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1863 August 22: “I should not be surprised to see the U.S. at war with England or France ere the close of 1864”

August 22, 2013

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.

Natchez Miss, August 22nd, 1863.

Dear Parents,

                       The last letters from you were dated the 28th ult and 4th inst and were received just after sending my last.  Very glad we were to hear from you again and learn what is going on. — You seem to be quite busy, Father.  Do you not work too hard, harder than necessary?  You must not overwork yourself.  Better take it more moderately this warm weather than attempt to do so much.  The money we send you we hope you will use to make yourselves comfortable and your labors lighter.  This is our wish, rather than that you should keep it for usWe are young and strong and, should we finally come home sound, shall be able to do for ourselves and help you also.

There is a good prospect of our staying here a long while.  The Div. Commissary buildings are full of provisions for us, and more unloading at the levee.  Our flour is baked up town and we have excellent bread.  Have plenty of rations and some to spare, coffee, for instance, which sells readily in the city for 45 or 50 cts.  None of the mess use it, preferring tea (black).  We have “desiccated” or dried potatoes which are good.  Also, rice, peas, beans, &c.  Butter is 50 cts.  Peaches 10 cts. a doz.  You would call these high prices, but they are as low as I have found this summer.  Any one selling things in camp at unreasonable prices is taken by a guard to Col. Bryant [George E. Bryant] who compels the vender to sell at low prices. — Our duties are light, there being no rebels, to speak of, around, and the carvery having scouted the back country for a distance of 40 miles.

I was much impressed with the force of your remarks respecting the probability of this country becoming involved in a war with foreign powers.  This conviction has been growing in my mind for some time.  If it is shown that our government can crush this rebellion, that it is not an experiment as has been alleged, then the two great antagonistic principles,  Republicansim Democracy and Monarchy, will clash in a war more terrible than the world has yet seen.  I should not be surprised to see the U.S. at war with England or France ere the close of 1864.  It is not easy to see what are the immediate designs of Napoleon.  He has gone too far in his schemes of conquest and is too much flushed with success to think of stopping now.  It is safe to conclude he intends us no good.  His designs upon Mexico appear to have been to secure it as a basis of aggressions on the U. S. while weakest engaged with the rebellion & while its whole power was employed in crushing it.  England professes friendship, but it is evident she is acting the hypocrite & cares nothing for us, North or south.  The South expects nothing from her & denounces her as its bitterest enemy.  True, England, furnishes the South with ships & munitions of war, but this is not evidence of sympathy for her. She seems not too mind putting deadly tools in our hands as well.  She does not wish to mingle in the strife, but stands still, waiting till North and South are so weak she can easily walk forward and take the Lion’s share.  Really, it is probably that no armed intervention will occur at present.  It seems more likely that war against foreign powers if it ever comes, will be declared & commenced by the U.S. to redress her grievances.  Things will soon come to a head and then we shall know what to expect & can prepare accordingly.  But I’ll drop this subject.

August 25th — I attended church and Sabbath school the other day at the Methodist House.  There was nothing interesting in the Sabbath School to me.  Do not be surprised.  It was a round of dull, spiritless exercises in which neither the children no teachers appeared interested.  There were no male teachers.  About 75 soldiers were present, but not the least notice was taken of them.  They appeared to think it was impossible or unadvisable to say anything to the children and after a somewhat lengthy consultation closed the exercises with the Doxology.  A queer Sabbath School.  I wish Mr. Wilcox could have looked in on it.  I could not but notice the contrast between these pale-faced sickly looking people and the browned, weather-beaten soldiers.  The discourse was very good — nothing objectionable about it — neither Union nor rebel.  No text was named, but the subject was the “afflictions of God’s people.”  The preacher was a young man of good education, but thouroughy [sic] rebel, no doubt.  No allusion was made to our troubles except in a prayer when mention was made that “Our young men are lying in tents, the land is drunk with the blood of the slain,” and an ernest [sic], but brief petition was put up for deliverance from this trouble & the restoration of peace to our land, to which some Union soldier ejaculated a hearty Amen.  I think after we have been here awhile the people will like us better.  A Bible Class will probably be organized here in a short time.

The weather to-day is windy & chilly, cold enough for a coat, the sky is cloudy & looks like rain a little.  I shall be obliged to close as it is getting dark, so good bye, or good night, that’s it.

Your affectionately

Edwin D. Levings
Co A. 12th W. V.
3rd B. 4th D.
Natchez Miss.

Edwin Levings letter of August 22, 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 August 22, 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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