Thursday, April 13, 2017

Diary of Private Charles Wright Wills: July 27, 1861

Cairo.  We number now about 60 and have 25 days in which to fill up to 100. Two hundred and fifty of our regiment of three-months’ men have re-enlisted. Two hundred and fifty out of 680, which is considerably better than any eastern regiment that I have seen mentioned. There was not a sick man in our company when we returned, and there is not now. One of the boys just tells me that day before yesterday morning there were but eight in the regiment hospital. Three men from our regiment have died in three and a half months. One of these I know killed himself with imprudence. I have telegraphed to the boys to be in Peoria Wednesday. I have not the least idea that any of them will back out. It does seem real good to be back here again where a fellow can swing himself and lay around loose with sleeves up, collar open, (or shirt off if it suits him better) hair unkempt, face unwashed and everything un-anything. It beats clerking ever so much! We were paid off yesterday. The privates received $56.72 each in gold, silver and copper, which is $24.00 more than we expected.

We are having some more excitement in camp to-day. A rumored attack in prospect on Bird's Point is the subject. We are putting the recruits through in two-forty-style to get them ready. Twenty rounds of cartridges were served to us at noon to-day, and Prentiss’ aids are galloping round as if tight. About one quarter of the recruits have their accoutrements on, and some of them scoot up on the levee every ten minutes to look at the Point. We have all kinds of rumors of from 2,000 to 15,000 Rebels within from 6 to 15 miles of us, but if 20 preachers would swear to the truth, there's not one man that has been here three months would believe it. Been fooled too often! Our officers are careful though, and treat every thing from head-quarters as reliable till the contrary is proven.

It is a horrid trip from Peoria to Cairo as the trains run now. We laid over three hours in El Paso, and eleven hours in Centralia; from 11 p. m. till 10 a. m. Awful! and rode down from Centralia in an accommodation freight. The bed was excellent at home, but I think that sleeping on boards rests me better and I know I sleep sounder.

Have worked two hours hard at cleaning up quarters and eating supper since my last period. Supper consisted of coffee, bread and butter, and cold steak pickled in vinegar. Vinegar is a great improvement on cold beef, I wonder you never adopted it. We have a prime lot of boys this time. There are not ten out of the whole company that I would not like to have for associates at home. I don't believe that one of them will ever take quarters in the guard-house.

I think our company will be full in ten days. We have refused lots of roughs here in camp also in Peoria, but three or four little ones have crept in through acquaintances' influence. Those men we have will learn to drill in half less time than any other lot of recruits on the ground, because they have a pride in their appearance and dress, and that has given them a better carriage and command of themselves than rougher customers have.

We will have in a few days nothing but new recruits here except the fractions of regiments that have re-enlisted; the 10th, which calls itself the crack regiment of the post, will all leave for home day after to-morrow. If it does not come back full in 30 days it will be disbanded. This is Prentiss' old regiment.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 20-2

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