Wednesday, July 19, 2017

1st Lieutenant Charles Wright Wills: June 19, 1862

Rienzi, Tishomingo Co., Miss., June 19, 1862.

This is one of the few days that remind one of Illinois, although there are very few nights that might not remind a Greenlander of his home. I think there has not been a night yet that I have not slept under three blankets, and there have been many nights that I would have used a dozen if I had had them. The natives say that ’tis the Gulf breeze that makes the air so cool after about 7 or 8 p. m. I wish that it would get along about eight hours earlier daily; but to-day there are clouds kiting about so o’erhead that the sun don't amount to much only for light, and ’tis cool enough to make underclothing comfortable. The colonel, A. D. C. and myself visited the camp of the 7th Illinois yesterday at Jacinto. We found them surrounded with a brush parapet, felled trees, etc., ready as they said for a twelve-hour's fight. They'd been visited by a scare. There is no enemy within 15 miles of them and hasn't been. They are camped in the suburbs of a beautiful little town that fell in among the hills in a very tasty manner (for a Mississippi town). In one little valley near a fine residence there are three springs bubbling up in line and within a foot of each other, which are so independent that each furnishes a different kind of water. The first pure, cold, soft water without taste, another chalybeate, and the third, strong sulphur. The waters of the three fall into one little basin and run thence into a bathhouse twenty steps distant. There is a neat vine covered arbor over the springs with seats arranged within, and altogether ’tis a neat little place — good to water Yankee horses at. There were several gangs of negroes at work in the corn and cotton fields along the road yesterday, and I thanked God they were not in Illinois. Candidly, I'd rather see them and a whole crop of grindstones dumped into the Gulf, than have so many of them in our State, as there are even here. Yet, it don't look square to see the women, if they are niggers, plowing. I have no reason for the last sentence, only it isn't in my opinion what petticoats were designed for. Talking about niggers, these headquarters are fully up with anything in that Potomac mob on the colored question. They got Jeff Davis' coachman. What of it? J. D. isn't anybody but a broken-backed-politician-of-a-civilian, and of course his coachman is no better than a white man. But we, we have, listen, General Beauregard's nigger “toddy mixer,” and my experience fully proves to the satisfaction of your brother that the general's taste in selecting a toddy artist is fine. He is a sharp cuss (the nigger). He left them at Tupelo day before yesterday, p. m., slipped by the pickets while ’twas light without their seeing him, but after dark he was suddenly halted by their videttes when within ten feet of them. He ran by them and they fired, but as usual missed. He is really the servant of Colonel Clough, of Memphis, but the colonel is now on Beauregard's staff, and John (the boy) was selected as drink mixer for the general-pro tem. He reports that Price started with the flower of the flock, only some 3,000 posies, to Virginia, but said posies, like their vegetable brethren, wilt and droop by the wayside, and unlike them, scoot off through the brush at every chance, and that is the last of them as far as soldiering is concerned. Hundreds of the dissatisfied Rebels pretended sickness and lay by the roadside until the army passed and then heeled it for home. All the prisoners and deserters that we get concur in saying that at least 10,000 have deserted since the evacuation. A couple of very fine-looking young fellows, Kentuckians, came in this p. m. Their regiment with two others are the outpost guard between the Rebel Army and ours. They were in a skirmish the other day at Baldwin, where two of our companies were surprised and lost six men, taken prisoners. There were 60 of our boys and they reported 400 Rebels. These deserters say there were only 42 Rebels; but the next day 700 Rebels came onto 75 of our men and the chivalry were put to flight in a perfect rout. So it goes. There was a flag of truce came in last night to our picket. Brought a dozen packages for Halleck and company, with a number of letters for Northern friends, all unsealed. Several of the envelopes were of common brown wrapping paper. There are a good many things about this advance of an army that are more interesting than the main army the infants know of. We cavalry feel as safe here as in Illinois, but General Ashboth keeps calling on Pope for more men all the time.

What do you think we'll have to eat to-morrow? Answer: Lamb, roast goose and liver (beef), blackberry pies, plum pudding, new peas, string beans, onions, beets, fresh apple sauce, etc. That's a fact, and we have a cow that furnishes us milk, too, and a coop full of chickens, maccaroni for our soup, and we get all the beef brains.

Tell Colonel Kellogg that the boys are talking about him yet, like a lot of chickens for their lost "Mar." The 7th has plenty to do now, if I wasn't so tired I'd write you a copy of the orders I sent them to-day.

The enemy keeps annoying our outposts, and rumors come to-day of their being on the way for this place to surprise us. All bosh, I suppose. I hope they are too gentlemanly to disturb us while we are doing as well as we are here. It would be worse than the old lady where I stayed night before last. I went to bed at 12:30, and about 5 she sent a servant up for the sheets to wash. The joke was on our family, but I told her that she had better let me roll over the whole house if she had to wash up after me, for it would improve the health of her family to scrub the premises and them. Fine people here. They’ve commenced bushwhacking. One of my orderlies was shot through the thigh night before last while carrying some dispatches. “Concilate,” “noble people,” “high spirited.” Oh! Strangulate is the better direction.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 105-8

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