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

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“This is the first winter weather that we have had, and I’ll be willing if it proves the last,”–Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, Charles Wright Wills.

January 16, 2013

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

Note: This letter—a document written in 1862—includes terms and topics that may be offensive to many today.  No attempt will be made to censor or edit 19th century material to today’s standards.

Camp 103d Illinois Infantry, Jackson, Tenn.,

January 16, 1862. (1863)

It commenced raining early the morning of the 14th and did not cease until about 2 a.m. the 15th, since when it has snowed steadily until within two hours. The snow is some eight inches deep, underneath which is mud immeasurable. The rain the last six or eight hours came through our tent as through a sieve, the snow came in at the top, through the door, and blew under the curtains. Everybody’s wearing apparel, blankets, and self absorbed all the damp possible, and besides carried all that would hold on outside. Our stove was in this extremity our comfort and our joy. We kept two loyal Ethiopians busy during the two days, getting wood, and feeding said comforter. Great was the tribulation, and much audible cursing resulted, while the secret history of oaths unuttered, would I’m afraid, fill many volumes, and in all human probability cause, if made public, the appointment of many army chaplains. This is the first winter weather that we have had, and I’ll be willing if it proves the last, although there is a half melancholy pleasure in spludging around in this slop and taking the weather as it comes, without its first being made to feel the refining influence of house walls and good warm fires. Our men have become quite soldier-like, and endure without much murmuring the little ills as they come. It shows some of the principles of manhood, you must believe, when men stand this weather in these worthless little wedge tents, without fires and without grumbling. I got four of my men discharged to-day, and want to discharge some six or eight more. When I get my deadheads off my hands will have some 70 good men left. Rather think now, that we are stationary here for the winter, but we may possibly be sent to Vicksburg, than which nothing will suit us better. There are some eight or nine regiments here, two or three of them cavalry. The enemy is pretty well cleared out of this strip of country, and if Rosecrans gets down into North Alabama, opinion seems to be that some of us can be spared from here for Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Several houses have been burned here lately. This town will share the fate of Holly Springs, sure, if the Rebels trouble us here any more. ‘Tis fearfully secesh, and a little fire will, I think, help to purify it. Isn’t it wonderful how with so much fighting everywhere I have escaped so long? The whole of the 10th Illinois Infantry were with me in luck until the last fight at Murfreesboro, and am not certain they participated in that. There are two regiments here that have endured all of this storm without tents. I suppose the Lord takes care of them fellows, if it’s a fact that he looks after sheared sheep and birds. From my heart I pity them, though that strikes me as something like the little boy who, when his mother put him to bed and covered him with an old door, told her how much he pitied folks who had no doors to cover themselves with while they slept. That’s a story mother and aunt used to tell me in my trundle-bed days. Wonder if aunty has forgotten the story that used to make Tip and me rave. All about how that “great big prairie wolf bit a wee boy’s head off.” I almost forgot that I am out of woollen socks. Have only the pair of socks that are on my feet. Put them on this morning, and there were so many holes that I could hardly tell where to put my feet in. Wish you’d send me three or four pair. Will make cotton ones do until then. I can send you a nigger baby if it would be acceptable. They are more “antic” than either a squirrel or monkey. I have two he niggers, two she’s and three babies, mess property. Think I will either have to drown the babies, or sell them and the women, whom I endure because their husbands are such good hands. Will you take one?

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