Bird's Point, December 29, 1861.
Your letter giving us notice of your sending a box came to hand yesterday with express charges inclosed. I shall go over to Cairo to-morrow to get them if they are there. I haven't been to Cairo for a month. All of the 7th cavalry are on this side now and there are about a dozen of them here all the time. Colonel Kellogg will be here next week. One company in that regiment did the first scouting for the 7th this morning. They rode out southwest about 15 miles and brought in 22 prisoners. ’Tis said there are two or three officers among them, but I rather think they are only a lot of swamp farmers. The boys got only three or four guns it is said, and that is not more than the complement of one woodsman in this country. The boys think they have almost taken Columbus. It was not our Canton company. We are at last established in our quarters and thoroughly “fixed up” with all the modern improvements in the housekeeping line, coupled with the luxuries of the ancients and the gorgeous splendor and voluptuousness of the middle ages. We have a chimney whose base is rock, the age of which man cannot tell, whose towering top is constructed of costly pecan wood boughs embalmed in soft Missouri mud cement. We have a roof and floor, beds and door, of material carved or sawed from the lofty pines of Superior's rock-bound shores. Our door latch is artfully contrived from the classic cypress, and curiously works by aid of a string pendant on the outside, and when our string is drawn inside who can enter? We have tables and chairs and shelves without number and a mantle piece, and, crowning glories, we have good big straw sacks, a bootjack and a dutch oven. Government has also furnished a stove for each mess of 15 in our regiment, so we have nothing more to ask for; not a thing. This is just no soldiering at all. Its hard, but its true that we can't find a thing to pick trouble out of. We are to-day more comfortable than 45 out of 50 people in old Canton. Our building 1s warmer than our house at home, our food is brought to us every third day in such abundance that we can trade off enough surplus to keep us in potatoes, and often other comforts and luxuries. Within 500 yards of us there is wood enough for 10,000 for 20 years, and — I can't half do it justice, so I'll quit. I borrowed a horse of the cavalry, Christmas, slipped past our picket through to the brush and had a long ride all over the country around Charleston. No adventures though. General Paine took command here to-day. He is an old grannie. We are glad he is here though, for we will get our colonel back by it. You can't imagine what a change the last month of cool weather has produced in our troops. From a sick list six weeks ago of nearly 300 in our regiment, with 65 in the hospital, we have come down or up rather, to eight in hospital, and not over 25 or 30 on the “sick in quarters” list. It is astonishing! And here these “damphool” “Forward to Richmond” papers are talking about the fearful decimation that winter will make in our ranks. They “don't know nothing” about soldiering.
SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 49-50