Tuesday, June 20, 2017

1st Lieutenant Charles Wright Wills: March 24, 1862

Point Pleasant, Mo., March 24, 1862.

It's only 9 a. m., and didn’t get to bed until 2 this morning, so if I do not talk rational you will excuse me. That isn't the excuse either. I rode 50 miles between 9 a. m. yesterday and midnight over roughest road. Two hundred of us were sent out after that d----d Jeff Thompson. We exchanged shots with his pickets 20 miles from here, and chased them four miles farther. The last eight miles was a pike only eight feet wide, thrown up through an immense swamp, and planked. The water came so close to the planks that there was not-a place in-the whole eight miles where a horse dare step off the plank. The total of all the unusual sights I ever saw wouldn't begin to count one in effect where that road and swamp will ten. There are two good sized rivers running through the swamp but they have to be pointed out to you before you can see them, or rather distinguish them from the rest of the swamp. .When we first saw these pickets they were tearing up a culvert. We hurried up and after each side fired four or five rounds they ran. No one hurt here, although the distance was not more than 60 yards. Andy Hulit, my sergeant major and myself were the advance guard, but I have no carbine, and did not get to shoot, but this didn't seem to make any difference to them for they threw buckshot round me quite promiscuously. Well, we fixed up that bridge and pressed on, but they tore down so many bridges that we could go but slowly. Just before the fight I had dropped back a dozen files to get out of building any more bridges, and when our boys saw the secesh, they had just finished destroying another. The horses couldn't cross it, but the boys dismounted and hurrying across on foot, made them take to the swamp in water waist deep, where they hid themselves behind logs, vines and a kind of high grass that grows in bunches as large as a currant bush. When they had concealed themselves to their notion, they commenced firing at us, and of the first four of our boys over the bridge (Andy Hulit led them), three were down, wounded in a minute. We then charged (on foot) right into the brush and water, some of the boys up to their armpits, and made them scoot. They did not number over 20 but their advantage was enormous. We dropped two of them certain, and — I don't think any more. Of four of our men they wounded, three were Company L boys. The two Cockerel brothers, Mathew and Royal, and Eugene Greenslit. The other was from Company A. The Company A boy and Mat Cockerel died before we got them to camp. Royal has a flesh wound in the arm, and Greenslit is shot in the foot, both slight wounds. We drove the Rebels clear off, and captured two horses, and all their blankets, overcoats etc. About 15 miles out we came to Little River. While the major was examining the bridge, we saw a half dozen men running through a swamp on the other side. Over the bridge we went, and into the mud and water after them. We got them all. I captured a couple in a thicket. Andy Hulit came up a few minutes after and we had work to keep a lot of boys from shooting them, while we were taking them back to the river. Well, that was a pretty rough trip and I don't hanker after another like it, although the excitement is rather pleasant too. But being set up for a mark on a road where there is not a sign of a chance to dodge, and having the marksman completely concealed from you, and this other fix of letting them throw shells at you when your carbine won't carry to them, sitting on horseback too, I wish it understood I'm opposed to and protest against, although I never think so until I get back to camp. I don't think that I ever get a bit excited over firing, but I know that I don't look at danger the same when under fire that I do when in quarters. We are all well and I'm getting fat every day. It bores considerably here to think that that one horse Island No. 10 won't come down and surrender like a “gem'men.” Some of the officers here think that we'd better be getting out “o’ this,” but I propose to let Pope work out the salvation of this division. We started from Commerce in General Hamilton's division, were put in General Granger's at Madrid, and are now in General Plummer's. Well, I'm going to do a little sleeping.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 71-3

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