September 17, 1861.
Well, I've slept half of this day and feel sleepy yet. I had a tough time on picket last night. We were divided into four squads and owing to the small number of men we had out (only 50) the corporals had to stand guard as privates; so I had all the stationing of reliefs to do myself and did not get a minute's sleep all night. We were not troubled any by the enemy but the mosquitoes and fleas gave us the devil.
A coon came sliding down the tree Sam Nutt was stationed under, and he thought he was taken sure. The people here say that there are lots of bears and tiger cats killed here every winter. Sam has been to Cairo to-day and says that Keef, Fred Norcott and Cooper are all much better. There is a rumor now that our right is going to Virginia, but I don't believe it. It is too good to be true. Our cook has been sick for several days and we have been just about half living on account of our being too lazy to cook. I don't mean to be disrespectful when I say I was about as glad to see him cooking again this morning, as I would be to see you. He is a splendid nigger, seems to think the world of us boys. He buys a great many little things for us with his own money, which as we are all out, is a good institution. We are to get our pay next week the officers say. My pay is some $18 or $20 a month now. I am entitled to a straight sword now, but as I have to carry a musket also, I'll trade it off for gingerbread if they'll let me, and if they won't I'll lose it sure for I have enough to carry without it. I can hear the tattoo now before the colonel's quarters at the other end of the camp and our boys are singing, “Home Again” as they lie around me in our tent. I thank goodness that none of them get homesick like some do that I know in our right. I do despise these whiners. I expect (I have just this instant heard that they have been fighting in Washington for the last 24 hours. Now I'll finish the sentence I had commenced) to be with those I love in eight months if the expected battle in Washington results favorably for our country, if not, do not look for me for three years. If they whip us again there I want to fight the rest of my life if necessary, and die before we recognize them as anything but Rebels and traitors who must be humbled. I don't believe yet awhile the news but I kind o' feel it all through me that there is a battle more to be recorded and that we are the victors. All that we have heard is that they are fighting. Colonel Turchin's 19th left Cairo last night for the east somewhere. We are rapidly learning to appropriate and confiscate. On our last scout one of our boys rode a stray horse back and another came in with a female jackass and her child. Chickens are very scarce here now and the natives complain that sweet potato hills have turned into holes since we have been here. Our mess have this p. m. confiscated the roof of a man's barn to cover our cook house with.
SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 31-2