Monday, July 31, 2017

1st Lieutenant Charles Wright Wills: August 14, 1862

Tuscumbia, Ala., August 14, 1862.

Things are progressing here swimmingly. Seldom have more than two bridges burned in the same night, or lose more than five or six men in one day. Scared a little though, now. The 7th went down yesterday through Moulton, where they were encamped but a few days since, and gained us the information that they had evacuated that post. People here are considerably scared about the free and easy way we are gobbling up their little all. We are raking in about 100 bales of cotton per day and could get more if we had the transportation. It makes the chivalry howl, which is glorious music in our ears, and the idea of considering these confederacies something else than erring brothers is very refreshing. But I can't talk the thing over with them with any pleasure, for they all pretend so much candor and honesty in their intentions, and declare so cheerfully, and (the women) prettily, that they will do nothing opposed to our interest, and express so much horror and detestation of guerrillas and marauders of all kinds, that one can't wish to do them any harm or take and destroy their property. But the murders of Bob McCook, a dozen of men in this command, and hundreds in the army, all tend to disipate such soft sentiments, for we are satisfied that citizens do ten-elevenths of such work; and nothing less than the removal of every citizen beyond our lines, or to north of the Ohio river, will satisfy us. We are all rejoicing that “Abe” refuses to accept the negroes as soldiers. Aside from the immense disaffection it would create in our army, the South would arm and put in the field three negroes to our one. Am satisfied she could do it. The Tribune couldn't publish those articles in the army and keep a whole press one day. Hundreds of the officers who are emancipationists, as I am, if the brutes could be shipped out of the country would resign if the Tribune's policy were adopted. Within an hour some rebellious cusses have set fire to a pile of some 200 bales of cotton, and the thick white smoke is booming up above the trees in plain sight from where I sit. I think 'tis on the Russellville road, and about eight or nine miles out. Our cavalry were through there yesterday and this morning. How gloriously the people are waking up again in the North. Should think from the papers that the excitement must be higher than ever. A man that don't know when he is well off, or enough to keep a good thing when he has his fingers on it, deserves what? “Nothing!” I believe you are right; yet such is my miserable condition. Not one officer in a thousand in the army has as pleasant a place as your brother, and yet here I am ready to go at the first chance, and into an uncertainty, too. Colonel Mizner has assured me that I suit him, and that if he is made brigadier he will promote me. Where I am going there is no chance for promotion unless Brigadier General Oglesby is appointed major general. Think I will have a better chance to work with Governor Yates, too, and then probably to not more than a captaincy. But I have decided to go, though I am anything but anxious about the matter. Any of the three places are good enough. I see by the papers that a scouting party from Cape Girardeau went through to Madison, Ark. to Helena, or Memphis rather. I wish I were over there. What delightful breezes we have here. Believe me, it's all gumption about this being a hot climate. These weak kneed, billious-looking citizens, (so because they are too lazy to exercise their bones) puff and pant with their linen clothes, so thin you can see their dirty skins, almost, and we all wear our thick winter clothes, and at that feel the heat less than we ever did North. Such loves of nights, so everything that's nice; and invariably so cool that blankets are necessary after midnight.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 125-6

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