1862-63: David Ackley Smith to Elizabeth Ann (Cowan) Smith

This incredible set of nine letters were penned by David Ackley Smith (1835-1863), the son of Elias (“Lias”) Smith (1814-1877)—an innkeeper, and Elias’ first wife, Harriet Jones (1813-1837), of Vermilion county, Illinois. David was born in Meigs county, Ohio, and came with his parents to Illinois prior to 1840. David was married in March 1855 to Elizabeth Ann Cowan (1836-1911) and together they had three children—Charles (b. 1856), Robert (b. 1859), and Hattie (b. 1862).

David enlisted as a sergeant in Co. C, 73rd Illinois Infantry on 12 July 1862. When he enlisted, he gave his occupation as harness maker. He was described as standing 5 foot 10 inches tall, with black hair, black eyes, and a dark complexion. From David’s letters we learn that he was with his regiment at the Battle of Perryville and the Battle of Stone River before he was killed in the Battle of Chickamauga on 20 September 1863.

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Sgt. David A. Smith’s Envelope with image of unidentified Union Sergeant

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE

In Camp at Bowling Green, Kentucky
November 3rd 1863

My dear Lib,

I take time to write a few lines to you that I am still living and thankful for it. I received two letters today from you—one was dated October the 2nd, and one the 27th. I sent a letter by [   and   ] and I sent the satchel key by [   ]. You said Jack had come home. I heard the other day that Jack and his wife had a fuss and they had parted and Jack had run off.

We camped here Saturday evening. This is Monday evening. We have orders to march at 6 o’clock in the morning, I suppose to Nashville, Tennessee. We have marched three hundred miles since we left Louisville. I have stood the march pretty well till the last week. I have been very unwell. I feel better today [but] if we march very hard, I don’t expect that I can keep up. I am going [to] keep up if I can. I won’t come home the middle of next month if I can get to come. We will be a good ways from home against then. It will cost a good deal of money to come home and I haven’t got a dollar to save my life and I don’t know when we will draw any more money.

There is a good many sick in our company and some of them will get discharges pretty soon. Some of the men is shooting off their fingers to get discharges. Cary A. Savage ¹ shot off his finger. It is the belief among the boys that he shot off his finger to get a discharge. There has been three cases of the kind in our regiment. This thing of playing soldier is pretty hard business sure, but if I lose any of my bones in this Rebel land, the Rebels will have to take them off without I do meet with an accident and get hurt. They had one chance at me but I come out close without a scratch and I think that Providence favored me for I didn’t have any fears when I went into the Battle [of Perrysville] of getting hurt and I hated to stop shooting when the Rebels started to run. The officers had to run down and wave their swords and hollow for a good bit before they could get the men to stop shooting. And I believe if our commander had told us to charge on the Rebel’s, I believe we would have taken all of the Rebels.

I haven’t much more to write about. My dear William has been with us for a day or two. He [is] talking of coming home pretty soon. He is tired of war and so am I. People at home don’t know anything about war. I have seen the elephant’s tail the little time I have been out. This war is just for the benefit of a few big officers and the poor solders has to pay the penalty with blood and broken bones. If I could see you, I could tell lots of things that I can’t write about. Goodbye, my dear.

— D. A. Smith

Write as often as you can. Letters is worth about fifty cents apiece here. The boys look awful sore if they don’t get a letter when the mail comes. We only get a mail here in about two weeks.

¹ Corporal Cary A. Savage (1835-1900) of Danville, Vermillion county, Illinois, was dishonorably discharged on 6 February 1863 due to his disabling self-inflicted injury. He was the son of Moses Penn Savage (1806-1884) and Sarah Watkins Lee (1810-1884) of Piatt county, Illinois.


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TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO

Camp on Mill Creek, Tenn.
December 1st 1862

It is about 7 o’clock. My dear, I got a letter from you this evening and one yesterday. You wanted to know if I get tired of reading your letters. You must know that I don’t get tired of reading your letters. I could read a letter from you every day. You misunderstood me about getting letters from you. I get letters from you regular 2 and 3 a week. I don’t want you to send me any money for there isn’t any chance for me to come home this winter sure and I hate it pretty bad too. But I guess you won’t see me soon. There is a good many of our company trying to get discharges. There will be a good many of them get discharges.

