1864 January 15: “The year, 1864, I believe, will witness the end of fighting”
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. Jan 15th, 1864.
Ever Dear Parents,
Since the receipt and answer of your last letter, Dec 21st, two more, of earlier dates, have come to hand, which had been delayed somewhere. They are those of Nov 16th and Dec 13th respectively, in which you speak of your purchase of a sewing machine, and the satisfaction it gives you. We were glad to get them; and having nothing to do but read and write, I will do the latter.
You ask if we write you every week. We do, unless circumstances prevent. Sometimes, when your letters come slowly, we extend the period of writing a few days to hear from you. Knowing your uneasiness, however, if at the regular time no letter comes, it is our practice, generally, to write you every week. We hope to hear from you by next mail. We are looking for Hattie’s letter, too, with much interest. I presume that before this reaches you you will have received our last letter. I think it likely, Mother, you have done some crying over that letter. On your account I hated to write it; but I am sure your judgement will approve our course. Homer wrote the Muster-out Rolls were being made out, preparatory to mustering in. By orders from Washington the business was stopped, the reason of which I am ignorant. I suppose some change in the papers is contemplated. When they come, we shall proceed to the business again. I can not say now how soon we shall start for Wisconsin. Many would prefer going home two months from now; but for my own part, I would rather go now, if it is cold up there. We could visit with more advantage and enjoyment, I think, than in the spring.
I learn from the Chicago Tribune of the 1st inst. that a terrible snow storm has visited the whole North. R. R. trains blockaded—3 feet of snow at St. Paul—very cold, disagreeable weather. Let me describe the weather here at that time. The 28th, 29th, & 30th of December it rained hard incessantly. The 31st it cleared off with a slight flurry of snow and grew colder than it has been here for 30 years. Then came more rain. Every body complained and shivered—the citizens said the cold was due to the presence of so many Yanks. New Orleans did not like [it] any better. I have not experienced as cold weather since we left Kansas. Talk about the sunny South—give me Wisconsin yet.
Our Washington news is that the Swindling Departments (I mean the Quartermaster and Commissary) at Alexandria are being cleaned out—certain chaps who have been fattenning [sic] like so many leeches on Uncle Sam are being rather forcibly jerked up. I hope investigations into those Departments will be made here, for there is certainly a large amount of stealing going on. Natchez is all quiet at present. We see much, however, that ought not to be allowed. The secesh are allowed privileges that ought to be denied them, and I am confident that some officers are too much influenced by their smooth-tongued lingoes; but now and then, an old reprobate is snapped up and punished. I must tell you of the fix the Methodist minister found himself in the other night. His name is Watkins, and he lives near our camp. My tent-mate, Jones,¹ was in the habit of visiting his daughter, and had so worked himself into the confidence of the entire family, that they regard him as a pet. Naturally enough their rebel proclivities began to take a practical shape in avowals of sympathy with the Confederate cause and in requests of him to purchase revolvers, cartridges, soldiers pants, &c. for them. Watkins has a son out here with the rebels, and for him, he wanted the articles. Jones, penetrating their design, & wishing to entrap them, particularly the old man, consented to the proposals. We acquainted the Provost Marshall of his purpose, who told him to go ahead, and the other night Jones, the Provost, & 7 guards went to his home, arrested him, & two other men who belong to the rebel army. Watkins was sold, told Jones he was never so deceived in a man in his life, and is now under $10,000 bail.
I hope you did not vote to screen drafted men from the draft. I had not dreamed River Falls would commit suicide. It was already overburdened with taxes and how it hopes to extricate itself after the foolish addition you refer to, I can not see. Can the town spare the volunteers better than then drafted men? Can it afford to pay out money in that way. Either the financial affairs of the place have improved much of late or else it has intrusted itself to the guidance of the blind. Certainly under the stimulus of big bounties men ought to volunteer, but to tell you how the soldiers feel about it, if the people are foolish enough to favor such a policy, let them pay & the whole of it. The idea of the soldiers having to share in there [sic] taxes is ridiculous. But if the people will not fiddle themselves, let them pay for the music and, as the soldiers say, for the whole of it.
The rebels are feeling badly now over their finances — they see they can not carry on the war much longer without money and anticipate in the event of failure to redeem their currency, “the horrors of a guerrilla warfare” as well. They have arrived at that point where a forced loan is a necessity. They shrink at the fact but are endeavoring to brace themselves for the crisis — say “the promise to pay” must be redeemed, no matter who loses or gains by the change. The effect of such a loan will be bad for them, but if adopted will work well, I think for us. While defeat & disaster crowd upon their armies, their cause grows rapidly unpopular with their own people, and most assuredly will all forcing schemes resorted to prop it up. The time is not far distant when the people of the South will rise up and help put this trouble down. The Radical Movement has worked well thus far in Del., Md., Vir., Mo. & will in the other states after a while. The President’s Amnesty Proclamation is in many places favorably regarded. Every thing goes to show that the end is near. Of course the rebel leaders talk big, but that is a game they are obliged to play to suit circumstances, but they do occasionally make some glaring confessions that must and are opening the eyes of the people to the doom that awaits them. For instance, here is one from the Richmond Whig — “Slavery has stabbed itself to death. It has sinned against the light, committed the unpardonable sin, and must die.” Will the Southern people want any better warning, coming as it does from one of their leading organs? I hope to see nothing less than the extinction of Slavery and this damnable aristocracy. I have no fears otherwise. The year, 1864, I believe, will witness the end of fighting. The President [Abraham Lincoln] has the power to end it, and it seems to me he will try as hard as he can to do it before he goes out of the Chair. We is gaining friends in the army and abroad. Foreign nations are beginning to see he is a great Statesman, & are more willing to let us alone. I hope he will be the next President. [paragraph break added]
My sheets are full & I will conclude. Write soon all of you, & often.
. . . . . .Edwin Levings
. . . . . . . . .Co. A., 12th Infy. Wis. Vol.
1. John D. Jones, from Marinette. He will desert May 1, 1864.