Saturday, March 22, 2014

Colonel Thomas Kilby Smith to Mrs. Eliza Walter Smith, May 1, 1862

CAMP PEA RIDGE, TENN., May 1, 1862.

Very great injustice has been done Ohio troops. They have always spoken well of my regiment, however, even the Chicago and other Illinois papers. There were so many heroes on the field that it was diff1cult to select any one par excellence. My regiment suffered more in killed and wounded than any other in the army. I lost more than half rank and file of all I took into battle. The battlefield of Shiloh is drenched with the best blood of the regiment. My command was very gallant, and I am proud of it, or rather what is left of it, for it has dwindled to the merest handful. It is spoken of in the official dispatches, which will be published some time hereafter. We marched to this point yesterday and the day before. We are now but a short distance, less than half a day's march from Corinth, and hope to join battle in a few days. I think your son will be heard of in that battle, though Smith is a hard name to contend with. You would be amused at the vicissitudes I have had to contend with from my most unfortunate cognomen. The fellow who pretended to be able to lift the world if he could find a lever long enough, would have stared aghast at a proposition to lift the name of “Smith” out of the slough of obscurity with a lever double the length of that he required to lift the earth.

Soldiering is a pretty hard life, take it one day with another. You don't get anything good to eat or to drink, and you learn to go without sleep, and you are always going somewhere, or on the eve of doing something, and you are never clean and comfortable, and always cross; but, as a whole, I believe I had rather rough it and fight a battle every other day than go back to the terrible servitude which has been my lot for the past twelve years. My health has been very good till the past two or three weeks. We camped on the battlefield, which was a vast charnel-house. The night of Monday of the battle, I slept on the ground in the rain, and when I awoke in the morning found I had gone to bed between two rebel corpses, one on each side of me, and that I had tied my horse so close to a third that he could not lie down without lying on it. If such things are horrible, this battlefield is too horrible to be described, as was the burial, or attempted burial, of the dead; but it is astonishing to note how soon one gets used to these things, perfectly seared or hardened to suffering in every shape, the mutilated stump, the ghastly mortal wound. One bagged rebels as if they were partridges. I think my regiment killed more than a thousand of them. I was going to say that the smell of the battlefield for two or three days afterwards was terrible beyond description, that we were camped upon it, and had to live in it for twenty-two days, and that it produced a kind of dysenteric diarrhoea that afflicted me, and with which I was a great deal prostrated. I have now regained my wonted vigor, and, notwithstanding your predictions to the contrary, believe I go through about as much as any one else. After the next battle, if we have time and get through safely, I will try and write you a more detailed account of my past life here, but just now I cannot write.

SOURCE: Walter George Smith, Life and letters of Thomas Kilby Smith, p. 199-201

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