Our paymaster is here today. I guess we will get some money pretty soon. There isn’t much of interest to write about tonight. There has been some picket fighting for 4 or 5 days. I don’t know when we will make a move. I guess pretty soon. I must go to bed for I have to go on guard at 6 o’clock in the morning. So goodbye for the present, my dear.

December 3rd—I have just come off guard. We have been guarding the General’s Headquarters. It snowed and rained some last night although the weather is very fine here.

There was pretty hard fighting one day last week on our right. It was Jeff C. Davis’s Division that had the fight. The Rebels took several of our men prisoners although they drove the Rebels back some distance with some loss. I don’t know how much.

We haven’t got our pay yet but they say we will get it pretty soon. There is 4 months pay due me on the 10th of this month. Everything is very high here. I bought a lb. of butter the other day and I paid 60 cents for it. I wasn’t hardly a taste for our mess. Salt is worth $6.00 per barrel, flour is worth $10.00 per barrel. Coffee is 60 cents per lb.

There is a good many of our company sick and several of them trying to get discharges. Bob hasn’t been able for duty for some time. My health is tolerable good at present. [Lt.] Mark D. Hawes and [Lt. Richard N.] Davies has got their discharges. [Tilmon D.] Kyger and W[illiam] R. Lawrence will be Lieutenants.

It is snowing today. This is the 5th of the month. We ain’t doing anything but drilling a little and standing picket duty and burning Rebels’ rails. It takes lots of rails to do us a week—that is, our company. The first day we came here, our regiment pressed about 40 hogs and sheep. There is no Union men in this part of the country except the soldiers. The Secesh grumble pretty bad about us taking their property. The women will come out and snot and cry around but it don’t do no good. No more at present.

— David A. Smith


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TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE

In Camp near Murfreesboro, Tenn.
January 21st 1863

My dear,

I received a letter from you yesterday morning—the second letter that I have had from you this year. It was dated January 2nd. I was mighty glad to get it. Letters is prized mighty high here [even] if they haint much of importance in them. We can’t get any papers here and we are nearly dull for something to read.

It is very wet here. It has rained and snowed nearly every day since the Battle [of Stone River]. We went out foraging yesterday and it was very bad going. We had to go about six miles. All of our brigade went to guard the train but we didn’t see any Rebs. We got about one hundred wagon-loads of forage besides lots of hogs, sheep, turkeys, geese, and chickens. The latter the boys foraged privately and have to keep hid from the officers. They don’t care how much we kill if we keep it hid. Our company got one shoat. Our mess got one-fourth of him today. We haven’t done anything but sit around the fire. When we come in from foraging, we was startled by the news of the death of Old Man Nicholson. We left him at Nashville hearty and well. It is a wonder to me that A[lexander] C. Nicholson isn’t dead too for he is [the] wickedest man I ever saw. Elick started to Nashville this morning to see about the remains of his father. He started off swearing.

The boys is in pretty good spirits and their health is getting better. My health is pretty good at present. I have the toothache pretty bad. Capt. [Patterson] McNutt is at Nashville on a visit to his wife. We like our captain first rate. He is cool and brave in battle as any man in the regiment and the regiment has got a good name for her bravery. A Dutch Captain who took command of our regiment when our Major was wounded was heard to say if he heard any man say that the 73rd [Illinois] wouldn’t fight, he would shoot him down. He belongs to one of the Old Regiments in our Brigade.

There is Rebel deserters come into our lines every day here. They say they are tired of fighting and we ask them what they are fighting for. They say they don’t know.

You said you wanted to know about the money that was to be paid. The money for the stock goes to your father. He knows all about it. It is the rent that I am interested about. All money that is coming to me, you take it. Use it to live on and if there is more than you want, pay Old Abe Frazier ¹ no more at present. Write as often as possible and I will do the same.

