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1862 November 2: “What distorted reports of our Regt reach you!”

November 2, 2012

As usual, Ed Levings seems to know a far deal of what is going on in the Union army.  We learn here, three days before we’ll read it in The Prescott Journal, that General Joseph Hooker has replaced General George B. McClellan as head of the Army of the Potomac.

At the end of his letter, Ed says he doesn’t know if Homer will have time to write.  Homer does and his letter follows as a separate post.

Ed’s original letter is in the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Bolivar Tenn. Nov. 2nd 1862

Dear Parents;

                          I write you today from on picket hoping this will reach you.  You say you have received scarcely a letter lately and that you suspect our letters are not forwarded for reasons best known to our officers.  I do not believe that is the fate of your letters, though, no doubt, something is the matter, however I shall not cease writing.  The first letter written by us from this place was dated 11 Sept and this is the 5th letter.  We expect to hear from you by tomorrow, at least, but patience may have to wait a little longer.  We wish you would not postpone writing in every case, till you have heard from us, for we shall write you often, that is a dead certainty.

The prospect of our remaining here some time is good, indeed, the army of West Tennessee can not go further south with safety to itself, while Bragg’s [Confederate General Braxton Bragg] army is in our rear.  This you will perceive when you reflect we are further south than the other Union forces and that if we move forward Bragg can come in behind us.  Rosencrans [sic: William S. Rosecrans] must drive him further south and Hooker['s] army (formerly McClellan['s]) must move forward too and there must be concert of action else one army must spend its time in watching the movements of the rebel army opposing and accomplish nothing as we have all along done.  Every thing depends on the Potomac Army.  I hope Hooker will meet the expectations & wishes of the loyal people, not of the Tories, for I hear more from them than the whole rebel army.  The people at home if they are faithful to the interests of the Country can do a great deal to put down rebellion, and suppress opposition to those measures that will end it.

As regards the safety of Bolivar, I will say that there has been a great deal of fortifying and provision made for any attack the rebels may be contemplating.  Bolivar is a very strong place now and the work of strengthening goes on rapidly and extensively at this time.  Friday last all the troops of this place were reviewed by Gen. McPherson [James B. McPherson] — some 25 Regts were present and it was a very imposing sight.  Ours was the largest Regt on the ground and our band the only one in the two Divisions.  The roads were very dusty and such a smutty set you never saw.  [paragraph break added]

We have just finished reading a letter from you, which the mail boy just brought, dated the 26th, and glad we were to get it.  You acknowledge the receipt of two letters from Bolivar.  What distorted reports of our Regt reach you! — the papers are certainly not reliable and so are many persons who lay claim to credibility.  I have learned one thing, that is, never put too much confidence in first reports, for very likely they will come to you afterward with clipped proportions.  You ask does our inaction make us more or less eager for a fight?  I will say that when we have been disappointed in not getting into a fight that we are very well pleased of course.  Like all other Regts we don’t wish to get all cut to pieces—no one likes to see his comrades fall, but there is always a very prompt willingness among us to fight if an opportunity offers.  We are always ready and if we don’t get into an action it is not our fault.  We have done what we were told to do and that is as much as any Regt does.  Our Regt have never been as effective as at the present time and it attracts more attention than any other.  I am not bragging, for it is a fact we are a splendid Regt.  Every body, not one of us wants to know if you belong to the 12th Wis.—if your Regt is the 12th Wis &c.  [paragraph break added]

Now a few words in particular.  Sergeant Kelsy1 of our tent (No 7) goes home to-day to get recruits for the Company and will be gone several weeks.  He will call on the friends of all the boys and says he shall certainly stop and see you.  That is what I want and you will want, too.  He is a fine fellow, very sociable and agreeable and we would like to have him take tea with you any way he will tell you all about us, but he is a terrible Jayhawker2 and I wish you would conduct him to judge Foster’s premises that he may “keep his hand in.”

We have sent our measure to Mr. George Newton of Prescott for some boots.  The Capt. is responsible for them.  Now if you can purchase some cheap buckskin gloves or yarn ones, well knit, or make them you can sent them by him and the pay shall reach you when we are paid off.  Mittins [sic] (yarn) with one fore finger will be acceptable, for then we can handle our guns.  Please send a bottle of Arsenicum.  The medical book was received long ago, but we forgot to speak of it.  The gold pen—you need not send it—keep the money though—we have sufficient.3

The whole Co. is on picket guard in squads along one of the roads running north west.  The Orderly [sergeant] says we have orders (& so the whole brigade) to go somewhere to-morrow—something is on foot I suppose, that is all we soldiers know what we are going to do — We are operative machinery merely, but I must dose.  Don’t know as Homer will have time to write.  We are both well & hopeful of the future of the Country.  Wishing you health, prosperity and the blessing of our heavenly Father, we remain yours

                                                                     Very Affectionately

                                                                                         Edwin & Homer

1.  Wallace Kelsey, listed as being from Owatonna, Minnesota.
2.  Jayhawks, or jayhawkers, were bands of men that were willing to fight, kill, and rob to keep pro-slavery settlers out of Kansas during the Kansas-Missouri border war.  Ed is obviously using the term to mean steal, pillage, or appropriate.
3.  In this paragraph we see items that Ed has mentioned in previous letters. On September 2, 1862, he says that the entire company is in need of boots for the winter and they will be ordering them from George Newton in Prescott; he asks for gloves on September 21, 1862, along with mentioning the boots again; on July 21, 1862, Ed asked his parents to send medicines, including Arsenic (Arsenicum); and the gold pen he asked for in his letter of September 6, 1862.

Edwin Levings letter of November 2, 1862, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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