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1863 January 26: “Our great victory at Murfressboro … was dearly bought”

January 26, 2013

Jerry Flint, with the 4th Wisconsin Infantry in Louisiana, answers a question from his brother about getting married.  Jerry never did get married; he was the bachelor uncle his entire life.

This letter was written in January of 1863—based on where they were and what was going on—but the writing very obviously says 1862.  Jerry was probably making the same mistake many of us make when a new year rolls around, of automatically writing the previous year.

The original letter is in the Jerry E. Flint Papers (River Falls Mss BN) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, University Archives and Area Research Center.

Camp Parapet La
Jan 26th / 1862 [1863]

My Dear Brother,

                                         I received your letter, mailed from Chicago about five minutes ago and am a going to answer it in just three more [minutes].  My hand trembles so that I can’t write half human, for I am as weak as a Eat and poor as a shark.¹  Last Thursday, I was blessed with an awful shake of the Ague and Saturday I had another one.  I think about three more like the last one will clean me out.  In the first place I had a pretty severe chill and then came the fever.  When I have a fever it is alway[s] hard, but I never feel anything like that.  It made me crazy as a loon.  The boys put for a doctor and he gave me medicine and I am now better.  Today was my regular day for a shake, but I have taken 13 quinine pills since yesterday morning and I think I shall dodge it.  [paragraph break added]

I am glad you are enjoying yourself in Chicago.  I would like to be there too, then I could go with you and enjoy life for a few minutes.  But it is useless to think of such a thing as civilization at present for I have nearly a year and a half to stay yet and even longer for anything I know.  I think that if Mother can content herself where she is it would be much better than for her to try to keep house.  She is able to do that.  [paragraph break added]

Now refer my getting married when the war is over.  That is looking rather to[o] far ahead and besides life is very uncertain in these war times and it is hard telling how things will turn before my time is up.  Besides I don’t believe that matrimony is a very desirable state for a younger man.  It would be to[o] much like soldiering.  I am afraid I might be obliged to come down to the regulations, and then see that it would not be for only three years but for life.  Think I’ll keep clear.

I have no doubt it would be much better for Helen’s health if she could live in the country and heartely [sic] wish that Dean could find some place where he could work at his trade and do as well as he is doing there.  If you can do anything towards helping him, do it.  I would if I could.

You don’t think farming pays.  It is useless to give you my sentiments upon that subject.  You know well.  I think a course in the Commercial College would be a good thing if you could secure a situation in some mercantile house after you were through.  It is a hard business for a fellow to get into such a place unless he has some influential friends to intercede for him.  I would have pitched in if it had not been for that.

Jerry Flint (see footnote 2)

Jerry Flint (see footnote 2)

You wished me to send you my likeness.  I will do so as quickly as I get my money.  We some expect to be paid tomorrow.  If we are I will send it immediately and I wish you would slip yours into the next letter you write.  Now you have a good chance [to] have Mother’s taken and send to[o].  I had rather have them without cases as I have to carry them in my knapsack and they get all smashed up with so much frame work round them.

I am afraid the prospects are not much brighter for the closing of the war.  Our great victory at Murfressboro was not without its beneficial results but it was dearly bought and the rebel army is in nearly as good condition as before the fight.  All we gained was simply a little more territory, while the enemy took nearly double the prisoners that we did and a large number of guns besides destroying our wagon train.  After all this they were just as ready to fight us as ever and that to[o] in a stronger position.

But still I believe our prospects are good in the west and if they will ever accomplish anything on the Potomac we may come out all right, yes.  We have plenty of men and means and good Generals.  It is the miserable office seeking politicians.  They had just as lives Jeff Davis would rule as any one if they can only get a good fat office.  [paragraph break added]

Reports come that Gen. Butler [Benjamin F. Butler] is to be tendered his old command.  Let me tell you that it would be the best thing they could do.  He is the only man I know who has successfully handled conquered rebels.  I do not think that any fault will be found with Banks [Nathaniel P. Banks].  He carries out Butler’s system very well.

Our company is still being used as an artillery company and are generally in good health.  Knowles [Warren P. Knowles] is orderly for Gen. Sherman [Thomas W. Sherman].  I have not seen him for two weeks.

Tell Mother to not despair.  I shall write soon.  I have written to Chicago so often of late that I thought that she would perhaps rather have me wait a little longer.  Give my love to all who are foolish enough to ever enquire after me.  I would be very glad to be with you and have a regular home visit but that cannot be.  So I must satisfy myself with the hope that I should have that pleasure by and by.

Good Bye

Don’t expose this letter where it has no business to be seen.

1.  We are not at all sure about either of the underlined words, since Jerry’s handwriting is so bad. Try your luck at reading them, below.
2.  This is a vintage photograph of Jerry Flint, in a typical Civil War pose. The original is small, 2″x3″, mounted on card stock. We do not know if this is the photograph he had taken to send home at this time, but it is likely.

Jerry Flint letter of January 26, 1863, from the Jerry E. Flint Paper (River Falls Mss BN) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls University Archives & Area Research Center

Jerry Flint letter of January 26, 1863, from the Jerry E. Flint Paper (River Falls Mss BN) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls University Archives & Area Research Center

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