Tuscumbia, Ala., August 8, 1862.
My pet negro got so lazy and worthless I was compelled to ship him. I'll take back, if you please, everything good that I ever said of free negroes. That Beauregard nigger was such a thief that we had to also set him adrift. He stole our canned fruit, jellies and oysters and sold some of them and gave parties at the cabins in the vicinity. This was barely endurable but he was a splendid, smart fellow and the colonel would have kept him, but he got to stealing the colonel's liquor. That of course, was unpardonable, when the scarcity of the article was considered. In my last I spoke of a ride on the railroad and having to turn back on account of bridges being burned There were, maybe, 150 sick soldiers on board, and they concluded to march to Decatur, only 10 miles. They were attacked just after we started back, five of them killed and about 100 taken prisoners. There was a woman along and she was wounded. There were three little fights yesterday between here and 25 miles east. In all, four killed and 13 wounded. The fight first spoken of was day before yesterday. Orders have been given us to put every woman and child (imprison the men) across the line that speaks or acts secesh, and to burn their property, and to destroy all their crops, cut down corn growing, and burn all the cribs. That is something like war. ’Tis devilish hard for one like me to assist in such work, but believe it is necessary to our course. Having been very busy preparing reports and writing letters all day, feel deuced little like writing you. People here treat us the very best kind, although they are as strong Rebels as live. Bring us peaches and vegetables every day. I can't hardly think the generals will carry out the orders as above, for it will have a very demoralizing effect upon the men. I'd hate like the deuce to burn the houses of some secesh I know here, but at the same time don't doubt the justice of the thing. One of them has lent us his own cook, or rather his wife did; and they don't talk their secessionism to you unless you ask them to. We are getting a good many recruits from this country. All poor people, in fact that is the only kind that pretend to any Unionism here. There are now three full companies of Alabamians (Union) at Huntsville, and many more coming in. It is the opinion of the court that this new law, a copy of which you sent me, will boost me out of the service. I will make no objection, although would rather stay in if I thought the war would last 30 or 40 years. Don't see how the boys can stay at home under the pressure. A young man here, and a splendid fellow, if he is a Rebel, showed me four letters from different young ladies urging him, by ridicule and appeals to his pride to go into the army. He was in for a short time, and was stationed at Fort Morgan. Business keeps him out now — crops, etc. I think will arrange things so that he can leave, if we carry out orders. ’Twould be quite a change for me to be out of the army now. I don' know how I would relish it while the war continues, although am sure could stand it if peace times would come again.
SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 123-5