From your devoted husband, — D. A. Smith

¹ Abraham Frazier was a 64 year-old merchant residing in Vermilion county, Illinois.


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TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR

Camp near Murfreesboro, Tenn.
February 13th 1863

Well, my dear Lib, the mail came last night after I had gone to bed and with it came a letter for me from my dear gal. I don’t think you are growing very old. I am coming home some of these times to see if you are getting so old as you say you are now. I don’t want you to grieve and fret yourself to death. I am going to take care of myself as well as I possibly can and you needn’t think that I am going to expose myself unnecessarily to the Rebs for I know that they will shoot.

I wrote you a letter the other day explaining my conduct on the day of the battle [at Stone River] and I hope you will be more satisfied when you read it. I would rather have ten thousand Rebel bullets through me than to have the name that Bill [Lt. William R.] Lawrence has here. The opinion is here that he is a coward and that he gave himself up to keep out of the service as long as possible. Some of the boys say they won’t serve under him if he does come back.

If I had have known when William was to be at Nashville, I would have gone down to see him but I didn’t know it. I had wanted to see Robert before he went home but I couldn’t get time to go. I have to stay very close to camp for there is always something for  to do now.

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Col. Oscar F. Harmon of 125th Illinois Infantry—“a brave man.”

You said something about Old Tucker’s big tales of the Perryville [Battle]. Now Old Tucker ¹ needn’t to lie about these doings at that battle for we know all about these doings there. We know that the 125th lay at least two hundred yards behind our regiment. They lay there flat on their bellies with their noses fastly rooted into the ground and the fact is that some of them started to run and the Colonel stopped them. I think that their Colonel [Oscar Fitzalan Harmon] is a brave man but I don’t think his men is very brave and their commander knows it and that accounts for them going back to Nashville which took them out of danger. They had been telling a lot of big lies on the 73rd such as this—that they ran in time of battle and wouldn’t stand fire &c. Now if the whole Union Army was made of the same material that the 125th is, the Rebels would soon claim their independence and they would get it too.

We were today officially notified of the dishonorable discharge of [Corp.] Cary A. Savage of our company. He shot one of his fingers off to evade the service. ²

Now I would like to know how much money has been collected for me this winter and how much there is on hand for me. If you please, let me know in your next letter if there is is likely to be more money that you will use. I would like to have some of my debts paid. Frazier and Cauddy is the ones that I want paid for their notes is drawing interest. No more at present. — D. A. Smith

¹ “Old Tucker” was 42 year-old butcher David Stewart Tucker (1820-1877) of Co. D, 125th Illinois Infantry was also from Georgetown, Vermillion county, Illinois. He entered the service as a corporal and was promoted to sergeant before he was discharged on 16 June 1863 for disability. The 125th was mustered into the service in September 1862, just in time to be present at the Battle of Perryville in Kentucky on 8 October. The regimental history says of it: “though not hotly engaged the Regiment had a splendid opportunity to witness the fierce struggle between others, get its first smell of hostile powder, and to observe the difference between the sharp, keen whistle of a minié ball and the fierce shriek of shot and shell.”

² Corporal Cary A. Savage (1835-1900) of Danville, Vermillion county, Illinois, was dishonorably discharged on 6 February 1863 due to his disabling self-inflicted injury. He was the son of Moses Penn Savage (1806-1884) and Sarah Watkins Lee (1810-1884) of Piatt county, Illinois.


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TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE

Camp Bradley near Murfreesboro, Tenn.
March 12th 1863

Well, my dear, I got a letter from you yesterday dated the 5th stating that you had got the money that I sent you and I was glad to hear that it had got through safe for I was afraid that it wouldn’t get through. If your Father wants the money and will pay you the interest on it, let him have it. All that I wanted them men paid for was to stop the interest. I got three letters from you Sunday and commenced to answer them Sunday night and didn’t finish my letter, calculating to finish it Monday morning, and orders came that night about midnight to strike tents and be ready to march at 5 o’clock that morning and I didn’t get to finish my letter and we haven’t marched yet. And yet our things is all on the wagon yet ready to march at a moment’s warning.

