Cape Girardeau, February 9, 1862.
I, like a good boy, wrote you a long letter yesterday, and, like a careless fellow, lost it. I told you in it how we “300” of us, left here in the p. m. of last Monday, rode all night and at daylight made a desperate charge into Bloomfield where we found and captured nothing. How a little party of 15 of our boys were surprised some eight miles beyond Bloomfield by 80 Rebels and one of them captured, one badly wounded and another's horse shot and he at last accounts running in the swamps. How the major got together his men and went out and captured some 20 of the bushwhackers and killed five and how he returned to the Cape, etc. You have read about this riding and marching all night until I expect you hardly think of its being fatiguing and somewhat wearing on the human system, etc., but allow me to assure you that it is. Novice as I am in riding, the cold and fatigue were so severe on me that I slept like a top horseback, although I rode with the advance guard all the time and through country the like of which I hope you'll never see. There is a swamp surrounding every hill and there are hills the whole way. Damn such a country. We passed, a small scouting party of us, the bones of seven Union men. They were all shot at one time. I didn't go with the party to see them. One of our guards went out with a party of nine of the 17th Infantry boys and captured some 20 secesh and brought in, in a gunny sack, the bones of five other Union men. I noticed there were no skulls and asked the guide where they were. He said that “as true as truth the secesh who murdered them had taken the skulls to use for soup bowls.” I was talking with a man to-night who had his two sons shot dead in the house by his side last week. A gang of fellows came to the house while he was eating supper and fired through between the logs. He burst open the door and escaped with but one shot in him after he saw that his sons were killed. I can hardly believe that these things are realities, although my eyes and cars bear witness. In my reading I can remember no parallel either in truth or fiction for the state of things we have in this southeastern portion of Missouri. Anyone can have his taste for the marvelous, however strong, glutted by listening to our scouts and the refugees here. I thank God from my heart that dear old Illinois knows nothing of the horrors of this war. The 17th left here yesterday for Fort Henry. The boys were very glad to start. The old 8th was there with the first. I almost wish I had stayed with her. Without bragging or prejudice I am satisfied that the 8th is the best in every respect of the whole 100 regiments I have seen and has the best colonel. Colonel Kellogg is now commanding the post and Sid. is “A. A. A. General,” and I am “A Regimental Adjutant.” My duties are light, though, and I am in tip-top health. That ride didn't hurt me at all. I can stand riding with the best of them. I suppose that Sam will be with us soon. I hope our regiment will be ordered to Kentucky. I believe I'd rather be shot there than to bushwhack around in Missouri much longer. The major and I will get along capitally. He stands fatigue equal to any of us. He and I took a ride of 30 miles alone through the swamps the other day. Send my watch the first chance you have.
SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 60-1