from the army should have some weight with the gentlemen that run the copper machine. Do you see how the Southern papers cut the scoundrels? That does me much good, though ’tis mortifying to think we have such dirtcatchers in our State.

Well, we are on the right track now, and a few more weeks and we will be steaming down the Mississippi, I think. Our next move will be Memphis, probably, and then, ho! for Vicksburg! That is rare good news from the Yazoo. I hope Ross has done something there. My health is excellent, 155 pounds of ham and crackers, for that is all I’ve eaten in four months. One hundred and sixty secesh soldiers lie as closely as they can be packed in this cemetery. Little boards with initials cut on them are all the marks their graves have. Our boys all cut on a large board with full name of regiment, and residence, at the head of their graves. I send you some blossoms from the graveyard.

Previous post:

Next post: