Friday, April 28, 2017

Private Charles Wright Wills: September 1, 1861

Cairo. We had blankets given us this last week and new accoutrements throughout. If they would only change our guns now we would have nothing but a move to ask for. A uniform was also furnished us last week. It is of excellent all-wool goods, and not so heavy as to be uncomfortable. The color is very fine grey, the pants are fashionably cut and equal to such as would cost six dollars in Peoria. The coats have short skirts and are rather fancifully trimmed with blue. It is much the best uniform I have seen yet, although it costs but $13. We will have a fatigue suit shortly. Yesterday we were mustered for pay. We will get our first month's wages this week “they say.” There are wagons and mules here now by the hundreds, and when our tents are ready (they are here now) we will be ready to move. I think there must be near 10,000 men here now. Logan's, Pugh's, Buford's, and another's regiment; Hick's and Raritan's came in last week. The first three belong to McCormick's Brigade. General McClernand is here now. Every one thinks we will move in a very few days. I kind o' feel it in my bones, too, but it is too good to be true, so I'm taking all the bets I can from 10 cents worth of peanuts to a half bushel of apples, I betting that we are here two weeks from now. I've got them any way, for if we move, I hope to be able to borrow apples, etc., from the seceshers to pay my little bills, and if I stay here I'll have some eatables free for consolation. We Canton boys have hired a cook for ourselves and are living much better than I ever did before in camp.

Our cook is a jewel, and by trading off rations keeps us in clover all the time. He sets a better table for us than the Peoria house boarders eat from, honestly. An old schoolmate of mine in our mess furnishes us with milk. He and John Wallace go out every night about 2 or 3 o'clock and — somebody's cow don't milk well next morning. We'll never have such times sojering again, but you can't imagine how we do want to get over into Missouri or Arkansas. We don't have half as easy times as these at home and but for the discipline it wouldn't seem like soldiering. I've been bored like sin the last two weeks drilling new recruits, but I'm glad of it, for it is rather pleasant to me to have something disagreeable when I'm bored feeling good. John Keefer and John Wallace, so far, make as good soldiers as any men in camp, Keef’s game leg working against him, too. All our boys are just the men for soldiers. It comes perfectly naturally to Sid. and Sam. Theo. has been in bad health for a week, but I think he is improving now. Fred Norcott is a splendid boy. He and Sam match well. Charley Cooper is acting as post orderly, that is, stays at headquarders of the Post Commandant, preserves order there and carries messages, dispatches, etc., to the different colonels. A good place but very confusing.

I have been visiting Colonel Raritan's and Hick's Camp this p. m. They have no guns yet and their sentinels stand guard with sticks. Looks funny.

We have about 50 prisoners here now. They think they are treated splendidly and say that if any of our boys fall into their hands they will remember it. Several of them are very intelligent-appearing men. One of them is about as big as — a house with a foot like a cooking stove. Charley Maple wrote down to us that he wants to join our company; Keefer wrote him to come. I have to remark once more that the “health of camp is better than ever before,” your sarcastic remark not having affected our sanitary condition in the least. You will please make no more impertinent remarks or comments on my letters!

A. H. White was down here last Sabbath, and he and I found Frank Smith in Smith's Artillery. I have been here right by him four months without knowing it and lived. He is a corporal. He, A. H., and I drank some beer, discussed the affairs of the nation and adjourned. Do you remember Enos Lincoln? He is here in the 12th.

We have had some fighting in camp lately. An artillery man stabbed one of the 9th and got knocked, kicked and bayoneted for it. The artillery have sworn to have revenge and every hickory man (the 9th have a fatigue suit of hickory) they see they pounce onto. They have a skirmish every day. One of our company got drunk to-day, got to fighting, was sent to the guardhouse, tried to break out, guard knocked him down with a gun, cut his cheek open, etc. He then got into a fight with four other men in the guard house and of all the bunged eyes and bloody faces they beat the record.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 25-7

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