Headquarters 1st Brig. Cav. Army of the Miss.,
Rienzi, Miss., June 29, 1862.
What the deuce this army is trying to do, I cannot guess. Buell's corps moved off in an easterly direction two weeks since. Grant's is, I think, between Corinth and Memphis, and the headquarters of Pope is about four miles south of Corinth, while his army is scattered for 75 miles west of here. The left wing, Plummer's and Jeff C. Davis' divisions moved through here yesterday, bound for Holly Springs, 60 miles due west. General Ashboth's reserve division, stationed here, have thrown up quite extensive works, fronting the enemy, who are not in any force, within 75 miles of us. Our cavalry division is doing the outpost duty on a line 40 miles long, running east and west, and about 20 miles south of Corinth, with videttes out eight or ten miles further, and scouting parties go 15 miles below the videttes. We are losing about two men a day skirmishing. I noticed a statement in the papers that 20,000 new-made graves could be seen between Corinth and the Tennessees, caused by the swamp miasmas, etc., during our approaching the enemy. We don't believe that there have been 400 deaths from disease since the battle of Shiloh, and 250 will cover the number of deaths from wounds received since that fight. You know there have been an immense number of sick men furloughed, but that was to satisfy the State governnors more than necessity. For instance, John Shriner went home on sick furlough and you know his condition. There were thousands of such cases. I think the health of our army never was better than now. I notice that our Illinois troops stand this climate very much better than the men from Michigan and Iowa. Do not think we have more than one-third the sickness in our regiment that the troops from the last named States have. There is a prospect of our brigade's being ordered to Ripley this week. I am well satisfied here, but have no doubt will flourish equally well there. They charge outrageous prices for eatables throughout the country. Half-grown chickens 25 cents each, eggs 25 cents per dozen, buttermilk 20 cents per quart, etc. We keep a cow for our headquarters, though, that supplies us with milk, and we have six hens that lay as many eggs every day, and my colored boy plays sharp and buys new potatoes, peas, beans, etc., for half what I can, on the strength of his chumming it with colored folks of the farms. There was a regiment raised in this country that are now flourishing in Camp Douglas. A lady played the piano and sang for me last night that has a husband and brother residing in said camp. Mourning goods are quite fashionable here, and I see limping around town several that lost a limb, each, in some of the early battles. There are a few that I have met who were taken prisoners by our troops, one of them at Manassas, and paroled. Deserters come in yet every day. An intelligent man that belonged to an Arkansas regiment came in yesterday. He says that he thinks the main body of the Southern Army started for East Tennessee, via Chattanooga the day after he left them. Breckenridge's brigade has gone to Vicksburg, etc. I would like to send you some of the late orders issued by Rosecrans, if it were not so much trouble to copy them, in relation to police of camp and discipline. He looks after the health of men more than any general I have served under
People here are very indignant about our taking all their provisions away from them, and then appealing to the North to contribute to keep them from starving. There is some truth in the idea, but not much. They certainly do need eatables here, and the North will have to furnish them free or take scrip. Dinner: Blackberry jam, pie and raw berries. Oceans of them here. Day before yesterday the Rebels surprised one of our picket parties and captured 1st and C men, and yesterday they captured another. But Company K (Nelson's) followed them 12 or 15 miles and I think got the prisoners back with one Rebel, several horses and lots of traps. I got a letter from you a few days since relating the affecting parting scene between those spirits who left home, etc., for three months, and the sweet spirits that wept so heart breakingly thereat. I think your ideas were not unsound in regard to the parting scenes, and if you had boxed a few ears and pulled a little hair belonging to the ninnies that so abused the noble art of crying that day, you would have been excusable in my eyes. I must take a nap as quick as my boy comes back to keep the flies away.
SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 108-10