Friday, April 7, 2017

Diary of Private Charles Wright Wills: June 9, 1861

Cairo. I have been over to Bird's Point this morning for the first time. They have thrown up breastworks and dug a deep ditch outside of them, making a pretty strong camp. We don't apprehend, a shade of a fuss here but the officers are making as much preparation as if a Waterloo No. 2 were coming. I went to old Bird's house this morning. It is just like the pictures we have seen in Harper's of southern planters' homes. A wide, railed porch extends around two sides of the house from the floor of each story. On the lower porch sat Bird and his family talking with a number of officers and their ladies. Looked very pleasant. Back of the house were the quarters filled with 46 of the ugliest, dirtiest niggers I ever saw, dressed in dirty white cotton. Awful nasty! The soldiers at the point have plenty of shade. We have but one tree on our grounds. The boys took a lot of ammunition from Bird the other day, and also another lot from a nest five miles back in Missouri. It was all given back, however, as private property. Our whole brigade of six regiments had a parade yesterday. We are all uniformed now and I think we made a respectable appearance. The general gave us a special notice. Are the Canton boys going or not? Do they drill? We have been sleeping on hay up to this week, but have thrown it away, and now have but the bare boards. The change has been so gradual from featherbed at home to plank here that I can't think where it troubled me the least. I had a mattress in Peoria, straw in Springfield, and hay here. Our living is now very good. Fresh beef every day, potatoes, rice and beans.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 17

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