1863 July 1: “We are in the rifle pits most every day”
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.
Rear of Vicksburg,
July 1st, 1863.
Your letter of the 18th ult was put into our hands yesterday morning. The next one will tell us you have just learned we are at Vicksburg. We have been here now 18 days, and probably a week elapsed ere you knew it. Letters are slow—does, truly, but we can’t help it & there is no use in fretting because things are not as we might wish them. It is bad news that the crops are suffering for lack of rain, but it might be worse. If the crops with you are poor this year, there are other parts of the Country where there will be an abundance, and to spare. Nature is not equal in the distribution of her gifts, but we should not complain, for there is still a variety & sufficiency for all our wants: present, and a good show for the future.
The resources of the Country were never as great as now — there is enough for all purposes — we can carry on this war hardly feeling the drain it is making upon our wealth, — we can pay for it as we go along, which the rebels can not do. We are not using the accumulated capital of the country to wage this war and the rebels are. Consequently there is a limit to their means. The wealth that is employed to keep up this rebellion has been accumulating for years & years & now the industry of the Confederacy is paralyzed and how are the rebels going to carry on war when their substance is gone? This rebellion is a gigantic squandering of treasure and blood and human happiness, useless, because by the decree of Right, it can not succeed, criminal, because unsupported by Justice. It is hard to conceive of greater folly and wickedness than prevails in the councils of these Southern conspiritors [sic] and what must be the guilt for which they are answerable. The bringing of untold misery upon the thousands who have consented to be duped. But I did not intend to write a long lingo when I commenced and I’ll “dry up.”
Well, we have some more money for you. $40.00—we’re paid this morning. There will be no express charges this time, as the Capt. rec’d a Draft on New York of a $1000.00 in his name, of the Paymaster, & it will go to the City Bank of Prescott, payable, according to his instructions, to the different parties: so you have but to go & get it, $20.00 from each.
The weather is hot & half the Co. are down with the ague and fever, & unable to do duty. Much of it is due to the bad spring water we had at Grand Gulf. It was poisonous—the citizens do not drink it, using cistern water—boil it, it was of a greenish color. We used the river water only & are all right. Much of this sickness is the result of overeating & drugging. Oh how it makes me feel to see men so imprudent.—abusing their stomach & then calling on the doctor to cure them, taking, quinine, calomel,¹ & powders week in & week out, & grunting & groaning when the use of a little prudence & common sense, simple remedies would save them all this trouble. It is of no use to talk — to some of them. I can’t have much sympathy for such persons & besides the well-ones have to do their
duty for them.
We are in the rifle pits most every day. A few nights since our Regt. was detailed to finish some breastworks for the 1st Brigade — we were in a 100 yds. of the rebel works & exposed in getting there — we worked till 3 in the morning & left, no one hurt. Our loss in the Regt. since we came here is 1 killed & 5 wounded. Logan’s troops [John A. Logan] got possession of the big fort that was undermined & blown up, but were forced to leave it Preliminary to the attack, & in order to distract the rebels, there was a terrific bombardment of the rebel works lasting 15 minutes.
Solomon Russell² died of congestive fever after a short illness on the 26th ult. He was a good man & a true Christian & we miss him much. We are both well & comfortable as money & Uncle Sam can make us here. Write soon.
Edwin Levings, Co. A. 12 R.W.V.
1. Medical uses for calomel were common well into the nineteenth century. It acts as a purgative and kills bacteria; unfortunately it also does irreversible damage to the people taking it.
2. Solomon M. Russell, from the Town of Richmond in Saint Croix County. He died June 26, 1863, at Vicksburg, Mississippi, from “disease.”