Sunday, April 30, 2017

Private Charles Wright Wills: September 12, 1861

Camp Norfolk, September 12, 1861.

Agreeable to our very short notice we packed our knapsacks, put three days rations in our haversacks, were carried across the river to Bird's Point in two boats (our whole regiment), and just at dark started out through the woods. ’Twas a confounded, dark, dirty, narrow road, and I was right glad when the word “halt” was given and preparations made for bunking in for the night. The next morning we started again along down the river, the gunboats, two of them, keeping a couple of miles ahead of us. We started with a couple of pieces of field artillery, but the road got so bad that we had to leave it after about three miles. We advanced about five miles when the gunboats, which were about a mile and one-half ahead of us, opened mouth, and thunder! what a rumpus they did keep up. We could not see them for the thick brush between us and the river, but we thought sure our little fight had come at last. We were drawn up in the front yard of some secesher's deserted house (a fine one), and the colonel with a small party went ahead to reconnoiter. While they were gone we ate our dinners, and made ready for the expected march and fight. But the colonel on his return, scooted us back to our morning's starting place. Whew, but that was a sweating old march. About an hour after we started back, 15 of our cavalry scouts were run in, through the place where we took dinner, by 60 or 70 secesh cavalry. Three or four were wounded and our boys say that they killed several of the Rebels. The gunboats came up in the p. m. reported fighting the “Yankee” and two land batteries, one of which was but three and one half miles below us (and some say but one arid one half miles) and had 16 guns. They crippled the dam'd “Yankee” although the latter carries 84’'s, while ours hadn't but 64’s. Our boats were not touched. A deserter came up from Columbus yesterday afternoon and says that our boats killed 200 in the fight. (I believe he is a liar and a spy). We have had it sweet the last day and two nights. Rained like sixty and we have no tents. There is no shelter but a few trees and you know they amount to nothing in heavy rains. It is amusing to see the boys figure at night for dry beds. Every thing, gates, cordwood, rails, cornstalks, weeds and panels of fence and boards are confiscated, and genius is taxed its utmost to make the sleeping as comfortable as possible. Milo Farewell, Hy. Johnson and myself sleep on an armful of cornstalks thrown on a floor of rails. With nothing between us and the clouds. Sid., (Sidney Stockdale) and Theo. each had three sticks of four foot cord wood for a couch, with their feet resting in a mudpuddle. We are further out than any other regiment now. I tell you I like this, and feel like knocking down any man that I hear grumble. None of our boys do that I hear of. We will have our tents here this p. m. though I would rather be without them; they are so much trouble. I know we will have no dirtier time than we have had the last two days, and until it gets cold I would rather not have tents if it is the same all the time. I fell in love with Paducah while I was there, and I think I will settle there when the war is over. I never saw so many pretty women in my life. All fat, smooth-skinned small boned, highbred looking women. They hollered “Hurrah for Jeff” at us, some of them, but that's all right. I could write until to-morrow morning about Paducah, but I must go and confiscate some corn for dinner.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 28-9

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