Thursday, June 8, 2017

3rd Sergeant Charles Wright Wills: January 13, 1862

Bird's Point, Mo., January 13, 1862.

After all the excitement and promise we have had of a trip into Dixie, we are still here in our cabins, with the prospect of a move further off than ever. The 25,000 troops that are “on their way from St. Louis to Cairo” must have went up in a fog. General Grant must have credit for fooling everybody from the reporters up. He did it beautifully. We all here at this point kept our wagons loaded for two days with five days’ rations, expecting to start every hour. The troops have all left Cairo and gone down opposite Norfolk (where we were a month) and camped. It is cold as the devil, and they must suffer a good deal as none of them have ever been out of Cairo before, and hardly know what rough soldiering is. Charley Cooper's company is with them. I believe that the whole object of the expedish is to keep the Columbians from sending reinforcements to the Bowling Green folks. The dispatches about the 25,000 forward movement, etc., all work to the same end. Some “damb'd” hounds shot four of our 7th cavalry boys dead a couple of mornings since. It was regular murder. They were on picket and in the evening they went out some seven miles from camp and got their supper and engaged breakfast in the morning. Just before daylight they started out for breakfast and when within two miles of the place three men that were concealed behind a log by the roadside shot them all dead. Their horses wheeled and trotted back to the infantry picket. The infantry sent word to camp and some cavalry went out and found them all dead. They could find tracks of but three men, and it is supposed that they ran as quick as they fired, for our boys' bodies were not touched. They were only armed with sabers and the 7th refuse to go on any more picket duty untill they are better armed. One of the murdered was Dan Lare, a boy that was in Canton a good while, though I believe he did not belong to Nelson's company. The others lived near Bushnell, their names I do not know. We have the chap they took supper with. The boys all think him guilty and have tried to get him away from the guard to kill him, but unsuccessfully so far. Last night Nelson's company went up to old Bird's and brought him, his three sons and five other men and all Bird's buck niggers down to camp as prisoners. They also got 10 good guns. His (Bird's) house is four miles from camp. Some of the boys noticed a long ladder leaning against the house and one of them climbed it and got on the housetop. There he found a splendid ship spy glass with which he could count the tents and see every move in both our camp and Cairo and Fort Holt. Old Bird is a perfect old pirate and a greater does not live.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 55-6

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