We have been laying out of doors for 4 days. Our Division is still out yet. They have been away for 17 days. When last heard from, they were at Franklin—about 30 miles west of here. They expected to have a fight in close to that place with Old Van Dorn but he concluded that it would be too warm in there for good health and he skedaddled with his Negro Battalions of which the most of his force consists. ¹ The old Rebel made out to decoy and capture about a thousand of our men last week. Nearly all of the men he had in the engagement were Negroes. But the Black rascals got cut up pretty badly anyhow.

The soldiers is wishing and praying for the President to draft about six hundred thousand more troops into the service and I think it would do more to putting down this Rebellion than all the fighting that will be done in the next six months. All we ask of them is to come out and follow behind and hold the ground that we take and we will do the fighting and they may follow and see it well done. I don’t think that the war will be settled yet for some time to come anyhow. We have some hard fighting to do yet and I think there will be some of it done pretty soon.

Our Captain [Patterson McNutt] is very sick in Nashville and has been there over a month. I got a letter from his wife last Sunday stating that he was better but had been very low. I am afraid he won’t be able to stand it with his company any longer. I don’t know what we will do if he leaves us for I don’t think that [Tilmon D.] Kyger will be fit for a commander. The health of the company is getting better. My health is pretty good again. Walter Scott and Enoch Smith and John Brazelton have come up to the company after so long a time. If about 15 more would come up, it would help us considerable at present.

It is still very wet here although we have some very pretty days here. Today is one of them.

I got the three Ledgers that you sent me by mail yesterday and have read them through and several of the boys have read them. Our box of goods hasn’t come to hand yet that you sent us.

There was some pretty sharp fighting last Sunday close [by] here. We could hear the cannon all forenoon pretty fast and loud. I guess I shall stop writing for I haven’t anything to write about and can’t hardly write anyhow. I am a little nervous today and got the blues anyhow. Tell Robert I want him to write to me. I haven’t heard from him but once since he got home.

From your devoted husband, — D. A. Smith

¹ I have searched the literature and newspaper columns for any evidence (even rumors) that Gen. Van Dorn had any Black troopers in his cavalry regiments in 1863 but could find nothing. Even Robert Hartje’s book on Van Dorn makes no mention of it. A few Black troopers is believable but “Negro Battalions” seems ludicrous.


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX

Camp Schaefer near Murfreesboro, Tenn.
March 24th 1863

Well, my dear, as it is raining and I hadn’t anything to do, I thought I would write a few lines to you and let you know what we are doing. Well, I will commence last Wednesday. We moved camp which the most of the Army did the same thing. We moved in closer to the city and more out of sight which I suppose caused the Rebels to think that we had evacuated Murfreesboro for on Saturday our boys went on picket.

In the first place, the picket were drawn in about one mile and the Rebs not knowing where our lines were, came up a little too close on our boys. There was picket firing all night and in the morning, just at daylight, the picket firing commenced pretty sharp. So A[lexander] C. Nicholson and myself gathered our old guns and put out for the boys on the double quick, the distance being about 3 miles, and by the time we got there, the Rebs—finding that our pickets wouldn’t drive worth a cent—they began to haul off and I got there just in time to get a shot at a Reb though he fired first. His ball struck in a stick of wood about a rod from me. Then I thought it was my time but he was so far off and in the brush that I don’t think that I hit him.  James Maudlin of our company emptied a saddle for one of them and a man in Company G killed a horse under one man. The fighting was pretty sharp just about daylight and till sunup but none of our boys got hurt but some of them grazed pretty close.

The Rebs used artillery and musketry both on us but they couldn’t drive the pickets. The pickets killed three Rebs last night as they was crossing the river. We suppose they was coming to give themselves up as they had no guns and that they didn’t know where our pickets were.

