Monday, February 10, 2020

Captain Charles Wright Wills: September 1, 1864

September 1st, '64.

A real autumn morning. We were aroused at 3 a. m. and the air was then almost crisp. A breath of cold air is a luxury we can appreciate. A fresh, cool breeze is now stirring and I can almost hear the leaves falling. It is a real yellow fall and does me more good than aught else could, except a letter from home. Haven't had one from you for ten days. A prisoner says that yesterday's fight was rougher on them than the 28th of July fight. He said their brigade came up in front of our men, and though they did not stay more than long enough to take one look, when they got back under cover they were 500 men short. They afterwards charged again, and he said he doubted whether any of them got off alive and sound.

This is the 124th day of the campaign, exactly 90 of which we have been under fire. Have also moved 340 miles, though the direct road would be much less. The boys say we just finished the summer campaign in time to commence the fall ditto. I guess the movement surprised Hood. Prisoners all say they understood it to be a raiding party. ’Tis a rather mighty one. The country between these two railroads is rather better than any we have seen before in Georgia, but I never saw any in Illinois half as poor. Hardly any of the land has been under cultivation since the war commenced. A little sickly corn and a few patches of sorghum and millet are about all the farming evidence I have seen. Northern Alabama and a few counties in Mississippi are the only passable parts of the Confederacy that I have seen. Mrs. Lee Henty’s grand plantations, with their “hospitable mansions, whose broad verandas, supported by graceful pillars,” etc., are principally “bosh,” at least as far as northern Georgia is concerned. The health of the regiment is excellent, the men being, if anything, healthier than the officers. The lieutenant colonel and major, though both with us, are not yet reported for duty. Captain Boyd, Lieutenants Fox, A. & J. Smith are quite unwell. Captains Post, Vorhees, Smith and myself have at different times been all the officers fit for duty. I believe I am the only one who has never been off duty during the campaign, though Post, Smith, Vorhees and Dorrance have lost but a few days each, Smith, I believe only one. I don't believe these Rebels can be in very good spirits. I am afraid I'd be a little blue if we'd been whipped as often as they have this campaign. Most of the prisoners are great “peace” men, but they all say that their leaders will never give up as long as they can raise a brigade to fight. Every pup of them has hopes that the Chicago Convention will do something for them, they hardly know what. I heard one of the boys say he wished that the Convention could be induced to charge us in these works. There's talk of our going home to vote.

About 2 p. m. a signal officer in a tree reported that he could see our troops moving in line down the railroad toward us. It was the 23d and 4th Corps. The 14th which held the left of our line, about the same time commenced to swing its left around, and by 4 p. m. a battle opened. The 14th broke the enemy's line before the 23d got up, and alone rolled the Rebels up in fine style. By dark the 14th had captured from 12 to 20 pieces of artillery and a large number of prisoners. Three hours more of daylight and Hardee would have had no corps left, for the 4th and 23d were swinging further to the left, and would have been in his rear in less than two hours, when our whole line would have closed in on them.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 295-7

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