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1862 November 18: “The army is like a huge piece of machinery”

November 18, 2012

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.

La Grange Nov 18th /62

Dear Parents

                          Yours of the 9th came to hand last evening when writing to Uncle Myron,—as glad as ever to hear from you and I have seated myself this evening to reply.  I hardly know what to write, all is quiet and no advance yet.  In a large army like this, the private knows but very little of what is transpiring around him, unless he is a participant in the events himself.  I allude to the minor events only.  He soon learns of the more important movements, but of their details he knows comparatively nothing.  The army is like a huge piece of machinery which operates in part or in whole as moved by the controlling power.  The soldier is a part of the machine and must ever be in working order for all emergencies.

We are practicing the skirmish drill nowadays that is, Companies A & B, as that will probably be our principal business in time of an action, consequently we shall not be so much exposed to the evening’s artillery,—skirmishers are allowed to take every advantage of ground for protection,—can lie down, sit or kneel, according as if necessary, hide behind trees stumps, or anything else, and blaze away, in true bushwhacking style.  The drill is very pretty, but more difficult to learn than any other and its execution in the face of an enemy requires a great deal of coolness, pronptitude [sic] and watchfulness.  Our rifles are the Springfield with all the latest improvements and are sighted for 900 yds. or about 180 rods.

We drew this afternoon dress coats which are very nice.  As regards those shirts you speak of, I will say you need not get them, for unexpectedly, we shall draw them in a few days.  We have got more clothes than a horse can carry.  Don’t know what to do with them but if we march much we shall throw or give away to the negroes what we can’t carry.  [paragraph break added]

1st Lieut Lusk¹ who went to Ohio on a sick furlough is expected to return in a few days.  5 of our boys will probably be discharged soon—they are A. Anderson, S. Anderson, Nelson, Borner, and Wonsetler.²  Their health is too poor to be of any use.  Private Prescott who has been sick all summer and remained at Bolivar died 10 days ago of the Dysentery & typhoid pneumonia.³  All the other boys are in good health.  Our own health was never better.  We have but a very little to do at present.  The weather is a little cloudy & sultry and rainy, but not cold.  Well I have not written any thing yet and as I am not likely to, guess I’ll stop.

Yours affectionately,

Edwin Levings
Co. A. 12 R. W. V.
La Grange Via Cairo

1.  James W. Lusk, listed himself as being from Reedsburg, Wisconsin, when he enlisted.
2.  Andrew Anderson, from Rush River; Sven Anderson, also from Rush River; Peter Nelson, from Martell; John G. Borner, from Prescott; and Abner Wonsetler, from Youngstown, Ohio. They were all discharged with a disability in mid-December 1862.
3.  George W. Prescott, from New Centerville, died November 8, 1862, in Bolivar, Tennessee, from “disease.” He had enlisted October 19, 1861.

Edwin Levings letter of November 18, 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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