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Gen. William S. Rosecrans—“I will call your regiment the Fighting Suckers”

General Rosecrans is reviewing the Army here now. He reviewed our Division yesterday. He says we made the best appearance of any of the troops that he has examined yet. His wife was present and lots of ladies besides. After the review, the General’s wife wanted to see some of the troops drill so General Sheridan called on our Brigade. We drilled in the Brigade Drill. Colonel Liebold is our Brigadier. He drilled us and said while we was drilling in the hearing of our Colonel that it was the best drilling that he had seen since he had been in the service. He bragged on our Division very much. The General shook hands with our Colonel [James Frazier Jaquess]—the only one that he shook hands with in the Division—and says he, “Colonel, how does your boys get along?” He is one of the best old Generals that lives [even] if he is a Catholic.

Our Colonel went to see the Old General one day since the battle here and had quite a talk with the old fellow. Says the General to the Colonel, “I am going to change the name of your regiment,” says he. “I understand that you go by the name of the Preacher’s Regiment.”

“Yes,” says the Colonel.

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Col. James F. Jaquess, 73rd Illinois Infantry—“the Preacher’s Regiment”

Says he, the General, “I haven’t anything against the name you go by, but,” says he,”I can give you a name that is more appropriate.”  Says he, “I will call your regiment the Fighting Suckers.” ¹ The General said that our regiment and a Pennsylvania [one]—I don’t recollect the number of it—was the only two regiments that kept their lines unbroken in [the] late battle of Stone River. Our Division held their ground better than any other Division in the battle.

Well, my dear, it is raining and cold and getting so dark that I can’t see to write any more so I will finish my letter tomorrow.

March 25th. It has stopped raining. Cleared off cool. The boys went on picket today. I got a letter and 3 papers from you yesterday. You said in your letter that you had been washing and I had just been in the same business and just got my clothes hung out. I washed 2 shirts, a pair of socks, 2 towels, and that is all.

There has four of our boys left the regiment this morning to join the Light Battalion. There is 40 men to leave our regiment. They are to be mounted on horses. A[lexander] C. Nicholson, Wesley Cook, Wesley Bishop, and Robert Noisey Boy is the boys that is going from our regiment.

Tell Robert I have got me a Springfield Rifle—one that I got on the battlefield. Our regiment is going to get new guns in a few days. I believe this all the news that I have that is of interest.

I would like to have some fruit trees set out in that front lot if you can get them handy. I will pay anybody that will tend to it and have it well done. So I will close my letter for it is a mighty poor thing anyhow. My health is pretty good at present. The health of the camp is better than it has been.

Goodbye my dear, for the present. From your husband, — D. A. Smith to his wife, Elizabeth Smith

¹ I could find no reference to the 73rd Illinois Infantry being called the “Fighting Suckers” so the nickname given it by Gen. Rosecrans apparently didn’t take hold, though he no doubt intended it as a compliment. The pre-war reference to Illinois as the “Sucker” state is not so well known today.


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN

Camp Schaefer near Murfreesboro, Tenn.
April 11th 1863

My Dear Lib,

I thought that I would write you a few lines again this morning as I hadn’t anything to do today and let you know how we are getting along. Our Brigade went to Salem yesterday to do outpost picket duty. There isn’t anything of interest going on here now though they are shooting some deserters here. They shot one yesterday and there is one to be shot on the 14th of this month. The pickets also killed a spy this week as he was making through the picket lines. He had been trying to get through the lines for some time but couldn’t make it. He got through the lines this time but the pickets saw him and called him and called him to halt but he didn’t heed these [warnings]. The second halt they sent a messenger after him and one that halted him too. They shot him twice before they could capture him—the first shot taking effect only in his leg and not breaking any bones, ]and] he could [still] run. But after they gave him the second shot, he halted in a hurry.

They were fighting at a little town by the name of Triune yesterday. We could hear the cannon all forenoon. We haven’t heard any of the results of the fight yet. I don’t suppose that it amounted to much. There is fighting in this section of country nearly everyday but we have got so use to this little skirmishing that we don’t take any notice of it anymore hardly. We love to get in to just such scrapes.

