Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, Charles Wright Wills, (8th Illinois Infantry)

Twentieth. — To-day 'tis cloudy and we have fire in the tent and I wear my cloak besides. There are no news of any kind to-day. We are on a little piece of dry land here (some of the earthquake’s "get up" I suppose) entirely surrounded by swamps of the vilest kind, cane and cypress. [...]

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Near Point Pleasant, Mo., March 18, '62. You see we are creeping along down the river surely if the motions are a little slow. This is about 12 miles below Madrid and said to be 75 or 80 below Cairo. It is said that the Rebels have between a dozen and 20 steamboats above here, [...]

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New Madrid, "by Jingo;" March 14, 1863. Night before last we received four heavy guns from Cairo and two or three of these infantry regiments planted them during the night within a half mile of the enemy's main fort and within three-fourths of a mile where their gunboats lay. The seceshers discovered it at daylight [...]

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Yet near New Madrid, March 12, 1862. The enemy are separated from us by only a few cornfields, the country is perfectly plain; we can see from our tent door the smoke stacks of their gunboat, and the music of their bands mingles with our own and yet 'tis confounded dull. I received a letter [...]

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Note: This letter—a document written in 1862—includes a term that may be offensive to many today.  No attempt will be made to censor or edit 19th century material to today’s standards. Near New Madrid, Mo., March 6, 1862. What oceans of fun we are having here. Here goes for all of it to date, and [...]

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Headquarters 7th Illinois Cavalry, Cape Girardeau, Mo., February 19, 1862. Aren't things working right now? Do you notice the accounts of the old 8th, and will you say again that I got out of her ranks at the right time? I knew that the 8th would never make her colonel (God bless him!) to blush, [...]

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Cape Girardeau, Mo., February 14, 1862. Sam arrived here to-night and brought me everything I could wish for except my watch. Jem Harper from Company K is home on furlough and we expect him now shortly, also Benton Spencer. If you could manage to send the watch by one of them I would be much [...]

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Cape Girardeau, February 9, 1862. I, like a good boy, wrote you a long letter yesterday, and, like a careless fellow, lost it. I told you in it how we "300" of us, left here in the p.m. of last Monday, rode all night and at daylight made a desperate charge into Bloomfield where we [...]

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Headquarters, 3d Battalion, 7th Illinois Cavalry, February 3, 1862. I am pretty sure that we will start on a scout to-morrow that will give us a ride of 150 miles. From the knowledge I have of it believe that we are going to raise the devil before we get back or get raised ourselves. There [...]

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Bird's Point, Mo., January 20, 1862. It goes confounded good once more to stand on boards, and be able to sit down without wet coming through a fellow's pants. If I write and tell you where we've been, you won't read it, and if I don't write all about it you'll scold, so of the [...]

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Bird's Point, Mo., January 13, 1862. After all the excitement and promise we have had of a trip into Dixie, we are still here in our cabins, with the prospect of a move further off than ever. The 25,000 troops that are "on their way from St. Louis to Cairo" must have went up in [...]

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Bird's Point, January 10, 1862. Since daylight yesterday morning we have been all ready with five days' rations and expecting every moment the orders to fall in and commence a march. We were delayed untill 11 a.m. to-day by a fog so dense that boats could not run even from Cairo to this point. All [...]

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Bird's Point, January 5, 1862. We received the box of provisions to-day in very good order considering the length of time they have been knocked about on the route. It came by freight by some mistake or other. The doughnuts were the only articles spoiled. They had moulded. I sent the box over from Cairo [...]

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January 2, 1862. We've waited patiently until after New Year for the box of provisions, and nary box yet. Have given it up for a goner. We're just as much obliged to you as though we had received it. We haven't yet eaten all the tomatoes, etc., that came with the quilts. Partly because we [...]

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Bird's Point, December 29, 1861. Your letter giving us notice of your sending a box came to hand yesterday with express charges inclosed. I shall go over to Cairo to-morrow to get them if they are there. I haven't been to Cairo for a month. All of the 7th cavalry are on this side now [...]

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Bird's Point, Mo., December 22, 1861. This is a dark, dismal, snowy and confoundedly disagreeable Sunday. Cold, sloppy and nasty! We moved into our cabin last night but it is not finished yet, as a crack along the comb of the roof and sundry other airholes abundantly testify. The half snow half rain comes in [...]

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Bird's Point, Mo., December 11, 1861. Our cavalry brought in 16 prisoners to-night, about 10 last night; a band of Thompson's men took a couple of boys from our regiment prisoners, out 10 miles from here at the water tank on the railroad. The owner of the house happened to be outside when they surrounded [...]

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Bird's Point, Mo., December 1, 1861. This, the beginning of winter, is the warmest and altogether the most pleasant day we have had for several weeks. During our whole trip to Bloomfield and back we had splendid weather, but ever since our return it has been at least very unsplendid. The climax was reached day [...]

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Bird's Point, Mo., November 24, 1861. Sabbath morning, 10 o'clock. I'm in clover. I've got a great big "comfort," weighs a ton, that has been sent to my partner and myself from a young lady in Bloomington. We've tramped so much since I received that pair of blankets from you, and we never know when [...]

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Bird's Point, November 20, 1861 Part of Pitt's (Col. W. Pitt Kellogg's) cavalry are here. We are glad to see them as it will relieve us of considerable picket duty. But otherwise cavalry are of not much service in this brushy, swampy country. That fox of a Jeff Thompson that we chased down to New [...]

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Bird's Point, November 13, 1861. Home once more. We all call this home now. Just as we landed last night the Iowa 7th was forming for dress parade. One company had but 11 and another but 15 men; all that came out of the Belmont fight safely. Other companies had half and some three-fourths of [...]

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Cape Girardeau, November 11, 1861. We have just arrived here after a week's absence from any sign of civilized life. Saturday the 2d we (our company) went out six or seven miles from the Point to guard a bridge on the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. Sunday we came back to the Point, and found the [...]

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