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1863 July 24: “The regiment returned from Jackson yesterday after an absence of 18 days”

July 24, 2013

A letter from Edwin Levings with Company A of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry, just returned to Vicksburg from the Jackson Expedition.  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.

Vicksburg July 24th, 1863

Dear Parents;

                        The regiment returned from Jackson yesterday after an absence of 18 days; and I hasten to improve the first opportunity to write you.  I wrote about the 15th inst. but have doubts of your ever getting the letter; however, I will not rewrite its contents, unless you notify us you have not rec’d it.  I have got on a clean shirt once more.  We took nothing with us, except soap and a towel, and the usual luggage of light-marching order, medicine, &c.  We have had what might be called a pretty hard time, but have had worse.  Have slept in the woods, with nothing but an oil cloth for cover, marched in the dust and intense heat, been out in two of the hardest rainstorms of the season, picked up most of our “grub” from the country & have had hardly any of the cooking conveniences of camp.  Yet we have lived well.  We returned by way of Raymond making the march in 3 days, some 50 miles.  Went out in 6 days.  The first night we camped at Raymond—there we had an abundance of good water, apples, peaches, tomatoes, green corn, &c, luxuryies, we can not now obtain.  [paragraph break added]

Jackson, after its evacuation, was completely stripped of all valuables & eatables by our soldiers & many houses were burned.  The rebels had strong intrenchments, but when we began to close in on them with our right and left flanks, they thought it not safe to stay any longer & skeddadled.  The generals seem not to have been aware they were evacuating.  The rebels were mostly mounted and it was not deemed advisable to keep up the pursuit with infantry so we destroyed the R. Roads & came back to rest & reorganize.  It is said Johnson [sic: Joseph E. Johnston] has gone to Mobile with his main force & that Banks [Nathaniel P. Banks] has the start of him.  Troops are moving down the river, destination said to be Mobile or Little Rock.  The country is full of rebel sick & wounded & paroled prisoners, who are very much disheartened.  Several thousand of Johnson’s [sic] men were captured on this trip, I learn.  The loss in our Division, in the 4 reg’ts, numbering in all 900 men, who made the charge I mentioned in my last, was stated at nearly 500.  Such heroic daring & firmness as was were displayed by these men have not been surpassed by western troops, but it does seem to me, after having gone over the battle field, that nothing but the utter ignorance of the General [Jacob G. Lauman] impelled the charge.  The men were not supported, & the ground was level & the brush had been cut down, & the rebels had it all their own way.  At present we are under Hovey [Alvin P. Hovey].  [paragraph break added]

We have formed the acquaintance of a young man named Ferguson, of the 118 Ills., who was from Hamilton & at the pains of hunting us up,—a fine fellow I should think.  Had a letter of the 5th from you last night & a pk. of pills.  Those directions regarding health are very welcome & good, but you must remember a soldier is not always in circumstances to practice them fully.

Horace got a severe chastisement didn’t he?  Did the Ed[itor] write that article?  I am glad to see some one come to the public defense of the worthy men whom he is trying to kill.  A few more such rakings, and they he and his brother will discover their genius & worth are not so much thought of where they are known as they imagine — they will find their true level which is not high.

You speak of a proposal you are about to make to the Ill. cousins,—that one or two of them come & live with you.  It would suit us equally well.  Send us occasionally a Tribune late ones only.  The weather for a few days has been accompanied with showers.  Lee [Robert E. Lee] it seems has been terribly worsted in Md.  I suppose fault will be found because Lee got away.  If reports from there are correct, as they probably are, Meade [George G. Meade] has given the rebels the worst “drubbing” there they have yet sustained, & the people ought to be thankful & not complain.  The fact is, the people at home know nothing of war nor, many times of what they complain.  It takes a long head to handle so vast an army properly.  I wonder, when the people complain of this & that Gen., how many are aware of the hundred contingencies & emergencies that arise in their operations of an army to cause delay & failure.  How many times must they be told “large armies move slowly.”  And is there no reason?  Do they know how a large army moves?  It takes a large army two or 3 hours to get all straightened out on the roads, & then it can go but 10 or 12 miles per day all things favorable.  Like the uncoiling & coiling of a serpent, it straightened out in the morning & slowly gathers itself up in the morning at night.  Then the elements many times are against him it & many other things that I can not speak of.  And then in battle the mind of the Commander must often be taxed to the utmost to know what to do.  But I will say no more about this.

Write soon.  It is thought we may return to Memphis, nothing certain about it.

Yours affectionately,

Edwin D. Levings

Edwin Levings letter of July 24, 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 July 24, 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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