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

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“Its pretty well understood in this army now that burning Rebel property is not much of a crime.”–Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, Charles Wright Wills.

January 12, 2013

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

Camp 103d Illinois Infantry, Jackson, Tenn.,

January 12, 1863.

Your letters are beginning to come through with more regularity and on decidedly better time. Have received your date of December 30, although the last was dated November 16th, and was the first you wrote after we left Peoria. You bewailed our being sent south of Cairo, which I think very ungenerous in you. Well, you’ll probably be suited in our present location, which is the only consolation I have in being sent so far rearward. There are some slight hopes though, that we may be sent to Vicksburg, which will ripen into a distant probability (nothing more I’m afraid) if the news of our repulse there be true. We’re encamped in the suburbs of this delightful little town, but so strict are the orders of the general (Sullivan) that, as far as seeing the town or making purchases therein are concerned, we might as well be camped on Pike’s Peak. All right, Mr. Sullivan, have your own way. He is by all odds the most like a soldier of all the garrison commandants I have been under. Will wager that you will never hear of his being surprised. The news from Holly Springs is that the last house in the town was burned night before last. Pretty rough, but I say, amen. Its pretty well understood in this army now that burning Rebel property is not much of a crime. I for one will never engage in it, until orders are issued making it duty, and then I think I can enjoy it as much as any of them. If any part of this army is ever called home to quell those Illinois tories, orders to burn and destroy will not be necessary. Since I have seen the proceedings of that traitorous legislature, I begin to understand why these loyal Tennesseans and Alabamians are so much more bitter against traitors than we are. It would make your blood run cold to hear the men in this army, without regard to party, curse those traitors. There is a gay time in prospect for those chaps. Don’t think I am much out of the way in saying that Merrick, Jem Allen, Dick Richardson, and the editors of the Chicago Times would be hung if caught within the lines of many Illinois regiments in this army. There are many officers who, while they doubt our ability to subjugate (that is the question) the South, would take an active part in ending the man who would propose to give the thing up. I come pretty near belonging to that party, though I think that if we can’t accomplish the whole end desired, we can confine the Rebels to Virginia (Eastern), the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. Alabama, I believe, we can hold if we get Mississippi. Boats which left Vicksburg on the 6th inst. reported it taken, but it must be a mistake, as it has not been confirmed. I think it was wicked to put that brave old 8th Missouri and 4th Iowa into the front of the battle, after they had suffered so severely at Donaldson, Shiloh, Farmington, etc., but ever since Shiloh it seems that the old soldiers have had the front all the time. ‘Tis reported that when Grant moves again, he will leave all the new regiments as railroad and property guards, and move with the old army. The last night I stayed in Holly Springs, Mrs. Stricklin invited in some young ladies to help entertain the colonel, Lieutenant Nickolet and myself. They beat all the secesh I have seen yet. One of them played all the secesh pieces she knew, and when I asked her to play “John Brown,” she swelled up so with wrath, that I was strongly tempted to propose tying my suspenders around her to save hooks and eyes. One of them asked me if I did not think the Southerners the most polite, refined and agreeable people I had ever met. It took me twenty minutes before I could finish blushing for her lack of modesty, and then I was so dead beat that I could only take up the word refined, and tell her how much I admired their beautiful use of language. I instanced, “what do you’uns all come down here to fight we’uns for,” “I recon we war thar,” which you’ll hear from the best of them. That first quotation as they speak it is the funniest sentence imaginable. I got into a row with every one I talked with, but finally, was fool enough to escort one home. Rumor (almost official) says to-night that we go to Memphis to-morrow, or soon, and thence to Vicksburg. Congratulate us on our good luck. This regiment will never be satisfied without a fight. They run in in our pickets once and awhile here, and I believe two were killed (pickets) yesterday, but guess there is no chance for a fight. The 18th Illinois Infantry is being mounted.

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