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1864 May 9: “We are to proceed up the Tenn. to Clifton … then are to march to Huntsville”

May 9, 2014

Another of Edwin Levings’ more philosophical letters, with a bit of political opinion as well.  But first he talks about what the 12th Wisconsin Infantry is up to.  E. B. Quiner in chapter 20 (12th Infantry) of his Military History of Wisconsin¹ fills us in on what Ed is fairly accurately guessing at:

In April, General [William T.] Sherman promulgated an order for all veteran regiments, belonging to the Armies of the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee, on furlough, to join him in Tennessee.  Accordingly, on the gathering of the regiment at Camp Randall, from veteran furlough, on the 30th of April, they proceeded to Cairo, where they were joined by the non-veterans from camp near Vicksburg.  Accompanying the forces of General Gresham, the regiment proceeded up the Tennessee River, and landed at Clifton, Tenn., on the 14th, thence they marched by Huntsville and Decatur, Ala., to Rome, Ga., nearly 300 miles, and joined the “Army of the Tennessee” at Ackworth, Ga., on the 8th of June.  Here they became identified with the Atlanta campaign, under General Sherman.

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.

Cairo, Ills., May 9th, 1864 ~

My Dear Parents,

                                I would not write to day did I know I should have another opportunity in a few days.  We expect to leave for up the Tenn. to-night, or to-morrow morning and I fear if I defer writing this after-noon I may keep you too long waiting, so I will drop you a word now, and tell you where we are going.

I understand that we are to proceed up the Tenn. to Clifton, 30 miles this side of Pittsburg Landing; then are to march to Huntsville, which will require 5 or 6 days time.  Probably we shall not get there in less than 8 or 10 days.  When Homer comes he will be sent, I think, via of Nashville and Decatur on the cars, so he will miss the march.  All our sick or those unable to march are to be sent by that route.  The distance by the route we shall take is about 325 miles.  We would much rather go than remain here longer.  The impression seems to be we shall not have much active service yet awhile,—that we are to protect the R. R.  I do not know how that is.  I want to see the rebellion crushed with all possible energy and dispatch, and if my service is needed on the battle field, I am perfectly willing to shoulder my rifle and start, ~ anything if it will help to put down the rebellion.  [paragraph break added]

I think I am beginning to be a pretty good soldier ~ I am willing to obey orders from whatever military source and my faith in a final glorious triumph of our arms & cause had not abated one particle, nor has my cheerfulness in the least given away to gloominess.  It does not trouble me who are my officers or who may be the next President, provided they do not stand in the way of speedily crushing the rebellion.  I have an abiding confidence in the future and let come what will, I mean to let Patience have her perfect work which will be have been, of course, when forbearance shall have ceased to be as virtue.  You may laugh if you want but that is the way I understand Scripture.  [paragraph break added]

With regard to the next President I am not decided yet, I am not certain but that a more energetic man than Lincoln [Abraham Lincoln] is now needed at the helm of State.  Lincoln had done well, but another man might do better, perhaps.  Your ax may be a good one, but mine may cut better.  To keep off the breakers we must come to disers discern the face of the sky and act accordingly.  We must learn to discern the signs of the times.  There is a fearful amount of recklessness and extravagance in the management of our political & military affairs, and it becomes us to see whither we are tending & to remove all evil obstructions.  I will say I do not admire the bitter hostility of the Fremont [John C. Frémont] party.  There is too much growling, too many threatening looks.  There principles may be correct, but their manner is certainly not, and they may kill their own party in their bitter zeal to crush that of Lincoln.  Homer will you get mother to make us some ration bags.

The boys have sent a box of clothing &c to Prescott in care of Carlos McCray, Postmaster of that place.  I send home in it my dress coat & rubber blanket which you can get when you are down at Prescott.  The charges will be light.  I have drawn a new rubber blanket.  I saw John Rice the other day.  He looks will & says he had a fine visit at Hamilton.  Write soon & often.  Direct via Cairo.

Yours affectionately, Edwin

Father, the enclosed receipt I took of Lyman Powell — well, he did not sign his name to it or else I tore it off.  I did not notice it till the other day.  Get him to sign it & will you forward to me.  Edwin D. Levings

1.  The Military History of Wisconsin, by E. B. Quiner (Chicago: 1866), chapter 6, page 194.  (UWRF Archives E 537 .Q56 1866; available digitally on the Wisconsin Historical Society’s website).

Edwin Levings letter of May 9, 1864, 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 May 9, 1864, 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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