Headquarters, 3d Battalion, 7th Illinois Cavalry,
February 3, 1862.
I am pretty sure that we will start on a scout to-morrow that will give us a ride of 150 miles. From the knowledge I have of it believe that we are going to raise the devil before we get back or get raised ourselves. There are only about 300 of us going, but we are all cavalry and are going fast, will make our mark and then return probably at the same gait. We are going pretty close to New Madrid, into a hot place, where a long stay would not be pleasant. I believe there are 300 or 400 men about 70 miles from here guarding commissary stores. We are going to try and surprise them and destroy the goods, kill what we can of the secesh “and get out o’ that.” It will be my first scout horseback but I'm going if it busts me. This is one of Colonel Kellogg’s ideas and looks more like work than anything I have tried yet. It's awful rough weather to start out in but that makes it more favorable for us. Well, I have got over the hardest part of soldiering, though I doubt if I enjoy myself as well as I did in the ranks. I never in my life spent nine months more pleasantly than those I passed in the “8th.” We had some rough times, but good health and good company made them as pleasant as and often happier than life in quarters. I disliked very much to leave the boys I had been with so long and knew so well, but cupidity and ambition got the better of the just resolves I made never to leave them untill the war was over. John Wallace, Fred Norcott and my chum, Hy Johnson, I did hate to leave. They'll get along just as well though after they have forgotten us. My chances for a lieutenancy in that company were first rate but I have got a better thing, and without so much walking. You never saw a gladder boy than Sam was when he found himself safe out of the infantry. He couldn't begin to hold his body. I suppose he and Keefer are having very gay times all by themselves. Sidney and I concluded that our best policy was to stay here and I'm glad I did so, although I would have liked a visit home more than I can tell. If we can manage it so as to get off together some time this spring we will do so, but I have little hopes now of seeing you untill the war is over. The major (Rawalt), Seavy, Billy Resor and myself mess together. We have the wife of one of the men cooking for us and are living as well as I want to, in regular home style. White tablecloth, white ware and a fork and spoon for every man. Warm biscuits and excellent coffee every meal. My duties are light and not many of them. All writing. We live in a house, too. My health is booming again. That trip brought me out all right. This is a splendid place to camp in — high, healthy and beautiful. There are lots of pretty girls here too, that smile very sweetly on shoulder-strapped soldiers, but well, you understand me. I have Billy Stockdale, Trites, Chancey, Geo. Shinn, Jesse B. and the rest of the Canton boys in the 17th and they are all in excellent health. Chancey will be home in a few days I think. He is second lieutenant in the Fairview Company now. Billy Stockdale is sergeant major. Trites is romantic, enthusiastic and desponding as ever. Major Rawalt is one of the best officers there is in the service. He and I will get along splendidly. We are really off in the morning, and for a 200-mile march. There will be fun before we get back.
SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 58-60