Sunday, July 16, 2017

1st Lieutenant Charles Wright Wills: June 13, 1862

Camp near Boonville, Miss., June 13, 1862.

This is the fourth camp that we have had to call as above. We have lived all around the burg, but to-morrow we leave. We have just got nicely arranged here after working hard all day, and now an order comes to move brigade headquarters back to Rienzi, nearly 10 miles toward Corinth. Bah! how sick it makes me to write that name. I haven't seen the place yet, and have no desire to. I feel about once a week as though a little skirmish would do me good, but I don't see any use in getting mad because they won't give me a chance to fight. I couldn't feel any more out of the war at home than I do here. The enemy have all gone further into Dixie and we're left the undisputed occupants of this neck. Our headquarters here are about 25 miles south of Corinth, and we have pickets at Baldwin, 15 miles south of this. Pope's whole division has moved back to just this side of Corinth except our brigade, so here we are, maybe 1,200 effective men, doing outpost duty nearly 40 miles in advance of the army. Yesterday the colonel, his A. D. C. and myself rode around our entire picket line, I mean the part of our brigade that is guarding the M. & O. R. R. There is only one regiment doing this, and they are strung out so that our ride was full 40 miles. When we were within two miles of our camp, coming in, I was galloping along ahead of the colonel, maybe 50 yards (’twas 10 p. m.) and I thought I heard a “halt,” but was so sure there were no pickets there (full a dozen miles inside of our corps' pickets) that I didn't mind it until bang, went an old musket, and the bullet zipped considerably over my head. I halted. They were some infantry pickets whose regiment was close by in the woods (some two miles). Well, we hadn't the countersign and they wern't going to let us pass. The colonel swore, I was awful hungry, and I cussed, the A. D. C. raved, but the picket sergeant was immovable. At last we coaxed him to send us in with a guard to his colonel. He sent six men with us as guard, and the cuss gave orders to shoot us if we tried to run. The chap that shot was one of the guard, and he told me that he shot over my head on purpose after he had halloed “halt” several times. They didn't know there was cavalry outside of them and said they'd shot us sure if they hadn't seen the glimmer of my straps in the moonlight. We got their colonel up, took a toddy with him and — home. Did I ever tell you about my darkey, “Charley”? We got him at Cape Girardeau. He informed our troops where his master and company had hidden some 14 kegs of powder and some arms. His massa found out he had informed and put him in irons four weeks. He escaped and came to us We lost him at Madrid and never knew what had become of him until he turned up here a week since He had been sick in the Cairo hospital. He comes very handy to me when I'm a little lazy, which, though, is only 30 or 40 times a day. He has my boots blacked and clothes brushed when I get up in the morning, is a splendid hand to take care of a horse, and all told a very handy institution. He wants me to promise to take him home with me. If you will have him, I'll do it. He'd be right handy about our house. I have the nicest horse. He is a perfect staver. A little tiresome to ride because so anxious to go fast, but he is so strong and never tires. After that ride yesterday of 40 miles through a broiling sun he danced along at the last as much as when we started. We were coming in from a reconnoisance one night last week and about 10 p. m., dark as Egypt, an artillery wagon crowded me off a causeway and Siegel (my horse) went into the mud to his shoulders and I, over his head, gracefully. He got out and sloped, and I walked into camp. ’Twas only a quarter of a mile. An artillery sergeant caught him and I walked out to the road just in time to see him passing. He dismounted very spryly. Siegel licks my hands just like a dog and he will follow me away from his oats any time. After he got away from me that night he went back again to where we fell and that's where the sergeant got him. He is a large bay and I wouldn't take anything for him. I was riding to-day with the colonel, and as we crossed the M. and O. R. R. I saw a couple of fellows 300 or 400 yards down the road coming towards us, and one of them threw up his hands. I thought he was a deserter and waited. They proved to be what I thought. One was an Alabamian and the other from Arkansas. They had seen our pickets further out but thought them Confederates and slipped by them through the brush. I took them to the colonel, and since then, this p. m., nine more have come in, and 'tis not a very good day for deserters either. These people here are very tired of war. You would be if this army should march through Canton, indeed you would. You can't go into hardly a house here but what they'll ask if you know anything of “my son,” “my brother,” or “my husband” that was taken prisoner at this place or that place, and then the poor creatures will cry as though their hearts were broken and you begin to feel queer about your throat, and — I can't stand that at all. It hurts me under my vest to see these poor women suffering, for maybe not the fault of those they mourn, but of rich men and politicians who have by threats and lies induced these poor devils to leave their families to die of starvation, to fight for, they can't tell what.

I have just seen a Mobile Register of the 5th. It says they have taken at Richmond 7,000 prisoners, 80 pieces artillery, wagons, etc., innumerable quartermaster and commissary stores in vast quantities. That McClellan is driven back 30 miles and his army is surrounded, but a few of them may escape by James river. Very jocular and highly edifying. They also claim 15,000 stands small arms captured.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 101-4

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