Monday, June 26, 2017

1st Lieutenant Charles Wright Wills: April 7, 1862

Headquarters 7th Illinois Cavalry,
In a very fine House,
Point Pleasant, Mo., April 7, 1862.

If this isn’t fine your brother is incapable of judging. Cozy brick house, damask curtains, legged bedsteads, splendid tables and chairs, big looking glass, and everything just as fine as a peacock’s tail. I do wish you could have been with me the last two days. They've been two of the best days of my life. (During the storm of Saturday night, the 5th instant, one of the gunboats ran by Island 10.” I heard of it early Sunday morning, and got put a pass for Andy Hulit and myself to look for forage, intending, of course, to ride down to the river and watch the gunboat as we knew there'd be fun if she attempted to run below Madrid. We rode up the river about, six miles (half way) to a point that expends into the river on our side, and got there just as the boat did. ’Twas the “Carondelet,” and indeed she looked like an old friend. The sight of her did me more good than any amount of furloughs could. At this point, I spoke of, we have three batteries within a half-mile, and there were two Rebel batteries visible right at the water's edge, opposite. We just got there in time to see the ball open. Besides the two secesh batteries visible, they opened from four others masked by the brush and. trees, and hitherto unknown to us. Their six, our three, the gunboats, all firing together made by far the grandest thing I ever witnessed. I suppose there were from 30 to 40 guns used, and at least a half thousand shots fired. Andy and I were on a little rise of ground a couple of hundred yards from our main battery and where we could see every shot fired and its effect. There were lots of shots fell around that battery, but none near enough us to be disagreeable. About an hour’s fighting silenced the Rebel batteries, and that fun was over. Our boat didn't go over to them at that time, but came into our shore and laid up. She was not struck once, nor was there a man hurt on our side. Andy and I rode out in the country and got our dinners with a friend of mine, and. about 3. p. m. started home. We just got back here' as the gunboat was preparing to attack the batteries immediately opposite here. She ran down the river off our side, a mile below their guns and then turning her bow sqare toward the enemy, started for them and commenced firing, we could see every motion of the Rebel gunners plainly, and they worked like men, until the boat got within about 300 yards of them, when they broke, and I tell you they used their legs to advantage; all but one and he walked away with his arms folded perfectly at ease. There's an immense sight of enjoyment in witnessing such fights as these. Well, I saw another fight this morning, but ’twas too far off for interest, after what I saw yesterday. Two more gunboats came down last night in the rain and darkness past the island. This fight this morning was commenced by the Carondelet, on a five-gun battery, only four miles below and across from Madrid. She called the Louisville to her aid, and then one walked up on the battery from below and the other from above. It is grand to see these gunboats walk into the enemy. They go at them as though they were going fight on land, if the Rebels would stay there. (One hour later, 9 p. m.)

Just as I finished the last period, an artillery captain came dashing up through the door, just from Madrid, and wanted to know where the gunboats were. He said that the Rebel floating battery, that has been lying at Island 10, was floating down and the transports were afraid to try and bring her into land, and he wanted to notify the gunboats so they could catch her. We told him they had gone down to Palmer's division, six miles below, and away he went. I've been out waiting to see her pass, but she hasn't arrived yet. He said she was not more than three miles above. All such items help to make soldiering interesting. Our three transports have taken 20,000 troops over into Tennessee since 9:30 this a. m. I call that good work. Colonel Kellogg has gone over with Pope to see the battle, if there is any. These Rebels don't begin to fight a gun equal to our boys, and all the people here say so. I really do not believe they have the “bullet-pluck” that our men show. Our regiment is left here alone in its glory. We're occupying the town, enjoying life, and having all the fun we want. I killed a mosquito to-night, and it brought up such disagreeable thoughts that I couldn't eat supper. If they don't eat my surplus flesh off me, I know I'll fret myself lean as they increase. The colonel got back yesterday. You ought to have seen him look at the eatables last night, and shaking his head with disgust, go back to his tent without touching a bite. The first camp meal after a furlough I suppose isn't particularly delightful. There's no telling whether there'll be a fight to-morrow or not. We'll probably not assist if there is. But after the fight is over and the victory won we'll come in and chase the Rebels until they scatter. The infantry do the heavy, dirty work and get the honor, and we have all the fun and easy times there are going. I'm willing. I'd rather scout and skirmish than anything I know of, and am perfectly willing to let the infants do the heavy fighting, for they only make an artillery target of us when we're brought on battle fields.

There wouldn't be much left of my letters if I'd leave out the war gossip! Forty of the Rebels deserted and came to our gunboats to-day. Sergeant Wells, who while over there is a spy, was taken prisoner the other day, escaped to our gunboats. It saved his neck.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 78-81

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