Well, we are going to get our pay in a few days again. We get two months only which will be up to the first of March so I will send you some more money if I can get a chance to send it by anybody. They have paid our Brigade except us. We would have got our pay yesterday or today if it had [not] been that they had to go on picket.

I am mighty afraid that Bruce will get catched up and shot. I think that he had better try and come through in citizen’s clothes and if he can once get here safe, I think that we can save him. They will be sure to shoot him as the catch him.  Capt. [Patterson] McNutt has got a furlough to come home. You probably will see him. He hasn’t been with us for two months. He has been very sick in the hospital at Nashville. I expect he will be there before you get this letter. It keeps me and Lieut. [Tilmon D.] Kyger busy to tend to everything that pertains to the company.

The health of our company is improving very much. We have about 36 men able for duty now. My health is getting better. Well, I believe I haven’t anything more to write about at present. I will write again as soon as I can find anything to write about. So goodbye, my dear. This is from your husband, — D. A. Smith

P. S. April 11th 1863. We drew our money this evening. I only drew $31 dollars. It is very pleasant weather here. The roads is dry and dusty.


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TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT
Addressed to Mrs. D. A. Smith, Georgetown, Vermillion county, Illinois

Camp Schaefer
May 31st 1863

My Dear Lib,

I received a letter from you today and I thought that I had better try and answer it the best that I could but times is so dull here that I can’t hardly find anything to write about although a part of our army has moved and has been fighting some but I don’t know what success that they have had. Last Thursday they could hear cannonading at this place. They were fighting about 25 miles south of here. The biggest end of our army has left this place. We suppose they have gone to keep Bragg from reinforcing the Rebs at Vicksburg. The news is still favorable at Vicksburg but am afraid that Grant will get defeated there yet, But we will hope for the better,

The boys was on picket Friday and Saturday. They got right smart Rebel news. The Rebel pickets and our pickets is getting very familiar here. Our pickets exchanged papers with the Rebs that day.

We have had a tear up every few days here. We get marching orders about every week. We tear up camp, lay around three or four days, and pitch our tent on the same ground again. I don’t believe that we will move this summer for good. We may go on a scout and right back again.

Joseph Sweeney was down to see me last night. He only stayed a few hours. He came down on the train that runs from Nashville to this place. There was a man died in our regiment last night. He belonged to Company C—the company from Homer. The health of regiment and that of the company is very good at present. We have forty men in the company for duty at this time which is about as good as we have had for some time. William R. Lawrence ¹ is in camp looking as pompous as the biggest man in the world but we are going to cut his pinfeathers some of these days. We have got up a petition for him to resign his hard worked for and disgraced position in our company. We have a petition with nearly forty names on it. We have about 5 or six big cowards in our company that holds up for him such as Isaac [R.] Thornton and [Corp. David] McDonald and some others. It isn’t worth while to mention any more names. You needn’t say anything about this part of your letter. You may tell Rob if you want to. He may not resign on the presentation of the petition. If he don’t, we shall court martial him, We have the evidence to do it. He has disgraced his shoulder straps, Now we are going to disgrace him if we can. So that is enough about the coward.

I am going to write Bob a letter some of these days and I will tell him some things that he wouldn’t have thought of. Now, my dear, you wanted to know if I wanted to sell my part of the [harness] shop. If they can sell it for $300 dollars and make the pay sure, let them sell it. My health is only tolerable good at present. I have a very bad cough. I don’t rest very well at nights. I am going to send you some jewelry that I made myself out of the shells of clams that came out of Stone river. If you never see me more, keep these mementos to remember one who does love you. So I shall close by bidding you goodbye for the present. This is from your dear husband, — D. A. Smith

¹ William R. Lawrence entered Co. C, 73rd Illinois Infantry on 21 August 1862 as a sergeant. He was promoted to 2d Lieutenant on 28 November 1862.


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TRANSCRIPTION LETTER NINE
Mrs. Elizabeth Smith, Georgetown, Vermillion county, Illinois

Camp Stevenson, Alabama
July 31st 1863

Dear Lib.

