11 p. m., 29th. — There is talk among the officers that Buell with 60,000 men is en route for Atlanta, Ga., intending to occupy that city, and thus cut off connection between the eastern and western portions of the Rebel Army. It will be a bold strike and looks safe; but it seems to me, from a glance at the map, that the occupation of Montgomery, Ala. would more effectually accomplish that end, for then there would be no railroad line open to the Rebels (we holding the Memphis and Charleston) while there are two lines running east from Montgomery, only one of which a force at Atlanta could cover. A deserter came in this evening who says that they are organizing the army at Tupelo, mustering the men as five years' regulars, with promises of furloughs until this war is over. That England and France have decided that the Southern States shall all have a chance at the ballot box, and must, within 60 days, say whether they will cleave to the Government of the United States or be independent; if the latter, those governments will sustain them and thus end the war, and if the former, the war will be ended accordingly. So they are organizing a regular army upon the supposition that they will be an independent confederacy. The above shows they are able to start as huge a lie in their camps as we can in ours. I wouldn't have believed it before.
The colonel, A. D. C. and myself took tea with General Ashboth this evening. He is such a pleasant man. Has a great liking for pets. He has a tremendous large dog, who lays his head on the table right by the general's plate during meal time, and he gets his share at the first table. On the other side of him two little Indian ponies range themselves as quick as he sits down, and he lays biscuits on the corner of the table for them, which they gobble with the greatest relish. He spreads biscuits for one pony with sugar, and with salt for the other. His conversation is divided about equally between his ponies, the dog, and his other guests. The ponies he got in Arkansas, and they are the prettiest little fellows imaginable. The general is one of the most polite and kind men I ever saw. His troops all love him. He carries his right arm in a sling yet from a wound received at Elkhorn.
If you'd multiply all the bugs, say by 10,000, you'd have something near the number that visit me nightly. They are of all sizes less than a door knob, and the shapes and colors are innumerable. When they're bumping against you by candle light, if you were not acclimated, you would swear someone was brickbatting you.
We could overrun the whole West and Southwest as fast as we could travel, with the army we had here, if it were policy. Vicksburg cannot stand two hours when attacked. But it has leaked out at headquarters that we are letting them think they are holding us in check, so that they will keep all their forces in the West until after the big fight at Richmond. I have heard from Captain Nelson that Sammy Nutt distinguished himself in the skirmish yesterday. He captured that prisoner I spoke of. Captain says Sam was the head man in the chase and that no man ever behaved better. Sam's pistol went off accidentally after he had captured the secesh and the bullet came within half an inch of knocking a hole in the Rebel's head. The boys all give Sam a great deal of praise. ’Twas daring of the captain to run his handful of men almost into the enemy's camp, and 25 miles from any support; but if any company can do it, Company K can. Captain Nelson looks well but grumbles at being brought back from the front to where there is nothing to do but rest. His men feel the same way. For my part I don't consider myself in the war here any more than I would be in Canton.
SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 110-2