Headquarters 7th Illinois Cavalry Camp,
on Hamburg and Corinth Road,
May 3, 1862.
I arrived here yesterday in safety. Stayed in Peoria the Monday night that I started, and was in Cairo at 9 p. m. Wednesday. Woke up Thursday morning on a boat at Paducah and devoted the day to admiring the Tennessee river. Stopped long enough at Fort Henry to get a good view of its well pummeled walls, and not-much-to-brag-of defences. The line of ditching without the works was the best I have ever seen, but the parapet, excepting that of the Fort proper, wasn't to be compared to our works at Bird's Point, which are the most inferior of ours that I have seen. The Tennessee runs through a perfect wilderness. There is not a landing on the river up to this point (Hamburg) that can begin with Copperas Creek, and indeed, although I watched closely, I did not see more than three or four points, that of themselves, showed they were boat landings, and those only by the grass being worn off the bank; and I did not see a warehouse on either bank unless, maybe, one at Savannah, where there are also, say four fine dwellings. At no other point did I see more than three houses, and very rarely, even one. Having heard so much of the richness of Middle Tennessee I cannot help talking so long of what ought to be, to it, what the Illinois river would be to us were we without railroads. I reached Hamburg yesterday afternoon (Friday) and started for my regiment, which I learned was five miles out on the Corinth way. I walked out as fast as I could, and reached there to hear that the army had moved on and were probably two miles ahead and yet going. I laid down and slept a couple of hours, borrowed a horse, and after six miles riding found them going into camp. Monstrous hilly country, this, and save a very few clearings, all heavily timbered. Pope's army has been reinforced considerably since we arrived here. Think he has, say 30 odd thousand men. I think the ball opened just before I commenced this letter. For two days past we have had one batallion out about four miles beyond our present camp holding an important position. They have been within gunshot of the enemy all the time, but so protected that although they skirmished a good deal, but one of ours was wounded. In one little charge our boys made out they killed four and wounded a number of Rebels that they felt of Pope's infantry came up to-day in force and relieved them. Paine's division was advanced and when not more than 40 yards beyond the post our cavalry held, were opened on first by musketry and immediately afterwards by artillery. There was very heavy firing for an half hour, but it has ceased since I commenced this page. Haven't heard the result. We have orders to move forward to-morrow morning, but although we are so close to the enemy's position, (not more than three miles) (Infantry, of course, I mean) don't think our side will commence the attack before Monday morning, when we will see — sure — if they don't run.
Supper. — Some of our boys have just come in with a lot of overcoats, trinkets, etc., spoils of the afternoon skirmish. They were all Illinois regiments that were engaged. A sergeant has just showed me an overcoat that he stripped off a dead secesh, who with eleven others was lying in one pile. He captured a captain who, after he had thrown down his sword, offered to give him a fist fight. The artillery firing was mostly from Rebel guns at Farmington at a regiment of our boys building a bridge. The Northern Mississippi line runs through our camp. We cannot be far form Iuka Springs, although no one that I've seen ever heard of the place. Report has just come that Mitchell has been driven out of Huntsville, and another that Yorktown and 45,000 prisoners are ours. Don't believe either. Shall write you from Corinth if have luck.
SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 84-6