1863: Unidentified Soldier to his Uncle

An overcoat worn by Pvt. D. J. Leech of Co. F, 124th Illinois Infantry

This partial letter is unsigned so we don’t know the author’s identity but he tells us he served in Co. C, 124th Illinois Infantry. Company C was known as the “Springfield company” though it was partly raised in Jersey county, Illinois. “It contained 103 noble men, nearly all of whom were Good Templars, and was organized in Carpenter’s Hall, Springfield, August 25th.”

A roster of Co. C has been included below from the history of the regiment.

The letter contains an excellent description of the movements of the regiment from the time they left Camp Butler until their arrival outside Memphis, Tennessee, where this letter was datelined in February 1863.

From the letter we can surmise that the soldier’s parents lived in Illinois but the recipient of the letter — his Uncle — lived somewhere in “the East.”


Memphis, Tennessee
February 17, 1863

Dear Uncle,

Permit me the privilege of writing to you a few lines hoping not to intrude upon your patience or time in reading this letter. But as I am far away in the South and you in the East, I suppose you would like to know how things are a moving down in this part of the world and what the western army is doing. I will try to inform you the best that I can. The division that I am in is about one mile back from the Mississippi river—at least our regiment is. We have been here for about 3 weeks expecting to get orders to move for Vicksburg almost any day. But there is quite an important business going on now—at least we think so for Uncle Sam is paying off his soldiers now at this point. We think that he did not come any too soon for our pocketbooks was getting the sweeney—as the boys call it—for we have not had any before since we went into the service. But we feel better since they have been filled again.

Well, we are not doing much just now in the way of fighting but expect to pitch in before long for everything looks very favorable for us to go to Vicksburg. The Rebels think they can whip us but they will have a chance to try it on for we are in a fighting division. I must tell you where we stand in military rank. It is the 17th Army Corps in General Grant’s army command by [James B.] McPherson. In the First Division command[ed] by John A. Logan and in the Third Brigade command[ed] by Colonel Hennie — acting Brigade Commander. Our regiment is the 124th Illinois Regiment of Infantry command[ed] by Thomas J. Sloan Co. I am in the collar company of the regiment. It is Company C, command[ed] by H. L. Field who is a very good man and is thought a great deal of both by the company and the colonel and the general also for he is a religious man and tries to do his whole duty. Our company is got the best reputation in the regiment for drill and promptness in the discharge of its duty.

I must tell you where we have run since we left home so if you wish, you can see our trip by looking on the map called the History of the War. We left Camp Butler the day that Father and Mother started for the East to make you a visit, then went to Columbus, Kentucky. From there we received orders to go to Jackson, Tennessee, where we laid about 6 weeks. Next went to Le Grange (Grand Junction) by the way of Bolivar. We laid there about 5 weeks, then our leader came for us to move south so off we went to the next place which was Holly Springs [arriving 30 November 1862], then west to Waterford. The next place was Abbieville. The next was Oxford where we was only about an hour before the time that we got in there the rebels left. So we went in hot pursuit of them but as night come on and as the roads was very muddy—so bad that our ammunition wagons could not keep up with us—so we had to stop then for 2 or 3 days for rations to come to us. Then orders came for another move so off we started. When we stopped, we found ourselves at the Yacona creek where we laid about 4 weeks. Then came orders for us to take the back track. Then if you had been there, you could have seen some long faces for some of the worst roads an army never passed over before, I don’t believe. For some of the way you could hardly pass along. But back we came through mud, water, rain, and darkness. We went some days as far as 28 miles in a day until we reached Grand Junction. Then we stopped for 2 days. Then our division was sent east to guard the Memphis & Corinth Railroad which we done for about 3 weeks. Then we had orders to start for Memphis. So off we started and passed through several little towns of not much note so now we find ourselves encamped near Memphis, Tennessee where we have been in camp for a little over 3 weeks and rained most of the time while we have been here.

I must tell you something of camp life. I will begin to tell you in the evening at 5 o’clock, our drums commence to beat. Then comes roll call. Then at 8 AM, at 12 & at 5 PM & at 8 o’clock in the evening and drill from 9 A.M. until 11 o’clock. Dress parade from 4 to 5 P.M. On the Sabbath we ought to have preaching but as out chaplain is not the man for the place, he has not preached more than 10 or 12 times since we left Camp Butler. That was about 6 months ago as it it seems but it is a little over 5 months. So we don’t hear the word of the Lord as much as a great many of us would like to hear for in Christ Jesus is our hopes, and if we put on the armor of faith and confidence, I believe we will come out right. Trusting that we are in the right cause, we look forward with eager eyes for the day to come and that soon too, for we think thee has rained blood enough, spilt already, and the Earth atoned with blood in enough places without continuing it any longer. But I don’t see that it is any closer to an end than it was 9 months ago. What is your opinion on it, Uncle? I would like to hear from you on this point.

I don’t know anything of interest or news at this time except what perhaps you have heard of before this for I expect and I know that my folks at home get news before we do unless it happens within our division. You must pardon me for writing so long length a letter for I expect you will get tired of reading it. Excuse bad writing for if you could see how we have to write, I think you would excuse this letter. Give my love to Jane folks and to Aunt and my cousins. I would like to hear from you if you can make it convenient for to write. I would like….




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