“Paine is going to clean out the country and make it Union if there is nothing but desert left.”–Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, Charles Wright Wills.

Note: This letter—a document written in 1862—includes terms and topics that may be offensive to many today.  No attempt will be made to censor or edit 19th century material to today’s standards.

Tuscumbia, Ala., August 19, 1862.

Tis the old, old, story, burning railroad bridges, skirmishing between our scouts and theirs, etc. They opened on a new program by firing into a train, two days since, wounding five men only, though they put 200 shots into the engine and cars. They are burning cotton in very good style. Night before last eight fires were visible from our headquarters, and last night four. They destroyed about $300,000 in the two nights. They’re getting scared about their negroes, and are carrying them off to the mountains as fast as possible. The blacks are scrambling in this direction to a very lively tune. Over 100 came in on one road within the last 24 hours. About 50 can be used in a regiment to advantage, but I am thoroughly opposed to receiving any more than we have work for within our lines. You have no idea what a miserable, horrible-looking, degraded set of brutes these plantation hands are. Contempt and disgust only half express one’s feelings toward any man that will prate about the civilizing and christianizing influence of slavery. The most savage, copper savage, cannot be below these field hands in any brute quality. Let them keep their negroes though, for we surely don’t want our Northern States degraded by them, and they can’t do the Southerners any good after we get them driven a few degrees further down. These nigs that come in now, say that their masters were going to put them in the Southern Army as soldiers. I’m sure the Southerners are too smart for that, for a million of them aren’t worth 100 whites. General Paine is gobbling up these secesh here and starting them North kiting. How they are shaking in their boots. Paine is going to clean out the country and make it Union if there is nothing but desert left. There are a number of very fine people here, such men as Jacob H. Bass, highly honorable, conscientious, etc., but strong believers in State sovereignty, and because their State has seceded, they are secessionists, and for no other reason. Paine is going to make them walk the plank with the rest. It looks a little hard to me, as they are willing to be paroled, but I’ll never say stop when anybody is pounding the secesh.


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

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