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1863 January 21: Ed Levings Falls into a River and Loses His Gun

January 21, 2013

The 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.

Colliersville Tenn. Jan 21st, 1863

Dear Father and Mother;

                                                   I have three letters before me this evening to answer, two from you, one of the 28th Dec, the other of the 5th Jan, both rec’d day before yesterday; and one from Cousin Almond which came to hand this morning.  I hasten to relieve your anxiety about us, knowing your solicitation for our welfare.  I am sorry your worst apprehensions should have been excited, though I anticipated this, and longed to be able to inform you the mails would not go through.  Now that the mail arrangements are once more in order, I hope to get letters to you frequently.  I presume you are now in receipt of all our letters written after the 3rd Dec last, if not, let us know and we will give you a full history of all our movement from that date.

I wrote you last from near Moscow.  We have since moved and are now stationed at Colliersville, 15 miles from that place and 24 from Memphis.  Arrived here yesterday.  On Monday, the 19th, marched from near Lafayette to within two miles of here.  It rained,—the roads were muddy and the creeks and gullies were so swollen that it was with great difficulty we got along.  It seems as though the 12th Regiment is fated to commence its marches always in the worst weather.  Certain it is, that in every instance when we began a march, the day before was pleasant, and favorable.  In attempting to get on to a log that crosses a deep creek I fell in and lost my Springfield rifle.  I had on every thing, (knapsack, overcoat and all) and found myself sinking and unable to handle myself and with reluctance I let go of my gun.  I succeed in getting hold of the log and was helped out by two men of Comp’y C.  I was completely soaked, and getting got the Col’s permit to go ahead, which I did in quick time and thus avoided becoming chilled.  I encountered several creeks and after a good deal of circumambulating and swinging round from one place to another I reached the place where was to be our camp and dryed [sic] up.  I was not the only one who got a ducking.¹  Several found themselves in the watery element.  Some mules also were lost, so you see what marching is down here this time of year.  The arttillery [sic] which moved at all went on the cars to Memphis.  Several Divisions have gone there, their destination supposed to be Vicksburgh [sic].  I am inclined to think we shall follow, though the opinion prevails here that we shall remain here awhile.  The 3rd & 4th Divisions which constitute the 16th Army Corps, are now commanded by Hurlburt [sic: Stephen A. Hurlbut].  I like his appointment well as he is a good general.

I took a pass to Col. Johnson [Richard W. Johnson] Com’d’g the Brigade for his signature to go and fish up my rifle, now that the water has gone down some, but he seemed to think it not worth while and would not sign it, so I am minus a gun, but probably they will give m another soon.  I do not have to pay for the lost gun.

This road is strongly guarded.  Col. Lee,² 7th Kan. Cav., commands a Brigade of Cav. is entrusted with guarding the roads from Lagrange [sic] to Memphis.  He is pronounced the best Cav. officer in the service.  It is said he wants to have the 12th mounted and that he proposed furnishing us 500 revolving rifles and horses on condition we were mounted, but I guess we shall remain Int’y awhile longer.  The 7th Kan. Cav. & the 12th have always been much attached to each other.  More Cav. are needed in t his country.  Tenn., I believe, has come into the Union, but there are many secesh & rebels in the State yet & they must be watched.

Now as to Capt. Maxon [sic: Orrin T. Maxson], about whom you hear unfavorable stories.  First I will say stop in a few respects he is unpopular, but that his faults are not sufficiently aggravating to furnish a basis for the statements you enumerate, in other words, not as had as represented.  He, in common with other men, has his faults.  Who is faulted ?  He sometimes exhibits too much favoritism, and for this he is censured.  Then he is occasionally quite rigid in his discipline, apparently too much so, yet on the whole I think he is none too severe, for what is a Comp’y without good discipline?  Men must be kept under proper restrictions for their own good & the good of their company, and it is but rational some should feel themselves aggrieved.  Again, his temperament is too excitable at times, but he is not to blame for what he can not help.  I am sorry I must say he occasionally uses profanity.  These are his failures and I tell you them as they are.  He is in other respects a good Capt. & gives satisfaction.  Now as to the 2nd charge,—”too intimate with rebels, inviting them into his camp, dining with them &c.”  I must laugh.  This is utterly false and, I may say, malicious.  It originated in the following circumstance.  While at Waterford, Miss. & when our army was driving the rebels before them it several rebel soldiers who had delivered themselves up of their own accord & had passes to return to their homes in Tenn. came into our camp for something to eat & the Capt. gave them their supper.  What is there wrong in that?  The Capt. is no friend of rebels & does not court their good opinion.  This I know, and can prove.  We have got our bunks fixed up finely, and have an abundance of straw, and indeed, it looks like staying.

Thursday the 22nd.  Today is cloudy & chilly.  The weather on the whole is rainy, chilly and clouds.  Our 6 inches of snow went off with the rain.  Our health is good as usual — have books and papers and I see nothing to prevent being comfortable and contented.  Hope the mail will not again be interrupted.  Will mail you a war map that you may trace out our peregrinations — is not such an one as I wanted for you but the best I could obtain, but I must stop.  No news of much importance.  Hope you will write soon.

Jan 23rd — I am off picket & I’ll closer this up.  Really, Homer, you have done well! but you are now skedaddling round in the country to see what you can lay your pilfering hands on, and what would your Mother say if she knew — you were robbing these old secesh planters of what they have to live on? Guess she would say “It’s all right, Homer, but be Respectful — you will be gobbled up by & by & then where will be my boy Homer? but I’ll tell her you never were caught & that you know how to manage the “machine.”  O, Yes here he comes & with a big bag of turnips.  Didn’t I tell — well I will [s]top now any how.³  Direct as before

Yours &c
Edwin Levings
Co A 12th R.W.V.

1.  “Dunking” makes more sense, but it is definitely “ducking.”
2.  Albert Lindley Lee (1834-1907) was a lawyer and district judge before the Civil War. In October 1861, Lee became a major in the 7th Kansas Cavalry. He was promoted to colonel of the regiment and took part in the capture of Corinth. In late November 1862 he was promoted to brigadier general in the Volunteer Army, but continued leading cavalry brigades in the Army of the Tennessee before being appointed chief-of-staff to General John A. McClernand.
3.  We learn a little bit about what Ed is referring to here in Homer’s letter of January 22, 1863.

Edwin Levings letter of January 21, 1863, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Edwin Levings letter of January 21, 1863, 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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