1862 February 10: “The country here is still strongly secesh”
Following Edwin Leving’s letter of yesterday comes Wilbur Dale’s letter of February 10, which was published in the February 26, 1862, issue of The Prescott Journal. This time Dale signed his letter simply “D” instead of his usual ”Private D.” Although Dale has been transferred to Company G of the 12th Wisconsin, he promises to continue reporting on Company A—the Lyon Light Guards.
WESTON, Mo., Feb. 10, 1862.
Dear Journal: —Having lately arrived here from the “Badger State” in company with about thirty others who, like myself, had been left behind sick, I will now endeavor to resume my neglected correspondence.
We met with an accident on the way, a few miles this side the Mississippi River, by which the engine was thrown down an embankment twenty-five or thirty feet, and badly broken up. The engineer had one leg very badly crushed beneath the engine. Another train came to our relief, and we arrived at our destination without farther casuality [sic].
We found Company A domiciled in a dilapidated brick church, appropriating the pews for sleeping places—not the first time thus used, I dare say. All the other churches in the place, except the Catholic, have been put to a similar use. ‘Tis sad, that the stern necessities of war should deprive a people of their places of worship. But better thus than to subject our soldiers to greater exposure.
There are, at present, about sixty in the hospital here, of who twelve belong to Company A. The building being used for a hospital was formerly the Female Union College. It occupies an elevated position, and commands a fine view of the town and surrounding country, and is admirably adapted for its present use.
Weston is a town that once might have contained from 3,000 to 5,000 residents. Before the union forces were stationed here it was a stronghold of secession, and many of the union men were compelled to flee with their families for their lives. Now affairs are reversed, and the secesh must slope or lie low. In some places in Missouri the population has thus shifted several times. These alternating movements I heard not very unaptly compared to a steamboat passing down the river towards a flock of ducks. The ducks rise, fly up stream a little way, and alight behind the steamer. The ducks are not hurt, neither is the steamer.
The slaves here have a keen interest in passing events, and imagine that it is a war for their emancipation. In confirmation I will mention a little anecdote related to me by one of the Company A boys:—
He was standing on guard in some part of the city in the evening, when a young colored girl approached him and asked if he was fond of apples, at the same time extending to him a handful of fine ones. Of course he replied in the affirmative, and took the gift. Said she: “Got any news from the war? Hears Old Beauregard’s got cleaned out.” [P.G.T. Beauregard]
“Oh no! I guess not; but our troops have whipped the rebels in Kentucky, and killed Gen. Zollicoffer.”
“O bless de Lord! I knew de Lord was on our side. Ole Missus, who’ jus secesh to de backbone, she say she has no ‘pendance now ‘cept in Price. She hope Price will come. Says I: ‘Missus, Price might poor ‘pendance. If he come he-ar the Yankees will eat him up, jus like you eat dat apple dar.’” [Sterling Price]
The slaves are very communicative, if you can get them one side, where they may be assured that they are not watched. The country here is still strongly secesh. Our soldiers are cordially received at their houses, presented with apples and other vegetables, and frequently solicited to stay and eat with them. When they are known to be rebels, they are often kindly invited to gratuitously part with sundry fat turkies [sic], chickens, pigs, guinea fowls, etc. They, for the most part, graciously comply, doubtless thinking it rather a fowl proceeding.
Our boys have a mighty taking way with them, and are seldom without some of the above mentioned delicacies for dinner. If asked by some curious individual how they obtained them, they gravely reply : “We drawed them.” Sometimes they go in the night, thinking that darkness facilitates their operations. Gen. Hunter [David Hunter] has issued an order against such excursions. “Get all out of the rebels you can,” I say, and I have many sympathizers.
It is now given out that we shall move to Leavenworth City within two or three days. The 9th and 18th Wisconsin have already moved forward to Fort Scott, 130 miles south. It is not expected that our expedition will start before the 1st of March.
Fourteen of Company A have been transferred to other companies, in order that it might be reduced to 101 men, and that smaller companies might be filled up. * * * *
The weather is warm and spring like, and the snow and ice are fast disappearing ; but, in direct ration, the mud increases. Although now a member of Company G, I shall continue to post you concerning the Lyon Light Guard. D.
1. Perhaps he meant Union College of Weston.