Thursday, July 6, 2017

1st Lieutenant Charles Wright Wills: May 19, 1862

Near Corinth, Miss., May 19 ,1862.

Our regiment now is acting as a kind of rear guard for Pope's division. The enemy's cavalry in bodies of from 1,000 down have been running around our left flank and threatening to interfere with our trains. Every day we send out six companies to patrol between here and the river and forward. Yesterday (Sunday) I was out. We went to Red Sulphur Springs, one of the most romantic, beautiful places I have ever seen. There are about 40 double cottages for families, and stables, kennels and quarters for the servants, hounds and horses. The buildings are in good repair, though the place has not been frequented much for the last three or four years. White Sulphur Springs are four miles from the Red and more fashionable. I am going there to-morrow. There were about a dozen real ladies at the springs yesterday, and they were quite sociable and so interesting that I could not help staying an hour after the column left We were the first of our soldiers that the party had seen and they were much surprised that our boys behaved so well. None of them had ever been North, and they occupied about all the time I was with them in asking questions, principally though, about the conduct of our army. About a mile before we got to the springs we passed a house where there were as many as six young ladies in full dress. The major sent me to make some inquiries of the man of the house, and I noticed the party were in something of a flurry but ascribed it to the presence of our men. Of course Sunday was an excuse for the finery and there being so many together. After we had advanced a little way one of our captains took a squad, went ahead and passed himself for a Rebel officer just from Corinth. By his figuring he found out that at this house I have spoken of they were expecting some Rebel officers and men, 14 in all, from Corinth to dinner and a visit. We set a trap for them, but they heard of us through the citizens and sloped. They came within a mile of us and then their tracks showed they had gone off through the woods and a swamp on a run. We got one of their horses, a beauty, fully equipped. It being a hot day the owner had strapped his coat on his valise and not having time to take it off we got it. A dozen of our boys went back and ate the dinner, but without the company of the ladies who had flown. Our line has now closed to within two and one-half miles around the north and east sides of Corinth. Our men have thrown up breastworks within that distance along nearly the whole line. The cannons play on each other occasionally, say as an average four times a day, a half hour each time. Our line is, I think, nine or ten miles long; am not sure. The Rebels are suffering for rations, not more than half rations having been served for the last ten days. Hundreds are deserting from them. One battalion that was raised in this county, over 500 men, have all deserted but about 90. The commander himself ran off. Of a 100 men that deserted from them probably five come within our lines. The rest all go to their homes. If Porter takes Mobile, and Farragut and Davis get Memphis, I think in ten days afterward there will not be enough Rebels left in Corinth to oppose our regiment. There is no doubt that they have more men now than we have but they lack discipline. Success at the points above named will leave them without any railroad communication whatever or telegraph either. I'm afraid that our gunboats got the worst of that little affair at Pillow the other day. An army is the slowest moving animal. Here we've been over a month making 20 miles. I think I shall run off to McClernand's division this p. m. and see some of the 17th and 8th boys.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 90-1

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