I would try and write you a few lines again and let you know where we are and what we are doing. We are trying to put down this rebellion as fast as we can and I think that it is going down as fast as it can. We came in day before yesterday off a scout of some 12 or 15 miles distance. The 73rd and 44th Illinois, 2nd Tennessee Cavalry, and two pieces of artillery went to Bridgeport on the Tennessee river. Our sharpshooters skirmished with the Rebs across the river awhile. Then we run up one of our Black Pups and gave it a few yelps at them and the Rebs skedaddled. Our sharpshooters killed two and the artillery killed and crippled three or four of the Rebs. We then came back to camp and drew our pay and the boys were ordered out again with three days rations.

Our Brigade is the only troops that has been in the advance and we have had a good deal of work to do such as picketing and scouting. The balance of the Division is coming up now and I hope we will not have so much work to do though we are willing to do anything if it will put down the Rebellion. The Rebs is deserting every day and coming into our lines. I talked with a man yesterday that deserted them last Sunday from the other side of the river. He has been in the Rebel army for two years liking two months and he says that Bragg’s Army is deserting as fast as they can get away. The Second Tennessee Cavalry is here with us and lots of the deserters joining the cavalry. Last week there was a Rebel Colonel who had been acting Brigadier deserted and came into our lines the same day. Also 4 other commissioned officers at the same time.

There is several good Union families in and near this place. The farther south we go, the more Union people we find. We find but very little virtue among the women of the South, There is lots of women in this place and they are very hard cases. We find women who have husbands in the Rebel army and who have lost their husbands by the war turning to be perfect harlots. There is two or three cases of just that kind in this place. We hardly find a man in this country that is able for soldiering but has [been] or is in the Army and more than half of the houses in the country is deserted and sometimes we come across a little village that is entirely deserted. And as for school houses, we won’t see one in traveling fifty miles. Half of the buildings in this country is made of hewed logs and a good many of their churches is made of the same kind of material. The majority of the people in this country is so ignorant that they don’t know anything. I heard a soldier the other day ask an old lady how people in this country celebrated the Fourth of July the last two years. She looks up at him and says, “What?” says she, “I don’t know what that is,” You see she never knew that there was any such thing as the Fourth of July.

Our boys sold coffee the other day to citizens for five dollars per lb.; salt at one dollar per pint. Sugar is worth hardly as much as coffee. The most of the people in this country will suffer for something to eat and some are in that condition now and Uncle Sam has to feed lots of citizens now. The families that live close to our camps come and beg the coffee grounds after we have made our coffee and carry them off and make coffee of them. They say they haven’t had coffee nor sugar since this war broke out and lots of them as well as the Rebel soldiers is barefooted and some bareheaded and nearly naked. Just get two or three hundred Rebel soldiers together and they are the hardest looking set that ever one looked at.

I was out blackberrying today. I got as many as I could eat and gathered about two gallons and wasn’t gone more than an hour. There is lots of blackberries in this country and we get plenty of them to eat. Old Man Busby is here now. Some of the boys is going to send their money home with him. I shan’t send any by him. The Captain [Patterson McNutt] is going home in a few days and I will send by him or Express it to Danville. I shall send seventy dollars to you and if you don’t need all of it, if you can loan it out at interest, it would be better. In  either case, you must be saving of your money for if I live to get home, we shall want all that we can get and if I don’t get home, you will dread it for soldier’s money is mighty well carried before he gets it.

My health is very good and the health of the company is very good at present. I get letters from A[lexander] C. Nicholson every few days. He is at Nashville and is doing very well. He says his wounds were not so bad as we thought they were. He is able to walk around a little. He is trying to get a furlough to go home but it seems that he can’t get it and when a wounded man can’t get a leave of absence, it looks like as if the chance would be mighty slim for me to get to come home before the war is over or till I serve my time out. The officers in command of the regiment and company don’t care for anybody but for themselves and their one interest. I haven’t anything more of interest to write at present, so goodbye for the present, my dear.

From D. A. Smith

 

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