Bird's Point, October 10, 1861.
I have just finished a dinner of cider, cake, bread, butter, etc. We have just been paid off and of course have to indulge in a few delicacies for awhile. Last Tuesday we were ordered to strike tents and pack for a march. It wasn't much of a march though for we were put on the cars and rolled out to Charleston, 12 miles from here, where we camped on a beautiful little prairie adjoining town. The 11th Illinois, Taylor's artillery and two companies of cavalry and our regiment formed the party. I think we were out looking after that damned Jeff Thompson, who is reported everywhere from Ironton down to New Madrid. I don't believe he has a thousand men, for there seems to be nothing reliable about any of the reports we have of him. The natives up at Charleston told us that Jeff was at Sykestown, 12 miles from there, with 5,000 or 6,000 troops, and our pickets had several little fights with his, or what we supposed to be his, but — well, the generals may know better but we that stay in the ranks think that there is no enemy nearer than Columbus save a few small bands of bushwhackers, who, under the impression that they are upholding principles eternal and doing their country service, gobble up everything sweet or sour, that weighs less than a ton. We came down from Charleston Thursday. We marched about 10 miles of the way through an immense (it seemed so to me) cypress swamp. I think Mrs. Stowes’ “Dred” would have enjoyed that swamp hugely. It was rather an interesting piece of scenery for a first view, but I don't think I should enjoy living in sight of it. The 18th, Colonel Lawler, worked six or eight weeks in this swamp repairing bridges the secesh had burnt, and it put half their men on the sick list. We got our pay in treasury notes but they are as good as the gold. Lots of the boys have traded them off for gold “even up.” I get $21 this time for two months and five days, our other boys got $14 or $15. I am third sergeant now, our second having been appointed sergeant major. I think I should rather be sergeant, for the field officers make a kind of servant of the sergeant major. I send you a couple of daguerreotypes to let you see what a “skeleton” I have become. Our boys are all very well. The 17th is in a pretty hard condition, nearly half of them sick and as a regiment pretty badly used up. We have been paid twice and they only $10 yet.
SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 35-6