1861: William S. Watson to Lydia Jane Waller

Don Trioni’s painting of the 11th Illinois Uniform as it appeared early in the war

This letter was written by William S. Watson (1839-1900), the son of William Watson (179901870) and Sarah Ann Kennedy (1807-1846) of Marshall, Clark county, Illinois. He wrote the letter to his friend, Lydia Jane Waller (1839-1879) of Marshall, Illinois.

On 20 July 1861, William enlisted in Co. D, 11th Indiana which was under the command of Col. Lew Wallace. Known as Wallace’s Zouaves, this regiment wore a uniform consisting of a grey jacket with red trimming, a grey kepi with red braiding, a dark blue zouave vest, and grey pantaloons. Later they received a new uniform consisting of a black zouave jacket with skyblue trimming, a red kepi with a dark blue band, and sky blue pantaloons. The regiment was sent to Paducah, Kentucky and from there joined Ulysses S. Grant’s expedition against Fort Henry. Before they went into action, Wallace was promoted to brigadier general and McGinnis became the regiment’s colonel. McGinnis led the regiment at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and Shiloh. After Shiloh, McGinnis was promoted to brigadier general and Daniel Macauley became regimental colonel. Macauley led the regiment during the Vicksburg Campaign and the subsequent siege of Vicksburg.

This letter was written from Camp Macauley near Paducah, Kentucky, in late December 1861, presumably named after their adjutant, Daniel Macauley (1839-1894). In his letter, William asks his friend if they still attended church in Marshall “for if ever there was a time when Christians ought to pray, it is at the present time.” The army is a “wicked place,” he explained, “The principle employment is at the card table and the chuck-a-luck bank.”

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Camp Macauley
December 22, 1861

Dear Friends,

Your kind letter came duly to hand which gave me the greatest of pleasure to lear you was all well and doing the best you can for yourselves and am happy to be able to inform you of my good health—the best it has been for a long time. I have not seen James for some time past but he was the last time I saw him. I hain’t anything new to write you as we get no news here. We hain’t got any pay for four months and I don’t believe we will till the first of January. Then we will get four months pay. Then we will have plenty of money for awhile.

I got a letter from John the other day. He is well and in good health. If you see Teresa, tell her to write to me for I would like to get a letter from her for I can’t get a letter from any of my folks [since] I have been in the army. I want you to write and tell me all about the old neighborhood, how the folks is getting along, and if any of the girls has got married this fall or not. And [write] if you still have meetings at the old corner yet or not for [if] there ever was [a time] when Christians ought to pray, it is at the present time for the army is the most wicked place that I have seen in all my life. The principle employment is at the card table and the chuck-a-luck bank.

As I hain’t got any news to send you, [I] will close. It has been raining all day today and is still raining. Give my love to all. So no more at the present time.

Yours truly, — W. S. Watson

to F. T. Waller

Tell [your sister] Becky Ann to write as I hain’t time to write to all but jope to hear from you all soon. I close. Goodbye.

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