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1863 December 24: “I hope you don’t think the soldiers can not enjoy Christmas”

December 24, 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.

Camp of the 12th Wis. Vols.
Natchez Miss  Dec 24th /’63

Ever Dear Parents,

                               We were gladdened yesterday by two letters from you of the 23rd and 29th ult.  When you told what you were all about, I imagined myself once more at home.  A soldier’s greatest pleasure is a letter from home, never is he so joyous as when the cry ~ Mail! Mail! caught up by a hundred tongues, rings out through the camp.  No matter what his situation,—whether languishing with disease or, rugged with health ;  whether toiling on the march or, silently watching at the post of danger ;  whether absorbed in his own thoughts or, but just aroused from pleasant dreams of home and friends — the letter receives a warm welcome.  I could but poorly portray the happy scenes occasioned by the arrival of the mail.  One can not write to soldiers too often.  It is impossible.  [paragraph break added]

I told you in my last we had quit chasing rebels till they showed signs of fight, at least.  I was wrong.  Yesterday noon we returned from another hunt — was gone 48 hours and marched 48 miles precisely.  Our course was north-east or up the river, to Fayette, distant 26 miles.  The march most of the way by night.  I got eight hours sleep in all.  Our strength was a little above 2000.  The results of the expedition were as usual — a few prisoners.  A marine force coöperated with us, but the butternuts smelt the rat and skeddadled [sic], all but a couple hundred, a day or two before we came up.  The Cav. skirmished with them some and captured a few.  I did not shoot at anybody, nor did anybody shoot at me.  My only regret is I wasted about 4 rounds of hard tack.  It is impossible to make a successful movement along the Lower Miss. with any thing but Cav.  We have not half enough.  Our purposes are discovered by the rebels and thwarted every time before we can do anything.  The rebels have the best horses in the country and they can run where they please without much injury.  A short time since the steamer “Brazil”  was fired into 40 miles above here with musketry and artillery and completely riddled.  Two women were killed instantly and several other persons wounded; and thus stand matters on the Lower Miss.  We must have more Cav.

Reenlisting has commenced in the regiment.  With what success I am not well advised.  A few in my Co. have reenlisted, none that you know.  The larger and better part of the Co. are disposed to keep out of it.  The accessions to the Veteran Corps from the other companies will doubtless be larger.  If 2/3 of the Regt. reenlist it will go back to the State in a body and recruit, for the balance.  No danger of that, I guess.  The Col., Capt. and others are doing that in Madison now.  The Capt. will think we are not very patriotic, but there is a thing or two that we know, ~ never will serve under Co A’s commiss[ioned] officers again.

Well, it is Christmas Eve and here I am writing.  What are you doing to-night?  We would like to be with you tomorrow, but shall have to wait awhile longer, I guess.  It is time I were abed and I bid you good night.

Dec 25th ~ Well!  Christmas Day is here, and the boys are getting ready to spend the day down town as suits their inclinations.  I hope you don’t think the soldiers can not enjoy Christmas.  Of course, they all think of home, then & would gladly spend the day there.  I wish you all a Merry Christmas.  This must be my Christmas present ~ a poor affair, it is true, but none the less welcome, I know.

26th ~ I must tell you how I spent yesterday.  3 of us took our dinner down town at the Jefferson House ~ very good ~ nothing extraordinary.  Then we came back to camp, found two letters for us, one from you of the 6th & another from Ellsworth,¹ & 4 boxes of pills.  Much obliged to you.  Ellsworth expects his papers soon, which give him a Commission Corps de Afrique.  He is true blue & one of the best correspondents I have.  We have received that box of nice things you sent us, Mother.  My paper is all gone & I shall have to reserve the answers to your questions for the next letter.  With kindest wishes to you all I close.

E. D. Levings

1.  Ed and Homer Levings’ cousin, Ellsworth Burnett, also from River Falls. He is currently in Company A of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry. Instead of a commission in a U.S. Colored Troops regiment, Ellsworth will be commissioned captain of Company F in the new 37th Wisconsin Infantry, in April 1864.

Edwin Levings letter of Decemeber 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 December 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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