Thursday, July 27, 2017

1st Lieutenant Charles Wright Wills: August 3, 1862

Tuscumbia, Ala., August 3, 1862.

In the last 15 days I have only written you once; partly because I have been so busy, more, because of my laziness. There is but little save rumors that can be of any interest to you from here, and shall not inflict any of them on you, for the newspapers have certainly surfeited everyone's taste for that article. All this blowing and howling we have in the papers of raids everywhere, and overwhelming forces of the enemy confronting us at all points, is, I candidly believe, part of the plan to raise volunteers. It certainly is one grand humbug as far as this field is concerned. Every officer here that knows anything about the condition of the enemy, their positions and numbers, believes that if our army were concentrated and set at the work, we could clear out all the enemy south of this and west of Georgia in a short two months. The soldiers are all anxious to begin, all tired of inaction, all clamoring for the war to be ended by a vigorous campaign, we running our chances of being whipped by the enemy, instead of waiting until next spring, and then being forced by bankruptcy to abandon our work. The way we are scattered in this country now the enemy can take 1,000 or 2,000 of us just any morning they may feel so disposed, and their not doing it lowers them wonderfully in my opinion. There are about 6,000 of us stationed at nine points along 75 miles of railroad, and there is no point that 4,000 men could not reach and attack, and take before assistance could be afforded. But the Rebels don't show any more dash or spirit than we do, so we all rest perfectly easy in our weakness, confiding in their lack of vim, which we gauge by our own. A line drawn through Fulton, Miss., Warrenton, Ala. and thence to Rome, Ga. (at which last place we think the enemy are concentrating) will give you the route over which the enemy are now moving in considerable bodies, while whole brigades of their numerous cavalry pass nearer us, through Newburg, Moulton and Somerville, Ala. ’Twould be so easy for them to detach a division and send it up to this line of road. Buell, with a very respectable force, is near Stephenson in northeastern Alabama moving so slowly that no one can tell in which direction. I wish they'd give Grant the full control of the strings. He would be sure to have somebody whipped, and I'd rather ’twould be us than live much longer in this inactivity. People are most outrageously secesh here, generally, although there are said to be some settlements very Union. I saw two men yesterday who were raising the 1st Union Alabama Regiment. They have two full companies they say, but I'll never believe it until I see the men in blue jackets. This is the most beautiful valley that I ever saw. It lies between the Tennessee river and a spur of the Cumberland mountains, which are craggy and rough, and rocky enough to disgust an Illinoisan after a very short ride over and among them. Howwever, they form a beautiful background for the valley, and are very valuable in their hiding places for the guerrillas who infest them, and sally out every night to maraud, interfere with our management of this railroad and to impress what few able bodied butternuts there are left in their homes. They either cut the wires or tear up a little road track for us every night. We have guards too strong for them at every culvert, bridge and trestle. This country was entirely out of gold and silver until our cotton buyers came in with the army, and every man of money had his little 5-cent, 50-cent, etc., notes of his own for change. Mitchell's men counterfeited some of them and passed thousands of dollars of their bogus on the natives. I send you a couple of samples of what is known here as Mitchell money. The man I got these of had been fooled with over $20 of it. The boys couldn't get the proper vignette so, as you will observe, they used advertising cuts of cabinet warehouses and restaurants. Many of our men have passed Mustang Liniment advertisements on the people, and anything of the kind is eagerly taken if you tell them it is their money; of course I refer to the poor country people, who, if they can read, don't show their learning. This man with $20, like that which I send you, is a sharp, shrewd-looking hotel keeper. His house is larger than the “Peoria House.” General Morgan, who is in command of the infantry here, is a fine man, but lacks vim or something else. He isn't at all positive or energetic. The weather still continues delightful. I have’nt used any linen clothing yet, although I believe there is some in my trunk. We ride down to the Tennessee river every night and bathe, and 'tis so delightful. I don't believe anybody ever had a nicer place than I have, or less reason to be dissatisfied. Well, I do enjoy it; but don't think I'd worry one minute if sent back to my regiment or further back to my old place in the 8th. I believe I have the happy faculty of accommodating myself to cirumstances, and of grumbling at and enjoying everything as it comes. I am still desperately “out” with these secesh, but borrow books from them to while away my spare time. These people, safe in the knowledge of our conciliatory principles, talk their seceshism as boldly as they do in Richmond. Many of our officers have given up all hope of our conquering them and really wish for peace. For myself, I know its a huge thing we have on our hands, but I believe I'd rather see the whole country red with blood, and ruined together than have this 7,000,000 of invalids (these Southerners are nothing else as a people) conquer, or successfully resist the power of the North. I hate them now, as they hate us. I have no idea that we'll ever be one nation, even if we conquer their armies. The feeling is too deep on both sides, for anything but extermination of one or the other of the two parties to cure, and of the two, think the world and civilization will lose the least by losing the South and slavery.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 119-121

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