Yet near New Madrid, March 12, 1862.
The enemy are separated from us by only a few cornfields, the country is perfectly plain; we can see from our tent door the smoke stacks of their gunboat, and the music of their bands mingles with our own and yet 'tis confounded dull.
I received a letter from you by mail a few days since. The colonel and Sid. and myself take a little ride into the country most every evening for mush and milk and 'tis astonishing what quantities they do eat. We are all in perfect health and good spirits, though since we left Commerce the colonel and major have complained considerably about the fare, but 'tis better than I'm used to, so I have the advantage of them. The evacuation of Manassas, Columbus, etc., have caused considerable anxiety for the outburst of these forces which we think will be on Buel or maybe further east on our little army at the Cumberland Gap. The impression here is that the Rebel army at this place has been greatly reinforced since we arrived here from Kentucky. We number though, full 30,000 (with a brigade that is now advancing to join us) and feel fully able to attend to all of their forces here. General Pope told our colonel yesterday that Foote would be here within 48 hours sure with his gunboats, and that's all we ask.
There is a review now being made of all the troops here by the commanding general. You'd think it quite a spectacle, wouldn't you, to see 25,000 troops in line; 3,000 of them cavalry and 36 pieces of artillery. I was left in charge of the camp, and although I have my horse at hand saddled wouldn't mount him to see them. It's funny how all interest in anything dies away in a person when they have a full view or chance to view the object. We hear a dozen volleys of musketry every now and then, and although we all know there's been a little fight, it doesn't interfere with conversation and nine times out of ten we never hear what caused it. But go up to the hospital and you'll find a couple of long rows of cots, each with an occupant, and they can tell you of the shooting and show a wound that they're prouder of than you can imagine. They and their regiments that were under fire love to tell it over and over, but the rest of the army, through jealousy I believe, never mention it. You'll see a vast deal of state pride here. The 7th Cavalry don't acknowledge the Michigander troopers to be more than the equals of Jeff Thompson's scalawags, and the Michigan boys really seem to think that the 7th regiment is not equal to one company of theirs. But I notice the generals here have all taken their bodyguards from our regiment. The Illinois boys and the Iowaians coalesce more readily and seem to have more family feeling between them than at least either of these state's troops have for those of other states. 'Tis the same in the Southern army. Arkansas and Missouri troops have a mutual hatred for each other that has extended to the citizens of these states. This part of Missouri goes a great deal on old blood the best variety I believe is Catholic French, and these people have a sovereign contempt for the barbarians of the “Arkansaw,” while the Arkansawans accuse the Missourians of toe-kissing proclivities and cowardice
SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 65-7