Sunday, July 9, 2017

1st Lieutenant Charles Wright Wills: May 27, 1862

Camp on Corinth Road, Miss., May 27, 1862.

Why don't you write me just a word, if no more? I'm almost uneasy. Not a line from home for a month. We hear that smallpox is raging in Canton, and — I want you to write. They say there is some smallpox in the center and right of the army, but think 'tis like the milk sickness of our Egypt, “a little further on.” There's enough sickness of other kinds, so we have no room for grumbling if we can't have that disease. The hospitals at Hamburg make almost a city. I think there can be no more sorrowful sight, real or imaginary, than that camp of the sick.

I don't know the number of patients, somewhere in thousands, all packed in tents as closely as they can lie, and with not one-tenth the care a sick horse would get at home. I suppose the surgeons, stewards and nurses have [f]eelings like men when they first enter the hospitals, but familarity with disease and suffering seem to make them careless and indifferent to a degree that surprises me, and I can't but look upon it as criminal. I suppose nearly half the bad cases are typhoid fever. Yellow fever, cholera and smallpox have never been known here to the citizens. They all say this is a very healthy country, and I believe it. Our boys are suffering from the change of climate and water, and as much as anything, the sudden change in temperature. Our regiment is improving in health now rapidly. We have gained about 40 for duty within a week. We had about 250 sick last week. The 17th has some 300. I found a batch of live secesh women last Sunday. I rode up to a fine looking house to get a glass of milk (I suppose I drink more milk than any six calves in Fulton) and found eight or ten ladies at dinner, accepted a rather cool invitation to dine wid’ ’em, and did justice to their peas and fodder generally, and was much amused. Think there was more spice to that dinner than I ever before saw. One black-eyed vixen opened the ball with “I don't see how you can hold your head up and look people in the face, engaged in the cause you are.” I told her I thought she had a free way of ’spressing her opinion. “Yes,” says she, “I can't use a gun but I can tongue lash you, and will every chance.” Then they all joined in, but I found that eating was my best “holt,” so they had it their own way. When I'd finished my dinner, told them “a la Buell,” that I thought their house would make, an excellent hospital, and that we'd probably bring out 80 or a 100 patients the next day for them to take care of. Scared them like the devil, all but one, and they all knew so much better places for the sick. This odd one said she had a way of “putting arsenic in some people's feed, and she'd do it, too.” Told her we'd give her a commish as chief taster, and put her through a course of quinine, asafœtida and sich. Said she'd like to see us dare to try it, she would. They were too much for me, but I'll never pass that place without calling. I'd give my shirt to have had Ame Babcock there. Those are the first outspoken female seceshers I have yet seen.

Deserters say that the Rebels have positively no forage or provisions in Corinth. That the Memphis and Mobile railways can barely bring enough daily, scraped from the whole length of the lines to feed the army. It is reported here that Sherman took possession of the Memphis road west of Corinth yesterday and has fortified his position. Pope got two or three men killed yesterday. There was about 5,000 of the enemy camped in the woods one and one-half miles in front of his posish, and he drove them back until they were reinforced and made him scoot again. I was out with a scout Sunday and started again last night at dark (Monday) and was out until 9 this a. m. The cause was some small bands raising the d---1 on our left. We didn't catch them. We were over to the Tennessee, Sunday, where we could see the sacred soil of Alabama. I like Alabama better than any other Southern State. She's never done the “blowing” the others have and people here say that she's nearer loyal than any other Southern state. They're raising loyal companies here now. There are two full in Savannah.

General Jeff C. Davis' division passed here to-day to join Pope's corps. Davis stopped with us and made quite a visit. General Ash of this division goes forward to-morrow. The 21st and 38th Illinois from Stules division went out yesterday. Eleven regiments in all added to Pope's command in two days; except the last two they were all at Pea Ridge and some at Wilson's Creek. A splendid lot of men but not drilled equal to many regiments of the “Army Miss.”

I don't honestly believe that we have with all our reinforcements 100,000 men here; but don't believe the Rebels have 75,000; of course I mean effective men that can be called on the field to fight. We have just received orders to move to front to-morrow.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 92-4

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