Tuscumbia, Ala., August 7, 1862.
The enemy is reported nearer us than usual to-night, and in considerable force. Have no idea they intend fighting us here though. This has been the hottest day of the summer, and I've been in the sun all day with thick woolen clothes on, wool shirts, too. I started for Decatur about 7 this morning and got back at 5 p. m. All platform cars, no possible chance for shade. I rode on the [cowcatcher] going out, and on the tender, which was ahead, coming back. We got within ten miles of Decatur when we came to two bridges burned last night, and had to come back. There is not a bridge or culvert on this road as far as our brigade guards it, that has not been burned, at least once, and many of the cattle guards even have been burned. They don't fire on the trains though in this country, which is some little consolation to the traveler. Since we have been guarding the road, some two weeks, they have burned in our district four bridges, one water tank, and two station houses, and torn up rails several times. All this work is done in the night. The tank and stations were of no use to us and the bridges we can build about as fast as they can burn them, tearing down secesh houses to find the timbers ready hewn. There are some grand plantations along the line I have traveled to-day. Thousands of acres in some of them with from 50 to 250 hands, each. The negroes are under no restraint whatever, now. Don't half work, their masters say, About 40 negro women who were clearing a piece of woodland dropped their axes and picks and came out to the road as the train passed. They were by odds the most antic and amusing lot of slaves I have yet seen. So clumsily ludicrous, with their close-curled wool, great white and black eyes, and heavy-ended motions. Some wore sun bonnets, some men's old hats, but most were bareheaded. The negro women all wear handkerchiefs (I think they are), turban fashion, while indoors, and sun bonnets, or go bareheaded, when out. They seem to be all dressed alike, in very ragged, shabby, thick, cotton stuff, which is either white or yellow. I have never seen one of these dresses clean enough to tell which. I have seen but two negroes yet that have marks of severe punishment. They were man and wife, and belong to a planter living 12 miles from here. The man I think is made a cripple for life from blows by a club on his ankles and knees, the woman is badly cut on the arms and shoulders, as with a horsewhip, but she's all right yet. How a man can be fool enough to so abuse such valuable property as this is more than I can understand. You have no idea to what an extent the habit of dipping is carried here. I have, while talking to women who really had in every way the appearance of being ladies, seen them spit tobacco juice, and chew their dipping sticks, perfectly at ease. I don't think it common to do it so openly, but I have seen two ladies, and any number of common women, engaged in the delightful pastime. Colonel Kellogg seems to think that I will be mustered out in a short time. I'll promise you one thing, that if I am, I'll not enlist again until the policy of this war changes, and in actions as well as words, too. J. Pope is disgusting me with him very rapidly. John is a horrid blower of his own horn. If he don't astonish this country, after all of his blowing, the country will astonish him to his entire dissatisfaction before he's many months older. Oh! if Grant will only go to work and get somebody whipped, or if he'd retreat, that would be better than doing nothing, though not as good as advancing.
SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 122-3