1863 February 1: “We have been preparing to defend ourselves against rebels”
A two-for-one letter from Edwin and his brother Homer, with the 12th Wisconsin Infantry in Tennessee. 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.
Collierville, Tenn. Feb 1st 1863.
We have just come in from on picket and will now answer two letters from you of the 13th & 19th ult. the latter rec’d two days ago. Were glad to hear from you again. There is no news of much interest. We are still at this place — no prospect of going to Vicksburgh [sic] or anywhere else, which, I have no doubt, will suit you. [paragraph break added]
Since my last writing we have been preparing to defend ourselves against rebels, who are within striking distance of our Camps. Have made a breastwork of cotton bales surrounding the depot building & have made a strong fort of earth near by to accommodate 12 or 1500 men, so we have no fears at present. The rebel cavalry have lately pitched on to our pickets, wounding & capturing some of them, — one of Co D was wounded in the leg a few nights since by one of these scamps, when on picket.¹ They have also attacked our our foraging trains & Cav scouts but without doing much injury. Report says there are 10 or 1200 rebs this side of the Tallahatehie, — they are repairing the R. R. and the general impression is that they meditate the reoccuption of West Tenn. for you probably know they have been reinforced. — The pickets orders are very strict, no fires are allowed on the vidette² posts (outposts) in the night—none except on the reserve, — no firing, leaving posts, nor taking off of equiptments; no soldiers are allowed to straggle through the lines, — if negroes, citizens, or soldiers wish to pass through their passes must have Col Johnson’s signature. Col Johnson is a fine officer and & good & efficient officer — is known as a good fighting man— very pleasant & humorous in his manner & is thouroughly [sic] popular. You ask if I sleep when on picket. Never!—until relieved by another. I was never caught napping, when on that kind of duty.
Were paid off on Friday last, for two months—$26. I expressed you yesterday to the Prescott Bank $50. There will be due us the 1st March next 6 months pay. — Will get the rest soon, it is thought.
Let us know how you are getting along. It is warm & pleasant to-day but what it will be to-morrow is not easy to tell. We are still well as usual — I must stop now, so good by till next time.
Colliersville, Ten . Feb. 1st 1863.
Ed has finished his letter and wishes me to say a few words, but it is almost dark, so you will excuse me this time for not writing a longer letter. We were on picket yesterday, we got a small hog while there, which was quite a help. It was against orders to fire our guns so we had to corner the hog, and charge bayonetts on him. [paragraph break added]
Ed had a letter [from] Elsworth [sic]³ the other day. I have just heard two letters read from Dickinson. The most of his letters to this company seems to be written meerly [sic] to slander, Mr. Wilcox, but I do not think there is much truth in what he says.4 You can use our money as you see fit, we shall probably have six months pay to send home next time.
Yours Truly, Homer.
1. Edward Vunk, from the Town of Polk in Washington County. He was wounded on January 28, 1863, and will be discharged on May 18, 1863, because of his wound.
2. Vidette is an alternate spelling of vedette, which is usually a mounted sentinel stationed in advance of an outpost, but it sounds like Ed is using it for the outpost itself.
3. No doubt this is Ellsworth Burnett, from River Falls, who is in Company A of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry. Ed had just asked his parents about Ellsworth Burnett in his letter of January 12, 1863.
4. This may refer to Mumford J. Dickinson, who lived in Hudson; he will not enlist in Company D of the 2nd Cavalry until December 24, 1863. Edward M. Wilcox, who lived in River Falls, will join Company K of the 30th Infantry on October 3, 1863.