December 3, 1862.
We received marching orders at Lagrange, Tenn., at 9 o'clock p. m. on the 27th, and moved at 6 a. m. on the 28th, on the Holly Springs road. We marched some five miles and then waited four or five hours for the divisions of Ross and McArthur from Grand Junction, and Quinby and Moscow to file into the road ahead of us. About 4 p. m. we were again set in motion, and at 7 p. m. (moonlight) we turned into the woods, about 10 miles from Lagrange, and bivouacked for the night. Fell in at 7 a. m., 29th, marched nine miles by 2:30 p. m. to Coldwater, a very nice little stream, the water in which is as cold in July as in December. Here we rested until 6:30 p. m. and then marched six miles by moonlight to Holly Springs, Miss., where we camped for the night. At 8 a. m., 30th, moved out and arrived at the present camp about 2 p. m. The last five miles we were cheered by the enlivening music of artillery firing ahead, pretty lively at times and then subsiding into an ocasional bellow, bringing the good old Madrid and Corinth times very distinctly to my mind. It's astonishing what an amount of ignorance I am guilty of in regard to the situation of affairs here, but I really haven't inquired of or listened to any of the powers that be on the subject. I've had my mind set on a fight in the neighborhood, and if we get that I don't care about details, if not I'll find out what I can, though 'tis an awful sight of trouble to sift sense and matter to be credited out of camp rumors, and that is about the only source a line officer has for getting information. Believe I'll give you a little list of rumors condensed. (1) Enemy 50,000 strong fortified on this side of Tallahatchie. (2) Rebels driven across the river, only rifle pits on this side. (3) Sherman has turned their right flank and we've got them sure. (4) Enemy only 30,000 strong in tremendous fortifications opposite side of river; bridge burned, will be rebuilt by midnight, when we'll pitch into them, etc. (5) Pemberton wants to fight; Price opposes the idea. (6) Fortifications evacuated night of 1st inst., and Sherman pushing the enemy's right as they retreat (To back this No. 6 rumor, heavy columns were pushing past us all day yesterday in a driving rain). (7) Steel and Curtis have pushed across from Helena or Napoleon and taken possession of Grenada, cutting off the Rebel line of retreat; Curtis' force 25,000. (8) Price has cut through Curtis' force and escaped. (9) Price attacked Curtis, was repulsed and is now coming back this way, etc.
There has been cannonading the last three days some four or six miles ahead, but none to-day. Squads of prisoners pass us going to the rear every day. The country from Lagrange to this place is very good, clearings much more extensive and more evidences of wealth than on the Mobile and Ohio road. We were on picket the 1st inst. some two miles in advance of our camp and had a grand time. This 103d out jayhawks old Jennison himself. The regiment went on picket the last time with one day's rations, and I swear I believe they came in with six days'. My company “found” 150 pounds of flour, a hog, a beef, two and one-half bushels of sweet potatoes, chickens, ducks, milk, honey and apples. The night we stopped at Holly Springs, Company G must have confiscated $300 (the way these people figure) worth of eatables, among which were one barrel of molasses, 300 pounds of sugar, one barrel of flour, four hogs, etc. But I don't allow them to take anything but eatables. I think it right, and can find no arguments for any other side of the question. Holly Springs is a beautiful little town, but not so rich, I think, as Jackson, Tenn., which beats everything for its size, I ever saw. Our army, trains and all, stretched out in marching shape, is, I think, 30 miles long. Believe without Sherman it numbers from 40,000 to 45,000. Anyway we have enough to skin Mississippi. Major General McPherson commands our right wing of two divisions, Logan's and McKean's. Hamilton has the left wing of three divisions, McArthur, Ross and Quinby. Don't know what Sherman has, but he holds a good hand and has some trumps that we know of, particularly Hurlbut and Lanman. I never saw men in as good spirits and so confident as this army now appears. We are splendidly equipped and want nothing. The only drawback is the men's having to carry their knapsacks, but if the fine weather will only continue we'll stand that. We don't use any tents at night when marching, and 'tis no hardship to lie out at night yet. The boys strip to their underclothing, with only two blankets, and never grumble. I can't see why people will stay at home when they can get to soldiering. I think a year of it is worth getting shot for to any man. I believe I used to get a little homesick or girl sick, but my brief furloughs have taught me the vanity and vexation of spirit folks are liable to in the States, and I think I'll hanker thereafter no more. If I can get into the regular army, I'll do it sure.
SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 130-2